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Tag Archives: Reading the Bible

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

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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

 

Comic Relief from the Bible

If you asked a millennial, most would attribute the saying Captain Obvious to modern advertising and or screen writers.  This phrase has taken on a life of it’s own in my household.  When sarcasm is present, the punch line “thank you Captain Obvious” suggests someone is shallow or merely stating the obvious.  After reading the Bible earlier this week, the origin of this expression can be attributed to Jesus.

But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition, Matthew 15:5-6.

One day, the Pharisees attempted to spiritually police Jesus and his disciples.  The context of the passage above spawned from religious leaders strict adherence to Old Testament law.  Taking Leviticus literally, these Jews believed not washing your hands before you eat made you unclean.  After listening to their complaints, Jesus responds by highlighting the flaw in their accusation, throwing their own words back at these religious zealots.

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” – Matthew 15:12

A few minutes later, the disciples play the role of Captain Obvious.  Looking serious and sincere, the disciples felt the back lash from the Pharisees, hoping Jesus would smooth over this situation.  While the specific outspoken disciple is not mentioned, I’m assuming Peter stood up to Jesus, saying something like, “Jesus, do you know that you hurt the Pharisees’ feelings?”  While Jesus never sinned, I believe he came close to some sort of sarcastic reply, “thank you Captain’s obvious!”

One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, John 13:23.

One of the problems with modern comedy is that people try so hard to be funny, that they end up not being funny at all.  Meanwhile, other professionals believe if you don’t curse or focus on politically correct issues, you won’t be make it in Hollywood.  Yet, in my experiences the most humorous individuals are naturally witty in normal every day settings.  When most people visualize Jesus, they see him as a healer, speaker or teacher.  However, in the passage above, Jesus was a normal human being who enjoyed hanging out, reclining and shooting the breeze with friends.  In these settings, comic relief is found.  Perhaps, it’s time to drop your phone, turn off the television and engage family members to crack a smile, have a good laugh or reflect upon what you have in common.  Have fun with others today.

by Jay Mankus

 

A Year Without Church

Before his tragic death in a plane crash, Keith Green created the song Asleep in the Night.  Although the original context refers to someone sleeping in, missing church on Easter Sunday, this song applies to my current dilemma.  Due to my grave yard work schedule, I can’t seem to get my lazy butt out of bed on Sunday morning.  Subsequently, 2016 can be described as a year without church, the fewest weeks I’ve ever attended.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living, Luke 15:13”

I wish I had a decent excuse, but what good would that do.  Like any other sin, missing church involves a lack of discipline, choosing laziness over obedience.  Instead of receiving God’s blessings of fellowship, praise and words of inspiration, I have become like the prodigal who continues to move in the wrong decision.  Hopefully, I will come to my senses soon so that I can spent 2017 in the house of God.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” Luke 15:17-18.

When you miss a day praying or reading the Bible, you can’t get it back.  Sure, you might try to do twice the praying or reading the next day to make yourself feel better, but the truth is something else was more important to you on the days you tuned out God.  Part of me still sees the Lord from an Old Testament perspective, one of judgement and wrath.  Yet, the New Testament opens the door on a loving God, desperately waiting for his children to give Him the attention He is worthy of.  May you learn from the errors of my way by visiting a local church regularly and invest time at home daily with the living God of the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

All is Not Lost

Classic movies tend to provide quotable lines which become part of pop culture.  Although some get more attention, one that comes to mind often goes unnoticed.  In Animal House, Kevin Bacon play Chip Diller who plays a character similar to a ROTC college student.  During a parade high-jacked by Delta Tau Chi who were recently kicked out of school, Chip tries to maintain a panicking crowd.  As people begin to run down the sidewalk, Diller cries out, “all is well, remain calm.”  Unfortunately, Chip goes trampled as his words got drown out by fear.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! – Psalm 37:7

If you turn on cable news or talk radio, not much has changed.  It’s almost as if networks seek to scare people, trying to out do competitors.  This ambulance chasing mentality will continue until the public stop listening, watching and get news in some other manner.  In fact, the times I tune out the world and other outside distractions, I feel great and tend to hear God’s calling much clearer.  Therefore, all is not lost, especially when you slow down to be still before the Lord.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him, Psalm 62:5.

When I lived in Chicago back in the mid 1990’s, I attend Willow Creek Community Church, just down the road from our apartment.  Pastor Bill Hybels spoke about the importance of finding a quiet place each summer to spend time with God.  The Psalmist above provides a similar message.  Despite any silence you might experience, waiting for God’s presence either through prayer or reading the Bible sparks spiritual growth.  Sure, everyone has their days, weeks and months in the dark.  Yet, in the stillness of the night, the Holy Spirit still speaks truth to convince individuals that all is not lost.

by Jay Mankus

 

Watch Out for The Easy Way Out

One of the more teachable moments in Hollywood comes from a scene from A League of Their Own.  When the Rockford Peaches star catcher played by Gina Davis quits the team, manager Tom Hanks confronts her before driving home with her husband.  Davis’ excuse was that “it got too hard.”  Hank’s response, “It’s suppose to be hard, if it wasn’t everyone would play.”  Thus, whether you are an athlete or trying to make the best of this life, make sure you don’t take the easy way out.

I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense, Proverbs 7:7.

In the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to put my priorities in order,  Subsequently, my time reading the Bible, praying and working out has been pretty lame.  I could take the Gina Davis approach, claiming its just too hard to keep up with, perhaps taking a holiday from God.  On the other hand, each day without God brings me closer and closer to person in Proverbs 7:7, deteriorating what common sense that I still possess.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it, Matthew 7:13.

In the famous poem known as Footprints, 2 sets of footprints become one while walking on the beach.  This imagery suggests that sometimes God carries us when we can’t go any further.  As you read this blog, maybe you’re exhausted, tired or ready to give up the fight.  Before you decide, make sure you don’t succumb to the easy way out.  Pray, show resolve and hang tough!

by Jay Mankus

 

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