Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: faith

Grace Holds Me Now

The byproduct of original sin, Adam and Eve’s decision to eat forbidden fruit, led to separation from God. When the only rule, do not eat of the tree of knowledge, in the Garden of Eden was broken, earth’s first family was banished, expelled from this tropical paradise. Subsequently, a works oriented system using a series of sacrifices was set up to atone for current and past sins. The Old Testament book of Leviticus introduces these offerings with detailed instructions on when and how this should be done.

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” – Matthew 19:24-25

During the first century, a rich young ruler lived his life in according to the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-17. Despite his zealous application of these principles, something in this man’s heart didn’t seem right. Thus, this ruler seeks out godly counsel from Jesus, hoping to find comfort that he was on the right track. After a series of questions, Jesus asks this wealthy man to go and sell all of his possessions, then give the proceeds to the poor. While the rich young ruler lived a moral life, at some point he began to trust his own wealth instead of God. This request was just too hard to do, walking away from Jesus in tears.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible,” Matthew 19:26.

Jesus hints at the concept of grace in the passage above. Grace refers to God’s riches at Christ’s expense. This unmerited favor of God toward man is made possible through Jesus’ life as the perfect lamb of God. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection made what was formerly impossible possible. Thus, individuals no longer need to live by the standards of the Old Testament. Rather, anyone who publicly believes in their heart and professes with their mouth that Jesus is Lord will be saved, Romans 10:9-10. Therefore, you don’t have to walk away disappointed like the rich young ruler. Faith in Jesus provides assurance that grace holds you now.

by Jay Mankus

Advertisements

Don’t Be Afraid or Hesitant to Ask God

If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him, James 1:5.

Three pillars of faith advise readers of the Bible to essentially do the same thing. The earthly brother of Jesus suggests that if anyone lacks wisdom, ask God who has a long history of generosity. The disciple whom Jesus loved adds to the concept. The context to any prayer request should emphasize and align your wishes with God’s will. Meanwhile, during his Sermon on the Mount Jesus urges listeners to not be afraid or hesitant to ask God. Rather, continue to seek and knock on God’s door until answers are received.

This is the [remarkable degree of] confidence which we [as believers are entitled to] have before Him: that if we ask anything according to His will, [that is, consistent with His plan and purpose] He hears us. 15 And if we know [for a fact, as indeed we do] that He hears and listens to us in whatever we ask, we [also] know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted to us] the requests which we have asked from Him, 1 John 5:14-15.

In the passage above, John speaks from experience. These words aren’t some unrealistic dream that you hope for God to answer a prayer. Rather, John refers to his degree of confidence as he reflects upon all the prayers that the Lord has specifically answered. One of the reasons some people don’t offer up prayer requests to God is the fear of being disappointed. John urges readers of the Bible to move beyond doubt by trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus replied to them, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have faith [personal trust and confidence in Me] and do not doubt or allow yourself to be drawn in two directions, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen [if God wills it]. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, believing, you will receive,” Matthew 21:21-22.

One of Jesus’ biggest frustrations with human beings is their lack of dependence on God. Throughout the gospels Jesus highlights one essential point, “you don’t have because you haven’t asked.” According to the passage above, prayers are directly linked to your degree of belief. The greater your faith, the more you will begin to see answers to prayer. However, when doubt enters your mind, prayers become words without any divine power. Therefore, if you want to see modern miracles don’t be afraid or hesitant to ask God. When you do pray, place your personal trust and confidence in Jesus to do what he promises in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Being Open to God Calling an Audible In Your Life

In the context of sports, an audible occurs when a quarterback changes an offensive play at the line of scrimmage. When a quarterback reads the defensive scheme on the field, if the designed play is destined to fail, an audible serves as a backup plan. Audibles put players in a more favorable position to succeed if coaches allow players to improvise. However, if this freedom is not permitted by coordinators or the head coach, stubbornness will lead to failure.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life], But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them, Proverbs 16:9.

This same principle applies to the spiritual realm. According to an Old Testament prophet, God has a plan and purpose for every human life, Jeremiah 29:11. However, if individuals aren’t teachable, open to God’s will for their life, minds often take human beings in a different direction. This fact inspired King Solomon to refer to God’s audibles, using trials and tribulations to alter human steps back into the right direction. This is how God’s Spirit realigns and reconnects mankind back toward the Creator.

If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit], Galatians 5:25.

The apostle Paul adds to this concept in a chapter about the fruits of the Holy Spirit. While the sinful nature, human desires, pull people in the opposite direction of God, the Holy Spirit calls audibles day after day. As followers of Christ begin to discern, listen and understand whispers from God, you can keep in step with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I find myself too busy, distracted and pre-occupied with my own life to listen. If I would only be open to daily audibles called by God, blessings, success and victories would follow. May this blog inspire you to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

An Important Message from the Past

 

The first Great Awakening, a series of Christian revivals began in England during the 1730’s.  This spiritual movement quickly spread to Britain’s thirteen colonies lasting until the 1740’s.  During these two decades, Jonathan Edwards played an integral role as a preacher, theologian and writer in America.  One of Edwards’ lasting legacies is a quote from an old sermon, “you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.”

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God; Ephesians 2:8.

As individuals struggled with the notion that you can earn your salvation through good works, Jonathon Edwards uses the teaching of the apostle Paul to stop this train of thought.  Perhaps, members of the church of Ephesus shared a similar belief.  The passage above is part of a letter Paul wrote to expose this flawed mindset.  Salvation is a gift from God, only accessible by grace through faith in Christ.  This verse inspired Jonathan Edwards’ comment that mankind’s only contribution to salvation are transgressions from the past and present.

Not as a result of [your] works [nor your attempts to keep the Law], so that no one will [be able to] boast or take credit in any way [for his salvation]. 10 For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us], Ephesians 2:9-10.

To fully understand the apostles’ teaching, you have to look to verse 10.  Human beings are merely a piece to the puzzle, a work in progress.  As the Holy Spirit works behind the scenes to sanctify newly converted Christians, this process takes a lifetime to complete.  Meanwhile, God the Father serves as a potter, molding and fashioning followers of Jesus like clay.  Trials and tribulations serve as a furnace to remove our imperfections.  Instead of trying to earn your salvation, Paul urges readers to become a willing participant, eager to fulfill the good works God has prepared for you  in advance to accomplish in life.  This is an important message from the past to remember.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

Form Without Function

Function is the basis for an act, serving as the bridge to your ultimate purpose.  Unfortunately, if you find yourself overwhelmed by a hectic schedule, many carry on with their daily routines without any meaningful reflection.  Anyone who allows the busyness of life to consume their soul, you may end up as a prime example of form without function.

What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works, James 2:14.

At some point following his brother’s death, James began to re-evaluate his belief system.  The life, death and resurrection of Jesus challenged his tradition view of Judaism.  The concept of a Messiah was believed to be part of the end times.  Yet, Jesus taught James that faith must be accompanied by good works inspired by love.  Without any external change by displaying fruits of the Spirit, you are merely form without function.

If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective], James 2:15-17.

While observing religious practices for most of his life, it appears James was simply going through the motions, without a relationship with God, Romans 10:9-10.  Jesus’ lifestyle slowly convicted James’ heart, making him realize that his faith was dead, inoperative.  Following the commandments, praying and worshipping God is merely a to do list, a spiritual checklist.  Seeing the error of his way, James writes to first century Christians to encourage believers to activate their faith.  The love of Jesus is the form in which faith is meant to function.  May this lesson revive and rejuvenate your soul.

by Jay Mankus

 

Women and the Bible

Wherever you go and whatever you do, there will always be biases that exist in life.  These opinions cause a certain segment of society to feel or show inclination of prejudice for or against someone or something.  Unfortunately, these stereotypes often develop into beliefs resulting in inequality.  While growing up, Hollywood portrayed a skewed version of women and the Bible, emphasizing the submissive role of a wife in marriage, Ephesians 5.  Thus, many females rejected the Bible, Christianity and the desire to take faith seriously.

The Lord gives the command [to take Canaan]; The women who proclaim the good news are a great host (army); Psalm 68:11.

Like any conversation that you over hear or interrupt, if you walk into it at the wrong moment, you will miss a portion of the context.  Such is the case of the Old Testament passage above.  On the surface, this verse appears to suggest that God honors women who gossip, passing on what they were told.  When you dig deeper into Bible commentaries, you will find these women possessed two key qualities.  First, they believed victory was possible despite the impenetrable wall surrounding Jericho.  Second, these women encouraged others to believe by dancing and singing songs expecting victory to occur, void of any doubt.

“From my upbringing and the Bible I learned people should stand up for rights just as the children of Israel stood up to the Pharaoh,” Rosa Parks 1994.

During the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, one woman made a huge impact.  While entering a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit in the colored section of this bus.  Park’s decision inspired the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  While Dr. Martin Luther King has received a majority of the credit for Civil Rights in America, Congress has referred to Rosa Parks as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”.  Based upon the quote above, Parks shares a common worldview with the women mentioned in Psalm 68.  These women applied the biblical principles they were taught as a children by taking a stand for that which was good, right and true.

by Jay Mankus

A Reason To Celebrate

According to a recent AAA survey, 112 million American traveled 50 miles or more to celebrate Christmas in 2018.  Like most holidays, airports and highways will be packed as families travel back and forth from these destinations.  Yet, how many arrived safely without incident?  Furthermore, how many individuals gave thanks to God upon arriving?

“Being thus arrived in a good harbor and brought safe to land, they fell upon their knees and blessed the God of heaven, who had brought them over the vast and furious ocean,” William Bradford, 1620.

The quote above seems applicable for any trip that you take.  In an exhibit dedicated to Pilgrims at the Museum of the Bible,  Bradford’s recollection of the Pilgrim’s landfall upon Plymouth Rock reveals the faith of those who set sail across the Atlantic.  Apparently, the Mayflower experienced rough seas, squalls and unsettling weather.  Nonetheless, when this journey was complete, God received the credit for arriving safely.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name, Hebrews 13:15.

As someone who has driven nearly one million miles behind the wheel of a car, my appreciation for God is lacking.  Sure, when road conditions are treacherous I cry out to the Lord, but rarely do I thank God when I arrive.  As I travel back home in the morning, I need to apply the passage above.  Praise should be continual, daily and genuine.  Instead of taking credit for keeping my family safe, I need to thank angels, divine intervention and God’s mercy for watching over me and my family.  Perhaps, we can all learn from the Pilgrims, with a reason to celebrate the little things in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

%d bloggers like this: