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Tag Archives: the Torah

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

 

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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

 

Overriding the Rules of the Past

The first five books of the Old Testament are known as the Torah.  This Hebrew word refers to the law of God as revealed to Moses.  If Adam and Eve didn’t break God’s initial rule introduced in Genesis 2:16-17, this collection of rules and regulations for life on earth would not be necessary.  Unfortunately, Adam’s lack of leadership is to blame, allowing and watching Satan deceive and encourage Eve to take and eat fruit from the Tree of Knowledge.  This act of original sin led the apostle Paul to write in Romans 5:12-21 that death came through Adam.  This spiritual destruction was redeemed after God sent a second Adam, Jesus who brought salvation to the world as well as overriding the rules of the past.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh (worldliness, manner of life), God made you alive together with Christ, having [freely] forgiven us all our sins, Colossians 2:13.

This concept is explained by the apostle Paul in a letter to the church at Colosse.  This ancient city of Phrygia in Asia Minor provides a vital message for those individuals stuck in modern denominations that focus on legalism rather than grace.  As a former zealot, Paul uses terminology familiar to God fearing Jews to get their attention.  Without a priest sacrificing an animal on your behalf, first century believers in God were powerless to receive forgiveness.  This co-dependency became a tedious practice that Jesus came to abolish.  As a perfect lamb of God, Jesus embraced death on a cross to pay the penalty for mankind’s sin, once and for all.

Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of legal demands [which were in force] against us and which were hostile to us. And this certificate He has set aside and completely removed by nailing it to the cross. 15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities [those supernatural forces of evil operating against us], He made a public example of them [exhibiting them as captives in His triumphal procession], having triumphed over them through [he cross, Colossians 2:14-15.

However, this process would not be completed until Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.  The moment Jesus broke free of his grave clothes, the resurrection was finalized.  This symbolic act cancelled the written codes that stood against human beings.  In one magical second in time, Jesus nailed these age old rules to the cross, conquering death and unlocking the spiritual chains of legalism.  May the passages above speak to heart and give hope to your mind.  While the world tends to believe a relationship with God means living by a strict set of rigid regulations, Jesus came to set you free by overriding the rules of the past with free will.

by Jay Mankus

Estranged

When love is absent, conditions can deteriorate.  If this negative climate persists, relationships can be torn apart.  By products of this atmosphere result in arguments, fights and misery.  Without reconciliation, family, friends and relatives can become estranged.  This tension creates a dysfunctional mood at an family gathering or reunion.

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.

The Bible refers to estranged in context of a relationship with God.  Any type of sin separates individuals from God.  In the Old Testament, Israel was given the Torah as a set of standards for life.  Breaking, cutting corners or slightly deviating from these laws is described as a willful act of disobedience.  Deuteronomy 28 contains a list of blessings for those who obey God, ending with a much longer list of consequences called curses.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near, Hebrews 10:24-25.

A first century Jewish convert to Christianity wrote the book of Hebrews.  In the passage above, advice is provided to restore estranged relationships.  Accountability serves as a tool to sharpen one another spiritually.  While this takes place in the form as a Bible Study, prayer or sharing group, these fellowships promote healing and forgiveness.  If you find yourself in a relationship drifting away or falling apart, take steps now so that these precious bonds are not severed permanently.

by Jay Mankus

Forgiving Those Who Don’t Deserve It

You can’t discuss forgiveness without bringing up Jesus’ name.  In the passage below, Jesus is placed on a cross between two criminals sentenced to death.  When Pilate, the governor, gave Jesus a chance to defend himself against trumped up accusations, he remained silent, accepting the fate and plan God set forth.  While all this was happening, Jesus emulated the love of God by forgiving those who didn’t deserve it.

Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left, Luke 23:32-33.

Captain George Kendall was the first person to executed in America.  Influenced by leaders in Great Britain, Kendall was hung in 1608 at the Jamestown colony in Virginia.  Today, 31 states have the death penalty as a punishment for those individuals who have taken another life.  This principle is based upon Jewish law, part of the Torah that Moses passed down for future generations, “life for life, death for death.”  However, the New Testament conveys a new message, Romans 6:23, the gift of God, Jesus Christ who paid the price for all past, present and future transgressions.

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”[And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 35 The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One,” Luke 23:34-35.

Unfortunately, if you listen to the media and political pundits, forgiveness is a lonely word.  Instead, condemnation, demonizing and judging individuals is a daily ritual.  This relentless attack is void of grace and mercy.  If Jesus can forgive the people who beat, crucified and mocked him, there must be room in our hearts to forgive those who hurt us.  Remember, forgiveness is conditional based upon how you forgive others, Matthew 6:14-15.  Despite whatever rationale you may have devised, the golden rule still remains the standard to live by, treating others as you want to be treated.  Therefore, bear with one another, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  This is the benchmark which enabled Jesus to forgive those who didn’t deserve it.

by Jay Mankus

A Brand New Day

If I didn’t put Lamentations at the end of the passage below, these words could have spoken or written by any disgruntled individual today.  Whenever anyone endures a stretch of bad breaks, failure and sadness, it feels as if God is punishing you for some unknown reason.  As a child I attended a church that over emphasized the Old Testament, painting a different picture of God from the New Testament.  Thus, I grew up without a limited perspective of God’s true character and nature, seeing the Lord as a disciplinarian, judge and punisher for those who do evil.

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long, Lamentations 3:1-3.

The book of Lamentations has one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah begins by expressing the anguish of his depression.  This remorse continues like a tirade of complaining for twenty verses.  After letting all of his emotions out in the form of recorded words, Jeremiah transitions to the positive.  Despite how bad things may look, Jeremiah recalls a message of hope from the Torah, another name for the first five books of the Bible.  This promise altered his mood, bringing to light that each new day serves as a fresh start on life.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, Lamentations 3:21-23.

While you can’t reset life like a video game without removing the consequences, altering your attitude is a good place to start.  The hardest part of any complete transformation is learning how to forgive yourself.  This is even more difficult for those who possess a quest for perfection.  While God forgives and forgets, casting your sins as far as the east is from the west, the Devil uses guilt to haunt your mind by bringing up secret scars.  For most of my life, I have fought a losing battle, overlooking God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, distracted by past failures.  After hearing a song from the group Firefight earlier in the week, I know the course of action I must take; viewing each morning as a Brand New Day.

by Jay Mankus

Beware of the New Age of Pharisees

At the beginning of the first century, two types of religious leaders emerged.  The lesser known Sadducees were members of the ruling class of Jewish priests.  Meanwhile, the Pharisees were a strict sect of law abiding individuals who stringently observed rites and ceremonies of the Torah.  This group’s legalistic mentality added rules and regulations not mentioned in the Bible.  Thus, it wasn’t uncommon for these elite members to play a gotcha style religion.

“Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation,” Luke 20:46-47.

Two thousand years later, a new type of Pharisee have arrived on to the scene.  Fueled by the gospel of political correctness, new talking points are introduced daily.  Controlling the airways, anyone who attempts to challenge, deviate or question progressive views are reprimanded.  Anyone who does not apologize by retracting previous statements are attacked, defamed and smeared by the media.  Those who cave to these threats become enslaved by this manmade religion.

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction, 2 Peter 2:1.

One of Jesus’ disciples receives a vision about the end of days.  According to Peter, false prophets will introduce various heresies.  A heresy is defined as any belief or opinion which is contrary to biblical doctrine.  Unfortunately. if the media controls and defines the narrative, absolute truth is suppressed.  This is the danger of these times as the influence of this new age of Pharisee intensifies.  In view of this cultural climate, follow the advice of 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21 by testing everything you hear with the Word of God; then cling to that which is good.  May you endure these trying times as a New Age of Pharisees emerges.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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