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Tag Archives: wisdom

When the Bible is Difficult to Understand

When students get stumped in class as a new chapter or concept is introduced, there is a teacher to ask to help you figure it out. Yet, when you open up the Bible and come across a confusing section, unless you’re at a Bible Study, you are on your own. If one of Jesus’ own disciples mentioned that some of the apostle Paul’s epistles are difficult to understand, you will definitely need a mediator to properly interpret the Bible. This is where you need to reach out to and lean on the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts.

Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own [g]utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures, 2 Peter 3:16.

One of the common mistake’s readers of the Bible make is to treat this like a regular book. Human wisdom will only take you so far. And besides, one New Testament author refers to the Bible as a spiritual book that is living and active, Hebrews 4:12. When the Bible is difficult to understand, you need to learn to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. According to Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, the Holy Spirit provides everything that you need for life.

And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.

The apostle Paul had several encounters with Greek philosophers during a visit to Athens in Acts 17:16-32. While Paul was able to convince some of these scholars, many of them relied on human knowledge. This is the context of the passage above where Paul urges Corinthians to go beyond education. When the Bible is too difficult to understand, only the Holy Spirit will open your mind to the spiritual truths that lie within. Though you won’t have all of your questions answered like Job, you will grow in the knowledge of God’s character and nature.

by Jay Mankus

Maintaining a Clear Perspective While Coping with Grief

I’ve never dealt well with funerals. I have a hard enough time of thinking of what to say on a normal day let alone trying to console grieving family members. One of the best words of advice I’ve ever received is to never say “I know how you feel..” Rather, the best thing you can do for a grieving individual is give them a hug and reply “when you’re ready to talk, I’m all ears.” Yet, no human advice can replace the wisdom found in the Bible,

The Lord is building up Jerusalem; He is gathering together the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds [curing their pains and their sorrows], Psalm 147:2-3.

The Psalmist refers to dark times in the history of Israel. Due to a lack of disobedience, God allowed this nation to be conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Old Testament speaks of these periods as living in exile as many were taken from and forced to live in these two different countries. In the passage above, the exile lead to a broken heart as the Psalmist struggled to accept why God let this happen.

Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away, Revelation 21:3-4.

Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples provides an eternal perspective of the future. Dealing with adversity, hardship and pain is not a pleasant experience. The best way to maintain a clear perspective while coping with grief is to see life on earth as temporary. According to John, when Christians enter eternal life in heaven, God will wipe away all of our tears. Therefore, while the present may be filled with disappointment and pain, lean on the Holy Spirit to get you through the grieving process of death.

by Jay Mankus

The Catch and Release Approach to Parenting

Catch and release fishing can be traced back to the United Kingdom. As fishermen began to notice that target species were dwindling in heavily fished waters, the government instituted catch and release as a way preserve these fish for future generations. Meanwhile, I recently heard a sermon comparing catch and release to parenting. This analogy was based upon catching your children in acts of disobedience, using discipline to expose this error and release them back into the world.

Thorns and snares are in the way of the obstinate and willful; he who guards himself will be far from them. Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:5-6.

Sometimes individuals who possess godly wisdom doesn’t translate into becoming a good parent. Such is the case of King Solomon who knew exactly what to do, but struggled when it came to following through. Perhaps, this was a byproduct of Solomon’s weakness for the opposite sex. One wife wasn’t enough for this king. Solomon kept adding women until he accumulated 700 wives and 300 concubines. As his children from each lover continued to pile up, Solomon lost his way as a parent, unable to control all of his children.

Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

As my youngest child begins her final year of high school, my wife Leanne and I are close to an empty nest. Over the past 24 years, we’ve each had our fair share of catching and training our two boys and one girl to do what is right in God’s eyes. Through the past two decades, I haven’t always been the greatest role model, especially in my early years as a parent. Yet, I’ve enjoyed this spiritual fishing journey as it draws to an end. As the time ticks away, all you can do is enjoy each day before we release our daughter Lydia into this world.

by Jay Mankus

The Many Sided Wisdom of God

Where does wisdom come from is an age old question. Thus, it’s not surprising that one of the wisest rulers to ever walk the face of the earth immediately addresses this issue in the first chapter of Proverbs. According to King Solomon, the source of wisdom begins with a reverent fear of God, Proverbs 1:7. This is the starting point for wisdom, providing an open door for the ability to discern further knowledge in the future.

[The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere, Ephesians 3:10.

The apostle Paul builds upon this principle during the first century. In a letter to the Church at Ephesus, Paul discloses that congregations are the main vessel through which the many sided wisdom of God is displayed. Perhaps, Paul is referencing previous letters in Romans 12:4-11 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-12 where the church is compared to one body with many parts. The words in Matthew 16:18 confirm that churches are meant to carry on that which Jesus began with his disciples.

But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated. 15 But the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things], yet is himself to be put on trial and judged by no one [he can read the meaning of everything, but no one can properly discern or appraise or get an insight into him], 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.

In a letter sent to members of a church in Ancient Greece, Paul discusses the obstacles that wisdom presents. When the spiritual is absent, logic, philosophy, and science is used as a substitute for wisdom. When individuals refuse to submit to the beginning of wisdom, fearing God, earthly knowledge serves as a stumbling block. Instead of gaining access to the many sided wisdom of God, this knowledge is hidden from the nonspiritual. Until you open your mind to the spiritual realm, you’ll never recognize or understand how the Holy Spirit unveils the many sided wisdom of God.

by Jay Mankus

I Owe So Off to Work I Go

The song ” Heigh-Ho ” comes from the fairy tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Written by Larry Morey with the melody and music created by Frank Churchill, Heigh-Ho is sung by six of the dwarfs. To pass the time while walking back and forth from work, Heigh-Ho serves as a distraction from the mundane aspects of life. In a recent sermon by Dr. Tony Evans, he put a new spin on this song with a parody entitled, “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.”

There are precious treasures and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a self-confident and foolish man swallows it up and wastes it, Proverbs 21:20.

The term foolish is used 71 times by King Solomon in the Book of Proverbs. While defining and illustrating wisdom to his sons, foolishness is used as an example of what not to do. In the passage above, Solomon points out that a lack of saving results in poverty. This analogy highlights that fools don’t appreciate what they have, often devouring everything all at once. Thus, unless some form of self-discipline is exercised, foolish choices will lead to debt and poverty.

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender, Proverbs 22:7.

One chapter later, Solomon reveals the consequences of poor financial decisions. When individuals don’t pay off their credit cards each month or out spend what they make, you will become a slave to debt. Subsequently, Dr. Evan’s sermon becomes a reality as desperate people are forced to go to work to pay off their car, home, and or school debt. One of the way politicians stay in power is by promising their constituents government handouts. Instead of promoting rugged individualism, lifelong politicians want voters to be in need, a slave to debt, to insure their votes over and over again. Break this habit quickly so that financial freedom is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

When You’re the Fool

A foolish person is associated with silly, imprudent or unwisely actions. Observers of this behavior often label these individuals as buffoons, dunces, idiots or my personal favorite, ignoramus. Unfortunately, everyone plays the fool at some point in life. The sad part is when you’re the fool, pride can blind you the realization of past bonehead decisions that you’ve made.

He who willfully separates and estranges himself [from God and man] seeks his own desire and pretext to break out against all wise and sound judgment. A [self-confident] fool has no delight in understanding but only in revealing his personal opinions and himself, Proverbs 18:1-2.

King Solomon draws an interesting parallel in the passage above. Considered one of the wisest leaders of his era in history, people came from throughout the Middle East to hear Solomon speak. Solomon refers to foolishness as a spiritual condition. Anyone who denies God’s existence, Romans 1:20-21, misses the invisible and visible signs of the Creator of earth. A fool becomes so self absorbed that their understanding is limited.

And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many good things laid up, [enough] for many years. Take your ease; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself merrily. 20 But God said to him, You fool! This very night they [the messengers of God] will demand your soul of you; and all the things that you have prepared, whose will they be? – Luke 12:19-20

One of Jesus’ parables blames foolishness on complacency. After spending years of building up a successful business, the owner of this storehouse got too comfortable. Instead of retiring and spending the rest of his life living in luxury, Jesus suggests that this man will die of a heart attack before leaving a will. Subsequently, the wealth this man accumulated throughout life would be wasted due to a lack of planning. Thus, the sooner you acknowledge foolish behavior, the quicker you can turn your life around before it’s too late to change.

by Jay Mankus

Going to Extremes to Fulfill Your Promises

King Solomon is considered one of the wisest individuals to walk the face of the earth. One wise saying warns against making vows that you can’t keep, Ecclesiastes 5:4-5. From an Old Testament perspective, if you didn’t keep want you promised, your words were worthless and reputation ruined. This is the context and setting when the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah who presided over Israel as a judge for a period of six years.

And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, If You will indeed give the Ammonites into my hand, 31 Then whatever or whoever comes forth from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the Ammonites, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it or him up as a burnt offering, Judges 11:30-31.

Following a victorious battle, Jephthah is overwhelmed by a spirit of thankfulness. Wanting to pay tribute to God, Jephthah is moved to make a vow in Judges 11:32. While in the wilderness with many miles to travel before reaching his home, Jephthah decided to offer up a burnt offering to the first creature that crossed his path. Unfortunately, the forests were barren and his daughter was the first to greet him. Instead of reneging, Jephthah goes to extreme measures to fulfill his promise to God.

But the other one reproved him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? 41 And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man has done nothing out of the way [nothing strange or eccentric or perverse or unreasonable]. 42 Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory! 43 And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise, Luke 23:40-43.

As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, it was clear to first century scholars that the Messiah was living in their presence. When the time was right, Jesus began a three year earthly ministry. Using 12 disciples and an additional 72 according to Luke, these individuals planted spiritual seeds to form churches. When the appointed time arrived to fulfill Old Testament promises, the disciples were confused. Believing Jesus would become an earthly leader, rising up to become King of the Jews, Peter was ready to take up arms. Instead, God has another plan, sending his own son as a permanent sacrifice to die for mankind, John 3:16-17. This is how the Lord goes to extremes to fulfill biblical promises.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Be Caught Sleepwalking Through Life

Somnambulism is a behavior disorder that originates during a deep sleep. This results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while still mostly asleep. My first experience sleepwalking occurred during a sleepover as a child. I feel asleep in an upstairs bedroom and ended up on a couch downstairs. Like any perplexed individual, I was shocked and uncertain how I ended up there.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

The apostle Paul uses fallen asleep in a different context, referring to Christians who have passed away. Jesus tells a first century story about falling asleep. In the parable of the Ten Virgins, Jesus makes a clear distinction between the awake and asleep. Jesus associates the awake with wisdom and the asleep with foolish behavior. The point of this analogy is to encourage individuals to remain alert, sharp and wise.

For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage at all over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

Sleepwalking suggests that you are going through the motions, without any direction, meaning or purpose. To avoid falling asleep spiritually, Jesus calls followers to develop a thirst for life, John 10:10. Yet, there is a spiritual force that tries to lull you to sleep, seeking to steal any joy that you have for life. However, if you follow in the footsteps of the Great Shepherd, laying down your needs and wants for others, this will snap you out of any spells that make you sleepy.

by Jay Mankus

When You Need to be Encouraged

I tend to be a positive person, trying to stay optimistic about life. However, over the past week, a wave of depression has come crashing upon the shores of my life. Like a rogue wave that comes out of no where, I wasn’t prepared to deal with this emotional undertow. As I attempt to regain my balance so that I’m not swept away by this strong current, I find myself in need of encouragement.

When I kept silence [before I confessed], my bones wasted away through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand [of displeasure] was heavy upon me; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! – Psalm 32:3-4

I’m definitely not the first to experience such a strange week nor will I be the last to undergo what the Bible calls a trial. In the passage above, a series of bad choices causes King David to be overwhelmed by guilt. The longer David waited to confess his careless errors and mistakes to God, the worse he feels. As each day passed without acknowledging his sin, David’s strength was sapped like humidity from a summer heatwave.

If any of you is deficient in wisdom, let him ask of the giving God [Who gives] to everyone liberally and ungrudgingly, without reproaching or faultfinding, and it will be given him. Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind, James 1:5-6.

Jesus’ earthly brother reveals that earthly trials take the form of waves of doubt. Once fully developed, these spiritual storms contain a billowing surge that keeps coming. When you add the wind. conditions only get worse. According to James, when you find yourself stuck in one of these systems, call out to God in prayer to receive wisdom to get you through. While each storm varies, James 1:12 provides hope for those who hold on to Jesus until your storm passes.

by Jay Mankus

The Oracles of God

From a biblical perspective, an oracle refers to a priest or priestess acting as a medium through whom advice or prophecy was sought from God. Whenever a forefather, judge or king was about to make an important decision in the Old Testament, prophets and seers were requested. Depending upon the oracle received, these leaders would base their ultimate decision upon these words of wisdom.

Then what advantage remains to the Jew? [How is he favored?] Or what is the value or benefit of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, to the Jews were entrusted the oracles (the brief communications, the intentions, the utterances) of God, Romans 3:1-2.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses logic and reason to justify the Jewish practice of circumcision. As individuals follow the Torah, Old Testament laws relayed to Israel from Moses, spiritual insight is gained. However, this process is exercised by talking steps of faith, not by sight. As the faithful follow their spiritual convictions, brief communication, intentions and utterances from God are received.

And He said, Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice, 1 Kings 19:11-12.

It’s not uncommon to feel like the prophet Elijah in the passage above. There are moments, periods and time when God is silent and believers feel all alone, desperate for comfort and direction. During this ordeal, Elijah withdrew to a cave to contemplate his next step, In the minutes that followed, a series of weather related events got Elijah’s attention. Despite the wonder and awe of these natural disasters, God was not behind these events. As Elijah’s spirit grew impatient, an oracle of God appeared in the form of a whisper. May this story encourage you to be ready for the next oracle to be spoken via the power of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

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