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Tag Archives: prodigal

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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You Don’t Want God To Leave You Alone

Inside of every human being, there is an alter ego like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Authors of the Bible refer to this as a sinful nature, the invisible force that persuaded a son to become a prodigal.  Regardless of how stable you may be, thoughts of rebellion occasionally drift in and out of minds.  For those who eventually embrace this concept, to ignore the advice of family, friends or guardians, you abandon those who care about you the most.  Nonetheless, disappointment, frustration or narcissism influences some to leave their previous life to start all over again.

After this he fell in love with a [Philistine] woman [living] in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. So the [five] lords (governors) of the Philistines came to her and said to her, “Persuade him, and see where his great strength lies and [find out] how we may overpower him so that we may bind him to subdue him, Judges 16:4-5.

On the other hand, there are other people who haven’t done anything wrong.  Yet, due to a series of accidents, mishaps and trials, these individuals get the feeling that God has abandoned them.  These emotions can lead to justification as minds ponder, “well if God left me, why should I stick around?”  Meanwhile, love has a strange way of changing human beings.  When you meet or see the person of your dreams, you will do everything in your power to make this relationship happen.  Some may exaggerate, lie or pretend to be someone else just to win the approval of the person you love.  Such is the case of Samson who ignored his parent’s advice about marrying a godly Jewish girl in favor of a Philistine named Delilah.

She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as I have time after time and shake myself free.” For Samson did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with [two] bronze chains; and he was forced to be a grinder [of grain into flour at the mill] in the prison, Judges 16:20-21.

The longer Samson played this immature little game with his wife, any resemblance of integrity slowly disappeared.  Thus, at some point, the Lord left Samson who was spiritually unaware of God’s departure.  It was at this time when Delilah’s plot was successful, cutting all of his hair, the source behind Samson’s mighty strength.  Subsequently, Samson was bound to two pillars, lost his ability to see and forced to be a slave, grinding flower while imprisoned.  Despite this hardship, the presence of God returned according to verse 22, enabling Samson’s strength to be restored as his hair grew back.

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this one time, O God, and let me take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes,” Judges 16:28.

Like the prodigal in Luke 15, Samson comes to his senses.  Instead of blaming God for his problems, Samson cries out to the Lord, seeking forgiveness and restoration.  As a few thousand Philistine guests mocked Samson’s arrest, giving praise to their god Dagon, the Lord agrees to answer Samson’s prayer.  While this meant sacrificing his own life, the Lord empowered Samson like the days of his youth, giving him the strength to carry out this mission.  If there is any lesson you can take away from the life of Samson, it’s that you don’t want God to leave you alone.

by Jay Mankus

The Invasion of the Mind

The Invasion of the Body Snatches debuted in 1956.  This science fiction film introduced the thought that normal human beings could be replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.  In the original movie, a doctor discovers that the population of his small town is secretly being replaced.  Twenty two years later, a remake features a scene change as San Francisco is under attack by clones who are swapping out bodies.  While this classic horror flick put fear into the audience, Satan has his own ongoing scheme known as the invasion of the mind.

Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, “Can it really be that God has said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You certainly will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil,” Genesis 3:1-5.

Based upon the passage above, the invasion of the mind begins by planting seeds of doubt.  If your belief system begins to crumble, develop holes or fall apart, the boundaries that once kept you safe and out of trouble can disappear.  When prodigal spirits are conceived within human minds, individuals will push the limits, exploring areas once forbidden by God.  Every day there are reports of strange news stories, mostly embarrassing, a sign of souls looking for love in the all the wrong places.  Despite this decline of morality, Satan is convincing modern people to rely on justification as a means to rationalize what the Bible calls sin.

For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete, 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

Evidently, the apostle Paul saw disconcerting signs from a first century city.  While its unclear how many people were infected, the invasion of the mind was under way within Corinth.  New Christians trying to break free from previous addictions, habits and unhealthy patterns were failing, just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  To address this concern, Paul introduces a plan to fight back against this invisible attack.  Like the modern phrase “fight fire with fire,” the only way to defeat Satan is by using spiritual weapons.  Fasting, prayer and worship are key to reclaiming minds poisoned by the world.  Yet, the greatest asset is the Sword of the Spirit, the Bible which can be used for defense and offense.  Like a spiritual fast break, good defensive praying can lead to regaining lost ground.  May the reality of this invasion of the mind keep you spiritual sharp, putting of the armor of God daily to ward off evil spirits.

by Jay Mankus

 

Never Be The Same

There are moments in life that serve as life altering experiences.  Whether this is a decision to begin a new career, relationship or adapt to an unexpected event, your life will never be the same.  Like a fork in a road, you have to decide the path your life will take.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me, John 15:4.

The Christian Group Red sing about this on their Innocence and Instinct album.  The context of the song Never Be the Same refers to entering into a relationship with Jesus.  Unlike any other earthly experience, God’s love is unconditional.  For anyone who has been burned, disappointed or let down by unfulfilled promises, this concept is hard to grasp.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing, John 15:5.

Yet, any prodigal who has come to their senses, God’s timing serves as a saving grace.  While modern church leaders attempt to manufacture this setting through long drawn out altar calls, the desperate will run to God.  After the emotion of God’s forgiveness fades, the hard part is setting time aside daily to maintain this connection.  You can’t force anyone into a relationship that they have no interest in.  However, if freewill is allowed to run it’s course freely, new Christians will never be the same.

by Jay Mankus

Grace or No Grace

One of the best illustrations I heard for grace comes in the form of an acronym.  God’s riches at Christ’s expense.  The concept of grace refers to free and unmerited favor; something you didn’t earn or deserve.  The apostle Paul suggests there may be an occasional exemption made for a good person, but grace isn’t grace without a sacrifice.

Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die, Romans 5:7.

The beauty of grace comes in the form of the surprise.  You could be having the worst day of your life, on the verge of becoming a prodigal or set on rebellion.  No matter the candidate, God’s grace falls upon the worthy and unworthy.  This is where the human mind struggles to grasp this concept as the grace which people extend on earth is often based upon results.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us, Romans 5:8.

This mindset produces the thought, “grace or no grace.”  This selfish desire turns selective, forgiving those whom you like while holding grudges against those you despise.  Human nature feeds this desire as grace is only offered to family, friends and the deserving.  May the words of the passage above guide hearts and minds in the right direction, to love and forgive others just as Jesus did for you and me.

by Jay Mankus

A Year Without Church

Before his tragic death in a plane crash, Keith Green created the song Asleep in the Night.  Although the original context refers to someone sleeping in, missing church on Easter Sunday, this song applies to my current dilemma.  Due to my grave yard work schedule, I can’t seem to get my lazy butt out of bed on Sunday morning.  Subsequently, 2016 can be described as a year without church, the fewest weeks I’ve ever attended.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living, Luke 15:13”

I wish I had a decent excuse, but what good would that do.  Like any other sin, missing church involves a lack of discipline, choosing laziness over obedience.  Instead of receiving God’s blessings of fellowship, praise and words of inspiration, I have become like the prodigal who continues to move in the wrong decision.  Hopefully, I will come to my senses soon so that I can spent 2017 in the house of God.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you,” Luke 15:17-18.

When you miss a day praying or reading the Bible, you can’t get it back.  Sure, you might try to do twice the praying or reading the next day to make yourself feel better, but the truth is something else was more important to you on the days you tuned out God.  Part of me still sees the Lord from an Old Testament perspective, one of judgement and wrath.  Yet, the New Testament opens the door on a loving God, desperately waiting for his children to give Him the attention He is worthy of.  May you learn from the errors of my way by visiting a local church regularly and invest time at home daily with the living God of the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

No More Excuses

As a parent, it doesn’t take long for children to figure you out.  Ideally, you should be an example, positive and a role model.  Yet, when you have a bad day, start to fall away from God or have a weak moment you can’t run and hide.  You have to face the truth, a sinner who has fallen short of God’s glory.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst, 1 Timothy 1:15.

The apostle Paul is one of those unlikely individuals the Lord calls out of darkness into the light to do great things for God.  Yet, despite his successful earthly ministry, mentoring of young pastors like Timothy and many miracles performed, Paul was haunted by his past.  Whether it was his guilt of giving the order to have the apostle Stephen killed or persecuting Christians prior to his conversion, Paul recognized the error of his former ways.

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them, James 4:17.

Sure, Paul could have blamed his upbringing as a Jewish zealot.  Yet, like other followers of Christ the conviction of the Holy Spirit exposes human imperfections.  Other believers, pastors or words of the Bible make this point painfully clear.  There are no more excuses, rational explanations or scapegoats.  Rather, sins of inaction are just as guilty as those who commit harmful acts.  Therefore, don’t run from the truth, accept it as a prodigal child in desperate need of God’s grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

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