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Tag Archives: John Ortberg

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

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Listen, Obey and Yield

During the last half century, I have been fortunate enough to attend, listen and participate in numerous inspirational events.  I went to Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during a Billy Graham Crusade to hear NFL Hall of Famer Reggie White speak.  Shortly after getting married, I heard former Colorado football coach Bill McCarthy address a crowd of sixty five thousand men during a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field.  I spent a year under the spiritual leadership of Alistair Begg, the voice of Truth for Life ministries at the Chapel in Solon, Ohio.  Finally, I spent another year soaking in the knowledge of John Ortberg via Community Services at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington, Illinois.

But even as he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were [greatly] afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, My Chosen One; listen and obey and yield to Him!” – Luke 9:34-35

Many of these speeches invigorated my soul, eager to live out my faith.  Yet, there is one message that stands alone in the Bible.  In the passage above, there were only four people present.  Beside Jesus, James, John and Peter were on a mountain that was engulfed by clouds.  This formation is similar to a heavy fog, limiting your visibility to a couple of feet.  Within this cloud, the voice of God the Father spoke.  To make sure there isn’t any doubt, God identifies Jesus as his own son.  Believing that brevity is clarity, God the Father shares seven words.  The command is simply: listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found there alone. And they kept silent, and told no one at that time any of the things which they had seen [concerning the divine manifestation], Luke 9:36.

Listening means to be attentive, concentrate, hang on and keep your ears open.  Obeying is the act of accepting, bowing, carrying out, deferring to and submitting to that which is being recommended.  Yield refers to bear, contribute, fetch, gather, provide and realize the plan.  In this context, the calling that God has designed for your life.  According to the passage above, theses three disciples were in awe, reflecting upon what had just happened.  None of these men revealed this event until after Jesus rose from the dead.  Although there were only three eye witnesses, God’s message to modern believers hasn’t changed.  Listen, obey and yield to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Is the Cross an Idol?

For the first half of my life, I always attended denominations where the cross was the center piece of the worship center and service.  As a catholic through my teenage years, the stations of the cross served as magnificent stain glass windows, stretching from one side of the building to the other.  These images were a weekly reminder of the Passion Week, Jesus’ final week on earth leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection.  As I began to ponder the meaning of the cross, Michael W. Smith came out with the popular hit, Cross of Gold, adding another perspective to my thought process.

However, when I reached my twenties, I began to visit several congregations who took Exodus 20:4 literally.  The second of the 10 commandments, the Lord makes a distinction between the first, having no other god and second command, creating or establishing objects of worship that replace God.  In place of a cross, musicians, the pulpit and speakers communicating the Word of God were the focal point of worship.  Making a transition to a church which did not have a cross hanging on the back wall behind the altar was definitely an adjustment.

Since my wife and I spent the first 18 months of our marriage living a few miles from Willow Creek, located in South Barrington, Illinois, I embraced this journey to discover if the cross is an idol.  Experiencing Community, a mid week service for believers, I was blessed to gather with thousands of other Christians.  The service was like a mini-concert with 30 minutes of singing, an infomercial transition to the pastor’s message, usually by John Ortberg with Bill Hybels filling in to cast a vision for the future of the church.  This experience taught me you don’t have to wear to cross share your faith.  While the cross may be a reminder, the condition of your heart is what God is truly concerned with, Luke 6:45.

In my thirties, I faced another theological dilemma as a High School Bible teacher and coach.  Does a Christian school have to possess a cross within their logo?  As a former golf professional with 3 years of experience in apparel, I worked with a seamstress to create a logo for our new golf uniforms.  The final proof was a red paw print of a lion.  Whenever I traveled, the logo was a conversational piece, often confused with several colleges providing an opportunity to correct their assumption and share about my school.  Since the cross offends people or makes others feel uncomfortable, I felt excluding the cross was the right decision until a new athletic director placed a cross inside the paw on all team uniforms.

In closing, I think the cross can be an idol, especially for those who attempt to profit off of it.  However, for me, the cross is similar to Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  I believe the cross is a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice, sin offering and victory over death, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.  Like the lyrics within Michael W. Smith’s song, “the cross means a whole lot more to me.”  May you test everything I have said, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 and make your on conclusion based upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:12, figuring things out on your own.  Enjoy the journey!

by Jay Mankus

Look to Him, Not to Us

When you are young, its easy to take for granted the places you visit and family vacations you experience.  As an adult, I am learning to appreciate each special opportunity the Lord grants me, one day at a time.  This morning I awoke early, before the crack of dawn, reminiscing about some of the greatest worship moments I have ever encountered.

Singing One Bread, One Body prior to communion at my first Walk to Emmaus weekend still gives me goosebumps.  The Community gatherings at Willow Creek in Chicago I attended every Wednesday night for a year combined immaculate worship with the teaching of John Ortberg.  The rock concert at The Church of the Open Door in Minnesota during my youth ministry trade school in the Twin Cities gave me an idea of the intensity one must bring to fully worship God.  However, this past weekend while visiting Vineyard Christian Fellowship on Appleton Road in Landenburg, Pennsylvania, I felt as if I was in the presence of the most high.

Psalm 100:1 was the inspiration behind the song Shout to the Lord.  The following verse, Psalm 100:2 calls people to make a joyful noise.  However, there is a temptation for worship leaders to think, “look at me, don’t I have a great voice?”  As a karaoke enthusiast, I spent several summer evenings in college hanging out with friends at a local night club, often singing 4 songs prior to leaving.  When you were good, the crowd went crazy following your last line.  If you weren’t, like me, I felt like a professional golfer receiving a subtle clap of applause.  My high point of Karaoke came at the 1995 Canadian P.G.A. Tour Qualifying School on Vancouver Island hosted by Morningstar Golf Club.

After a poor opening round, shooting in the 80’s, I went to a local sports bar in Nanaimo to drown my sorrows.  Since most singers were distracted by the NHL playoffs, plastered on a dozen televisions, volunteers for Karaoke were slim.  Instead of drinking, I used singing as a vehicle for healing.  To my surprise, I nailed Can’t Fight This Feeling by REO Speedwagon, actually hitting every note on cue.  As I handed my microphone off, the place erupted.  Thinking the Canucks, Vancouver’s professional hockey team, had just scored a goal, I turned to the nearest set to see what I just missed, trying to catch a replay.  To my amazement, the audience was cheering for me, praising me for my performance.

The message God placed on my heart over and over this morning is “Look to Him, not to us!”  Since I haven’t had much success singing, the temptation to steal credit from God isn’t there.  However, there are other areas, venues in which I have stolen the limelight from the Lord.  David reminds us in Psalm 16:2 that apart from God we can do nothing.  Therefore, whether you are leading worship for your church, fulfilling the duties of your occupation or fanning into flame your spiritual gift, look to Jesus for strength, 2 Corinthians 12:9.  By demonstrating biblical principle, other  people will start looking to Him, not to us, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

by Jay Mankus

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