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When Gusts of Doubt Uproot Your Faith

Every Easter pastors, priests, and teachers read passages in the Bible of disciples abandoning Jesus in His greatest time of need. When asked to pray late at night, they fell asleep. After being confronted about his relationship, Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. As the winds of doubt began to blow on that original Good Friday, the only disciple not uprooted by the pressure to conform was John who took care of Mary after Jesus ascended into heaven.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides], James 1:6-8.

According to first centurion historians, even Jesus’ earthly brother, James, did not believe until Resurrection Sunday. Perhaps, the passage above is a personal confession, disappointed by his own lack of faith. Instead using his God given ears to hear and eyes to see, gusts of doubt blinded James from Jesus’ true identity. Nearly 2000 years later, the gusts of doubt continue to blow. Some of these storms are hidden by gray clouds, appearing without a moments notice. When the sky clears, a trail of wounded souls and debris remain.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

The apostle Paul compares faith to a deeply rooted tree, Colossians 2:7, nourished and built up by Christ. Unfortunately, winds of doubt often separate believers from their source of light and life. After cursing an unproductive fig tree, the disciples were shocked by Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus uses this teachable moment to reveal how doubt impacts his followers. Therefore, the next time you feel the gusts of doubt begin to blow, clear your mind before prayer is exercised to secure a firm defense.

by Jay Mankus

An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

Born to Win

C.S. Lewis defines progress as the process of arriving in his book Mere Christianity. Meanwhile, winning is gaining victory in a contest or competition. If you are a perfectionist like me, you are probably keeping score of your wins and losses daily. However, if life is more like a marathon than a sprint, pacing yourself and participating in strict training is essential for success. If you believe in Romans 8:28-29, then you are born to win.

[But the Lord rebukes Jeremiah’s impatience, saying] If you have raced with men on foot and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with horses? And if [you take to flight] in a land of peace where you feel secure, then what will you do [when you tread the tangled maze of jungle haunted by lions] in the swelling and flooding of the Jordan? – Jeremiah 12:5

If this is your destiny, it’s easy to become overconfident along the way. This complacency often results in poor training habits, becoming out of shape spiritually. The analogy above is designed to illustrate what you can handle and what you can’t. If you aren’t able to be competitive in a race against other men, you won’t have a shot at progressing to the next level. When you’re born to win, just showing up each day won’t get it done.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; Hebrews 12:5.

Integrity is doing what’s right when nobody is looking. Therefore, being born to win requires added responsibility. The context of the passage above begins with an image of dead Christians, looking down from heaven, cheering you on as you compete in the race of life. The author of Hebrews encourages readers to keep your eyes on the prize, fixated on the cross of Christ. Just like keeping your head up while running maintains your momentum, keeping your eyes on heaven will secure victory in the end, 1 John 5:13.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus: The Master of All Trades

While attending a youth ministry trade school following college, I read a book entitled The Master of all Trades. The author used miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John as a case study. When I studied each of these accounts, I realized that Jesus was proving his mastery over a series of elements. Although I can’t remember the author’s name or find the book online, this comparison provides a clear illustration that Jesus indeed is the master of all trades.

Eight Miracles In The Gospel Of John  

  1. Water Into Wine John 2:1-11
  2. Healing the official’s son John 4:43-54.
  3. The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda John 5:1-9 
  4. The Feeding of the 5000 John 6:1-14.
  5. Walking on the Water (John 6:16-25).
  6. The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41).
  7. Raising Lazarus From The Dead (John 11:1-44).
  8. Casting net into sea catching 153 fishes (John 21:5-8).

When Jesus turns water into wine, he defies the laws of science and reveals his mastery over quality. In the process of healing an official’s son, Jesus conquers distance by healing this boy from afar. While visiting an invalid at a pool, lingering with this condition for thirty-eight years, Jesus shows his mastery over time. During the feeding of the 5000, Jesus shows his ability to overcome the odds, able to provide no matter how great the quantity. In a storm, Jesus walks on water to highlight his power over the elements on the earth.

There are also many other signs and miracles which Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written (recorded) in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [through Who He is], John 20:30-31.

At the end of John’s gospel, it’s clear that thousands of miracles performed by Jesus were left out of the Bible. John merely selects 8 that illustrate Jesus’ mastery of all trades. The final 3 give hope to those who seem to be in an irrevocable situation. Whether you’ve been without one of your 5 key senses from birth, on the verge of death, or failing miserably in your career, Jesus has the power to alter your current situation. As long as you believe, the master of all trades can do wonders for you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery of God’s Will

Mystery refers to something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. Whether you’re watching a well done movie, trying to solve a complicated problem or exploring a foreign topic, you may find yourself baffled. Depending upon how hungry you are to resolve these question marks, riddles take time to unravel. Like trying to complete a complex thousand piece jigsaw puzzle, you need to complete the outside edge before your picture comes into focus.

Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him, 10 [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth, Ephesians 1:9-10.

One of the greatest enigmas in life is narrowing in on God’s will for your own life. Sometimes you may whittle it to one of two career paths before the Lord throws you a curve. Throughout college I thought I would either become a golf course architect or become a youth pastor. While completing a duel internship in Ohio, I followed a calling to go into youth ministry. Yet, just 2 years later, I burned myself out, got married and ended up working as an assistant golf professional. During my first Player’s Ability Test, the big step to become a teaching golf profession, God intervened on numerous occasions, a clear sign that this wasn’t meant to be. When you 3 and 4 putt the easiest hole on the course when 5 putts would have been enough, I changed directions,

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

Nearly 25 years later, I still haven’t solved the mystery of God’s will for my life. While I do believe God wanted me to move back to the East Coast to attend seminary, a rare eye disease prevented me finishing a master’s in theology. Although the apostle Paul suggests keeping in step with the Holy Spirit is possible, Galatians 5:25, I tend to get lost, drifting off on a my own every year. I did spend 10 years of my life perfectly aligned with God’s will as a high school Bible teacher and golf coach. Meanwhile, I believe starting this blog 9 years ago also fits into God’s plan. Nonetheless, I have no idea on what my next step is except for following Paul’s advice listed above so that the mystery of God’s will for my life is unveiled.

by Jay Mankus

When Ungodly Beliefs Hinder Your Ability to Love

I was introduced to the concept of ungodly beliefs while reading the book Restoring the Foundations. Authors Betsy and Chester Kylstra claim ungodly beliefs can gain access to individuals through painful experiences. These lies that people come to believe arrive unexpectedly through hurtful and traumatic events. As minds begin to seek answers to why this or that occurred in your life, a strong emotional pull opens a door into your soul. Fueled by doubt and uncertainty, thoughts such as “God doesn’t care about me, I’m not good enough, or I’ll never amount to anything” hinders one’s ability to love.

You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ]. A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church], Galatians 5:7-9.

In the passage above, one of the churches the apostle Paul helped start began to struggle with their own ungodly beliefs. Influenced by a religious sect who added circumcision as a requirement to be saved, a spiritual elitism entered the Galatian church. This mentality became so prevalent that Barnabas and Peter began to withdraw from Gentiles Christians, believing that a close association with Gentiles would make them unclean. This unwillingness to let go of Jewish customs, regulations, and traditions inhibited their ability to love their love as themselves.

But, brethren, if I still preach circumcision [as some accuse me of doing, as necessary to salvation], why am I still suffering persecution? In that case the cross has ceased to be a stumbling block and is made meaningless (done away). 12 I wish those who unsettle and confuse you would [go all the way and] cut themselves off! 13 For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another, Galatians 5:11-13.

This is the context as Paul introduces acts of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-24. Depending upon what you allow yourself to believe will dictate the actions that you will take. You can either listen to God’s voice by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit or indulge your earthly desires. Ungodly beliefs are theories you pick up over time from parents, peers, and other spheres of influences. When these beliefs contradict the Bible, payback and revenge will replace love. If this blog finds you in a bad mood, struggling to be nice, explore Restoring the Foundations so that healing will enable you to love your neighbor as yourself.

by Jay Mankus

Prayers to Emulate

According to a recent survey, 90% of the news in the newspaper and on television is negative because that’s what human beings pay attention to. Apparently, consumers of cable and local television have become so desensitized that stories on positive current events is either ignored or drown out by the latest crisis. If you don’t believe me, just check out the death toll of the Coronavirus posted on nearly every news site. This reality has led me to search the Bible for prayers to emulate in a world searching for answers and hope.

After these things, the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became sick; and his sickness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, What have you against me, O man of God? Have you come to me to call my sin to remembrance and to slay my son? 19 He said to her, Give me your son. And he took him from her bosom and carried him up into the chamber where he stayed and laid him upon his own bed, 1 Kings 17:17-19.

After listening to a sermon last weekend, I was reminded of the story of a poor single woman whose child was extremely ill. Sounds like a typical day in America, minus being unemployed and uninsured. After listening to the ordeals of this woman, Elijah feels compelled to do something. Sensing death was near, Elijah takes this boy into a small chamber and laid him upon a bed. Crying out to the Lord on behalf of this family, Elijah prays for a miracle, trying three times before finally reviving this little boy.

And Elijah cried to the Lord and said, O Lord my God, have You brought further calamity upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by slaying her son? 21 And he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord and said, O Lord my God, I pray You, let this child’s soul come back into him. 22 And the Lord heard the voice of Elijah, and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23 And Elijah took the child, and brought him down out of the chamber into the [lower part of the] house and gave him to his mother; and Elijah said, See, your son is alive! – 1 Kings 17:20-23

Elijah’s prayer reminds me of Jesus’ encounter with Jairus’ daughter, Mark 5:22-42. While on his way to check on this twelve year old girl, Jesus is distracted by the needs of others. A woman suffering from a bleeding disorder, slows Jesus’ journey. By the time Jesus reaches Jairus’ home, weeping family members spread word of this girl’s death. Unwilling to accept this fate, Jesus enters her bedroom to pray “Talitha cumi,” little girl arise from your sleep. Jairus’ daughter was instantly healed. The next time you find yourself in a desperate situation, don’t be afraid to emulate one of these prayers from the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Receiving the Holy Spirit

William McDowell – Spirit Break Out (Lyrics) – YouTube

Every generation contains individuals who attempt to reinvent that which has already occurred. Whether as some sort of superiority complex or stubbornness, these confident people refuse to back down regardless of what others believe, proclaim or think. Participating in a debate to expose a specific flawed mindset seems to be a productive use of time. However, when the crowd you are trying to convince doesn’t budge, even persuasive words can’t turn a hardened heart.

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] – Galatians 3:1-2

In the middle of the first Century, a group of new Christians formed a sect to appease Jews who didn’t want to let go of following the Torah. According to the apostle Paul, a group known as the Judaizers infiltrated the Church at Galatia. Unwilling to let go of Jewish traditions, these religious leaders began to convince members of the church to add circumcision to salvation. Ingrained within many followers from birth, this new teaching spread quickly throughout the Galatian Church. Subsequently, Jewish Christians began to look down upon and separate from Gentile converts to Christianity. Thus, Paul rebukes leaders in the passage above.

Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? – Galatians 3:4-5

In recent years, new debates often related to theology have caused divisions within the 21st century church. One common dispute involves receiving the Holy Spirit. Some denominations claim that this is only accomplished immediately following a believer’s baptisms. Other doctrines refer to a Day of Pentecost moment where individuals experience a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. When these two ideologies clash, I’ve witnessed nasty confrontations on both sides. Yet, according to the Bible, Romans 8:1-8 and Romans 10:9-11 highlight how people of faith can receive the Holy Spirit today. May this occur without any hesitation so that lives are transformed by God’s Spirit.

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

Get Behind Me

The term band-wagon first appeared in 1849. This initial meaning referred to a large wagon used to carry the band in a circus procession. Theodore Roosevelt used bandwagon in his writings in the context of politics, “attaching oneself to anything that looks likely to succeed.” Modern day sports talk hosts have adopted bandwagon as a label to highlight fair weather fans. When a local team over achieves, the bandwagon becomes full. However, when a successful team gets off to a slow start, many quickly jump off the bandwagon.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. 25 For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting], Matthew 16:24-25.

A Jewish disciple explores what it means to truly get behind Jesus. This chapter provides examples of what to do and what not to do. One individual becomes a hero and a goat in a matter of seconds. However, this is what happens when you are not slow to speak, blurting out whatever enters your mind. The context of the passage begins with an open ended question as Jesus asks, “who do people say that I am?” After receiving a few replies, Jesus changes the question to “what do you think?” After Peter correctly identifies Jesus as the promised Messiah, he then proceeds to attempt to stop Jesus from fulfilling God’s will.

Then Peter took Him aside to speak to Him privately and began to reprove and charge Him sharply, saying, God forbid, Lord! This must never happen to You! 23 But Jesus turned away from Peter and said to him, Get behind Me, Satan! You are in My way [an offense and a hindrance and a snare to Me]; for you are minding what partakes not of the nature and quality of God, but of men, Matthew 16:22-23.

When God or life doesn’t make sense, this is when human beings tend to improvise. Since Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, he refused to believe that his mentor was born to become a living sacrifice. When justice doesn’t prevail and evil triumphs, your allegiance is tested. Just to qualify to become one of Jesus’ disciples involves taking extreme measures. While everyone will wobble from time to time due to uncertainty, your actions will determine who’s side you are on. May the Holy Spirit bring clarity to any confusion so you get behind the right side.

by Jay Mankus

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