RSS Feed

Tag Archives: heaven

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

If There Was Another Way

When individuals can’t live up to the required standards, human nature has a tendency to wonder, is there another way?  This temptation may cause some in leadership roles to make an exception, bend the rules a little bit or stretch the truth.  This mindset didn’t go so well for Adam and Eve, kicked out of the Garden of Eden for breaking God’s only rule.

After going a little farther, He fell to the ground [distressed by the weight of His spiritual burden] and began to pray that if it were possible [in the Father’s will], the hour [of suffering and death for the sins of mankind] might pass from Him, Mark 14:35.

When the thought of suffering and dying on a cross entered Jesus’ mind, raw emotions began to come out.  After sharing his concerns with his inner circle, Jesus turned to prayer to lift up his burdens to his heavenly father.  During this time of prayer, Jesus essentially asked God if there was another way, an alternative to dying.  However, the more Jesus prayed, he came to the conclusion that there is only one way to complete God’s will, suffer and die on a cross.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me, John 14:6.

Skeptics of Christianity are offended by the shear arrogance of Jesus, claiming to be the only way to heaven.  While other religions share similar elements with Christianity, Jesus is only one who is exclusive.  These comments inspired C.S. Lewis to write a chapter entitled Lord, Liar or Lunatic?  Lewis covers each aspect of these terms, examining the true nature of Jesus.  As a former atheist, this thorough analysis transformed his life from a person of science into a man of faith.  While mankind will continue to seek another way to heaven, Jesus remains only plausible path to eternal life.  Don’t take my words; read Mere Christianity for yourself in case you still think there is another way.

by Jay Mankus

Who is Offending Who?

Last week I read an article online about why atheists are offended by Christianity and religious symbols.  Some point to excessive evangelism by leaders who don’t always emulate or live out the love of Christ.  Others are turned off by the exclusive nature of Jesus’ teaching, that there is only one way to heaven, John 14:6.  Meanwhile, public displays of Judea Christian values in the form of monuments, statues and religious symbols cause atheists to be offended by many of America’s founding fathers due to their unadulterated faith.

One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also,” Luke 11:45.

Around 30 AD, Jesus received several invitations to meet with curious religious leaders.  One day a Pharisee invited Jesus and his disciples over to his house for lunch.  While reclining at a table the disciples and Jesus did not follow ceremonial laws, failing to wash their hands before eating.  While this lack of action offended the Pharisees, Jesus was insulted by their lack of concern for the heart and soul.  This dialogue in Luke 11:37-54 makes me wonder who’s offending who?

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth., Romans 1:18.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion, prohibiting the free exercise of religion, or abridging the freedom of speech.  While American citizens are able to exercise this freedom daily, this doesn’t mean you won’t be offended.  Depending upon your worldview, elementary principles, progressive ideology or philosophy may threaten your current belief system.  However, if you aren’t open to seeking the truth, God may be offended by your lack of conviction.  Therefore, don’t worry about offending others as long as you strive to follow God’s will for your life.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming a Miscarriage

As a former seminary student, I have come to appreciate the Greek language.  Unlike English which tends to be bland, dull and generic, Greek uses a variety of words to clearly distinguish raw emotions.  For example, the term miscarriage refers to the spontaneous expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable, usually between the 12th and 28th weeks of gestation.  From a scientific perspective, this is an acceptable definition.  Yet, for any woman who has endured this horrific event, the English language fails to detail the emotional anguish, heart break and pain couples go through in the days that follow a miscarriage.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

While I can’t imagine the disappointment women experience, I do have a unique connection to miscarriage.  My mother’s third child was a still born, a form of miscarriage.  I never met this individual who would have been my third sister.  There is no logical explanation to suffice why this took place.  Yet, a few years later, my parents tried one more time to have a child.  I’m sure deep down my father wanted a boy to avoid being drastically outnumbered.  Nonetheless, as my parents persisted, I was conceived, born during the summer of 1969.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4. 

According to the Bible, there will be no crying in heaven.  For the lost souls mothers and fathers never got the chance to meet, love and raise, they go immediately to heaven.  Although this fact may not comfort those still hurting, God longs to wipe away your tears, to heal and mend your broken heart.  After your period of mourning comes to an end, may God give you a spirit of perseverance to try again.  If your biological clock for giving birth is coming to an end, don’t forget the miracles of Sarah, Elizabeth and Mary.  May this blog serve as a means to help you overcome the pain of a miscarriage.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Perhaps Its Time to Get Off Your High Horse

As a child, adults, parents and teachers often quoted euphemisms.  These indirect expressions were meant to drive home a point during a teachable moment.  Whenever I appeared to be too judgmental, I heard “get off your high horse.”  The point of this phrase serves as a rebuke to stop criticizing everyone.  Essentially, this a warning to avoid claiming to have a superior moral ground than everyone else.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” Luke 6:39.

In the attached You Tube scene above, a man is forced to determine the eternal fate of his two children.  The only catch is one can go to heaven with the other eternally condemned to hell.  The angelic being reveals flaws, imperfections and secret sins formerly unknown to this father.  After a brief period of contemplation, Mack declines to go through with it, offering himself up to take his child’s place in hell.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? – James 4:11-12

After watching this powerful clip from the Shack, conviction consumed my heart.  To a certain extent, I felt like I was the character in the movie, guilty of the same crime, judging others prematurely.  Everyone has a reason for the behavior that they display daily.  Whether its innocence lost at an early age, bad parenting or unwholesome addictions, each impacts actions, character and words.  The key to getting off your high horse is developing a heart that breaks for the pain of others.  May this scene and these words inspire you to see the people in this world through the eyes of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Unwilling

One of my last years serving as a teacher I spent time with a mentor, playing pool in his basement once a month.  While competing in a few friendly games, our conversation turned toward more serious topics.  From time to time, a neighbor came over to join us.  On one occasion this man spoke of his battle with cancer, spending several months at a natural rehabilitation center.  This facility concentrates on altering diets to cure cancer.  Recounting an emotional story, his friend was unwilling to change his eating habits.  This decision led to his death months earlier becoming another victim of cancer,

But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God], Mark 10:22.

For those who go through life relatively healthy, there’s another decision to consider, what will you devote your life to?  One day a rich young ruler approached Jesus, hoping receive an answer to his spiritual question.  This man believed being good might be enough to get him into heaven.  Jesus exposed his flawed mentality with a three part action plan.  After contemplating Jesus’ words, a spirit of depression consumed this man.  In the end, he was unwilling to let go of his wealth on earth.

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” 58 And Jesus told him, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” 59 He said to another, “Follow Me [accepting Me as Master and Teacher].” But he said, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” 60 But He said to him, “Allow the [spiritually] dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and spread the news about the kingdom of God.” 61 Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord [as Your disciple]; but first let me say goodbye to those at my home.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things left behind] is fit for the kingdom of God,” Luke 9:57-62.

This isn’t the only account of people failing to commit to Jesus’ standards.  A first century doctor recalls a day when three different individuals approached Jesus wanting to be a disciple.  Eager to join Jesus’ ministry team, none of them had the right stuff as each was unwilling to take their faith to extreme measures.  Its easy to play Monday Morning Quarterback by placing yourself into these situations.  However, in the heat of the moment, its hard to know how you respond.  For now, the best thing you can do is mentally prepare yourself for similar situations by asking, “how willing will I be when it counts?”

by Jay Mankus

 

Why Do You Call Me Good?

Affirmations, compliments and encouragement used to be a common presence in daily conversations.  This positive vibe appears to be vanishing, replaced by sarcasm, witty comments and venting frustrations.  In some spheres of life, the word good is chosen as a means to gain favor.  A student seeking acceptance from a teacher will approach this special individual with kind speech to initiate a discussion.  In the passage below, this is exactly what occurs.

As He was leaving on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially good and morally perfect], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” – Mark 10:17

Perhaps Jesus perceived the motives of this rich young ruler changing the discourse by replying, “why do you call me good?”  While I don’t know how the rich acted in the first century, today wealthy people tend to get what they want.  Whether this means buying it, bribing or convincing others this decision will result in a financial gain in the future, money can be persuasive.  Whatever the reason, Jesus makes the point that being good won’t gain you access to heaven.

Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially] good [by nature] except God alone, Mark 10:18.

Jesus cautions this young man that human nature defaults to self.  The apostle Paul writes about this internal struggle in Galatians 5:16-18.  During a letter to the church of Rome, Paul shares about his own personal battle, Romans 7:13-15.  Despite Paul’s attempt to be good, he failed miserably, unable to control his sinful nature.  This experience likely inspired Paul to once confess, “I am the greatest sinner of all,” 1 Timothy 1:15.

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love (high regard, compassion) for him, and He said to him, “You lack one thing: go and sell all your property and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 22 But the man was saddened at Jesus’ words, and he left grieving, because he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God], Mark 10:21-22.

After a brief comment about the last 6 commandments, Jesus addresses the main question of this rich young ruler, how do you inherit eternal life?  Jesus gives a three step action plan.  First, go sell your land and property.  Second, give the proceeds to the poor.  After this is complete, follow me by walking the same path as a servant.  While this reality can be distressing for any rich person, verse 22 provides the key to eternal life.  You must treasure your relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, more than anything on earth.  Or as Matthew 6:33-34 once wrote, “seek first God and his righteousness.”  This is what makes someone good, but since no one is perfect God offers grace through faith in Christ as only way to heaven.

by Jay Mankus