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Tag Archives: New Testament

A Shift in Focus

The difference between success and failure can be small. A fraction here or a fraction there often determines the final outcome. From a spiritual focus, those who dwell on their circumstances tend to become overwhelmed by fear. This is the situation in the passage below as Israeli soldiers focused on the size of Goliath, a physical giant compared to everyone else. Meanwhile, a skinny shepherd boy sent by his father to bring food to his older brothers noticed Goliath’s weakness. Not being circumcised meant that Goliath was beatable, not covered or protected by God.

And David said to the men standing by him, What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God? 27 And the [men] told him, Thus shall it be done for the man who kills him. 28 Now Eliab his eldest brother heard what he said to the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David and he said, Why did you come here? With whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and evilness of heart; for you came down that you might see the battle, 1 Samuel 17:26-28.

Fast forwarding to the New Testament, the disciples found themselves in the middle of a storm. Unable to take shelter, the wind and waves battered their boat stuck on the Sea of Galilee. Despite just witnessing the feeding of the 5000, Jesus’ disciples began to fear. Instead of focusing of the God of miracles, these men focused on the current storm surrounding their boat. After spending time in prayer, Jesus took a short cut to Capernaum by walking across this body of water. Disappointed by their lack of faith, Jesus used his supernatural powers to take this boat immediately to shore.

[However] when they had rowed three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and approaching the boat. And they were afraid (terrified). 20 But Jesus said to them, It is I; be not afraid! [I Am; stop being frightened!] 21 Then they were quite willing and glad for Him to come into the boat. And now the boat went at once to the land they had steered toward. [And immediately they reached the shore toward which they had been slowly making their way,] John 6:19-21.

In wake of the Coronavirus, perhaps we all need a refresher course on faith. Hebrews 11:1-6 refers to having the assurance and confidence in an invisible God. Without faith it is impossible to please and satisfy God’s expectations, Matthew 16:24-26. Unfortunately, the moment tides change from blessings to adversity, panic causes many to shift their focus. However, the passage above is a reminder that as soon as you shift your focus from your circumstances toward the God of miracles, help is on the way. May this blog inspire you to shift your focus back toward the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Acts 29

The title of today’s blog is a trick question. While I was a young Christian in college listening to a motivational speaker, he asked the audience to open their Bibles and turn to Acts 29. Most of the room was flipping through the beginning of the New Testament, unable to find this page or chapter. This search continued for several minutes until one bold individual spoke out, “there is no chapter 29, Acts only has 28 chapters.”

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

This pop quiz left many in the room embarrassed. As the speaker began his lesson, this opening question served two purposes. First, this man urged believers to become better students of God’s Word. Second, to view life in terms of an unfinished chapter of the Bible where God uses modern Christians to fulfill the great commission, Acts 1:8. This 60 minute speech made a long lasting impact on my life, instilling a desire to ascertain God’s will for my own life, Romans 12:1-2.

Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:2.

To prepare for today’s blog, I did a search for Acts 29 for fun to see what I would find. To my surprise, Acts 29 is a diverse, global family of church planters who seek to carry on the work of the apostle Paul. This ministry is characterized by theological clarity, cultural engagement, and missional innovation as churches are planted throughout the world. One of my searches located beliefs and theories that Acts 29 is simply missing. Since Acts 28 does not reveal the outcome of Paul’s trial in Rome, common sense suggests there must be another chapter. Whatever the reason for this abrupt ending, may this blog inspire you to seize each day with a renewed desire to fulfill the great commission.

by Jay Mankus

More Than A Feat… It’s a Way of Life

Prior to Fed Ex, UPS and the United States Postal Services, important messages were delivered by a single individual.  Some traveled by boat, others used horses and during the Industrial Revolution via train.  However, in the Old Testament, messengers relied on less conventional methods, camels, donkeys or sandals by foot.  Perhaps, this explains the comment below by a prophet upon receiving good news.

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns,” Isaiah 52:7.

The New Testament refers to feet in the context of spiritual armor.  One of the pieces of Roman armor consisted of special shoes with cleats to dig into the ground.  This enabled soldiers to stand their ground when attacked.  The symbolism of these shoes suggests that when your footing is secure, your feet are ready to deliver the gospel of peace.  As faith matures, individuals develop a spiritual hunger, eager to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.

And having strapped on your feet the gospel of peace in preparation [to face the enemy with firm-footed stability and the readiness produced by the good news], Ephesians 6:15.

To a certain extent, the content of your daily conversations reveal your spiritual readiness.  If you are like me, I experience many ebbs and flows, often hot and cold spiritually.  As you open your mouth, what message are you delivering?  Is it demoralizing, encouraging or lame?  Are you positive, negative or somewhere in between?  As Thanksgiving and Christmas approaches, strap on your spiritual shoes so that no one misses the reason for this upcoming season.

by Jay Mankus

A Lesson about the Human Mind

The word mind appears 95 times in the original King James Bible translation.  Many of these references appear in the New Testament.  The Greek word noús is the God-given capacity of each person to think.  This is where the concept of reason is derived, the mental capacity to exercise reflective thinking.  Thus, as an individual reads the Bible for the first time, the idea of an invisible supernatural force may be difficult to grasp.

But the natural [unbelieving] man does not accept the things [the teachings and revelations] of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness [absurd and illogical] to him; and he is incapable of understanding them, because they are spiritually discerned and appreciated, [and he is unqualified to judge spiritual matters], 1 Corinthians 2:14.

The apostle Paul addresses this struggle in the passage above.  Today, agnostics, atheists and scientists  reject initial thoughts of the Spirit of God.  To intellects, taught to expand their mind with natural and worldly ideology, biblical teachings seem absurd, foolish and illogical.  While debating, discussing and sharing the good news about Jesus to educated men, Paul came to the conclusion that many were incapable of understanding spiritual truths.  These stubborn souls are blinded by minds steeped in age old traditions.

But the spiritual man [the spiritually mature Christian] judges all things [questions, examines and applies what the Holy Spirit reveals], yet is himself judged by no one [the unbeliever cannot judge and understand the believer’s spiritual nature]. 16 For who has known the mind and purposes of the Lord, so as to instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ [to be guided by His thoughts and purposes], 1 Corinthians 2:15-16.

In May of 2008, Hollywood released Indiana Jones and the Kingdom Crystal Skull.  This film is based upon gnosis, the knowledge of spiritual mysteries.  After a pursuit for an ancient crystal skull, the climax reveals that knowledge belongs to aliens, higher beings beyond earth.  You don’t have to see this movie to be informed.  Rather, the passage above unlocks the secret to this life.  The Holy Ghost, an invisible counselor guides those who place their faith and trust in Jesus, Romans 10:9-10.  When you let God in, the Holy Spirit opens your mind to spiritual truths once hidden by a sinful nature.  May this blog inspire you to develop a Christ like mind.

by Jay Mankus

The Seventh Hand

The oldest preserved measuring rod is a copper-alloy bar discovered by the German Assyriologist Eckhard Unger during an excavation of the ancient city of Nippur.  This device is believed to have been used 2650 years before Christ.  According to the Bible, a cubit is the earliest form of measurement.  A cubit is the forearm length from the tip of the middle finger to the bottom of the elbow.  Thus, the hand was an essential body part necessary to complete the most basic measurement.

And these are the measurements of the altar [of burnt offering] in cubits (the cubit being a [long] cubit [the length of a forearm] and a hand width): the base shall be a cubit [long] and a cubit wide, with its border on its edge all around it of a span [in width]. And this shall be the height of the base of the altar, Ezekiel 43:13.

Within the Old Testament, some of the authors introduce the concept of guardian angels.  The Psalmist describes this spiritual being as one who encamps around those who fear God, Psalm 34:7.  In addition, God commands angels to guard you in all of your ways, Psalm 91:11.  This invisible being is like the hand of God watching over your life.  Yet, the Psalmist does include a requirement, fearing God.  The context of this fear is similar to a holy reverence, respecting the Creator of life on earth.  The degree to which you fear the Lord serves as a measuring stick of your faith.

But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth [full and complete truth]. For He will not speak on His own initiative, but He will speak whatever He hears [from the Father—the message regarding the Son], and He will disclose to you what is to come [in the future], John 16:13.

Prior to his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Jesus refers to a Holy Ghost that will be sent after his departure.  New Testament authors refer to this being as a counselor, sent to guide and direct followers of Christ to a complete understanding of truth.  Like another hand to hold, nudge or tap, God uses angels and the Holy Spirit to seek and to save those who are spiritually lost.  Depending upon your current state of mind, may the presence of guardian angels and God’s Spirit encourage you to hold onto the seventh hand, messengers of God, until the storms in life subside.

by Jay Mankus

 

Pray at Lunchtime for the United States

The origin of praying for a meal has ties to the Old Testament and New Testament.  In the days of Israel, cup bearers were similar to modern day secret service agents.  Instead of serving as an armed guard, these men tested the food and wine for poisons.  If no one died, this meal was safe for the king to enjoy.  One of the most famous cup bearers is Nehemiah, who God used as a vessel to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.  In the first century, the apostles gave thanks for each meal the Lord provided.  While the passage below does not detail the words spoken, praying before eating was a form of thanksgiving.

Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all, and he broke it and began to eat, Acts 27:35.

Today, Christians continue this practice, folding their hands, closing their eyes and either silently or verbally expressing thanks to God for daily bread.  Just as Moses gave thanks for manna from heaven and quail via God, saying grace is an act of appreciation for the little things in life.  Unfortunately, praying at lunch has made national news recently for the wrong reason.  Brigadier General John Teichert who has a blog encouraging individuals to pray at lunchtime for the United States is being threatened by a lawsuit.  Attorney Michael Weinstein who trolls Christians on military bases recently said, “General Teichert should be doing time behind prison bars, not commanding a Wing wearing a general’s stars,”

Then all of them were encouraged and their spirits improved, and they also ate some food, Acts 27:36.

Luke provides the benefits of praying before a meal in the passage above.  Based upon the words used by Luke, saying grace can be moving as people pour out their hearts to God.  This specific prayer encouraged everyone in attendance as well as uplifting their spirits.  If public prayer for a meal could have this impact on a group of people, why is this attorney be so upset?  If prayer can inspire souls to act, what’s the big deal?  How is prayer hurting military bases and the men and women who serve this country?  Perhaps, if atheists, critics and skeptics begin to pray, this world would become a better place.  May the readers of this blog keep General Teichert in your prayers so that the power of prayer will continue to thrive in this country and throughout the world.

by Jay Mankus

A Brand New Day

If I didn’t put Lamentations at the end of the passage below, these words could have spoken or written by any disgruntled individual today.  Whenever anyone endures a stretch of bad breaks, failure and sadness, it feels as if God is punishing you for some unknown reason.  As a child I attended a church that over emphasized the Old Testament, painting a different picture of God from the New Testament.  Thus, I grew up without a limited perspective of God’s true character and nature, seeing the Lord as a disciplinarian, judge and punisher for those who do evil.

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long, Lamentations 3:1-3.

The book of Lamentations has one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah begins by expressing the anguish of his depression.  This remorse continues like a tirade of complaining for twenty verses.  After letting all of his emotions out in the form of recorded words, Jeremiah transitions to the positive.  Despite how bad things may look, Jeremiah recalls a message of hope from the Torah, another name for the first five books of the Bible.  This promise altered his mood, bringing to light that each new day serves as a fresh start on life.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, Lamentations 3:21-23.

While you can’t reset life like a video game without removing the consequences, altering your attitude is a good place to start.  The hardest part of any complete transformation is learning how to forgive yourself.  This is even more difficult for those who possess a quest for perfection.  While God forgives and forgets, casting your sins as far as the east is from the west, the Devil uses guilt to haunt your mind by bringing up secret scars.  For most of my life, I have fought a losing battle, overlooking God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, distracted by past failures.  After hearing a song from the group Firefight earlier in the week, I know the course of action I must take; viewing each morning as a Brand New Day.

by Jay Mankus

Fulfilling The Roman Mile

The New Testament and the Roman Empire intersect during the first century.  As Romans expanded their control, Jews were forced to adhere with two different sets of law.  Beside the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, non-Roman citizens needed to comply with Roman law or else face punishment.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles, Matthew 5:41.

One law required a Jew to carry a Roman’s belongings or possessions for a Roman mile if asked to do so.  A Roman mile is one thousands paces, equivalent to 1,000 yards, or 660 yards shorter than a modern day mile.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his audience to do more than a Roman mile, going above and beyond what a Roman citizen asks you to do.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you, Matthew 5:42.

Jesus didn’t ask his followers to do anything without first modeling it within his own life.  Several New Testament passages refer to Jesus as a servant of God, laying down his life for others.  Jesus understood that preaching and theology doesn’t convince non-believers to enter into a personal relationship with God.  Rather, lives are transformed when the love of God is displayed daily through a spirit of servant-hood.  Therefore, if you want to leave a lasting legacy on earth, emulate the Roman mile by giving of yourself to those who ask, need or appear to require some sort of help.  This is what Jesus means by going the extra mile.

by Jay Mankus

 

Thank You For the Journey

Following birthdays, graduations and weddings, individuals often feel compelled to send thank you cards.  While certain presents are more impressive than others, it’s the thought that counts.  Although this process may be time consuming, it’s the appropriate response.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Unfortunately, most people don’t do the same with the Lord.  After a remarkable day, month or phase in life, it’s time to give the Lord the credit for victories in life.  Sure, you might have put in the effort and time to succeed.  Yet, it never hurts to thank God for the journey of life.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change, James 1:17.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul took missionary journeys to spread the good news about Jesus Christ.  Some trips were extended while others were cut short.  Other plans were thwarted due to demonic forces.  Like making a wedding vow, in the good or bad, make sure you take a moment daily to pause by thanking God for the journey.

by Mankus

 

 

Spoiler Alert

As society evolves, new words arrive on the scene to define what’s really happening.  Such is the case of a spoiler alert, derived from someone watching a repeat of an episode, film or show.  Individuals sometimes memorize lines or think out loud, ruining a punch line before a first time listener can enjoy it.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel,” Genesis 3:15.

While clergy, pastors and theologians may use lofty words, the Bible is full of spoiler alerts.  These clues are known as prophecy, a foreshadowing of what God is planning to do in the future.  Following the fall of mankind, also known as original sin, the author places a subtle hint in between the punishment of Adam and Eve.  The passage above promises to send someone a second Adam to restore that which was lost.

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost,” Luke 19:10.

A well known doctor echoes this point in the New Testament.  Luke issues this spoiler alert to his readers, highlighting purpose for Jesus’ life on earth.  Meanwhile, the disciple John shares another spoiler alert at the end of the book of Revelation.  The plot for life has been exposed, but the hardest part is the waiting for God’s prophecies to be fulfilled.  May faith carry you to the finish line or as show biz states, “the grand finale.”

by Jay Mankus

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