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Tag Archives: Old Testament

A Promise to Restore and Rebuild

When the concept of immortality and being invincible wears off, teenagers wake up to reality.  As bodies take longer to heal, restoration is necessary to just make it through each day.  As time quickly fades into the night, individuals are forced to alter, change or rebuild their lives.

The words of the Prophets agree with this, just as it is written [in Scripture], After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, Acts 15:15-16.

During the Council at Jerusalem, James quotes an Old Testament prophet.  When religious zealots sought to add Jewish traditions to salvation, James felt compelled to remind those in attendance of God’s promise to restore and rebuild tattered souls.  This message brought hope to Gentiles who were not considered part of God’s chosen people.

So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles upon which my name has been invoked, Acts 15:17.

The agreement made at this historic event has opened God’s door for non-Jews to enter.  Instead of being stuck on the outside of God’s chosen people, members of any nation can now exercise freewill to seek the Lord.  As you call upon the name of the Lord, Romans 10:9-11, the restoration and rebuilding process begins.  Don’t be afraid to ask Jehovah Rapha for help so that the promise of restoration and rebuilding becomes reality.

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

Discipline, Fasting and Nutrition

Staying active can help your metabolism from slowing down.  According to an article on Livestrong.com, thermogenesis, the food processing part of your metabolism actually remains fairly steady throughout your adult life.  This is where discipline comes into play, resisting the urge to satisfy the earthly desires of hunger.  In the context of Olympic athletes, the apostle Paul refers to the rigid training necessary to compete at this level.  Like a boxer preparing for a title bout, discipline is essential to get yourself in the best possible shape to reach your full potential.

Therefore I do not run without a definite goal; I do not flail around like one beating the air [just shadow boxing]. 27 But [like a boxer] I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached [the gospel] to others, I myself will not somehow be disqualified [as unfit for service], 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

Hunger is often dictated by the overall mood you are in.  Upon hearing bad news, appetite can be lost.  When a secret service agent, a body guard to the king receives news of Israel’s vulnerable state, Nehemiah is brought to tears.  This weeping inspired a fast, crying out to God in prayer for a plan to restore the walls surrounding Jerusalem.  Nehemiah’s fast lasted for a season, three to four months.  At the conclusion of this fast, detailed in chapter 2, God provides a clear vision, a plan of action to quickly restore this structure.  During any fast, abstaining from food for a period of time, tends to alter your perspective, seeing life or situations through God’s eyes.

They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its [fortified] gates have been burned (destroyed) by fire.”  Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying [constantly] before the God of heaven, Nehemiah 1:3-4.

When Babylon takes Israel captive in the Old Testament, chief officials brought some young boys to Babylon.  The goal was to retrain these young men into the ways of Babylonian traditions.  When a commander forced these men to alter their Jewish diet, a few refused to adhere to this daily ration.  Rather, Daniel came up with a ten day test.  This combination of fruit, vegetables and water is known as the Daniel fast.  At the end of this ten day challenge, those who participated with Daniel appeared to be healthier than those who ate the king’s finest food.  Learning to balance exercise with nutrition not only makes you feel better, but improves your overall appearance.

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile (taint, dishonor) himself with the king’s finest food or with the wine which the king drank; so he asked the commander of the officials that he might [be excused so that he would] not defile himself, Daniel 1:8.

In the past decade, churches have challenged members of their congregation to participate in a fast each January.  Depending upon the pastor, fasts vary from a Daniel fast, media fast to a strict fluid only fast.  Over the last four years, I have done a nutrition based fast, giving up soda and other unhealthy foods I tend to eat.  I have had mixed results.  During the first fast, I was focused and dedicated, losing nearly twenty pounds in January.  Unfortunately, my latest fasts have been unproductive.  I guess I entered each of these without my heart truly into it.  Thus, the lack of results speaks for itself.  As a new year approaches, may the Holy Spirit prepare your hearts and mind now so that your next fast will be transformational.

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

An Unlikely Comeback

There are certain things that God calls people to do that are awkward, challenging and unappealing,  Unless someone possesses a strong conviction or will to act, most individuals exercise freewill to decline this opportunity to serve God.  In the passage below, an Old Testament prophet receives a clear message from the Lord.  However, human nature compels Jonah to flee, heading in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  This decision sets the stage for an unlikely comeback.

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim [judgment] against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah ran away to Tarshish to escape from the presence of the Lord [and his duty as His prophet]. He went down to ]Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish [the most remote of the Phoenician trading cities]. So he paid the fare and went down into the ship to go with them to Tarshish away from the presence of the Lord, Jonah 1:1-3.

From time to time, I have met people whose lives have taken a similar path to Jonah.  Initial stages play the role of a prodigal, indulging their sinful nature until hitting rock bottom.  For those who come to their senses, confessions, repentance and reconciliation follows.  While in college, I spent a day at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio with two co-workers.  My friend Harry ran into an old youth pastor.  Eddy and I stared at each other in shock, unaware of Harry’s former life.  Prior to this encounter, Harry was in full blown prodigal mode, cursing like a sailor daily while living with his girlfriend.  This God instance planted the seed for another unlikely comeback.

Then they said to him, “Now tell us!  Who is to blame for this disaster? What is your occupation? Where do you come from? What is your country?” So he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I [reverently] fear and worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”  Then the men became extremely frightened and said to him, “How could you do this?” For the men knew that he was running from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What should we do to you, so that the sea will become calm for us?”—for the sea was becoming more and more violent, Jonah 1:8-11.

Stories like this and the apostle Paul’s radical transformation in Acts 9 communicate a powerful message, anything is possible with God.  The Psalmist uses the imagery of infinity, ” as far as the east is from the west,” to describe God’s endless supply of grace, love and mercy.  To the human mind, this fact is hard to comprehend and grasp.  Nonetheless, whether you are currently running away from God, stuck in a relentless storm or ready to give God another chance, its never too late for a comeback.  May the testimony of Jonah give you hope that you too are a candidate for an unlikely spiritual comeback.

by Jay Mankus

Devoid of Light

A recent eye examine revealed that I am practically blind in my right eye.  The culprit is a large cataract in my eye that is blurring my vision daily.  Subsequently, for the second time in three years I will be having surgery to hopefully improve and repair this condition.  For someone who writes daily and desperately wants to pursue a career as a Hollywood screen writer, the odds are stacked against.  When you find yourself devoid of light, unable to see what you’re reading or about to type, my future seems bleak.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it in a cellar nor under a basket [hiding the light], but [instead it is put] on the lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is clear [spiritually perceptive, focused on God], your whole body also is full of light [benefiting from God’s precepts]. But when it is bad [spiritually blind], your body also is full of darkness [devoid of God’s word], Luke 11:33-34.

In the passage above, Jesus compares eyes to the lamp of the human body.  The goal is to place yourself into ideal positions, able to see every angle of what’s happening around you.  Just as fashion designers put lighting to highlight certain aspects of a new home, eyes were created by God to provide spiritual discernment and perception.  The more you focus on God, the clearer things become in life, resulting in good choices.  However, the moment you allow spiritual blindness to enter your life and persist, lives can spin out of control.  Thus, decision making is like being in a fog, devoid of light to lead you out of this darkness.

Be careful, therefore, that the light that is in you is not darkness. 36 So if your whole body is illuminated, with no dark part, it will be entirely bright [with light], as when the lamp gives you light with its bright rays,” Luke 11:35-36.

Beginning in the Old Testament, authors referred to the Bible or Word of God as a source of light.  Amy Grant and Michael Card once sang about this truth in the song Thy Word.  The chorus is straight out of scripture, Psalm 119:105.  God’s Word is like an old oil lamp shinning light into the darkness of night.  Although you may not know where to go initially, wise teachings serve as a light to direct and guide your feet.  While I am anxious about my upcoming eye surgery the last week in November, I do have the promises within the Bible to keep me hopeful.  As I struggle with the possibility of being devoid of human light, seeing, I know my heavenly father has a plan for me to get me through this period of darkness.

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

 

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