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Apart From the Spirit

Kryptonite is a fictional material created by the writers of Superman. This crystalline material originated from the planet Krypton where Superman was born. Following Krypton’s explosion, pieces of Kryptonite gradually fell upon planet earth like meteorites. To an earthling Kryptonite was just a rock. However, this crystalline emits a unique radiation that weakens Superman. For human beings today, the sinful nature is our Kryptonite.

For as the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless, so faith apart from [its] works of obedience is also dead, James 2:26.

The New Testament is filled with advice from Jesus and warnings from apostles and former disciples. Jesus uses the analogy of a gardener in John 15:1-8 to stay connected to the Vine. Paul refers to a human nature in Galatians 5:16-21 which is like Superman’s Kryptonite. Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus reflects upon his own life in the passage above when he drifted away from the Holy Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and[d]pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and[e]seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit, Romans 8:5.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to the consequences of living apart from God’s Spirit. Romans 8 serves as a series of Pros and Cons of what life will be like with and apart from the Holy Spirit. Depending upon your mindset when you wake up each morning will dictate how you will live. As Moses once said, choices have consequences, Deuteronomy 30:15-18. If you find yourself wavering toward the dark side, remember the words of 2 Peter 1:3-4 so you’ll be reunited with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Planting for the Future

A recent Progressive Insurance Ad Campaign uses Dr. Rick to help customers attempt to un-become like their parents. Somewhere in all of our childhoods, parents and or guardians have ingrained within you certain habits. Subsequently, the things your parents did with you like fishing and gardening are passed on to share with your own children. For me, it’s planting my own garden.

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you know not the work of God, Who does all, Ecclesiastes 11:4-5.

Since I don’t like as many fruits and vegetables as my parents, I usually limit my garden to basil, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. One year I pre-planted several seeds in a greenhouse kit that I received for Christmas. Unfortunately, one cold spring wind damaged and destroyed everything that I worked on for months. I learned a valuable lesson this night about planting for the future.

In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good, Ecclesiastes 11:6.

Based upon today’s passage, King Solomon understood the highs and lows of gardening. Some years certain plants keep giving over and over again. Yet, when the soil, timing and temperature is off, the time you invested yields absolutely nothing. This spring will be my last garden in Delaware before I move to South Carolina in the summer of 2022. When that day arrives, it will be another learning process as I plant for the future in a warmer climate.

by Jay Mankus

Where the Vine and Shepherd Co-Exist

There are 46 parables of Jesus recorded in the four New Testament gospels. Two of these stories illustrate the personal relationship that God desires to have with human beings. In the first parable below, Jesus reveals God’s Open Door Policy, keeping the Shepherd’s Gate available and unlocked. Meanwhile, the second story John recounts is a living vine that is a source for life with supernatural power to bear fruit.

So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:7-9.

Jesus compares himself to a shepherd who is overseeing a large flock of sheep. Like any caring shepherd, Jesus stands by the entrance, making sure every member of his flock is secured within the pen. Yet, life doesn’t always go as planned, with unseen circumstances lurking in the distance. Therefore, Jesus warns his sheep of thieves and robbers that will try to deceive and steal joy from your life.

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. If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:4-7.

Five chapters later, Jesus compares himself to an abundant Vine. Using the illustration of a gardener tending to and pruning each branch, this habit is designed to stimulate growth. When you learn to recognize and listen to God’s voice, this is where the Vine and Shepherd co-exist. Instead of relying on your own strength, when you learn to fully place your trust in Jesus, you’ll enter through the front door and remain connected to the Vine.

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

Lifting Up Friends to You

There will be moments in life where you will feel helpless.  Even if you are near a loved one, sometimes fate is out of your hands.  Whether you are talking about an accident, heart attack or illness, the only thing you can do is pray.  Perhaps if more people were proactive, lifting up friends to God daily, you wouldn’t have to face as many emergencies in life that some are forced to endure.

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother, Proverbs 18:24.

King Solomon eludes to the power of friendship in the Old Testament.  Whenever you find an individual who shares a common interest, hobby or passion, an instant bond often develops.  If nourished, friends can quickly become like close members of the family.  According to Solomon, there is a tendency to accumulate as many friends as possible, but those who seek quality relationships over quantity will be rewarded.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.

One day Jesus uses a gardening analogy during a conversation with his disciples.  Just as a gardener cares for, prunes and nourishes plants under his or her care, a good friend does the same thing.  Likely referring to his impending death on a cross, Jesus brings up the greatest act a friend can demonstrate.  Sacrificing, serving or laying down your own wants and needs for a friend reveals love.  While this commitment may not be possible for everyone, the least you can do lift up friends in prayer to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

What You Need

Following in my father’s footstep, I attempt to plant a garden each spring so I can enjoy the fruits of this labor.  Most of these vegetables compromise my favorite salsa recipe, a pastime I enjoy sharing each summer.  Unfortunately, some time over the last month, my garden has become a haven for weeds.  I didn’t plant them; nor did I water them.  Weeds just show up, wherever and whenever they want.

But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away, Matthew 13:25.

Weeds are like adversaries individuals encounter on a weekly and monthly basis.  If you ignore these people, their impact can choke, suffocate or steal your joy in life.  Thus, the quicker you act, the better your chances for survival.  However, your response must be calculated or else their roots will multiple and can leave you outnumbered.

“ ’An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  “ ’No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them, Matthew 13:28-29.

In view of these obstacles, believers need to develop an action plan based upon what you need in life.  First, everyone needs nourishment, quenching the thirst of the soul.  Second, its essential to establish a healthy routine, which helps promote a consistent and vibrant life.  Finally, when you surround yourself with positive influences and engage in activities that energize and are uplifting, you will be ready to conquer the weeds that infest this world.

by Jay Mankus

The Finest Things in Life Take Time

For most of my life, stubbornness prevented me from trying new things.  As a result, I became limited in my hobbies, being contempt with being a sportsaholic.  This choice narrowed my scope of friends as I allowed myself to stay set in my ways.  A few stints of unemployment beginning in February of 2012 forced me to try new things, surprising me with several new interests.

Cover Photo

With time on my side, I took a vested interest in gardening as I began to dabble in cooking, using the crops from my garden as main ingredients.  A new ipad, a birthday present, spawned a desire for photography, downloading the latest apps which I used on our trip to California earlier in 2013.  While not a strength, I created some you tubes, with the most successful one being my home made salsa recipe.  As in cooking, the finest things take time, often relying on trial and error before you discover the perfect mixture, temperature and exact time.

As the prices of food continue to skyrocket, I have begun a new venture to start making some of my favorite dishes from scratch.  Recently, I have perfected a homemade recipe for french fries with a youtube in the near future.  Potato chips are still a work in process as a rotating system needs to be adjusted to get each row to bake at the some temps.  Pizza and popcorn are on the agenda, depending how tired I am with my new position at Amazon.  If you are like me, don’t let instant gratification get in the way of enabling you to achieve your dreams, regardless of the time it takes.

by Jay Mankus

Deeply Rooted

As I was preparing my backyard for Hurricane Sandy’s arrival, I noticed something unusual.  One of the remains of a tomato plant was nearly 9 feet tall from the roots to the top stem.  When I tried to take the whole plant out of my garden, a large portion of the soil came with it.  The success of this plant was clear, it was deeply rooted into rich soil.

According to the apostle Paul, the same principle holds true with Christianity.  The moment you enter into a relationship with Jesus, God wants you to continue to stay connected, rooted and built up in the power and promises of God’s Word, Colossians 2:6-7.  Developing a strong spiritual root system prevents you from being taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies in our world.

Over the past month, God has been teaching me about my mind, especially how fragile it is, susceptible to the devil’s schemes, Ephesians 6:11.  Our minds are like sponges, absorbing lyrics to songs, pictures to movies and emotional connections to everything we experience.  In a sense, God has created our minds to be like a living DVR.  If my tomato plant clung to its soil, then our mind is going to crave the content attached to our natural surroundings.  Therefore, if you truly desire to seek God, Matthew 6:33-34, you must heed the words of Colossians 2:13-15, preparing the ground for a vibrant spiritual harvest.  Stay connected to the vine, who is Christ, as you prove yourself through your fruits to be a true disciple of Christ, John 15:8.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritually Weeding Out Evil

As an avid gardener, I enjoy picking tomatoes and peppers from my backyard so I can make my special blends of salsa once a week.  After allowing weeds to overrun my garden areas, yesterday I spent a couple of hours ridding the soil from these harmful species.  Since I took several days in the early spring preparing the soil to insure a successful crop, this round of weeding was a breeze compared to a typically year.

In the process of weeding, a passage from Matthew immediately came to mind.  Although most biblical scholars often shy away from commentating on Matthew 12:43-45, I am going to use the context of Matthew 13 to share my heart felt belief.  After a short comment about what it means to be part of God’s family in Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus tells back to back parables on soils and weeds at the beginning of chapter 13.

Soil often symbolizes environments, where we live and whom we allow to enter our lives.  Weeds are like the obstacles that we face in life, things that we can’t control, but we must not allow them to take root, Ephesians 4:27.  If Satan is indeed the ruler of the air, Ephesians 2:2, then evil can attack us in the form of our own flesh, through worldly influences or supernaturally.  Therefore, if you want to be sober, habits, idea, and thoughts must be taken captive, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  This daily practice is like spiritual weeding out evil, to protect yourself from demons which roam throughout earth, Job 1:6-7 and Matthew 12:43-45.

by Jay Mankus

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