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Christmas in Exile

The longer that the Coronavirus continues, the more city, local, and state officials are flexing their political muscles. Flatten the curve has led to bans on inside dining, a pause in face to face public education and edicts on how many members can be inside a home during the holidays. Subsequently, America citizens are seeing their freedoms quickly vanish. If you’re wondering who is the mastermind behind the saying “never let a crisis go to waste,” it’s Saul Alinsky. You’ll find a similar quote on page 89 of his book Rules for Radicals. The context of this expression comes from a section marked communication “in the arena of action, a threat or a crisis becomes almost a precondition to communication.”

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with a part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar [Babylonia] to the house of his god and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god, Daniel 1:1-2.

Exile comes from the Hebrew word galut. When translated into English, this refers to a forced migration. This theme reoccurs throughout the Old Testament This trend began during a worldwide drought in Egypt. However, after Israel was split in two following the reign of Solomon, the 10 northern tribes were carried off into exile in 722 BC, 2 Kings 17:6-23. Meanwhile, Judah, the 2 remaining southern tribes experienced their own exile in 586 BC. The passage above reveals what happened to Daniel while living in Babylon. Daniel was given a new name, forced to learn a different language and alter his diet initially. The first chapter of Daniel provides a blueprint for how to spend this Christmas in exile.

Then said Daniel to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove your servants, I beseech you, for ten days and let us be given a vegetable diet and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat of the king’s [rich] dainties be observed and compared by you, and deal with us your servants according to what you see, Daniel 1:11-13.

Despite the restrictions placed on Daniel’s life, he wasn’t willing to compromise his beliefs. Based upon the context of chapter 1, Daniel picked his battles, where to comply and what to resist. Following a 10 day trial known as the Daniel Fast, Daniel and his friends won his superiors over, staying true to his Jewish diet. Depending upon what state you live in, you may be able to adopt some of the principles Daniel practiced. Later on in chapter 6, Daniel defies a decree on banning pubic prayer, willing to face a den of lions rather than disobey his heavenly father. Therefore, as some of you face the notion of spending this Christmas in exile, draw inspiration from Daniel so that faith prevails.

by Jay Mankus

When You Lose the Desire to Sing

Over the course of my life, there were several years that I never wanted to end as I was having the time of my life. Other years can be best described by “blah, ho hum or nothing special.” However, as December begins and a New Year approaches, most Americans are ready now to turn the page on 2020. Between the Coronavirus, countless deaths, a troubled economy and whatever else you have endured, finding something to sing about is tough.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we [captives] sat down, yes, we wept when we [earnestly] remembered Zion [the city of our God imprinted on our hearts]. On the willow trees in the midst of [Babylon] we hung our harps, Psalm 137:1-2.

The Psalmist writes about a similar period in his own life. The forced detention of Jews to Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah began in 598. This exile would last a total of 12 years, removing the wind beneath the wings of this harp player. After being removed from their beloved land, musicians lost their desire to play an instrument. Subsequently, harps were abandoned, hung in nearby willow trees in Babylon.

For there they who led us captive required of us a song with words, and our tormentors and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill [with the harp]. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember you not, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! – Psalm 137:3-6.

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. Some listen as a form of entertainment, others to pass the time or seek inspiration from a particular song or genre of music. While music can sooth human souls as in the case of King Saul in 1 Samuel 16, depressing music can plant troubling thoughts. Whenever I am depressed, I rely on certain songs to uplift my mood. Yet, when you lose the desire to sing, come to Jesus to lighten your load, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

Integrity Doesn’t Take a Day Off

Daniel spent 70 years in public service while living in exile. Despite being 85 years of age at this point in time, Daniel served in 3 different administrations under 3 kings. Like any successful leader, Daniel developed a daily ritual, praying 3 times a day. This time of reflection enabled Daniel to remember Israel, hoping to return to his native country.

And over them three presidents—of whom Daniel was one—that these satraps might give account to them and that the king should have no loss or damage. Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the satraps because an excellent spirit was in him, and the king thought to set him over the whole realm, Daniel 6:2-3.

According to the passage above, carefully following God’s laws in a foreign land helped Daniel distinguish himself from the other administrators. Apparently, Daniel didn’t leave his integrity in Jerusalem nor did he allow temptation to influence any thoughts of taking a vacation from his faith. Although the excellent spirit doesn’t specify if this is the Holy Spirit or not, Daniel maintained a positive attitude throughout his exile in Babylon.

Then they came near and said before the king concerning his prohibitory decree, Have you not signed an edict that any man who shall make a petition to any god or man within thirty days, except of you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed or repealed. 13 Then they said before the king, That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, does not regard or pay any attention to you, O king, or to the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day, Daniel 6:12-13.

In this day of political correctness, integrity gets Christians into trouble daily. While you won’t end up in a den of lions like Daniel, standing up for God could result in a lost job, losing friends or a slandered reputation via social media. Going against the flow, especially taking a stand that opposes the modern progressive movement will result in outrage. Thus, making sure that integrity doesn’t take a day off requires self-discipline and will power. May Daniel’s example give you the boldness and courage to follow in his footsteps of integrity.

by Jay Mankus

The Hand Behind the Plan

The origin of the hand of God likely began during the reign of King Belshazzar.  Following the Babylonian’s conquest of Israel and subsequent exile, the hand of God arrived on the scene.  This event could not be explained by modern enchanters, astrologers and diviners.  Thus, Daniel was recommended to interpret the hand behind these words.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote, Daniel 5:5.

In the years that have followed, there is just as much confusion now as then.  Few people today have the spiritual insight like Daniel possessed.  Whether its an anointing, keen awareness or special training, recognizing the hand of God in any aspect of life is difficult.  Those who knew Daniel referred to his ability as having the spirit of the gods within him.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:6.

Today, many false prophets exist, claiming to know the hand behind God’s plan.  However, if you read their books, follow their teaching and test these predictions, inconsistencies abound.  In view of this dilemma, its better to follow the words of the apostle Paul above.  The Old Testament is filled with examples of God humbling the proud and lifting up the meek.  Thus, whether you are able to discern the hand of God or not, remember to stay humble and God’s favor will fall upon you.

by Jay Mankus

The Cyrus Cylinder

In 539 Before Christ, Cyrus, King of Anshan led Persia on their conquest of Babylon.  At this time in history, Daniel of the Bible served as an administrator to King Darius.  Thus, as Cyrus oversaw the captivity of Babylon, his paths crossed with Daniel.  Depending upon which historians you reference, it appears that Daniel had a major influence on the creation of the Cyrus Cylinder.

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”- Esther 4:14

Just as Israel was taken captive years earlier by Babylon, Persia’s victory served as an opportunity to free the Jewish people from their oppression.  These events set the stage for the Cyrus Cylinder, a declaration of independence for Daniel and his country.  This cylinder is the earliest known form of civil rights.  This ancient clay cylinder granted Hebrews equal rights as well as providing the chance to rebuild the nation of Israel.

Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs, and all their kinsmen under their command, 1 Chronicles 12:32.

In recent years, the Cyrus Cylinder has been on display at museums and the United Nations.  Yet, this artifact has a greater significance on the founding of America than most people think.  Thomas Jefferson studied the content of the Cyrus Cylinder and applied some of its principles into the Declaration of Independence.   Behind the scenes, it took a man who devoted his life to God, Daniel like Esther was born for such a time to influence Cyrus in the creation of this historic cylinder.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

You Can’t Have Favor Without the But

The idea of taking a short cut is enticing, saving time and effort.  However, if this risk doesn’t pay off, unfortunate souls are left to swim in a pool of disappointment.  When success becomes a distant memory, blame is often shifted to the big Guy upstairs.  Nonetheless, you can’t experience the favor of God until you display the but.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. – Daniel 1:8

For those of you have who been disenfranchised by faith, you need to draw your attention toward a teenager from Israel.  Despite living through the fall of Judah to Babylon, Daniel remained faithful to the values instilled in him by his parents.  When encouraged to abandon the practices of his youth, Daniel resolved not to defile himself.  God did not bless this young man until the but prompted Daniel to take a stand.

Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel – Daniel 1:9.

Years prior to this event, one of the forefathers of faith helped connect the dots to the hand of God.  According to Moses, obedience is the first step to obtaining the Lord’s favor, Deuteronomy 28:1.   Yet, unless the commands of the Bible are carefully followed, favor will be unattainable.  In modern times, developing a Matthew 6:33 mindset is a great starting point, opening the door for one to receive God’s daily bread.  May this blog help you see the but comes first before God’s favor.

by Jay Mankus

 

Mind Stripping

Strip mining involves excavating the surface of earth, rock and other material to uncover mineral reserves.  Although most commonly used to extract coal, some of the miners on the Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush reality show use strip mining to remove overburden.  Also known as open-cut mining, this process relies on explosives and heavy machinery to reach key pockets of minerals.

A wise king once developed a different kind of mining.  One of the secrets to Babylon’s successful empire in 600 BC was the introduction of mind stripping.  Instead of killing the citizens of newly conquered nations, King Nebuchadnezzar recruited members of royal families as well as the best and brightest young people, Daniel 1:3-5.  Like going back to school, these individuals were programmed to eat, think and embrace the Babylonian worldview.

For example, Daniel was given a new name to strip his mind from his Hebrew roots, Belteshazzer.  This name originated from Mesopotamian mythology, based upon Bel, a title applied to various gods in Babylon.  Essentially, King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to convince Daniel that Bel, his god would take care of him from here on out.  Tempted by knowledge, power and wealth, Daniel refused to allow his mind to be corrupted, Daniel 1:8-14.

Today, mind stripping continues, kept alive by the devil, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  However, this process is invisible, induced by subtle thoughts, whispers and images of greatness.  No one is immune to this internal battle, Galatians 5:16-18.  Regardless of the state this blog finds you in, may the power of the Holy Spirit come to your aid, Galatians 5:25, leading you like Daniel to say no to mind stripping.

by Jay Mankus

 

A New Year’s Invitation to a 2014 Case Study

According to a December 2009 article in the Examiner, the origin of New Year resolutions began with the Babylonians about 4,000 years ago.  Although Babylon celebrated New Year’s on March 23rd, farmers celebrated the beginning of Spring with goals for their upcoming harvest.  This concept has caught on in America as vows to diet, enjoy life and get ahead in 2014 have already begun.  In view of this, I am offering an invitation to anyone interested in being part of a 12 week Case Study, from January to the end of March.

 
 The purpose of this event is to develop Bible Study leaders and encourage discipleship within a small group setting.  I am searching for volunteers who fit the criteria listed below.

1) Anyone who wants to start a Bible Study in their neighborhood for people interested in God or seeking answers to life.

2) Youth pastors who are looking to disciple students to become future leaders in their community.

3) New or small churches seeking to develop a small group Bible Study model throughout their church family.

4) People with the gift of hospitality, willing to host a series of 12 week Bible Studies in 2014.

5) Writers with a background in curriculum development willing to give input while leading their own 12 week study.

6) Godly men, women or couples looking to instill a biblical worldview within their family and friends.

7) Individuals with the gift of evangelism who are willing to recruit unsaved friends to attend a 12 week study.

While I may have excluded some people, my goal is to select 12 leaders across the country to participate in a 12 week journey where people can encounter Extra Ordinary Faith.  Those chosen will receive a complete Power Point Presentation which includes teaching notes, links and you tubes of music videos and movie clips.  My only expectations in return are comments, criticism and ideas to help me assess what changes need to be made before I try to publish this material.

The test group of Extra Ordinary Faith is running now through December 2nd and will also be involved in 2014 as we try to perfect the current curriculum.  Based upon the first 6 weeks, Bible Study ranges from 45 minutes up to 75 minutes depending upon the size and talkative nature of the group.  My recommendation is to have a 15 minute window, giving busy individuals time to arrive, while serving as fellowship for those can can come early.  Although some discussions may flow over a few minutes, try to keep a consistent schedule, reserving a set hour for each Bible Study.

If the Holy Spirit places an urging on your heart, please contact me in a private message on my Facebook page (Jay Mankus) or send me an email at jlmankus@aol.com.  For those selected, please devote time in December to fasting and prayer so that the Holy Spirit will lead you to ask the right people.  Before you set a specific day and time, try to evaluate the best for all members of your group, realizing it probably won’t be right for everyone.  From there, trust God to provide a harvest of people, Matthew 9:37-38.

by Jay Mankus

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