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Walking in the Fear of the Lord

If you attend college or graduate school, you are bound to cross paths with intelligent professors.  Unfortunately, some of these teachers are so obsessed with their field, that understanding this courses is like taking a foreign language.  When I first opened the Bible in high school, I had similar concerns, overwhelmed by phrases, terms and words beyond my comprehension.  A priest once proclaimed in his homily, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”, quoting the passage below.  When the context was added, a father teaching his son about the importance of listening to God, a light went on in my head.

To understand a proverb and a figure [of speech] or an enigma with its interpretation, and the words of the wise and their riddles [that require reflection]. The [reverent] fear of the Lord [that is, worshiping Him and regarding Him as truly awesome] is the beginning and the preeminent part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; But arrogant fools despise [skillful and godly] wisdom and instruction and self-discipline, Proverbs 1:6-7.

Three decades later, a new term caught me off guard, “walking in the fear of the Lord.”  Perhaps, Luke is referring to the events of Acts 5:1-13.  A couple named Ananias and Sapphira attempted to emulate the generosity of Barnabas, the son of encouragement.  However, Ananias had impure motives, seeking attention and fame.  When confronted by Peter, both lied resulting in cardiac arrests, dying within hours of one another.  At the end of this story, Luke highlights the fact that great fear gripped the church and that non-believers were afraid to associate with the apostles.  Only genuine believers gathered at Solomon’s portico for worship.  The context of this story shines light on what it means to walk in the fear of the Lord.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

When I was a teenager, death was the last thought on my mind until a boating accident placed me in the shipping channel of the Chesapeake Bay as a freighter headed for me and my neighbor Richie.  This near death experience set the stage for me to begin to draw near to God.  Like any prodigal, I didn’t always take the straightest path or quickest route.  Nonetheless, reverent fear of God put life on earth in perspective for me.  While sitting in my bed the summer before my senior year of college with a broken ankle, I was forced to consider God’s plan for my life.  This is where I truly decided to follow Jesus and haven’t turned back.  Sure, I have taken earthly pitstops, backsliding every now and then, but walking in the fear of the Lord has straightened me out over time.

by Jay Mankus

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What You Don’t See

Every day someone will encounter persecution.  This will occur in the form of abuse, discrimination, oppression, punishment or victimization.  Persecution can be subtle by someone trying to manipulate you or brash by individuals who holds a higher position or social status in life.  However, what you don’t see is how current trials and tribulations prepare you for future events.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

When I was in third grade, I walked to an elementary school in my neighborhood.  After desegregation was passed in Delaware, I was forced to attend a school in inner city Wilmington.  I went from the safety of the suburbs into a school with mainly African American and Hispanic students.  At the time, I was overwhelmed, scared and questioning God about why I had to go through this.  Thirty years later, when I became a high school teacher, these 3 miserable years helped me relate to a broad spectrum of students.

In this you rejoice greatly, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, which is much more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested and purified by fire, may be found to result in [your] praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 1:6-7.

In the passage above, Peter writes a letter to first century Christians.  While one of Jesus’ disciple doesn’t specify about which trial he is referring to, Peter warns believers that persecution is a necessary evil.  Whether it was denying Jesus in public or making a fool of himself, trials serve as a refining process for faith.  The apostle Paul uses the analogy of being clay shaped by God the Potter who molds and fastens us into his own image.  The hard part is going through the fire, furnace.  Therefore, the next time you feel overwhelmed by hardships, what you don’t see is God setting the stage for your next assignment in life.

by Jay Mankus

Wisdom, Virtue and Faith

After graduating college, I was fortunate enough to travel through out the mid-west.  During this time, I visited a couple of mega churches that still exist today.  I spent time at Parkside Church in Cleveland pastored by Alistair Begg, the voice of the Truth for Life radio ministry.  I attended Community Church on Wednesday nights, listening to John Ortberg at Willow Creek Community Church west of Chicago.  While participating in a youth ministry trade school called Tentmakers, I visited the Church of the Open Door just outside the Twin Cities in Minnesota.  As I reflect upon these three places of worship, my time there reminds me of the passage below.

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

According to Luke, following Saul’s conversation, the first century church enjoyed a period of peace without persecution.  Churches in Judea, Galilee and Samaria shared three common traits: wisdom, virtue and faith.  Like any spiritual awakening, the presence of the Holy Spirit comes forth in unique ways.  Luke highlights two aspects of this spiritual growth as believers walked in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.  As wisdom, virtue and faith continued to be built up, people entered into personal relationships with Jesus daily, baptized and becoming active members of these church communities.

But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.  25 If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit]. 26 We must not become conceited, challenging or provoking one another, envying one another, Galatians 5:22-26.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul provide a blue print for modern believers to follow.  Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.  Virtue involves adopting behavior which results in high moral standards.  Meanwhile, faith is complete trust or confidence in God.  When you join these three qualities together, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit is achievable.  As a disclaimer for perfectionist who read this, no one will be able to hear, listen and obey God’s Spirit every time.  Yet, the more you keep in step with God, the easiest it will become to do so in the future.  Wherever you may be in your faith journey, emulating the first century church will place you one step closer to keeping in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Scaring the Crap Out of You

As a teenager, I gravitated toward horror movies.  While I may have been living on the edge, witnessing thousands of hours of unwholesome images resulted in several nightmares.  Unfortunately, the scariest scenes often filled me with a rush of adrenaline leading me to continue this hobby throughout college.  I know this is strange, but there is something thrilling about being scared to death.  Not literally of course, but sitting on the edge of your seat, waiting for the next frightening death to occur.

They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing opposite the lampstand on [a well-lit area of] the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the part of the hand that did the writing, Daniel 5:4-5.

The term scaring the crap out of you comes from the Bible.  King Belshazzar was throwing a party for a thousand guests.  As this evening wore on, many became drunk on wine, laughing and staying stupid things like a frat party.  While under the influence, seeing fingers of a man writing on a wall probably started out as a hallucination.  However, the longer this continued, the king and his guests found themselves in a terrifying scenario.  According to the passage below, this event caused the king to crap and or wet himself.

Then the color and the [drunken] hilarious brightness of the king’s face was changed, and his [terrifying] thoughts troubled and alarmed him; the joints and muscles of his hips and back gave way and his knees smote together, Daniel 5:6.

Outside of the Bible. accidents, disease and illness can scare the crap out of any human being.  When a human life is on the verge of death, souls are awakened by this painful reality.  While not everyone drinks, life has a way of numbing hearts to the point that you don’t care about the frailty of life.  This form of apathy is dangerous, especially if it continues for several years.  Thus, don’t be surprised when God allows you to endure a trial so that fear is used to revive and renew your soul.

by Jay Mankus

The Comfort and Encouragement of the Holy Spirit

A first century doctor makes an interesting observation about the Holy Spirit.  While initially described as the Holy Ghost in the original King James version of the Bible, Luke describes the feeling and sense new believers experienced following their baptism.  Despite being an invisible force, those who walked with God daily received an inner peace in the form of comfort and encouragement.  When I read the passage below for the first time, I pondered “what does it mean to walk in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit?”

So the church throughout Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace [without persecution], being built up [in wisdom, virtue, and faith]; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it continued to grow [in numbers], Acts 9:31.

The term walking with God is found 62 times in the Bible.  One of the first references of this phrase occurs in the passage below, a command from God to Abram to activate his faith by arising and walking to fulfill God’s calling.  While Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 5:22 mentions that Enoch walked faithfully with God.  Subsequently, Enoch was spared death, taken up into heaven like Elijah.  Perhaps, this shines light on the comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit.

Arise, walk (make a thorough reconnaissance) around in the land, through its length and its width, for I will give it to you.” 18 Then Abram broke camp and moved his tent, and came and settled by the [grove of the great] terebinths (oak trees) of Mamre [the Amorite], which are in Hebron, and there he built an altar to [honor] the Lord, Genesis 13:17-18.

The comfort and encouragement of the Holy Spirit could also originate from teachings from Moses.  Deuteronomy 28 lists acts that result in blessings and curses from God.  The blessing list lasts 14 verses, followed by 54 verses on curses due to acts of disobedience.  Common sense tells me that if you are walking with God or as the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 5:25, keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, blessings will abound.  Moses states in Deuteronomy 28:2 that” all these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you pay attention to the voice of the Lord your God.”  Therefore, as individuals walk with God, blessings will bring comfort and encouragement to ensure believers that you are on the right track.

by Jay Mankus

How Did I Get This Way?

When puberty begins in junior high, teenagers undergo a series of changes.  Depending upon the choices made and friendships established, this will shape the path individuals take in high school.  For those who are able to continue their education in college, majors, professors and relationships will further dictate who you become.  Despite this journey, many adults awake to an epiphany “how get I get this way?”

Blessed [fortunate, prosperous, and favored by God] is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked [following their advice and example], nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit [down to rest] in the seat of scoffers (ridiculers), Psalm 1:1.

Skarlett Riot sings about this in the song Voices.  The opening stanza refers to whispers which restrict what you hear.  The next stanza refers to being paralyzed, unable to control your mind.  Finally, this British rock band uses imagery of Cain’s conversation with God in Genesis 4:6-7 to suggest demons can get into your head.  The moment individuals begin to listen to these demonic influences, souls can relate to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 7:13-20, doing the opposite of you want.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law [His precepts and teachings] he [habitually] meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted [and fed] by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season; Its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers [and comes to maturity], Psalm 1:2-3.

The Psalmist has a much easier explanation for how did I get this way.  The author lists three basic distractions in life: following the crowd, hanging around those who bend the rules and joining this behavior by lowering your standards.  The best way to avoid giving into temptation is by embracing the Bible.  Those who make a habit of following biblical teaching will be to endure spiritual droughts that cause faith to waver.  Thus, if you are shocked by the person that you have become, follow the Psalmist advice to flee any voices in your head.

by Jay Mankus

How to Increase Your Strength

Everyone wants to feel important at some point in time.  In the early stages of life, a desire to fit in will cause individuals to want to become a part of or join a specific group of people.  Whether this is a clique, fraternity, sorority or team, being part of a social setting adds a sense of belonging to lives.  To those embraced by their peers, an inner strength is found as a support system is formed.  This is one way that you can increase your strength.

Jesus did not let him [come], but [instead] He said to him, “Go home to your family and tell them all the great things that the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” 20 So he [obeyed and] went away and began to publicly proclaim in Decapolis [the region of the ten Hellenistic cities] all the great things that Jesus had done for him; and all the people were astonished, Mark 5:19-20.

During the first century, one man selected twelve individuals to become fishers of men.  As Jesus began to heal, perform miracles and spread a message that became known as the gospel, large crowds followed these 13 men daily.  This popularity inspired new converts to become disciples.  After being freed from a legion of demons, a man begs Jesus to accept and receive him as a disciple.  However, God had another plan for this man’s life.  When you go home and tell others all that God has done to transform your life, your spiritual strength grows as faith is shared.

All those who heard him continued to be amazed and said, “Is this not the man who in Jerusalem attacked those who called on this name [of Jesus], and had come here [to Damascus] for the express purpose of bringing them bound [with chains] before the chief priests?” 22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), Acts 9:21-22.

One of the most radical spiritual transformations occurs in Acts 9.  A religious zealot who persecuted apostles as well as overseeing the killing of Stephen, was blinded by a light from heaven.  This sets into motion a series of events that leads Ananias to eventually heal Saul.  As soon as Saul is healed, Ananias baptizes Saul suggesting a spiritual conversion.  Like the man in Mark, Saul spends at least 2 years convincing Jews in Damascus that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  Like anything in life, the more you do something, the greater your confidence becomes.  Thus, if you want to increase your strength, make it your ambition to share your faith daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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