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Tag Archives: the Old Testament

Proving Your Faith

I spent most of my youth pursuing sports, playing a different sport each season.  One of the best ways to get more playing time is practicing during the offseason.  Unfortunately, when you are the best or one of the top athletes in a sport like me, I got complacent, lost my drive and was surpassed by others boys as I got older.  Since sports is so focused on statistics, coaches placed an emphasis on proving yourself game after game and week after week.

22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 23 After considerable time had passed [about three years or so], the Jews plotted together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the city’s gates day and night so they could kill him; 25 but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. 26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple, Acts 9:22-26.

If you take the Great Commission literally, Matthew 28:16-20, (Jesus’ plan to spread the gospel throughout the earth), proving yourself spiritually is based upon the degree to which you share your faith.  According to the passage above, Saul spent somewhere between 2 to 3 years doing this.  According to Luke, Saul used his upbringing as a Jewish zealot and knowledge of the Old Testament to convince his listeners that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Despite Saul’s efforts, this wasn’t good enough to be accepted and embraced by Jesus’ disciples.  Basically, Jesus’ inner circle believed that Saul hadn’t done enough to prove that his faith was genuine.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] 15 If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:14-17.

An earthly brother of Jesus gives a broader view of how an ordinary person can prove their faith.  Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, James believed that his oldest brother was a liar and lunatic.  When you read the passage above, James is using his own life as an example.  At some point, James’ own faith became inoperative and ineffective.  Genuine faith is alive and active, producing spiritual fruit or planting seeds of faith.  Therefore, if you want to prove your own faith, make sure that you  in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  By doing this, your faith will come alive for others to hear and see.

by Jay Mankus

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Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

How Do You Respond to God’s Glory?

There are certain events that can only be described as a miracle.  The car accident that you somehow avoided.  The birth of a healthy child after doctor’s gave a woman little or no chance to survive.  A full recovery from an operation when the odds and percentages were against you.  These events and others like it are glimpses of God’s glory on earth.  After you awake to experience another day, how will you respond to God’s glory?

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me disrespectfully and reject Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the [miraculous] signs which I have performed among them? – Number 14:11

In the early days of the Old Testament, God made regular appearances, displaying his mighty power.  After Noah witnessed and survived a global flood, the Lord started over with a man named Abraham.  Years later, a boy who was raised by Pharaoh’s daughter would alter the course of history.  When Egyptians mistreated his descendants, enslaved by Pharaoh, Moses murdered a man, living as a fugitive until meeting God in a burning bush.  Despite this amazing encounter, Moses focused his speech impediment instead of trusting in the power of God to cure his stuttering.

Then Moses said to the Lord, “Please, Lord, I am not a man of words (eloquent, fluent), neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and tongue.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute or the deaf, or the seeing or the blind? Is it not I, the Lord? 12 Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and will teach you what you shall say.” 13 But he said, “Please my Lord, send the message [of rescue to Israel] by [someone else,] whomever else You will [choose],” Exodus 4:10-13.

After escaping harm from the ten plagues sent by God, witnessing the Red Sea splitting in two and eating manna from heaven, Israel became spoiled.  Instead of treating God’s glory with awe and praise, many Jews began to disrespect the Lord, forgetting all the miracles of the recent past.  Perhaps, this explains why Jesus urges first century followers to live by faith and not by sight.  Whenever individuals reach a point where you demand God to give me this or show me a sign, we follow in the footsteps of Israel wandering around in the wilderness.  May this blog inspire souls to respond to God’s glory with the proper acknowledgement, praise and respect.

by Jay Mankus

Heaven Help Me

The Beatles released their fifth album Help on 6th August, 1965.  The featured song begins with the lyrics (Help!) I need somebody (Help!) Not just anybody (Help!) You know I need someone help!  More than fifty years later, these words can relate to anyone who is in trouble.  When circumstances appear to be spiritually related, individuals may choose to cry out to God in prayer, “heaven help me.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah lived until the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah’s reign. 698 years Before Christ, Isaiah was sawed in half, dying a martyr’s life after prophesizing for roughly sixty years. Despite the fate he would suffer, the Holy Spirit gave Isaiah several words of encouragement. In the passage above, Isaiah reminded Old Testament readers that God will help his children in their time of need.

Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life, Psalm 54:4.

The saying heaven help me is an idiom.  Typically, this expression is used to acknowledge that you are or could potentially be in trouble.  In 1988 artist Deon Estus released the song Heaven Help Me.  The lyrics refer to a man struggling to know what to say, asking God for wisdom so he doesn’t ruin the relationship of his dreams.  Country singer Gretchen Wilson takes a difference approach to heaven help me, asking God for divine intervention while wrestling with temptation.  Regardless of who you are or where you are in life, everyone will reach a point of desperation where only God can fix your situation.  In times of despair, don’t be afraid to ask for God’s help.

by Jay Mankus

 

Wrestling with God’s Will

Wrestling is an activity of grappling with an opponent; trying to throw or hold them down on the ground.  For any boy growing up with another sibling, wrestling is bound to occur.  Back in my childhood, parents and teachers would refer to this as rough housing.  Unleashing your energy and frustrations upon someone following an argument or disagreement until one or both parties give up.  The most famous wrestling account in the Bible is listed below.

So Jacob was left alone, and a Man [came and] wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When the Man saw that He had not prevailed against Jacob, He touched his hip joint; and Jacob’s hip was dislocated as he wrestled with Him, Genesis 32:24-25.

Prior to his encounter with an angel disguised as a man, Jacob developed a reputation as a deceiver.  Jacob bribed his older brother Esau out of his birthright, tricked his father into blessing him and fled from his family history.  In order to become the person God wanted Jacob to be, a wrestling match was preordained.  This night long struggle pushed Jacob to his physical limits, holding on despite having his hip dislocated.  In the eyes of God, Jacob passed this test, primed for bigger and better things in life.  At the conclusion of this event, God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, setting the stage for the rest of the Old Testament.

Then He said, “Let Me go, for day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let You go unless You declare a blessing on me.” 27 So He asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men and have prevailed,” Genesis 32:27-28.

When my life doesn’t take the path that I expect, I try to figure out what went wrong.  From time to time, the cause and effect is obvious, a lack of obedience to God, prayer and worship.  However, there are moments when promises from the Bible, Psalm 37:4, collide with road blocks as dreams and goals are denied or rejected.  This frustration has led me to wonder if becoming a screen writer is part of God’s will.  Am I not delighting myself in the Lord enough or does God want me to pursue another career in the future?  While I am not participating in a physical wrestling match, I find myself wrestling with God’s will.  According to the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2, the only way to know God’s will for sure is by offering your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.  If implemented successfully, clarity will come and my own wrestling match to ascertain God’s will can end.

by Jay Mankus

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

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

The term vibe can be best described as ambiance, aura, character and spirit that oozes out of your soul.  Others refer to this quality as charisma, a trait that a pied piper demonstrates.  People who exhibit a strong personality tend to develop a following.  Whether this occurs within your community, on social media or at your place of employment, these groups may resemble a tribe as in the days of the Old Testament.

So Moses and Aaron took these men who were designated by name, 18 and assembled all the congregation on the first day of the second month, and they registered by ancestry in their families (clans), by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head, 19 just as the Lord had commanded Moses. So he numbered them in the Wilderness of Sinai, Numbers 1:17-19.

During the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites traveled in 12 groups.  These groups were named after the 12 sons of Israel.  Moses refers to these descendants as Tribes.  In the early days on earth, the order of your birth often dictated your ability to be successful in life.  Unfortunately, during the days of Judges, individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes.  Instead of keeping the ten commandments, worldly judges gave off bad vibes.  Thus, many tribes gradually became spiritually bankrupt.

What good has it done me if, [merely] from a human point of view, I fought with wild animals at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised [at all], let us eat and drink [enjoying ourselves now], for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived:“Bad company corrupts good morals,” 1 Corinthians 15:32-33.

In a letter to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul warns Christians about negative influences in life.  Within a culture steered by philosophy, it wasn’t hard to justify and rationalize certain types of behavior.  In the passage above, Paul is blunt, warning people about getting close to those who demonstrate sketchy character.  Like the sowing principle, the vibe you give off to certain groups of people.  Therefore, don’t be mislead by bad company.  Rather, let your light shine throughout your community, Matthew 5:16, so that others will be drawn to Christ.

by Jay Mankus

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