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Tag Archives: genuine faith

Proving Your Faith

I spent most of my youth pursuing sports, playing a different sport each season.  One of the best ways to get more playing time is practicing during the offseason.  Unfortunately, when you are the best or one of the top athletes in a sport like me, I got complacent, lost my drive and was surpassed by others boys as I got older.  Since sports is so focused on statistics, coaches placed an emphasis on proving yourself game after game and week after week.

22 But Saul increased in strength more and more, and continued to perplex the Jews who lived in Damascus by examining [theological evidence] and proving [with Scripture] that this Jesus is the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed). 23 After considerable time had passed [about three years or so], the Jews plotted together to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the city’s gates day and night so they could kill him; 25 but his disciples took him at night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. 26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple, Acts 9:22-26.

If you take the Great Commission literally, Matthew 28:16-20, (Jesus’ plan to spread the gospel throughout the earth), proving yourself spiritually is based upon the degree to which you share your faith.  According to the passage above, Saul spent somewhere between 2 to 3 years doing this.  According to Luke, Saul used his upbringing as a Jewish zealot and knowledge of the Old Testament to convince his listeners that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Despite Saul’s efforts, this wasn’t good enough to be accepted and embraced by Jesus’ disciples.  Basically, Jesus’ inner circle believed that Saul hadn’t done enough to prove that his faith was genuine.

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.] 15 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 2:14-17.

An earthly brother of Jesus gives a broader view of how an ordinary person can prove their faith.  Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion, James believed that his oldest brother was a liar and lunatic.  When you read the passage above, James is using his own life as an example.  At some point, James’ own faith became inoperative and ineffective.  Genuine faith is alive and active, producing spiritual fruit or planting seeds of faith.  Therefore, if you want to prove your own faith, make sure that you  in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23.  By doing this, your faith will come alive for others to hear and see.

by Jay Mankus

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Expecting God to Come Through One More Time

As a former high school teacher, I understand how and why students struggle to remember important information.  Depending upon the day or time, I could tell who was paying attention from those zoned out.  Entertainment, social media and video games has influenced this generation, resulting in a shortened attention span.  Unless students find a topic interesting, hearts, minds and souls drift off into space.  If attending school becomes a drag, getting teenagers interested in spiritual matters can be just as challenging.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor (respect) except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household,” Mark 6:4.

To a certain extent, the people living in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth became spoiled.  After his first miracle at a wedding in Cana, there was a growing sentiment that if Jesus just performed one more miracle, then people would believe.  This show me mentality is the opposite of genuine faith.  Perhaps, some individuals were jealous, not present for Jesus turning water into wine.  Thus, expecting God to come through one more time doesn’t seem unreasonable.

And He could not do a miracle there at all [because of their unbelief] except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. He wondered at their unbelief.  And He was going around in the villages teaching, Mark 6:5-6.

Nonetheless, a spiritual haze fell upon the citizens of Nazareth.  When you add this to the reputation of this town, even one of Jesus’ own disciples questioned if anything good could come out of this place, John 1:46-47.  Crime and poverty demoralized many who lived there, setting the stage for a show me, don’t tell me mindset.  Thus, Nazareth became like kryptonite to Jesus, unable to perform miracles when returning home.  John Mark states that Jesus was surprised by this inexplicable unbelief.  This spiritual state prevented individuals from expecting God to come through one more time.  Maybe this same condition is influencing Americans today?

by Jay Mankus

Humility and Tears

During a period known as the Healing Revivals of the 1950’s, prosperity theology first became prominent in the United States.  Yet, the origins of the prosperity gospel can be traced back to the New Thought Movement which began in the 19th century.  Based upon the teachings of Malachi, referencing the storehouses of heaven, those who embrace this theology emphasizes that God will deliver his promises of the Bible for those who believe.  Unfortunately, this mindset differs from the ministry of the apostle Paul.

I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents, Acts 20:19.

In a meeting with the elders of Ephesus, Paul gives a farewell address, preparing church leaders for a time when he will longer be with them.  Paul’s description of his service is interesting, similar to words shared in Philippi.  To avoid becoming prideful, Paul felt led to pursue meekness.  Despite the victories Paul experienced, he admits that ministry can be painful, especially when someone you love abandons or leaves the faith.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12.

Warning a community of believers from complacency, Paul suggests to diligently work out your salvation with fear and trembling.  Sure, part of the journey of faith is to pray for and cling to God’s promises.  However, genuine faith involves overcoming hardship, leaning on God’s grace in times of trials.  Thus, as this new year continues, may you follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul by practicing humility and crying out to the Lord in prayer.

by Jay Mankus

 

Faith Without Hesitation

When I was young, I got caught in a severe thunderstorm.  However, it wasn’t the lightning I was worried about.  I found myself on the other side of a raging creek, with the water level rising with each second that I waited to jump.  I stood three feet away from safety, yet there wasn’t room for a running start, stuck between two boulders.  My mind said you won’t make it, but fear of the impending weather caused me to jump.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him, Hebrews 11:6.

Not much has changed since I made this leap of faith.  However, the older you get, the obstacles increase in difficulty.  Unfortunately, the longer you postpone or wait to face trials, the harder they become.  Creek beds turn into rivers and rivers into lakes.  Hesitation may seem normal, but leads to doubt.  Genuine faith leaves second guessing behind, resulting in a solid spiritual foundation.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 6:23.

Evangelists often use what is known as the road to Romans to illustrate faith.  Using the passage above, designers of this analogy refer to sin as the Grand Canyon separating human beings from God.  Even if you were a world long jump champion, you can’t physically make it to the other side.  The solution to this problem is the cross of Jesus.  Although invisible, Christians walk by faith to get to the other side.  In view of this, don’t procrastinate any longer.  Rather, display a faith without hesitation.

by Jay Mankus

 

Signs, Symptoms or Somewhere in Between?

Prior to ascending into heaven, Jesus tried to give his disciples a glimpse of what to expect in the near future.  Based upon one’s belief, signs will appear naturally as an outpouring of one’s faith.  As a spiritual fire grows inside the human heart, random acts of kindness emerge.  Yet, few display or possess the ability to cast out demons or speak in tongues.

And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues, Mark 16:17.

Perhaps the absence of these unique gifts is a symptom of society.  Faith is not always rationale, especially when the Lord calls you to do strange and unusual things.  Thus, the fear of what others may think about you can cripple genuine faith.  The desire to please mankind has resulted in a church void of signs which accompany faith.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them, 1 Corinthians 12:4.

Somewhere in between, there are individuals disgusted by a lukewarm heart.  Stuck in neutral, souls are thirsting for something more, longing for a life with meaning and purpose.  Therefore. if this blog finds you ready for a change, fan into flame the talents hidden within you.  Then, maybe one day soon the fruits of the Holy Spirit will begin to ooze out of you like signs that accompany faith.

by Jay Mankus

 

Developing a Faith like That

After a series of disappointments, Jesus takes an inventory of his twelve disciples, wondering if they will ever get it.  Cutting directly to the point, Jesus asks “who do you say that I am?”  Despite previous and future blunders, Simon Peter get’s it right this time, “Son of the living God.”  While the timing was right, Jesus unveils the future, what will happen and by whom He will endure suffering.  From one moment of greatness to the gutter, Peter tries to privately rebuke Jesus.  Instead the tables are turned as Peter begins to think like the devil.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns,” Mark 8:33.

In the passage which follows, Jesus lays out a three step plan for developing a genuine faith which takes into consideration the mind of God.  After nearly three full years with Jesus, the disciples struggled to break free from human concerns.

1. Deny Yourself: Take on the very nature of a servant, placing the needs of others above yourself.

2. Take Up Your Cross: Set out on ascertaining what God’s will is and make this your calling in life.

3. Follow Christ: Through prayer, study of the Bible and worship, follow in the foot steps of Jesus.

I’m not sure who first said the mind is a terrible thing to waste, yet this also applies to faith.  Christians can do the right thing, say the right thing and worship in an ideal church, but still fail miserably in their faith.  Like any competition, if you don’t play a complete game, it only takes one bad stretch to blow it.  Therefore, as you wrestle with balancing necessary human concerns, may you take Jesus’ advice in Mark 8:34 and develop into a faith like Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Holding the Hand of God

Loneliness is common place today, as social media has substituted face to face encounters with nothing more than a type writer and  a screen.  Meanwhile, the art of conversation has been highjacked by A.D.D., A.D.H.D. and poor people skills.  If someone has a hard time relating to people, grasping the presence of an unseen God is unfathomable.

This is not what God had designed when He created man and woman, Genesis 1:27.  Unfortunately, the days of God walking with Adam and Eve are long gone, a distant memory of a relational God, seeking to hold our hand, Psalm 73:23.  In this dark and selfish age, few clear examples of humans who are experiencing the touch of God remain, Galatians 5:25.  Reading pages of the Bible is one thing, but seeing a genuine individual of faith has become rare, a relic of a once Christian nation.

The only way to turn this fantasy into reality is through faith.  Although, King David had his problems during his life, inside his heart was a man who sought to follow after God, 1 Samuel 16:7.  When you add the obedience Moses exhorted Israelites to pursue in Deuteronomy 28:1-2, blessings reveal God’s presence.  Faith is the bridge to God, nourished by prayer which claims the promises of Scripture.  Then and only then, can the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:10 come alive, taking one day at a time by holding God’s hand!

by Jay Mankus

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