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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

The Presence of Jesus in the Old Testament

Foreshadowing is an indication of what is to come. When plan A failed, allowing Adam and Eve to have free reign of the Garden and Eden except for the Tree of Knowledge, God uses imagery to introduce plan B. The apostle Paul explains the science of God in Romans 5:12-21. What Adam failed to do, being obedient to God, Jesus is sent several thousand years later to seek and to save that which was lost, Luke 19:10.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring; He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel, Genesis 3:15.

In the second book of the Bible, the Lord raises up a man named Moses to be the voice of God for Israel. The only problem was Moses suffered from a severe speech impediment, Exodus 4:10. Despite getting frustrated with Moses’ lack of faith, God sends Aaron to speak on his behalf until Moses finds the courage to confront Pharaoh. The only way to survive an angel of death was to sacrifice a perfect lamb, without blemishes. Then sprinkle it’s blood above and upon your door posts. This lamb is symbolic of Jesus.

And you shall eat it thus: [as fully prepared for a journey] your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. 12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment [proving their helplessness]. I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be for a token or sign to you upon [the doorposts of] the houses where you are, [that] when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall be upon you to destroy you when I smite the land of Egypt, Exodus 12:11-13.

Seven hundred years prior to the birth of Christ, a seer named Isaiah prophesied about Jesus’ birth, life and death. Isaiah 53:1-10 compares Jesus to a shepherd laying his life down for his sheep. The disciple who Jesus loved echoes this in John 10:1-11. While the Old Testament does show the wrath of God poured out upon the disobedient, the presence of Jesus sets the stage for God’s unconditional love in the New Testament. May this blog remind you of the numerous promises of God that have been fulfilled and those yet still to come.

by Jay Mankus

Fence Jumping

Before the days of gated communities and security cameras, home owners erected fences to keep people off their property.  Animals lovers added big guard dogs to scare off potential trespassers.  Despite these obvious warnings, if these obstacles meant saving time through a short cut, I was willing to take the risk as a teenager.  Depending upon who was with me at the time, we would approach cautiously and look in every direction to see if it was safe.  When the timing was right, my friends and I jumped the fence, ran and cleared the other side.

The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out, John 10:2-3.

The Bible refers to a different kind of fence, a shepherd’s pen.  Early in the morning, first century shepherds led their sheep to a pasture to graze during the day, leading them with his staff.  Before night fall, the shepherd would count each one before placing them back into a pen for the night.  However, his work was not done, often sleeping outside overnight to protect his sheep from potential fence jumpers, wild animals hoping to get a free meal.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it, Matthew 7:14.

Today, fence jumpers still exist.  Some do so to escape a troubled past, hoping to find a new life on the other side.  Some find the grass greener on the opposing side of their fence.  A combination of discontentment and jealousy entice these people to consider exchanging one fence for another.  Meanwhile, others try to find the easiest way possible through life, even if it means cutting some corners here and there.  According to Jesus, only a few enter through the eternal gate that leads to life.  While countless attempt to jump this fence, no one has or will ever be successful.  Therefore, if you want to enter this place you must listen for and to the Shepherd to lead you to the gate of heaven.

by Jay Mankus

Hireling, Servant or Friend?

The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. – John 10:12

Depending upon your desire, energy or level of commitment, you will likely fall into one of 3 categories.  The unmotivated will fall into a hireling classification, doing things because its a job.  Those who enjoy their place of employment will likely transform into a servant, taking ownership of the business where they work.  Finally, the friend goes one step further, placing their heart and soul into what they do daily.

The greatest among you will be your servant. – Matthew 23:11

The hardest part of any career is uncertainty, when the dedication you pour forth is not rewarded, going unnoticed.  Unless you receive some sort of compliment, encouragement or raise, some may give up before experiencing the fruits of their labor.  Thus, maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult, often coming to a point where you begin to think, “what’s the point anyway?”  Even the most devoted servant needs a pat on the back to keep them going.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:15

According to Jesus, there is a difference between a servant and friend.  When someone becomes all in, surrendering a what’s in it for me mentality, they turn the corner.  This devotion sees the big picture, doing what’s best for their heavenly Father.  “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it, ” Matthew 16:25.  May the Holy Spirit lead to from a hireling, beyond the serving phase to a friend in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

To the Next Generation

When I was your age, I had to walk to school both ways up hill.  This mantra is repeated to each new generation, worded slightly different to drive home the point, “you have it so much easier than I did.”   Whether this is exaggerated, somewhat true or simply a ploy to illicit guilt, the next generation is waiting for a positive message.

A humble shepherd understood this concept, passed over as an after thought by his own father, 1 Samuel 16:2-11.  If there is one lesson everyone can learn, don’t judge someone based upon their physical features, impressive or not.  Rather, the heart holds the key to greatness, 1 Samuel 16:7.  However, unless you speak from the heart, Luke 6:45, no one will know for sure who they should follow.

David verbalizes his beliefs in Psalm 71:14-18.  Recognizing that not everyone shares the same faith, the king felt led by God to express what his eyes have seen.  Instead of regurgitating the same old mantra, David was inspired to pass onto the next generation a message of hope.  Therefore, if you know the truth, don’t withhold this information.  Rather, boldly proclaim the marvelous acts of a risen Messiah to the next generation, 1 Corinthians 5:54-58.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Sheep Without A Shepherd

If you’ve ever gone to a mall to people watch, it doesn’t take long to see who knows where they are going and who is lost, trying to find their way.  Whether you’re driving a car, searching for something you’ve misplaced or walking on a unmarked trail, everyone from time to time experiences the pain of loss.  In the midst of this crisis, a sense of helplessness paralyzes souls, making it obvious that no matter hard one tries, you can’t save yourself.

While traveling throughout towns and villages, Jesus observed the crowd of individuals following him.  Watching intently, tears began to swell up in his eyes, as Jesus saw this group as sheep without a shepherd, Matthew 9:35-36.  They were looking for something more in life, hoping that Jesus had the answer.  Like sheep aimlessly roaming the countryside, hungry hearts longed for meaning to life.

Today, the silent majority wonders when their Shepherd will return.  As chaos abounds, modern sheep have been led astray by false prophets, hypocritical leaders and the twisting of the Bible.  Exiting the church after high school or during college, pessimistic sheep are searching for alternative means to enter heaven’s gate.  Although some turn back, coming to their senses like the prodigal in Luke 15, a growing number remain sheep without a shepherd.

by Jay Mankus

 

What Did He Know that Others Didn’t?

According to Webster, confidence is a feeling or belief that someone is good, possessing the ability to succeed.  Although this may be confused with cockiness, success is a state of mind, ushering individuals toward pleasant places.  Apparently hidden within the words of Psalm 16 are clues to the meaning of life, left behind by a man who possessed a heart of gold.  However, its worth pursuing, what did David know that other kings of Israel never grasped?

Some how David understood the teachings of Jesus without ever meeting him.  If you don’t believe me, take for instance the words of Psalm 16:2 and John 15:4.  While Jesus is using a parable about a vine, gardener and branches, David came to this conclusion on his own.  Meanwhile, the concept of Psalm 16:11 and John 10:10 are nearly identical minus the portion about the thief called the devil.  Sure, David was a shepherd prior to becoming king and Jesus was a shepherd for lost people, Luke 19:10, but who communicated these spiritual truths to David.

Despite his complaining, disappointment and frustration from seeing the wicked prosper, God used prophets, the words of the Old Testament and a still small voice, known today as the Holy Spirit to bring David to a place of spiritual maturity.  The king recognized failures often occurred when he relied on his strength and wisdom.  Furthermore, David had reached an age where he began to see answered prayers, blessings and miracles from time spent on his knees.  Thus, the path of life, his purpose for being born and taste of the abundant life filled this king with a blessed assurance.  May you come to a place like David where God is real and his promises are fulfilled!

by Jay Mankus

Finding A Place Beyond the Rainbow

As a child, watching the Wizard of Oz was an annual event, terrifying at times, haunted by the wicked witch.  Yet, I always hung in there for the finish, expecting the fairy tale ending.  However, I wonder if any other grown ups still think there a better place some where over the rainbow.

According to King David, this place does exist, like heaven on earth, Psalm 23:6.  Once an individual is able to place their sole trust in the divine shepherd, access to a life beyond the rainbow is attainable.  Though gold is not mentioned, happy days are here again and again, staying in daily fellowship with God.  This spiritual anointing is symbolic of rebirth, living life to its fullest, John 10:10.

Unfortunately, life deals out more nightmares than fairy tales.  Sure, from time to time, miracles do happen, but its hard to have faith in a world full of people falling apart at the seams, oozing a trail of sin in their rear view mirror.  This negativity serves like a bad after taste you can’t get rid of with gum or mints.  Rather, hope lies in the beholder, seeing beyond the current shower into what is ahead, the rainbow.  May you experience this joy before you die, Luke 23:43.

by Jay Mankus

An Angel and The Shepherd

There are some amazing true stories in the Bible, especially those who encountered Jesus like a date with destiny.  However, I stumbled across a new one this morning, intriguing yet mysterious.  According to Genesis 48:15-16, Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, shares a story of 2 people who protected him.  On his deathbed, Israel briefly mentions a shepherd and angel, possibly one and the same.

Israel refers to God as his shepherd, safely leading, protecting and providing for him like the promise within Psalm 23:1-4.  In fact, one may go out on a limb, claiming that David’s words may have been part of oral tradition, a reminder of God’s provisions of his forefathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Either way, Israel clearly recognizes God’s providence over his life, delivering his family from starvation during the 7 year famine when his son Joseph becomes governor of Egypt.

The second character is more difficult to understand due to the lack of information in this passage.  An English teacher will look at the capital A in Genesis 48:16, suggesting that this angel is likely God.  However, theologians might conclude Moses wanted to include God’s head angel, possibly the archangel Gabriel or Michael.  Although it would be nice to know who Israel means, one thing is clear.  This angel saved him from Esau’s anger, being wronged by his Uncle Laban and guided Israel throughout his life like a guardian angel.  Thus, whether you or young or old, don’t forget about the God who serves as both an angel and shepherd.

by Jay Mankus

In the Middle Seat

Before the days of mandatory car seats and vehicles with air conditioning, I usually found myself in the middle seat, between my 2 older sisters.  Recently, I was forced to take the only empty seat on an airplane, traveling from Chicago to Los Angelos for 4 hours with 2 strangers.  Whether as a child or adult, being caught in between can be unsettling.  Yet, while in this position, you have the ability to influence others.

After serving 6 years on a church board, I realized that I was sitting in the middle pew, between the shepherd and his sheep. John 10:1-5.  Unfortunately, I lost sight of the role God had placed me in.  A similar fate spread to most of the other elders, who wilted when the going got tough.  Although I thought I had done what I could, hindsight has revealed I should have been more proactive in protecting God’s flock.

From a modern perspective, the man and or woman in the middle has a great opportunity to sway others toward their worldview.  When a leader seizes the moment, their witness, good or bad, can mold, shape and transform innocent bystanders, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.  By rubbing off on those whom you encounter, you have the power to Leave Jesus as portrayed in Send the Beggar’s song on their Closer to Complete album.  Therefore, if you want to leave your mark on this generation, don’t let the sun go down until you have maximized each moment you find yourself sitting in the middle seat.

by Jay Mankus

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