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Shekinah

From time to time, I will open up the Bible and read something that I have never seen before. Yesterday, I came across the theological term Shekinah. The translation of the Bible that I have relied upon most of my life, the NIV (New International Version), translates this word into English. This skipping over of Shekinah makes me feels cheated, unaware of the glory of the divine presence until this week.

For they are Israelites, and to them belong God’s adoption [as a nation] and the glorious Presence (Shekinah). With them were the special covenants made, to them was the Law given. To them [the temple] worship was revealed and [God’s own] promises announced, Romans 9:4.

The original Hebrew term šekīnah was Romanized to become Shekinah. The English transliteration of this term denotes the dwelling or settling of the divine presence of God. According to the apostle Paul, this was revealed to Roman Christians in the temple as believers were worshipping the Lord. My awareness of this expression from rabbinic literature has inspired me to seek Shekinah as I worship the Lord going forward.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship, Romans 12:1.

Three chapters later, the apostle Paul provides instructions on how to achieve Shekinah. Worship shouldn’t be limited to a building on Sunday. Rather, worship should be a constant state of mind, seeking to become a living sacrifice devoted to God. While this is an objective goal to pursue, the book of Psalm is filled with acts of worship. Whatever advice from the Bible that you follow, make sure this includes bowing down and kneeling before the Lord, Psalm 95:6, waiting for Shekinah to arrive.

by Jay Mankus

When You Are Powerless to Act… Try a Different Kind of Fast (the Esther Fast)

Every January fitness centers across the country are filled with individuals trying to recover from poor diets, a lack of exercise or extra weight that seems impossible to shed. By the end of winter, many who fail to see any change, progress or signs of transformation give up on their New Year Resolutions. Meanwhile, Christians who develop bad spiritual habits fight a similar battle. When reading the Bible becomes rare, praying feels more like a chore or getting up for worship doesn’t happen, you can reach a state where you feel powerless to act.

Then Mordecai told them to return this answer to Esther, Do not flatter yourself that you shall escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall arise for the Jews from elsewhere, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this and for this very occasion? – Esther 4:13-14

There are several examples in the Bible where broken hearted individuals, who felt powerless to act, began to fast and pray for God to intervene. Unfortunately, sometimes I find myself so out of shape spiritually that I don’t have the commitment, focus and strength to follow in the footsteps of Daniel, Nehemiah and Moses. Yet, there is another option. The Book of Esther provides a different kind of fast. Instead of fasting and praying quietly on your own, Esther urges every Jew to fast for three days for her. The goal of this fast was to provide Esther with the words needed to persuade King Ahasuerus to overturn Haman’s decree to kill all the Jews.

Then Esther told them to give this answer to Mordecai, 16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast for me; and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I also and my maids will fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish. 17 So Mordecai went away and did all that Esther had commanded him, Esther 4:15-17.

This was a life or death matter. From Esther’s perspective, she wasn’t able to fast, not wanting to insult the king by not eating the food prepared for her each day. Thus, Esther was forced to rely on God’s people to intervene, praying for a miracle, the right words to say or justice to prevail. Imagine if local churches, communities and followers of Christ began Esther Fasts each week, focusing on a needy cause, person or soul? When you are powerless to act, don’t be afraid to reach out for help by requesting others to fast and pray for you. I pray that the concept of a Esther Fast will take root in 2020, awakening souls, renewing faith and energizing the body of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

When Jesus Slides Down Your Top 10 List

Despite all of the new technological advancements, I still like to write down a to do list. While my priorities change from week to week, the satisfaction of checking off a goal makes me feel like I have actually accomplished something. When I don’t take the time to jot down my priorities, I make a mental note in my mind so when the weekend arrives, I can begin my list.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you., Matthew 6:33.

During the week, I have a set routine until my children’s sports schedules commences. To attend as my games and meets as possible, I am forced to alter my to do list. In the process, sometimes Jesus slides down a few notches from the top down toward the middle. When I delay my time to read the Bible, journal my thoughts and pray, it’s not uncommon to skip this spiritual discipline, forgetting about it completely.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Luke 12:34.

Jesus warns individuals like me to guard your heart. If you are not careful, temporary pleasures will influence your heart to change what you treasure. The more Jesus slides down your top 10 to do list, it’s likely that you will slowly grow apart from God. To prevent this slide from becoming a trend, Jesus urges believers to seek first God’s kingdom and righteous. When you do, God promises to bless and restore your life.

by Jay Mankus

Infusing My Soul

Infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time. Synonyms for infusing include charge, fill, inspire, permeate and saturate. Once a compound is dipped into a solvent, time will slowly allow the extracting process to be completed.

‘You have made known to me the ways of life; You will fill me [infusing my soul] with joy with Your presence,’ Acts 2:28.

From a spiritual perspective, the Word of God serves as the material upon which souls absorb. Biblical principles, history and truth is available to any human being. Beside being one on the best sellers list year after year, the Bible is available through apps, commentaries and numerous online sites. Thus, infusing your soul isn’t limited to New Testament believers. Rather, anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness can experience the abundant life Jesus promises in the passage below.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows], John 10:10.

Those who don’t take develop a routine for infusing your soul become vulnerable to demonic attacks. Jesus warns his disciples about the enemy, seeking to take away the joy you receive from entering into a personal relationship with God. Beside reading the Bible, I spend several hours a day listening to Christian music. While the genres vary depending upon how I feel, the more inspirational the lyrics, the greater my soul is infused. Therefore, if you want to experience what Peter spoke of in Acts 2:28, you too can be revived by infusing your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Are You Still Sleeping?

From time to time, my soul is filled with an overwhelming sense of conviction.  This guilt comes from spiritual naps, periods of my life where I fell asleep to what God wanted me to do, say or stand up for.  The Bible refers to this state as lukewarm.  Past generations used words such as wishy washy to explain how lame my faith can be at times.  To be bluntly honest,  I am fighting a losing battle, wrestling to stay above rising flood waters pulling me under.

And He came back and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Were you unable to keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep [actively] watching and praying so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the body is weak,” Mark 14:37-38.

No one is immune to sleeping as the human body is hard to control.  This requires an intent focus, like a disciplined athlete training for their next competition.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for someone to slip into merely going through the motions.  Whether you are talking about prayer, reading the Bible or worship, these practices can become a mundane event, void of spiritual fire or zeal.  I guess you can say this is where I am, still sleeping, unable to awaken from this spiritual funk.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

According to the apostle Paul, those who find themselves in this spiritual state need to cry out to the Holy Spirit for help.  Instead of babbling the same old powerless prayer, ask God to intercede through the power of the Holy Spirit.  I’m tied of doing the same lame thing, hoping for a better outcome.  Therefore, join me in an awakening of the soul to once again put into practice the word of God.  If you’re still sleeping like me, its time to get up, Luke 21:36.

by Jay Mankus

The Vow of Corban

Reading the Bible can be eye opening, especially when you stumble upon formerly private conversations revealed by Jesus’ disciples.  Every once in a while, I come across a passage that befuddles me, having to rely on commentaries to figure out what I just read.  In my two years of seminary, there is a term that I never learned or came across.  The word Corban means offering to God a sacrifice in order to fulfill a vow.  The passage below provides an example of the vow of Corban in the Bible.

If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth, Numbers 30:2.

One day Pharisees and religious leaders began to observe Jesus, looking for something to correct, point out or scrutinize.  These teachers of the law noticed that some of Jesus’ disciples weren’t following ceremonial laws prior to eating.  While under attack, Jesus brings up the concept of the vow of Corban.  Jesus then ties this vow to a commandment, honoring your father and mother.  Sometimes earthly vows contradict the wishes of your parents, the point Jesus makes in the passage below.

But you [Pharisees and scribes] say, ‘If a man tells his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you is Corban, (that is to say, already a gift to God),”’ 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother [since helping them would violate his vow of Corban]; 13 so you nullify the [authority of the] word of God [acting as if it did not apply] because of your tradition which you have handed down [through the elders]. And you do many things such as that,” Mark 7:11-13.

Perhaps, Jesus was eluding to Jephthah’s tragic vow made in Numbers 11:29-40.  Following a victorious battle, the 9th Judge of Israel was in a great mood.  Returning home from a great distance, Jephthah became hungry while traveling through a forest.  This appetite led to a foolish oath, vowing to sacrifice the first creature that greets him.  Unfortunately, hours passed without seeing anything before his own daughter ran out to hug him.  Jephthah kept his word, sacrificing his daughter, dying as a virgin.  To avoid anyone following in the footsteps of Jephthah, its better to honor your parents rather than focus on making Corban vows.

by Jay Mankus

Without You I’m a Disaster

You don’t have to experience the heart break of a broken relationship to know loneliness, pain and suffering.  Busy schedules may hide your grief momentarily, but idle time will eventually reveal the hole in your heart.  Reflection often stokes emotions held in check until now.  Over the holidays some will come to the conclusion without you I’m a disaster.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” John 15:1-2.

My Darkest Days sings about this reality in their song Without You.  While most people will think of this in a context of a man and woman, this also applies spiritually.  Biblical scholars and theologians reference John 15:1-8 as the answer to this connection.  Jesus uses an illustration of a gardener watering his vineyard.  Jesus is symbolic of the vine, human beings are the branches and the Holy Spirit nurtures and oversees life.  Unfortunately, many individuals attempt to live without remaining connected to the vine, Jesus.  This decision usually results in disaster.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:4-5.

One of the ways Christians neglect Jesus’ instructions is by trying to go through life without any regular time attending church, praying or reading the Bible.  While you may not recognize the difference, each day without interaction with God breeds selfish tendencies.  If this pattern continues, you will likely reach a point where you think you don’t need God.  Sure, in times of desperation Jesus will be like crutches until you can walk again on your own.  As someone who went down this path in college, your mind becomes transformed by the world, believing in lies whispered to you by the Devil.  Justification and rationalization become a new religion.  As 2018 approaches, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to help you see without accepting Jesus into your heart, Romans 10:9-10, life is a disaster waiting to happen.

by Jay Mankus

 

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