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Lady Poverty

I heard an interesting sermon last weekend on a topic previously unknown to me.  A priest was giving a summary of the life of Saint Francis.  Born into a wealthy family, Francis was torn between the pressure to follow in his father’s footsteps and his faith.  According to a 13th century eye witness. Francis took off his clothes in public, stripping down until he was naked, giving his possessions to the poor.  This act demonstrated Francis’ rejection of the world while placing his sole trust in his heavenly father.  This leap of faith inspired the Lady Poverty movement resulting in amazing servants like Mother Teresa.

“If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you,” Leviticus 25:35.

Francis of Assisi traveled to the Vatican hoping to get a meeting with the Pope.  The goal was to gain support from Rome so tht Francis’ calling would not be some rogue movement.  Unfortunately, Francis’ first attempt failed, unable to get the blessing of the Roman Catholic Church.  Years later Francis wrote a famous letter to Clare which led to his second visit to Rome.  This time Francis was successful, getting the Pope’s blessing to start the Lady Poverty movement which still exists today.  While I’m not encouraging people to literally follow in Francis’ footsteps, tackling poverty concerns in your area should suffice.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? – 1 John 3:17.

The passage above should speak to every heart.  While poverty may be hidden in some neighbors, a growing number of busy intersections are filled with people with signs begging for food or money at red lights.  Although this may be a public nuisance in the eyes of local politicians, its a sad reality of broken families and people who have no one to help them in their time of need.  The Bible eludes to Christians as the hands and feet of Christ.  Yet, as cars continue to look the other away, passing by the poor suggests that the Lady Poverty movement is dying.  In view of this, may hearts, minds and souls be drawn to lend a helping hand when you have the opportunity to give.

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

The Anonymous People

The 2013 film  the Anonymous People is a documentary about 23.5 million Americans living in long term recovery from drugs and alcohol.  According to Many Faces One Voice, the Anonymous People is a movement to change the perception of addiction is this country.  The content of this project spans nearly five decades, illustrating how the war on drugs actually hindered and stunted this groups progress.  Actress Kristen Johnston opens up about her battle with addiction, sharing her pain from personal encounters with Hollywood’s denial of this epidemic.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken, Psalm 34:17-20.

The Bible reveals God’s compassion on broken hearted people.  While there are many factors that result in bruised, crushed and wounded hearts, the Lord has a history of reaching out to desperate souls.  In biblical times, the diseased, ill and sick were cast outside of city limits, fearful healthy citizens would contract their ailment.  Similar to the fear of AIDS in the 1980’s, those stigmatized by society are fighting a losing battle.  Thus, its essential to turn the tide by beginning to change the hearts and minds of Americans with a convincing argument.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5:16.

The Bible and the road to recovery share a similar concept, confession.  Whether you are attending an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting or come to your spiritual senses, opening up is the first step toward healing.  The second Great Awakening in Great Britain arose out of young people standing up in front of a church to publically confess their sins.  This brave act compelled others to open up about their dark past.  The more individuals begin to share their own struggles, others will be inspired to do the same.  May this blog motivate you to step out in faith so that others can avoid the same mistakes others have made in their lives.

by Jay Mankus

 

Jesus’ Bucket List

Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman play two terminally ill men seeking to fulfill a list of wishes before each pass away in the 2007 film Bucket List.  This movie has spawned a worldwide movement, awakening souls to make the most of their time on earth.  Books, social media and you tube videos have helped spread this grassroots movement to live out your childhood dreams.

Now His parents went to Jerusalem every year for the Passover Feast. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem, according to the custom of the Feast; 43 and as they were returning [to [j]Nazareth], after spending the required number of days [at the Feast], the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem. Now His parents did not know this, 44 but supposed Him to be in the caravan, and traveled a day’s journey; and [then] they began searching [anxiously] for Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 When they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem looking for Him [everywhere]. 46 Three days later they found Him in the [court of the] temple, sitting among the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions, Luke 2:41-46.

As I read through the New Testament, it appears Jesus had his own bucket list consisting of three goals.  The first occurs immediately following his bar mitzvah, the Jewish ceremony where a twelve year old boy becomes a man.  Similar to Confirmation for Christians, this tradition allowed Jesus to officially join the temple and begin to teach.  Jesus was so excited by this opportunity that he spent three days inside the Nazareth temple listening to and debating adults.  According to Luke, Jesus spoke with authority without having any former education.

When the wine was all gone, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no more wine.” Jesus said to her, “[Dear] woman, what is that to you and to Me? My time [to act and to be revealed] has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it,” John 2:3-5.

While waiting 12 years to finally teach, Jesus spent the next 18 living in obscurity as a carpenter.  After John the Baptist was imprisoned, this set the stage for next phase of Jesus’ life, to become a fisher of men.  However, Jesus needed to call twelve men to become his disciples, only half way there at the time of the wedding above.  Jesus’ second item on his bucket list was performing miracles, waiting for his ministry team to be complete.  Yet, Jesus promised to obey his parents at the end of Luke 2, choosing to honor his mother’s request anyway.

There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name, John 20:30-31.

This initial miracle pails in comparison to the last item on Jesus’ bucket list.  Jesus refers to preparing a place for his disciples in heaven, John 14:1-4.  However, completing his mission on earth involved suffering and dying.  This final goal took 3 years of planning, a selfless heart and the will to finish what God began.  Thus, while hanging on a cross, Jesus signals the accomplishment of this final item in John 19:30.  When Jesus says, “it is finished,” this means that Jesus completed the will of God on earth.  While checking off items from a bucket list is an honorable pursuit, the greatest thing you can do in life is identifying, obeying and completing God’s will for your life on earth.

by Jay Mankus

 

Genuine Confessions of Faith

In the middle of the 16th century, a man from Scotland left his mark on history.  John Knox became a minister, theologian and writer.  This devotion led to the founding of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland.  While living in exile in France, Knox was licensed to work in the Church of England, influenced the theology within the Book of Common Prayer and helped write the Confession of Faith.  John Knox emulated the words of the apostle Paul below, living out his faith daily.

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame, Romans 10:9-11.

In the first century, baptism and confessions of faith went hand and hand.  The term baptism refers to a public expression of an inner faith.  Before ascending into heaven, Jesus exhorted his disciples to follow 3 main commands.  This speech is referred to as the Great Commission.  The first instruction is to go and make disciples by introducing new people to the good news of Jesus Christ, Romans 6:23.  Immediately following this confession, new converts were baptized.  Finally, as faith is activated, the Holy Spirit is awakened within hearts, minds and souls.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.

One of the common mistakes new Christians make is rededicating their lives numerous times.  While confession should be a daily practice via prayer, God desires individuals to exercise repentance.  Essentially, the Lord wants human beings to make a 180 degree U-turn, away from sin and toward God.  Theologians introduced the phrase contrition to help explain God’s expectations.  Confession doesn’t mean a thing unless you take steps to refrain from mistakes of your past.  Thus, if you want to be a beacon of light, make sure your confessions of faith are followed by fruits of the Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

We Found Each Other in the Dark

Tom Hanks plays the head cell block guard on death row in the 1999 film The Green Mile.  During his interactions with convicted murderers, one prisoner fits the physical description, but internally something is different.  Michael Clarke Duncan plays John Coffey, an intimidating man who possesses the gift of healing.  After witnessing 2 minor miracles, Tom Hanks convinces his entire staff to risk their jobs in order to save a woman dying from cancer.  James Cromwell, Hank’s boss in the film, is married to Patricia Clarkson who is on the verge of death.  After a powerful healing scene, Clarkson talks to Duncan revealing a dream she had during her ordeal with cancer.  This vision refers to finding each other in the dark.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, 1 John 1:5-7.

The Bible uses the imagery of darkness to refer to moments or periods of time individuals are separated from God.  One of Jesus’ disciples associates being in God’s presence with fellowship.  As a personal eye witness to Jesus’ life on earth for 3 years, John testifies to the fact that Jesus was the real deal, full of love and light.  While most people flee from the lost, lonely and social outcasts, Jesus built his ministry around comforting, healing and waiting until desperate souls were touched by a miracle.  Jesus went into the darkness to help those unable to escape on their own.

But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him, John 11:10.

Human nature creates a curiosity within human hearts.  Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, even if you have been taught right from wrong, some won’t stop until they taste forbidden fruit.  For those who follow longings, lust and temptation into darkness, returning back where you came from isn’t as easy as it seems.  Enlightenment has a way of enticing people, creating a hunger for more.  Despite the presence of God’s light in small portions of this world, darkness seems to growing more and more by the day.  This expansion is causing many to stumble, stuck in darkness together.  May the light of Christ pierce through this darkness, John 1:5, so that those who unable to find their way out will be united once again into fellowship with God.

by Jay Mankus