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Draw Near

In the Old Testament, God’s presence is limited to a few select individuals.  After Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden at the end of Genesis 3, intimacy with God was severed.  Thus, God revealed himself to the forefathers of Israel, prophets and some leaders to guide and direct their paths.  However, due to continued disobedience throughout several centuries, God decides go silent for 400 years serving as a transition for the New Testament.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded, James 4:8.

Before Jesus arrived on to the scene, priests were used as a mediator between God and mankind.  To atone for sin, priests performed animals sacrifices with the shedding of blood to cleanse individuals, families and cities from their transgressions.  Without practicing this biblical principle, forgiveness is not obtained.  Therefore, drawing near to God can not occur unless repentance and contrition has been completed.

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Hebrews 10:22.

The new covenant introduced to his disciples during the Last Supper, Jesus eliminated the need for the Old Testament practice mentioned above.  Described as the Lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice without blemish, Jesus laid down his own life so that in Him, we too might have life.  While worshiping God at a building, home or a temple is still a vital aspect of faith, you can draw near to God anywhere and anytime.  As you draw near, God’s grace is a free gift available to all approach the Lord with a sincere heart, eager to forgive sinners as far as the East is from the West.

by Jay Mankus

 

Access Denied

Whether you are at home, school or work, if you’re careless when you enter your password into a computer, access will be denied.  Perhaps, you accidentally hit the caps button.  Or maybe your finger touched two keys at the same time.  Regardless of your mistake, black dots prevent you from seeing where you went wrong.  Instead, you are rejected, having to repeat the same process without a flaw to gain the access you desire.

When it comes to talking to God, many share a similar frustration, desperately seeking answers to their prayers.  Nonetheless, countless individuals are given the silent treatment, left in the dark by a God unwilling to tell you why at least for the moment.  Whether your situation is sin related or not, Isaiah 1:15, being shut out of the conversation has caused some to abandon God.

Paul likely endured periods of doubt during his years of ministry as an apostle.  However, while in Rome, the Holy Spirit brought Paul a clear message in Romans 5:1-4.  If access is denied, faith carries you until God opens the next door for you to walk through.  When you do sin, grace is provided to allow you to enter God’s presence.  Therefore, if you are struggling to connect with God, remember the words of Hebrews 11:1-6 until your access is reinstated.

by Jay Mankus

 

Before God’s Presence Appears

Most Americans have become spoiled, expecting a response at the snap of their fingers.  Subsequently, when people go out to eat, go to a show or make a significant purchase, they want perfection.  When disappointed by a product or service, heads will roll and reputations will be harmed if these individuals don’t get their way.  If this is how a growing number of citizens are responding, its no wonder God is waiting to appear until faith and actions coexist.

The book of Leviticus consists of a conversation God had with Moses while on Mount Sinai in Exodus.  As I recently read through Leviticus, a pattern forms throughout the first 8 chapters, “God said to Moses.”  Following these instructions, Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord told Moses.  However, it wasn’t until Leviticus 9:4 before God’s presence appears before Israel.  Thus, this passage suggests God is waiting for his children to carefully follow the Bible’s commands prior to being accompanied by blessings, Deuteronomy 28:2.

While some may say, “what are you waiting for,” others are trying to twist the Bible to conform to their own beliefs.  As for me, a lack of results makes the obvious seem clear once again, “be doers of the word, not just hearers,” Matthew 7:24-27.  Once I realign my priorities to Matthew 6:33, God promises to provide for my daily needs.  Therefore, if you are hungry and thirsty to experience God’s presence, listen to words of Jesus like Aaron followed Moses.

Let us know when you’ve encountered God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

 

Traces of Azusa Street

One hundred and six years prior to William Seymour’s preaching which transformed downtown Los Angeles, many Americans had abandoned God.  According to a 17th century historian, Ian Murray reports this moral decay in the book Revival and Revivalism.  Based upon his research, 1799 was one of the darkest periods for followers of Jesus in the United States.  Church attendance rapidly declined, mock communions were often held on college campus’ and committed prayers dwindled down to a few.  Religious persecution grew, causing the weak to deny their faith and true believers to meet in secret, fearful of being targeted by a growing godless culture.  When all seemed lost, America experienced its first great spiritual awakening in 1800 through an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

A century later, another movement was on the verge of breaking loose, but this time it began across the pond in England.  Leonard Ravenhill, a 20th century  historian on revival went to the origin of this spiritual outbreak to see what elements precipitated God’s presence in the form of the Holy Spirit.  Behind average at best preaching and worship, an anointing of prayer led to an outpouring of confession.  As a result, the area crime rate dropped to zero as prisons became empty.  By the time police were being laid off, churches hired these men to direct the traffic in and around prayer, teaching and revival meetings.  Reaching beyond the church doors, miners felt compelled to stop cursing and swearing, resulting in retraining of mules since they didn’t know how to respond to kind words.

As a black man living in Houston, William Seymour was forced to sit outside the main lecture area, listening to God’s teaching through an open door in a hallway.  Attending Charles Parham’s Bible School in 1905, Seymour did not allow his one blind eye to quench his thirst for God’s Word.  Introduced to the teaching of glossolalia, known today as speaking in tongues, William felt called to take this teaching to the streets of LA.  On a street called Azusa, Seymour founded the modern Pentecostal movement as the gifts of the Holy Spirit spread like wildfire across the country.  Oppressed by theology, Seymour believed God is the same yesterday, today and the future, including spiritual gifts in his belief system.

Today, spiritual gifts tend to be divisive, separating the body of Christ instead of uniting under the guise of light.  Both sides of the argument can assume equal blame as some churches disregard Paul’s teaching regarding orderly worship mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 & 14.  Meanwhile, the frozen chosen have grown cold, lacking love and a sense of respect when it comes to discussing theology in a god honoring manner.  As for me, I’ve been on both sides of this issue throughout my life.  However, currently, I believe there are traces of Azusa Street in the future for America and across the world.  Go no further than South Korea and Nigeria’s revival in the past 10 years to realize, God is not done with mankind.  Therefore, as you live day to day, don’t be surprised if traces of Azusa make their way to your own street corner.

by Jay Mankus

Quiet Waters

Words like silent, tranquil and undisturbed seem so far away from reality.  While America was sleeping, peace has been replaced by violence, slipped into minds full of mush through video games.  Those who are too busy to care, indulge or play, find their amusement is movies, pop culture and the latest car chase on television.  A life full of distractions, interruptions and noise drowns out the serenity of God’s quiet waters.

This promise of Psalm 23:2 may be a flashback from the image portrayed in Psalm 1:1-3.  Those blessed souls who are able to outran the wicked, flee from the presence of careless sinners and avoid joining a crowd full of mockers find their way through the jungle of life.  Beyond the temptations, lies a bubbling brook, full of love, joy and peace.  This living water offered by Jesus in John 4:10 produces conifers, trees that stay green 365 days a year.  Prosperity is like the morning dew, a subtle reminder of God’s presence in this sacred place.

Once you experience this hidden spring, its hard to find enjoyment in the ways of the world.  Sure, temporary pleasures abound, yet nothing satisfies, quickly losing its allure.  The old Southwest Airlines’ commercials have it partially right.  Yes, you’ve got to get away.  However, where you need to arrive is upon the shores of God’s quiet waters.  Like Kokomo, its a mythical destination that only a few find, Matthew 7:13-14.  May the spirit of God, guide you, step by step, until you reach the healing pool, John 5:1-7.  It doesn’t matter why you came or what state you’re in, as long as you believe entering quiet waters will leave you transformed, once and for all.  Get fulfilled today, Matthew 5:6.

by Jay Mankus

Blowing Off Steam

When I hear someone try to reenact an event, joke or story, its hard to capture or relive the moment.  This is where Genesis 22:3 falls between the cracks, often skipped over by those studying one of the most famous chapters of the Bible.  In the wee hours of the morning, doing the work of a servant, Abraham blows off steam, chopping wood, trying to contemplate the task God assigns him.

As I meditated on this passage, I am picturing an old man, 100 years old to be precise.  As he barely get’s the heavy axe over his head, Abraham begins to mutter to himself before splitting the logs located on the ground in two.  Using sarcasm, his conversation goes something like this.  “Let me get this straight God; You are telling me to sacrifice the son you promised my wife and I, the same one we waited more than 18 years to conceive, the one who is suppose to be the father of a great nation and now you want me, his father, to kill him?”  Abraham takes his frustration out on each log, fuming and mumbling to himself.

Meanwhile, I see one of the 2 servants awake tries to intervene.  “Master, are you sure you don’t want me to do this?”  Abraham replies with a raised whisper, “just get the camels and donkeys ready for our journey.  We will need enough food and water for 6 days, so do what I ask.”  Shaking his head, the servant makes one more comment before going on his way, “why don’t we just tell your wife?”  “Hush,” Abraham replies, “how can I tell her I am about to sacrifice her one and only son?  No, we leave in one hour, before sunrise.  I am almost finished here.”  Abraham, bends over for a moment, stretching his back, then perseveres using a full moon as light until he has chopped up enough wood for their journey to Mount Moriah.

Jacob wrestled with God, Moses stuttered in God’s presence and Abraham blew off steam by mentally preparing himself for the hardest test man could endure.  If this is bad enough, think about Genesis 22:7 as Isaac asks his father about the sacrifice.  Somewhere along this journey, Abraham came to one of 2 conclusions.  First, either God was going to super naturally intervene like He does in Genesis 22:13 or the concept or resurrection came to Abraham.  At this point, in this weak moment, God took over, similar to Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:7-12.  Therefore, don’t be afraid to blow off steam, vent your disappointment with God or challenge God’s will for your life.  When you reach the point of total surrender, the Lord will unveil a miracle in your life.  However, at first, you must let go, Matthew 16:25.  God wouldn’t ask man to do something that He wasn’t already considering.

by Jay Mankus

Go Back To The Mountain

The imagery of the Old Testament uses mountains as the place where God resides.  The book of Exodus refers to Moses’ skin as sunburned and windburned after exiting God’s presence in the mountains.  However, there is something unique about mountains, often glanced over by those who read the Bible for the first time.  According to Genesis 12:6-8, Abram builds the first altars, one in the place where God first revealed himself and the other up in the hill country between Bethel and Ai.  It was on this mountain, where Abram called on the name of the Lord for the first time.

Unfortunately, this mountain top experience didn’t last long as Abram quickly turns to his old self, lying to save his own life.  Since Moses wrote down the accounts of Abram well after his death, there isn’t any details like Jesus’ prayer with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:36-46.  One can only speculate what Abram said to God as he returned in Genesis 13:3-4.  Confession is a given, acknowledging his wrong thinking and asking God to provide daily bread for the remainder of the famine is likely as well.  Nonetheless, this mountain held sentimental value.  This was the place where Abram first began his personal relationship with God.

From a modern sense, Christian’s have a certain church, retreat center, city or place where they first met Jesus.  Whenever believers lose their way, its vital to return to this place so that one can reconnect with God.  Despite all of our shortcomings, God longs to spend time with his children.  Therefore, before the summer comes to an end, go back to the mountain, to the place where you first met Jesus.  May this journey bring peace to your soul!

by Jay Mankus

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