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Tag Archives: faith

On or Off?

When you enter a room at night, it’s pretty obvious whether or not a light switch has been turned on.  When I drive home in the dark from work at 4:30 in the morning, other cars and streets lights point me in the right direction.  Yet, as the sun rises, open windows may provide as much light as a ceiling fan or lamp.  Determining if a light switch has been turned on or off during the day is not as clear as the sun replaces man made lights.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty? It is no longer good for anything, but to be thrown out and walked on by people [when the walkways are wet and slippery], Matthew 5:13.

This same concept applies to faith.  On Sunday’s, turning on Jesus is natural as believers enter their local house of God.  Yet, after this service is over or as a hectic work week begins, turning off my faith has become a common occurrence.  The light of others has blinded me from my own lame state, stuck in a casual faith, turning it on and off when I want.  Whether I like it or not, I have enabled my sinful nature to block, interfere and stunt my own spiritual growth.

“You are the light of [Christ to] the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good deeds and moral excellence, and [recognize and honor and] glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matthew 5:14-16.

This on and off analogy came to me last night during an interaction with a co-worker.  While getting a cup of ice water, I glanced up at the score of the Little League World Series game that was on in our break room.  As I turned to leave, an associate approached with a condensed gospel presentation.  After his two minute spiel, I told him I am already a believer, briefly sharing about my writing ministry.  Yet, as I went back to work, this encounter consumed my soul with conviction.  It’s time that I stop turning on and off my faith.  Instead, I need keep the light of Christ in the on position so I don’t blend in or disappear in the dark.

by Jay Mankus

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How Jealousy Can Destroy a Church

The apostle Paul’s initial visit to Thessalonica can be described as the tale of two Sundays.  As a former Jewish zealot, Paul visited the local synagogue and consecutive Sabbaths.  According to Luke, a first century doctor and historian, Paul engaged in a series of discussions and friendly debates.  Paul used the Scriptures to persuade these Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament.  By the third Sabbath, some Jews, a large number of God fearing Greeks and many leading women placed that faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

And Paul entered the synagogue, as was his custom, and for three Sabbaths he engaged in discussion and friendly debate with them from the Scriptures, explaining and pointing out [scriptural evidence] that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I am proclaiming to you, is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed),” Acts 17:2-4.

This rejection of Judaism didn’t sit well with a majority of the synagogue leaders.  Instead of continuing their friendly debate, unbelieving Jews became filled with jealousy.  Envious spirits provoked synagogue leaders to become hostile toward God, Romans 8:5-8.  The sinful nature influenced synagogue leaders to go down a slippery slope, combing Thessalonica for lowlifes and thugs to intimidate Paul and Silas.  This group stirred up trouble, forming a mob and throwing this city into an uproar, surrounding the house of Jason like a modern public protest.  This is an example of how jealousy can destroy a church.

And some of them were persuaded to believe and joined Paul and Silas, along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and many of the leading women. But the [unbelieving] Jews became jealous, and taking along some thugs from [the lowlifes in] the market place, they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar; and then attacking Jason’s house tried to bring Paul and Silas out to the people. But when they failed to find them, they dragged Jason and some brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here too; and Jason has welcomed them [into his house and protected them]! And they all are saying things contrary to the decrees of Caesar, [actually] claiming that there is another king, Jesus.” They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things, Acts 17:4-8.

Jealousy has a long and undesirable past that is documented in the Bible.  Jealousy led Cain, the first human being born on earth, to kill his younger brother.  Jealousy persuaded King Saul to make several attempts on the life of David his predecessor.  Envy isn’t limited to the Bible as acts of the sinful nature prey on souls who deviate, rebel or stray from God.  As someone who spent 7 years as an elder in a church, it only takes one influential leader on a board to follow in the footsteps of this synagogue in Thessalonica.  To prevent a future event from escalating, Paul writes two letters to set high standards for church leaders.  Titus 3:6-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7 detail qualifications to guard against jealousy from destroying another church.

by Jay Mankus

A Celebration of Faith

In between sports seasons, I take my youngest two, Daniel and Lydia, to play frisbee golf on Saturdays.  Usually, lunch is involved, either before or after to encourage participation.  Once we reach our favorite course at Canby Park, some discs go way off course, often requiring a search and rescue crew.  These undesirable terrains include winding creeks, sticker bushes and wild vegetation.  It’s not uncommon to get cut and bleed profusely without recognizing it right away.

And they spoke the word of the Lord [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their bloody wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household, Acts 16:32-33.

A similar phenomena happened to the apostle Paul and Silas in the passage above.  Twenty four hours earlier, these men were beaten with rods.  According to Luke, each were struck several times, Acts 16:23.  After being thrown into a dungeon and feet fastened to stocks in an agonizing position, their initial pain was redirected in another direction.  Despite this momentary setback, a time of prayer and worship served as a distraction.  Caught up in the excitement of a jailor and his family coming to faith in Christ, Paul and Silas forgot about their bloody wounds.

Then he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, since he had believed in God with his entire family [accepting with joy what had been made known to them about the Christ], Acts 16:34.

When human hearts and minds are set on things above, temporary pains fade away, Colossians 3:1-3.  Jesus taught his disciples to become fishers of men, winning souls to believe in God.  Whenever individuals witness a spiritual transformation, it’s a cause for a celebration.  Following the baptism of a jailor and his entire family, a party is thrown like a modern day church reception.  As the lost come to their senses, a celebration of faith is in order.  According to Luke, angels celebrate in heaven each time a sinner repents, Luke 15:10.

by Jay Mankus

A Faith That Stands the Test of Time

I visited a church last Sunday to meet up with a couple I hadn’t seen for a while.  Upon entering the foyer, I recognized the greeters from Red Lion where I taught for a decade.  As the music began to play at the traditional service, I felt like I was transported back to the 1970’s.  I hadn’t heard or sung several of these hymns since I was young.  Despite this odd encounter, I witnessed a faith within members of the congregation that has stood the test of time.

In the morning, as they were passing by, the disciples saw that the fig tree had withered away from the roots up. 21 And remembering, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi (Master), look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered!” – Mark 11:20-21

This faith was conceived during the first century from a motley crew of men who followed an impressive Jewish Rabbi.  One of these disciples connected the dots quickly, amazed at the power Jesus possessed.  One day Jesus cursed an unproductive fig tree and the next day it withered.  As more and more miracles were seen daily, Peter was transformed from someone who denied Jesus publicly into a martyr willing to die for his faith.

Jesus replied, “Have faith in God [constantly]. 23 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart [in God’s unlimited power], but believes that what he says is going to take place, it will be done for him [in accordance with God’s will], Mark 11:22-23.

Faith in Christ is like the merging of belief and confidence.  When these two forces join, the words mentioned above become reality as souls tap into God’s unlimited power.  This process is hard to explain. but when you see individuals praying, singing and worshipping with such joy, faith shines through.  While older Christians may cling to traditional hymns, inspired hearts often result in a faith that stands the test of time.

by Jay Mankus

 

Falling Asleep in the Lap of Delilah

Like a curious college student at a secular institution, I witnessed some strange sights during my first semester.  I participated in the party scene, attending numerous bashes throughout campus with a crew from my dorm.  While living on a co-ed floor, I met my neighbor across the hall when some drunk guy stumbled into her room and collapsed on the floor at midnight.  A few hours later my roommate came home from a party and threw up all over himself.  The events of this first night as a college student made me realize that if I continued down this road I might end up falling asleep in the lap of Delilah.

Then Samson went to Gaza and saw a prostitute there, and went in to her, Judges 16:1.

According to the Old Testament, Delilah was a Philistine prostitute.  Apparently, during a trip to Gaza, Samson paid for her services.  After this one night stand, Samson fell in love with this call girl.  Sexual attractions tend to make individuals think irrationally.  Subsequently, despite his parents wishes to marry a Jew, Samson chose to marry an enemy of Israel, a Philistine woman.  Based upon the passage below, Delilah only entered this relationship for the money, serving as a spy to extract the secret behind Samson’s great strength.  While falling asleep in Delilah’s lap one night, this information was finally revealed in Judges 16:15-17.

After this he fell in love with a [Philistine] woman [living] in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. So the [five] lords (governors) of the Philistines came to her and said to her, “Persuade him, and see where his great strength lies and [find out] how we may overpower him so that we may bind him to subdue him. And each of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver,” Judges 16:4-5.

The apostle Paul warns Christians about being unequally yoked with unbelievers, 2 Corinthians 6:14-16.  It’s unclear whether Paul is referring to Samson and Delilah, but if you date someone who does not possess a biblical worldview, your faith will be tested.  Some churches encourage and promote missionary dating, trying to win your significant other to Christ.  Yet, those who attempt this have the odds against them.  Nonetheless, some people have to learn the hard way, escaping from the lap of Delilah when love falls apart.  Whatever your current situation is, may the Holy Spirit grant you wisdom to escape temptation, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

A Form of Testing God

Massah is one of the locations which the Torah identifies as having been travelled through by the Israelites during their exodus out of Egypt.  While the list of visited stations in the Book of Numbers does not mention Massah, Exodus 17:7 refers to Massah and Meribah as the place where a quarrel began.  According to Moses, upon reaching Massah, Israelites lost faith and hope, questioning if God was really with them anymore.

“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah,” Deuteronomy 6:16.

As Gentiles began to convert to Christianity and receive the Holy Spirit, Pharisees sought to add Jewish traditions to salvation.  This concept didn’t sit well with Simon, prompting Peter to stand up to address religious leaders gathered together at the Council of Jerusalem.  According to Luke, Peter eludes to Deuteronomy 6:16.  Adding circumcision to salvation is comparable to placing a yoke around the neck of the disciples.  Making circumcision mandatory for everyone would de-emphasize the grace of God and cause potential converts to change their mind.

Now then, why are you testing God by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to endure? – Acts 15:10

Today, not only do people lose faith in God, but sects of Christianity have added legalistic practices which often confuse young believers.  This atmosphere sets the stage for more people to test God, wanting some sort of sign or miracle for assurance.  Yet, faith is the exact opposite of these natural desires.  Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and evidence of things not seen, Hebrews 11:1.  Subsequently, you may find yourself in the dark from time to time, but remember what happened at Massah so you don’t repeat the same mistakes of the past.

by Jay Mankus

 

Seeing Criticism for What it Is

The book definition for criticism is the expression of disapproval of someone or something based upon a perceived fault or mistake.  The key word here is perceived as modern criticism is usually based upon ideology.  Subsequently, if your beliefs, convictions or worldview varies from the socially acceptable norm, condemnation, denunciation and nitpicking will arrive fast and furious.  When the media chimes in, criticism often snowballs like an avalanche.

They preached the good news to that city and made many disciples, then they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening and establishing the hearts of the disciples; encouraging them to remain firm in the faith, saying, “It is through many tribulations and hardships that we must enter the kingdom of God,” Acts 14:21-22.

Shortly after being stoned by his spiritual opponents, on the verge of death, the apostle Paul gets back on his feet to share a lesson learned from this near death experience.  As he walked back to the same town where leaders wanted to kill him, Paul realized that anyone who wants to preach the good news about Jesus Christ must embrace hardship and tribulations.  Essentially, Paul is saying “don’t take religious criticism personally as they hated Jesus first,”

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

James, the earthly brother of Jesus builds upon Paul’s words in Lystra.  Trials build character resulting in spiritual maturity.  While criticism can and will be deserved from time to time, Christians must see criticism for what it is, a refining process that leads to genuine faith.  The more faith is tested, endurance and inner peace will shine through.  No one likes to be criticized, but when you see it through the lens of the Bible, spiritual growth is achieved.

by Jay Mankus

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