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Tag Archives: studying the Bible

How Rich is Your Faith?

The concept of a stock market dates back nearly 500 years.  The first stock exchange began in 1531 as Belgium brokers and money lenders met in the city of Antwerp to deal with business, government and debt issues.  While the New York Stock Exchange is the most powerful and famous in the United States, the first began in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the Philadelphia Stock Exchange.  Today, there are cable networks devoted to following the rise and fall of modern markets.  Green is good and red bad as a ticker scrolls across the screen revealing up to the second results of trading.  Depending upon how a stock is trending, individuals scramble to buy or sell to maximize their investments.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, Romans 10:17.

Recently, I have begun to view my faith in terms of a stock market.  If you could take the past year, placing your degree of faith on a flow chart, similar to the highs and lows of a stock, what would it look like?  At your peak, what elevated or lifted you to this all time high.  Meanwhile, when you reflect back upon your lowest lows, what caused you to experience, feel and end up in a rock bottom emotional state?  Have you come to your senses like the prodigal son in Luke 15?  Or has depression kept you paralyzed, enslaved by an addiction, bad habit or an undisciplined life?  In the passage above, the apostle Paul gives some advice to the poor in faith.  Investing time listening, reading and studying the Bible is a goldmine to those who want to become rich in faith.

“So it is for the one who continues to store up and hoard possessions for himself, and is not rich [in his relationship] toward God,” Luke 12:21.

Following the parable of the wealthy fool, Jesus reveals the reason why people hoard possessions on earth.  When individuals focus on their own concerns and needs, hobbies can become obsessions.  If there is no one to intervene, people end up on reality televisions shows like Hoarders or are visited by the crew from American Pickers.  According to Jesus, the way to reverse this trend is by improving your relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Those who make investments in Bible Studies, mission trips or prayer groups will begin to see spiritual earnings rise.  As individuals connect with God daily through church related activities and a personal quiet time, your faith will rise.  Everyone will experience drops, falls and slides throughout life.  However, if you develop a resolve like the persistent widow in Luke 18, you will become rich in faith.

by Jay Mankus

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Digesting Prophecy

The dictionary refers to prophecy as a “miracle of knowledge, a declaration, description or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to foresee, discern, or conjecture.”  In ancient days, Jewish leaders relied on prophets, people with the gift of discernment, able to see or sense future events.  Men and women of God relied on a special anointing to help advise and guide kings starting with Saul, then continuing this practice throughout the Old Testament.

Then the angel whom I had seen standing on the sea and the land raised his right hand [to swear an oath] to heaven, and swore [an oath] by [the name of] Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things in it, and the earth and the things in it, and the sea and the things in it, that there will be delay no longer, but when it is time for the trumpet call of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God [that is, His hidden purpose and plan] is finished, as He announced the gospel to His servants the prophets, Revelation 10:5-7.

Unfortunately, modern times have revealed false prophets, schemers and teachers.  These individuals have deceived vulnerable souls, in some cases extorting money from desperate and poor people hoping for a miracle.  These factors have made believing in the concept of a genuine prophet today difficult.  When I read passages from John the revelator, it takes time to digest what is written, especially in the passage above and below.  Any curious person would want to know the mystery of God.  Pursuing this hidden information might unveil God’s purpose and will for your life, but this quest will not happen over night.  Rather, digesting prophecy is a lengthy process, causing one famous pastor to wait 20 years before preaching on Revelation.

Then the voice which I heard from heaven, I heard again speaking to me, and saying, “Go, take the book (scroll) which is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went up to the angel and told him to give me the little book. And he said to me, “Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey,” Revelation 10:8-9.

In verse 9, Christians are encouraged to read the Bible, chew and meditate upon the messages within this book.  According to the revelation above, some of the teachings of the Bible won’t sit well, like a bitter taste in your mouth.  Other topics will taste as sweet as honey.  Thus, as you begin to digest prophecy, its not an easy process.  Certain aspects will remain confusing and hidden, leaving your understanding about parts of the Bible in the dark.  As a former Bible teacher, this is frustrating, especially when you have to address the unknown in class.  Nonetheless, I press on, honesty confessing that there are books and issues that I am still digesting.  May this blog motivate you to diligently study the Word of God so that the unclear becomes clear as people digest prophecy.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Book

The song Living in the Pages by Bruce Carroll changed my perspective of the Bible.  This 1995 release from the album One Summer Evening challenges Christians to spend their time on earth living in the pages of the Bible.  After finishing two different stints as a youth pastor, I realized that spiritual growth is directly linked to the quality time invested beyond the book.  This includes meditating upon, reflecting on and putting into practice biblical practices.  Without any sort of application, conviction and I nspiration, a willingness to change fades away.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

From my own personal experience, it doesn’t take long for me to resemble Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  First published in 1886 as the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this Robert Lewis Stevenson gothic novel uncovers the dual nature living inside of human beings.  Whenever I go a day or two without reading and studying the Bible, my behavior suddenly changes.  Impatience spreads, foul words come out of my mouth and my emphasis becomes self-centered.  Meanwhile, when I do read the Bible, jot down notes and write blogs influenced by this spiritual discipline, God becomes more of a priority in my life.  Thus, your faith depends upon what happens beyond the Bible.

So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ, Romans 10:17.

Since illiteracy was rampant among first century citizens, the Torah was regularly read out loud by priests and letters written by apostles and disciples shared by home church leaders.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul details the relationship between faith and the Bible.  The phrase out of sight, out of mind applies to Scripture.  If the numerous words of the Bible contain supernatural power to transform souls, then the more time you spend putting this advice into practice the better off you will be.  Therefore, beyond the book, put your faith into action so that your life may win the respect and trust of outsiders.

by Jay Mankus

 

Beware of the Weary Traveler

Drained, drowsy, exhausted, fatigued and spent are words associated with being tired and weary.  Depending upon your hobbies, occupation and physical fitness routine, energy can be released emotionally, mentally and physically.  Perhaps this is why the commandments reference loving God with all your heart, soul and mind.  Exercising each of these three aspects of the human body prevents the enemy, Satan, from snatching the good news of Jesus Christ from human hearts, Matthew 13:18-19.  The apostle Paul addresses this within 1 Thessalonians 5:23, urging his audience to prepare your spirit, soul and body for the second coming of Jesus.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up, Galatians 6:9.

Unfortunately, many good intentioned Christians use busyness as an excuse not to follow the advice of Jesus and Paul.  Yet, the longer any believer goes without praying, studying the Bible and worshipping God, the closer you get to the weary traveler.  This is a spiritual condition, not an actual person, where souls become vulnerable to demonic attacks.  Instead of resisting evil, weary travelers often contemplate forbidden fruits, entertain thoughts of doubt and open their minds to alternative lifestyles.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul urges his readers to hold on, press on and don’t give up on following the narrow path that leads to life, Matthew 7:13-14.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint, Isaiah 40:31.

In the days of the Old Testament, devout Jews grew weary of the ancient practices for seeking forgiveness.  Animals needed to be collected, trips to the temples planned and sacrifices made by a high priest to atone for the mistakes, rebellious acts and transgressions made by you and your family.  When you consider the blood, killing and smell left behind by this grueling tradition, its no wonder that Israelites in the days of the prophet Isaiah began to lose hope.  Receiving a vision from God, Isaiah compares the Lord to eaglets nurtured and raised by caring parents.  Thus, when you feel like you can’t go on any longer, let God carry you on wings like eagles.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

Today, a week doesn’t go by without news of a Christian falling from grace, caught in a surprising act of sin.  These tarnished believers often follow the pattern found in 2 Samuel 11:1-4.  Just because you are a man or woman after God’s own heart doesn’t make you immune to sin.  Rather, when the spirit of the weary traveler enters your soul, anything is possible.  Just ask King David who didn’t feel like going to work one day.  This decision led to idleness, boredom and a wandering spirit.  One thing led to another and suddenly a righteous man commits adultery, get’s another man’s wife pregnant and gives order to have her husband left behind and killed.  This Old Testament passage should serve as a wake up call to all Christians who are on the verge of entertaining the weary traveler.

by Jay Mankus

If I Don’t Do What God Calls Me to Do…What Does That Make Me?

In today’s softer, gentler climate, you don’t see many “in your face” personality types anymore.  These characters are often reserved for the military, personal trainers or professional sports.  Yet, during the first century, there was one man who didn’t care how you felt.  Rather, the apostle Paul was blunt, honest and serious in his letters to Christian congregations.  When you don’t do what God calls you to do, this lack of action causes you to be separated from God.

For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, beguiled and completely deceived me, and using it as a weapon killed me [separating me from God], Romans 7:11.

Sin is like catching a spiritual cold.  If you don’t take medicine such as studying the Bible, praying and worshipping God, your condition will worsen.  This virus attacks individuals on two fronts, your body and mind.  Human bodies require boundaries, exercise and routines.  If you fail to make time for God daily, out of sight, out of mind will cause souls to place God and your faith on a shelf to collect dust.  Meanwhile, demons and evil spirits influence minds by planting seeds of doubt.  These thoughts if unchecked can kill your joy for life.

 For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled and bewildered by them]. I do not practice what I want to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate [and yielding to my human nature, my worldliness—my sinful capacity]. 16 Now if I habitually do what I do not want to do, [that means] I agree with the Law, confessing that it is good (morally excellent). 17 So now [if that is the case, then] it is no longer I who do it [the disobedient thing which I despise], but the sin [nature] which lives in me, Romans 7:15-17.

In the passage above, Paul hints at what it is like to be addicted to a specific sin.  Whether this is cheating, cursing, eating unhealthy, indulging your flesh in unwholesome ways or lying, breaking any bad habit is difficult.  Making a drastic change requires will power that many people lack.  Thus, all too often sinners throw in the towel, quit and wave the white flag, surrendering to Satan.  If this blog finds you in a similar state, ask God for the resolve necessary to fight through your ordeal.  Lean on the promise of Romans 7:24-25 so that failure does not define your life.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery of Prayer

Seven years ago, my career path took an unexpected turn from a high school Bible teacher to the unemployment line.  Following previous setbacks, God always gave me feedback, insight or some sort of sign to know if I was on the right path.  Unfortunately, my soul has never fully healed from this crushing disappointment, not quite sure what I am suppose to do or where I need to invest my time in the future.  This perplexing situation has lead me to contemplate the mystery of prayer.

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.

My research has led me to narrow in on three conditions which influence whether or not prayers are answered.  According to Deuteronomy 28, blessings are directly related to diligently listening, obeying the voice of God and carefully following God’s commands in the Bible.  The second piece of criteria is provided by Moses’ predecessor Joshua 1:5-9.  The new leader of Israel introduces the concept of spiritual disciplines which begins with reading, reflecting upon and mediating upon God’s Word.  Finally, Jesus provides the final condition during a conversation with his disciples in Matthew 21:19-22.  If you place your trust and confidence in Jesus, free from doubt, ask whatever you desire in the context of God’s will and the mystery of prayer will be unlocked.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, the apostle Paul instructs first century believers on what to do now.  In a letter to the church of Rome, Paul writes about times when you are struggling to come up with words to say while praying.  According to Paul, this is when you need to lean on the Holy Spirit, trusting God to intervene as you pray.  When I evaluate my own life against these biblical standards, I can clearly see where I have come up short.  Thus, for now I need to get back to the basics: listening to God, studying the Bible, applying what I am learning and submit my life to prayer.  May the words in this blog help you better understand the mystery of prayer.

by Jay Mankus

Believe It or Not?

One of the first books I read for fun outside of school was written by Daniel Cohen.  I don’t remember the title, but this piece studied eyewitness accounts of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and other unusual encounters.  Going to Ripley’s Believe It or Not Exhibits as a teenager only fostered my interest in unsolved mysteries.  While the debate continues on some of these unknown creatures, sooner or later you have to reach a decision; to believe it or not.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them, Psalm 34:7

As an adult, I’ve experienced things that can only be described as supernatural.  Initially, I didn’t give much thought to some of these events.  Yet, after attending a conference on discernment, studying the Bible and seeking the council of elder believers, I can’t deny the existence of angels.  While I’ve never entertained an angel like some Americans, there have been moments where I avoided an accident, steered clear of danger and escaped a difficult situation.  How can I be so sure you may ask?  Well, I’ve reached a stage in life where I have come to the conclusion that I simply believe.

For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, Acts 27:23.

The Christian Rock Group David and the Giants devote an entire album to this topic in Angels Unaware.  Beyond the physical realm, angels are fueled by prayer, ushered into action by diligent saints.  Miracles occur daily, often going unnoticed by those who are rescued and or saved from harm.  On bended knees, angels are empowered as promises in the Bible are verbally lifted up, usually inspiring God to immediate act by sending guardian angels.  I’m not forcing you to believe in angels.  Yet, at some point you must decide; to believe it or not.

by Jay Mankus

 

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