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Tag Archives: the kingdom of God

Evicted

After retiring from his Lutheran church, a pastor and his wife felt called to begin a ministry for seniors, for people their own age.  The most logical place to start was a local retirement home.  Ken and Liv Hauge reside at the Evergreens, a senior living community in Fredericksburg, Virginia.  A suburb of Washington D.C., this area has strict regulations, something the Hauge’s found out when they wanted to start a Bible Study.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion, Proverbs 28:1.

According to the civic association, the Hauge’s were required to call their meeting a book club.  Initially, they agreed even though this event was in fact a Bible Study.  To avoid this rigid restriction, this couple decided to move the group to their own apartment.  When word got out that the Hauge’s were hosting a Bible Study, they received a letter from their residential complex stating “stop holding Bible studies or face eviction.”  Why you may ask?  The apartment complex defines a Bible Study as a business which is illegal in a private residential unit.

Proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance, Acts 28:31.

The Hauge’s have turned to a lawyer to fight this legal battle.  I haven’t heard an update on this battle for religious freedom, but this case is an eye opening for the kind of persecution active Christians may face in the future.  The apostles endured similar threats during the first century.  Paul was arrested, beaten and nearly killed a couple times during his ministry trips throughout the Mediterranean.  Despite these trying times, Luke implores believers in Jesus to boldly proclaim the kingdom of God whatever the cost, even if it means eviction.

by Jay Mankus

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Change Your World

In the first century, one man set out to change the world.  This higher calling wasn’t rushed.  Nor did this man leave anything up to chance.  Rather, Jesus waited for the appointed time prior to selecting twelve disciples to lay a foundation for change.  Dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, Jesus kept in step with the Holy Spirit to carry out the necessary Old Testament prophecies yet to be fulfilled.  Fasting, praying, being baptized, spreading goods news about the kingdom of God, training future leaders and surrendering to authorities set the stage for the climax.  As the crucifixion of a perfect lamb was about to be laid to rest in a tomb, a resurrection cancelled the written code the moment death was conquered, Colossians 2:13-15.  This one supernatural act has changed the world forever.

 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him, John 3:16-17.

The film Equalizer debuted In 2014, introducing a character who wanted to change the world one person at a time.  Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired CIA black ops operative using a local hardware store as his mission field.  When McCall sees injustices that occur within his spheres of influence, he acts immediately to accomplish the greater good.  After hours, during breaks or on the job interactions are used by Robert to develop relationships, challenging co-workers, customers and strangers to be the best you can be.  During one moving scene, Robert talks to a girl who is trapped by her pimp, unable to break free to fulfill her dream to become a singer.  Not wasting this opportunity, Robert exclaims, “change your world!”

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Sometimes when you feel the urge to make a difference in this life, its hard to know where to start.  Depending upon the atmosphere, circumstances or environment, many good intentioned individuals can become overwhelmed before ever getting started.  Thus, changing your world for the better requires a joint effort.  From a spiritual perspective, ground work must by laid through fasting and prayer.  Like the building of an ministry team, when the timing is right God will raise up leaders to fill the gaps that exist.  Yet, while you are waiting for the world to change, don’t lose heart.  Rather, let faith guide you until agents for change arrive.  May the words of this attached scene from Equalizer inspire you to change your world beginning today.

by Jay Mankus

Just Give Me a Crumb

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is an opinioned woman, regularly sharing her beliefs with reporters.  During one press conference, Pelosi gave her initially thoughts on the 2017 Tax Reform Bill passed by Republicans in Congress.  Referring to the middle class, Pelosi compared $1000 bonuses given to blue collar workers as merely crumbs.  Since no democrat in the Senate voted for tax reform, Pelosi tried to discredit this impact on the growing American economy.

Now the woman was a Gentile (Greek), a Syrophoenician by nationality. And she kept pleading with Him to drive the demon out of her daughter. 27 He was saying to her, “First let the children [of Israel] be fed, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the pet dogs (non-Jews),” Mark 7:26-27.

The Bible has its own story about crumbs.  Whenever Jesus entered a city or town, he usually went to synagogues to teach Jews about the kingdom of God.  Based upon the Great Commission detailed in Acts 1:8, Jesus began his earthly ministry reaching out to God’s chosen people of the Old Testament first.  On some occasions, God fearing Gentiles, non-Jews, displayed more faith and zeal than everyone else.  The woman introduced in the passage above refused to take no for an answer, desperate to see her daughter healed.

But she replied, “Yes, Lord, but even the pet dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” 29 And He said to her, “Because of this answer [reflecting your humility and faith], go [knowing that your request is granted]; the demon has left your daughter [permanently].” 30 And returning to her home, she found the child lying on the couch [relaxed and resting], the demon having gone, Mark 7:28-30.

The average person would have walked away unfulfilled after Jesus’ initial rejection.  Filled with persistence, this Syrophoenician woman was shrewd, giving a quick reply that even astonished Jesus.  Essentially, this Greek begged Jesus, pleading with him to just give her a crumb.  Recognizing the power of Jesus, even a crumb was enough to heal her demon possessed daughter.  May we all strive to follow in this godly woman’s footsteps, wrestling with God in prayer until the answer you are waiting on arrives.

by Jay Mankus

What Did He Just Say?

During my decade long run as a high school teacher, there were many unexpected situations that I wasn’t prepared for.  One such circumstance involved students who sought to curry favor with me hoping to soften me up.  As a Christian teaching in a faith based school,  I was naïve to teenagers with hidden agendas.  Knowing the hearts of human beings, nothing got past Jesus.  Unafraid of offending individuals, potential disciples of Jesus often replied, “what did he just say?”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” Luke 9:68.

During one such exchange, Jesus uses an unusual illustration to address someone who vowed to go wherever Jesus went.  The passage above summarizes this conversation, suggesting this man walked away disappointed, unable to meet Jesus’ expectations for committed disciples.  Based upon the context, Jesus plainly states that there will be many nights without a place to call home.  Life as a servant of God takes many twists and turns, relying on faith to know where to go and what to do.

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” Luke 6:70.

The next dialogue in the verse above comes across as cold hearted.  Surely, a son or daughter should be able to return home to pay their last respect to a parent.  However, the term dead symbolizes the past or those spiritually gone, unable to reach.  Thus, the goal of a disciple is to focus on the future, proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ wherever the Holy Spirit leads you.  Jesus made the standards for a disciple so high that only those willing to surrender their lives completely could meet this criteria.  While Jesus made several head scratching statements in the Bible, the more you reflect upon his words, the clearer God’s call to action becomes.

by Jay Mankus

 

From That Time On

There were a series of events which took placed before Jesus began his earthly ministry.  Since the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about these specific details, Jesus waited patiently until this day arrived.  Following his baptism, John’s imprisonment and move to the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, everything was set for Jesus to put God’s plan into action.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” Matthew 4:17.

According to the verse above, Jesus’ message was clear, repent for the kingdom of God is near.  To avoid over kill, Matthew writes this statement once as a simple reminder, from that time on.  Whether Jesus was addressing a large crowd, a small group or speaking one on one, repentance played a crucial role.  This term refers to turning 180 degrees away from addiction, bad habits and unwholesome desires toward the grace and mercy of God.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, Luke 19:10

During a public conversation heard by several eyewitnesses, Jesus makes a remarkable admission.  Prior to meeting with a repentant tax collector, Jesus reveals his purpose for coming down to earth.  The statement above refers to seeking and saving that which Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.  This is two fold: the authority stolen by Satan and intimacy which Adam and Eve shared with God, walking and talking together day.  If you ever lose your way, don’t forget Jesus’ simply message: repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

by Jay Mankus

Look Up, Look Within and Look Around

The current culture that exists encourages individuals to point their finger at everyone but themselves.  This mentality enables blame to become attached to innocent people.  Cable news, social media and talk radio often defends the guilty while accusing those who share an alternative worldview.  Instead of continuing down this road, perhaps its time to look up by using prayer to ask God why?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, Matthew 6:33.

If you don’t receive a definitive answer, maybe its time to look within.  When things don’t go your way, you may be the person responsible.  This is where accountability comes into play.  If you surround yourself with yes people, you might not ever hear the honest truth.  After any fall in life, God uses humility to teach sinners to learn from mistakes from the past.

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened, Matthew 7:8.

One thing God is teaching me is to avoid becoming self absorbed.  I tend to get so focused on what I am doing that I ignore the needs of others.  To correct this bad habit, change begins by looking up for divine intervention.  When insight arrives, personal reflection may be required to alter your direction in life if necessary.  Finally, as individuals begin to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, its much easier to look around to see where God want you to be.

by Jay Mankus

Convincing Proof of the Resurrection

What historians often forget is that Jesus interacted with hundreds of people over a forty day period following the resurrection.  Although Jesus allowed Thomas to see and touch the scars from his crucifixion, these encounters went beyond the twelve disciples.  Luke, a first century doctor records public speeches where Jesus also spoke to others about heaven.

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God, Acts 1:3.

While only a group of individuals witnessed Jesus’ ascension, evidence of Jesus’ resurrection was irrefutable.  However, this didn’t stop government and religious officials from trying to control this news from getting out, using a series of lies and bribes to prevent others from believing.  Despite this, countless apostles died for their faith throughout the first century.  Unfortunately, this plot has been successful over time, causing many to deny these facts.

While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened.  When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, Matthew 28:11-12.

Perhaps the author of Hebrews saw this coming, suggesting many were living in disgrace, Hebrews 6:6.  This trend has continued, slowly chipping away at modern spiritual foundations, cheapening God’s grace by leaning on Jesus like a crutch when times get tough.  After these storms, several go back to their old ways as if nothing ever happened.  What these individuals are lacking is a personal faith, an encounter to see, touch and believe.  In view of those who have fallen away, don’t overlook the convincing evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.

by Jay Mankus

 

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