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The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Στόχο: Finding a New Target in 2020

Στόχο is the Greek word for target. When translated into English, this term could apply to aim, destination, goal or landing place. As individuals celebrate New Year’s Eve, minds and thoughts will begin to turn their attention toward a new year. Once all of the celebrations have ended, determined souls will search for a new target in 2020.

And they said to me, The remnant there in the province who escaped exile are in great trouble and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its [fortified] gates are destroyed by fire. When I heard this, I sat down and wept and mourned for days and fasted and prayed [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

Unfortunately, sometimes your future may be blurred, clouded or uncertain due to unforeseen events. Accidents, failing health or trials can prove to be too much for one person to bear. Whenever you experience a devastating, horrific or troubling circumstance, follow in the footsteps of Nehemiah. After receiving news of Jerusalem vulnerability, this man fell to his knees, fasting and praying for a plan to rebuild this wall.

Let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to listen to the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You day and night for the Israelites, Your servants, confessing the sins of the Israelites which we have sinned against You. Yes, I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, statutes, and ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses, Nehemiah 1:6-7.

Before focusing on a solution, Nehemiah acknowledges the sins of Israel which brought this fate upon Jerusalem. Before any new target can be discovered in 2020, everyone needs to get right with God. As prayers are lifted up, hearts unload their pain and minds begin to think clear again, conditions will improve for a new vision to be seen. May the beginning of this year inspire you to pave the way for a new target to be located.

by Jay Mankus

So You Think That You are in Control?

As a struggling perfectionist, I like to think that I can accomplish whatever I set my heart and mind on. Although I am blessed to have succeeded in achieving many of my goals in life, the older I become, the more I seem to experience failure. With defeat comes doubt, making the idea of victory a foreign concept. Meanwhile, just when I think I am heading in the right direction, God throws me a curve. While fasting and praying this week, it’s safe to say that I am not in control.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul uses a sports analogy, referencing the Corinthians Games, a famous Track & Field competition. The only problem with athletics is the finality of it all as there is only one winner. Everyone else who falls short ends up a loser, often disappointed by the outcome. In a world of over 7 billion inhabitants, there is always some better than you, eventually taking your championship, crown or title. No matter how hard you train, you can’t control the determination of someone else who wants it more than you.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Boxers and runners daily seek to push their bodies to the limits. This desire enables the world’s greatest athletes to break records every year. Yet, you can only go so far as the human flesh has it’s breaking point. In the passage above, the apostle Paul adds a spiritual element to this discussion. This comes to a climax in another letter, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, where Paul realizes, “in my weakness Christ is strongest.” Therefore, as the spiritually mature acknowledge that they are not in control, God’s power will fall upon you.

by Jay Mankus

A Soldiers Rage

A well known pastor recently had an extended layover at an airport. This extra time opened the door for an intriguing conversation with a stranger. As these two men talked, a soldier in his late twenties asked, “so what do you do?” This opportunity brought God into their discussion. Moments later there was a period of silence. Eager to dive deeper, the pastor asks this soldier, ” so what’s your story? Since our flight has been delayed, we’ve got plenty of time now.” After a slight hesitation, this marksman began to bear his soul.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, James 1:19-20.

While this pastor had heard several sob stories over the course of his ministry, this one went straight to the top. At age 3, his father committed suicide. Six years later, he witnessed a sexual assault and a murder. Before this suspect was arrested, he was threatened to be killed if he told anyone. If this wasn’t enough, one of his sons who was babysat while he was serving in the Middle East was sexually assaulted. All of these bitterness turned into rage, prompting this soldier to become a killing machine, a gifted machine gunner. At this point, tears welled up in both men’s eyes as a soldier’s rage was revealed.

Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil, Psalm 37:8.

This story reminds me of my friend Harry from Ohio. However, by the time I met Harry, he was already filled with bitterness. The best way to describe Harry was that he cursed like a sailor in every sentence, lived with his girlfriend and spent each day rebelling from God. Yet, during a trip to Cedar Point in Ohio, my best friend Eddy and I stood in shock as Harry bumped into his former youth pastor. Scratching our heads, we never knew, thought or could imagine that Harry had a spiritual past. This divine encounter turned Harry’s life around. Although the transformation moved slowly, this soldier’s rage was replaced by the grace of God.

by Jay Mankus

When the House of Your Dreams Fades Away

If you are not careful, you can allow life to get away from you. Distractions, the gruel of work and unguided years have caused me to lose track of time. It seems like only a few years ago that my three kids all attended the same school where I taught. At this moment in time, everything seemed so clear as I was on the way to building the house of my dreams.

For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear, Ecclesiastes 5:7.

Nearly a decade later, our house is nearly empty, two years away from having all of my children in college. After hearing Casting Crowns’ song House of Their Dreams the other night, conviction filled my soul. The words of these lyrics ring true as I find my family trapped in our own worlds despite living under the same roof. Recognizing this is one thing, but coming all together as a Christ devoted family requires an act of God.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Joel 2:28.”

Sure, prayer and fasting will help, but I can’t expect my family to change until God changes me first. Instead of asking, correcting and urging others to take action, I need to closely evaluate and examine my own life first. During the youth ministry trade school that I attended following college, I learned that the enthusiasm of a leader never exceeds that of its audience. Therefore, if I want to restore the house of my dreams, I need to pray “Lord change me first!”

by Jay Mankus

Afraid of What the Silence Might Reveal

Driving in a car without listening to music, a podcast or talk radio seems odd. Unless of course your car’s stereo system isn’t working. This makes me wonder why human beings have grown accustom to filling in any brief moments of silence with conversation, some sort of electronic game or texting. Perhaps, individuals are afraid of what the silence might reveal?

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress, Psalm 46:10-11.

To avoid any bad news, heartbreak or humbling reflection, minds race to fill in the blank moments daily. As you wake up, thoughts lead many to check cell phones thinking, “maybe I missed a phone call or important text?” Others click on the news to catch up on current events to pass the time before work. Meanwhile, overachievers will check emails to prepare their minds for what to expect today. As you make your way toward school or work, did you pause to consider what God wanted you to do or say?

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons, Mark 1:35-39.

During the third and final day of my current Esther Fast, I received a rhema from God. Like a whisper from the Holy Spirit, I came face to face with my fears, afraid of what the silence might reveal. Beside not living up to my potential as a leader, selfishness has kept me from being a servant of the Lord. Not having a church family to call home, I’ve taken several steps backwards spiritually. My prayer for 2020 is that I finally surround myself with a community of believers to build up my wife Leanne and family. While the news may not be what you want to hear, don’t be afraid of silence anymore.

by Jay Mankus

When the Physical Interferes with The Spiritual

Whenever an individual makes a decision to fast for a set period of time, the Evil One will attempt to play tricks with your mind. Instead of concentrating and focusing on the inspiration for your fast, the Devil can make believers miserable until their fast is finally broken. In the passage below, Jesus reveals three ways Christians are tempted: physically, mentally and spiritually.

Then Jesus was led (guided) by the [Holy] Spirit into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted (tested and tried) by the devil. And He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and later He was hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, If You are God’s Son, command these stones to be made [loaves of] bread. But He replied, It has been written, Man shall not live and be upheld and sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God, Matthew 4:1-4.

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, the Holy Spirit led Jesus to withdraw into the wilderness for forty days. Hunger pains is the first temptation Jesus faced, offered food by the Devil. Thus, whenever you do decide to fast, spend time reading and studying the Bible in place of your regularly scheduled meal. This should help overcome physical cravings for food. At least for the first day or two.

And going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will [not what I desire], but as You will and desire. 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, What! Are you so utterly unable to stay awake and keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 All of you must keep awake (give strict attention, be cautious and active) and watch and pray, that you may not come into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak, Matthew 26:39-41.

The night before Jesus was betrayed, Jesus withdrew with his disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus urged his disciples to watch and pray so that they wouldn’t be ensnared by temptation. Despite this plea. Jesus found his disciples sleeping. Jesus used this failure as a teachable moment, “the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” As I begin the second day of my Esther Fast, physical desires are interfering with the spiritual. Yet, if I follow Jesus’ advice in Matthew 4:1-11, the Spirit can and will prevail.

by Jay Mankus

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