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Apart from Me?

“The Italians have a Proverb, ‘He that deceives me once, its his fault; but if twice, its my fault.’” This is where Americans have derived the saying “fool me once, shame on you; full me twice shame on me.” Unfortunately, anyone who attempts to be good without relying on God will experience disappointment over and over again.

“I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit]. You are already clean because of the word which I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you], John 15:1-3.

A disciple shares an analogy used by Jesus.  This imagery compares God to an arborist.  Whenever human beings begin to sag, tire or wilt, the Gardener prunes every dead branch to stimulate growth.  The key to maintaining growth is staying connected to the vine.  The vine is Jesus, symbolic of the source to spiritual life.  Trying to pursue holiness apart of Jesus wears souls out, like a perfectionist who is never satisfied.

Remain in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing, John 15:4-5.

This passage serves as a needed remainder to me that living life on my own isn’t working.  Thus, I am dying of thirst, in desperate need of living water.  Right now I feel like the apostle Paul in Romans 7, wanting to do the right thing, but unable to do so.  Therefore, it’s time for this vicious cycle of failure to come to an end.  The answer is easy, let God in to change you from the inside out.  Away with apart from me, replaced by Jesus in me.

by Jay Mankus

Can’t Stop Thinking About It

Mind-wandering is referred to today as task-unrelated thought. Depending upon the situation, you might experience thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time. This state of mind is allowed to continue when people are not engaged in an attention-demanding task.
Once individuals are less bogged down by the pressure of day to day life, minds can begin to narrow in on what’s important.

But after ordering them to step out of the Council [chamber], they began to confer among themselves, 16 saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that an extraordinary miracle has taken place through them is public knowledge and clearly evident to all the residents of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people and the nation, let us [sternly] warn them not to speak again to anyone in this name.” 18 So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak [as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority]., Acts 4:15-18.

Following the day of Pentecost, miracles once performed by Jesus began to occur by his followers. After a man lame from birth was deemed healed after showing himself to a priest, John and Peter was brought in for questioning. A group of ruling men known as the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court, were concerned that Jews were getting caught up in a new Jesus Movement. Evidently, people couldn’t stop thinking about miracles performed under the authority of Jesus Christ.

But Peter and John replied to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must judge [for yourselves]; 20 for we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard,” Acts 4:19-20.

Thus, the Sanhedrin tried to stop this spiritual movement from spreading any further. This suggestion presented John and Peter with a moral dilemma. Should we give into this peer pressure to become politically correct or should we obey God? These former disciples of Jesus chose the latter, risking imprisonment to stand up for their beliefs and convictions. If there is one thing you shouldn’t stop thinking about, it’s Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Greatness Starts at the Bottom

Michael J. Fox starred in the 1987 film the Secret to My Success.  Fox plays Brantley Foster, a college graduate who gets laid off shortly after moving to New York City.  The premise of this movie is based upon the American Dream, starting from the very bottom and moving your way up through a company gradually to the top.  Like most college grads today, Fox found himself overqualified for most positions, but underqualified for the high paying positions.  While fictional in nature, Fox uses a worldly approach to get to the top.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” – Matthew 18:1

During a long walk between towns, the disciples lagged well behind Jesus.  At the back of a long caravan, the disciples began a heated debate on who was the greatest disciple.  While the author fail to address the content of this argument, below are a few likely positions that were taken.  Often brash, Peter begins by saying, “well Jesus did proclaim I am the petra, the rock upon which God will build his church on earth.”  John interrupts, “wait a minute, Jesus also said I am the one whom  he loves the most.”  James, brother of John, jumps into the fray “that’s nice boys, but Jesus called me first.”  When the disciples finally caught up, Jesus addresses this issue.

He called a little child and set him before them, and said, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, unless you repent [that is, change your inner self—your old way of thinking, live changed lives] and become like children [trusting, humble, and forgiving], you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, Matthew 18:2-3.

The passage above is one of two main passages about the being the greatest in heaven.  Mark 9:35-37 builds upon this concept, suggesting that whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant to all.  One thing you can say about Jesus is he practiced what he preached.  Despite healing and performing miracles daily, Jesus encouraged these people keep quiet, remaining humble throughout his earthly life.  If you combine these passages, there are two traits to consider.  First, maintain the innocence of a child by emulating your heavenly father.  Second, put the needs and wants of others before yourself.  If you want to be great on earth, start today by serving those in your spheres of influence.

by Jay Mankus

Properly Utilizing God’s Power

Prior to beginning his earthly ministry, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit.  Over the next forty days, the Devil began scheming of ways on how to trick Jesus into improperly using God’s power.  The longer Jesus went without food, fasting and praying to spiritually prepare his mind, the more vulnerable his body became.  Thus, in the passage below the Devil tempted Jesus to use God’s power for selfish reasons.  In a game of Truth or Dare, the Devil dared Jesus to show off, calling upon angels to keep him from falling.  Responding with Scripture, Jesus corrects the Devil’s abuse of God’s power.

Then he led Jesus to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle (highest point) of the temple, and said [mockingly] to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10 for it is written and forever remains written, He will command His angels concerning You to guard and protect You,’ and, they will lift You up on their hands, So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’” Jesus replied to him, “It is said [in Scripture], you shall not tempt the Lord your God [to prove Himself to you],’” Luke 4:9-12.

Before gathering a ministry team of disciples, Jesus experienced the best and worst from his fellow Jews.  Upon entering a town, Jesus went to the local synagogue, debating, listening and teaching God fearing Jews.  Jesus quoted the Old Testament, speaking with authority without any education or extensive training.  On one day, Jesus spoke about God’s grace extending to Gentiles, non Jewish believers.  This comment turned the crowd in Nazareth against Jesus, committing heresy in their eyes.  This uprising forced Jesus outside of town to a nearby cliff, as residents attempted to push Jesus off the edge to his death.  On this occasion with his life in danger, Jesus properly utilized God’s power, like a ghost, Jesus passed by the crowds escaping to Capernaum.

As they heard these things [about God’s grace to these two Gentiles], the people in the synagogue were filled with a great rage; 29 and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the crest of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to hurl Him down the cliff. 30 But passing [miraculously] through the crowd, He went on His way, Luke 4:28-30.

Today, the debate of properly utilizing God’s power continues.  Should you treat God like a supernatural Santa Claus, praying to the Lord with a long Christmas wish list?  Or should you only ask for things in accordance with God’s will?  Do you take Jesus literally, “ask and you will receive?”  What is a good middle ground, a place to start?  If you use Matthew 7:12 as an outline for prayer, this may clear up any confusion that you currently are struggling to grasp.  Prayer is a three step process, asking, seeking insight to explain unanswered prayers and continue to persist, wrestling with the Lord in prayer.  May this passage guide you to understand how to properly utilize God’s power.

by Jay Mankus

Relapse

Backslide, deteriorate, revert and sink are words associated with relapse.  This condition is a byproduct of falling back into old habits.  Whether someone becomes lazy, out of sync or unfocused, it doesn’t take much for human beings to drift back into patterns of their childhood.  Perhaps, this explains why addiction is so hard to beat as weakened souls are often sucked back by demons of your past.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil, 1 John 3:8.

The average person doesn’t wake up eager to sin, longing to worship the devil.  Rather, the practice of sinning is conceived within minds.  Subtle thoughts set the process of temptation into motion.  Whenever anyone strays slightly from God’s commands, compromise gives birth to a lowering of personal standards.  For those heading off in this direction, relapse is inevitable.  Yet, many are surprised by how far and quickly this downward spiral occurs.

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God,” Luke 9:62.

The context of the passage above refers to someone who wanted to be one of Jesus’ disciples.  The individual who is turned down by Jesus simply wanted to say goodbye to his family.  Yet, the point Jesus was trying to make is that people who have a tendency to relapse won’t set a godly example for others to follow.  In the last month, conviction has pierced my heart as my own life has been a poor model, not fit for God’s kingdom.  I must confess that I have relapsed back to my shy days of an unconfident stutterer.  Instead of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, I am defeated, void of any spiritual victory.  Thus, I am in desperate need to heed the call of Silverline’s song, Never Look Back so I can begin to turn my life around.

by Jay Mankus

 

Do You Believe Me Now?

The idiom “seeing is believing” was first recorded in 1639.  This saying is based upon the words of Thomas, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples.  Based upon the passage below, Thomas doubted that Jesus could rise from the dead following his crucifixion.  Thomas developed a mindset that only physical or concrete evidence could convince him otherwise.  Unfortunately, this same thinking is prevalent today, keeping many in the dark, void of the faith necessary to believe in modern day miracles.

But Thomas, one of the twelve [disciples], who was called Didymus (the twin), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the marks of the nails, and put my finger into the nail prints, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe,” John 20:24-25.

Thomas wasn’t the only disciple to experience a crisis of faith.  Apparently, several disciples did not believe the initial news that Jesus has risen from the dead.  Yet, these same men witnessed Jesus walk on water, turn water into wine and raise his friend Lazarus from the grave, cancelling a funeral in progress.  In addition, Peter, James and John watched Jesus transform into a heavenly figure, communicate with Elijah and Moses and cast demons out of formerly crazed individuals.  When seeing is believing becomes your motto for life, faith is powerless, preventing believers from ever experiencing the abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:10.

Now Jesus, having risen [from death] early on the first day of the week, appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. 10 She went and reported it to those who had been with Him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it. 12 After that, He appeared in a different form to two of them as they were walking along the way to the country. 13 They returned [to Jerusalem] and told the others, but they did not believe them either, Mark 16:9-13.

Only three out of a thousand Americans make close to a million dollars per year.  Those who don’t have the education, experience or knowledge to earn this annual salary may enter contests, gamble or pursue gameshows to attempt to strike it rich.  For a few, this pursuit may become reality.  Yet, many will remain in their current situation, struggling to pay all of their bills while trying to put enough food on the table.  When Jesus was hungry, prayer and a few resources fed thousands of people.  With these previous miracles in mind, perhaps its time to believe in God’s power now so that tomorrow will bring daily bread, manna from heaven and a storehouse of blessings.

by Jay Mankus

On the Job Training

As advances in technology changes how businesses are run, on the job training isn’t what it use to be.  When I was younger, new employees would shadow someone for a day or possibly up to a week.  Afterward, you would be given time to ask questions, picking someone’s brain to absorb as much as possible.  Other fields offer an apprenticeship where individuals interested in pursuing a specific occupation are given a month, season or year to decide if they have what it takes to succeed.  Today, people are thrown into the fire with little training, given some sort of wiki page to fall back on if they don’t know what to do.  The end result of this age is high turnover rates as companies no longer invest in people like my father’s generation.

When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”  “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”  His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you,” John 2:3-5.

In the first century, Jesus was instructed by God to select twelve disciples prior to beginning his three year earthly ministry.  However, during an emergency at a friend’s wedding, Mary, the mother of Jesus panics.  With only six disciples part of his team, Jesus wasn’t ready to introduce the world to God’s message of salvation.  Promising to obey his parents following his Bar mitzvah at age twelve, Jesus agrees to save his mother’s friend from social disgrace, running out of vine at a wedding.  This opportunity gave the six disciples present a chance to see Jesus at work.  When you see your own boss perform a miracle, these six individuals were sold, buying into a life of serving God.

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Matthew 28:19-20.

Today, on the job spiritual training often conflicts with businesses, careers or jobs.  As progressive ideas become embraced by political leaders, a wave of political correctness is shaping future policies within companies across America.  While some of these changes are beneficial, others are in direct conflict with biblical principles.  Thus, followers of Christ are asked and encouraged to ignore the Bible so that other views aren’t offended.  While my generation was taught to agree to disagree on certain issues, fulfilling Jesus’ great commission today will rub people the wrong way.  Evangelism can be a thankless calling, experiencing rejection daily.  Yet, if you want to be true to Jesus’ plea in the passage above, on the job training must involve sharing your faith in the area or areas where you are gifted.

by Jay Mankus

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