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Going to Extremes to Fulfill Your Promises

King Solomon is considered one of the wisest individuals to walk the face of the earth. One wise saying warns against making vows that you can’t keep, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5. From an Old Testament perspective, if you didn’t keep want you promised, your words were worthless and reputation ruined. This is the context and setting when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah who presided over Israel as a judge for a period of six years.

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, If You will indeed give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 Then whatever or whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it or him up as a burnt offering, Judges 11:30-31.

Following a victorious battle, Jephthah is overwhelmed by a spirit of thankfulness. Wanting to pay tribute to God, Jephthah is moved to make a vow in Judges 11:32. While in the wilderness with many miles to travel before reaching his home, Jephthah decided to offer up a burnt offering to the first creature that crossed his path. Unfortunately, the forests were barren and his daughter was the first to greet him. Instead of reneging, Jephthah goes to extreme measures to fulfill his promise to God.

But the other one reproved him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? 41 And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man has done nothing out of the way [nothing strange or eccentric or perverse or unreasonable]. 42 Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory! 43 And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise, Luke 23:40-43.

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, it was clear to first century scholars that the Messiah was living in their presence. When the time was right, Jesus began a three year earthly ministry. Using 12 disciples and an additional 72 according to Luke, these individuals planted spiritual seeds to form churches. When the appointed time arrived to fulfill Old Testament promises, the disciples were confused. Believing Jesus would become an earthly leader, rising up to become King of the Jews, Peter was ready to take up arms. Instead, God has another plan, sending his own son as a permanent sacrifice to die for mankind, John 3:16-17. This is how the Lord goes to extremes to fulfill biblical promises.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be Caught Sleepwalking Through Life

Somnambulism is a behavior disorder that originates during a deep sleep. This results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while still mostly asleep. My first experience sleepwalking occurred during a sleepover as a child. I feel asleep in an upstairs bedroom and ended up on a couch downstairs. Like any perplexed individual, I was shocked and uncertain how I ended up there.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

The apostle Paul uses fallen asleep in a different context, referring to Christians who have passed away. Jesus tells a first century story about falling asleep. In the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the awake and asleep. Jesus associates the awake with wisdom and the asleep with foolish behavior. The point of this analogy is to encourage individuals to remain alert, sharp and wise.

For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Sleepwalking suggests that you are going through the motions, without any direction, meaning or purpose. To avoid falling asleep spiritually, Jesus calls followers to develop a thirst for life, John 10:10. Yet, there is a spiritual force that tries to lull you to sleep, seeking to steal any joy that you have for life. However, if you follow in the footsteps of the Great Shepherd, laying down your needs and wants for others, this will snap you out of any spells that make you sleepy.

by Jay Mankus

When You Need to be Encouraged

I tend to be a positive person, trying to stay optimistic about life. However, over the past week, a wave of depression has come crashing upon the shores of my life. Like a rogue wave that comes out of no where, I wasn’t prepared to deal with this emotional undertow. As I attempt to regain my balance so that I’m not swept away by this strong current, I find myself in need of encouragement.

When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! – Psalm 32:3-4

I’m definitely not the first to experience such a strange week nor will I be the last to undergo what the Bible calls a trial. In the passage above, a series of bad choices causes King David to be overwhelmed by guilt. The longer David waited to confess his careless errors and mistakes to God, the worse he feels. As each day passed without acknowledging his sin, David’s strength was sapped like humidity from a summer heatwave.

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind, James 1:5-6.

Jesus’ earthly brother reveals that earthly trials take the form of waves of doubt. Once fully developed, these spiritual storms contain a billowing surge that keeps coming. When you add the wind. conditions only get worse. According to James, when you find yourself stuck in one of these systems, call out to God in prayer to receive wisdom to get you through. While each storm varies, James 1:12 provides hope for those who hold on to Jesus until your storm passes.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Succumbing to the Wheedling

Wheedling is the process of coaxing, often using flattery, in order to persuade someone to do something or give you something. In the context of marriage, your spouse may nag you over and over again before you finally give into a specific demand or request. The pressure to conform, beaten into submission in this example, can wear on your soul. This act of persuasion often leads individuals to compromise, surrender or yielding to beliefs you formerly did not hold.

He had 700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines, and his wives turned away his heart from God. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect (complete and whole) with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father, 1 Kings 11:3-4.

As my former high school students would say to me while teaching a lesson about King Solomon, “he was a player.” Anytime you have a significant other, you have to ask yourself, “who do I please?” When you have an entire castle full of wives and concubines eager to get your attention, this demand on Solomon’s time must have been overwhelming. Despite being one of the wisest individuals to walk the face of the earth, at some point after getting married multiple times, Solomon finally succumbs to wheedling wives.

But I am saying this more as a matter of permission and concession, not as a command or regulation. I wish that all men were like I myself am [in this matter of self-control]. But each has his own special gift from God, one of this kind and one of another, 1 Corinthians 7:6-7.

Perhaps, the apostle Paul had King Solomon in mind while writing a letter about marriage to the church at Corinth. Paul addresses the question I brought up earlier, allegiance to God or your spouse? While the single life is a lot less complicated, Paul realizes that many feel called to get married. Thus, when or if you do, watch out that you don’t succumb to the wheedling of ungodly beliefs. To avoid making the same mistake as Solomon, follow Paul’s advice in Galatians 5:7-10 so that you aren’t mislead by future temptations.

by Jay Mankus

When You Are Moving in the Wrong Direction

Whenever you find yourself in uncharted territory, common sense leads you to ask others who have been in a similar situation. If you just ask the first person that you find and respond accordingly, you might find yourself heading in the wrong direction or going to the wrong place Whether you are dealing with an illness like cancer, considering a career change or searching for wisdom to overcome a current obstacle, the more insight you compile the better.

When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were [miraculously] healed and made clean, Luke 17:14.

The man in the passage above is simply following the crowd, doing what the locals are accustom to do for a healed leper. This step was necessary to be fully restored back into society; receiving acceptance from spiritual leaders. While on his way to see a priest in Jerusalem, this Samaritan has a change of heart. This didn’t seem right as this man’s conscience told him to turn around. Whispers in his mind like, “why are you going to a priest instead of the One who healed you?” Some sort of internal struggle persuaded this man to turn around abruptly and return to Jesus.

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, glorifying and praising and honoring God with a loud voice; Luke 17:15.

When a couple leaves the hospital with a new born child for the first time, there is no handbook to follow step by step for the rest of your life. Sure, there are books you can read, classes you can take and grandparents to reach out to, but in the end you need to figure out what works and what doesn’t. This trial and error applies to most aspects of life, living and learning along the way. Yet, when your conscience is awakened, your heart is convicted and ears hear God’s still small voice, make sure you listen so you don’t end up going to the wrong place.

by Jay Mankus

Is Losing a Game Worth Staining Your Reputation?

To avid sports fans, winning and losing a college or professional football game is the difference between life and death.  If you visit campus or a city the day after a victory, excitement, joy and passion are present.  Meanwhile, following a loss, bitterness, disappointment and misery reign as local talk radio stations turn into a Monday Morning Quarterback therapy session.  While working in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for two years, I experienced these highs and lows daily.  As I look back at this period in my life, I wonder if losing a game is worth getting so upset that you stain your own reputation.

To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven:
2 A time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted,
3 A time to kill and a time to heal, a time to break down and a time to build up,
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

The Bible prepares individuals for coping with losing in the passage above.  A wise Old Testament king recognizes the need to look at life in a philosophical manner.  There is a time for everything in life, this includes winning and losing.  Depending upon the circumstance or situation, people will be brought to tears or lifted up by encouraging news.  This endless cycle is a painful reminder of trials awaiting you in life.  Thus, the better prepared you are for the future, the less likely you will allow a loss to stain your reputation.

Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange (unusual and alien to you and your position) were befalling you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory [full of radiance and splendor] is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph [exultantly], 1 Peter 4:11-12.

One of Jesus’ former disciples adds to Solomon’s teaching.  In practical terms, Peter warns believers in Jesus to expect the unexpected.  Unfortunately, some modern television evangelists are painting a picture that if you become a Christian by placing your faith in Christ, all your troubles and worries will disappear.  Meanwhile, other biblical teachers overemphasize blessings by de-emphasizing earthly trials.  Subsequently, new converts are amazed and bewildered by weekly ordeals.  This likely explains why some avid sports fans will allow a devastating loss to stain their reputation.

by Jay Mankus

A Source of Hope or Poisoned by a Toxic Environment?

The other night I was able to interact with a couple of co-workers that I hadn’t seen for a while. Instead of giving a token “how are you doing” in passing without really listening, I caught these two individuals at a vulnerable moment. Each were coping with issues beyond their control. Thus, I was given the opportunity to be a source of hope or add negative fuel to these fires?

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:11.

According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, dissatisfied customers typically tell 9 to 15 other people about their experience with some telling 20 or more. This frustration also applies to toxic environments as bitter hearts search for someone to vent their displeasure with. When two co-workers focus solely on the negative aspects of their job, even the optimistic can become poisoned by a toxic work environment.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Hebrews 3:13.

The author of Hebrews addresses this issue in the passage above. This first century convert to Christianity understood the nature of sin. Temptation lurks daily like the illustration in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 with ears itching to participate in gossip and slander. This behavior results in hardened hearts, deceived by sin. Yet, freewill provides you with a choice to make each day. You can be a source of hope or fall prey to a toxic environment. Choose wisely.

by Jay Mankus

Filling Your Mind with Scripture

Human minds are the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences. Meanwhile, brains are the source for mental capacity, where intelligence lies. Thus, common sense and logic supports a full proof plan to protect your mind. According to one of the wisest kings to walk the face of the earth, Solomon suggests that the heart is just as important.

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life, Proverbs 4:23.

During a first century conversation, a doctor pays special attention to Jesus’ words “the mouth speaks out of the overflow of your heart,” Luke 6:45. This physician is fascinated by this parallel, a concept Luke never thought of before. If words are imbedded within your heart, filters must be set up to guard hearts and minds from embracing evil.

For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

Apparently, the apostle Paul developed a plan for filling your mind with the Bible. In the passage above, Paul refers to the spiritual war that plays out daily. While walking in the flesh, Paul calls believers to rely on spiritual weapons. Perhaps referencing the armor of God, taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ is crucial to protecting your mind. The easiest way to carry on this practice is by memorizing Bible verses daily.

by Jay Mankus

When Stress Drags You To Your Knees

When it comes to stress, I am usually immune to worry.  After being broke a few times in life, God has always provided in my time of need.  Food, shelter and work have come to me in a variety of ways.  However, 2019 has been one of the more trying years of my life occupationally speaking.  Budget cuts, changing roles and the unknown has consumed me with stress, dragging me to my knees.

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad, Proverbs 12:25.

King Solomon writes a letter to impart wisdom to his children.  As a man who married 700 woman and fathered children with an addition 300 concubines, Solomon understood the stress that parents face.  The more you focus on your numerous responsibilities, anxiety can weigh on your heart.  One of the ways Solomon urges people to overcome stress is by focusing on the positive, savoring encouraging words.

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved, Psalm 55:22.

When this advice doesn’t work, the Psalmist provides a more practical resolution.  This reflective poem written by David urges stress filled individuals to cast burdens upon the Lord.  During his earthly ministry, Jesus turned to a crowd, calling the stressed out to come to me and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28-30.  Therefore, whenever you can’t control,  endure or handle the stress of a current situation, fall to your knees and lighten your burdens through prayer.

by Jay Mankus

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