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Tag Archives: The Bible

The Anatomy of Story

Author John Trudy released his first edition of The Anatomy of Story in 2008. One of the goals of this book is to provide 22 Steps on how to become a master storyteller. As an expert in the field of writing screenplays, Trudy attempts to help amateur writers who don’t quite understand this process well enough. Beside the Anatomy of Story, Trudy shares his secrets for writing a compelling script on podcasts as a guest speaker and teaches writing courses across the country.

As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s office; and He said to him, Be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]. And he rose and followed Him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples, Matthew 9:9-10.

The Bible contains it’s own master story teller. Using a technique known as parables, the New Testament records 42 accounts scattered throughout the 4 gospels. Jesus masters the art of communication with a simple story that relates to common citizens. Instead of speaking down to individuals as the Son of God, Jesus meets people where they are, using parables to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Rather than spoon feed his audience, Jesus uses riddles to force listeners to figure his message out on their own.

And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick. 13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy [that is, readiness to help those in trouble] and not sacrifice and sacrificial victims. For I came not to call and invite [to repentance] the righteous (those who are upright and in right standing with God), but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin), Matthew 9:11-13.

Prior to the days of cable television and the internet, American families sat at their kitchen table every night for dinner. Instead of eating quickly before heading off in your own direction, this time was set aside to share what happened to you during the day. While I didn’t enjoy being forced to sit in the same place for 30 minutes, my mom or dad always shared an interesting story to pass the time. As an introvert, COVID-19 has forced many to live this past year in isolation. Yet, I long for the day when families can recline together without wearing a mask to rediscover the anatomy of story.

by Jay Mankus

Fearless Before Evil

The Bible refers to evil as any mindset that which is opposed to God and His purposes. While the word evil can refer to anything that causes harm, everything that contradicts the holy nature of God is considered evil in God’s eyes. With or without the moral dimension, evil has a way of infiltrating lives in subtle ways. When evil attaches itself to human lives, individuals will begin to act out in anger, often through emotional outbursts. Unfortunately, when evil behavior is confronted, defense mechanisms activate, forming a wall that can divide and further separate rocky relationships.

Elijah replied, I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, by forsaking the commandments of the Lord and by following the Baals. 19 Therefore send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of [the goddess] Asherah, who eat at [Queen] Jezebel’s table. 20 So Ahab sent to all the Israelites and assembled the prophets at Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah came near to all the people and said, How long will you halt and limp between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him! But if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word, 1 Kings 18:18-21.

As Christians mature in their faith, the goal is to recognize evil with a readiness to stand up to it as a moments notice. One of the greatest examples of this in the Bible occurs when Elijah persuades 950 secular prophets into a spiritual duel. Instead of using weapons, Elijah comes up with a proposal to call fire down from heaven. The winner of this challenge will be the first to have their God bring fire down from. Although no coin flip was used to determine the order, Elijah allows followers of Asherah and Baal to go first. If you read the entire passage, 1 Kings 18:18-29, Elijah is so confident that he begins taunting these unsuccessful prophets.

At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is musing, or he has gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened. 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with knives and lances until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 Midday passed, and they played the part of prophets until the time for offering the evening sacrifice, but there was no voice, no answer, no one who paid attention. 30 Then Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me. And all the people came near him. And he repaired the [old] altar of the Lord that had been broken down [by Jezebel], 1 Kings 18:27-30.

When these secular prophets finally gave up, Elijah goes to extremes to prove that the God of Abraham is Lord. Instead of appeasing these prophets, Elijah repaired an altar previously smashed by his opponents and prepared an offering to God. To prove a point, Elijah fills the area around his sacrifice with water, knowing what His Lord was about to do. On this day upon Mount Carmel, Elijah stared evil in the face and won. According to eye witnesses of this miracle, God sent fire down from heaven, consumed Elijah’s sacrifice and licked up all of the water in the trench that was dug. As evil continues to ravage cities, communities and states, may Elijah’s testimony inspire readers to be fearless before evil today.

by Jay Mankus

Getting Your House in Order in 2021

The Bible uses the term house when referring to the first century church. However, other verses suggest the mind of church leaders. Ideally, this is where the things of God’s will and understanding of faith forms a spiritual house. Meanwhile, the apostle Paul applies temple, usually associated with a place of worship, in connection with a human’s body. When you combine these two expressions, getting your house in order refers to cleansing and purging your body of your past to make room for God to abide and dwell within.

But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any, Matthew 12:43.

In the passage above, Jesus is speaking to some religious leaders who are searching for a sign from God. Using an evil and adulterous generation as a transition, Jesus points to the spiritual realm that negatively influences broken, tired and weary souls. While freedom from addiction and bad habits is possible, the stronger the unclean spirits attached to individuals are, the harder it is to break free. Recovering addicts are never truly in the clear as when unclean spirits return, houses not in order will be easy prey as temptations intensify.

Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation, Matthew 12:44-45.

Most recovering addicts tend to have some form of accountability. Whether this involves a group that meets weekly, a mentor you stay in contact with monthly or a good friend who isn’t afraid to demonstrate tough love, accountability helps the weak begin their recovery. Nonetheless, only when reminders of addiction is purged and removed will the healing process progress. Therefore, if you want 2021 to be a year where freedom reigns, get your spiritual house in order this year.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Comparison

Guilt by Association dates back to 1525 as a Medieval Latin expression. However, the idea that an individual is guilty of a crime because he associates with the person who actually committed it can be found in the Bible. While Eve actually ate the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, Adam was right there with her the whole time, Genesis 3:6-7. One chapter later, Cain is the first to experience guilt by comparison.

And in the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground. And Abel brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat portions. And the Lord had respect and regard for Abel and for his offering, Genesis 4:3-4.

Whenever individuals begin to believe that the grass is greener on the other side where someone else resides, envy and jealousy is conceived. The saying “grass is always greener on the other side” originated in the 19th century. The more you compare your own life to a family member, friend or neighbor, guilt can consume your soul by wishing you had this or that. When Cain realized how hard it was to be a farmer, the comparisons began.

But for Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

Cain’s guilt from comparison leads to a one on one conversation with God. Trying to figure out why Abel’s offering was embraced by God while his was rejected results in anger, depression and frustration. In response to Cain’s displeasure, God reveals how guilt by comparison has lead to an internal struggle. When sin crouches at your door, you must resist or else guilt will ravage your life. Instead of wanting what you don’t have, appreciate all the little things that God has blessed you with in life.

by Jay Mankus

The Ministry of Reconciliation

The ministry of reconciliation dates back to Genesis 3:6-8. After committing original sin, Adam and Eve broke their covenant with God, Genesis 2:15-17. Instead of obeying God’s only rule in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge pursued this couple to do what was right in their own eyes. The punishment for their disobedience was expulsion, Genesis 3:22-24.

But all things are from God, Who through Jesus Christ reconciled us to Himself [received us into favor, brought us into harmony with Himself] and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation [that by word and deed we might aim to bring others into harmony with Him], 2 Corinthians 5:18.

In one of 4 letters written to the church at Corinth (only 2 are in the Bible), the apostle Paul introduces the ministry of reconciliation. Sin has a way of changing your priorities, focusing on earthly pleasures rather than eternal treasures. Subsequently, we all go astray, wandering off like a prodigal child until you begin to become home sick. Repentance serves as a U-Turn, fleeing sin by turning around to make peace with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

The earthly brother of Jesus highlights what modern reconciliation resembles. As humility leads troubled souls toward confession, a foundation for revival is laid out for others to follow. When souls are healed and restored, there is an inner desire to help others receive what you have experienced. While the 2020 election will cause many to harbor bitterness in their hearts, may the ministry of reconciliation turns lives around to unite as one.

by Jay Mankus

Diakrisis

Pneumatikós is an adjective which is derived from pneúma, the Greek word for spirit. Pneumatikós refers to the spiritual realm,  the invisible sphere in which the Holy Spirit imparts faith. In the passage below, the apostle Paul choses the Greek word πίστις. As individuals begin to listen to and read the Bible, hearts, minds and souls are persuaded by conviction to believe in the risen son of God, Jesus.

But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself), Romans 10:16-17.

As individuals enter into a personal relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10, a variety of spiritual gifts are imparted. One of these gifts is Diakrisis, the spiritual gift of discernment. Whenever anyone begins to hear voices, logic questions if you are crazy or not? However, as I sought counsel from other spiritual leaders, I wasn’t sure what to do or how to proceed. Several years later, I attended a 2 day conference on discernment. During one workshop, I realized that writing was one of the best ways to utilize Diakrisis.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. 16 [And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear (unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives], 1 Peter 3:15-16.

A few days after attending this event, I spoke with a woman from my Bible Study. After picking her brain about her own blog, Express Yourself 4Him was conceived. Like anything in life, the initial years was a learning experience, trying to figure out the content, format and overall objective. Using what I learned as a high school Bible teacher, Diakrisis led me to turn my posts into a daily devotional. Although some topics that I chose may not relate to you, I feel called to share my faith through writing about what God is teaching me daily. This is Diakrisis in action.

by Jay Mankus

Where is the Spirit of the Lord?

Prior to the New Testament, the Spirit of the Lord is described as a presence that takes over your body. Similar to a momentum swing during a sporting event, an inner confidence spreads as teammates begin to believe that victory is on the way, 1 Samuel 16:13-14. However, the Spirit of the Lord also has the ability to depart as well, like it did for King Saul. If God’s Spirit can come and go, learning to keep in step with the Holy Spirit is essential, Galatians 5:25.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom), 2 Corinthians 3:17.

Yet, the apostle Paul adds another element to the Spirit of the Lord in the passage above. Similar to his words on the fruits of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23, Paul explains what the Holy Spirit can do for you. First and foremost, the Spirit of the Lord brings freedom to those formally held hostage by addictions and cravings of their flesh. When the Spirit of the Lord is present, liberty is made possible through repentance.

And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit, 2 Corinthians 3:18.

The Bible serves as a spiritual mirror for all human beings. If you are not reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis, God’s reflection slowly disappears. Thus, the Bible serves as a wardrobe, the entrance to the Holy Spirit like C.S. Lewis’ the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The more you open this living book, the greater your chances increase for accessing the Spirit of the Lord, Romans 10:17. As you draw near to God, the Spirit of the Lord will come close to you, James 4:7-8.

by Jay Mankus

Inspired by the Spirit of a Living God

The author of Hebrews refers to the Bible as a book that is living and active, Hebrews 4:12. These supernatural words come alive as souls are activated, energized, and motivated to share what the Holy Spirit brings to light. Compared to a double edged sword, spiritual warriors can use the Bible for protection against the Devil, Matthew 4:7 and quickly go on the offense to take back spiritual footholds, Matthew 4:10.

You show and make obvious that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, not written with ink but with [the] Spirit of [the] living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the reliance and confidence that we have through Christ toward and with reference to God, 2 Corinthians 3:3-4.

While writing a letter to the Church at Corinth, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write down what God put on his heart. Although the original copy of this New Testament book was written in pen, the Spirit of a living God flowed through Paul. Apparently, Paul was in the zone, writing until his inspiration, thoughts, and words ceased. This experience was detailed in a letter to a teenager pastor as God breathes life into us, 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Not that we are fit (qualified and sufficient in ability) of ourselves to form personal judgments or to claim or count anything as coming from us, but our power and ability and sufficiency are from God. [It is He] Who has qualified us [making us to be fit and worthy and sufficient] as ministers and dispensers of a new covenant [of salvation through Christ], not [ministers] of the letter (of legally written code) but of the Spirit; for the code [of the Law] kills, but the [Holy] Spirit makes alive, 2 Corinthians 3:5-6.

Since February 4th, 2012, I written over 3,100 blogs. When I sit down in front of my computer, I never fully know what direction God will lead me. Most of the time, I have an idea of what I want to write, but the Holy Spirit has a way of taking over, Psalm 119:105. However, some days the Spirit moves and other days writing becomes a chore. Nonetheless, day after day I am inspired by the Spirit of the Living God each week to write.

by Jay Mankus

PERMA

The technical term PERMA is an acronym for a model of well-being put forth by Martin Seligman. Seligman is considered a pioneer in in the field of positive psychology. PERMA consists of five important building blocks of well-being and happiness. The P stands for positive emotions, E for engagement, R for relationships, M for mission and A for accomplishments. This model was designed to help those individuals who have experienced post traumatic stress disorder and want to overcome this through a major comeback mentally.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore, Psalm 16:11.

The Bible compliments the PERMA model through a series of promises. Whenever you are on the road to recovery, doubt is one of the greatest obstacles, filling your mind with unbelief. Following a grueling injury while running a cross country race in high school, my doctors weren’t optimistic of me making a full recovery. After seeing the x-rays of my torn tendons, I was told that I would never run again, a permanent screw would have to be placed into my ankle, and I’d probably walk with a limp the rest of my life.

If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love. 11 I have told you these things, that My joy and delight may be in you, and that your joy and gladness may be of full measure and complete and overflowing, John 15:10-11.

At this time as a 16 year old, I wasn’t aware of the power of prayer. The day before my operation I was mobbed by Christian friends who laid hands on me, praying for a successful surgery. Twenty four hours later, the chief surgeon at Thomas Jefferson Hospital was amazed, explaining this procedure to me after I woke up. Like a skeptic who became open to the power of God, my ankle magically popped into place after twisting it back into where it belonged. Although I never heard of PERMA until listening to a recent sermon, I understood the importance of removing doubt from your mind before you pray, Matthew 21:19-22. May prayer be your PERMA.

by Jay Mankus

A Part or Apart?

Any great story teller is able to interweave reality with a past event to impart knowledge. The four gospel authors of the Bible record 42 parables shared by Jesus. While there were probably many more shared during Jesus’ 3 year earthly ministry, each of these stories include a nugget of truth. Depending upon the length of these encounters, singular or multiple truths and wisdom have been left behind for readers to discover and digest.

I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. 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, John 15:1-4.

One of the most famous stories of the Bible compares God to a gardener. Meanwhile, Jesus is a vine, connected to God with the purpose of bearing fruit. However, there is a catch. If Christians remain in and stay a part of the vine, blessings will occur in the form of spiritual fruit. However, if you choose to live life on your own, apart from God, it’s impossible to bear fruit.

Be alert and on your guard; stand firm in your faith (your conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, keeping the trust and holy fervor born of faith and a part of it). Act like men and be courageous; grow in strength! – 1 Corinthians 16:13

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul puts a new spin on this concept. Instead of using the analogy of a vine, Paul writes about faith. Faith isn’t something that you take on and off like clothes. Rather, faith is designed to be a part of you as your relationship with God grows and matures. Just as Jesus urged believers to abide in Him, Paul reminds the church that faith is a part of your new identity in Christ. Therefore, don’t drift away, apart from God, but make Jesus a part of your daily life.

by Jay Mankus

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