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The Way Maker

The 1920’s has been described as the Jazz Age or roaring twenties. This decade of prosperity was marred by the Great Depression which began in August of 1929. Nineteen hundred years earlier, Jesus brought an era of spiritual enlightenment. This was accomplished by turning people’s attention away from following a set of rules, the Torah, to entering into a personal relationship with God. However, even his twelve disciples were often left in the dark, unclear of what Jesus meant by following the way.

And when (if) I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way, John 14:3-4.

The disciple whom Jesus loved reflects upon these words after Jesus’ crucifixion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. John had plenty of time for reflection while living in exile on the Island of Patmos. Jesus spent the last three years of his life on earth pouring his heart and soul into twelve men. Little by little, Jesus showed this motley crew how to live, pray and serve mankind. Despite witnessing numerous miracles daily, a couple of disciples still doubted Jesus and couldn’t fully comprehend the way.

Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by (through) Me. If you had known Me [had learned to recognize Me], you would also have known My Father. From now on, you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father [cause us to see the Father—that is all we ask]; then we shall be satisfied, John 14:5-8.

Thomas and Philip are identified in the passage above, living by sight, not by faith. During a Sermon of the Mount of Olives, Jesus compares the way to two roads, a super highway and a narrow path. Prior to his arrest, Jesus often ruffled the feathers of religious leaders, referring to an inner temple, not the place of worship in Jerusalem. The Bible, especially the four gospels, provides clues for modern believers who seek a similar path, the Way. May this blog conceive a burning desire for you to follow the Way Maker, also a song by Mandisa.

by Jay Mankus

Glory, Honor and Peace

Before stepping down as leader of Israel, Moses gives a farewell address in Deuteronomy 30. In the middle of this speech, Moses gives a call to action in verses 15-17. These words reveal Moses’ hope for the nation of Israel, to listen to and obey God’s commands in the Torah. Based upon the passage below, the apostle Paul revisits this topic by detailing the pros and cons of obedience and disobedience.

But for those who are self-seeking and self-willed and disobedient to the Truth but responsive to wickedness, there will be indignation and wrath. [And] there will be tribulation and anguish and calamity and constraint for every soul of man who [habitually] does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:8-9.

Paul gives three explanations for why individuals end up habitually doing evil. The first two, self-seeking and self-willed, directly impact the third. Whenever anyone is self-absorbed, certain aspects of reality are overlooked. When you add to this equation by justifying and rationalizing wrong actions, the Truth within the Bible is discarded or ignored.

But glory and honor and [heart] peace shall be awarded to everyone who [habitually] does good, the Jew first and also the Greek (Gentile), Romans 2:10.

Meanwhile, Paul promises three blessings for those who habitually do good: glory, honor and peace. While Romans 7:15-18 reveals that the ability to do good is hindered by our own sinful nature, Galatians 5:25 explains how the Holy Spirit can lead to good habits. Although you may be tempted to take short cuts or cross the boundaries set in the Bible, if you want to experience glory, honor and peace, doing good is the only path that promises these blessings.

by Jay Mankus

When You Are Left in the Dark

Back in 1993, there was an opening for a counselor and teacher at a boarding school in West Virginia. After the interview, I was hired for the Spring Semester, April and May. The High Scope Institute for Ideas was held at a camp in the Monongahela National Forest. Upon my arrival to Camp Horseshoe, I was surrounded by mountains in the middle of no where. One of the strict rules involved no cable, cell phones or internet. In other words, I was unplugged for two months, left in the dark about what was going on in the rest of the world.

This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and being spiritually impassioned, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things about Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak boldly and fearlessly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained more accurately to him the way of God [and the full story of the life of Christ], Acts 18:25-26.

During the first century, a native of Alexandria was sheltered from the earthly ministry of Jesus. This man named Apollos simply shared what He learned from the Hebrews Scriptures, daily studying the Torah. Apparently, Apollos was familiar with the teaching of John the Baptist, but his spiritual knowledge was limited. Upon his visit to Ephesus, Apollos became spiritually impassioned, excited to tell others everything that he was learning. While listening one day, two assistants of the apostle Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, took Apollos aside to bring him up to date on the full story of the life of Jesus.

But they did not all pay attention to the good news [of salvation]; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ, Romans 10:16-17.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Rome, Paul reveals the source of faith. During the first century, illiteracy prevented many church goers from personally reading letters sent by the apostle Paul. Thus, apostles, disciples and pastors read what was written out loud so that everyone could believe, not just the literate. Thus, faith is derived by hearing and believing the message concerning Christ. Although some people may feel like they have been left in the dark spiritually, you can fill in the blanks to what you have missed by daily reading and studying the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

A Form of Testing God

Massah is one of the locations which the Torah identifies as having been travelled through by the Israelites during their exodus out of Egypt.  While the list of visited stations in the Book of Numbers does not mention Massah, Exodus 17:7 refers to Massah and Meribah as the place where a quarrel began.  According to Moses, upon reaching Massah, Israelites lost faith and hope, questioning if God was really with them anymore.

“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah,” Deuteronomy 6:16.

As Gentiles began to convert to Christianity and receive the Holy Spirit, Pharisees sought to add Jewish traditions to salvation.  This concept didn’t sit well with Simon, prompting Peter to stand up to address religious leaders gathered together at the Council of Jerusalem.  According to Luke, Peter eludes to Deuteronomy 6:16.  Adding circumcision to salvation is comparable to placing a yoke around the neck of the disciples.  Making circumcision mandatory for everyone would de-emphasize the grace of God and cause potential converts to change their mind.

Now then, why are you testing God by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to endure? – Acts 15:10

Today, not only do people lose faith in God, but sects of Christianity have added legalistic practices which often confuse young believers.  This atmosphere sets the stage for more people to test God, wanting some sort of sign or miracle for assurance.  Yet, faith is the exact opposite of these natural desires.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.  Subsequently, you may find yourself in the dark from time to time, but remember what happened at Massah so you don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Bible’s Response to the Secret Movement

In 2006 a film entitled the Secret was released in theaters.  When a subsequent self help book was written by Rhonda Byrne based upon this earlier movie, a movement began to gain some traction nationwide.  Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Larry King invited the founders of the Secret on their talk shows to discuss its teaching.  Based upon my understanding of this documentary, the mind is used as a catalyst to focus on the law of attraction.  According to the various guest speakers in the film, belief, positive thinking and vision are essential to reach your full potential on earth.  While some of the concepts addressed do make sense, the Bible does respond to the Secret Movement.

“But it shall come about, if you do not listen to and obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today, then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you,” Deuteronomy 28:15.

Instead of explaining good and bad in life through the law of attraction, the Bible has a different set of standards.  According to Moses, the good things in life are a direct result of God’s blessing.  Blessings occur as individuals begin to listen, obey and carefully follow God’s commandments, precepts and statues recorded in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament.  Meanwhile, as people forget, stray from or reject God’s laws, curses come into your life in the form of disappointment, failure and trials.  There are other contributing factors such as prayer, repentance and reconciliation.  Yet, the New Testament introduces the world to a kinder, gentler God, full of grace, mercy and love demonstrated by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Do not quench [subdue, or be unresponsive to the working and guidance of] the [Holy] Spirit. 20 Do not scorn or reject gifts of prophecy or prophecies [spoken revelations—words of instruction or exhortation or warning]. 21 But test all things carefully [so you can recognize what is good]. Hold firmly to that which is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil [withdraw and keep away from it], 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22.

If you read the Secret or watch the movie, you may be tempted to believe in the endless possibilities of thinking everything you want and hope for into reality.  Unfortunately, this idea sounds too good to be true because it sets people up for failure, promising a false sense of reality.  While the Bible does compliment principles such as positive thinking, developing a strong mind and vision, sometimes faithful people like Job are attacked by demons, powers of darkness or Satan himself.  This element of the spiritual realm is not addressed by the Secret Movement.  Yet, when individuals exercise freewill, accidents, mistakes and those who seek revenge can alter, change or permanently end your life.  Thus, the Bible is designed as a light, Psalm 119:105, a guide, John 14:6 and an endless source of information to assure eternal salvation, 1 John 5:13.  May this blog help you sort through tough questions in life and prepare you for future theories about how to get rich quick.

by Jay Mankus

What are You Still Lacking?

If you asked a recent high school graduate the same question after completing a four year degree in college, perspectives would likely change.  Human nature tends to make young people think they are infallible.  When you add knowledge, wisdom and a wealth of information to this equation, some will likely think they know it all, now smarter than their parents.  This is the state we find the rich young ruler in the passage below, only lacking one thing in life.

A certain ruler asked Him, “Good Teacher [You who are essentially and morally good], what shall I do to inherit eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” 19 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is [essentially and morally] good except God alone, Luke 18:18-19.

Searching for eternal security, this man sought out Jesus, hoping to discover the secret to possessing eternal life.  Immediately, Jesus catches this ruler off guard by demonstrating humility, giving God the credit for his goodness.  From here Jesus turns his attention to God’s standards in the Torah, the first five books in the Old Testament.  Obtaining knowledge of the Bible is one thing, but applying these principles separate average believers from genuine people of faith.  Perhaps, this rich young ruler thought he could enter heaven by being a good person.

You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not testify falsely, Honor your father and your mother.’” 21 He replied, “I have kept all these things from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “You still lack one thing; sell everything that you have and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have [abundant] treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk],” Luke 18:20-22.

There are two invisible forces which drag and nudge souls in different directions.  The Holy Spirit convicts hearts and minds, revealing imperfections and shortcomings.  Meanwhile, the sinful nature is more accommodating, making those who stray from God think more highly about themselves than they should.  While the Spirit led the apostle Paul to claim he was the greatest sinner of all in 1 Timothy 1:15, my flesh made me feel better the further I slipped away from God in college.  This spiritual dilemma exists today, compared to a spiritual war in Galatians 5:16-18.  Thus, if you really want to know what are you still lacking, draw close to God and He will make you whole.

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

 

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