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Educating Yourself Out of the Supernatural Realm

As a former Bible teacher, I learned that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t reach everyone. Yet, this didn’t stop me from using a variety of teaching methods to relate to a broad audience. Like a farmer preparing their soil for another season, all I could do was sow spiritual seeds, hoping and praying for these to take root. However, even if you reach someone in high school, it doesn’t mean that individuals won’t become prodigals, drifting, leaving or venturing away from God for an extended period.

As for myself, brethren, when I came to you, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony and evidence or mystery and secret of God [concerning what He has done through Christ for the salvation of men] in lofty words of eloquence or human philosophy and wisdom; 1 Corinthians 2:1.

Unfortunately, after attending a semester or year of higher education, many students develop a superiority complex. According to Healthline.com, a superiority complex is a behavior that suggests a person believes they’re somehow superior to others. In the context of college, the more knowledge individuals absorb, this can go to their heads like first century philosophers. Upon visiting the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul was disappointed by many believers who put their faith in logic and science rather than God.

And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.

Based upon the passage above, it’s possible to educate yourself out of the supernatural realm. Every year, I receive word of former students who were convinced to reject God at some point before graduating from college. Like the movie God is Not Dead, sharing your faith with atheist professors can ruin any chances of getting a good grade. Maintaining your faith throughout your college experience is a difficult task. Although I wavered from time to time, I’m a firm believer in supernatural powers available via the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. May you overcome the temptations of the world’s wisdom to cling on to the truth that miracles still happen.

by Jay Mankus

The Spark that Makes Dreams Come True

Modern plows are large farming structures that implement one or more blades fixed in a frame drawn by a tractor. These expensive pieces of equipment are essential for farmers who own hundreds of acres of land. Back in biblical days, this technology wasn’t available, forced to rely on horses, mules or oxen. These animal driven plows were used for cutting furrows in the soil and turning it over, to prepare for the planting of crops.

Do I say this only on human authority and as a man reasons? Does not the Law endorse the same principle? For in the Law of Moses it is written, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the corn. Is it [only] for oxen that God cares? – 1 Corinthians 9:8-9

As the first son of Adam, Cain found farming to be a thankless trade. This likely explains why Abel decides to become a shepherd, moving his flock once the land became arid. Abel’s initial success combined with Cain’s struggles sowed a seed of jealousy within Cain’s heart. This is the exact opposite thought that the apostle Paul suggests in a letter to the church of Corinth. When you begin to plow, you should expect God to bless your effort as long as you give 100%.

Or does He speak certainly and entirely for our sakes? [Assuredly] it is written for our sakes, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher ought to thresh in expectation of partaking of the harvest. 11 If we have sown [the seed of] spiritual good among you, [is it too] much if we reap from your material benefits? – 1 Corinthians 9:10-11

Paul seems to be referring to self fulfilled prophecies. If you think you are going to have a bad day, the probability increases that a bad day will come. However, if you remember how God has provided for you in the past, you’ll be more optimistic about plowing in hope of a productive harvest. Therefore, if you want to claim God’s promises in the Bible, faith is the spark that makes dreams come true.

by Jay Mankus

When You Need to be Propped Up

A farmer developed an unusual way of ending his prayer at church. Whenever called upon to close Sunday’s service in prayer, this farmer opted to skip the typically Amen. Instead, this man of God would close using the phrase, “God prop us up on our leaning side.” Curious, the senior pastor wanted to understand the meaning of this expression. This was conceived after noticing an old barn on his property began to lean to one side. To avoid losing this barn, the farmer braced it on one to secure it’s future.

[Strive to] save others, snatching [them] out of [the] fire; on others take pity [but] with fear, loathing even the garment spotted by the flesh and polluted by their sensuality, Jude 1:23.

In the 17th chapter of Exodus, Moses recalls a memorable battle. Instead of fighting, Moses delegates this task to his successor Joshua. According to Exodus 17:9-10, Moses played the role of cheerleader, holding up the rod of God. As long as Moses arms were held high, Israel was winning. However, as soon as Moses’ arms grew weak, Amalek prevailed. To ensure a victory, the Lord sent Aaron and Hur to prop up Moses’ arms. This is another form of being propped up.

Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]—Jude 1:24.

Due to our fallen nature, Romans 3:11, every human being has a tendency to lean toward the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21. Instead of continuing leaning until you stumble and fall, Jude provides an alternative. Just as the apostle Paul urges believers to set your heart and mind and things above, Jude wants us to prop others up before they fall over. The more you focus your attention on helping other, the less likely you’ll find yourself indulging your sinful nature. The next time you see someone leaning, ask God to prop them up on their leaning side.

by Jay Mankus

Pushed to the Brink of Letting Go

Whenever your job description changes over night, an unsettling feeling may overwhelm your soul.  As you search for answers, your nerves may be calmed or a dysfunctional situation only gets worse.  Depending upon your state of mind, anger may brew, bitterness boil and frustration mount.  Yet, perhaps all this has happened to you, pushed to the brink by stress to let go of control by allowing God to take the reigns.

And [later] she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel kept the flocks [of sheep and goats], but Cain cultivated the ground. And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. But Abel brought [an offering of] the [finest] firstborn of his flock and the fat portions. And the Lord had respect (regard) for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and his offering He had no respect. So Cain became extremely angry (indignant), and he looked annoyed and hostile, Genesis 4:2-5.

In the passage above, an older brother becomes jealous of his younger brother.  The long hours of farming gradually took a toll on Cain’s state of mind.  After coming home dirty and exhausted, Abel appeared to have a much better job and life.  However, when Cain was pushed to the brink, he chose to question God as detailed below.  This venting session provided Cain with advice on what to do next, toward an open door to escape temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you so angry? And why do you look annoyed? If you do well [believing Me and doing what is acceptable and pleasing to Me], will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well [but ignore My instruction], sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you [to overpower you], but you must master it,” Genesis 4:6-7.

Anyone who is about to lose it emotionally needs to reflect upon the passage above.  Every day sin crouches at your door, waiting for foolish souls to welcome it in.  Unless you practice the self discipline referred to in 2 Timothy 1:6-7, sin will overpower you.  Thus, if you want to avoid the same fate of Cain, you must learn to control your body like a competitive athlete.  This pursuit results in a calm and well balanced mind.  Thus, if you are prepared, the next time you are pushed to the brink of frustration, letting go by trusting God will become a natural transition.

by Jay Mankus

Living Under Satan’s Yoke

In the context of farming, yokes are a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull. This devise unite donkeys, oxen or mules to work together. As a pet owner, if I didn’t have my dog on a collar, harness or leash, she would run free, wandering aimlessly through my neighborhood. This is a positive example of a yoke.

For such men are counterfeit apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, since Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 So it is no great surprise if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness, but their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

On the flip side, yokes have a negative connotation. Groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have put touring Circus’ out of business. Banning previously legal practices has made it impossible to safely control wild animals used in traveling Circuses. From a spiritual sense, one of Jesus’ disciples compares the Devil to a lion on the prowl, searching for his next victim, 1 Peter 5:8. When human beings lose control of their flesh, Satan uses your sinful nature to oppress you. Bondage is how souls begin to be held captive, living under Satan’s yoke.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me [following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light,” Matthew 11:28-30.

In the passage below, Jesus eludes to spiritual yokes. Some people are burdened by religious practices that focus on traditions rather than a relationship with God. Jesus hates seeing individuals weighed down by the worries of life. Thus, the process toward healing is laid out above by laying down your burdens at the feet of Jesus. Some try to fix their problems on their own, but only Jesus can provide permanent healing. If this blog finds you worn out by being under Satan’s yoke, come to Jesus on your knees, using prayer as a vehicle for change.

by Jay Mankus

Unplowed Ground to Cover

The phrase unplowed ground refers to fallow ground. This comes from the Hebrew word nir meaning tillable but untilled ground. In the passage below, the prophet Hosea is talking about land that could be productive, but for whatever reason has not been broken up, tilled, plowed, and prepared for planting. To anyone who is willing to take an honest assessment of their life, everyone has unplowed ground to cover.

Sow with a view to righteousness [that righteousness, like seed, may germinate]; Reap in accordance with mercy and lovingkindness.
Break up your uncultivated ground, for it is time to seek
and search diligently for the Lord [and to long for His blessing] until He comes to rain righteousness and His gift of salvation on you. You have plowed and planted wickedness, you have reaped the [willful] injustice [of oppressors], you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and your chariots, and in your many warriors, Hosea 10:12-13.

In the film Facing the Giants, a janitor stops by to tell a high school football coach on the verge of being fired something God put on his heart. After sharing this rhema, a message from the Bible, the janitor recalls a story about two farmers. During a severe drought, both farmers prayed for rain, but only one went out to his fields to prepare his land. If you expect God to help you cover the unplowed areas of your life, faith should inspire action.

Since by your obedience to the truth you have purified yourselves for a sincere love of the believers, [see that you] love one another from the heart [always unselfishly seeking the best for one another], 23 for you have been born again [that is, reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, and set apart for His purpose] not of seed which is perishable but [from that which is] imperishable and immortal, that is, through the living and everlasting word of God, 1 Peter 1:22-23.

One of Jesus’ disciples refers to an imperishable seed. This analogy represents the living Word of God, the Bible. Hebrews 4:12 details the power of the Bible, calling the words in this book as living and active. Each time individuals open up these pages to read, souls are convicted and inspired to cover unplowed ground. Therefore, if you want to experience a physical and spiritual harvest, let God’s principles renew and transform your mind. As you do, God will sow seeds within newly tilled areas.

by Jay Mankus

The Place of the Unknown

Getting lost can take on many forms.  Your GPS device of choice may lead you astray.  The place where you are in life is puzzling with few who have experienced this or understand.  Meanwhile, the various stages of parenting can be challenging, often unsure of what to do next.  These are just some examples of entering the place of the unknown.

For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them, Matthew 13:15.

Jesus uses a parable based upon farming to describe the place of the unknown.  One of the reasons why people are in the dark spiritually is due to calloused hearts.  This condition is fueled by stubbornness, preventing individuals from picking up subtle clues from God.  This lack of clarity, discernment and insight hinders people from escaping darkness.

When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path, Matthew 13:19.

The conditions, environment and surroundings in which you live often dictate the direction you will go in life.  While there are always exceptions to this rule, soil types restrict the overall harvest of farmers.  Obstructions like rocks, sticker bushes and weeds entangle the healthy.  Careless acts can damage, harm or uproot spiritual foundations.  In view of this hazardous threat, may the power of the Holy Spirit inspire believers to seek fertile soil for the soul.  By doing this, you will discover the way out of the place of the unknown.

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

The Envy of Cain

When envy is present within the hearts and minds of individuals, jealousy usually isn’t far off.  Envy and jealousy often feed off of one another breeding the other feeling.  Envy arises deep inside the human soul, aroused by someone else’s material possessions, personality or unique gifts resulting in a spirit of discontent and resentment.  On the other  hand, jealousy is the emotion one experiences when someone thinks they are about to be replaced by the flavor of the month, leading to apprehension and fear.  This is where you find Cain within the pages of Genesis 4.

Cain was the prized baby, the first born boy on planet earth.  As an infant, his mom and dad waited on every cry and whimper.  Like modern parents returning from a hospital, both are clueless, not sure how to handle or respond to this new creature who has entered their life.  As for Cain, every thing was peachy keen until Abel arrived onto the scene.  Cain was now longer the main attraction, forced to share time with his baby brother.  If this wasn’t enough to bear, Cain realized how much harder farming was compared to shepherding, Abel’s occupation.  Then, God had to go and play favorites, rejecting Cain’s weak offering, but extremely pleased by the fat portions brought by Abel, Genesis 4:3-5.  These ingredients conceived the envy of Cain.

Before I studied the definitions of envy and jealousy, I never imagined either of these 2 acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21, stirred inside my heart.  However, as I read the numerous definitions and examples of each on the internet, I saw signs of the envy of Cain within me.  Whether you are a coach, teacher or hard working employee, there is always someone quicker, smarter and more appealing than you.  Thus, you need to learn to be content in the areas God has gifted you.  If you don’t, you are giving the devil an open door for the envy of Cain to reside within you, Ephesians 4:25-27.  Therefore, lean on the the grace, forgiveness and mercy of God to purge yourself of any traces of envy or jealousy.

by Jay Mankus

Treasures Beneath The Surface

Ric Savage is living proof that sometimes real treasure exists in your own backyard.  This former professional wrestler is now the star of Spike TV’s reality show, American Digger.  Using history like a treasure map, Ric’s team travels across the country in search of valuable pieces of Americana.  However, before he can dig, Ric must receive permission from home owners, offering to split his profits.  The rest of a typical episode contains the quest to uncover hidden gems using medal detectors or modern technology to locate treasures behind the surface.

Unfortunately, most treasure stories don’t have a happy ending.  Such is the tale of a farmer who sold all his possessions to search for diamonds.  Like a gold rush, this man was inspired to leave his family behind in America to fulfill a lifelong dream of striking it rich.  Tired of just making enough to survive, he longed to provide a better life for his wife and children.  Thus, off he went, first to South Africa, then to India and finally to a mine is Spain.  In a moment of despair, he jumped into a raging river, drowning; never tasting success.

 [image of Conwell sitting]

Meanwhile, the man this farmer sold his property to continued to farm, yet he began to uncover a rocky patch of soil.  To protect his plow, this man placed the larger rocks on his mantel, above a fireplace.  When a local priest paid a visit to the new resident, welcoming him to the community, he was shocked by these large rocks.  After an initial exchange, the priest asked the man where he had found these unusual rocks.  Nonchalantly, he replied, “they are all over this property”.  Astonished, the priest replied, “do you know what you have?”  Curious, the man answers, “No, what are they?”  As a former jeweler prior to attending seminary, the priest responds, “you have unearthed acres of diamonds!”  This story inspired Russell Conwell’s famous speech, Acres of Diamonds.  Russell’s success as a minister and writer led him to found Temple University in Philadelphia.

Life often plays cruel tricks on us, like this dead farmer.  The one thing he longed for in life was right in his own backyard, beneath the surface.  Sometimes, before you make rash decisions, you have to consider the cost, Luke 14:28-33.  While Satan may lead you to believe the grass is greener on the other side of your fence, God has surrounded you with living treasures: family, friends and possessions.  Therefore, don’t leave your land until the Holy Spirit has helped you unearth treasures within, 1 Corinthians 12:11.  As I continue to search for full time employment, I pray that God will help me dig deep enough to find that diamond in a rough economy.

by Jay Mankus

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