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Tag Archives: Old Testament

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

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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

 

When You Stop Learning… You Quit Living

If you are born or raised in the United States, the first 18 years of your life is already planned.  The basic expectation is for every child to attend school from kindergarten all the way through high school.  Following graduation, individuals may choose college, attend a trade school or work locally until a better opportunity arises.  From a worldly standard, the more degrees that you earn often result in higher pay, improved chances for advancement and an elevated social status.  Anyone who rejects this path to success may be ridiculed, shunned or teased by the elite as some educators within higher education believe if you stop learning, you quit living.

And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.  For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay, Habakkuk 2:2-3.

In the days of the Old Testament, kings went to battle each spring to defend their territory from encroaching armies or expand their power over nearby lands.  According to 2 Samuel 11, David became bored by this annual tradition.  Perhaps, a few members of his posse convinced David to enjoy his power as king of Israel.  “You’re the king; send one of your commanders to oversee this military exercise.  Take some time off, relax and enjoy the wealth that you have accumulated.”  Since the Bible doesn’t detail any such conversation, maybe David felt like he arrived.  After serving as a lowly shepherd and musician, David was in the prime of his life, on the top of the world.  As the events of 2 Samuel 11 play itself out, complacency caused David to stop living according to God’s commands.  When you stop learning, you quit living as God desires.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of My law, where I reveal My will].  Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge,  I will also reject you from being My priest.  Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

The Bible reveals the relationship between knowledge and vision.  Vision provides a game plan, enabling people to plot out their future through a series of goals.  As I reflect upon my own life, the times where I lost my way coincide with periods in my life void of goals and objectives.  Meanwhile, if accomplishments in life are etched upon a flow chart, my peaks and summits were achieved due to desire, focus and passion inspired by a dream or vision.  While some adults no longer have aspirations for pursuing another college degree, your current career is constantly changing as technology advances.  Thus, if you decide to stop learning, you will quickly fall behind as younger energetic co-workers will catch up and surpass your level of knowledge.  No matter how old you get, maintaining a teachable spirit is essential.  If you’re not careful, when you stop learning the Bible, you might quit the faith of your childhood.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Prayer is the Bow that Sends Children to New Heights

In the context of archery, a bow is an elastic launching device able to shoot long-shafted projectiles.  In the days of the Old Testament, bow and arrows were used for hunting animals to catch your next meal as well as a military regiment, used to defend and protect countries.  When you apply this concept to prayer, praying is a valuable spiritual weapon.  Proactive prayers serve as a hedge of protection around your children and loved ones.  Meanwhile, bowing as you pray sets the tone for God to take your requests seriously, sending your children to new heights.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart [in God’s unlimited power], but believes that what he says is going to take place, it will be done for him [in accordance with God’s will], Mark 11:23.

Based upon the passage above, it appears that Jesus’ disciples did not understand the power of prayer.  Perhaps, many of these godly men got use to praying without experiencing or seeing immediate results.  The thought of praying for God’s unlimited power appears to be a foreign concept.  UN the passage above, Jesus adds an important element, prayers should be spoken in accordance with God’s will.  Thus, prayer shouldn’t be like a grocery list, asking God to gimme this or that.  Rather, prayer should be an outpouring of your heart, soul and mind, free from doubt.

For this reason I am telling you, whatever things you ask for in prayer [in accordance with God’s will], believe [with confident trust] that you have received them, and they will be given to you, Mark 11:24.

As a parent of two teenagers and one college student, I have reached a point that I no longer have the influence over my children as I once did.  Yet, prayer is always available, especially when you feel helpless, unable to alter, correct or guide the steps teenagers take.  The older I become, the more I cling to the power of prayer.  Inspired by the testimonies of parents whose prayers have transformed their prodigal children, use your daily prayer time as a bow to send your children on to new spiritual heights.

by Jay Mankus

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