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Tag Archives: the kingdom of God

What Did He Just Say?

During my decade long run as a high school teacher, there were many unexpected situations that I wasn’t prepared for.  One such circumstance involved students who sought to curry favor with me hoping to soften me up.  As a Christian teaching in a faith based school,  I was naïve to teenagers with hidden agendas.  Knowing the hearts of human beings, nothing got past Jesus.  Unafraid of offending individuals, potential disciples of Jesus often replied, “what did he just say?”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” Luke 9:68.

During one such exchange, Jesus uses an unusual illustration to address someone who vowed to go wherever Jesus went.  The passage above summarizes this conversation, suggesting this man walked away disappointed, unable to meet Jesus’ expectations for committed disciples.  Based upon the context, Jesus plainly states that there will be many nights without a place to call home.  Life as a servant of God takes many twists and turns, relying on faith to know where to go and what to do.

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” Luke 6:70.

The next dialogue in the verse above comes across as cold hearted.  Surely, a son or daughter should be able to return home to pay their last respect to a parent.  However, the term dead symbolizes the past or those spiritually gone, unable to reach.  Thus, the goal of a disciple is to focus on the future, proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ wherever the Holy Spirit leads you.  Jesus made the standards for a disciple so high that only those willing to surrender their lives completely could meet this criteria.  While Jesus made several head scratching statements in the Bible, the more you reflect upon his words, the clearer God’s call to action becomes.

by Jay Mankus

 

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From That Time On

There were a series of events which took placed before Jesus began his earthly ministry.  Since the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about these specific details, Jesus waited patiently until this day arrived.  Following his baptism, John’s imprisonment and move to the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, everything was set for Jesus to put God’s plan into action.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” Matthew 4:17.

According to the verse above, Jesus’ message was clear, repent for the kingdom of God is near.  To avoid over kill, Matthew writes this statement once as a simple reminder, from that time on.  Whether Jesus was addressing a large crowd, a small group or speaking one on one, repentance played a crucial role.  This term refers to turning 180 degrees away from addiction, bad habits and unwholesome desires toward the grace and mercy of God.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, Luke 19:10

During a public conversation heard by several eyewitnesses, Jesus makes a remarkable admission.  Prior to meeting with a repentant tax collector, Jesus reveals his purpose for coming down to earth.  The statement above refers to seeking and saving that which Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.  This is two fold: the authority stolen by Satan and intimacy which Adam and Eve shared with God, walking and talking together day.  If you ever lose your way, don’t forget Jesus’ simply message: repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

by Jay Mankus

Look Up, Look Within and Look Around

The current culture that exists encourages individuals to point their finger at everyone but themselves.  This mentality enables blame to become attached to innocent people.  Cable news, social media and talk radio often defends the guilty while accusing those who share an alternative worldview.  Instead of continuing down this road, perhaps its time to look up by using prayer to ask God why?

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, Matthew 6:33.

If you don’t receive a definitive answer, maybe its time to look within.  When things don’t go your way, you may be the person responsible.  This is where accountability comes into play.  If you surround yourself with yes people, you might not ever hear the honest truth.  After any fall in life, God uses humility to teach sinners to learn from mistakes from the past.

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened, Matthew 7:8.

One thing God is teaching me is to avoid becoming self absorbed.  I tend to get so focused on what I am doing that I ignore the needs of others.  To correct this bad habit, change begins by looking up for divine intervention.  When insight arrives, personal reflection may be required to alter your direction in life if necessary.  Finally, as individuals begin to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, its much easier to look around to see where God want you to be.

by Jay Mankus

Convincing Proof of the Resurrection

What historians often forget is that Jesus interacted with hundreds of people over a forty day period following the resurrection.  Although Jesus allowed Thomas to see and touch the scars from his crucifixion, these encounters went beyond the twelve disciples.  Luke, a first century doctor records public speeches where Jesus also spoke to others about heaven.

After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God, Acts 1:3.

While only a group of individuals witnessed Jesus’ ascension, evidence of Jesus’ resurrection was irrefutable.  However, this didn’t stop government and religious officials from trying to control this news from getting out, using a series of lies and bribes to prevent others from believing.  Despite this, countless apostles died for their faith throughout the first century.  Unfortunately, this plot has been successful over time, causing many to deny these facts.

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.  When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, Matthew 28:11-12.

Perhaps the author of Hebrews saw this coming, suggesting many were living in disgrace, Hebrews 6:6.  This trend has continued, slowly chipping away at modern spiritual foundations, cheapening God’s grace by leaning on Jesus like a crutch when times get tough.  After these storms, several go back to their old ways as if nothing ever happened.  What these individuals are lacking is a personal faith, an encounter to see, touch and believe.  In view of those who have fallen away, don’t overlook the convincing evidence of Jesus’ resurrection.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Difference in a Gift

In the Ultimate Gift, Drew Fuller plays Jason Stevens, a spoiled brat who has lived a life of luxury.  Despite his grandfather’s efforts to curtail this behavior, Red Stevens leaves his grandson an unusual inheritance, a series of tests.  Following the completion of each task, Jason receives the next challenge.  A different kind of gift, the goal of this exercise is to wean Jason off of his love of money.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” Matthew 19:24.

This passage of the Bible suggests its harder for the wealthy to enter heaven than the poor.  Speaking in hyperbole, Jesus references the area outside of city gates where camels would be tied up.  Based upon the context, an encounter with a rich young ruler, the rich tend to find assurance in their accumulated finances.  Thus, trusting in the Lord for salvation becomes more complicated as one amasses great wealth.

“They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on,” Mark 12:44.

During past experiences on mission trips in college, I was always amazed at the peace dirt poor individuals possess.  Shacks are appreciated like a mansion, thankful for every little possession.  Thus, when a person stricken by poverty offers up a gift, its usually out of the goodness in their hearts.  This offering probably won’t be gold or silver.  Yet, when moved by the Holy Spirit, the poor give, trusting that the Lord will provide their daily bread.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Struggling to Find Momentum

Scientifically, momentum measures the mass and velocity of a moving body.  Meanwhile, in sports this term is like a changing of the tides, an invisible wave that can alter the outcome of a game.  When “Old Mo” is on your side, everything seems easy, falling into place with ease.  Yet, as momentum slips through your fingers, a sense of hopelessness sets in.  If you don’t believe me, just ask the Houston Oilers, who squandered a 32 point lead in the second half, losing to the Buffalo Bills in overtime on January 3rd, 1993.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand, Matthew 7:26.

Those who don’t follow or play sports likely have a different understanding of momentum.  Perhaps you’ve tried to diet, exercise or workout on a regular basis.  This first couple of days or week may run smoothly.  Then, busyness, distractions and exhaustion weaken your initial commitment.  Before you develop a solid routine, any roll that you may have experienced is broken and gone, causing you to start all over again.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well, Matthew 6:33.

As I struggle to find my own spiritually momentum, I have reflected on past victories as well as what lead me to find this rhythm.  These days seem so long ago as I’ve forgotten the taste of success.  Thus, its back to the drawing board, trying to sort out where I’ve gone wrong so the future can be bright once again.  In these days of disappointment, life lessons can provide a foundation to build upon, starting with prayer, Bible Study and worship.  Yet, a splash and go pit stop just won’t cut it.  Therefore, if you’re struggling to find your momentum, set first the kingdom of God and He will make your paths straight.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Memorial Day Offering

Like a feud between siblings, the origin of the first Memorial Day celebration is clouded by history, with over 25 American cities taking credit.  The initial holiday was coined Decoration Day, based upon a 1867 hymn Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping.  Inspired by the end of the Civil War, ladies of the South decorated the graves of dead confederate soldiers.  Although president Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, the debate continues today as several cities had spontaneous celebrations back in the 1860’s.

Acts 10:4 introduces another memorial day, one with a spiritual background.  Legalism within the Jewish faith had exploded by the first century, creating social barriers between Jews, Gentiles and half-Jews due to inter marriage.  Like a leper, outcast by society, Gentiles were not initially accepted by the 12 apostles, who focused on reaching all the Jews within Jerusalem, Acts 1:8.  However, the persecution led by Saul caused early church leaders to shift directions in Acts 8:1-4 toward believers located in Judea and Samaria.  When the time had arrived, the prayers of a Gentile named Cornelius were answered.

An angel of the Lord came to Cornelius in a vision one afternoon, Acts 10:3.  While silent for years, God brings him great news.  Cornelius’ prayers and gifts to the poor have not been overlooked, brought to light in a memorial offering.  The final touch is communicated to Peter in a vision found in Acts 10:9-16.  This occurred so that legalism of Jewish Christians would be broken, lifted to welcome any Gentile into the kingdom of God.  Since Jesus died once and for all for all sin, 1 Peter 3:18, as a memorial offering for mankind, God’s goal was to eliminate cliches, factions and social barriers within the church, Colossians 2:20-23.  In view of this, don’t let holiday shopping, weather or worldly ways keep you from offering up a Memorial Day prayer!

by Jay Mankus