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Tag Archives: Judges

Recognizing Distractions Early Before It’s Too Late

There is a strange phenomena that occurs when individuals are about to draw close to God.  The apostle Paul points to the spiritual realm to explain distractions, interruptions and unexplained events, Ephesians 6:12.  According to Paul, the devil’s strategy includes three waves.  The first enables certain rulers to rise to power such as judges, kings and political leaders.  This wave is reinforced by worldly forces, areas, regions and territories under demonic oppression where evil is allowed to reign.  Finally, there are spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly realm fueled by demons, minions and strongmen to execute Satan’s schemes on earth.

It happened that as we were on our way to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination [that is, a demonic spirit claiming to foretell the future and discover hidden knowledge], and she brought her owners a good profit by fortune-telling. 17 She followed after Paul and us and kept screaming and shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God! They are proclaiming to you the way of salvation!” – Acts 16:16-17

Using this criteria, Luke details an example from Paul’s ministry while visiting Philippi.  While on his way to participate in a prayer and worship service, a slave girl was sent to distract Paul.  Apparently, a demonic spirit recognized that Paul’s missionary team were servants of the most high God.  Just as spirits hounded Jesus, this revealed truth caused a slave girl to interrupt Paul’s message of salvation to Europe for several days, regularly screaming and shouting as Paul tried to preach.  According to Luke, this gradually wore Paul down, annoyed by this constant distraction.  When Paul rebuked this spirit, the owners of this slave girl complained to the chief magistrates, convincing law enforcement to imprison Paul and Silas.

She continued doing this for several days. Then Paul, being greatly annoyed and worn out, turned and said to the spirit [inside her], “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ [as His representative] to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment, Acts 16:18.

While in prison, Paul and Silas could have been distracted by anger, bitterness and injustice.  Yet, prayers of the saints strengthened these men, turning this setback into a golden opportunity.  How you may ask?  Well, Paul and Silas transformed their prison cell into a worship service.  As Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns, a great earthquake rocked Philippi.  When this quake opened the doors to each cell, some would have taken this as a sign from God to escape.  However, Paul demonstrated amazing leadership, convincing all the prisoners to stay put; saving the life of the jailor who was about to kill himself, the fate he would have faced if any prisoner escaped.  These are the blessings that await those who recognize spiritual distractions early before it’s too late..

by Jay Mankus

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Fulfilling the Common Good

Good is one of those words that is overused.  As absolutes are becoming replaced by opinions fueled by cable news and talk radio, what is good and what is bad varies.  In the days of the Old Testament, Judges began to do what was right in their own eyes, removing the Bible as a measuring stick.  Similar to modern day humanism, anything that feels natural is deemed good.  On the other hand, anything that results in unpleasant experiences is considered bad.  Those who adopt this mentality place self seeking endeavors above the common good.

Now there are [distinctive] varieties of spiritual gifts [special abilities given by the grace and extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit operating in believers], but it is the same Spirit [who grants them and empowers believers]. And there are [distinctive] varieties of ministries and service, but it is the same Lord [who is served]. And there are [distinctive] ways of working [to accomplish things], but it is the same God who produces all things in all believers [inspiring, energizing, and empowering them]. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit [the spiritual illumination and the enabling of the Holy Spirit] for the common good, 1 Corinthians 12:4-7.

During the first century, there was some confusion due to how God was allocating spiritual gifts among church members.  Apparently, jealousy distracted Christians from accomplishing the common good for society.  People who were blessed with special abilities that demonstrated God’s extraordinary powers were placed in higher esteem that those with more traditional gifts like discernment and hospitality.  This rift within Corinth inspired the apostle Paul to remind believers that without displaying love, spiritual gifts are meaningless, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

“Each of us… must rededicate ourselves to serving the common good.  Our individual fates are linked, our futures intertwined.  And if we act in that knowledge and in that spirit, together, as the Bible says, we can move mountains,” President Jimmy Carter 1978.

Jimmy Carter is the last evangelical Christian to hold the presidency of the United States.  Although most Americans would refer to the Carter presidency as a failure, this man has held a higher calling.  Known for his service to Habitat for Humanity, founded in his home state of Georgia, Carter has embraced the concept of providing homes for the homeless.  While most former presidents end up going on book tours, concentrate on speaking engagements or traveling the world, Carter volunteered his time to build homes.  The quote above serves as a great example of what it means to fulfill the common good.  Just as the city of Babel came together with a common purpose to erect a tower, Christian’s united under one spirit can move mountains.

by Jay Mankus

A Split Decision

In the context of boxing, split decisions occur when judges view a contest from opposing points of view.  Unlike unanimous decisions where there is a clear victor, contestants may sway judges by a great comeback or regaining control of a fight.  While modern technology and social media use round by round scorecards today, no one knows what the judges think until the final results are announced at the end of each bout.

 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand, Matthew 12:25.

Throughout the course of each day, arguments tend to result in split decisions depending upon your worldview.  These disagreements can create divisive debates that divide rather than unite.  After President Trump’s comments last Friday in Alabama about National Football players kneeling during the national anthem, professional athletes, owners and most of the media created a firestorm.  After these attacks went viral, citizens from the heartland, Nascar and veterans chimed in to support their president.  A week later, a split decision still exists, with convincing arguments on both sides.

 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges, Matthew 12:27.

During the first century, another controversy began to brew.  The Pharisees felt like Jesus was making a power play, introducing a new concept to Judaism.  This teaching was heresy in the eyes of religious leaders.  Jealous of Jesus’ ability to heal, a rumor spread about Jesus working behind the scenes with the Devil to fool everyone.  Using logic, Jesus began to poke holes in their theory, responding with the two passages above.  These words remind me of today’s current debate over standing or kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem.  In the end, if America doesn’t come to a point where people agree to disagree, the end will be in sight.  Therefore, the next time you attempt to play the role of judge and jury, take a step back and let God be the ultimate judge.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Life Without Relationships

Casual friendships will come and go depending upon circumstances in life.  Yet, everyone needs at least one permanent meaningful lasting relationship to get you through hardship, struggles and trials.  Unfortunately, some choose to become lone rangers, wandering through life alone.

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”- Exodus 18:14

After leading Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness, Moses fell prey to this mindset.  Serving as the supreme judge, Moses worked from sun up to sun down, about sixteen hours a day.  During a visit from his father in law, Jethro made an obvious observation, “what you are doing is not good.”  Jethro’s advice was to train other judges, then delegate basic and simple cases to these men.  The decision to alter his course prevented Moses from living a life without relationships.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:41-42.

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to follow in Moses’ footsteps, trying to do everything on my own.  Anyone who continues down this path is destined to become burned out or overwhelmed.  Some refer to this as the Martha complex, when you are so consumed with day to day chores you forget to enjoy the people God has blessed you with.  Heed the wise words of Jethro so that you don’t live a life without relationships.

by Jay Mankus

The Sword of the Lord

When I was a child, I felt invincible.  Yet, age is the great equalizer.  Subsequently, in my latter years, I have experienced times when I feel like God has abandoned me.  These moments in times have left me lost in a world of darkness.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian,” Judges 6:13.

After Joshua’s death in the Old Testament, Judges began to lead the nation of Israel.  Unfortunately, Gideon endured a similar fate, wondering if God had forgotten the promises made to his chosen people.  During a conversation with an angel, Gideon poured out his heart, sharing his concerns.

The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars. Grasping the torches in their left hands and holding in their right hands the trumpets they were to blow, they shouted, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!”

Judges 7:20

In the hours and days that followed, the Spirit of the Lord fell upon Gideon.  This encounter empowered Gideon to free Israel from the hands of the Midianites.  Although, there were likely some concerns with Gideon’s heart and mind, the Sword of the Lord was the source of victory.  This invisible power provided a miracle which generations continue to recount.  If you are feeling helpless today, cry out to God so that the Sword of the Lord will rescue you from trouble.

by Jay Mankus

 

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