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Tag Archives: great story tellers

A Part or Apart?

Any great story teller is able to interweave reality with a past event to impart knowledge. The four gospel authors of the Bible record 42 parables shared by Jesus. While there were probably many more shared during Jesus’ 3 year earthly ministry, each of these stories include a nugget of truth. Depending upon the length of these encounters, singular or multiple truths and wisdom have been left behind for readers to discover and digest.

I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. 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, John 15:1-4.

One of the most famous stories of the Bible compares God to a gardener. Meanwhile, Jesus is a vine, connected to God with the purpose of bearing fruit. However, there is a catch. If Christians remain in and stay a part of the vine, blessings will occur in the form of spiritual fruit. However, if you choose to live life on your own, apart from God, it’s impossible to bear fruit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul puts a new spin on this concept. Instead of using the analogy of a vine, Paul writes about faith. Faith isn’t something that you take on and off like clothes. Rather, faith is designed to be a part of you as your relationship with God grows and matures. Just as Jesus urged believers to abide in Him, Paul reminds the church that faith is a part of your new identity in Christ. Therefore, don’t drift away, apart from God, but make Jesus a part of your daily life.

by Jay Mankus

The Pathway to Addiction and Freedom

As a story teller, there was no one better during the first century than Jesus.  Appealing to visual learners, Jesus painted vivid pictures allowing the minds of listeners to follow along with each word.  Nearing the end of his sermon on the Mount of Olives, Jesus gives those in attendance two choices.  There are two different roads that you can follow in this life.  One leads to addiction, the other toward freedom.  You may have a great time on the popular path, but in the end you’ll be left with an eternal hangover.  Meanwhile, the path less traveled is a difficult journey, but the benefits to staying the course are eternal.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it,” Matthew 7:13-14.

After Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, one of Jesus’ disciples goes into greater detail about the broad road that leads to destruction.  John refers to emotions that keep individuals ensnared, paralyzed by lustful desires.  These cravings distract souls from any standards that they may have held, kept or were raised with prior to turning on to this interstate.  Lust, sensual desires and pride tend to blind those ashamed, guilty or filled with remorse by this change of course.  Unfortunately, the longer anyone stays on the path to addiction, the harder it becomes to leave for good.

Do not love the world [of sin that opposes God and His precepts], nor the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust and sensual craving of the flesh and the lust and longing of the eyes and the boastful pride of life [pretentious confidence in one’s resources or in the stability of earthly things]—these do not come from the Father, but are from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and with it its lusts [the shameful pursuits and ungodly longings]; but the one who does the will of God and carries out His purposes lives forever, 1 John 2:15-17.

Instead of typical road signs that you may see everyday, the pathway to freedom contains God’s precepts.  These nuggets of truth preach an alternative message from the flashy advertisements on the highway to hell.  Words such as serve, surrender and selfless appeal to those searching for something deeper, pondering the meaning of life.  The further you travel along this barren road, the narrower it becomes.  Ideally, accountability partners, friends and mentors will encourage you to choose freedom over temporary pleasures.  To persist, press on and demonstrate resolve.  In the end, the choose is yours.  I’ll leave you with Moses’ farewell address to Israel, Deuteronomy 30:19, choose life.

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

Reinvention or Revolutionary?

K.I.S.S. is one of the first acronyms I was introduced to in high school, referring to the expression Keep It Simple Stupid.  Whether you are talking about a complex matter, difficult course or the meaning of life, individuals must be careful not to over analyze things.  As long you can narrow a topic down to its most basic ideas, the less confused you will be and if yourjob relies on explaining details to others, the clearer your message will become.

Jesus modeled K.I.S.S. by regularly talking to people on their level, using stories that a vast majority of citizens could relate to and understand.  Jesus wasn’t concerned about theology, emphasizing who God the Father is, their relation to one another and how you can enter into a personal relationship with the Creator of life, John 3:16-18.  In regards to discipleship, you don’t need a PhD to grasp how to grow a Bible Study, Church or Home Group.  Go into the world, where light is fading or snuffed out, take the gift or talent implanted within you, 2 Timothy 1:6 and go develop like minded believers just as Jesus invested 3 years of his life in 12 men.

Unfortunately, some where along the way, people have begun relying on self-help material, trying to reinvent the wheel instead of simply keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  Book after book, theory after theory, video series and the like  claim to be revolutionary, yet are they?  If King Solomon claimed nearly 4,000 years ago there is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes 1:9, why are many gullible people who are persuaded by their sales pitches?  I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know this: Nike’s motto is noteworthy for those hungry for change, Just do It! – Matthew 28:19-20

by Jay Mankus

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