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From Time to Time

Starting a few years ago, I decided to use a different translation of the Bible each time I study the New Testament from Matthew to Revelation. My most recent study involves the Classic Amplified Bible. This version opened my eyes to the words of one of Jesus’ former disciples. John took great joy whenever a Christian visited with the goal of sharing their faith. Unfortunately, this only occurred from time to time.

In fact, I greatly rejoiced when [some of] the brethren from time to time arrived and spoke [so highly] of the sincerity and fidelity of your life, as indeed you do live in the Truth [the whole Gospel presents], 3 John 1:3.

When something in your life isn’t important or a priority, you only experience this from time to time. From John’s perspective, he watched Jesus present the Gospel every day for three years. Jesus didn’t wait to share God’s love until the disciples reached their appointed destination for the night. Rather, Jesus seized every moment, walking, talking and loving along the way, stopping to perform miracles daily.

I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children are living their lives in the Truth. Beloved, it is a fine and faithful work that you are doing when you give any service to the [Christian] brethren, and [especially when they are] strangers, 3 John 1:4-5.

John explains in the passage above why Christians should live out God’s Word daily by sharing their faith. When God uses you to comfort or encourage someone in the form of a divine appointment, the joy you experience from this encounter is amazing. Perhaps, this is the what the abundant joy that Jesus promised in John 10:10 feels like. Rather than casually share your faith from time to time, search for daily opportunities to pass on God’s love.

by Jay Mankus

Going Beyond Just Being a Religious Person

When I studied the New Testament for the first time, my perception of religion changed. I guess being a good person was so ingrained into my head while being raised in a Roman Catholic Church, I overlooked the message of the gospel. The apostle Paul taught me that no matter how hard I tried to please God, following religious practices only takes you so far, Romans 3:9-12. Subsequently, I was no better than the prodigal son, a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.

Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:17-19.

When I read the Bible sometimes, thoughts like “I can’t believe they did that” race through my mind. Yet, if the tables were turned and I was living in the first century, I’m sure I wouldn’t like the person who would portray me. Despite attempting to live a decent, good and upright life, I’ve made my own spiritual messes. I’ve squandered money like the prodigal son on all sorts of temporary pleasures. Just when I thought I hit the bottom of the barrel, I broke through to reach lower depths.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring out [k]that [wheat-]fattened calf and kill it; and let us [l]revel and feast and be happy and make merry, 24 Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to [m]revel and feast and make merry, Luke 15:20-24.

One of the lesser stressed parts of this parable is the type of a relationship that God desires. When you finally come to your senses, asking for forgiveness and mercy is just the beginning. While Jesus suggests Christians should strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, this is merely a religious exercise. Rather, Jesus wants a permanent meaningful lasting relationship. If you’re tired of being a flawed perfectionist, it’s time to move beyond being a religious person toward a special connection with God, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming an Emotionally Draining Job

Every adult has experienced the unfortunate reality of having an emotionally draining job. This exhaustion may come from a stressful work atmosphere, dealing with difficult co-workers, the physical wearing and tear on your body or long 60 hour work weeks. Some of you may have to endure one of these factors while others of you face all four day after day and week after week. To those of you in a leadership role, the Bible does provide a plan to overcome an emotionally draining job.

And Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices [to offer] to God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God. 13 Next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, What is this that you do for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening? – Exodus 18:12-14

Prior to a visit from his father in law, Moses worked sun up to sun down. Instead of developing a justice system, Moses tried to be Judge Judy, head of the People’s Court and a Supreme Court justice. After observing for a couple of days, Jethro realized that Moses had become a lone ranger, trying to do everything by himself. Jethro’s solution to overcoming an emotionally draining job was to adopt the art of delegation. Sometimes you have to communicate to your boss, “I can’t do everything.”

Moses’ father-in-law said to him, The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 You will surely wear out both yourself and this people with you, for the thing is too heavy for you; you are not able to perform it all by yourself. 19 Listen now to [me]; I will counsel you, and God will be with you. You shall represent the people before God, bringing their cases and causes to Him, 20 Teaching them the decrees and laws, showing them the way they must walk and the work they must do. 21 Moreover, you shall choose able men from all the people—God-fearing men of truth who hate unjust gain—and place them over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, to be their rulers, Exodus 18:17-21.

Similar to the process set up by Jesus prior to his ascension into heaven, the Great Commission is a form of delegation to spread the Gospel throughout the world, Mark 16:14-20. King Solomon writes about the importance of relationships in Proverbs 27:17. When two individuals agree to hold one another accountable, positive criticism sharpens you. Yet, when you are emotionally run down, a friend can become a sounding board and a source of encouragement to give you the strength to carry on.

by Jay Mankus

Things Seen and Unseen

The expression “doubting Thomas” comes from an encounter between Jesus and one of his disciples following his resurrection. Despite having a conversation with Jesus, Thomas wanted more proof, John 20:27. Thomas wanted to see and feel the scars, the holes in Jesus’ hand where He was hung from a cross. In John 20:29, Jesus refers to future Christians who believe without seeing. These individuals will be blessed as each walk by faith, not by sight.

For in [this] hope we were saved. But hope [the object of] which is seen is not hope. For how can one hope for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what is still unseen by us, we wait for it with patience and composure. 26 So too the [Holy] Spirit comes to our aid and bears us up in our weakness; for we do not know what prayer to offer nor how to offer it worthily as we ought, but the Spirit Himself goes to meet our supplication and pleads in our behalf with unspeakable yearnings and groanings too deep for utterance, Romans 8:24-26.

The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Rome. Instead of talking about doubt, Paul uses hope as an object of faith. Rather than have the opportunity to see and touch Jesus, future believers must rely on hope to trust first century eyewitnesses who heard the gospel message in person. Faith in what is unseen is made possible via the Holy Spirit which serves as a spiritual counselor, John 16:13.

For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him, Colossians 1:16.

In a letter to the Church at Colosse, Paul reinforces this concept. Reflecting upon the Trinity, Paul highlights Jesus’ role in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Although a secular society continues to attack the Bible’s infallibility, this is where your faith is put to the test. During a message about the End Times, Jesus suggests that many people will abandon their faith, Matthew 24:10-13. The next time doubt creeps into your mind, remember that faith is the assurance of what is unseen, Hebrews 11:1.

by Jay Mankus

The Service and Intervention of Jesus

When most Americans hear the term service, entering the military after high school is a practical way to serve your country. In recent years, public schools have used MLK Day as a way to give back to their local community. If you attend a church or belong to a group, service projects are a popular way of serving the less fortunate and those in need after a major storm or natural disaster.

Let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! – Philippians 2:5-8

While service tends to be an isolated activity for a day, weekend or entire week, an intervention is an immediate act taken to improve a dire situation. The apostle Paul does a great job of explaining mankind’s problem in Romans 5:8. Like a virus that doesn’t go away, sin slowly decays human beings via addictions, bad habits, and poor choices. Despite being undeserving, Jesus spent 3 years on earth serving God so that this spiritual intervention could be completed.

And God purposed that through (by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross, Colossians 1:20.

The entire book of Colossians is dedicated to the service and intervention of Jesus. This restoration project began in Genesis 3:14-15. In desperate need of a second Adam, Romans 5:12-21 explains how this plan was fulfilled through Jesus. Serving as a perfect Lamb of God, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Jesus became a sin offering for all who believe. When Jesus became obedient to death on a cross, the service and intervention of Jesus was completed on Easter Sunday. This is why the gospel refers to the good news about Jesus Christ, a servant who intervened on our behalf.

by Jay Mankus

The Gospel and Politics

Certain topics can create division, friction and tension if not communicated in a civil manner.  Yet, when words are accompanied by a loving spirit, the gospel and politics can be persuasive.  One of my friends ran for the House of Representatives in the state of Delaware.  Up against a heavily democratic district, Bryan needed to introduce himself to complete strangers, express his political views and convince several hundred voters to switch parties.  This task required a dedicated team of volunteers.  Initially, I told my wife that I would commit to being part of the ground team, going house to house to drop off pamphlets to potential voters each weekend.  Just as Christians experience lukewarm stages, at some point my heart wasn’t into surrendering my weekends.  I guess you can say, I wasn’t dedicated to due do what was necessary for victory.  While Bryan received one of the largest percentages of votes for a Republican, his campaign to represent the 5th district ended in defeat.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mark 10:45.

During the first century, an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, a shady town overrun by crime began a three year campaign.  While lacking the finances to make a big political splash, Jesus turned to mainly blue collar individuals, fishermen from the Sea of Galilee.  After John the Baptist’s death, Jesus began to travel from town to town, visiting local synagogues.  Before long, crowds of people started following this motley crew as rumors of faith, healings and miracles spread.  Oddly, anyone who experienced these supernatural events were told to keep quiet, unheard of in any type of political campaign.  As followers increased, curious spectators began to see that Jesus was the real deal, a person who practiced what he preached.  This fact only endeared the masses to this uneducated man.  When Jesus began to be embraced like a rock star, jealousy spread among political and spiritual leaders.  This threat resulted in false accusations, gossip and slander to squash Jesus’ popularity.  Yet, after three years of serving, teaching and visiting strangers, Jesus became a man of the people, king of the Jews.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace, 1 Peter 4:10.

The only way for the gospel and politics can work together is if genuine faith unites with statesmanship.  Modern debates has turned to identity politics, putting one class, occupation or race against the other.  If there is a disagreement, the non-conformist is immediately labeled as a bigot, homophobe or racist.  If an opponent can convince potential voters that a candidate is extreme, embellishments, half truths and lies will continue to bombard citizens every election season.  Some where along the way, good news has been watered down by endless smear ads.  The word gospel comes from and old English phrase godspel, meaning good news or tidings.  It’s hard to be positive in a negative environment, especially when shrewd politicians use raw emotions to stir up their base.  Yet, why does the negative make national headlines daily while good stories are avoided, disregarded or go unnoticed?  Perhaps, its time for modern politicians to follow the Jesus model.  Serve one another, help the poor, feed the needy and extend a loving hand to the unwelcomed.  If future leaders begin here, you won’t need a campaign advertisement to get you elected.  Rather, the people who see the love of Jesus displayed by you will form loyal supporters to stand by your side through thick and thin.  This is the possibility of the gospel and politics.

by Jay Mankus

A Thought That Moved Jesus

The gospel according Luke was written by a first century doctor.  In the book of Acts, also penned by Luke, he becomes a close friend to the apostle Paul.  This relationship gives Luke more credibility as if a physician really needed anymore.  Nonetheless, Luke is the only author who refers to an unnamed group of 72 disciples.  Either Luke was one of these selected servants or he observed their ministry, feeling compelled to detail the role these men played in relation to Jesus’ earthly ministry.  Like the 12 disciples, Jesus divided each into teams of two, preparing cities, towns and villages for future visits by him.  This strategy was adopted by Billy Graham, working with local churches nearby upcoming crusades so that new converts would have a place to develop, grow and mature as Christians.

Nevertheless do not rejoice at this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven,” Luke 10:20.

After delegating special authority to these 72 disciples, Jesus shares one final thought in the passage above.  To a certain extent, Jesus was concerned that some of these men might begin to think quietly, “look what I did.”  This reminder is spoken to help these individuals see the big picture in life.  It’s not about casting out demons or healing the sick.  The most important thing is whether your names are written in the book of life.  As Jesus verbalizes this message, this thought moved him as the words below suggest that Jesus becomes emotional and exuberant.  Perhaps, Jesus  is reminded that one of this own disciples, Judas Iscariot, is not a member of this book.  When something like this hits home, souls discard the meaningless aspects in life and develop a spiritual hunger to wins souls for eternity.

In that very hour He was overjoyed and rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and He said, “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [relating to salvation] from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants [the childlike and untaught]. Yes, Father, for this way was [Your gracious will and choice, and was] well-pleasing in Your sight, Luke 10:21.

According to Luke’s words, the Holy Spirit spoke through Jesus.  In the passage above, Jesus eludes to a child like faith, the importance of maintaining your innocence.  Young children rely on their parents for their basic needs in life.  However, when kids grow up, some pursue education and wisdom rather than God.  Just as liberal college professors can challenge and overturn the values you were raised with, the Holy Spirit is the only source you need to alter your course.  This invisible counselor enables faith driven souls to understand the real meaning and purpose for being born.  During this interaction with 72 disciples, the thought of eternity moved Jesus to open up about this spiritual matter.

by Jay Mankus

Your Next is Greater Than Your Now

Financial planners seek to guide individuals toward fulfilling their dreams in life.  Depending upon how soon families begin to set aside funds for retirement, this process requirements discipline, focus and numerous sacrifices.  Yet, all these preparations don’t ensure a happy ending.  Thus, its essential that people begin to trust God, believing that your next is greater than your now.

For I want you to know, believers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel [it is not a human invention, patterned after any human concept]. 12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.  You have heard of my career and former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to hunt down and persecute the church of God extensively and [with fanatical zeal] tried [my best] to destroy it, Galatians 1:11-13.

During a letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul gives a brief summary of his past, present and desire to follow God’s will in the future.  Paul doesn’t shy away from his ignorant past, blinded by a religious zeal for Judaism.  This obsession led Paul to conspire against the founding of the first century church.  Perhaps, the words of Stephen prior to his persecution and death broke through Saul’s calloused heart.

But when God, who had chosen me and set me apart before I was born, and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles [as the good news—the way of salvation], I did not immediately consult with anyone [for guidance regarding God’s call and His revelation to me]. 17 Nor did I [even] go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia and stayed awhile, and afterward returned once more to Damascus, Galatians 1:15-17.

After being blinded on the road to Damascus, this set forward a chain of events resulting in Paul’s salvation.  The first thing Paul did following his conversion was going home to tell family and friends what God had done for him.  The Bible is silent on how Paul’s Jewish parents responded to and received this news.  Nonetheless, Paul quickly came to the conclusion that your next is greater than your now with Jesus.  Although, this doesn’t ensure a story book ending on earth, but a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does secure an eternal reservation in heaven, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Finger Pointing Doesn’t Solve the Problem

When someone is caught doing something they are not suppose to do, there are three common defenses.  The first excuse usually sounds something like, “I didn’t know.”  If you can’t claim plausible deniability, the blame game is often the next response.  Finally, if this doesn’t work, there’s always one final trump card to play, “the Devil made me do it.”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it,” Genesis 3:12.

This pattern of denial was demonstrated by Adam and Eve after breaking the only rule in the Garden of Eden, “do not eat from the tree of knowledge, Genesis 2:17.  As soon as this line was crossed, the finger pointing began.  Trying to deflect who was ultimately responsible, the consequence of sin began to influence human behavior.  Instead of learning from this mistake to avoid future errors, energy was wasted on finger pointing.

Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate,” Genesis 3:13.

Jesus spent his last three years on earth introducing a new way of living.  This teaching involved a new covenant based upon the element of truth.  Within the gospel of John, Jesus urges listeners to seek the truth which will ultimately set you free.  When hearts and minds become renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit, finger pointing is replaced by acts of contrition.  May a spirit of revival reverse social media’s blame game with a movement based upon solutions.

by Jay Mankus

 

Take It or Leave It

In recent years, those who live according to a secular worldview are claiming the Bible no longer applies to modern life.  Meanwhile, any law, principle or rule within the written Word of God is labeled as bigoted, discriminating and sexists.  Yet, if these skeptics actually took the time to read the Bible, individuals would begin to see the lofty expectations that exist.  Free will does not force anyone to adhere to these standards.  Rather, its up to you, take it or leave it.

If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect, Matthew 5:46-48.

The legal world uses an interesting term, plausible deniability.  This means that an individual can be excused from guilt, like a disclaimer or waiver.  The Bible uses a similar word to plausible deniability, amoral.  Moral refers to knowing what is right and doing it.  Immoral is the opposite, knowing what is right, but failing to obey.  Amoral comes into play when someone is held to a standard that they were never taught.  Subsequently, if you have never attended church, heard the gospel or read the Bible, you are only held accountable for that which you have been introduced.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 6:23.

The purpose of this blog is to simplify the message of the Bible, take it or leave it.  The consequence of sin results in a guilty verdict from the jury.  The punishment for this crime is death, eternal separation from God.  However, the judge steps in to offer a special plea deal.  Actually, God is willing to pardon all offenders with one simple gift.  Jesus paid your bail in full, but the choice is yours, take it or leave it.  You can receive this as your own, taking ownership of faith.  You can reject it and so by live according to the world’s standards.  Or you can wait for a while, but either way, the clock is ticking.

by Jay Mankus

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