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Tag Archives: Pharisees

When Religion and Politics Mix

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city.  This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees.  Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy.  In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants.  From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position.  This is where religion and politics mix.

But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.

During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement.  As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost.  Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage.  According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district.  This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above.  Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless.  Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount.  Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark.  Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart.  Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words.  When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

A Heart Check-Up

While the heart is invisible to the average person, emotions can be felt by everyone.  Unless you are undergoing surgery, it’s hard to get a read on someone else’ heart.  Body language can provide some insight into how individuals are doing.  Meanwhile, behavior may indicate good or bad moods.  Just to be safe it’s important to get an annual heart check-up so you know for sure that you are okay.

You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Matthew 12:34.

During a heated debate with Pharisees, Jesus replies to a rumor started by religious leaders.  Possibly afraid that Jesus was winning over devoted Jews to a new religious movement, gossip began to flow naturally out of their mouths.  Thus, Jesus confronts this inappropriate behavior.  Using biblical principles, Jesus exposes the spiritual condition of these jealous hearts.  Like a scene from A Few Good Men, it appears these religious leaders couldn’t handle the truth.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him, Matthew 12:35.

Today, the amoral, moral and immoral can’t afford to take things for granted.  If the words of the Old Testament prophets are true, no one is perfect.  Thus, everyone has a little bit of darkness within their hearts, Matthew 6:19-24.  Therefore, before you allow your heart to become consumed by evil, taking time for a daily spiritual heart check-up is essential.  May this practice help you shun evil so that goodness will flow naturally out of your heart.

by Jay Mankus

Something Greater Than the Temple

Traditions play an important role in life.  Religious traditions passed on by parents influence what you believe, especially early on in life.  During the first century, Pharisees displayed a holy reverence for Solomon’s Temple.  This passion for a physical place to worship the Lord soon became a stumbling block, limiting God’s power in their lives.  Subsequently, during one encounter with religious leaders Jesus refers to something greater than the temple.

 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here, Matthew 12:6.

Today’s Roman Catholic Church shares some of the practices of Judaism.  Modern priests play a similar role as great high priests in the Old Testament.  However, instead of sacrificing animals to forgive sins, confessionals are used to hear and forgive the sins of their congregation.  While there is a movement to encourage members to read and study the Bible on their own, traditions of the past have stunted spiritual growth.  Thus, the concept of a place greater than the temple is still foreign to many.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

The apostle Paul understood what Jesus meant by something greater than the temple.  Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, an earthquake destroyed the temple that the Jews held in high esteem.  This event opened the door for a transformation to occur, from the temple into your own heart, Romans 10:9-10.  Thus, using a priest as a mediator between God and man was no longer necessary.  Instead, followers of God need to view their bodies as a living temple of the Holy Spirit.  When modern believers make this connection, the human heart becomes greater than the temple.

by Jay Mankus

Beware of the New Age of Pharisees

At the beginning of the first century, two types of religious leaders emerged.  The lesser known Sadducees were members of the ruling class of Jewish priests.  Meanwhile, the Pharisees were a strict sect of law abiding individuals who stringently observed rites and ceremonies of the Torah.  This group’s legalistic mentality added rules and regulations not mentioned in the Bible.  Thus, it wasn’t uncommon for these elite members to play a gotcha style religion.

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation,” Luke 20:46-47.

Two thousand years later, a new type of Pharisee have arrived on to the scene.  Fueled by the gospel of political correctness, new talking points are introduced daily.  Controlling the airways, anyone who attempts to challenge, deviate or question progressive views are reprimanded.  Anyone who does not apologize by retracting previous statements are attacked, defamed and smeared by the media.  Those who cave to these threats become enslaved by this manmade religion.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1.

One of Jesus’ disciples receives a vision about the end of days.  According to Peter, false prophets will introduce various heresies.  A heresy is defined as any belief or opinion which is contrary to biblical doctrine.  Unfortunately. if the media controls and defines the narrative, absolute truth is suppressed.  This is the danger of these times as the influence of this new age of Pharisee intensifies.  In view of this cultural climate, follow the advice of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 by testing everything you hear with the Word of God; then cling to that which is good.  May you endure these trying times as a New Age of Pharisees emerges.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Words Written in the Sand

The Sunday Morning Television talk shows are notorious for setting up conservative minded individuals.  Prior to an invite, politicians are hopeful for a good showing, looking to get their name out on a national stage.  Yet, when the questions begin, many feel like they are on trial, attacked and bombarded for possessing Bible based beliefs.

They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger, John 8:6.

This atmosphere was normal for Jesus during the first century.  Whenever He interacted with Pharisees, religious leaders and teachers of the Torah, Jesus often endured a game of gotcha, waiting for Him to stumble and fall.  On one occasion Jewish officials attempted to use a woman caught in adultery as a trap.  Unlike most debates, Jesus uses a different strategy, ignoring their questions by choosing to write words in the sand.

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,” John 8:7.

The word chosen to describe writing by John, a disciple of Jesus, is not your typical verb.  The context in this passage refers to “writing down the record.”  Thus, scholars assume that Jesus begins to write down the secret sins of these religious leaders in the sand.  Upon hearing Jesus’ request in verse 7, one by one the crowd of accusers quietly goes back to their homes.  When Jesus finished writing, he appears surprised by the honesty of these Jews.  However, his last words to this woman are poignant, “go now and leave your life of sin.”  These words are just as relative today, a call to heed and obey.  Go and do likewise.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spirits that Can Rob Your Speech

The paranormal was always something left for Hollywood, displayed through horror movies when I grew up.  Maybe  I was naive, but I believed the spiritual realm was simply a fantasy, too bizarre to be true.  However, the older I become, I am beginning to open my mind to the reality of a dark, invisible and sinister power working behind the scene to strip individuals of freedom.

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech, Mark 9:17.

Jesus’ disciples experienced a similar event which challenged their belief system.  After initial success in healing people in need, an evil spirit halted their ability to heal a boy.  Dumbfounded, the disciples appear to have reached out to the Pharisees to get their thoughts.  Finally, Jesus arrives onto the scene to straighten out their misconception, explaining that certain demons require prayer to be cast out.  This was the missing link for this boy to regain his speech, robbed from an early age.

“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us,” Mark 9:22.

Today, more than 70 million people worldwide suffer with stammering or stuttering.  Every day more than three million Americans wake up not knowing if or when they will stutter.  As someone who struggled to express myself until I was healed in college, I understand what I feels like to be robbed of your speech.  Though I’m not a doctor, I believe conditions vary, based on medical issues, a lack of confidence and spirits of doubt.  I’m not sure why God choose to heal me, yet I pray for those who are currently fighting against spirits trying to rob souls of their speech.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Misread Signs from God

Somewhere along the way, I picked up a belief that God immediately punishes individuals for their sins.  Perhaps, I heard too many sermons on the wrath of God from the Old Testament growing up.  Subsequently, I began to read too much into daily events, as if I knew why good or bad things were happening to me.  Fortunately, I’m not the only one who struggles to understand God.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” – Mark 8:15

One day while traveling across the countryside, the disciples forgot to bring their usual allotment of bread for their trip.  As soon as this was brought to Jesus’ attention, He began to warn the disciples.  Thinking Jesus was mad at them for forgetting the bread, each misread what the Lord was trying to say.  Instead of seeing the big picture, the twelve disciples were blinded by a narrow view of this world.

Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? – Mark 8:18

A day earlier, Jesus had fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish.  Focused on whose fault it was, forgetting the bread, each disciple failed to see that Jesus was and is the Bread of Life.  The yeast of the Pharisees is cynicism from human beings who try to discredit Jesus’ miracles.  Therefore, if you begin to live by sight and not by faith, you too may soon misread signs from God.

by Jay Mankus

 

Teetotalism in Religion

As dictionaries are updated annually, important words from history are fading from the forefront.  Instead, slang, tech terms and pop culture is redefining societies vocabulary.  One of these obsolete words is teetotalism, a stringent form of following the rules.  Islam or Muslims  is one of the few faiths which practice teetotalism in adherence to the 5 pillars.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” Matthew 11:28.

In his classic book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addresses teetotalism in a chapter called The Cardinal Virtues, values that anyone can possess.  Lewis suggests that initially, teetotalism was a form of temperance, going the right distance and no further.  Like anything in life, context, time and understanding alter the meaning of words.  Thus, teetotalism in the context of religion is merely knowing the boundaries between the right and wrong and failing to cross over this line.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls, Matthew 11:29.

However, when faith is limited to an adherence to rules, meaning can be lost like Pharisees who strayed from God’s commands.  Rather, Jesus doesn’t care what you wear to church on Sunday; only that you come as you are, ditching the facade the fake put on.  Once souls reach the understanding that you can’t do it on your own, Romans 6:23, spiritual hunger is conceived.  Free will enables hearts to wait until they are ready.  When this day arrives, believers won’t have to rely on teetotalism anymore.  Instead, a desire for biblical truth will prompt individuals to pray, read the Bible and worship the Lord 7 days a week.

by Jay Mankus

 

Clean or Unclean: The Debate Continues

Attracted to junk food growing up, I regularly heard the expression, “you are what you eat.”  Whether it was an adult or a concerned friend, the taste of sweets were too delightful to pass up.  Thus, I tended to run on sugar highs before crashing, void of any protein inside my stomach.  By modern standards I would be labeled as unclean, indulging in non-nutritional foods.

Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them, Mark 7:15.

The book of Leviticus is dedicated to defining for readers the difference between wholesome and unwholesome food.  As vegetarian diets continue to attract people seeking to change their eating habits, those that don’t adhere may experience cultural peer pressure to stop eating meat.  If this trend continues, individuals will follow in the footsteps of the Pharisees, making the same mistake they made by prejudging others.  What you eat does not define who you are.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Luke 6:45.

According to Jesus, the heart is the organ which dictates your spiritual classification.   Solomon goes one step farther, referring to the heart as a well spring to life, Proverbs 4:23.  Meanwhile, the apostle Paul adds the mind into this principle, urging Christians to set your heart and mind on things above, Colossians 3:1-4.  Finally, Jesus ties this discussion together by revealing the relationship between the eyes and heart, Matthew 6:21-23.  Therefore, don’t judge others based upon their appetite.  Rather, clean and unclean is determined based upon the treasures of your heart.  May you choose life over pleasure as the debate over clean and unclean continues today.

by Jay Mankus

 

O.C.D. in Religion

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a modern term to describe those who feel the need to anally repeat things over and over.  Activities can include locking doors, washing hands and thorough routines similar to a superstition.  This repetition serves as a method to ease anxious tensions.  Unfortunately, most individuals don’t rest until several minutes have past with some wasting an hour of their day displaying the same pattern of behavior.

The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles, Mark 7:3-4.

After reading through the gospels, Pharisees, religious leaders and teachers of the law in Jesus’ day appear to portray O.C.D. like tendencies.  Oblivious to their condition, Jesus brings this to their attention in Mark 7:6-9.  Somewhere along the way, these respected individuals began to over-emphasize human traditions by de-emphasizing God’s commands.  In the process, faith became legalistic, following a set of rules rather than purifying their hearts before a God full of grace.

Jesus replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ’These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, ” Mark 7:6.

Not much has changed since AD 30 as a segment of Christian churches are more concerned about being a watch dog than converting hearts and minds to follow Christ, Romans 10:9-10.  Using their places of worship like a bully pulpit, sermons are forcefully preached to control their congregations, trying to maintain power as well as squash those with contrary views.  Unfortunately, theology can be divisive, leading some pastors to follow in the same footsteps of the Pharisees.  May those who struggle with religious OCD, see the error of their way, come to the light and be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

 

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