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Running Away from the Hand of God

After the death of Joseph, who God used to save Egypt from a historic famine, future leaders forgot his impact on their country.  When Pharaoh Rameses II rose to power, the once favored Jews became enslaved for 400 years.  Four centuries leader, God chose a man named Moses to lead Israel to a promised land, free from slavery.  Despite this hardship, the Lord was afraid that Israel might change their mind by returning to Egypt and accept a state of misery.

So it happened, when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearer; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war [that is, that there will be war], and return to Egypt,” Exodus 13:17. 

Upon the banks of the Red Sea, the Egyptian army was on the verge of surrounding Israel when the hand of God intervened.  Like a scene out of a tsunami movie, one million Jews walked to the other side before a wall of water returned to swallow up chariots and soldiers.  For the eyewitnesses, this event should have transformed their faith forever.  Yet, based upon the words of Moses in Exodus, some began to convince others to return to Egypt rather than trust in God to provide manna from heaven.

Further, he shall not acquire many [war] horses for himself, nor make the people return to Egypt in order to acquire horses [to expand his military power], since the Lord said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again, Deuteronomy 17:16.

As crazy as this may seem, modern believers continue to run away from the hand of God.  Despite countless miracles, signs and wonders, the faith of some have become weak.  The Lord doesn’t want his people to go back to being enslaved, yet weak minds can cause faith to crumble.  Jonah ran away from God in the opposite direction rather than following his call to go to Nineveh.  Unfortunately, my own actions reflect a similar pattern, doing what I want to do.  If only I would let go and trust God, I will see the hand of God at work rather than running away due to fear.

by Jay Mankus

A Reason to Reconsider

Imitation is a response by an observer or observers who replicate another’s behavior. This can be viewed as a form a flattery when the originator sees others coping a dance move, expression or unique style. One of the nicknames Jesus received during the first century was the Great Magician. Jealous of Jesus’ great healing powers, religious leaders began to refer to Jesus as an illusionist, performing miracles in the name of Satan, Matthew 12:24. Despite these claims, Jesus’ ministry inspired others to become faith healers without having a personal relationship with God.

Then some of the traveling Jewish exorcists also attempted to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I implore you and solemnly command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!” – Acts 19:13

During a trip to Ephesus, Luke details a family of brothers who became Jewish exorcists. This isn’t a scene out of the Exorcism of Emily Rose, a 2005 film. Rather, the sons of Sceva traveled to homes filled with desperate individuals hoping to be set free from demonic oppression and possession. Apparently, this was a viable occupation, making enough money and successful enough to rid souls from imps. Yet, when this crew confronted a legion of demons, all 7 got their butts kicked, barely escaping, fleeing in fear.

This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified and exalted. 18 Many of those who had become believers were coming, confessing and disclosing their [former sinful] practices. 19 And many of those who had practiced magical arts collected their books and [throwing book after book on the pile] began burning them in front of everyone. They calculated their value and found it to be 50,000 pieces of silver, Acts 19:17-19.

Like the top grossing horror films of all time, fear gripped everyone who interviewed these brothers or witnessed this assault. According to Luke, the thought of imitating the Christian faith stopped, resulting in a spiritual awakening that spread to practicing witches. Contrite hearts began to purge their lives from anything that attempted to imitate God’s power. Subsequently, magical books worth 50,000 pieces of silver were burned. The fear of God from what happened to the 7 sons of Sceva served as a reason to reconsider previous practices by embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior.

by Jay Mankus

The Exorcists in the Bible

The 1973 film the Exorcist is a classic horror movie that will scare the hell out of you. Adapted by William Peter Blatty from his 1971 novel, a mother notices dramatic and worrisome changes in the behavior and physical make-up of her 12-year-old daughter. This storyline sets the stage for an exorcism conducted by two priests. Although this fictional scene may seem unbelievable today, the supernatural power exhibited by demons and evil spirits is consistent with that found during an exorcism gone wrong in the Bible.

Then some of the traveling Jewish exorcists also attempted to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “I implore you and solemnly command you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches!” 14 Seven sons of one [named] Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this, Acts 19:13-14.

During Paul’s third missionary journey, God enabled Paul to perform extraordinary and unusual miracles. Just as followers of Jesus gathered around to touch the edge of his cloak, Matthew 9:20-22, aprons, handkerchiefs and towels touched by Paul were used to heal the sick. As bystanders watched in awe, 7 brothers decided to imitate Paul’s teaching, performing exorcists in the name of Jesus and Paul. However, during one encounter with a demon possessed man, an evil spirit attacked all 7, ripped their clothes off as each exited a house, running for their lives buck naked.

But the evil spirit retorted, “I know and recognize and acknowledge Jesus, and I know about Paul, but as for you, who are you?” 16 Then the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they ran out of that house [in terror, stripped] naked and wounded. 17 This became known to all who lived in Ephesus, both Jews and Greeks. And fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified and exalted, Acts 19:15-17.

College professors and public school teachers often refer to the Bible as out of date, not relative in today’s progressive culture. Yet, the passage above unveils a glimpse of the supernatural powers that exist in the spiritual realm. During my last few years at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate to meet and hear missionaries share their experiences living within third world nations. One guest speaker talked about America becoming spiritually dead, numb to the idea of demons, evil spirits and powers of darkness. Perhaps, the armor of God is included within of Ephesians 6 as a reminder to the 7 sons of Sceva who were from Ephesus to prepare skeptics for the schemes of the Devil. If you don’t take this threat seriously, you too could be caught off guard like these exorcists in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Greatest Hits

The term “greatest hits” often refers to a best of album from an artist, band or group.  This collection of songs highlights a musicians career, selecting the best, most popular and top singles.  The Eagles’ were one of the first groups to release a greatest hits album in 1976.  Shows like “Whose Line is it Anyway” have a comedy skit where entertainers such as Wayne Brady, Charles Esten and Brad Sherwood make up fictional best of and greatest hit songs.

There are also many other signs (attesting miracles) that Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe [with a deep, abiding trust] that Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God; and that by believing [and trusting in and relying on Him] you may have life in His name, John 20:30-31.

The Bible contains God’s version of greatest hits.  The four gospels contain 37 miracles performed by Jesus.  These miracles can be described as Jesus’ best of magical moments.  According to John, if all of Jesus’ miracles were written down, these volumes would not fit into the Library of Congress.  Based upon the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Jesus performed miracles every day for three years.  Thus, the 37 selected demonstrate that Jesus is the master of all trades, defying death and science.

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were recorded one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, John 21:25.

Based upon individuals who have had a near death experience, each person will witness a video, a movie reel of your entire life.  This screen plays your greatest hits as well as your most embarrassing moments.  After this review of your life has finished playing, judgement awaits.  According to the apostle Paul, there is no one righteous, not even one, Romans 3:10.  Due to this painful reality, there is only one proper response, Romans 7:24-25, thanks be to God for Christ our deliverer.  While the world seems to focus their attention on greatest hits, God calls lost souls to repentance.  May the Lord change our hearts before Judgement Day arrives.

by Jay Mankus

Anointed with a Great Power

One of the disciples makes an interesting observation about Jesus.  Just as Lois Lane sought to comprehend the source of Superman’s powers, Peter points to the anointing of the Holy Spirit to explain Jesus’ great power.  As someone who spent nearly 3 years living and traveling with Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit defied logic and science.  This anointing occurred as followers watched John baptize Jesus in the Jordan River, Matthew 3:13-17.

You know the things that have taken place throughout Judea, starting in Galilee after the baptism preached by John— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with great power; and He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him, Acts 10:37-38.

As Peter watched Jesus day after day perform miracles, a doctor attempts to explain how the Holy Spirit enabled Jesus to heal individuals oppressed by the Devil.  In an era where mental health continues to be a mystery, the Holy Spirit served as x-ray vision to identify unclean spirits messing up the lives of human beings.  The four gospels are filled with testimonies of where Jesus addresses, confronts and casts out demons using the power of the Holy Spirit.

“I have told you these things while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will help you remember everything that I have told you, John 14:25-26.

As Passion Week, the days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, drew close, Jesus gathered his disciples together to reveal a future gift from God.  The disciple whom Jesus loved refers to this spiritual entity as an Advocate, Counselor and Intercessor.  On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Holy Spirit fell upon followers of Jesus.  According to the New Testament, this great power is available to those who are baptized following their conversation.  While the presence of the Holy Spirit may not be as visible today, this great power is awaiting for those who believe.  May the words of the prophet, Joel 2:28-29, deliver a new anointing with great power.

by Jay Mankus

Can’t Stop Thinking About It

Mind-wandering is referred to today as task-unrelated thought. Depending upon the situation, you might experience thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time. This state of mind is allowed to continue when people are not engaged in an attention-demanding task.
Once individuals are less bogged down by the pressure of day to day life, minds can begin to narrow in on what’s important.

But after ordering them to step out of the Council [chamber], they began to confer among themselves, 16 saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that an extraordinary miracle has taken place through them is public knowledge and clearly evident to all the residents of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people and the nation, let us [sternly] warn them not to speak again to anyone in this name.” 18 So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak [as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority]., Acts 4:15-18.

Following the day of Pentecost, miracles once performed by Jesus began to occur by his followers. After a man lame from birth was deemed healed after showing himself to a priest, John and Peter was brought in for questioning. A group of ruling men known as the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court, were concerned that Jews were getting caught up in a new Jesus Movement. Evidently, people couldn’t stop thinking about miracles performed under the authority of Jesus Christ.

But Peter and John replied to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must judge [for yourselves]; 20 for we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard,” Acts 4:19-20.

Thus, the Sanhedrin tried to stop this spiritual movement from spreading any further. This suggestion presented John and Peter with a moral dilemma. Should we give into this peer pressure to become politically correct or should we obey God? These former disciples of Jesus chose the latter, risking imprisonment to stand up for their beliefs and convictions. If there is one thing you shouldn’t stop thinking about, it’s Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Disappearance of Praise

In this progressive age, claiming there is only one God is unacceptable. Anyone who celebrates, embraces or promotes Christianity is often stigmatized. Those who hold Judeo Christian values are often labeled bigots, homophobes or racists by members of the media who subscribe to post-modernism. Perhaps, this may be a major factor to the disappearance of praise.

Then he seized the man’s right hand with a firm grip and raised him up. And at once his feet and ankles became strong and steady, and with a leap he stood up and began to walk; and he went into the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God; Acts 3:7-9.

During the first century, encountering beggars was not uncommon. Just as busy street corners today attract individuals searching for some spare change, the crippled, lame and poor were waiting for a handout. Sitting outside the temple gates, one man wanted money but received something far greater, the ability to walk. When observers realized this man had been healed, everyone began to praise the Lord.

And they recognized him as the very man who usually sat begging for coins at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with wonder and amazement and were mystified at what had happened to him, Acts 3:10.

Despite giving God the credit for healing this crippled man, negativity has gradually drown out praise. Instead of focusing on the positive by thanking God for the little things, human beings have been stirred into a tizzy by social media. Others remain mystified, confused by how God can heal one person while bad things continue to happen to good people. This painful reality likely hushes the degree and volume of praise. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I pray that public praise for God will make a revival again.

by Jay Mankus

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