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No Roots; No Fruits

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away, Matthew 13:20-21.

If you are like me, you may ask yourself every now and then, “what am I doing?”  This self reflective question seeks to understand why you aren’t more productive, successful or victorious in life.  Despite attempts at improving my current situation, I feel like I’m stuck in slow motion, unable to get where I want to be.  This lack of progress brought me back to examine one of Jesus’ parables.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful, Matthew 13:22.

After sharing the parable of the Sower to a crowd of followers, the disciples were confused.  At one point, an unidentified disciple urges Jesus to stop be so mysterious as if to demand “why don’t you just come out and say what you mean?”  Moments later, Jesus withdraws to explain the meaning of this illustration to his disciples.  If you condense the two passages above Jesus suggests that if you don’t have strong spiritual roots, you won’t be able to bear spiritual fruit.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead, James 2:26.

Sometime after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, one of Jesus’ earthly brothers provides further insight on the parable of the Sower.  The Holy Spirit is a well spring, the source for spiritual life.  Like a root system in need of nutritious soil, human souls will eventually die without an infusion of God’s Spirit.  Therefore, if you want to get back on track toward a faith in action, dig deep by implementing the advice of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:6-7.  If you forgo this step I’m afraid you’ll end up like me, no roots and no fruits.

by Jay Mankus

 

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More Than a Spelling Test

As a student, English was always one of my worst subjects.  During my college entrance exam at the University of Delaware, I scored higher on Spanish than I did English.  Beside Language Arts, spelling tests usually gave me trouble, especially on the words with exceptions to the rules.  Thus, I was forced to use dictionaries and a thesaurus to improve my vocabulary.  Despite my efforts to improve, I still have a hard time visualizing terms, relying on spell check when in doubt is a common practice.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken, Matthew 12:36.

During a discussion with religious leaders, Jesus refers to a different kind of spelling test.  At the end of your life, everyone will face a day of judgment.  Those who have experienced near death experiences talk about being in a room with a large video screen.  The movie on this device is your life story, replaying every good and bad deed that you have ever committed on earth.  Depending upon the legacy you left behind, this could be very unnerving and uncomfortable.

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned, Matthew 12:37.

According to Jesus, this event will be more than a spelling test.  Instead of receiving a percentage grade, heaven is based upon a pass/fail scale.  Like an individual on trial, a judge will made the final decision based upon actions, behavior and words spoken.  This course never ends until your life is over.  Therefore, your preparation must begin now with advice from Romans 10:9-10.  Going on from here, Colossians 2:6-7 is the next level of faith.  While you will endure ups and down, Hebrews 12:1-3 provides one last piece of advice to help you pass this course.  If you feel like you going to flunk, paradise is still possible for sinners who repent.  May this blog serve as a study guide to help you cross the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

It’s How Well Your Faith Lasts

John Deere came up with a catchy slogan a few years ago to increase sales of their newest riding mower.  “It’s not how fast you mow; it’s how well you mow fast” commercials took on a life of their own, evolving over time.  This branding of a product has led to name recognition, accomplishing the goal of John Deere’s advertising campaign.

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field, Matthew 13:31.

In the first century, there was another individual who was well ahead of his time.  Speaking to crowds using parables, Jesus painted such a vivid picture with his stories that his words left a lasting impression.  Instead of using a used car salesman approach, Jesus related everything to heaven in plain and simple terms.  In the parable of the Mustard Seed, Jesus wanted everyone in the crowd to realize, “it’s not how big you are; it’s how well your faith lasts.”

Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches,” Matthew 13:32.

Back in the days of the prophet Samuel, human nature compelled the nation of Israel to seek a leader who was handsome, strong and wise.  Thus, the Jews rejected God as their king, turning to man in the form of Saul.  Not much has changed several thousand years later as appearance, stature and size trumps what is in your heart.  To avoid repeating the past mistakes of history, make sure your main priority in life is that your faith lasts.

by Jay Mankus

Three Ways God Saves Us From Ourselves

Young people can be naïve, unaware of the dangers that lurk outside of their comfort zones.  Thus, when individuals turn eighteen or twenty one, a thirst for freedom causes many to enter situations that result in a free fall.  This is where God steps in, swooping down like an eagle to save an eaglet who still doesn’t know how to fly on their own.  Unfortunately, the average person fails to recognize, see or thank the invisible presence who saves us regularly.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:31.

When you do earn your wings, there are other factors in life that can halt your growth in a split second.  The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a marathon.  For those of you who experienced running in some capacity, everyone sooner or later hits a mental wall.  When you do reach this point, human nature tells you to stop, rest a while or simply quit, never to run again.  As soon as this whisper arrives, God intervenes sending angels, the Holy Spirit or other runners to encourage you to keep going until you cross the finish line.  This second sign also goes unnoticed as many participates fail to acknowledge God’s hand, saving you from defeat or failure.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

The final way God saves us from ourselves is through our perspective of trials and tribulations.  Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, perfection does not exist.  There is no perfect family, job, neighborhood or state.  Each has it’s frustrating, irritable and negative influences.  Those who seek perfection in any aspect of life will always be disappointed.  Therefore, if situations won’t change, God has to transform your attitude of unpleasant experiences in life.  This process is like sanctification, taking a lifetime to complete.  Yet, only those who trust in the Lord and lean not in their own understanding will see life through the eyes of Christ.  As you stand in the storm clouds of life, may God save you by adopting the attitude and mind of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Blessings in the Eyes of the Beholder

Every time I look into a mirror, I am reminded of my emergency eye surgery last December.  Due to the type of the procedure, my right eye lid doesn’t close as it should.  If I were in high school or college, I’d probably be depressed by this permanent defect on my body.  Yet, as I have experienced good vision in consecutive months, this blemish has become a blessing in the eyes of the Beholder.

Or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

To a certain extent, I am beginning to understand the words of the apostle Paul in the passage above.  The Lord had blessed Paul with a special connection.  While Wi-Fi didn’t exist in the first century, Paul was able to sense, see and understand the nature of God like no one else in his day.  Thus, Paul came to a point in life where he accepted his physical condition, realizing that his pain was a blessing in the eyes of the Beholder.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me, 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Human nature causes most people to complain daily.  I am not immune to this disease called sin, lashing out with criticism, frustration and impatience.  Nonetheless, after my wife’s father passed away over the weekend, God has humbled me, making me more teachable.  While my first reaction to trials will always be to question God, we all need to reach a state like the apostle Paul to accept the hand in life that we have been dealt.  The sooner we do, the easier it will become to recognize blessings in the eyes of the Beholder.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

When You Lose the Battle with Death

When you are young, birthday, graduation and wedding invitations are commonly received in the mail or online.  A few years later these invites still come, but they are for baby showers, baptisms and high school or college reunions.  Yet, as age catches up with you, these pleasant celebrations are replaced by the grim reality of life, death.  Although you may outlive family, friends and relatives, eventually even you too will lose the battle with death.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7.

If you take the words of Genesis literally, prior to original sin, God designed mankind to live forever.  However, after sin entered the world, the curse of death was slowly introduced.  Abel was the first human being to die and laid to rest in the ground.  In the passage above, King Solomon eludes to the fate of every human being.  Early in his radio career, Rush Limbaugh used the saying, talent on loan from God.  Despite how infallible you may feel, life is a gift from God that will one day come to an end.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” Revelation 21:4.

The context of this blog comes in the midst of tragedy as my wife and children wait helplessly near the bedside of her dying father due to a serious car accident last Thursday night.  Although Jim is still alive as I write, time is not on his side.  Thus, as sorrow and tears fill those who love Jim Wagner, you have to look toward eternity for comfort.  Like the criminal on the cross, it’s never too late to inherit eternal life.  If you are not sure of your own eternal fate, pray the words of 1 John 5:13 so that you can have assurance when you lose your own battle with death.

by Jay Mankus

Heroes in the Line of Fire

After a long week of work, I had sometime to catch up on current events.  As the investigation into the motive of the Las Vegas shooter continues, stories of heroic acts are beginning to be uncovered by the media.  While innocent victims were dropping from gunshots from above, good Samaritans stood up entering the line of fire.  Although some of these heroes lost their lives, their selfless acts prevented many more concert goers from dying.

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him, Luke 10:33.

One week earlier, another tragedy went relatively unnoticed as a gunman shot 7 people at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.  One woman was killed in the parking lot before the shooter entered the church.  More lives may have been lost if not for a 22 year old usher who stepped into action.  Robert Engle quickly confronted, then wrestled the intruder to the ground, holding him down until the police arrived.  This is another example of a hero in the line of fire.

He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him, Luke 10:34.

The average citizen will most likely not be thrust into an arena where life and death depends on how swiftly you act.  Yet, every day, normal human beginnings come into contact with someone in need.  This could be a co-worker, family member, friend or neighbor.  Some conditions are obvious with others more subtle.  Nonetheless, God calls believers to be the hands and feet of Christ.  If no one demonstrates the love of God, hearts will grow cold.  Despite how inconvenient helping others may be, true heroes enter the line of fire by faith.  May the acts of these modern day good Samaritans inspire you to live a life fueled by faith in action.

by Jay Mankus