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Rains from Heaven

While farmers pray for rain each summer to nurture freshly planted crops, vacationers hope for clear sunny skies until nightfall.  Meanwhile, those who reside in the path of previous hurricanes or tornado alley, plead with God to save their home, lives and town.  From God’s perspective, every day prayers lifted up to heaven often contradict one another.  Subsequently, rain sent from heaven will bless some while serving as a curse to others.

Yet He did not leave Himself without some witness [as evidence of Himself], in that He kept constantly doing good things and showing you kindness, and giving you rains from heaven and productive seasons, filling your hearts with food and happiness,” Acts 14:17.

After healing a man crippled from birth, eyewitnesses of this miracle exalted Paul and Barnabas to god-like status.  Instead of receiving this praise, Paul reveals the source of his power, pointing to heaven.  Evidence of God’s presence can be seen daily if you are watching closely.  Unfortunately, many have become oblivious, too focused on their own lives to thank the Lord for rains sent from heaven.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above; it comes down from the Father of lights [the Creator and Sustainer of the heavens], in whom there is no variation [no rising or setting] or shadow cast by His turning [for He is perfect and never changes]. 18 It was of His own will that He gave us birth [as His children] by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits of His creatures [a prime example of what He created to be set apart to Himself—sanctified, made holy for His divine purposes], James 1:17-18.

An earthly brother came to realize this fact following Jesus’ resurrection.  Perhaps, the passage above is a culmination of a private conversation prior to Jesus ascending into heaven.  If only negative people who try to bring you down would grasp the concept that every perfect gift comes from above.  Embracing this mindset would transform families, neighborhoods and workplaces.  Yet, for now, the best way to keep this message alive is by pointing to rain sent from heaven.

by Jay Mankus

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Do You Have Faith for 2015?

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but its important to look ahead as Christmas Day draws near.  For example, if you pray without faith, will God honor your requests?  But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord, James 1″6-7.  In the same way, if you don’t believe in the Holy Spirit’s power to transform your situation, don’t expect great things in 2015.

One of my favorite scenes from a movie occurs in Facing the Giants.  As a football coach questions his reason for remaining at Shiloh High, he encounters a man sent from God.  Speaking in a parable like Jesus, this wise elder sheds light on the secret to success in life.  Whenever a farmer prepares his field annually for the next crop, each expects the Lord to provide rain.  However, if you wait too long before you sow seeds in faith, you can miss the harvest.

Therefore, looking ahead, developing a vision is vital for 2015.  Although no one but God knows what the future holds, what are you passionate about?  What motivates you to get up before the sun rises?  If you’re drawing a blank, don’t worry because you have another 2 weeks to reflect these questions.  As you reach out in prayer to discover an answer, may the Lord fill you with faith for 2015 and beyond.

by Jay Mankus

 

Waiting for the Harvest

At the end of the growing season, the harvest is the day of reckoning, the process of collecting mature crops from fields.  Once complete, farmers will be able to calculate their bounty and compare it with previous seasons.  The harvest festival, the celebration of the end of the growing season, has evolved into a national holiday Americans call Thanksgiving.  Like a child waiting to unwrap their first present on Christmas morning, the harvest is an adult version of collecting the fruits of hard labor throughout the Spring and Summer.  However, the toughest part remains the waiting.

The Bible speaks to farmers throughout the New Testament, relaying analogies of farming to illustrate biblical truth.  Matthew 9:37-38 refers to the struggles of finding good help.  Either people are too busy or lazy to lend a helping hand, forcing more responsibility upon a few dedicated individuals.  Jesus relied on parables like Matthew 20:1-16 to urge citizens to get involved before the day of harvest is over.  While some can take more credit than others, the pay is the same for everyone.  As farming communities continue to search for reliable workers, Jesus is waiting on his followers to become participants in a spiritual harvest.

Yet, it took a music director from the Old Testament to reveal the secret to experiencing this type of harvest.  According to Psalm 67:3-5, spiritual harvests are conceived through the praise of mankind.  As individuals, families and nations begin to shout for joy, a foundation is established.  This sets the stage for Psalm 67:6, yielding a spiritual harvest like Moses’ promise to Israel in Deuteronomy 28:2.  Therefore, if you find yourself waiting for the harvest, let the praise of the Lord commence.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Thorns of Life

 

When speaking to someone was impossible, Jesus became an engaging figure, using stories to captivate his audience.  Like tiny little morsels, Jesus’ parables contain a wealth of knowledge about life.  On this particular Sabbath in Matthew 13:1-9, the crowds grew so extensive that Jesus entered a boat just off shore, sitting down as his followers gathered around the beach to listen.

 

As he continued, Jesus had the farmers in the palm of his hands, speaking about the different terrains each encounters.  Since cursing the land in Genesis 3:17-18, finding ideal conditions was rare, leaving compacted, rocky and weed infested areas to grow crops.  God’s words in Genesis foreshadowed current conditions with painful toil resulting in thorns, thistles and some plants to eat, Matthew 13:22.

 

Within my own yard, I see the thorns of life more than ever before.  It seems like the older I get, briar patches of worry begin to choke the joy out of life.  Meanwhile, sticker bushes leave marks, wounds to my soul, often tearing my heart in the wrong direction.  Thistles have become like sand on the seashore, sticking like burrs, embedding within my body like a parasite.  If I don’t seek spiritual medical attention soon, even my mind is in danger of being poisoned like Peter, Matthew 16:23.

Unfortunately, these thorns aren’t going anywhere until Jesus returns.  Therefore, you must use your Bible as a spiritual Farmers Almanac, getting clued in daily about impending droughts, famine or trials.  Although you have no control over the soil, you can place yourself into a healthier social environment.  Change is hard, but its a step in God’s direction.  May the Holy Spirit serve as a spiritual Round Up to stop, thorns, thistles and weeds of life before they wrap around your soul.

by Jay Mankus

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