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When Your World Has Been Shaken

Some reporters have compared the Coronavirus to the millennials 9/11. Since my youngest two children were born after September 11th, 2001, I understand this comparison. For me, I remember exactly where I was when I first received news of two airplanes crashing into the Twin Towers. At this time in history, I was an independent contractor and regional staff writer for Travel Golf Media. Both of my positions were impacted as air travel ceased until new safety standards were implemented. Yet, as the Coronavirus continues to reap havoc throughout America, life as we know it has been disturbed and shaken.

There he came to a cave and lodged in it; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, What are you doing here, Elijah? 10 He replied, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, thrown down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I, I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away, 1 Kings 19:9-10.

The Old Testament details a story about a prophet whose own world had been shaken. According to the passage above, the Israelites had turned their back on God, turning a deaf ear to Elijah. Beside feeling useless, altars dedicated to the Lord were discarded from mountain tops. In addition, Elijah’s friends were all killed at the hands of Jezebel. Without any signs of improvement, this former spiritual leader had lost the will to live, giving up hope that God could alter his situation. As a way to get Elijah’s attention, a series of natural disasters struck the land. Taking notice, Elijah did not see the Lord as the source behind the tornado, earthquake and fire. Yet, after these storms, Elijah was ready to hear God’s still small voice.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

Well, if you live in a state like Delaware, you are now under a stay at home order. Normal outdoor sports are now out of the equation, on hold until the Coronavirus fades or dies out. Sure, you can go to the grocery store, get gas and take a walk around the block, but that’s it. So… what is one to do with their life when your world has been shaken? Well, after you binge watch your favorite show or series, dusting off the Bible would be a step in the right direction. The great aspect of free will is that God doesn’t force you to anything. The choices that you make throughout life will shape who you become. May this forced time at home due to the Coronavirus draw you near to God as the world around us continues to be shaken.

by Jay Mankus

Translating God

There are many unsolved mysteries that have been recorded throughout the history of the earth. Some of these mysteries are detailed in the Bible. Whenever you read something that doesn’t make sense, you have to go back to see what the context is to help you understand what really happened. Unfortunately, there are chapters and verses in the Bible that require further research. This process is often referred to as translating God to extract why an account or story has been placed in the Bible; unveiling God’s nature.

And behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. The man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you shall he offer the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Behold, the altar shall be split and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. [Fulfilled in II Kings 23:15, 16.] When King Jeroboam heard the words the man of God cried against the altar in Bethel, he thrust out his hand, saying, Lay hold on him! And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not draw it to him again, 1 Kings 13:1-4.

When I first heard a sermon on the passage above, I immediately thought of the song U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. This hit song reached #1 on the Hip Hop and R&B Billboard charts in 1990. Normally, kings would call upon body guards or soldiers to remove an individual from their presence. However, the words of this unnamed prophet from Judah infuriated King Jeroboam so much that he tried to harm this man. In what can only described as a scene from a Science Fiction film, King Jeroboam’s hand immediately shriveled up.

And he went and found the corpse thrown in the road, and the donkey and the lion stood by the body; the lion had not eaten the corpse or torn the donkey. 29 The prophet took up the corpse of the man of God and laid it upon the donkey and brought it back, and the old prophet came into the city to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid the body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother! 31 After he had buried him, he said to his sons, When I am dead, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones, 1 Kings 13:28-31.

The news of this strange encounter and subsequent healing spread throughout the land like a raging wildfire. A wayward prophet, paid off by King Jeroboam to only proclaim positive messages to enhance his reign felt compelled to reach out to this man of God. When his own sons couldn’t alter his course, this desperate man made up a story about an angelic counter to persuade him to stay an extra day. This decision proved to be fatal, killed by a mountain lion on his way back to Judah. Realizing it was his fault, the corrupt prophet has this man buried in his own personal tomb. Although this story has a sad ending, translating this chapter reveals the important of complete obedience to God. Anything less is unacceptable.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

The Final Reveal

Reality Television shows often share a similar format.  Shows like Bar Rescue, Garage Restoration and Home Makeover attempt to give someone a better life.  Candidates are chosen based upon human interest stories, tragic events or unfortunate circumstances.  Producers reveal the past, present and the potential future if given a chance to succeed.  The climax occurs at the final reveal with some sharing an update of life since the show was filmed.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children, Matthew 11:25.

The Bible refers to another reveal.  In the Old Testament, prophets spoke of a coming Messiah, one who would save people from their sins.  After John the Baptist arrived early in the first century, Jews began to wonder, is this the One?  When John heard of these rumors, he quickly silenced them.  John refers to himself as a messenger, preparing the way for the one to come.

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” – Matthew 11:2-3

While in prison, John sent his disciples to receive assurance on his hunch about Jesus.  The verse above highlights the initial question.  Likely frustrated, Jesus replies with a question of his own.  You see, Jesus’ teaching style forced followers to figure things out on their own.  Thus, instead of dumbing things down, Jesus put the onus back on John’s disciples.  What do all these miracles mean?  What do you think?  At the end of chapter 11, Jesus confirms what some suspected, He is the Son of God.  This is the final reveal, the exclamation point of the gospel, “Jesus came to restore that which was lost,” Luke 19:10.

by Jay Mankus

From That Time On

There were a series of events which took placed before Jesus began his earthly ministry.  Since the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about these specific details, Jesus waited patiently until this day arrived.  Following his baptism, John’s imprisonment and move to the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, everything was set for Jesus to put God’s plan into action.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” Matthew 4:17.

According to the verse above, Jesus’ message was clear, repent for the kingdom of God is near.  To avoid over kill, Matthew writes this statement once as a simple reminder, from that time on.  Whether Jesus was addressing a large crowd, a small group or speaking one on one, repentance played a crucial role.  This term refers to turning 180 degrees away from addiction, bad habits and unwholesome desires toward the grace and mercy of God.

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

During a public conversation heard by several eyewitnesses, Jesus makes a remarkable admission.  Prior to meeting with a repentant tax collector, Jesus reveals his purpose for coming down to earth.  The statement above refers to seeking and saving that which Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.  This is two fold: the authority stolen by Satan and intimacy which Adam and Eve shared with God, walking and talking together day.  If you ever lose your way, don’t forget Jesus’ simply message: repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

by Jay Mankus

A Vessel of Healing

When the term vessel comes up in a conversation, I immediately visualize a cruise ship, sail boat or the SS Minnow from Gilligan’s Island reruns.  While I have never experienced the amenities of a luxurious cruise, this vessel takes you where you want to go.  Sure, the weather may not always cooperate, but the goal is to arrive at each selected destination.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work, 2 Timothy 2:21.

When it comes to healing, the Bible refers to vessels as a vehicle for change.  Thus, spiritual vessels must avoid the popular stops and distractions the majority tend to visit.  Jesus uses the analogy of a broad road that attracts a large crowd of people.  However, in the end, this place is empty, void of any permanent satisfaction.

For thus says the Lord of hosts concerning the pillars, the sea, the stands, and the rest of the vessels that are left in this city, Jeremiah 27:19.

Unfortunately, if you want to be a vessel of healing, you must accept the fact that this will be a lonely journey.  Jeremiah is nicknamed the weeping prophet as many of the messages he received from God to convey to Israel were negative.  The truth hurts as Jack Nicholson famously states as Colonel Jessup, “you can’t handle the truth.”  Vessels of healing must ignore the temptation to be popular by faithfully obeying the Holy Spirit.  In a world desperate for leadership, healing and truth, step out in faith as the Lord is waiting for A Few Good Men, to become vessels of healing.

by Jay Mankus

Making Room for God’s Servants

Churches, temples and other places of worship ask their members to pitch in.  This typically involves gifts, offerings and tithes to help maintain buildings, ministry needs and running costs.  Yet, in the early days of any congregation, sacrifices and time are crucial.  Those who see the big picture often make room for God’s servants.

She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.  Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us,” 2 Kings 4:9-10.

In the Old Testament, there’s an account of a woman who came up with a selfless idea.  Not wanting to act alone, she shared this with her husband, convincing him to put an addition on their home.  When construction was completed, she left on open invitation to the prophet Elisha to stay whenever he was in the area.  This act of kindness was repaid by the Lord.

“About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” – 2 Kings 4:16

The symbolism of a barren woman in the Bible represents a lack of blessing from God.  Meanwhile, those who give birth to multiple children are deemed to have God’s favor.  The context of the passage above suggests this woman was well beyond the age of child bearing.  Despite this fact, Elisha promises the impossible, the miracle of a future son.  While not every kind act of repaid in full, the Lord honors those who make room for God’s servants.

by Jay Mankus

 

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