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Where Presence and Practice Intersect

As a former athlete in multiple sports, practicing in the off-season is key to reaching your full potential. Before the days of travel teams and countless weekend competitions, sports junkies like me would hone their skills in local neighborhoods. Spontaneous pick up games would occur every summer day playing 500, steal the bases, interception, and whiffle ball. On rainy days, boards games, cards, and video games passed the time until the weather cooperated. The more I competed and practiced, the presence of improvement began to shine through.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul encourages members to practice their faith. While God does show up unannounced from time to time in the form of angels, answered prayers and signs, this doesn’t happen by chance. Peace doesn’t occur simultaneously as soon as you verbalize this word. Rather, peace arrives at the intersection of practice and presence. This develops as faith is exercised through reflection, prayer and thanksgiving. Practicing what you believe gives individuals the opportunity to fail and learn what you need to work on spiritually.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them]. Practice what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and model your way of living on it, and the God of peace (of untroubled, undisturbed well-being) will be with you, Philippians 4:8-9.

According to the apostle Paul, focusing on the positive is a key step toward progressing. As your mind begins to dwell and focus on true and wholesome aspects of life, attitudes and behaviors tend to change for the better. However, Paul doesn’t want Christians to stop here. In addition, keep moving forward by practicing what you have learned from the Bible. The closer you draw near to the Lord, the greater your chances will be to experience the presence of God. Therefore, carry on by keeping in step with the Holy Spirit so that God’s presence appears when faith is practiced.

by Jay Mankus

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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