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Tag Archives: listen

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

Explaining the Unexplainable

My favorite author as a teenager was Daniel Cohen.  Most of Cohen’s books coincide with unsolved mysteries.  The television series In Search Of which ran from 1977-1982 examined mysterious phenomenas.  This fascination continued with Unsolved Mysteries which ran for a decade into the 1990’s.  Today, this traditional programming continues with the History Channel’s version the Unexplained.

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything, Genesis 9:2-3.

Unfortunately, over the past 40 years, topics such as Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster and Abominable Snowman still remain a mystery.  These creatures of the night are more legend, a figment of our imagination rather than reality.  During a recent binge of the Unexplained, I came across a new mystery, the Mongolian Death Worm.  Sure, the name sounds strange for a worm, but this crypto that resides underneath the Gobi Desert inspired Tremors, a 1990 film starring Kevin Bacon.  However, until an actual body is caught or carcass found, this creature will remain fiction until facts prove it’s existence.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind,” Job 12:7-10.

Based upon the passage above, God has all the answers.  Unfortunately, most people don’t take the time to listen or slow down enough to reflect upon God’s creation.  Those who birdwatch, fish or sightsee have the advantage of taking in the heavens and the earth.  While there will always be unexplainable events and questions that you will have to wait until heaven to be answered, take the advice of the Psalmist.  “Be still before the Lord, Psalm 46:10.”

by Jay Mankus

Average Isn’t Good Enough

In the context of golf, average is like the par for each hole listed on a course’s scorecard. Amateurs golfers strive for par, hoping to take advantage of the easier holes. Meanwhile, the more difficult holes will challenge players, often satisfied with a bogey, one over par. This isn’t the case for professionals who will usually miss 36 hole cuts if they don’t shoot several strokes under par. Average golf professionals don’t last long on the PGA Tour, demoted to a lesser tour or forced to pursue another career.

Concerning this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull and sluggish in [your spiritual] hearing and disinclined to listen, Hebrews 5:11.

The Bible doesn’t paint a positive picture of average Christians. The author of Hebrews refers to an individual who is dull, ignorant and stubborn. Instead of reaching new heights, an unwillingness to listen has resulted in an average life. The difference between an amateur and a professional is the amateur dabbles, unsure of themselves. The professional is committed, determined and focused, possessing a faith in their God given talent. Most amateurs are content with their current status, falling back on another trade as their main career.

For though by this time you ought to be teachers [because of the time you have had to learn these truths], you actually need someone to teach you again the elementary principles of God’s word [from the beginning], Hebrews 5:12.

According to the Bible, God expects Christians to move beyond elementary principles. The apostle Paul uses the analogy of growing up, from a child into a man, 1 Corinthians 13:11. At some point, the Lord wants all believers to put aside childish ways. Modern churches use the confirmation process as a vehicle for growth, enabling teenage boys and girls to take ownership of their faith. As adults, God expects more, to move beyond an amateur mindset toward the devotion of a disciple. May this blog inspire souls to draw closer to Jesus, eager to serve the Lord daily.

by Jay Mankus

Speed Trap

Back in 1986, I was introduced to the need for speed. The film Top Gun coincided with the year I received my driver’s license. Thus, when Maverick and Goose approach their fighter jet, played by Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards, I understood their conversation, “I feel the need, the need for speed.”

Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]; James 1:19.

I was naïve back then, unaware of the speed traps lurking around each corner. Nine months after I got my license I received my first speeding ticket, flying down the St. George’s Bridge, oblivious to the cop at the bottom of the hill. This past Monday, I spent the day in traffic court for my son Daniel who received a ticket Christmas Eve, driving to my parents house after work. Hopefully, he too learned a valuable listen.

For the [resentful, deep-seated] anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God [that standard of behavior which He requires from us], James 1:20.

The Bible has an interesting perspective on speed traps. Instead of focusing on driving, the context above refers to speeding up and slowing down. The earthly brother of Jesus encourages first century Christians to be quick to listen. Apparently, the need for speed is centered around becoming a better listener. Meanwhile, you must fight the urge to become angry, slowing down as a form of discipline to tame your tongue. Therefore, the next time you get behind the wheel, dial in your ears toward heaven so that you avoid any urge for a lead foot or road rage.

by Jay Mankus

The Door to Life

The word entrance is an opening that allows access to a place.  The most common entrance is a door, but others include corridors, gates and passages.  Prior to modern technology such as cell phones, email or social media, you went to someone’s house if you wanted to get their attention.  The Bible uses a similar concept, but before you find the correct door, you must listen first.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me, Revelation 3:20.

The Bible makes a clear distinction between listening and acting upon advice from the Holy Spirit.  Anyone can notice, observe or understand the way to heaven, yet unless you exercise faith by opening the door to life, this knowledge is useless.  If you take the passage above literally, God speaks to individuals throughout life.  This could be through miracles, signs or wonders.  Nonetheless, God doesn’t do everything for you as only you can open this door.

Whoever you are who seeks to honor these doors, you should seek not to admire the gold or the expense, but the craftmanship of the work instead.  The noble work is bright, but because it is nobly bright, let it brighten minds so that they may travel through the true lights to the True Light. where Christ is the True Door, Abbot Suger – 1140.

Abbot Suger was a French abbot, statesman, and historian during the late 11th century.  Suger was one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture.  If you enter any historic church, you will likely find magnificent stain glass windows inside or behind the altar inspired by this time period.  At some point in his life, Suger listened to God’s voice and opened the door to life.  In the quote above, Suger suggests that there are counterfeits, masquerading as the way to heaven.  Yet, by the end of his life, Suger came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is the true door to life.

by Jay Mankus

Listen, Obey and Yield

During the last half century, I have been fortunate enough to attend, listen and participate in numerous inspirational events.  I went to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a Billy Graham Crusade to hear NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White speak.  Shortly after getting married, I heard former Colorado football coach Bill McCarthy address a crowd of sixty five thousand men during a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field.  I spent a year under the spiritual leadership of Alistair Begg, the voice of Truth for Life ministries at the Chapel in Solon, Ohio.  Finally, I spent another year soaking in the knowledge of John Ortberg via Community Services at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.

But even as he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were [greatly] afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen and obey and yield to Him!” – Luke 9:34-35

Many of these speeches invigorated my soul, eager to live out my faith.  Yet, there is one message that stands alone in the Bible.  In the passage above, there were only four people present.  Beside Jesus, James, John and Peter were on a mountain that was engulfed by clouds.  This formation is similar to a heavy fog, limiting your visibility to a couple of feet.  Within this cloud, the voice of God the Father spoke.  To make sure there isn’t any doubt, God identifies Jesus as his own son.  Believing that brevity is clarity, God the Father shares seven words.  The command is simply: listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found there alone. And they kept silent, and told no one at that time any of the things which they had seen [concerning the divine manifestation], Luke 9:36.

Listening means to be attentive, concentrate, hang on and keep your ears open.  Obeying is the act of accepting, bowing, carrying out, deferring to and submitting to that which is being recommended.  Yield refers to bear, contribute, fetch, gather, provide and realize the plan.  In this context, the calling that God has designed for your life.  According to the passage above, theses three disciples were in awe, reflecting upon what had just happened.  None of these men revealed this event until after Jesus rose from the dead.  Although there were only three eye witnesses, God’s message to modern believers hasn’t changed.  Listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Starting to Believe

If you listen, follow or watch cable news on a regular basis, you might begin to believe that the world is falling apart.  A majority of these networks blame Donald Trump for the world’s demise.  Yet, when you spend time outside in the real world, current accusations don’t appear to be as bad as initially reported.  If the media outlet you depend upon isn’t telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who and what should you believe?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

In the passage above, a man approaches Jesus like a disgruntled shopper, complaining about the service he received from a couple of the disciples.  Evidently, the disciples were unable to heal this man’s son possessed by an evil spirit.  This boy was often thrown into epileptic seizures, foaming at the mouth and unable to control his own body.  Jesus attributes this failed miracle to a lack of faith.  Desperate to see his son freed from this helpless state, the man pleads with Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup who is called to testify in court about one of the marines under his command who was killed.  During a cross examination by Tom Cruise who plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee a Navy defense lawyer, a heated argument ensues.  Known as”You Can’t Handle the Truth,” this scene depicts the effort and struggle to unravel truth from fiction.  When forming a belief system, this process is just as difficult, sorting through what your church, education and parents have taught you.  Meanwhile, friends, mentors and professors may be pressuring your to confirm to post-modernism or secularism humanism beliefs.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

When you come to a spiritual crossroads, the best advice is to follow in the footsteps of Berea.  This first century church urged their members to test everything they heard before reaching a conclusion.  Fact checking practices entailed combing through the Bible to determine if ideas, new teaching or theories were consistent with what the apostles taught.  Sometimes information is easy to decipher while other pieces take weeks. months or possibly years to grasp.  During a letter to Thessalonica, Paul reminds the people he visited to abstain from evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Although you will never know all the answers to life’s questions, at some point you have to start believing.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

If You Only Knew

My favorite place to visit during a decade of teaching was the teachers lounge.  Although this seems like a strange answer, it’s one of the few places faculty could go without being bombarded by questions, distracted by a student or interrupted by an upset parent.  This was a setting where staff let their guard down, sharing various burdens on their hearts.  I truly enjoyed the meaningful conversations I engaged in during my first couple of years teaching.  After a while, I began to ask others teachers about certain students, seeing if they had similar concerns or issues in their class.  During one such exchange, my eyes were opened to a situation that I never knew about.

Heal me, O Lord, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise, Jeremiah 17:14.

One of my students was a goof ball, sarcastic and usually a distraction to my classroom.  However, I was enlightened to the reason behind her behavior one afternoon.  Evidently, her parents marriage was falling apart, often left alone some nights with her older sister playing the role as parent.  One of my peers eventually said to me, “It’s a miracle that these children get to school on time daily.”  If I only knew this upfront, I probably would have been more understanding.  Yet, sometimes inappropriate behavior is merely a reaction to what’s going on at home.  This pain held deep inside of hearts, minds and souls often comes out in the form of emotional outbursts.  This cry for help often get’s overlooked by most teachers.

Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security, Jeremiah 33:6.

The most challenging class I dealt with were junior high students in West Virginia.  These students were intelligent, but due to issues at home hampered their overall achievement in school.  Selected by a new boarding school entitled the High Scope Institute for Ideas, I was chosen to counsel and teach these candidates.  Using an active learning environment, students were engaged with seminars and workshops.  In the middle of the day, tutoring sessions were held for those falling behind followed by team building exercises to encourage leaders to come forward.  This semester holds a special place in my heart as I lived with these students like a camp counselor.  Yet, one student began to act up near the end of the school year.  After threatening to kill another student, I had a heated exchange with him, throwing his bunk bed across the room.  Like Jesus turning the tables of money changers in the temple, my reaction struck a nerve, resulting in a tearful confession.  If I only knew how bad his family life was, my methods would have changed.  In view of this, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.  Rather, take the time to listen so that you can help those waiting to be healed from the pain of their past.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Man of Broken Promises

Sometimes you have to listen closely to what you say.  If you don’t, you could end up blowing smoke, carelessly throwing out words void of meaning.  As I reflected upon recent conversations with my children on my days off, its sad to say that I’ve become a man of broken promises.

A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool, Ecclesiastes 5:3.

Just because someone is intelligent, does not make them immune from making foolish decisions.  The context of the passage above likely refers to Solomon’s struggles to please his wife.  Like any good husband, there is a desire satisfy the needs of those whom you love.  Unfortunately, Solomon acquired 700 wives and 300 concubines as king of Israel, making it extremely difficult for him to be a man of his word.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow, Ecclesiastes 5:4.

As I try to pick up the pieces of my tattered reputation, the words of Ecclesiastes serve as a good place to start.  Whether you are talking to friends, family or neighbors, don’t promise anything you can’t keep.  If anything, limit your commitments and over deliver.  For if you don’t heed this message, you may wake up one morning like me and realize that you’ve become a man of broken promises.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Heart That Listens

There is a saying, like father like son.  While children do inherit certain traits from their parents, this doesn’t guarantee success.  According to the prophet Samuel, David possessed a special heart which craved to do the things of God.  Thus, to follow the Lord requires the ability to listen to a heart which is in tune with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart,” 1 Samuel 16:7.

While this sounds good in concept, David was a horrible father, setting a bad example and unable to control his own children according to 2 Samuel.  Perhaps, this might explain the actions of his son Solomon.  Early on, Solomon walked in the ways of the Lord, seeking wisdom rather than fame.  The Hebrew word found in 1 Kings 3:9 refers to a listening heart.  Thus, Solomon was blessed beyond measure, positioned for greatness.

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 1 Kings 3:9

Unfortunately, seeing isn’t always believing.  Subsequently, even if you know the right thing to do in God’s eye’s doesn’t mean you will follow through to honor God.  Some where along the way, Solomon was sidetracked, succumbing to the peer pressure of ungodly wives.  Essentially, Solomon began to co-worship the Lord along with the gods of the Middle East.  In view of this disappointing witness, may God draw you closer to Him so that you will receive a heart that listens, trusts and obeys.

by Jay Mankus

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