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Tag Archives: parables

Denying the Ghost of Christmas Past

In the 1988 film Scrooged, Bill Murray plays a selfish, cynical television executive who is haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.  Bitter, disappointed and frustrated, Murray’s character came to the conclusion that Christmas was a fraud.  Far worse than Ebenezer Scrooge, Murray is visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present and future.  These shocking encounters convict Murray’s heart like the wealthy man in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.  The only difference is that Murray is still alive while the rich man in the story below died.

So the rich man said, ‘Then, father [Abraham], I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may solemnly warn them and witness to them, so that they too will not come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have [the Scriptures given by] Moses and the [writings of the] Prophets; let them listen to them,’ Luke 16:27-29.

Parables are meant to be analogies, hypothetical scenarios to illustrate spiritual truths.  Within this particular story, Jesus details a conversation between Abraham who is in heaven with a desperate rich man pleading his case from hell.  This man asks to be sent back to his family on earth in the form of a ghost, similar to the concept of the ghost of Christmas past.  Despite this man’s concern to save his family from the same eternal fate he is enduring, Abraham vehemently denies this request.  While Abraham references the importance of listening to and studying the words of Old Testament prophets, his reason for saying no is clear.  You must walk by faith, not by sight.

He replied, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent [they will change their old way of thinking and seek God and His righteousness].’ 31 And he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to [the messages of] Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead,’” Luke 16:30-31.

Every Christmas, pastors, priests, reverends and teachers attempt to share a fresh approach to Christmas, coming up with an unique angle or spin.  Of all of the sermons I have heard at Christmas Eve and or Christmas Day services, Abraham’s exchange with this rich man in hell is not one of them.  Human nature makes individuals think, “if I only saw a ghost, speak to the dead or witness a miracle, then I would believe.”  Yet, in reality, you shouldn’t have to experience the death and resurrection of Jesus to believe.  The author of Hebrews references this in Hebrews 6:1-6, supporting Abraham’s excuse for denying a first century visit from the ghost of Christmas past.

by Jay Mankus

The Intrinsically Good and Evil

One day Jesus was disturbed as he observed religious leaders judging other individuals.  Outraged by this display of self-righteousness, Jesus compares unfair judgments to the principle of sowing and reaping.  Warning the Pharisees in the crowd, Jesus explains that the standard by which you judge others will be measured, applied to you in return.  Immediately following this statement, Jesus transitions into a discussion about what is intrinsically good and evil.

For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit. For figs are not picked from thorn bushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a briar bush, Luke 6:44.

Using a parable to prove his point, Jesus refers to humans beings as fruit bearing trees.  Essentially, what Jesus is saying in paraphrased form, “if you want to encapsulate who someone is, pay attention to the fruit which they bear on a daily basis.”  Some will produce excessive fruit, others will have sporadic growth seasons and a few won’t bear anything at all.  As you interact with society, brushing up against, coming in contact with and experiencing what different people have to offer, reputations will be developed and formed either good or bad.

The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:45.

The climax of Jesus’ teaching comes in the passage above, mouths speak out of the overflow of human hearts.  Thus, if you listen carefully, you can hear for yourself what is intrinsically good or evil.  The next time you listen to a conversation, observe a discussion or watch a report on cable news, your ears should be able to pick up something based upon the content.  Are these words good, honorable and moral?  Or has a bruised and wounded heart spewed depravity, hatred and wickedness?  While you can’t control what others say, you can cry out to Jesus to mend any part of a broken heart.  As this healing process begins, you should begin to recognize subtle changes in your vocabulary.  May the Holy Spirit transform your life to display that which is intrinsically good.

by Jay Mankus

When People Expect More From God

Human nature has a way of making people feel more important than they actually are.  Whether you are talking about self-confidence, egos or pride, these traits can blind you from reality.  While Facebook uses terms like status as a way to express yourself, Jesus relied on stories to insure that first century citizens did not misconstrue God’s nature.

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius,” Matthew 20:9-10.

In the parable of the Workers in the Field, Jesus reveals a reality about heaven.  Just because you have been a faithful follower for months, years or decades does not mean your reward will be greater than those who came to faith later in life.  Rather, eternal life is what God promises to those who trust in the Lord.  Sure, the Bible does mention crowns bestowed upon those who faithfully serve God while on earth, but this should be like icing on a cake.

When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day,’ Matthew 20:11-12.

Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of equating earthly terms with eternity.  Thus, individuals are unable to comprehend the true nature of God.  Subsequently, people grumble like the passage above, disappointed when their expectations for God are no met.  Several of the thirty plus parables recorded in the Bible were spoken to realign human misconceptions with an accurate perception of heaven.  The next time you expect more from God, take some time to read the parables of Jesus so you won’t set yourself up for disappointment in the future.

by Jay Mankus

Nobody is Listening

Every once in a while people are blinded by pride.  This overconfidence within the minds of individuals results in losing touch with reality.  Subsequently, as someone wanders off on a tangent, the audience initially listening quickly tunes out.

Making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; Proverbs 2:2.

There is nothing worse as a teacher than to be so consumed with what you are saying that you fail to recognize no one is listening.  Despite what you thought to be a flawless lesson plan has turned into a snoozer as blank stares and sleeping students force you to figure out what went wrong.  Although it may be humbling, sometimes you have to be open to an honest assessment from students.  While some comments may be inspired from impure motives, you will find blunt answers that reveal why nobody is listening.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God,’ Revelation 2:7.

After sharing a parable, Jesus often used the saying, “let him who has ears hear.”  This spoke to the stubbornness within human hearts.  If you think you are right, then you become oblivious to those who possess an opposing point of view.  Many who heard the powerful illustrations of Jesus often left turning a deaf ear, continuing on the current path they were on.  Therefore, if you want to know the truth why nobody is listening, you have to be open to change as the Holy Spirit reveals the next step, Galatians 5:25, to take in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

When You Can’t Figure Out Life On Your Own

Before Samuel Morse invented the telegraph and the International Code that bears his name, creative people have always found ways to secretly communicate.  In the first century, Jesus spoke in parables to convey nuggets of truth.  These interesting stories illustrate important facts about life.  However, these allegories are meant to make people think, pondering the hidden meaning within each parable.  This style of communication often dumbfounded Jesus’ own disciples, seeking private meetings to make sure they correctly interpreted and understood what Jesus was trying to say.  Unfortunately, when you can’t figure out life on your own, Jesus isn’t around anymore to ask in person.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” Matthew 9:12-13.

After healing a paralyzed man in his home town, Jesus shares the passage above.  The first part of this verse makes sense, the sick need a doctor as the healthy have either learned to self medicate or don’t have a life threatening condition that requires immediate attention.  The second comment requires further thought, Jesus desires mercy, not sacrifice.  Since Jesus is likely addressing the Pharisees who witnessed this miracle, sacrifice can be seen as a form of teetotalism.  Following a set of rules perfectly will always result in failure, disappointment or frustration.  Realizing the limitations of the human body, Jesus urges individuals to offer mercy to all, even for those who don’t deserve it.  While this may not be exactly what Jesus means, it’s a good place to start.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need, Hebrews 4:16.

The author of Hebrews builds upon desiring mercy.  Without mercy, you can’t comprehend grace.  Thus, when sinners are forgiven, especially those who deserve punishment, the human mind struggles to fathom this concept.  Meanwhile, those who go and learn what Jesus means are able to approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.  However, when you can’t figure life out on your own, Jesus promised to leave behind a counselor, John 16:13.  This invisible presence will guide you through periods of darkness.  Sometimes you might think God’s Spirit has left you, but it’s likely the Devil trying to convince you otherwise.  Press on and don’t give up as the Holy Spirit is waiting to help you figure out the mysteries in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

Better Off Dead

In 1985, John Cusack starred in Better Off Dead.  While this movie would be considered politically incorrect today for making fun of suicide, some high schools are now using this film in Sociology classes.  The idea for the title is based upon lonely and suicidal individuals who think that it would be better if they were dead.  The rationale is that killing yourself will make those who never noticed your existence feel bad through guilt and shame.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds, John 12:24.

This concept also applies to the first century.  Sometimes in the late 20’s, early 30’s AD, Jesus began to share God’s grand design to his disciples.  Essentially, Jesus would be better off dead, needing to die once and for all, for all sin.  This message didn’t go over well as in the back of their minds, the disciples thought Jesus would become an earthly king.  Perhaps, this confusion and disappointment with Jesus might explain their actions following his betrayal and death.  John was the only disciple who wasn’t afraid to be seen with or associated with Jesus.  Beside Judas Iscariot who thought he would be better off dead, committing suicide, the other remaining ten men went into hiding.

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life, John 12:25.

Since Jesus spoke in parables, only the discerning were able to figure out the point Jesus was trying to make.  Maybe John was the only one who understood the kernel analogy.  Nonetheless, the Bible exists today so that we can be certain of this life and the afterlife.  So if you too are fearful or worried about dying, remember you have to pass before you can be reunited with believers who have already entered the grave.  In case you’re still up in the air, make your reservation for heaven today, 1 John 5:13.  When you do, you might come around to embracing the notion of being better off dead.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Which is Right in God’s Eyes?

Jesus was a master debater, always silencing those who tried to discredit his authority.  Whenever challenged by religious leaders, teachers of the law or wise individuals, Jesus used a common strategy to debunk his opponents.  One of the more famous encounters occurred after Jesus healed a demon possessed man.  His skeptics claimed that Jesus was secretly working for the devil, similar to a magician deceiving a crowd as an illusionist.

So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.  And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come, Mark 3:23-26.

To prevent further minds from believing in Jesus, Jewish officials tried to create a different memory of this popular leader.  Thus, one of the ancient Jewish writings discovered is known of the Talmud.  Authors of this historical book describe Jesus as the Great Magician.  Unable to logically explain the exorcisms, healings and miracles of Jesus, rabbis used earthly terms to de-emphasize his power.  Despite these efforts, people still believe in God’s power.

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions, Matthew 22:46.

As atheists continue to plant seeds of doubt at local college campus’ in the minds of students, is anyone asking what is right in God’s eyes?  Sure, movies like God is Not Dead and the War Room are making inroads, but it seems like Christians in America are fighting a losing battle.  Perhaps, its time to use the tactics of Jesus to convince a generation sitting on the fence.  Thus, whether you are debating absolutes, morality or worldviews, don’t forget to ask what is right in God’s eyes.

by Jay Mankus

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