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Tag Archives: the Middle East

Consider It a Pure Joy?

As someone born and raised in the Roman Catholic Church, I guess you can say the Bible was forced upon me.  The congregation my family attended was old school, believing priests were the only ones who could accurately handle and interrupt the Bible.  Reading the Bible outside of church was not recommended.  However, as I began to search for the meaning of life in high school, the homilies I heard from the pulpit didn’t sit well with my soul.  As a teenager I wrestled with respecting authority figures when their message seemed to be contradictory.  When I began to study the Bible on my own, several passages were difficult to comprehend.

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials, James 1:2.

My spiritual mentor in high school, Ken Horne, encouraged me to read the book of James, written for first century Christians scattered throughout the Middle East.  I didn’t get very far before coming across a foreign concept, the second verse in this book.  Consider it a pure joy when you endure trials?  Huh?  Did I miss something?  Well, over time I realized that trials serve as opportunities to grow spiritually.  However, when you are sitting in the emergency room, receiving bad news from a phone call or going through a rough stretch in life, joy is the last thing on my mind.  Like an undefeated athlete or team, sometimes you have to lose to see what you need to address, improve or solidify going forward.

Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:3-4.

Perhaps, the author of this epistle, the earthly brother of Jesus is reflecting upon the mistakes of his past.  When Jesus is your older brother, every child who follows has impossible shoes to fill, a disappointment to mom and dad.  Yet, James learned the more his faith was tested, maturity and peace increased.  As I look back on my own life, celebrating my 35th anniversary of accepting Jesus into my heart today, Romans 10:9-10, I can relate to James.  If I didn’t go through a 20 year battle with iritis, arthritis of the eye, I wouldn’t have a special appreciation for the gift of sight.  Likewise, my recent health issues with high blood pressure and my heart has opened my eyes to the importance of nutrition.  I’m sure there will be other unforeseen events in my future, but as I face each challenge, I do so with a quiet joy, knowing that I am an unfinished product, pottery in the hands of an almighty Potter.

by Jay Mankus

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Staying Connected to the Right Things

When you add together all the live audiences, radio and television, Billy Graham proclaimed the good news about Jesus Christ, Romans 6:23, to 2.2 billion people during his 99 years on earth.  However, someone had to introduce Billy to Jesus.  Without this individual’s efforts, the spread of Christianity may not be what it is today.  Mordecai Ham was an evangelist who visited Charlotte, North Carolina while Billy was in high school.  Moved by Mordecai’s message one evening, Billy invited Jesus into his heart, Romans 10:9-10, as a teenager.  When people stay connected to the right things, spiritual fruits blossom.

At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment, He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly, Acts 10:1-2.

During the first century, the apostle Paul traveled throughout the Middle East on four different missionary journeys.  I guess you can say Paul from Tarsus was the Billy Graham of his day.  Yet, if it wasn’t for a man named Cornelius, Paul may have never become a Christian.  This military leader developed a stout reputation in his community.  This devout believer was grounded, fearing God, a faithful giver and dedicated to prayer.  These spiritual disciplines led to a vision from God that set the stage for Paul’s conversion to Christ.  Staying connected to the right things opened the door for an angelic encounter, as Cornelius immediately responded by faith.

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!” Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.  The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God, Acts 10:3-4.

Before writing the Book of Acts, Luke traveled with Paul on several of his mission trips.  In this case, it appears Luke interviewed Cornelius, recounting his recollection in the passage above.  Based upon this event, God has the ability to commemorate prayers and offerings from your past.  Thus, if you stay connected to the right things, blessings are bound to come.  Sure, nearly 2000 years later the apostle Paul receives most of the credit for fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:7-8.  Nonetheless, God is searching for the next Cornelius and Mordecai Ham who are willing to stay connected to the right things.  While you may never get the attention of a Billy Graham or apostle Paul, those who stay connected to the vine, John 15:1-4, will receive honor and praise from God the Father.

by Jay Mankus

God of the Impossible

If you follow, read or watch the news, it’s hard to remain positive.  Like the down trodden in this life, hope can disappear for extended periods of time.  Thus, many are left alone, stuck in an impossible situation praying for a miracle.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,” Matthew 17:20.

For some the story of David and Goliath is nothing more than a fairy tale, a figment of one’s imagination.  Yet, history conveys the truth found in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 17.  While David’s size was an obstacle, a midget compared to the giant mocking God on a daily basis, his experience as a shepherd prepared him for this battle.  Against all odds, David shot down Goliath with his sling shot opening the door to become king of Israel.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father,” John 14:12.

When Jesus traveled throughout the Middle East during the first century, doubt was prevalent.  Doing the impossible was a dream blocked by the mountain known as reality.  Thus, Jesus found it necessary to regularly talk about the power of faith and belief.  As Jesus began to cure, heal and perform miracles, the impossible seemed to be within reach.  Therefore, don’t let doubt keep you trapped.  Rather, cry out of Jesus so that the God of the impossible will return to perform another miracle.

by Jay Mankus

 

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