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Tag Archives: hope

Its Just Not Fair

The Bible contains two categories of commandments within Exodus 20:1-17.  Commandments one through four are focused on loving God.  The final six are classified as civil based upon how God wants individuals to treat one another.  During a first century conversation with religious leaders, one scholar tried to get Jesus to de-emphasize one of the commandments.  Sensing this trap, Jesus responds with one of the most famous lines in Scripture, Matthew 22:37-40.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Then, love your neighbor as yourself.”  This is the key to obeying the ten commandments.  Unfortunately, mankind is unable to obtain this goal due to the sinful nature.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8

As a parent, trying to keep peace in a household of five is a difficult task.  Whatever I do, one of the three will cry foul and perceive some sort of favoritism.  While you may try to defend yourself like me when accused of a bias, I’ve learned that there is only one thing that I can say, “its just not fair.”  Instead of instilling this fact of life within education, Common Core Curriculum is setting children up for failure when they reach the real world.  I’m not sure what happened to Darwin’s teaching on survival of the fittest in public schools, but this concept does apply to the cruelness of life on earth.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere, James 3:17.

Failure is a weekly part of adulthood.  However, its how you respond to obstacles, setbacks and trails that will dictate your future.  Anyone can cry and complain, by casting blame and giving excuses, but what good is this?  Jesus’ earthly brother writes about embracing wisdom from above.  Those who look upward instead of inward will find hope, mercy and peace.  Those who can’t get over past mistakes will end up like the faithless Israelites wandering in the wilderness for forty years.  As you battle your own struggles with fairness, may you be drawn to Jesus’ two simple pieces of advice.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.  If you don’t apply this, you’ll come face to face with groans of “its just not fair!”

by Jay Mankus

 

Finding A Shack to Meet with God

There isn’t anything that God asks individuals to do that his son Jesus didn’t already model on earth.  Apparently, spending time alone with God was so important that Jesus got up earning in the morning to meet with his heavenly father.  While this location is not mentioned by name it involves a secluded place, probably in the mountains outside of town.  If you want to emulate Christ in all ways the first step should be finding a shack, an isolated location to meet with God.

Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left [the house], and went out to a secluded place, and was praying there, Mark 1:35.

In the 2017 film based upon the 2007 book written by William P. Young, the Shack contains a scene where the main character receives a invitation to meet God in a shack.  The only problem is that this is the place where Mack’s daughter was murdered.  Confiding in a friend, Mack is not sure if this mysterious card in the mail is a trap sent by the his daughter’s killer, a sick prank or God?  Afraid and curious, Mack ends up spending a weekend with God that transforms his life.

Simon [Peter] and his companions searched [everywhere, looking anxiously] for Him, 37 and they found Him and said, “Everybody is looking for You!”Mark 1:36-37

The passage above details the hindrance that awaits anyone hoping to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  If you don’t wake up early enough or find a setting without distractions, your time with God will be interrupted.  Pastor Tommy Nelson of Denton Bible Church has a saying for any believer who rushes through their morning devotion.  Nelson refers to this as a spiritual spit bath, void of the living water.  In view of this analogy, if you want to celebrate and experience the abundant life of John 10:10, make your preparations today to find your shack to meet with God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?

While most people have moved on with their lives following Easter Sunday, there is something I want you to consider about this religious holiday.  One of Jesus’ last words before dying on a cross reflects the anguish within his heart and soul.  In order for God’s plan to redeem mankind to be completed, Jesus’ heavenly father watched from a distance as his son died.  This lack of action caused Jesus to cry out, “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”

About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Matthew 27:46

If God let Jesus suffer and die, then human beings face a similar fate.  Despite God’s love for His one and only son, sometimes it feels like God turns his back on us as well. When Christians are in trouble, most reach out to God in prayer, begging and pleading with the Lord for divine intervention.  When a period of time passes without a clear answer, miracles don’t happen or a friend dies, many people feel like God has abandoned them.  When God doesn’t act immediately, its not uncommon to believe or think that God has forsaken you.

So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Luke 15:20.

Behind the scenes, God is more like the father portrayed in the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Unfortunately, while on earth Christians must live by faith, not by sight.  Human nature craves and longs for signs from God.  Yet, faith must remain firm when God is silent.  Like a roller coaster that goes up and down, there will be moments when God’s presence seems near.  However, faith needs to steer you during periods of darkness.  If you lose hope, you too may be tempted to exclaim, “eli, eli, lama sabachthani which translates my God my God, why has you forsaken me into English.  In the meantime stay strong or if you have to, lean on others to get you through trials in this life.

by Jay Mankus

Not Just a Guess

I have grown to appreciate the Amplified Bible this year.  While this translation of Scripture can be confusing upon first sight, this version gives you a full perspective of the context in which each book and verse was written.  Although you may choose to use your favorite commentary while studying the Bible, I don’t have to guess when I read the Amplified Bible.  What makes this version unique is that all the possibly translations from Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew into English are provided in italics.

Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses], Hebrews 11:1.

Given the title of the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11 records the triumphs of faith throughout the history of the Bible.  This chapter details godly men and women who walked by faith, not by sight.  These individuals did not guess.  Rather, each was filled with an assurance not of this world.  Like a deed to a title, hope was divinely guaranteed by promises made throughout the Old Testament.  This conviction directed, guided and steered these souls to spiritual heights that the world still struggles to comprehend.

By faith [that is, with an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God] we understand that the worlds (universe, ages) were framed and created [formed, put in order, and equipped for their intended purpose] by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible, Hebrews 11:3.

The greatest feature of any faith is the enduring confidence that one possesses.  While doubts will appear from time to time, those who have decided to follow Jesus are often filled with divine power.  This inherent trust arrives during periods of hardship and trials, sending hope on dark days.  According to the apostle Paul, faith begins when people hear or read the Bible, Romans 10:17.  If you’re tired of going through life guessing, may the Holy Spirit nudge you to take a leap of faith.  God willing, you will soon possess the confidence mentioned in 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Right Here Right Now

Jesus Jones was the first to record the song Right Here Right Now in 1990.  Fatboy Slim, Zac Efron, Giorgio Moroder and Jordin Sparks have since followed this British alternative dance artist with their own version.  The original lyrics talk about a revolution, waiting for and taking advantage of the moment, right here, right now.  Unfortunately, many people have lost hope, doubtful and faithless that their life will make a difference.

For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught, Proverbs 3:26.

While success breeds confidence, any type of extended losing stretch can crush fragile souls.  When individuals lose their momentum, assurance quickly fades away.  Subsequently, body language, certainty and positivity tends to waver.  Instead of seizing the moment like the song right here right now, its not uncommon for people to become a shell of themselves.  This is where you have a choice to bear down or throw in the towel.

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 2 Corinthians 3:5.

Following his conversion, the apostle Paul discovered an important lesson about life.  Although its natural to want to be in control of your life, faith has a way of altering your focus.  Instead of worrying about worldly aspects, Paul found sufficiency by trusting in God.  If you’re tired of dealing with the stress of life, its time to make a permanent change.  Therefore, right here right now place your trust in Jesus so that God will make your life whole, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

Ephphatha: A Prayer to Heal Stuttering

Whenever I come in contact with an individual born with a speech impediment or stuttering, I cringe.  When encountering a stranger or someone I know who struggles to get words out of their mouths, I feel utterly helpless.  As a former stutterer, every condition and degree varies from person to person.  While I want everyone to be healed, I have been unable to intervene until know.

They brought to Him a man who was deaf and had difficulty speaking, and they begged Jesus to place His hand on him, Mark 7:32.

Prior to completing his gospel, John Mark a member of the apostle Paul’s ministry team either interviewed or spoke with an eyewitness to one of Jesus’ many miracles.  Known as Mark to avoid being confused with the disciple with the same name, this gospel contains a prayer spoken by Jesus.  Although the man in this passage was deaf and mute, the word Ephphatha can be used as to prayer to heal stuttering.

Jesus, taking him aside by himself, away from the crowd, put His fingers into the man’s ears, and after spitting, He touched the man’s tongue [with the saliva]; 34 and looking up to heaven, He sighed deeply and said to the man, “Ephphatha,” which [in Aramaic] means, “Be opened and released!” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he began speaking plainly, Mark 7:33-35.

To avoid setting desperate people up for failure, there are multiple variables that cause people to stutter.  For some its a medical condition, others stutter due to nerves or a lack of air that lead to shortness of breath.  According to the Bible, demons and unclean spirits have the power to cease or constrict one’s ability to verbalize thoughts or feelings.  Meanwhile, doubt, a lack of faith and unbelief cause many to stammer and stutter for a lifetime.

Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solenly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.

Prior to being healed of stuttering during my final full year of college, Christian friends questioned my faith whenever I stuttered.  While my roommates and a church friend laid hands on me, claiming Ephphatha, my healing was gradual, not immediate.  Even now when I stray from God, spouts of stuttering return until I draw near the Lord again.  I want to share my testimony to give the defeated a glimpse of hope for the future.  I’m not sure why God choose to heal me, but I believe faith, godly friends and the power of God to open and release tongues via the Holy Spirit can serve as a prayer to heal stuttering.

by Jay Mankus

Kenosis

The season of Lent ends this week.  This religious ceremony begins Ash Wednesday, the day after Mardi Gras concludes.  Since Lent lasts forty days, human nature offers individuals one last day to indulge your fleshly desires in the form of Fat Tuesday.  This Catholic tradition was designed to give Christians time to spiritually prepare themselves for Easter, giving up meat on Fridays during these six weeks.  The goal of this spiritual season is to empty yourself, to deny self so that you become more like Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” Luke 9:23.

The Bible uses a Greek term to describe a similar process.  Kenosis refers to the renunciation of the divine nature in part by Christ based upon the virgin birth of his mother Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit.  In layman terms, kenosis is the relinquishment of divine attributes by Jesus Christ in becoming human.  To avoid any type of addiction to the sinful nature, Christians should strive to do the opposite, replacing selfish desires by making room for God.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

The apostle Paul highlights this process in the verse above.    Starting over spiritually requires drastic measures, crossing out your own selfish ambitions with a devotion and passion to serve the Lord.  Although changes are hard to make permanently, this is where faith comes into the equation.  May the reality of Jesus’ resurrection inspire depressed individuals with a new sense of hope for transformation.  As Easter draws near, don’t be afraid to give your life over to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus