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Tag Archives: Old Testament

Whispers of Hope

If your voice tends to dominate or over power conversations, your ears will have a hard time hearing the whispers of others.  Breaths, murmurs and subtle tones will be drown out, oblivious to talkative souls.  Meanwhile, the down trodden, hurting and hopeless can become skeptical to any sort of good news.  Jaded hearts turn to sarcasm, laughing at any glimpses of hope.  Regardless of where you may be on this spectrum, a growing number of individuals ignore daily whispers of hope.

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you, Psalm 39:7.

Like any distressed soul, its not uncommon to want to find someone who will listen to your frustrations.  Whether this is a co-worker, friend or neighbor, venting has a way of releasing any built up tension within you.  After sessions of complaining, ranting and unloading the stress weighing you down, periods of relief can be temporarily found.  In the Old Testament, David discovered a way to embrace whispers of hope.  Although living as a shepherd can be lonely, with few interaction with people, God is only a prayer away.  Thus, pouring our his heart to the Lord became a daily practice, waiting for his life to change for the better.

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope, Romans 15:4.

The apostle Paul takes David’s concept to a new level in the passage above.  While praying enables individuals to cry out to God, reading the God allows the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart through whispers of hope.  Whenever Paul was depressed, discouraged or frustrated, reading the Old Testament provided encouragement and the inspiration to endure.  Since modern readers have the luxury of a completed Bible, the Old and New Testaments, studying the Bible is the best way to hear whispers of hope.  May this blog inspire you to live out Romans 10:17 as faith comes from listening and reading God’s Word.

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

An Imperfect Process

During a recent writing session, a friend asked me how I have been able to write over 2000 blog posts.  After a pausing a moment, the hardest part is making sure you don’t repeat yourself.  Coming up with new content is an imperfect process, trial and error filled with as many failures as success.  Some of my personal favorites end up bombing with little views with mediocre posts often receiving surprising interest.  Yet, some never make the final cut, deleted, erased or put on hold until the timing is right.

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written, John 21:25.

During a seminary class on the New Testament, I discovered the 66 books of the Bible had a similar process.  The Council of Jamnia was held in Yavneh sometime around 90 AD to canonize the 39 books of the modern Old Testament.  Some of Solomon’s Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom were excluded from this list.  Meanwhile, the council of Nicaea met in 325 to complete the same process for first century epistles inspired by Jesus for the New Testament.  Two letters written by the apostle Paul to Corinth were left off, not deemed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.

Thus, when you read the letters to the Corinthians, you only have half the story.  On one occasion, the apostle Paul received disturbing news about the spiritual regression of new Christians living in Corinth.  Paul was so upset that a spirit of angry filled one of this excluded letters.  Perhaps, after proof reading his words, Paul was consumed with guilt, deciding not to send this it with a messenger.  This story serves as a teachable moment to think before you speak, reflect before you hit send or exercise self-discipline when your frustrated.  While every writer strives for perfection, imperfect people do their best to share what God puts on their hearts.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Knowing, Believing and Claiming

To promote higher forms of thinking in education, Dr. Benjamin Bloom introduced six learning domains in 1956.  Each domain serves as a building block, applying knowledge one level at a time.  Today, Bloom’s Taxonomy uses remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating to ensure that words spoken in classrooms don’t fall upon deaf ears.  On the spiritual side of knowledge, D. James Kennedy developed Evangelism Explosion in the 1970’s so that individuals introduced to the Bible would go beyond just knowing.  One of the terms Kennedy crafted within training materials is mere intellectual assent.  This theological saying refers to people who knows something to be true within their minds but doesn’t act upon this information.  According to the brother of Jesus, faith without deeds is dead, resulting in a shallow foundation, susceptible to being completely uprooted by schemes of the Devil.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder, James 1:19.

Belief is based upon awareness to something that makes sense or convincing evidence which gives credence to what you thought to be true.  The closer one gets toward the truth, doubt slowly disappears.  However, if the source for what you believe contains contradictions, inconsistencies and misleading statements, faith will be stunted.  Jesus’ earthly brother James brings up a valid point when considering belief in the passage above.  Merely believing in God doesn’t make you special as even demons, servants of the Devil acknowledge this fact.  Thus, if you regularly attend church, give a monthly tithe and strive to do good works, this is a good start but not the top of the mountain.  The author of one New Testament book dedicates an entire chapter, Hebrews 11 to illustrate what genuine belief looks like, faith in action.

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it, John 14:10-14.

If Benjamin Bloom were to create spiritual learning domains today, knowing, believing and claiming would suffice for the initial three stages.  Early in the first century the illiteracy rate was high, forcing the uneducated to rely on hearing rather than reading.  Romans 10:17 reveals that churches gathered together in homes, synagogues or down by a river to publicly read out loud parts of the Old Testament and available letters written by apostles.  Meanwhile, James 1:22-27 encourages individuals to become doers of the Word, practicing belief.  Sensing religion is worthless without applying what you believe, James urges his audience to care for orphans and widows.  The final level of faith is introduced by Jesus in the passage above.  If you know and believe, claiming God’s promises is the next logical step.  This spiritual exercise is accomplished through praying over passages of the Bible.  Depending upon what you are dealing with, modern technology can give you a verse in seconds with a click of a mouse, providing a powerful weapon.  Those who mature from knowing to believing and onto claiming may begin to experience untapped potential, taking Jesus at his word to bless those who believe.  I pray that these words inspire you to take your faith to the next level by claiming God’s promises in prayer.

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

God’s Second Wind

The concept of a second wind derives from running.  This phenomenon refers to a distance running often in the context of a long road race or marathon.  When athletes hit the proverbial wall, breath, energy and motivation fades.  Scientists have come up with two logical explanations for this phenomena.  Some believe the second wind is a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid within muscles.  Others point to endorphin production as the source of the second wind.  Whatever the reason, I believe God also plays a role in this process.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:29-30.

A famous Old Testament prophet eludes to the second wind.  Using an illustration of an eagle nursing eaglets, this imagery help people visualize the invisible.  Despite the jubilation of any child, energy will disappear, crashing and falling in the form of an afternoon nap.  Instead of encouraging her young to walk, mother eagles prod them out of the nest to begin flying.  As eaglets grow tired or start falling toward the ground, adult eagles intervene to rescue their young from any harm.  In the same way, our heavenly father can and does use second winds to propel his children to complete and fulfill God’s will.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

Every work week in America, human beings rely on coffee, energy drinks or soda to get them through each day.  This dose of caffeine imitates a second wind.  As individuals begin to grow sleepy, these beverages serve as drugs to boost you through grueling, long or tiresome work days.  However, has anyone whispered up a pray to God for strength?  Are people relying on a higher source for power or has earthly substances become a replacement for God?  Perhaps, this blog will make you think twice the next time you go to grab some caffeine.  Maybe, you too will come to the conclusion that God is a major source for second winds.

by Jay Mankus

Lifting Up Friends to You

There will be moments in life where you will feel helpless.  Even if you are near a loved one, sometimes fate is out of your hands.  Whether you are talking about an accident, heart attack or illness, the only thing you can do is pray.  Perhaps if more people were proactive, lifting up friends to God daily, you wouldn’t have to face as many emergencies in life that some are forced to endure.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

King Solomon eludes to the power of friendship in the Old Testament.  Whenever you find an individual who shares a common interest, hobby or passion, an instant bond often develops.  If nourished, friends can quickly become like close members of the family.  According to Solomon, there is a tendency to accumulate as many friends as possible, but those who seek quality relationships over quantity will be rewarded.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.

One day Jesus uses a gardening analogy during a conversation with his disciples.  Just as a gardener cares for, prunes and nourishes plants under his or her care, a good friend does the same thing.  Likely referring to his impending death on a cross, Jesus brings up the greatest act a friend can demonstrate.  Sacrificing, serving or laying down your own wants and needs for a friend reveals love.  While this commitment may not be possible for everyone, the least you can do lift up friends in prayer to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus