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Tag Archives: heaven

No Doubt About It

When I was young and stupid, I relied on bragging to prove that I could do something.  When challenged, I was often exposed as my cocky words could not be backed up by actions.  Subsequently, God used disappointment, humiliation and failure to allow me to mature.  While I never lost my passion and zeal for competition, I tried to let my play speak for itself in college.  Although I didn’t win every intramural championship, I believed in my heart that victory was attainable.  There was no doubt about it,

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men, Matthew 28:2-4.

In recent years, telling the truth is like an animal on the endangered species list.  Some people want to win so badly that exaggerating, fibbing and spreading rumors is all part of the process.  This destructive climate has poisoned politicians with misleading ads, slandering their opponents, hoping the general public will be persuaded to believe these lies.  If you have the cable news, newspapers and social media on your side, the lives of innocent people can be ruined, left like road kill along the shoulder of a highway.

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. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day, Matthew 28:11-15.

As I am finishing my study of the Gospel of Matthew, I uncovered a similar first century plot.  Fearful the chief priest, Pharisees and religious leaders would lose their political power, they paid off Roman soldiers to spread false reports.  Despite the presence of zombies, the bodies of holy men and women from the past roaming the streets of Jerusalem for over a month, a corrupt scheme eventually halted the truth.  As a former high school Bible teacher, I come across secular films trying to discredit the Bible like this first century bribe.  Yet, when I research, study and watch these theories, I have come to one simple solution.  There is no doubt about the life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord.

by Jay Mankus

All You Zombies

 

My first introduction to the concept of zombies came in the form of Creature Double Feature presentations each Saturday.  This syndicated horror show began airing on the east coast in the 1970’s.  Since I lived just outside of Philadelphia at the time, I was intrigued by the thought of watching movies usually reserved for theaters.  About a decade later, the Hooters, a up and coming band from Philadelphia released All You Zombies, a single from their second album Nervous Night.  Using biblical references from the Old Testament, the lyrics contain a stanza where the band asks God, “where have your children gone,” hiding in the dark.  The context suggests fear, peer pressure and sin cause many human beings to become like zombies, void of the abundant life within John 10:10.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life, Matthew 27:51-52.

Recently, the fascination with zombies has been brought to the forefront through The Walking Dead on AMC.  Premiering in the United States on October 31, 2010, this series uses a post-apocalyptic setting where Rick Grimes plays a sheriff deputy who awakens from coma only to find the world overrun by zombies.  However, you don’t have to resort to Hollywood or science fiction to believe in zombies.  All you have to do is read the accounts within the four gospels of the Bible to find the origin of the term zombies.  Matthew was an eye witness to this strange but true event.  In the minutes following Jesus’ resurrection, the bodies of holy figures mentioned in the body came out from their tombs.  If the holy city refers to Jerusalem, the Night of the Living Dead wasn’t just a film that debuted in 1968.  Rather, saints of the past walked through the capital of Israel either in grave clothes or in a resurrected form appearing to many people until Jesus ascended into heaven forty days later.

They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people, Matthew 27:53.

Thirty five years after the Hooters released All You Zombies, the call remains the same.  As a chorus in this song proclaims, “You don’t have to hide anymore!”  Sure, we all have hidden sins, secret scars or parts of your life that you are be ashamed.  Nonetheless, God wants his children to break free of their past by coming toward the light of Christ.  Many people wait as long as possible, hoping someone comes along to stand with them.  Yet, faith requires trust, not walking by sight.  Individuals must place their eyes toward heaven, praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you where to go and what to do.  Perhaps, this is why a disciple introduced the readers of his gospel to the power of numbers, Matthew 18:19-20.  When two or more are gathered, God’s power is unleashed.  May this blog inspire you to come out of your comfort zone to serve God by using all of your talents and gifts.

by Jay Mankus

When I Can’t Find My Way Out

Although you may not know or recognize it, everyone has their own kryptonite.  This weakness makes human beings limited, powerless or at best, vulnerable to attacks from the enemy.  For me, I can be directionally challenged, regularly losing my way.  Stubbornness only worsens my condition, trusting in myself instead of leaning on outside sources like modern technology.  Unfortunately, some people never make the necessary changes, unable to find their way out of addiction, bad habits or poor choices.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

The author of the book of 1 Corinthians uses history as a way of understanding the past.  As the apostle Paul reflects upon the foundation of Israel as a nation, most died before ever seeing God’s promise fulfilled.  Whether ignorance, selfishness or a lack of vision was to blame, the majority did not please God.  Instead of appreciating manna from heaven, greed led souls to demand more.  God was treated like a grocery clerk at a check out line, praying for this or that without any regard for developing an intimate relationship.  Thus, the wilderness serves as a remainder of what not to do.

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:11-13.

What I fail to comprehend about the nature of God is that the Lord uses wilderness phases in life to prepare us for what’s next.  If you don’t adapt, learn or mature during these trials, you won’t be ready to succeed in the future.  While guarding angels are working behind the scenes to usher in the good things God has planned for us, Philippians 1:6, I often get in the way.  Impatience wants me to quickly skip ahead to the next journey in life before overcoming present obstacles.  Thus, it’s sad to say that I can’t find my way out, leaving me stuck living in the wilderness of broken dreams.  Perhaps, 1 Corinthians 10:13 contains the key, the missing link to take those living in defeat toward the door of victory.  May you endure this present life long enough so that the way out is revealed to you through whispers of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

 

Return to Me

As a parent, it’s difficult to have all of your children follow the narrow path described in Matthew 7:13-14 throughout life.  On the surface, there isn’t anything attractive, cool or hip in the eyes of the world to stay an extended period of time.  While former generations of adults might have coerced, demanded and forced their kids to go to church and youth group, the overall results have been mixed.  Good parenting doesn’t always lead to mature teens.  Nor does abandonment by one or both parents always produce disobedient souls.  Various factors, influences and variables eventually shape young people into the people they become.  Regardless of this outcome, it’s never too late to return to Jesus.

In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents,” Luke 15:10.

In a series of stories about getting lost, Jesus uses sheep, a sentimental coin and a rebellious son to illustrate his point.  These parables have made Luke 15 one of the most read chapters in the Bible.  Although the parable of the lost son gets most of the attention, the end of the lost coin reveals one of God’s most important qualities.  Unlike a human father who may turn his back on disobedient children, God the Father is standing on the front porch, waiting for you to come home.  Whenever someone decides to return home, there is a celebration in heaven for every repentant sinner.  Perhaps, guardians angels play a role in this human U-turn, away from the world and back toward God.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything, Luke 15:16.

Regardless of how stubborn a person may be, everyone has a breaking point.  The human spirit can only take you so far until souls crack.  A first century doctor refers to this point as coming to your senses.  For the Jewish prodigal mentioned in the passage above, he was broke and homeless.  However, this is only half of the story.  This young man spent his inheritance, squandered it on wild living and had become a lowly servant at a pig farm.  According to Jewish law, pigs are unclean, unfit to eat.  Yet, this son became so desperate for food, he longed to eat the slop fed to these animals.  This humbling circumstance opened the door for repentance and a return home.  May this blog inspire anyone heading off in the wrong direction to return back to Jesus, 1 John 1:7.

by Jay Mankus

People, Problems and Pain

While every April makes Americans think of 2 certainties in life, death and taxes, there is another that exists.  No matter where you go, what you do or how long you do, there will always be the 3 P’s: people, problems and pain.  People can be the reason or source of your problems and pain.  Some may think if I just eliminate the bad apple or get rid of this negative influence, everything will change for the better.  Unfortunately, there will always be someone else who comes along who possess similar traits.  Thus, to escape problems and pain that are destined to arrive, soulmates play a vital role to survival.

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed, 1 Peter 4:12-13.

One of Jesus’ disciples reveals a common held belief during the first century.  Evidently, some individuals were surprised to see turbulent times enter their lives.  This flawed mindset is exposed by Peter, making sure everyone understands what to expect month to month.  Trials aren’t a strange occurrence.  Rather, people, problem and pain are placed into one’s life, serving as a means to refine your faith.  While not everyone will marry, Christian friends are placed on earth to help the suffering endure pain.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us, Romans 8:18.

The apostle Paul brings up a mindset necessary to overcome the turmoil that life brings upon unexpected souls.  The suffering mentioned in the passage above refers to the persecution, trials and harsh treatment from those who opposed the good news about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  While there were days filled with pain, Paul developed a heavenly mindset, understanding that his current battle was temporary.  Thus, if you find yourself in a precarious situation, submit to God by trusting in the Holy Spirit to enable you to overcome the people, problem and pain you face throughout life.

by Jay Mankus

 

Why is this Separation Necessary?

During my introduction to a variety of church denominations in high school, I was naïve to the drastic differences that existed.  Since I was taught to focus on religious traditions, I was accepting to other ones that I didn’t know about or understand.  Some of my closest friends were Mormons who didn’t drink or smoke, a positive influence for any parent worried about their children getting involved with the wrong crowd.  When I got to college, there was a greater emphasis on theology, specific beliefs, doctrines and interpretations of the Bible.  This biblical teaching that I absorbed confused me, forcing me to re-examine former beliefs that I held.  I guess you can say I was stuck somewhere between loving others for who they are and confronting ungodly practices that strayed from the Bible.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.   For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law,” Matthew 10:34-35. 

Today, Universalism has been embraced to avoid offending other churches, denominations and religions.  The mindset behind this ideology uses love as justification and rationalization, claiming “surely a loving God would not condemn his own created children.  This worldview suggests there are many paths to heaven, even if it means accepting other religions that contradict or stray from biblical accounts.  During a blunt conversation with his disciples, Jesus reveals the division that will occur within families that hold different religious beliefs.  This isn’t a matter of if, but when this spiritual rift will arise.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,” Matthew 25:31-32.

In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus unveils a glimpse of what to expect in the future.  At the end of time, God will separate sheep from the goats.  Based upon John 14:6 and Acts 4:12, Jesus is the only path, the sole way to heaven.  Thus, the sheep are symbolic of those who accept Jesus into their hearts, Romans 10:9-10, enduring persecution for the sake of Christ.  Meanwhile, the goats are individuals who try to find another way to heaven, straying from the instructions in the Bible.  Coming to grips with this separation is tough, especially if loved ones are stuck on the other side.  Yet, I’d rather someone tell me the truth now, while I am alive, than after it’s too late.  Hopefully, this explains why this separation is necessary.

by Jay Mankus

 

Forged by Fire

In an age of reality television, few careers, fields and occupations are left out of Hollywood.  This inclusive environment has given bladesmiths a voice in the show Forged in Fire.  Beginning in 2015, the History Channel has featured competitions to see who is the best according to panel of three judges.  Four seasons later, it appears that this series hosted by Wil Willis has found it’s niche, likely to continue a fifth season in 2018.

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire,” Luke 3:16.

During the first century, Jesus eludes to a different kind of fire.  Instead of a typical black smith forging metal with fire, Jesus introduces a spiritual fire.  Referred to as the Holy Spirit, a local doctor is intrigued by Jesus’ use of vocabulary in the passage above.  This symbolism suggests God will anoint those who are baptized with an invisible force.  This power will replace the natural with a capacity to do supernatural things.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

One of Jesus’ disciples expands upon Jesus’ words.  According to Peter, trials in life are used by God as opportunities for growth.  Like pottery being placed into a kiln, faith is refined by extreme conditions.  As the heat intensifies, imperfections are slowly glazed over as souls are forged by fire.  While Jesus is no longer present, the Holy Spirit was sent following his ascension into heaven to continue this process today.  Although it’s never pleasant to endure difficult and hard times in this life, this process is necessary so that faith may be refined, forged by an invisible fire.

by Jay Mankus