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Keeping the Faith

Faith is derived from the Latin term fides meaning confidence or trust in a person, thing, or concept. Personal beliefs, convictions, and expectations add to someone’s faith. During his closing remarks in a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul brings up an overlooked aspect of faith. Referring to a spiritual element, faith is not only conceived but Christians must remain part of it.

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

Perhaps, Paul learned this from one of Jesus’ disciples. In the passage below, the earthly brother of Jesus uses his own personal experience. Apparently, many first century Christian began turning their faith on and off like a light switch. When faith becomes dormant, it’s a sign that you have become disconnected from God. This trend suggests that your heart and mind is being controlled by your flesh, not God’s Spirit, Romans 8:5.

What is the use (profit), my brethren, for anyone to profess to have faith if he has no [good] works [to show for it]? Can [such] faith save [his soul]? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clad and lacks food for each day, 16 And one of you says to him, Good-bye! Keep [yourself] warm and well fed, without giving him the necessities for the body, what good does that do? 17 So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead), James 2:14-17.

When the apostle Paul commands followers “to keep the trust and holy fervor,” he is reminding believers that faith and deeds go hand and hand. You can’t have one without the other. Based upon first century historians, James did not believe that his brother Jesus was the Messiah. It wasn’t until the resurrection when James came to faith. Since life on earth is like a marathon, keeping the faith consists of abiding in and acting upon your love for Jesus Christ. May this blog inspire you to keep your faith active.

by Jay Mankus

Bring Me Back

Sometimes life is like being placed into a giant maze without a map.  Whenever you make the wrong turn, its like one step forward, two steps back.  As soon as you hit a dead end, you have to go back to where you started, retracing your steps to find a way out.  If you don’t have any helper, guide or visible signs, this journey will last much longer than expected.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad and easy to travel is the path that leads the way to destruction and eternal loss, and there are many who enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow and difficult to travel is the path that leads the way to [everlasting] life, and there are few who find it, Matthew 7:13-14.

The Bible serves as a road map to bring you back to God’s desired destination.  During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus compares life to a series of roads.  The most popular ones are like interstate highways, well defined and marked.  However, Jesus uses the analogy of a small path to illustrate the road to heaven.  Somebody has cleared the path, but if you stray off to the left or right, its easy to lose your way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews refers to a great Hall of Faith, saints who have showed people the way to heaven.  Comparing life to a marathon, completing this race requires endurance and persistence.  When I get up each morning, I don’t always feel like doing the right thing.  There are plenty of days when I am exhausted, tired and worn down with little motivation to stay on track.  The group Evanescence sings about this state in their song Bring Me Back to Life.  This blog and song are dedicated to those who need to be brought back into God’s presence.

by Jay Mankus

Removing Any Unwanted Visitors

Now that Easter Sunday is over, some people may be wondering, what do I do now?  Well, one thing is for certain, the closer you get to God, the more of a threat you become to Satan, aka the Devil.  Thus, don’t be surprised by a series of unwanted visitors in the form of demonic attacks, ungodly influences and a wave of temptations to through you off track.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness], stripping off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon.  Along the way, there will be obstacles, pot holes and unplanned delays meant to trip you up.  As a former angel, Lucifer has the ability to disguise evil in an attractive manner.  These clever attacks delay, entangle and slow down runners.  Therefore, if you want to remove any unwelcomed visitors endurance and perseverance must exist.

And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has bestowed on those who obey Him,” Acts 5:32.

A first century doctor makes an interesting observation between the Holy Spirit and obedience.  According to Luke, the Holy Spirit is bestowed and poured out upon those who obey God.  Thus, the best way to remove any unwanted visitors is by obeying biblical practices.  As you read the four gospels and continue throughout the New Testament, the anointing of the Holy Spirit is waiting for faithful followers.  As individuals keep in step with the Holy Spirit, this supernatural counselor will enable you to take the necessary steps to remove all unwanted and unwelcomed visitors.  May this bestowing awaken you as you draw closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Second Wind

The concept of a second wind derives from running.  This phenomenon refers to a distance running often in the context of a long road race or marathon.  When athletes hit the proverbial wall, breath, energy and motivation fades.  Scientists have come up with two logical explanations for this phenomena.  Some believe the second wind is a result of the body finding the proper balance of oxygen to counteract the buildup of lactic acid within muscles.  Others point to endorphin production as the source of the second wind.  Whatever the reason, I believe God also plays a role in this process.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:29-30.

A famous Old Testament prophet eludes to the second wind.  Using an illustration of an eagle nursing eaglets, this imagery help people visualize the invisible.  Despite the jubilation of any child, energy will disappear, crashing and falling in the form of an afternoon nap.  Instead of encouraging her young to walk, mother eagles prod them out of the nest to begin flying.  As eaglets grow tired or start falling toward the ground, adult eagles intervene to rescue their young from any harm.  In the same way, our heavenly father can and does use second winds to propel his children to complete and fulfill God’s will.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

Every work week in America, human beings rely on coffee, energy drinks or soda to get them through each day.  This dose of caffeine imitates a second wind.  As individuals begin to grow sleepy, these beverages serve as drugs to boost you through grueling, long or tiresome work days.  However, has anyone whispered up a pray to God for strength?  Are people relying on a higher source for power or has earthly substances become a replacement for God?  Perhaps, this blog will make you think twice the next time you go to grab some caffeine.  Maybe, you too will come to the conclusion that God is a major source for second winds.

by Jay Mankus

Three Ways God Saves Us From Ourselves

Young people can be naïve, unaware of the dangers that lurk outside of their comfort zones.  Thus, when individuals turn eighteen or twenty one, a thirst for freedom causes many to enter situations that result in a free fall.  This is where God steps in, swooping down like an eagle to save an eaglet who still doesn’t know how to fly on their own.  Unfortunately, the average person fails to recognize, see or thank the invisible presence who saves us regularly.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; Isaiah 40:31.

When you do earn your wings, there are other factors in life that can halt your growth in a split second.  The apostle Paul compares the Christian life to a marathon.  For those of you who experienced running in some capacity, everyone sooner or later hits a mental wall.  When you do reach this point, human nature tells you to stop, rest a while or simply quit, never to run again.  As soon as this whisper arrives, God intervenes sending angels, the Holy Spirit or other runners to encourage you to keep going until you cross the finish line.  This second sign also goes unnoticed as many participates fail to acknowledge God’s hand, saving you from defeat or failure.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint, Isaiah 40:31.

The final way God saves us from ourselves is through our perspective of trials and tribulations.  Since the fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden, perfection does not exist.  There is no perfect family, job, neighborhood or state.  Each has it’s frustrating, irritable and negative influences.  Those who seek perfection in any aspect of life will always be disappointed.  Therefore, if situations won’t change, God has to transform your attitude of unpleasant experiences in life.  This process is like sanctification, taking a lifetime to complete.  Yet, only those who trust in the Lord and lean not in their own understanding will see life through the eyes of Christ.  As you stand in the storm clouds of life, may God save you by adopting the attitude and mind of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Suppressing the Urge to Quit

Disappointment, heart break and failure are hard to recover from.  The pain from these gut wrenching experiences attacks one’s confidence.  Whenever you lose hope or faith, thoughts about quitting begin to surface.  As soon as this arises, you must suppress the urge to quit.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith, 2 Timothy 4:7.

The apostle Paul compares life to an Olympic race, similar to a marathon.  Thus, when a spirit of doubt creeps inside your mind, you must battle this like a heavy weight champ.  If you allow negativity to fester, your invisible opponent’s power will strengthen to the point of overwhelming wounded souls.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13.

When you don’t have the strength to carry on, the apostle Paul introduces a trump card.  Despite the pain Jesus endured, he suppressed any desire to quit by fulfilling God’s plan and purpose.  Therefore, the next time you feel like giving up, call out to Jesus in prayer to suppress the urge to quit.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Cords of Sin

Bonds, fibers, links and twines are words synonymous with cords.  These flexible long strands are usually applied in a positive manner.  Yet, this material meant for good can also serve as a web of entanglement.  Thus, the cords of sin can ensnare any wayward soul.

The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast, Proverbs 5:22.

The author of Hebrews provides a different perspective.  Comparing life to a marathon, you never know what you are going to encounter.  Along the journey you take, its essential to unload anything that is weighing you down.  The sooner you act, the smoother your travels will go.  This is where perseverance will keep many from abandoning the race.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, Hebrews 12:1.

Whenever you hit a bad stretch in life, its hard to recover.  To make matters worse, its doesn’t take much to become held down by the cords of sin.  Obstacles may include addiction, bad habits and poor choices.  In view of this dangerous state, cry out to the Lord, reach out to fellow believers for help and purge those things that keep you from hearing God’s voice.

by Jay Mankus

Making Yourself Available

In my younger days, I had a hard time saying no to those who asked a favor or needed something done.  Gullible and naive, I thought I had unlimited energy, pressing on to serve others.  When I approached 40, I reached my breaking point, crashing and burning from years of overextending myself.  Subsequently, I have gone into social hibernation, still healing and numb from my last year as a high school teacher.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ, 1 Corinthians 12:12.

By removing yourself from a community, you miss out on the blessings of relationships.  Initially, it feels good to be unattached, flexible to do or go where you want.  However, God created individuals to be in fellowship with one another, sharing burdens, concerns and joys.  Thus, I miss the interaction, joint projects and sense of belonging that friends provide.  Therefore, as I am about to end my Daniel Fast, its time to make myself available once again.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality, Romans 12:13.

Unlike professional athletes who retire when they have lost their ability to compete, a Christian is suppose to serve for a life time.  The author of Hebrews compares life on earth to a marathon which require perseverance, pacing yourself one day at a time.  Some where along the way, I removed myself from the game of life, sitting in the bleachers ever since.  While I may not have the passion I once possessed, its time to fan into the flame my spiritual gifts.  I’m not sure where this will take me or what I will do, yet I sense the Holy Spirit’s calling, “make yourself available.”

by Jay Mankus

 

Does Saving Your Life Mean Forfeiting Your Soul?

Rarely do you hear the terms forfeit and save in the same sentence.  Perhaps, you could be referring to a Little League team that may have to forfeit a game, unable to field enough players.  Thus, this forfeit could save a pitcher for an opponent’s next game or start a win streak that saves their season.  However, this isn’t the context of Jesus’ conversation with his twelve disciples in Mark 8.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it, Mark 8:35.

Speaking to future apostles of Acts, Jesus’ words could be limited to anyone seeking to devote their lives to full time ministry.  However, the choice of vocabulary suggests something similar to closing remarks made by Moses during his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30.  Life is like a series of choices, each leading you either in the right or wrong directions.  Therefore, when anyone decides to follow the path of saving your own life, with each step, people are approaching the unfortunate reality of forfeiting their soul.

See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.  For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

From a personal perspective, obedience either illustrates one’s investment in storing up heavenly treasures on earth or proves their divestment, clinging to the ways of this world.  If your heart is where your treasure is, Matthew 6:21, then how you spend your time reveals who you are living for.   Like the words of Colonel Nathan Jessup played by Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, people can’t handle the truth.  Since life is a marathon and not a sprint, there is time to change your course.  Whatever you decide, be careful not to save yourself or else you will be in danger of forfeiting your soul.

by Jay Mankus

Sizzling Out When Adversity Comes

Whether you’re watching a race horse set a torrid pace in the Triple Crown, a rabbit fade from the front during a mile race or witness a running back get tackled from behind, energy is temporary.  When the body is pushed to its limits, burn out is inevitable.  Thus, high school and college stars often sizzle out when adversity comes.  The real question is will they get back up to tarry on another day?

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9.

Nobody likes facing adversity.  Sure, it builds character, toughens up individuals and separates champions from the mediocre.  Nonetheless, failure is real, around the corner, over the next hill or awaiting you in the future.  How you handle trials will determine the path you choose in life.  Will you become the person in Bruce Springsteen’s song reminiscing about your Glory Days or can you mustard up enough courage to face the giant obstacles standing in your way?

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you, 1 Peter 5:10.

Unfortunately, this generation appears to be soft, throwing in the towel after the first couple of punches life hits you with.  Others take years to get over missed opportunities, rejections and personal tragedy.  Perhaps, this is why the author of Hebrews refers to life as a marathon.  You must be careful to pace yourself, realizing you have a long way to go despite whatever set backs you may encounter.  Therefore, don’t sizzle out when adversity comes.  Rather, keep in step with the Holy Spirit, relying on Christ’s strength to get you through the pain you are enduring, Philippians 4:13.

by Jay Mankus

 

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