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Fear Verses Faith

As the Coronavirus began to quickly spread throughout the United States in March, most states enacted 14 day stay at home orders. The goal of this quarantine was initially designed to flatten the curve, lower the spike in cases of COVID-19. Since the end of March, this quarantine was extended into April and now into May, with schools cancelled for the rest of the Spring. With each extension, the goal posts have been moved, suggesting America shouldn’t re-open until a cure is discovered. Following Dr. Fauci’s Senate hearing last week, the stock market plummeted as his comments created a wave of fear and panic throughout this nation.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand, Isaiah 41:10.

Last week, Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports posted a video on Twitter of his opinion on the quarantine. This rant went viral on social media as millions of people felt and sensed his frustration. Although Portnoy didn’t use the words fear verses faith, he wants the ability to choose for himself. Instead of being held hostage, living in a police state, Dave wants to take a chance to live, even if it means catching COVID-19. As families continue to be out of work, considered non-essential, alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide is on the rise. Like anything in life, choices have consequences. However, if fear of catching this disease paralyzes one’s ability live, faith must come alive to counterbalance these concerns.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control, 2 Timothy 1:7.

While fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. If you watch the news on any given night, most broadcasts promote fear, detailing the number of new cases of the Coronavirus and the updated death toll. If you are searching for hope, cable news is the last place to look. The context of the passage above is geared toward a teenage pastor named Timothy, likely in over his head. Instead of allowing fear to reign, Paul encourages Timothy to remember God’s promises. Thus, the next time you sense fear is consuming your soul, cry out to the Lord in prayer so that God’s Spirit of power, love and self-control will set you free from fear.

by Jay Mankus

The Presence of Jesus in the Old Testament

Foreshadowing is an indication of what is to come. When plan A failed, allowing Adam and Eve to have free reign of the Garden and Eden except for the Tree of Knowledge, God uses imagery to introduce plan B. The apostle Paul explains the science of God in Romans 5:12-21. What Adam failed to do, being obedient to God, Jesus is sent several thousand years later to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel, Genesis 3:15.

In the second book of the Bible, the Lord raises up a man named Moses to be the voice of God for Israel. The only problem was Moses suffered from a severe speech impediment, Exodus 4:10. Despite getting frustrated with Moses’ lack of faith, God sends Aaron to speak on his behalf until Moses finds the courage to confront Pharaoh. The only way to survive an angel of death was to sacrifice a perfect lamb, without blemishes. Then sprinkle it’s blood above and upon your door posts. This lamb is symbolic of Jesus.

And you shall eat it thus: [as fully prepared for a journey] your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment [proving their helplessness]. I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be for a token or sign to you upon [the doorposts of] the houses where you are, [that] when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt, Exodus 12:11-13.

Seven hundred years prior to the birth of Christ, a seer named Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ birth, life and death. Isaiah 53:1-10 compares Jesus to a shepherd laying his life down for his sheep. The disciple who Jesus loved echoes this in John 10:1-11. While the Old Testament does show the wrath of God poured out upon the disobedient, the presence of Jesus sets the stage for God’s unconditional love in the New Testament. May this blog remind you of the numerous promises of God that have been fulfilled and those yet still to come.

by Jay Mankus

When You are Going Through a Phase in Life

As children begin to experience and go through puberty, this period initializes a series of phases in life. Depending upon maturity, support systems, and upbringing, most teenagers don’t respond well to change. Each phase could last as short as a week, extend for months or stretch beyond a year. As a former teacher, I recognize the obvious signs and signals. Yet, some are like poker players who hide their cards well.

But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior to man [as man] appeared, He saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but because of His own pity and mercy, by [the] cleansing [bath] of the new birth (regeneration) and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:4-5.

If I had to point to my own life, the junior high years were the hardest for me. At five feet tall and ninety pounds for 2 years, I was an easy target for bullies. One of the only positives for me was my speed, able to outrun most of my attackers like Forrest Gump. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a Jenny who attended the same school. My neighbor Jeanette went to a private school so I was forced to fend for myself like the social misfits in the classic film Outsiders.

Which He poured out [so] richly upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. [And He did it in order] that we might be justified by His grace (by His favor, wholly undeserved), [that we might be acknowledged and counted as conformed to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action], and that we might become heirs of eternal life according to [our] hope, Titus 3:6-7.

I thought joining the Boy Scouts might help me overcome the fitting in phase. Looking back, I found just as many bullies there as in school. What I really needed was a personal relationship with Jesus, but this didn’t happen until 10th grade. As I put God on hold for a few more years, a couple of friends were sent to help me while God was waiting. Thus, as some of you may be struggling with a new phase in life, don’t forget to call on the name of the Lord to get you through the challenges that you’re currently facing.

by Jay Mankus

The Spirit of the World

According to Luke, the apostle Paul spent a year and a half visiting the church of Corinth. Following a visit to Athens, Paul headed to southern Greece, Acts 18:1. Philosophy, the search for wisdom and worldly traditions was a common topic of conversation at local marketplaces. Opening minds in Corinth to the spiritual dimension appears to have hit a snag. Paul blames this on the Spirit of the World in his first letter to the church.

Now we have not received the spirit [that belongs to] the world, but the [Holy] Spirit Who is from God, [given to us] that we might realize and comprehend and appreciate the gifts [of divine favor and blessing so freely and lavishly] bestowed on us by God, 1 Corinthians 2:12.

This term is not limited to the book of Acts. Paul writes two letters to a teenager pastor named Timothy building upon this concept. 1 Timothy 4:1 warns of a time coming in the near future where individuals will reject faith in God. Instead, people will turn their attention toward deluding and seductive spirits. Paul doesn’t hold back his feelings, suggesting the Spirit of the World teaches doctrines influenced by demons.

For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold, And will turn aside from hearing the truth and wander off into myths and man-made fictions, 2 Timothy 4:3-4.

If you follow current events, listen to talk radio or watch cable news, it appears this time has arrived. The Me Too Movement comes alive when a Conservative or Republican is accused of sexual assault or rape. However, whenever a Democrat or Liberal politician is under a similar investigation, the leaders of Me Too and the mainstream media become silent. When you examine this silence with logic, the Spirit of the World isn’t willing to allow truth to enter it’s domain, Ephesians 6:12. Powers of darkness fuel this invisible fight to ensure worldly views overshadow biblical worldviews.

by Jay Mankus

Full Freedom

The origin of the first amendment, giving freedom of speech to citizens, dates back to 1789. James Madison proposed this along with 11 other amendments in the House of Representatives. Freedom of speech supports the freedom of an individual to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. In recent years, freedom of speech has been attacked as social media sites are now silencing any person who questions what society deems to be appropriate and acceptable. A recent You-Tube by 2 doctors from California was shut down earlier this week despite using raw data from their own COVID-19 resaearch

And now, Lord, observe their threats and grant to Your bond servants [full freedom] to declare Your message fearlessly, Acts 4:29.

The biblical origin of spiritual freedom of speech dates back to the first century. A well known physician served as a historian, traveling with the apostle Paul during several as his missionary journeys. After being restored by Jesus in John 21, Peter is filled with a spirit of boldness which inspired Luke’s words above. Recognizing the threats made by Jewish religious leaders, Peter encourages believers in Jesus to speak boldly. Instead of being afraid, speak from your heart by sharing the good news about Jesus Christ will full freedom.

Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks, Romans 16:4.

The apostle Paul exercised his faith regardless of how others responded. At one point Paul was stoned and left for dead, yet supporters dragged Paul’s body away, saving and reviving him. At the end of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul personally thanks those individuals who risked their own lives. These people weren’t afraid to defend, protect and support Paul regardless of what religious and societal leaders thought of the Jesus movement. While freedom of speech isn’t what it use to be, may the Holy Spirit direct and guide your words as you boldly exercise full freedom.

by Jay Mankus

What Would the Bible Say about You?

At the end of his letter to the church at Rome, the apostle Paul thanks those who worked quietly behind the scenes. Without these men and women, Paul’s ministry journeys would not have been possible or successful. Beginning with a deaconess and woman who opened her home as a congregational meeting place, Paul wanted to ensure that their contributions were not minimized or overlooked. Unlike the gospels where woman and children are excluded from the overall count of individuals present, Paul places women first on his list.

Now I introduce and commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, That you may receive her in the Lord [with a Christian welcome], as saints (God’s people) ought to receive one another. And help her in whatever matter she may require assistance from you, for she has been a helper of many including myself [shielding us from suffering]. Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, Who risked their lives [endangering their very necks] for my life. To them not only I but also all the churches among the Gentiles give thanks, Romans 16:1-4.

In another letter to the church at Galatia, Paul breaks down his entire life into three stages. Galatians 1:11-24 serves as an outline for sharing your faith by detailing your life before knowing Jesus, your conversion experience and transformation since making this decision. While every faith story contains peaks and valleys, portions of your testimony will connect with or touch other souls. One of Jesus’ disciples urges first century Christians to be prepared, always ready to provide the reason for the hope that you have in God, 1 Peter 3:15-16.

[Remember me] also to the church [that meets] in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was a firstfruit (first convert) to Christ in Asia. Greet Mary, who has worked so hard among you. Remember me to Andronicus and Junias, my tribal kinsmen and once my fellow prisoners. They are men held in high esteem among the apostles, who also were in Christ before I was. Remember me to Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. Salute Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, that one tried and approved in Christ (the Messiah). Remember me to those who belong to the household of Aristobulus, Romans 16:5-10.

As I turn our attention toward today, I’m curious about what modern writers might say. Would you receive a shout out like Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquila or be out-shined by other believers? As you go to work, reside in a neighborhood and let your guard down at home, what do people notice? According to my children, I drive too fast, I’m impatient and too opinionated. Are your daily actions full of light or do moments of darkness blur the love of Jesus inside of you? The book of Acts ends abruptly. Some scholars suggest that either the final chapter was never fully completed or simply missing. When judgement day arrives, what will God say about you? Only time will tell so make the most of the days that the Lord gives you.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Holding You Back?

During my final year of coaching cross country, I started having my runners wear weights once or twice a week. Since I ran warm ups and cool downs with my junior high team, I also wore weights as well to see how it felt. Early on, you couldn’t tell much of a difference, but as practice wore on the harder it became to lift your legs. Although the 2.1 mile course I designed wasn’t hilly, the final .25 miles was all up hill. A perfect test for wearing weights despite complaining and whining runners at the end of practice.

You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? – Galatians 5:7

First century authors of the Bible use a series of analogies comparing life to running. This is likely due to the Isthmian Games, named after the Isthmus of Corinth. This event took place the year before and year after the Olympic Games. Since the Olympics were held only once every four years, the Pythian Games were held in the third year to complete the Olympiad cycle. In the passage above, the apostle Paul received news that Christians in Galatia were struggling likely due to the Judaizers, a religious sect who hindered their spiritual development.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews compares a faith journey to running a marathon. Typically, 26.1 miles, this distance requires extensive training just to compete and finish. When I was in the best shape of my life, I once tried to run 15 miles. Running with a friend from high school, he left me in the dust as I struggled to breathe the final five miles. This one experience makes me painfully aware of what Hebrews 12:1 is suggesting. In order to make it across the finish line, heaven, you need to start throwing aside any unnecessary weights. The more you discard now, the easier the homestretch will become in the future.

by Jay Mankus

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