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Tag Archives: the Old Testament

From That Time On

There were a series of events which took placed before Jesus began his earthly ministry.  Since the prophets of the Old Testament wrote about these specific details, Jesus waited patiently until this day arrived.  Following his baptism, John’s imprisonment and move to the Land of Zebulun and Naphtali, everything was set for Jesus to put God’s plan into action.

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” Matthew 4:17.

According to the verse above, Jesus’ message was clear, repent for the kingdom of God is near.  To avoid over kill, Matthew writes this statement once as a simple reminder, from that time on.  Whether Jesus was addressing a large crowd, a small group or speaking one on one, repentance played a crucial role.  This term refers to turning 180 degrees away from addiction, bad habits and unwholesome desires toward the grace and mercy of God.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost, Luke 19:10

During a public conversation heard by several eyewitnesses, Jesus makes a remarkable admission.  Prior to meeting with a repentant tax collector, Jesus reveals his purpose for coming down to earth.  The statement above refers to seeking and saving that which Adam lost in the Garden of Eden.  This is two fold: the authority stolen by Satan and intimacy which Adam and Eve shared with God, walking and talking together day.  If you ever lose your way, don’t forget Jesus’ simply message: repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.

by Jay Mankus

Blind and Toothless

Jewish law detailed in the Old Testament is clear and concise.  “An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth annd life for a life” doesn’t leave any grey area.  Yet, when asked about his opinion on biblical law Gandhi provided a classic quote.  “If this law was applied literally everyone would be blind and toothless.”

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ, John 1:17.

Today, lawyers have crafted escape clauses and discovered loopholes to help clients avoid punishment.  When you combine this with activist judges who view the United States Constitution as a living documents, law now evolves as society changes.  This lack of consistency often results in chaos within classrooms, communities and work places.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet,” Romans 7:7.

Whenever someone is caught breaking a rule, knee jerk reactions tend to reply with something like “I didn’t know.”  The purpose of rules is to prevent individuals from using the amoral card, not informed on right from wrong.  Yet, laws without grace breeds teetotalism, the point Gandhi eludes to above.  Therefore, two things are necessary to avoid a blind and toothless society.  First, slow down long enough to read, reflect and meditate on the Bible.  Then, when you go beyond the boundaries God has set, confess, repent and turn to God in prayer for forgiveness, grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

Fulfilling The Roman Mile

The New Testament and the Roman Empire intersect during the first century.  As Romans expanded their control, Jews were forced to adhere with two different sets of law.  Beside the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, non-Roman citizens needed to comply with Roman law or else face punishment.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles, Matthew 5:41.

One law required a Jew to carry a Roman’s belongings or possessions for a Roman mile if asked to do so.  A Roman mile is one thousands paces, equivalent to 1,000 yards, or 660 yards shorter than a modern day mile.  During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his audience to do more than a Roman mile, going above and beyond what a Roman citizen asks you to do.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you, Matthew 5:42.

Jesus didn’t ask his followers to do anything without first modeling it within his own life.  Several New Testament passages refer to Jesus as a servant of God, laying down his life for others.  Jesus understood that preaching and theology doesn’t convince non-believers to enter into a personal relationship with God.  Rather, lives are transformed when the love of God is displayed daily through a spirit of servant-hood.  Therefore, if you want to leave a lasting legacy on earth, emulate the Roman mile by giving of yourself to those who ask, need or appear to require some sort of help.  This is what Jesus means by going the extra mile.

by Jay Mankus

 

God of the Impossible

If you follow, read or watch the news, it’s hard to remain positive.  Like the down trodden in this life, hope can disappear for extended periods of time.  Thus, many are left alone, stuck in an impossible situation praying for a miracle.

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you,” Matthew 17:20.

For some the story of David and Goliath is nothing more than a fairy tale, a figment of one’s imagination.  Yet, history conveys the truth found in the Old Testament, 1 Samuel 17.  While David’s size was an obstacle, a midget compared to the giant mocking God on a daily basis, his experience as a shepherd prepared him for this battle.  Against all odds, David shot down Goliath with his sling shot opening the door to become king of Israel.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father,” John 14:12.

When Jesus traveled throughout the Middle East during the first century, doubt was prevalent.  Doing the impossible was a dream blocked by the mountain known as reality.  Thus, Jesus found it necessary to regularly talk about the power of faith and belief.  As Jesus began to cure, heal and perform miracles, the impossible seemed to be within reach.  Therefore, don’t let doubt keep you trapped.  Rather, cry out of Jesus so that the God of the impossible will return to perform another miracle.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Ages of Faith

With the dawn of each new age, changes are made to adjust so that the world can understand what has happened in the past.  In the context of the Bible, 3 distinct stages exist: oratory, letters and publication.  The words of the Old Testament were passed on orally from one generation to the next.  Hebrew families raised their children by regularly recounting stories of faith to guide their steps into adulthood.  The celebration of Bar Mitzvahs for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls culminates in years of biblical training by memorizing the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ, Romans 10:17.

During the first century, only the wealthy could afford education.  Thus, illiteracy among the middle and lower class was high.  As the Holy Spirit began to inspire authors to pen individual books of the New Testament, not many could read.  Therefore, apostles, disciples and pastors read these letters during gatherings for prayer.  This explains why the apostle Paul selects the phrase faith comes from hearing the word of Christ.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

The next age of faith began in 1450 following Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.  This made the publication of Bibles accessible to common people.  However, segments of the church do not embrace this initially.  Major denominations like the Roman Catholic Church believed only priests could interpret the Bible correctly.  The average Christian could not be trusted to handle the Word of God.  This mindset and resistance led to the dark ages tainted by spiritual corruption.

This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success, Joshua 1:8.

Today, we live in an age of over saturation.  Multiple translations are available with a click of a mouse, downloading an app or read on a cell phone.  This access in great for those who desire to grow their faith.  Yet, there is a temptation to change translations until you make the Bible say what you want.  Who knows what the next age may bring.  Nonetheless, if you want to growth your faith, the best way remains by daily reading, studying and memorizing the Bible.  This spiritual discipline often leads to putting faith into action.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

What’s Good for You May Not Be Right For Me

Wanting and having are two things in life that young people sometimes have to learn the hard way.  Before graduating high school, many children are pampered, given cell phones, maybe a car, food and shelter by generous parents.  Yet, college serves as a open book test for life as wanting and actually having are two different things.

But whenever the judge died, they turned back and behaved worse than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them; they did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways, Judges 2:19.

Some students gain weight quickly unable to say no to endless all you can eat buffets.  Others turn to partying to be the popular person on campus.  Temptations lurk around every corner with no guardian or parent to tell you no.  Thus, over a short period of time, people change.  As poor decisions undo your upbringing, you might reach a point where what’s good for you may not be right for me.

Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

One day the apostle Paul noticed that some of the people whom he led to Christ began to repeat the sins of their past.  To get everyone’s attention Paul provides a history lesson from the Old Testament.  Without using a hell and brimstone message, Paul urges this church to learn from past mistakes.  Whether its Adam and Eve in the Garden or the Judges who did what was right in their own eyes, each tarnished their faith.  In view of this warning, may you cling to that which is right so that what feels good does not corrupt your soul.

by Jay Mankus

The Hand Behind the Plan

The origin of the hand of God likely began during the reign of King Belshazzar.  Following the Babylonian’s conquest of Israel and subsequent exile, the hand of God arrived on the scene.  This event could not be explained by modern enchanters, astrologers and diviners.  Thus, Daniel was recommended to interpret the hand behind these words.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote, Daniel 5:5.

In the years that have followed, there is just as much confusion now as then.  Few people today have the spiritual insight like Daniel possessed.  Whether its an anointing, keen awareness or special training, recognizing the hand of God in any aspect of life is difficult.  Those who knew Daniel referred to his ability as having the spirit of the gods within him.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:6.

Today, many false prophets exist, claiming to know the hand behind God’s plan.  However, if you read their books, follow their teaching and test these predictions, inconsistencies abound.  In view of this dilemma, its better to follow the words of the apostle Paul above.  The Old Testament is filled with examples of God humbling the proud and lifting up the meek.  Thus, whether you are able to discern the hand of God or not, remember to stay humble and God’s favor will fall upon you.

by Jay Mankus