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Tag Archives: faith

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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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

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

What Did He Just Say?

During my decade long run as a high school teacher, there were many unexpected situations that I wasn’t prepared for.  One such circumstance involved students who sought to curry favor with me hoping to soften me up.  As a Christian teaching in a faith based school,  I was naïve to teenagers with hidden agendas.  Knowing the hearts of human beings, nothing got past Jesus.  Unafraid of offending individuals, potential disciples of Jesus often replied, “what did he just say?”

Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,” Luke 9:68.

During one such exchange, Jesus uses an unusual illustration to address someone who vowed to go wherever Jesus went.  The passage above summarizes this conversation, suggesting this man walked away disappointed, unable to meet Jesus’ expectations for committed disciples.  Based upon the context, Jesus plainly states that there will be many nights without a place to call home.  Life as a servant of God takes many twists and turns, relying on faith to know where to go and what to do.

Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” Luke 6:70.

The next dialogue in the verse above comes across as cold hearted.  Surely, a son or daughter should be able to return home to pay their last respect to a parent.  However, the term dead symbolizes the past or those spiritually gone, unable to reach.  Thus, the goal of a disciple is to focus on the future, proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ wherever the Holy Spirit leads you.  Jesus made the standards for a disciple so high that only those willing to surrender their lives completely could meet this criteria.  While Jesus made several head scratching statements in the Bible, the more you reflect upon his words, the clearer God’s call to action becomes.

by Jay Mankus

 

Previews of Coming Attractions

If you get the chance to go to the movies, you will see a series of previews of coming attractions that will appear in theaters sometime in the near future.  This is an easy way to promote a return visit by wetting your appetite.  Following these trailers, visual images of food and drinks may entice you to break for the snack bar before the featured film begins.  However, as cable options continue to improve in the form of movies On Demand, families are waiting to watch films in the comfort of their own homes.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me, Galatians 2:20.

While listening to a sermon last weekend, the pastor compared becoming a Christian to previews of coming attractions.  The point he was trying to make was that those who decide to follow Jesus are suppose to become more like Christ day by day.  The preview illustration refers to actions, behavior and words that should emulate the love of Jesus.  This transformation should result in noticeable differences.  Thus, the next time you encounter someone who has recently accepted Christ into their hearts as Lord and Savior, expect a kinder, gentler soul.

“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.

To keep this new life going, Jesus introduces an analogy to encourage individuals to continue growing spiritually.  The source for life is compared to a living vine.  Spiritual progress is made by remaining connected to this source.  However, anyone who get’s disconnected, unplugged or removed stops growing.  Anyone who decides to find life in anything else becomes idle and will eventually lose all momentum like a withering branch.  If you claim to be a Christian, what are you previewing?  Are you a hypocrite like me at times, displaying a watered down faith or are you bearing spiritual fruit daily?  May this sermon speak to you, serving as inspiration to get reconnected to the living vine, Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Disowning

Behind the scenes, there is a strategic attempt to disown the founding fathers of America.  This progressive movement is seeking to disown any leader who was influenced by religious or spiritual principles.  At some point in time dealing with that which is offensive has become more important than doing the right thing.  Subsequently, college professors, educational curriculum and mainstream media pundits are disowning that which made America the greatest country in the world.

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:32.

During my five years as a student at the University of Delaware, I was fortunate to meet several foreign exchange students.  Many came to America hoping to make something out of their lives, perhaps doing better than their own parents.  I got to know most of these individuals through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship which met every Friday night on campus.  Once I grew out of the party scene, I began to hunger for something more in life.  Thus, Bible studies, campus events and prayer groups allowed me to dig deeper, drawer closer to God while developing godly friendships.

“But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven,” Matthew 10:33.

One girl that I met was from South East Asia.  Before Spring Break, she wrote her parents, informing them that she had recently made a decision to follow Jesus Christ.  Excited to share this news, it took almost a month to receive a return letter.  However, when she opened it, the response was shocking, disowned by her own family with no place to go home to after the Spring semester ended. While friends reached out to console her, most of us didn’t know what to say.  Unable to comprehend why Buddhists responded in this way, I guess her parents felt betrayed by leaving the only faith they knew.  After some time of contemplation, a few days before final exams began this girl stepped into the path of an oncoming train, committing suicide.

“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” Matthew 10:38.

While this was a tragic event, there is another which has eternal consequences.  Before sending his disciples out on a trial run, Jesus is blunt, clearing communicating his expectations.  There is no half-way for a follower of Jesus, you’re either all in or you’re not with God.  These high standards explain why so many turned away.  Today, there is public pressure to deny the Bible, it’s principles and teaching.  Those who do so are applauded and praised by the media.  However, this disowning fulfills Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:5.  Those who don’t deny Jesus face daily judgment, persecution and ridicule.  In the end, do you want to receive praise from mankind while being disowned by God?  Or do you endure hardship for the meantime, live as an outcast, yet receive recognition in heaven?  This is the dilemma of the disowning, where two worlds collide.

by Jay Mankus

Faith or Fiction

Before the public broadcasts of television evangelists, Americans still believed in God’s power to perform miracles.  However, after organizations like the Christian Research Council began to expose some of the fraudulent methods used by so called healers, faith in America declined.  This hypocrisy turned faith into fiction.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

Doubt has always been the greatest stumbling block to faith.  While talking to his disciples, Jesus used a fig tree void of fruit for a teachable moment.  After cursing this tree, it immediately withered.  Astonished by this amazing act, each began to ask themselves, “what will Jesus do next?”  Seconds later, Jesus uses an analogy of a mountain to distinguish faith from fiction.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith,” Matthew 21:22.

Whenever placed into an impossible situation, miracles seem improbable.  Mountains of doubt often remove faith from someone’s mind.  This negativity causes many to never ask God for help or divine intervention.  However, Jesus wants individuals to use prayer aligned with faith to remove fiction from the equation.  Therefore, when the odds are against or your back is against the wall, cry out to God so that a miracle is made possible through faith.

by Jay Mankus