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The Sequence of Story

A sequence is a particular order in which related events, movements, or things follow each other. In the process of telling a story, the best communicators set the scene using what some writers refer to as the 10 magic words. This information highlights who a story is about and details the journey which is about to begin. Depending upon the author or story teller, the sequence of story involves a beginning, middle and end.

Then the disciples came to Him and said, Why do You speak to them in parables? 11 And He replied to them, To you it has been given to know the secrets and mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given, Matthew 13:10-11.

From a biblical perspective, the son of God used parables to connect with first century citizens. A parable is story structure used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson as told by Jesus in the Gospels. The New Testament details 46 different parables as Jesus tried to explain mysteries and secrets of the kingdom of heaven. My favorite is the Parable of the Sower as Jesus reveals how the environment in which you live influences the person that you become.

Paul, Silvanus (Silas), and Timothy, to the assembly (church) of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah): Grace (spiritual blessing and divine favor) to you and [heart] peace. We are ever giving thanks to God for all of you, continually mentioning [you when engaged] in our prayers, Recalling unceasingly before our God and Father your work energized by faith and service motivated by love and unwavering hope in [the return of] our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [O] brethren beloved by God, we recognize and know that He has selected (chosen) you;For our [preaching of the] glad tidings (the Gospel) came to you not only in word, but also in [its own inherent] power and in the Holy Spirit and with great conviction and absolute certainty [on our part]. You know what kind of men we proved [ourselves] to be among you for your good, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.

While writing 13 letters known as epistles, the apostle Paul developed a story structure known as U Centered Writing. Paul regularly starts his letters by getting the attention and gaining the interest of fellow Christians. Once this is accomplished, Paul creates a felt need, a flaw or weakness that believers need to work on. The remainder of his letters are designed to create a sense of urgency so that a commitment to change is conceived. Whether you’re writing a letter, telling a story or working on a screen play, stories continue to speak to human hearts and provide hope or inspiration to make a difference in the life that God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

When a Feeling Passes

The American rock band Boston released More than a Feeling as the lead single from their Eponymous debut album in 1976. According to Tom Scholz who wrote this classic ballad, this song was inspired by a fantasy event, dreaming of his days with Marianne. When you’re having a bad day, a positive dream that comes out of nowhere often provides hope. Yet, when dreams don’t come true, feelings of optimism fade away leaving behind doubt and emptiness.

[Oh, I know, I have been rash to talk out plainly this way to God!] I will [in my thinking] stand upon my post of observation and station myself on the tower or fortress, and will watch to see what He will say within me and what answer I will make [as His mouthpiece] to the perplexities of my complaint against Him, Habakkuk 2:1.

I have a bad habit of reading too much into conversations and personal encounters. When I am unable to clarify or understand someone’s intent, senses often turn into feelings. If a co-worker is around, I’ll double check to see if my instincts are correct. Unfortunately, most of the time, my gut reaction to a situation doesn’t consider all the variables that exist. Thus, when my feeling passes, what I see isn’t reality.

And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day, Habakkuk 2:2-3.

The Old Testament places a high priority on vision. Instead of going through life chasing after feelings, the Bible urges it’s readers to become vision oriented. The prophet Hosea claims that people perish when they go through life without knowledge of a clear vision. When a feeling passes, where to go or what to do is uncertain. If you want to live with a clear purpose and reason, ask the Lord for vision so that this can be engraved within your heart.

by Jay Mankus

Comforted, Cheered, and Encouraged

The term encourage(d) appears 9 times in the King James Version of the Bible. In an age where negative news steals most of the headlines, most Americans are searching for hope. Some sort of cheer, inspiration or uplifting story that rallies troubled souls to keep moving forward. Life is hard enough as it is without critics and condemnation from haters on social media.

[For my concern is] that their hearts may be braced (comforted, cheered, and encouraged) as they are knit together in love, that they may come to have all the abounding wealth and blessings of assured conviction of understanding, and that they may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly that mystic secret of God, [which is] Christ (the Anointed One). In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden, Colossians 2:2-3.

While writing a letter to members of the Church at Colosse, Paul gets sentimental in the passage above. Just as King Solomon warned Old Testament readers to guard their hearts, Proverbs 4:23, Paul urges believers to brace human hearts with comfort, cheer and encouragement. If the heart is the wellspring of life, protecting it all cost is essential. This is Paul’s prayer for the church that he helped plant during one of his missionary journeys.

Who died for us so that whether we are still alive or are dead [at Christ’s appearing], we might live together with Him and share His life. 11 Therefore encourage (admonish, exhort) one another and edify (strengthen and build up) one another, just as you are doing, 1 Thessalonians 5:10-11.

In one of two letters to the Church at Thessalonica, Paul reminds Christians of the hope that is in Jesus. Instead of dwelling on the negative side of mankind’s fallen, sinful nature, Paul shifts to the positive. Verses like John 3:16-17 and Romans 5:8, reinforces that Jesus died while we were still sinners. This is the good news of the gospel, 1 John 5:13, providing a reason to celebrate. This is why modern Christians should be comforted, cheerful and encouraged.

by Jay Mankus

Out of the Control and Dominion of Darkness

Depending upon the translation of the Bible that you use, there are 47 verses that directly mention darkness. Two of these passages were written by the apostle Paul. Rather than contrast darkness with light, Paul refers to dominions of darkness. In the passage below, Paul refers to physical territories and spiritual dimensions. Some of these places are ruled by world leaders with master spirits working behind the scenes.

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. 12 For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. 13 Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place], Ephesians 6:11-13.

In the middle of the passage above, Paul makes an interesting correlation. Instead of fighting a physical opponent on earth, look beyond human beings to the forces at work influencing people. Every now and then I will encounter an individual who is having a bad day. Some people are like a ticking bomb ready to explode if you do or say the wrong thing. If your timing is bad, you may be the trigger that puts someone over the edge.

[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13.

Despite this unsettling news, Paul explains how Jesus has drawn Christian’s out of the control of and the dominion of darkness. In the second chapter of Paul’s letter to Colosse, Paul reveals how Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers of darkness, Colossians 2:13-15. Meanwhile, 1 Corinthians 15:53-56 details how Jesus removed the sting of death by rising from the dead. This is the hope that Christians have by trusting in Jesus, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Promote Your Progress and Joy

Advance, boost, contribute to, develop, encourage, and further are words associated with promote. While modern promoters often serve as agents for professional athletes, one of the basic responsibilities for a Christian is to promote faith. Although this sounds easy to do, sharing the Bible with individuals who are hostile to God, Romans 8:7, can be thankless. However, if you see the big picture, winning souls, joy overflows when you lead someone into a personal relationship with Jesus.

Since I am convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and stay by you all, to promote your progress and joy in believing, Philippians 1:25.

While writing to a church that he helped build, Paul expresses his allegiance to Philippi. This commitment involves promoting their spiritual progress and joy of believing in Jesus. To an apostle, preaching and sharing the Gospel is the most important thing in the world. While there are other sources of good news that exist, to Paul, nothing compares to Jesus. This concept inspired the words of Philippians 4:6-7, as the peace of God surpasses all understanding.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

The apostle Paul builds upon this concept in a letter to the Church at Rome. As faith is promoted, God fills Christians with hope, peace, and joy. As individuals begin to discover and fulfill God’s will for your life, this joy can overflow, bubbling over out of an abundance. Yet, when progress is put on hold, joy can quickly disappear. Like a car put in neutral, idle Christians lose their spiritual momentum. Therefore, if you want to get back on track, promote spiritual progress and the joy from faith in Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Enterprises of Darkness

The origins of darkness can be traced back to the Bible. Apart from its literal meaning, darkness is symbolic of evil in the Bible. George Lucas introduced the world to a new element of darkness in the 1977 Star Wars film. Using a battle between good and evil, Darth Vader’s character is a byproduct of giving into the dark side. Sounding the warning alarm in the New Testament, the apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter, Romans 7, to the consequences of living in darkness.

Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be soin contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them. For it is a shame even to speak of or mention the things that [such people] practice in secret, Ephesians 5:11-12.

When darkness becomes a way of life, individuals pursue what the apostle Paul refers to as enterprises of darkness. This undertaking often takes the form of an activity, endeavor, or venture. While Lucas speaks of “following the force,” the Bible urges followers of Jesus to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25. If you choose the latter, souls will finds themselves slip sliding away, joining other wayward individuals in an enterprise of darkness.

[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13.

If you do find yourself on the opposite side of God, hope is provided in the passage above. When your life does spin out of control, there is a deliverer who can lift you out of darkness. However, words are meaningless unless you are willing to change. Until acts of contrition display glimpses of light, dominion’s of darkness will continue to reign. Therefore, if you do come to your senses, Jesus is waiting for you with open arms to begin an enterprise inspired by God’s light, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus: The Master of All Trades

While attending a youth ministry trade school following college, I read a book entitled The Master of all Trades. The author used miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John as a case study. When I studied each of these accounts, I realized that Jesus was proving his mastery over a series of elements. Although I can’t remember the author’s name or find the book online, this comparison provides a clear illustration that Jesus indeed is the master of all trades.

Eight Miracles In The Gospel Of John  

  1. Water Into Wine John 2:1-11
  2. Healing the official’s son John 4:43-54.
  3. The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda John 5:1-9 
  4. The Feeding of the 5000 John 6:1-14.
  5. Walking on the Water (John 6:16-25).
  6. The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41).
  7. Raising Lazarus From The Dead (John 11:1-44).
  8. Casting net into sea catching 153 fishes (John 21:5-8).

When Jesus turns water into wine, he defies the laws of science and reveals his mastery over quality. In the process of healing an official’s son, Jesus conquers distance by healing this boy from afar. While visiting an invalid at a pool, lingering with this condition for thirty-eight years, Jesus shows his mastery over time. During the feeding of the 5000, Jesus shows his ability to overcome the odds, able to provide no matter how great the quantity. In a storm, Jesus walks on water to highlight his power over the elements on the earth.

There are also many other signs and miracles which Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written (recorded) in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [through Who He is], John 20:30-31.

At the end of John’s gospel, it’s clear that thousands of miracles performed by Jesus were left out of the Bible. John merely selects 8 that illustrate Jesus’ mastery of all trades. The final 3 give hope to those who seem to be in an irrevocable situation. Whether you’ve been without one of your 5 key senses from birth, on the verge of death, or failing miserably in your career, Jesus has the power to alter your current situation. As long as you believe, the master of all trades can do wonders for you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

Open Up the Doors

The expression “open doors” is mentioned 180 times in the Bible. Many of these passages pertain to closed doors as opportunities to act quickly fade away. Bible scholars indicate that open doors signify communication and agreement. As doors begin to close or in some cases slam shut, the opposite is true. This is the foundation of the meaning of open doors in the Bible.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint, Galatians 6:9.

Depending upon how your day, week or month is going, you may not have the energy to respond to the invitation of an opened door. If you’ve had a bad run of luck, a negative thought life may lead you to think, “well what’s the point anyway?” The longer you wait for God’s invitation, doubt will replace confidence. Before a spirit of defeat sets in, the apostle Paul encourages members of the Church at Galatia to hang in there by not giving up hope.

So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:10.

The most famous passage on open doors occurs in Revelation 3:20-21. The door described here is unique, only containing a door knob/handle on one side. Since God’s side of the door is missing a handle, the only thing the Lord can do to get our attention is to knock. Thus, if you’re distracted or not paying attention, you will miss the opportunities God gives you daily to act. Therefore, open up the door as soon as God begins to knock.

by Jay Mankus

Open My Eyes Through Faith

Paul Baloche was sitting in a pew, listening to his pastor pray for the congregation. Upon hearing the expression “Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see you,” Baloche was inspired to write a song. Baloche’s soul was touched by the wisdom of this prayer request. As Paul Harvey once said on his radio broadcast, “and now you know The Rest of the Story.”

When the water in the bottle was all gone, Hagar caused the youth to lie down under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about a bowshot, for she said, Let me not see the death of the lad. And as she sat down opposite him, he lifted up his voice and wept and she raised her voice and wept, Genesis 21:15-16.

After Sarah convinced Abraham to cast out one of his maid servants, Hagar and Ishmael were forced into the wilderness to find a new place to live. When Hagar ran out of water, she lost hope, laying down her child in the shade under a shrub. Unsure of what to do next, Hagar found an appropriate place to weep and cry out to the Lord. Sensing death was near, the Lord sent an angel to encourage Hagar. Despite being consumed by despair, the Lord opened Hagar’s eyes to a miracle, an empty bottle now filled with water.

And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is. Arise, raise up the youth and support him with your hand, for I intend to make him a great nation. 19 Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the [empty] bottle with water and caused the youth to drink, Genesis 21:17-19.

The Coronavirus has forced the world to view life through a new lens and perspective. The idea of sitting down with friends inside a restaurant seems like a foreign concept today. Yet, sometime in the near future, the fears of COVID-19 will pass, replaced by a new concern, fear or worry. However, as long as desperate hearts cry out to the Lord in prayer, your eyes will be opened to see all the good things God provides, James 1:17. This is my prayer for 2021 that eyes will be opened through faith in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

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