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The Connection Between Faithfulness and Fruitfulness

From the time human beings are born into this world, there is an internal desire to want satisfaction. Subsequently, infants naturally cry and eventually proclaim “I want, I want, I want.” Some adults don’t grow out of or lose this selfish behavior. Thus, many Christians go through life wondering why they aren’t as productive and successful as they think they should be. This is where the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness comes into play.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, Deuteronomy 28:1-4.

As he was about to retire as Israel’s spiritual leader, passing the torch on to Joshua, Moses felt compelled to reveal the connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. Moses devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to blessings and curses. During his farewell address, Moses compares the choices individuals make to life and death, Deuteronomy 30:11-18. Choosing obedience by being faithful to the commands in the Bible results in blessings. Yet, if you forget God’s advice by doing what’s right in your own eyes, your life will be filled with anguish, heartache and painful remorse.

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, John 15:4-6.

Whatever decisions you have made in life, remember the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:19-23. This cry for help reveals a God of second chances. In the passage above, Jesus reveals another connection between faithfulness and fruitfulness. God is like a gardener who prunes human beings to stimulate spiritual growth. Yet, unless you remain within the Vine which is Jesus, you are unable to bear fruit. Staying connected to Jesus throughout life demonstrates faithfulness and yields spiritual fruit.

by Jay Mankus

Your Vibe Attracts Your Tribe

The term vibe can be best described as ambiance, aura, character and spirit that oozes out of your soul.  Others refer to this quality as charisma, a trait that a pied piper demonstrates.  People who exhibit a strong personality tend to develop a following.  Whether this occurs within your community, on social media or at your place of employment, these groups may resemble a tribe as in the days of the Old Testament.

So Moses and Aaron took these men who were designated by name, 18 and assembled all the congregation on the first day of the second month, and they registered by ancestry in their families (clans), by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names from twenty years old and upward, head by head, 19 just as the Lord had commanded Moses. So he numbered them in the Wilderness of Sinai, Numbers 1:17-19.

During the Exodus out of Egypt, the Israelites traveled in 12 groups.  These groups were named after the 12 sons of Israel.  Moses refers to these descendants as Tribes.  In the early days on earth, the order of your birth often dictated your ability to be successful in life.  Unfortunately, during the days of Judges, individuals began to do what was right in their own eyes.  Instead of keeping the ten commandments, worldly judges gave off bad vibes.  Thus, many tribes gradually became spiritually bankrupt.

What good has it done me if, [merely] from a human point of view, I fought with wild animals at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised [at all], let us eat and drink [enjoying ourselves now], for tomorrow we die. 33 Do not be deceived:“Bad company corrupts good morals,” 1 Corinthians 15:32-33.

In a letter to the church of Corinth, the apostle Paul warns Christians about negative influences in life.  Within a culture steered by philosophy, it wasn’t hard to justify and rationalize certain types of behavior.  In the passage above, Paul is blunt, warning people about getting close to those who demonstrate sketchy character.  Like the sowing principle, the vibe you give off to certain groups of people.  Therefore, don’t be mislead by bad company.  Rather, let your light shine throughout your community, Matthew 5:16, so that others will be drawn to Christ.

by Jay Mankus

No Roots; No Fruits

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away, Matthew 13:20-21.

If you are like me, you may ask yourself every now and then, “what am I doing?”  This self reflective question seeks to understand why you aren’t more productive, successful or victorious in life.  Despite attempts at improving my current situation, I feel like I’m stuck in slow motion, unable to get where I want to be.  This lack of progress brought me back to examine one of Jesus’ parables.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful, Matthew 13:22.

After sharing the parable of the Sower to a crowd of followers, the disciples were confused.  At one point, an unidentified disciple urges Jesus to stop be so mysterious as if to demand “why don’t you just come out and say what you mean?”  Moments later, Jesus withdraws to explain the meaning of this illustration to his disciples.  If you condense the two passages above Jesus suggests that if you don’t have strong spiritual roots, you won’t be able to bear spiritual fruit.

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead, James 2:26.

Sometime after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, one of Jesus’ earthly brothers provides further insight on the parable of the Sower.  The Holy Spirit is a well spring, the source for spiritual life.  Like a root system in need of nutritious soil, human souls will eventually die without an infusion of God’s Spirit.  Therefore, if you want to get back on track toward a faith in action, dig deep by implementing the advice of the apostle Paul in Colossians 2:6-7.  If you forgo this step I’m afraid you’ll end up like me, no roots and no fruits.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Origin of Blessings

The concept of blessings is a central focus of God’s covenant relationship beginning in the book of Genesis.  This term is mentioned over 600 times in the Old Testament.  Following the fall of human beings in the Garden of Eden, God countered the curse of Genesis 3:14-17 with a promise of blessings to Abraham and his descendents, Genesis 12:3.  However, this promise comes with a condition of obedience and if individuals stray from these commands this pattern can be reversed in the form of curses, Deuteronomy 27-28.

The Psalmist provides more concrete examples of blessings as well as how one arrives at becoming blessed.  The foundation of blessings derives from a blameless state, Psalm 119:1.  This process is achieved over time keeping the Bible’s statutes, seeking God with all your heart and walking in the ways of the Lord, Psalm 119:2.  To arrive at this desired goal, though perfection is unattainable, careful attention must be paid to decrees, avoiding short cuts and eliminating wrong from the equation, Psalm 119:3-4.  Passing the torch from one forefather, Moses, to another, advice has been passed on to maintain blessings, Joshua 1:8.

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.Joshua 1:8

Today, there are various beliefs, opinions and views on why someone is successful or not.  Yet, history contains examples of people, families and nations that were blessed over time as well as countless who experienced one disappointment after another.  Although the thought of being blessed by God is exciting, the work that goes along with this commitment can be exhausting.  Human nature causes even the strong to get side tracked and wander away from the truth.  Therefore, if you want to find God’s favor in 2015, follow the steps mentioned in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Matthew 6:33-34 and Galatians 5:25.  Go with God and the Lord will walk by your side.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33

by Jay Mankus

 

How Do You Measure Up?

Whether you’re daddy’s little girl or the son of Mr. so and so, its hard to live up to a parents lofty expectation.  Sure, most kids have their own aspirations and dreams, but with expectations comes the pressure to succeed.  Thus, every day at a concert, musical or sports complex across the fruited plains, fans are cheering their children on, hoping for the best.

A growing number of adults and guardians are precariously living their lives through their children.  Subsequently, parents have become like sports agents pushing youth into joining clubs and travel teams to fine tune their skills.  If successful, teenage prodigy’s are formed, dedicated to pleasing their moms and dads.  However, will these fragile souls continue or surpass expectations for greatness?

One of the greatest things I did in college was to opt to play intramural sports rather than play at the division 1 level.  Although winning was important, the thrill of competition and friendships surpassed my own expectations.  Sooner or later, you have to take ownership of your life, separating yourself from your parents goals.  Therefore, whatever you do in life, live out Colossians 3:17 and Colossians 3:23 so that God will be glorified by your life.

by Jay Mankus

The Anointing of Joy

Children tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves.  Subsequently, youth experience mountain top moments of jubilance and valleys of depression.  This topsy turvy twist exhausts one’s confidence, going from sky high to as low as you can go.  Thus, the presence of joy is like the temperature, rising and falling daily.

Recognizing this in adulthood, King David sought a permanent state.  Troubled by his own problems in life, God introduced the king to a special anointing.  Whether performed by Samuel or Nathan, his predecessor, Psalm 45:7 discloses an anointing of joy.  While the information is limited, perhaps this Old Testament practice is similar to Jesus’ words in John 10:10.

In an age of economic instability, parents like me struggle to find joy.  Lost in a sea of debts, the devil has become successful in stealing my joy weekly.  Thus, I find myself desperately seeking an anointing of joy.  Perhaps, we find ourselves in similar states, brought to our knees by the burdens of life, Matthew 11:28-30.  May the Holy Spirit counsel you until your worries are replaced by joy, John 16:12-15.

Please share how God has helped you find joy to help overcome their own trials in life.

by Jay Mankus

When You’ve Got Nothing Left to Give

In the film National Treasure, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin Gates, a treasure hunter with a tarnished reputation.  Despite trying to warn authorities, no one takes his threat serious, that the Declaration of Independence is in danger.  In life, there are times when you reach a similar fate, when you’ve done everything you can think of, with nothing else to give.

The apostle Paul refers to these moments in life as periods of humility, 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.  When you’re successful most of the time, individuals have a tendency to steal the spotlight from God by saying, “look at me!”  Whether you’re watching the Olympics, professional sports and a high school game, the victor receives the spoils.  However, behind the cameras, the losers are forced to face the fact they’re got good enough, with nothing left to give except reflecting on what went wrong.

Today, I find myself at the bottom of the barrel, leaning on the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.  As much as I want to be magically healed and return to work now, I am stuck with an aging imperfect body which need times to be restored.  Thus, I have nothing else to give except time.  In my weakness, Christ needs to be strong, to carry me through the frustration of being helpless.  When you’ve got nothing left to give, lean on God’s power to lift you up each time you fall!

by Jay Mankus

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