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Where the Vine and Shepherd Co-Exist

There are 46 parables of Jesus recorded in the four New Testament gospels. Two of these stories illustrate the personal relationship that God desires to have with human beings. In the first parable below, Jesus reveals God’s Open Door Policy, keeping the Shepherd’s Gate available and unlocked. Meanwhile, the second story John recounts is a living vine that is a source for life with supernatural power to bear fruit.

So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door [a]for the sheep. All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture, John 10:7-9.

Jesus compares himself to a shepherd who is overseeing a large flock of sheep. Like any caring shepherd, Jesus stands by the entrance, making sure every member of his flock is secured within the pen. Yet, life doesn’t always go as planned, with unseen circumstances lurking in the distance. Therefore, Jesus warns his sheep of thieves and robbers that will try to deceive and steal joy from your life.

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. If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:4-7.

Five chapters later, Jesus compares himself to an abundant Vine. Using the illustration of a gardener tending to and pruning each branch, this habit is designed to stimulate growth. When you learn to recognize and listen to God’s voice, this is where the Vine and Shepherd co-exist. Instead of relying on your own strength, when you learn to fully place your trust in Jesus, you’ll enter through the front door and remain connected to the Vine.

by Jay Mankus

Beyond the Book

The song Living in the Pages by Bruce Carroll changed my perspective of the Bible.  This 1995 release from the album One Summer Evening challenges Christians to spend their time on earth living in the pages of the Bible.  After finishing two different stints as a youth pastor, I realized that spiritual growth is directly linked to the quality time invested beyond the book.  This includes meditating upon, reflecting on and putting into practice biblical practices.  Without any sort of application, conviction and I nspiration, a willingness to change fades away.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

From my own personal experience, it doesn’t take long for me to resemble Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  First published in 1886 as the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this Robert Lewis Stevenson gothic novel uncovers the dual nature living inside of human beings.  Whenever I go a day or two without reading and studying the Bible, my behavior suddenly changes.  Impatience spreads, foul words come out of my mouth and my emphasis becomes self-centered.  Meanwhile, when I do read the Bible, jot down notes and write blogs influenced by this spiritual discipline, God becomes more of a priority in my life.  Thus, your faith depends upon what happens beyond the Bible.

So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ, Romans 10:17.

Since illiteracy was rampant among first century citizens, the Torah was regularly read out loud by priests and letters written by apostles and disciples shared by home church leaders.  In the passage above, the apostle Paul details the relationship between faith and the Bible.  The phrase out of sight, out of mind applies to Scripture.  If the numerous words of the Bible contain supernatural power to transform souls, then the more time you spend putting this advice into practice the better off you will be.  Therefore, beyond the book, put your faith into action so that your life may win the respect and trust of outsiders.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Burning of History

Nearly a year ago, a little known school in North Carolina made national news.  Richmond Early College High School near Rockingham decided to recall all 2017 yearbooks.  At first glance, I thought there may be a major defect, glitch or typo.  As I read deeper into this article, the culprit was a controversial slogan deemed hurtful, insensitive and racist.  All yearbooks were confiscated due to a quote used by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, “Build that wall.”

For I do not want you to be unaware, believers, that our fathers were all under the cloud [in which God’s presence went before them] and they all passed [miraculously and safely] through the [Red] Sea; And all [of them] were baptized into Moses [into his safekeeping as their leader] in the cloud and in the sea; and all [of them] ate the same spiritual food; and all [of them] drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not well-pleased with most of them, for they were scattered along the ground in the wilderness [because their lack of self-control led to disobedience which led to death], 1 Corinthians 10:1-5.

During a letter to an ancient Greek city, the apostle listed a series of mistakes made by the Israel.  Apparently, the Holy Spirit compelled Paul to bring up these misguided steps.  If you don’t learn from history, you become vulnerable to repeating these same errors.  However, if books are burned, hidden or taken off the shelves due to politically incorrect content, how will future generations learn from past and present sins.  In addition, if statues of Civil War heroes are destroyed or taken down, how can young people decipher the context of their lives in history.

Now these things [the warnings and admonitions] took place as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did. Do not be worshipers of handmade gods, as some of them were; just as it is written [in Scripture], “The people sat down to eat and drink [after sacrificing to the golden calf at Horeb], and stood up to play [indulging in immoral activities].” We must not indulge in [nor tolerate] sexual immorality, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand [suddenly] fell [dead] in a single day! We must not tempt the Lord [that is, test His patience, question His purpose or exploit His goodness], as some of them did—and they were killed by serpents. 10 And do not murmur [in unwarranted discontent], as some of them did—and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example and warning [to us]; they were written for our instruction [to admonish and equip us], upon whom the ends of the ages have come, 1 Corinthians 10:6-11.

Every year the Bible is one of the top selling books in America.  According to the author of Hebrews 4:12, this collection of 66 books has a special attraction.  These pages are living and active, having supernatural power to speak to hearts and minds each time you read.  Whenever individuals open the pages of the Bible, each chapter can admonish, equip and guide souls toward that which is good, right and true.  During the rise of Communism in Europe, Bibles were banned and confiscated along with crosses.  If Christians don’t stand up to defend, fight for and pray for truth, the burning of history will overtake America to erase the Judeo Christian values that this country was founded upon.  May this blog inspire hearts and minds to embrace history so that the future will be brighter than the past.

by Jay Mankus

 

Everything We Need

Whether you’re taking a class, solving a problem or studying a new concept, the hard part is knowing where to look to find the right answer.  While college professors often provide a study guide for examinations, God inspired individuals to record a series of letters that eventually formed the Bible.  According to one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, this book provides everything we need for life on earth.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness, 2 Peter 1:3.

Peter references God’s ability to use angelic, supernatural and unexpected events to provide.  The context of the passage above implies that God has bestowed everything necessary to live a dynamic spiritual life.  The more you hear, read and study about Jesus, Romans 10:17, faith increases as you learn through personal accounts of God at work inside of you.

Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, 2 Peter 1:4.

As you endure hardships within this life, God’s promises serve as a message of hope.  While some may chose to withdraw from the world like the Amish, God has called believers to live within, adding salt and light to a dark and dying world.  Although no one can escape sinning, remaining attached to the vine is essential, John 15:4.  The only way to escape corruption is through keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  Those who remain steadfast in the face of defeat will receive the assurance Peter speaks about in this passage.  The next time you are searching for answers, reach for the Bible and the truth will set you free from the burdens of this life.

by Jay Mankus

The Real Incredible Hulk

I’m not talking about Lou Ferrigno who played the Incredible Hulk for 5 seasons on the television series which aired on CBS from 1978-1982.  Nor am I referring to a Marvel Comic superhero like Spider Man, whose powers came as a result of a freak chemical accident.  Rather, the real incredible hulk was a man born around 1100 BC, over 3100 years ago.

In the annuals of history, records reveals civilizations of Nephilim, descendants of giants, Genesis 6:4.  However, the living hulk came from a traditional family, son of Manoah.  His birth in itself was a miracle, since his mother was sterile according to Judges 13:2-3.  Although an angel of the Lord foretold of Samson’s birth, this hulk received his power by keeping the Nazarene covenant with God: no razor shall touch his hair, no wine shall reach his lips and nothing unclean will touch his hands.

As a result, this incredible hulk tore apart the mouths of lions with his bare hands, Judges 14:5, killed 1,000 Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone, Judges 15:16 and pulled down the 2 pillars to a temple he was tied to, Judges 16:29-30.  Like comic book super heroes, Samson’s Kryptonite was a beautiful woman named Delilah.  Similar to a Hatfield marrying a McCoy, his marriage led to his subsequent death,  When Samson finally gave Delilah what she was after, the secret to his strength, his fate was sealed.

While alive, the incredible hulk did not rely on anger to display his might.  Samson’s supernatural power was bestowed upon him by God, a clear blessing from staying true to his parent’s vows.  Once Delilah cut his hair, Samson was powerless, cut off from God’s Spirit.  In this world filled with temptations, don’t allow compromise to render you useless.  Follow the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 28:1-2 and you will see incredible changes as you serve the Creator who endows all spiritual hulks!

by Jay Mankus

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