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Change Your World

In the first century, one man set out to change the world.  This higher calling wasn’t rushed.  Nor did this man leave anything up to chance.  Rather, Jesus waited for the appointed time prior to selecting twelve disciples to lay a foundation for change.  Dotting his i’s and crossing his t’s, Jesus kept in step with the Holy Spirit to carry out the necessary Old Testament prophecies yet to be fulfilled.  Fasting, praying, being baptized, spreading goods news about the kingdom of God, training future leaders and surrendering to authorities set the stage for the climax.  As the crucifixion of a perfect lamb was about to be laid to rest in a tomb, a resurrection cancelled the written code the moment death was conquered, Colossians 2:13-15.  This one supernatural act has changed the world forever.

 “For God so [greatly] loved and dearly prized the world, that He [even] gave His [One and] only begotten Son, so that whoever believes and trusts in Him [as Savior] shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge and condemn the world [that is, to initiate the final judgment of the world], but that the world might be saved through Him, John 3:16-17.

The film Equalizer debuted In 2014, introducing a character who wanted to change the world one person at a time.  Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a retired CIA black ops operative using a local hardware store as his mission field.  When McCall sees injustices that occur within his spheres of influence, he acts immediately to accomplish the greater good.  After hours, during breaks or on the job interactions are used by Robert to develop relationships, challenging co-workers, customers and strangers to be the best you can be.  During one moving scene, Robert talks to a girl who is trapped by her pimp, unable to break free to fulfill her dream to become a singer.  Not wasting this opportunity, Robert exclaims, “change your world!”

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Sometimes when you feel the urge to make a difference in this life, its hard to know where to start.  Depending upon the atmosphere, circumstances or environment, many good intentioned individuals can become overwhelmed before ever getting started.  Thus, changing your world for the better requires a joint effort.  From a spiritual perspective, ground work must by laid through fasting and prayer.  Like the building of an ministry team, when the timing is right God will raise up leaders to fill the gaps that exist.  Yet, while you are waiting for the world to change, don’t lose heart.  Rather, let faith guide you until agents for change arrive.  May the words of this attached scene from Equalizer inspire you to change your world beginning today.

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

 

Active, Lukewarm or Dead?

Animated, bubbly, dynamic, energetic, perky and vigorous are all synonyms which highlight active individuals.  When you came in contact with these lively souls, its possible to feed off of their enthusiasm.  During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encouraged his followers to add flavor to the lives of people you encounter, Matthew 5:13-16.  When actions and words co-exist, faith rubs off on others, similar to a lamp shining light into the darkness of this world.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth, Revelation 3:16.

Prior to modern appliances, cooling drinks or adding ice cubes wasn’t an option.  Thus, past civilizations were forced to endure room temperature drinks.  The Bible refers to this as lukewarm.  The context in which this term is applied signifies an inactive faith.  From a spiritual point of view, idle faith is an insult to God, void of salt and light.  Unfortunately, I find myself closer to lukewarm than active.  In fact, in recent weeks I am hovering somewhere between a lukewarm and dying faith.

For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead, James 2:26.

When talking about judgment, Jesus uses the expression take the plank out of your own eye before criticizing someone else, Matthew 7:1-5.  One of the members in the audience that day opens up about his own life in the passage above.  Taking a look in the mirror from a spiritual perspective, James looks back at a time in his life when his faith was dead.  Despite being raised by Mary and Joseph, James’ faith was lukewarm at best until the resurrection of Jesus.  I guess we all need a wake up call at some point.  May this blog awaken your soul to activate your faith, fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

How Should a Christian Respond to Smut?

A generation ago, the content of movies, songs and television shows were heavily scrutinized.  If there was any traces of questionable material, conservative critics might label this as smut.  This term refers to anything that might be seen as obscene, pornographic or too revealing.  As Hollywood continues to push the envelope beyond decency over the past half century, smut has become mainstream, available at most check out counters in America.  This reality has caused me to ponder, “how should a Christian respond to smut?”

While He was in Bethany [as a guest] at the home of Simon the leper, and reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster vial of very costly and precious perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured the perfume over His head, Mark 14:3.

In the passage above, Jesus is anointed by a woman with a questionable reputation.  According to other accounts of this event in the gospels, this woman’s name is Mary.  Based upon comments made by local guests, Mary was a first century prostitute.  Having a lady of the night approach you at a party might be tempting to the average guy.  Yet, this encounter didn’t phase Jesus, even if Mary’s breasts were hanging out of a low cut blouse.  Jesus was tempted in every way just as men are tempted today by smut, but did not sin.  This makes Jesus the supreme authority on how to respond to and overcome smut.

For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin, Hebrews 4:15.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to eyes as the lamp of the body.  Keeping them pure is crucial to responding to immodest attire as the summer approaches.  One of Jesus’ disciples refers to three aspects that must be held in check.  According to 1 John 2:15-17, lust, sensual cravings and the longing of eyes stand in the way of responding to smut in a godly manner.  The apostle Paul urges one of his pupils to run away and flee from youthful desires in 2 Timothy 2:22.  According to Paul, the best way to respond to smut is by pursuing righteousness, faith, love and peace.  May this advice equip you to overcome future encounters with smut.

by Jay Mankus

Pray Now or Pay Later

The words pray now or pay later popped into my head nearly five years ago.  Looking back, I don’t remember if a Bible verse, lyrics of a song or a sermon conceived this concept.  Nonetheless, this phrase inspired me to write a book which turned into a screen play.  In a sense pray now or pay later is a mission statement to avoid subtle compromises that eventually leads individuals to give into temptation.  This process doesn’t happen over night.  Rather, carelessness, poor choices and self trust often results in painful consequences in the future.

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. 36 He was saying, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for You; take this cup [of judgment] away from Me; but not what I will, but what You will,” Mark 14:35-36.

The night before his final day on earth in human form, Jesus felt compelled to pray.  While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus began to confide in his inner circle, James, John and Peter.  Overwhelmed by the weight of a heavy soul, Jesus wrestled with God in prayer, wondering if there was another way.  Yet, knowing his purpose for being born, Jesus yielded with the words, “not what I will but your will be done.”  Jesus understood that praying now would give him the strength to submit to and fulfill God’s will, dying on a cross as the perfect Lamb of God.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” 39 He went away again and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came back and found them sleeping, because their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know how to answer Him. 41 He came back a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough [of that]! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us go. Look, my betrayer is near!” – Mark 14:37-42

When the disciples were unable to stay awake the first time he asked them to pray, Jesus reveals the key to pray now or pay later.  To avoid temptation, you must keep actively watching over your life in prayer.  This reason for this necessity is that God’s Spirit within you is willing, but your body is weak, vulnerable to giving into temptation.  Proactive prayer such as asking God to place a hedge of protection around you and your loved ones is a great place to start.  However, when a sense of urgency to pray disappears, you might find yourself like the disciples falling away or betraying Jesus at the first sight of adversity.  May this passage above and the words pray now or pay later awaken your soul to commit your life to a concert of prayer.

by Jay Mankus

 

Grace Comes First

After sin entered the world following the fall of Adam and Eve, grace was merely a promise.  To restore that which was lost, God revealed the law to Moses, a series of standards, regulations and rules to abide by.  Animal sacrifices served as a temporary means to obtain forgiveness.  This grueling pattern continued until Jesus arrived early in the first century.  One of the many lessons Jesus taught audiences during his three year ministry is that grace comes first.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace, Romans 6:14.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul hints about his own internal battle with sin.  Paul chooses the term dominion, referring to the struggle that exists prior to accepting, believing and trusting in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Those who attempt to be good without a personal relationship with God continue to live under the Old Testament law today.  Thus, the concept that grace comes first is still foreign to those without faith.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, Ephesians 2:8-9.

As the apostle Paul matured spiritually, he began to educate new believers on the power of grace.  As a former religious zealot, Paul’s former attempts to be perfect fell well short of God’s glory.  Thus, Paul became an advocate of grace, encouraging others to avoid basing your salvation on works alone.  Grace is a gift from God, aided by faith in Jesus.  May you come to the same conclusion today that grace comes first.

by Jay Mankus

The Pathway to Addiction and Freedom

As a story teller, there was no one better during the first century than Jesus.  Appealing to visual learners, Jesus painted vivid pictures allowing the minds of listeners to follow along with each word.  Nearing the end of his sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives those in attendance two choices.  There are two different roads that you can follow in this life.  One leads to addiction, the other toward freedom.  You may have a great time on the popular path, but in the end you’ll be left with an eternal hangover.  Meanwhile, the path less traveled is a difficult journey, but the benefits to staying the course are eternal.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

After Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, one of Jesus’ disciples goes into greater detail about the broad road that leads to destruction.  John refers to emotions that keep individuals ensnared, paralyzed by lustful desires.  These cravings distract souls from any standards that they may have held, kept or were raised with prior to turning on to this interstate.  Lust, sensual desires and pride tend to blind those ashamed, guilty or filled with remorse by this change of course.  Unfortunately, the longer anyone stays on the path to addiction, the harder it becomes to leave for good.

Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

Instead of typical road signs that you may see everyday, the pathway to freedom contains God’s precepts.  These nuggets of truth preach an alternative message from the flashy advertisements on the highway to hell.  Words such as serve, surrender and selfless appeal to those searching for something deeper, pondering the meaning of life.  The further you travel along this barren road, the narrower it becomes.  Ideally, accountability partners, friends and mentors will encourage you to choose freedom over temporary pleasures.  To persist, press on and demonstrate resolve.  In the end, the choose is yours.  I’ll leave you with Moses’ farewell address to Israel, Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.

by Jay Mankus