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Living in a Land of Lions

When you read the Old Testament, certain sections are clear and concise. God’s nature is often revealed by using specific commands to illustrate the importance of obedience. Those who follow the Lord are blessed and those who fail to follow God’s directions are cursed. There is no halfway, it’s either all or nothing.

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king they told also to their father. 12 Their father asked them, Which way did he go? For his sons had seen which way the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 He said to his sons, Saddle the donkey for me. So they saddled the donkey and he rode on it, 1 King 13:11-13.

In the passage above and below, a prophet of the Lord is fooled by a lie. Apparently, this liar was paid off by King Jeroboam, persuaded to prophecize good and positive messages to enhance his reign. When news of a miracle performed by a visiting prophet from Judah reach this wayward man, he was desperate to meet him. When his own sons were unsuccessful, this discredited prophet makes up an encounter with an angel to change his mind.

He said, I may not return with you or go in with you, neither will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For I was told by the word of the Lord, You shall not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way that you came. 18 He answered, I am a prophet also, as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him. 19 So the man from Judah went back with him and ate and drank water in his house, 1 Kings 13:16-19.

Taking this man at his word, this young prophet disobeys God by staying an extra day in this corrupt land. Although a loving God would forgive modern transgressions, God’s command was to not eat or drink another meal before leaving. While this doesn’t seem fair, obedience matters to God. Thus, while bending the rules on this occasion seemed okay, a lion was sent to kill this prophet on his way back home to Judah.

And after the prophet of the house had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the man he had brought back. 24 And when he had gone, a lion met him by the road and slew him, and his corpse was cast in the way, and the donkey stood by it; the lion also stood by the corpse. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the corpse, and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt. 26 When the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him, 1 Kings 13:23-26.

This story is mentioned in the Bible to serve as a remainder that obedience matters. Making up the rules as you go isn’t an option for a servant of God. While those outside the church may get away with telling a lie from time to time, you can’t fool God as Paul suggests in Galatians 6:7-8. You reap what you sow. Although you probably won’t cross paths with a lion, make sure you’re sowing seeds of encouragement rather than lies of deceit.

by Jay Mankus

Angels of Deliverance

Deliverance is the action that results in being rescued or set free. Synonyms include emancipation, liberation, redemption and salvation. This term suggests that a group, individuals or a nation is undergoing a dire situation. These predicaments are often so severe that saving yourself isn’t impossible. Thus, there will be moments in life where everyone will need some sort of divine intervention. For those who turn to God when your back is against the wall so to speak, the Bible refers to angels of deliverance.

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield], Psalm 121:2-5.

Although the Psalmist does not mention angels by name, God’s nature is revealed in the passage above. This song of ascent reflects upon previous times where the Lord helped either directly or indirectly. As a shepherd, David credits God for overseeing his steps despite walking over hilly terrain, Psalm 18:36. Meanwhile, while you are sleeping, guardian angels are assigned to watch over you day and night, Psalm 91:11. Angel stories continue today as believers share how God shielded them from harm.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep, John 10:10-11.

In the New Testament, Jesus reveals who you need deliverance from, an invisible thief who seeks to steal, kill and destroy souls. Using the analogy of a good shepherd fighting off attacks from wolves, Jesus uncovers God’s plan for deliverance. Predicting his death on a cross, Jesus’ sinless life and sacrifice was necessary to restore that which Adam lost, Luke 19:10. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to earth along with angels to ensure that deliverance continues today.

by Jay Mankus

Learning to View Life Through God's Eyes

Feeling empty is a common occurrence as disappointment by how a day, month or year turns out can lead to depression. Whenever expectations aren’t met, individuals tend to wonder, “what went wrong? What did I do to deserve this?” Meanwhile, if a friend, family member or neighbor seems to be blessed over and over again, envy and jealousy enter the equation. If this sums up your first few weeks of this new year, perhaps its time to learn how to view life through God’s eyes.

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is, Genesis 21:15-17.

In the passage of above, Hagar was abandoned, asked to leave by Sarah, left alone in the wilderness with her newborn son, Ishmael. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, Hagar ran out of water, placing her son in the shade before dropping to her knees to pray. Hagar reached a point in life where she ran out of options, with no one else to turn to but God. This state of devastation opened the door for God to intervene, sending an angel to comfort this young woman and her baby.

And the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, What have I done to you that you should strike me these three times? 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, Because you have ridiculed and provoked me! I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you! 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, Am not I your donkey, upon which you have ridden all your life long until this day? Was I ever accustomed to do so to you? And he said, No. 31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His sword drawn in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell on his face, Numbers 22:28-31.

While angelic encounters make for great drama, the presence of God is often overlooked in day to day events. The passage above illustrates how God can use animals and pets to save someone’s life. The old show “It’s a Miracle” on Pax Television contained several episodes showing how God used a cat or dog to rescue those in grave danger. If God can enable a donkey to speak, then the Lord has unlimited power to alter your current state of depression, sadness and unhappiness.

When the servant of the man of God rose early and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was around the city. Elisha’s servant said to him, Alas, my master! What shall we do? 16 [Elisha] answered, Fear not; for those with us are more than those with them. 17 Then Elisha prayed, Lord, I pray You, open his eyes that he may see. And the Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, 2 Kings 6:15-17.

The prophet Elijah introduces his understudy Elisha to the spiritual realm. While you may find your self in a situation where you are outnumbered physically, you need to open your eyes to what you currently can’t see. As God’s people pray, angels are ushered into action to serve as personal guardians on earth. Although you may never see one, they exist as the passage above illustrates. While you may not be satisfied by your current state of affairs, fast and pray so that you will learn to view life through God’s eyes.

by Jay Mankus

Recognizing God as Your Ally

The term ally is often associated with foreign policy. When a country or state is at odds with an adversary, leaders will reach out to like minded nations to form a verbal or written allegiance. These politically formed allies become partners by cooperating in times of need, participating in joint military operations and supporting one another when unforeseen events arise. Faithful allies become colleagues, friends and helpers to make the world a better place to live.

But some Jews arrived there from Antioch and Iconium; and having persuaded the people and won them over, they stoned Paul and [afterward] dragged him out of the town, thinking that he was dead. But the disciples formed a circle about him, and he got up and went back into the town; and on the morrow he went on with Barnabas to Derbe, Acts 14:19-20.

While on trial for his faith, the apostle Paul refers God as his ally. When you take a look at the numerous times Paul’s life was in danger, the Lord always sent an angel, believer or concerned citizen to come the rescue. In the passage above, Paul was stoned, left for dead by his accusers. Instead of accepting that Paul would die, the disciples formed a circle around Paul to prevent any further attacks. Although Luke doesn’t mention prayer, I’m sure one, several or all of these godly men hoped and prayed for a speedy recovery, to restore Paul’s health quickly.

[But] to this day I have had the help which comes from God [as my ally], and so I stand here testifying to small and great alike, asserting nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses declared would come to pass, Acts 26:22.

Paul’s testimony in the passage above makes me wonder if I truly view God as my ally. While I see God as my friend and Savior, genuine allies cooperate with or help one another in a particular activity. This particular activity would be fulfilling the great commission, Acts 1:8, by using my God given gifts. Similar to American allies, I go through periods where I am missing due to in action. The flesh, a.k.a. the sinful nature has a way of persuading distracted souls to become self-centered, breaking your allegiance to God. Paul devotes two chapters of the Bible to this, Romans 7 and 8. May this blog inspire you to rekindle your relationship with God by becoming a better ally with the Creator of the universe.

by Jay Mankus

Being Phased Out

If you work for a big company, sooner or later you will experience the pain of being phased out.  Sometimes this may be certain positions or an entire department that are eliminated to reduce cost and save money for shareholders.  Industries like coal may be phased out in my lifetime by cleaner, more efficient energy.  Meanwhile, other famous companies file for bankruptcy due to a lack of vision.  Richard Sears began using printed mailers in 1888 to advertise watches and jewelry.  This eventually gave birth to the Sears Catalog in 1943.  However, when Amazon was established in 1995 using the internet as an online catalog, Sears didn’t change their business model in time to save their company and customers.

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. 17 Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place, Acts 12:16-17.

When Herod Agrippa I gave orders to have James the brother of John executed, Peter became a marked man.  According to Luke, religious leaders encouraged the king of the Jews to arrest and put Peter to death following the Passover celebrations.  While imprisoned, an angel of the Lord led Peter to escape.  However, based upon the passage above, Peter went into hiding, keeping a low profile.  It was during this period that the Lord rose up a godly man who would surprise Peter spiritually.  Saul who changes his name to Paul in Acts 13 is used to phase Peter out.  When the Jews in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria heard the gospel message, Peter was no longer needed as God raised him up to reach a Jewish audience.  A new voice was necessary to introduce the Gentiles to the good news about Jesus.  Thus, Peter is replaced by Paul to start the final phase, taking the Bible to the ends of the earth.

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” Acts 1:7-8.

According to the book of Revelation, Jesus will not return until every land, nation and tribe has a chance to either receive or reject Jesus as Savior, Romans 10:9-10.  This final phase is approaching 2,000 years and no one knows how much longer the Great Commission will take to complete.  Sure, there will always be guesses, projections and speculation, but only Jesus knows when this mission will end.  No one likes to be phased out, especially when you are forced to sit on the sidelines as someone else takes your place.  Nonetheless, if you aren’t gathering for God, you are likely scattering by leading others astray.  If this occurs, don’t be surprised if God sends someone else to finish the job that you were assigned.  This might result in being phased out by a believer who is more spiritually prepared than you.  However, failure does not mean the end.  Learn from your past mistakes so that the Holy Spirit will inspire you to be ready the next time God calls.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Role of Resolve in Prayer

According to Luke, one of the sons of Zebedee becomes the first of Jesus’ disciples to die a martyr’s death.  Apparently, the spread of Christianity threatened Agrippa I, the new king of the Jews.  It’s unclear why James was targeted, but he was executed in public to send a message.  When this act received praise from Jewish leaders, Agrippa I made plans to do the same thing with Peter.  As news of Peter’s arrest and rumors of another execution reached the church, fear drew believers to fall to their knees to pray.

Now at that time Herod [Agrippa I] the king [of the Jews] arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to harm them. And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword; Acts 12:1-2.

Based upon the passage below, the prayers lifted up to God were fervent and persistent.  Following the Passover, Peter was scheduled to be executed in a similar manner as James.  As this day drew near, prayers of the saints intensified.  Individuals were begging and pleading with God to deal with, fix and resolve this emergency immediately.  Based upon Acts 12:8-10, the Lord sent an angel to save Peter’s life, answering their prayers instantaneously.

When he had seized Peter, he put him in prison, turning him over to four squads of soldiers of four each to guard him [in rotation throughout the night], planning after the Passover to bring him out before the people [for execution]. So Peter was kept in prison, but fervent and persistent prayer for him was being made to God by the church, Acts 12:4-5.

During Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the role of resolve in prayer is mentioned, Matthew 7:7-12.  Step one is obvious, ask God for any requests on your heart or that come to mind.  Step two begins when prayers aren’t answered, seek God to find out why.  Finally, be fervent and persistent by keep knocking on God’s door.  Don’t give up on prayer; resolved to keep praying until the Lord opens a door to reveal answers for your prayers.  This is the role of resolve in prayer.  May your prayer life begin to resemble first century Christians.

by Jay Mankus

When God Has to Repeat Himself

When I was a child, I rarely came to the dinner table the first time my mother called me.  Distracted by what I was doing at the time, I ignored the first warning.  The second call to come to the kitchen was louder, less pleasant and with a threatening tone.  This usually got my attention, but if I was fixated on a game,  I waited for the final warning.  As soon as I heard my full name, I knew I was in trouble, running as fast as I could to avoid future punishment.

This happened three times, and then immediately the object was taken up into heaven.17 Now Peter was still perplexed and completely at a loss as to what his vision could mean when the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon’s house, arrived at the gate, Acts 10:16-17.

When God seeks to get your attention, the Lord tends to be more patient.  Sometimes God will allow you to day dream about a specific act that He wants you to do.  If overlooked, God may speak to you through a passage in the Bible to further motivate you to act.  If this inspiration fades without any action, angels, visions or visitors may to sent to usher in acts of faith.  In the account above and below, Peter was stubborn, clinging to his former beliefs.  Like watching a rerun for the third time, Peter finally embraces God’s new message.

I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘Not at all, Lord; for nothing common (unholy) or [ceremonially] unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice from heaven answered a second time, ‘What God has cleansed and pronounced clean, no longer consider common (unholy).’ 10 This happened three times, and everything was drawn up again into heaven, Acts 11:7-10.

The apostle Paul writes about offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  When your heart and mind are fixated on Jesus, you won’t need to have God repeat himself over and over again.  According to Paul, staying in tune with God is like being in a state of worship, staying on key.  As individuals renew their minds through studying the Bible, ascertaining God’s will for your life become an obtainable goal.  Thus, if you’re tired of being left in the dark spiritually, unsure of where to go or what to do, focus on godly values and ethical attitudes to guide your steps.

by Jay Mankus

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