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Waiting for the Kingdom of God

Deep inside of human beings, there exists a purpose and reason for getting out of bed each day.  This invisible drive may change from time to time depending upon your career, job or motivation level.  When this sense disappears, fades or becomes unclear, mustering up enough energy to make it through a day turns into a chore.  The Bible refers to this term as vision.  This perception guides believers through trials and tribulations, remaining focused on your ultimate goal.

When evening had already come, because it was the preparation day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea came, a prominent and respected member of the Council (Sanhedrin, Jewish High Court), who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God—and he courageously dared to go in before Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus, Mark 15:42-43.

In the first century, there was a man who found himself torn between his occupation and purpose for living.  According to a couple of verses, Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin.  This ruling council was essentially the Jewish High Court, the supreme court for religious debates.  Yet, this position didn’t satisfy Joseph’s soul, longing for something more.  This spiritual thirst conceived a desire to wait for the kingdom of God.

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body, John 19:38.

According to Luke 10, there was a secondary group of disciples chosen.  These seventy two individuals are not mentioned by name.  Yet, it appears Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple, perhaps working behind the scenes as one of these 72.  The crucifixion of Jesus served as a wake up call for Joseph, knocking on Pilate’s door while Jesus was still hanging from a cross.  Three hours earlier, at noon, the day turned to night.  This cosmic event is detailed by several first century historians.  This sign from God convinced Joseph that the kingdom of God was at hand.  May the Holy Spirit open your eyes today so that you too will respond to current events with a sense of urgency like Joseph of Arimathea.

by Jay Mankus

 

Moving from Have to Toward Thank You

The Emancipation Proclamation was announced by president Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862.  This document which freed slaves and criminalized future slave owners became law on January 1st, 1863.  Unfortunately, the news of this decree did not reach Texas for another year, keeping many African Americans enslaved well beyond this date.  When freedom finally arrived, individuals were able to move from have to toward thank you.

No longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord, Philemon 1:16.

During the first century, a man named Onesimus was a slave owner, overseeing a young man named Philemon.  Serving as a slave prepared Philemon to be a faithful servant of Paul.  Based upon the passage above, Paul came to see Philemon as a brother in Christ, not a slave.  Thus, Paul’s recognized his devotion behind to scenes to ensure the success of Paul’s missionary journeys.  Philemon moved beyond having to do something because he was forced to by Onesimus.  Rather, Philemon’s work was inspired by a spirit of thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

When anyone decides to leave their former way of life to follow Jesus, this transition doesn’t always mesh well.  Attitudes, behavior and habits are hard to break, especially for those who become addicted to harmful things.  Understanding grace, mercy and forgiveness seem easy, but where a have to desire enters this equation, joy can be lost.  Christians shouldn’t go the church, pray and read the Bible because they think they have to.  Rather, these spiritual disciplines should be done out of a spirit of gratitude, remembering that you have been saved by grace through faith.  May this blog convince you to move from a have to mentality toward a thankful heart.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Stages of the Heart

Solomon refers to the heart as the well spring of life.  This vital organ controls the flow of blood throughout the human body using the circulatory system to supply oxygen and nutrients to internal tissues.  Unfortunately, accidents, age and viruses each influence the degree to which each heart functions.  From an external perspective, anxiety, depression and stress also wage war on human hearts.  These spiritual factors result in what I call the stages of the heart; shifting some where between soft, hard and moldable.

“I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds,” Jeremiah 17:10.

The first phase is soft like Jell-O.  This type of heart is extremely sensitive, causing individuals to over react or read too much into a conversation.  If you try to pick up a piece of Jell-O, it can shake like an uncontrollable wave.  Emotional outbursts are an obvious sign of this condition, revealing an immature heart.  People that fall into this category need to toughen up, learning to better cope and deal with things beyond their control.  Placing your sole trust in Jesus is a good place to start for soft hearts, Proverbs 3:5-6.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh, Ezekiel 36:26.

The polar opposite of this stage is a calloused heart, hardened by various trials and tribulations that people have endured.  When minds became jaded by what you feel to be an unfair hand dealt by God, circumstances are prime for hearts to turn to stone.  The group Foreigner once sang about this condition, using an analogy to compare a woman’s heart to be As Cold As Ice.  Hardened hearts often reflect someone who is apathetic, no longer caring about things in life as they once did.  When struck firmly, these hearts can shatter.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

The final stage are hearts molded out of clay.  During a letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul refers to God as Abba Father.  When translated into English, this refers to a child being molded and fashioned by a spiritual father.  When clay is dropped or falls, the potter can fix, repair and reshape the clay back into its original form.  Thus, the goal in this life is to develop a moldable heart, open to God’s advice in the Bible.  While no one knows what tomorrow brings, may the Lord give you a new heart and spirit to thrive in the future.

by Jay Mankus

What am I Suppose to do Now?

In my thirty five years as a Christian, rarely have I received answers to prayers instantaneously.  Yet, this past Sunday was one of the exceptions as God immediately sent words of healing to my deflated soul.  Prior to attending church, I often watch a few of my favorite pastors.  Some times one of them may have an off day, but all three spoke directly through the television to my heart.  Dr. Tony Evans, James Merritt and Jentezen Franklin each gave me insight on what I am suppose to do next.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance, 2 Peter 3:9.

The first piece of advice was to start where you are.  Depending upon your current spiritual state, this could be humbling, ashamed of how far you have fallen.  Yet, for now, suck it up, set your ego aside and ask Jesus to mend your bruised, broken and battered heart.  Once you come to grips with this reality, start to give and use what you have.  Whether this is gifts, talents or time, follow in the footsteps of the faithful servants in the parable of the Talents.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing, James 1:22-25.

James is preaching to himself in the passage above, referring to his numerous years of inactive faith, listening to Jesus’ words without the conviction to act.  This leads me to my final point, do what you can while you have the opportunity to serve.  In a letter to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul uses a sports analogy to drive home this point, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  Striving to attain earthly trophies is noble, but you can’t take them with you in the next life.  Therefore, invest your time on earth striving to earn crowns that will last by doing what you can now.  May this blog give you the vision that you need to press on in this life.

by Jay Mankus

 

How to Recover From a Demoralized Soul

Every time I hear, read and see a news story about suicide, part of me wonders how bad were things in someone’s life to follow through with killing themselves?  Breaking news of the latest victims to suicide, Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade is a daily reminder of a growing number of demoralized souls that exist within society.  According to Matthew 27:3, guilt and remorse convinced Judas Iscariot to take his own life.  With most of the disciples hiding to escape the same fate of Jesus, there was no one to talk Judas out of this ill fated decision.

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. 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 1:2-4.

Besides suicide, other demoralized souls tend to follow in the footsteps of the woman mentioned in John’s gospel.  When broken hearts, jaded minds and fragile souls stop caring, some go looking for love in all the wrong places.  During a conversation within John 4:15-18, Jesus talks to a woman who had gone through five failed marriages.  To avoid another divorce, she decided to live with her latest boyfriend, afraid of what the future may hold.  Whether you are currently in a relationship or not, the Bible does provide solutions to recover from a demoralized soul.

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God” [for temptation does not originate from God, but from our own flaws]; for God cannot be tempted by [what is] evil, and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away, enticed and baited [to commit sin] by his own [worldly] desire (lust, passion). James 1:12-14.

If you listen to certain television evangelists, their messages paint a rosy colored perspective on life, emphasizing only the positive.  Unfortunately, this is far from reality, something Jesus’ earthly brother addresses in the passages above.  Trials should not only be expected, but embraced by believers.  These unsettling events provide opportunities for growth, to cope, deal with and develop maturity.  Each day offers teachable moments, like a pass fail test to let you know your strengths and weaknesses.  The key is refusing to give up or quit, despite how you may feel.  The ultimate goal is to remain steadfast, leaning on friends, family and faith to get you through trials and tribulations.  As long as you understand what you are up against, joy and peace is attainable via the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  The next time you are demoralized, cry out to Jesus in prayer to find comfort for your soul, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

Where Envy and Resentment Can Lead You

Envy and Resentment are like a notorious WWE Tag Team Wrestling Champion.  Envy begins each bout, distracting opponents by focusing on what others have instead of how God has blessed you.  The moment you fail prey to this tactic, resentment hits you over the head with a chair.  This is immediately followed by a punch to your gut before ending up in a headlock, struggling to break free.  Anyone who fails to come to their senses will be dragged away like a rag doll.  This is how envy and resentment lead people to some of the most vile and wretched places on earth.

Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to set free for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had turned Jesus over to him because of envy and resentment, Mark 15:9-10.

During the first century, Jesus was despised by the ruling class.  The thought of a carpenter from Nazareth developing a massive spiritual following offended the chief priests, elders and scribes.  When his disciples failed to adhere to Jewish ceremonial laws, this lack of observance opened the door for envy and resentment to consume these religious leaders.  If Jesus’ popularity continued without some sort of intervention, the power of future Pharisees and Sadducees was in jeopardy of being stripped away.  Thus, envy and resentment fueled this elite group to conspire, plot and pressure authorities to crucify Jesus.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice, Ephesians 4:31.

When the apostle Paul turned his back on Judaism to follow Jesus Christ, he began to experience pushback from envy and resentment.  Human nature feeds off of the acts of the sinful nature, thriving on venting frustrations as well as unleashing your anger on others.  Yet, if this run away train of emotions possesses you, exhibit A features Cain who killed his brother due to jealousy.  Today, America’s ruling establishment is teaming up with the deep state to foil Donald Trump’s presidency.  This resistance has lasted more than a year, crushing souls along the way.  Perhaps its time to take a step back before envy and resentment devours another victim.  May the passages above convict hearts before any further actions are taken.  If not, envy and resentment may lead participants to an undesirable eternal destination.

by Jay Mankus

 

Straight Out of the Saul Alinsky’s Playbook

Saul David Alinsky was born in 1909.  During the span of his 63 years on earth, Alinsky invested most of his time as a community organizer, socialist and writer.  Saul Alinsky is best known for his 1971 book Rules for Radicals.  Modern leaders such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have credited Alinsky for successfully running movements for change.  Saul Alinsky’s book contains 13 rules to promote social change.  Three of these rules are applied by the mainstream media daily.

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, Hebrews 5:11-12.

As I hear, read or see another conservative being attacked, criticized or slandered by Hollywood elites, liberals and progressives, you can make the connection that these troubling comments are coming straight out of Saul Alinsky’s playbook.  For example, the fifth rule states that ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.  If you watch modern comedy shows, jeering, mockery and scorn emulates this rule.  Meanwhile, the eighth rule: Keep the pressure on serves as a mantra to chip away at the founding of America’s Judeo Christian values.  Finally, political talking points are shared throughout cable news and print media outlets to fulfill rule thirteen: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

But the [Holy] Spirit explicitly and unmistakably declares that in later times some will turn away from the faith, paying attention instead to deceitful and seductive spirits and doctrines of demons, [misled] by the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared as with a branding iron [leaving them incapable of ethical functioning], 1 Timothy 4:1-2.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul refers to what the world will be like during the end times, prior to Jesus’ second coming.  Perhaps, constant vulgar comments are merely a sign of individuals turning away from God.  This void is being replaced by deceitful and seductive spirits causing once normal human beings to act like crazy people.  If this trend continues, doctrines of demons will spread into all avenues of life, corrupting souls and poisoning minds.  May these troubling times serve as a wake up call to test everything you hear, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  The more you study the word of God, your eyes will be opened to Satan’s attacks against faith.

by Jay Mankus