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The Faithful Will Become Fruitful

From a human point of view, no one will ever be faithful 100% of the time. The apostle Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet to illustrate this in Romans 3:9-12. The Bible implies faithfulness is an unswerving adherence to God’s commands and calling. While Jesus asks his followers to strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, Paul understood that the weaker you become opens the door for Christ to become strong.

[The Father] has delivered and [m]drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son [n]of His love, 14 In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins. 15 [Now] He is the [o]exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation, Colossians 1:13-15.

In the passage above, Paul explains the spiritual condition that Jesus rescued Christians out of. In a letter to the Church at Rome, Paul states that new believers have an obligation to live according to the Holy Spirit, Romans 812. This means faith in Christ involves fleeing your old self along with any former addictions, bad habits and desires. This is the first step toward faithfulness as you will live and learn via trial and error like new parents figure out how to raise an infant.

But seek ([z]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([aa]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [ab]taken together will be given you besides. 34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble, Matthew 6:33-34.

Jesus’ advice in the Sermon on the Mount is centered around developing the proper mindset. Instead of questioning God about why you haven’t received this or that, you might want to re-examine your priorities. According to Jesus, whoever begins to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, all your concerns and worries will be taken care of by God. Another way to express this truth is the faithful will become fruitful.

by Jay Mankus

The Connection Between Faithfulness and Fruitfulness

From the time human beings are born into this world, there is an internal desire to want satisfaction. Subsequently, infants naturally cry and eventually proclaim “I want, I want, I want.” Some adults don’t grow out of or lose this selfish behavior. Thus, many Christians go through life wondering why they aren’t as productive and successful as they think they should be. This is where the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness comes into play.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, Deuteronomy 28:1-4.

As he was about to retire as Israel’s spiritual leader, passing the torch on to Joshua, Moses felt compelled to reveal the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. Moses devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to blessings and curses. During his farewell address, Moses compares the choices individuals make to life and death, Deuteronomy 30:11-18. Choosing obedience by being faithful to the commands in the Bible results in blessings. Yet, if you forget God’s advice by doing what’s right in your own eyes, your life will be filled with anguish, heartache and painful remorse.

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned, John 15:4-6.

Whatever decisions you have made in life, remember the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-23. This cry for help reveals a God of second chances. In the passage above, Jesus reveals another connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. God is like a gardener who prunes human beings to stimulate spiritual growth. Yet, unless you remain within the Vine which is Jesus, you are unable to bear fruit. Staying connected to Jesus throughout life demonstrates faithfulness and yields spiritual fruit.

by Jay Mankus

Terms of the Eternal and Timeless Purpose

Terms are a word or phrase used to describe a thing or to express a concept, especially in a particular kind of language or branch of study. In the context of the Bible, the Old Testament begins with Plan A, B, and C. Genesis begins with the creation of human beings, designed to become stewards of this newly formed planet. However, when this authority over the earth was lost in the Garden of Eden, a new plan was set into motion, Genesis 3:15. Plan B was briefly altered in Genesis 6:13 as God hit the reset button when desecration, a lust for power, and violence spread throughout the world. Plan C was forced to take a detour as well, Genesis 11:3-5 as human motivation did not coincide with the Lord’s grand design.

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you [with abundant increase of favors] and make your name famous and distinguished, and you will be a blessing [dispensing good to others]. And I will bless those who bless you [who confer prosperity or happiness upon you] and curse him who curses or uses insolent language toward you; in you will all the families and kindred of the earth be blessed [and by you they will bless themselves], Genesis 12:2-3.

When the dust settled, the terms of the eternal and timeless purpose of God was re-established with Abraham and fulfilled by Jesus, John 3:16-17. However, when you try to understand the countless whys along the way, King Solomon says it best in Ecclesiastes 3:11. “God will make everything beautiful in His time.” Like an artist who spares no expense or time until their work is complete, the apostle Paul details the eternal and timeless purposes in Romans 8:28-29. Each individual life is a blank tapestry, prepared in advance by God, Philippians 1:6, brought to completion as you yield control of your life over to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10. As Christians become recreated in Jesus, mindsets change to see yourself as one of God’s works in progress, Ephesians 2:10.

[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. 11 This is in accordance with the terms of the eternal and timeless purpose which He has realized and carried into effect in [the person of] Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:10-11.

Perhaps this explains the words of King Solomon, warning those who try to push God off to the side, Proverbs 19:21. No matter how frustrating it may be, God’s plans don’t always coincide with your heart’s desire, Proverbs 16:9. When your steps are altered, you have to realize that your time table is different from God’s. Like the process of sanctifying grace, this gradual change takes a lifetime to be completed. To follow these terms, perseverance is a necessary attribute if you want to finish what God began in you, Hebrews 12:1. While I don’t always comprehend or understand God’s eternal and timeless purposes, Christians are called to be faithful, not always successive. Whenever you are in this journey called life, make a decision to follow Jesus so you can become all that God wants you to be.

by Jay Mankus

Summoned by God

If you have ever been forced to take a day or week for jury duty, you understand what it means to be summoned. Typically, you receive a letter in the mail from a county or state, requesting your presence to serve. If you are an eyewitness to an accident or crime, you may be asked to testify to what you have seen. Or if you have ever received a parking or speeding ticket, you will be summoned to either pay a fine or appeal in court. These types of summons are unpleasant, a day or days that you want to forget.

So Saul died for his breach of faith. He broke faith with the Lord in that he did not keep the command of the Lord, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance. He did not seek guidance from the Lord. Therefore the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse, 1 Chronicles 10:13-14.

From a spiritual perspective, some of you have been summoned by God. Spiritual summons can occur at any place or time, usually when you least expect it. When I was child, I had a reoccurring nightmare, dreaming of dying night after night for nearly two years. After falling off a cliff, I woke up just as I hit the ground. I still don’t know why this keep happening, but this caused me the contemplate the concept of eternity. To randomly be born on earth only to die didn’t make sense to me.

Paul, summoned by the will and purpose of God to be an apostle (special messenger) of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 1 Corinthians 1:1.

What I didn’t realize is this silent summons conceived in me a desire to know God. Through the Fellowship of Christian of Athletes in high school and college, I was summoned to receive Jesus into my heart as Savior and friend. After back sliding during my first semester in college at the University of Delaware, I was summoned to return. Through the power of Holy Spirit, a fire was ignited within my soul to make Jesus the Lord of my life. Over the past 35 years, I haven’t always been obedient to each summons from God, straying from time to time. Nonetheless, I’m still living and learning, hoping that I am faithful to my next calling in life.

by Jay Mankus

Having Your Mind in the Right Place

The United Negro College Fund was incorporated on April 25th, 1944. As World War II continued, this organization adopted the motto, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” As casualties piled up day after day, common sense recognized that this madness must come to an end. The founders of this non-profit must have realized the importance of having your mind in the right place.

“You will keep in perfect and constant peace the one whose mind is steadfast [that is, committed and focused on You—in both [c]inclination and character], because he trusts and takes refuge in You [with hope and confident expectation], Isaiah 26:3.

While the world relies on education as its source to stimulate minds, the Bible provides a different perspective. The prophet Isaiah reminds the nation of Israel of God’s faithfulness. Peace of mind comes from confidence and hope that God will provide and take care of human needs. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul refers to the daily spiritual war between the human flesh and God’s spirit. Jesus told his disciples on the eve of his death, “the Spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Depending upon the state of your mind, your actions will follow.

For those who are living according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh [which gratify the body], but those who are living according to the Spirit, [set their minds on] the things of the Spirit [His will and purpose]. Now the mind of the flesh is death [both now and forever—because it pursues sin]; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace [the spiritual well-being that comes from walking with God—both now and forever]; Romans 8:5-6.

Yesterday, I had one of those days, waking up late, rushing out of the house, hoping to get to work on time. A major accident that occurred in front of me insured that I was late. At this moment, my mind wasn’t in the right place. A few hours later when I reflected upon events earlier in the day, my mind was opened. If I was on time, I could have been part of this six car pile up. In a sense, God sheltered me from harm, a minor miracle that I failed to see until my mind was in the right place. How many others miracles and praises do we miss when our mind is on other things?

by Jay Mankus

Escaping a Head Down Eyes Straight Ahead Mentality

When you work in a building with two thousand people, you are bound to encounter an unpleasant conversation.  If you keep your head up, you might have a flashback of high school as you dodge people in a crowded hallway, with some not paying attention to those around them.  To avoid awkward situations, some may choose to keep their heads down, fixated on what lies ahead.  Unfortunately, this decision will cause individuals to miss out on opportunities to serve others.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do, James 1:22-25.

The author of the book of James was Jesus’ younger brother.  Since the Bible has an 18 year time gap between Jesus’ bar-mitz-vah and the beginning of his earthly ministry, we don’t know much about their relationship.  However, Mark 3:20-35 unveils a shocking comment from members of Jesus’ family with James a likely unnamed source.  After healing a demon possessed man, Jesus is accused of being mentally ill, using Satanic powers to drive out demons.  This type of judgement comes from a head down, eyes straight ahead mentality.  This mindset prevents individuals from recognizing the power of God at work in the lives of faithful servants.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-2.

Part of the passage above written by James serves as a confession.  James was immature, going through the motions without putting the Bible into practice.  At some point, James was convicted of his head down, eyes straight ahead life style.  The author of Hebrews provides the cure for this condition.  Using an analogy of a marathon, this advice encourages believers to run with perseverance, fixing your eyes on Jesus throughout the race called life.  As the Holy Spirit transforms your perspective, the Lord will begin to help you see that distractions are opportunities to serve God.  May this blog inspire you to slow down, look around and see how God can use you to serve others daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

Oops I Did It Again

My co-worker and I had an interesting conversation last night.  This discussion centered around whether or not people can actually change.  Trying to be open minded, we disagreed on one’s ability to overcome previous addictions, bad habits and poor character.  While I try to be optimistic, hoping that people reach their full potential, human nature has a way of reverting individuals back to childish ways.  This pattern tends to lead the guilty to confess, “oops I did it again.”

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out, Romans 7:18.

Based upon previous experiences, Harvey tends to believe that people never change.  Although there will be initial signs of transformation, positive steps in the right direction usually do not last.  Sooner or later, bad habits return, ensnaring many in life long addictions.  This reality is supported by the words of the apostle Paul in a letter to the church of Rome.  While it’s unclear what aspect of life this passage is referring to, Paul shares his own internal struggle with fleshly desires.  Since Paul doesn’t declare victory, it’s possible that this apostle fought a losing battle with temptation for years.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

My belief in the ability to change lies in the passage above.  I spent many years as a child and teenager saying, “oops I did it again.”  Yet, the apostle Paul provides a blueprint above for anyone feeling defeated.  In order to succeed, you must expect the unexpected.  In this context, temptations are lurking around every corner, luring you to appease your fleshly desire.  However, if you want to resist, be alert, looking for an escape route.  Until you reach this point, any little victories will be short lived.  Therefore, if you want to put your childish ways behind you, 1 Corinthians 13:11, ask God for discernment so that change will occur with one good decision at a time.

by Jay Mankus

 

When People Expect More From God

Human nature has a way of making people feel more important than they actually are.  Whether you are talking about self-confidence, egos or pride, these traits can blind you from reality.  While Facebook uses terms like status as a way to express yourself, Jesus relied on stories to insure that first century citizens did not misconstrue God’s nature.

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius,” Matthew 20:9-10.

In the parable of the Workers in the Field, Jesus reveals a reality about heaven.  Just because you have been a faithful follower for months, years or decades does not mean your reward will be greater than those who came to faith later in life.  Rather, eternal life is what God promises to those who trust in the Lord.  Sure, the Bible does mention crowns bestowed upon those who faithfully serve God while on earth, but this should be like icing on a cake.

When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day,’ Matthew 20:11-12.

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of equating earthly terms with eternity.  Thus, individuals are unable to comprehend the true nature of God.  Subsequently, people grumble like the passage above, disappointed when their expectations for God are no met.  Several of the thirty plus parables recorded in the Bible were spoken to realign human misconceptions with an accurate perception of heaven.  The next time you expect more from God, take some time to read the parables of Jesus so you won’t set yourself up for disappointment in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Skeletons of Your Past

Despite how perfect some individuals may act, behave and live out on a daily basis, everyone possesses imperfections.  These blemishes often result in a dark side with secret addictions, bad habits or unthinkable acts that would shock the average person.  This collection of scars accumulate into skeletons of your past.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us, 1 John 1:8-10.

There was a time in American history where honesty was the best policy.  However, sometimes revealing a skeleton or two from your past can do permanent damage.  Recently. Pete Rose admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a minor back in the 1970’s.  This confession sent shockwaves across the country, igniting outrage throughout social media.  Based upon the comments posted, it’s as if this was the worst act ever committed.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh, Galatians 5:16.

The second aspect of confession is taking the steps toward the road to recovery.  Perhaps, this may explain the criticism of Rose over his lack of contrition for his previous transgressions.  Thus, if you want to experience healing from the skeletons of your past, you must learn to walk according to the Holy Spirit.  Based upon the apostle Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 10:13, God will provide a way out when temptations arrive.  In your journey toward healing, may the Lord guide you out of bondage to find freedom in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Going Through the Door

When I was younger, I weekly told a coach, parent and teacher, I can’t do it.  Trying to take the easy way out, sometimes I was given a pass.  Yet, this mindset leads to co-dependence.  If you want to grow up and mature, at some point you have to go through the door the Lord provides alone.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me, Revelation 3:20.

In the game show Let’s Make a Deal, current host Wayne Brady often gives contestants three doors to choose from.  One has a grand prize, the other a small prize and the final one a prank for a laugh.  The game of life is similar but decisions replace doors.  Choices are made daily which will shape the outcome of your life for the good or bad.  God doesn’t force individuals to do this or that.  Rather, freewill is offered to walk through the door of your choice.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to members of a church struggling to overcome specific sins.  Whether he is addressing addicts, bad habits or poor decisions, Paul provide a blue print for conquering addiction.  When tempted God always provides a way out.  Therefore, when evil desires, lust or sinful urges come knocking, walk through the door that the Lord provides.

by Jay Mankus

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