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When Gusts of Doubt Uproot Your Faith

Every Easter pastors, priests, and teachers read passages in the Bible of disciples abandoning Jesus in His greatest time of need. When asked to pray late at night, they fell asleep. After being confronted about his relationship, Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. As the winds of doubt began to blow on that original Good Friday, the only disciple not uprooted by the pressure to conform was John who took care of Mary after Jesus ascended into heaven.

Only it must be in faith that he asks with no wavering (no hesitating, no doubting). For the one who wavers (hesitates, doubts) is like the billowing surge out at sea that is blown hither and thither and tossed by the wind. For truly, let not such a person imagine that he will receive anything [he asks for] from the Lord, [For being as he is] a man of two minds (hesitating, dubious, irresolute), [he is] unstable and unreliable and uncertain about everything [he thinks, feels, decides], James 1:6-8.

According to first centurion historians, even Jesus’ earthly brother, James, did not believe until Resurrection Sunday. Perhaps, the passage above is a personal confession, disappointed by his own lack of faith. Instead using his God given ears to hear and eyes to see, gusts of doubt blinded James from Jesus’ true identity. Nearly 2000 years later, the gusts of doubt continue to blow. Some of these storms are hidden by gray clouds, appearing without a moments notice. When the sky clears, a trail of wounded souls and debris remain.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

The apostle Paul compares faith to a deeply rooted tree, Colossians 2:7, nourished and built up by Christ. Unfortunately, winds of doubt often separate believers from their source of light and life. After cursing an unproductive fig tree, the disciples were shocked by Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus uses this teachable moment to reveal how doubt impacts his followers. Therefore, the next time you feel the gusts of doubt begin to blow, clear your mind before prayer is exercised to secure a firm defense.

by Jay Mankus

The Exercise of God’s Power

Exercise is the act of bringing into play. While exercise is a vehicle to lose weight or stay in shape, this isn’t something that human beings attribute to God. Yet, when fasting sets the spiritual tone and prayers are lifted up to heaven, miracles are the realization of God’s power in action. The Old Testament is filled with accounts of bizarre events that defy science. Whether it’s the ten plagues unleashed upon Egypt, the sound of trumpets bringing down the walls of Jericho or the resurrection of Jesus, this is the exercise of God’s power.

Of this [Gospel] I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s free grace (undeserved favor) which was bestowed on me by the exercise (the working in all its effectiveness) of His power, Ephesians 3:7.

The context of the passage above begins with the ministerial gift available to apostles, preachers, and teachers. As spiritual leaders bestow the gift of God’s grace upon their followers, lives are slowly changed. While some individuals are transformed over night, most experience a gradual evolution into a new creation in Christ Jesus. Perhaps, the apostle Paul credits revived souls to the exercise of God’s power working behind the scenes. The catalyst of this spiritual change is fuel by the Holy Spirit, aka, the Holy Ghost.

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides], Ephesians 6:10.

Three chapters later, the apostle Paul reveals why spiritual exercise is necessary. As Paul unveils the spiritual dimension, you will find oppressive authority exerted by governments, master spirits who control world leaders, and spiritual forces of wickedness seeking to cause havoc in this supernatural realm. Without the exercise of God’s power, defeat and destruction is likely. However, as Christians begin to put on the armor of God, Ephesians 6:10-18, with a layer of prayer, the exercise of God’s power will propel you to victory in the end.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Become Despondent Through Fear

Living out a Christian faith can be oppressive, tedious, and seemingly without end of obstacles. Furthermore, when things don’t go the way you expect or think, it’s not uncommon to suffer from depression. When confidence is lost or hope slips away, fear can suck the joy out of life. Like a golfer who is all over the place during their round, there are many days where you have to grind everything out.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you, Ephesians 3:12-13.

Whatever optimistic message you have received about a new life in Christ, every day has a new set of challenges. If you let your guard down, become over confident or don’t have enough prayer cover, extreme discouragement may not be too far behind. Unpleasant emotions are a byproduct of fear, caused by a belief that someone or something is a threat. This is where faith must rise to the occasion, opening the door for boldness and courage to shine through.

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. 10 So then, as occasion and opportunity open up to us, let us do good [morally] to all people [not only being useful or profitable to them, but also doing what is for their spiritual good and advantage]. Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers], Galatians 6:9-10.

Apparently, despondency was an issue in the first century as the apostle Paul writes a similar message to two different congregations. The context of the passage above refers to you reap what you sow. If your mind is constantly fixated on fear, you will become worn down by despondent thoughts. Therefore, if you want to rise above your circumstances, approach God with a humble heart, expecting blessings for those who belong to the household of faith.

by Jay Mankus

Evil Persuasions

As a prerequisite for any discussion about evil in this world, moral evil must be distinguished from physical or natural evil. While natural disasters are often defined as acts of God by insurance companies to avoid going bankrupt, drunk individuals who decide to get behind the wheel of their vehicle exercise freewill. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and tsunamis are natural phenomena’s that occur throughout the world annually. The aftermath of these natural events may be associated with a curse or some form of punishment. Meanwhile, physical evil exists when human beings find themselves under the influence of a drug, foreign substance or evil spirit.

This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ], Galatians 5:8.

In a first century letter, the apostle Paul suggests that witchcraft infiltrated one particular church, Galatians 3:1. Paul uses the expression of being under a spell cast by a religious sect who were adding and subtracting from the apostles teaching. A modern way of saying this might be something like, “wake up and smell the coffee.” Evil has a way of slowly and subtly changing people. The Psalmist illustrates this in the very first verse, Psalm 1:1. Evil persuasions begin with counsel that deviates from the Bible. For those who are curious like Eve in Genesis 3:1-6, evil has a way of luring you to take stances that you normally wouldn’t. Anyone who continues down this road will eventually participate by joining in evil acts.

Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character. 34 Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. For some of you have not the knowledge of God [you are utterly and willfully and disgracefully ignorant, and continue to be so, lacking the sense of God’s presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame, 1 Corinthians 15:33-34.

The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day understood this principle. Thus, when Jesus began to associate with and reach out to sinners, Matthew 9:10-11, they were leary of Jesus’ intentions. Yet, when you are the light of the world, the greater the darkness provided opportunities to expose evil. However, for everyone else who isn’t the son of God, Paul needed to remind first century Christians of a biblical truth in the passage above. Whatever good intentions that you may have, over time bad character will corrupt godly individuals. Therefore, unless you have access to an accountable group to cover you in prayer, it doesn’t take much for evil persuasions to cause a once mighty saint to slip toward the dark side.

by Jay Mankus

Fighting for Your Life

An average, 56 million individuals will lose their life in 2021. Worldwide, 150,000 people will pass away today. While 100,000 will die from age related causes, the remaining 50,000 have no warning signs of their last day on earth. Although no one wants to be diagnosed with a life threatened illness, at least these unfortunate souls have the opportunity to fight for their lives.

In those days Hezekiah became deadly ill. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came and said to him, Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover, 2 Kings 20:1.

During a visit from an Old Testament prophet, King Hezekiah was informed that the end was near. Isaiah is the first to use the expression “set your house in order.” Like a business executive about to retire, Hezekiah was told to begin preparing for his own death by saying goodbye to family and friends. Instead of surrendering to this illness, Hezekiah poured out his heart to God in prayer.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, I beseech You, O Lord, [earnestly] remember now how I have walked before You in faithfulness and truth and with a whole heart [entirely devoted to You] and have done what is good in Your sight. And Hezekiah wept bitterly, 2 Kings 20:2-3.

As a former high school Bible teacher, two of my former students succumb to cancer before having a chance to enter the prime of their lives. After wrestling with God in prayer, Hezekiah was one of the lucky ones as the Lord extended his life by another 15 years. However, Hezekiah’s healing was not assured until witnessing his shadow go ten steps backwards. As you read this today, may you follow in the footsteps of the apostle Paul by fighting the good fight, 1 Timothy 6:12, until the Lord takes you home.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Waste the Waning Years of Life

If you want to pace yourself throughout the marathon called life, Hebrews 12:1, taking a break from time to time is essential. Whether this involves getting away for a few days, going on a retreat, or taking a vacation, bodies need to be rejuvenated. When human beings neglect the need to be recharged and refreshed, burnout, emotional breakdowns and exhaustion is likely in your future. Instead of making the most of your waning years, the tired tend to run out the clock.

Isaiah said, What have they seen in your house? Hezekiah answered, They have seen all that is in my house. There is no treasure of mine that I have not shown them. 16 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, Hear the word of the Lord! 17 Behold, the time is coming when all that is in your house, and that which your forefathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, says the Lord, 2 Kings 20:15-17.

In the passage above, King Hezekiah was just miraculously healed. After crying out to God in prayer, the Lord gave this king an additional 15 years on earth. Instead of devoting the remaining years of his live to serving God, selfish desires consumed Hezekiah’s soul. Following a visit from the King of Babylon, Hezekiah quickly forgot all that the Lord had done for him. Like a modern day politician who becomes corrupted by power, Hezekiah wastes the waning years of his life.

And some of your sons who shall be born to you shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of Babylon’s king. 19 Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, The word of the Lord you have spoken is good. For he thought, Is it not good, if [all this evil is meant for the future and] peace and security shall be in my days? – 2 Kings 20:18-19.

Looking back in time, it would have been better if Hezekiah’s illness ended his life. Due to a series of poor choices, Hezekiah’s actions affected his family, faith, and the nation of Judah. Moses introduced the concept of the sins of the father in Exodus 20:5. While 2 Kings doesn’t go into detail of Hezekiah’s transgressions as a father, one of his own sons appears to have been greatly influenced. Subsequently, Manasseh goes on to become one of the most ungodly kings in the Old Testament. This was all set up because a healed king exchanged eternal treasures for temporary pleasures. Seize the day while you still have time.

by Jay Mankus

Joy is a Choice

The book definition of joy is a feeling of great pleasure that results in happiness. Meanwhile, rejoice refers to expressing great delight that is inspired by this source of joy. When internal joy is expressed in an external manner, individuals experience elation, gratification, and jubilation. Like momentum in a sporting event, the presence of joy can transform lives. brimming and bubbling over with a new found confidence.

Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort or fall into various temptations. Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience. But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing, James 1:2-4.

In a letter first century to Christians scattered throughout the world due to religious persecution, the earthly brother of Jesus suggests that joy is a choice. Based upon the passage above, joy is a mindset that you maintain regardless of the circumstances. Whether you encounter hardships, trials or temptation, joy is a byproduct of faith. As Christians mature over time, the spiritual fruit of joy is conceived in your life.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will], 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

Unfortunately, joy is a rare quality in a world filled with anxiety, sadness, and worry. Instead of exuding joy, negative atmospheres and climates overwhelm troubled souls. Thus, misery tends to drown out any glimpses of hope. When joy is absent, the apostle Paul urges believers to rely on prayer to alter your mood. Therefore, if joy is a choice, make sure that the Holy Spirit provides the spark needed to keep this spiritual fruit alive.

by Jay Mankus

Placed in Right Standing with God

Joe Mantegna is best known for his role as David Rossi in Criminal Minds. While not part of the current cast, Mantegna first came to the forefront as detective Will Girardi in the series Joan of Arcadia. In the opening scene, Girardi is the new chief of police, taking over in Arcadia, a city full of corruption. As Mantegna confronts law breakers each episode, political pushback eventually results in losing his position. Despite being cast as a former altar boy in the Catholic Church, Mantegna’s character is an atheist who believes God is punishing him as he and his family face a series of ongoing trials.

But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!] 18 For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor, Galatians 2:17-18.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul references his previous life as a Pharisee, eager to adhere to a rigid and strict adherence to the Law of Moses. As the Church in Galatia is infiltrated by a religious sect known as the Judaizers, Paul warns these new Christians not to force Gentile converts to conform to Jewish traditions. Paul clarifies how to placed in right standing with God. This isn’t accomplished through following a set of rules in the Old Testament. Rather, the only way to be set free from being convicted as a sinner on Judgement Day is by placing your faith and sole trust in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:19-22.

The best example of being placed in right standing with God is a first century story shared by Jesus. This parable involves two sons, the younger who was tired of living at home. Bored and eager to get out on his own, this immature teenager wore down his father, giving into his demands. Like a freshman college student during their first semester, Luke’s word describe someone who wanted to be the life of the party. However, not long afterward this individual flunked out and became homeless, desperation sets in. Morally and spiritually bankrupt, this prodigal came to his senses. The prayer above is an outline for being placed in right standing with God.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming a Nervous Breakdown

The definition of a nervous breakdown is a period of mental illness resulting from severe depression, stress, or anxiety. This condition manifests itself primarily as severe stress-induced depression, anxiety or dissociation in a previously functioning individual. If these symptoms continue without any sort of intervention, the afflicted are no longer able to function on a day-to-day basis until this disorder is cured.  During a long cross country practice in high school, I had my own breakdown while running up a hill.

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and how he had slain all the prophets [of Baal] with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow. Then he was afraid and arose and went for his life and came to Beersheba of Judah [over eighty miles, and out of Jezebel’s realm] and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a lone broom or juniper tree and asked that he might die. He said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am no better than my fathers, 1 Kings 19:1-4.

A mental breakdown is defined by its temporary nature, often closely tied to psychological burnout, severe overwork, sleep deprivation and similar stressors. In the passage above, an Old Testament prophet wasn’t prepared for the revenge sought by Queen Jezebel. After defeating the prophets of Asherah and Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah may have become over confident, 1 Kings 18:38-40. If I successfully called fire to come down from heaven following a prayer like Elijah, I would feel invincible.

As he lay asleep under the broom or juniper tree, behold, an angel touched him and said to him, Arise and eat. He looked, and behold, there was a cake baked on the coals, and a bottle of water at his head. And he ate and drank and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came the second time and touched him and said, Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you. So he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God, 1 Kings 19:5-8.

Unfortunately, only God knows the future. Thus, when your suffer a surprising defeat, shocking failure or a humiliating lose, it takes time to recover. If a life is lost or a job terminated, the recovery time is often extended to months and years to feel normal again. This is when you need to retreat like Elijah to quiet place, to be still before God, 1 Kings 19:11-13. While the healing process will vary, this is the first step toward overcoming a nervous breakdown.

by Jay Mankus

Worn Out Before the Worship Begins

The Coronavirus has taken a toll on families, lives and souls in 2020. According to a recent report, over 100,000 small businesses have closed this year. Meanwhile, if further lock downs or restrictions are enacted in the weeks and months to come, more the 85% of restaurants could be forced to go out of business for good. Although the thought of Christmas may serve as a healthy distraction for some, many Americans are worn out before Christmas worship services begin, me included.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! – Psalm 95:6

The book definition of worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. While talking to a Samaritan woman in the middle of a hot summer day, Jesus refers to a physical thirst for living water. True worship is valuing the treasures of God, not temporary pleasures that quickly fade away. The inner essence of worship is designed to pour out your heart to the Lord. This occurs by responding to acquired knowledge of the Bible within your mind, as longings within your heart begin to ooze out. However, if you are emotionally spent, how do you regain a vigor for worship this Christmas?

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth,” John 4:24.

One thing Jesus doesn’t want is a counterfeit, a phony Christian faking worship. When anxieties, burdens, and concerns overwhelm your soul, Jesus serves as a weighing station, Matthew 11:28-30. Prayer is a way you can unload all of your spiritual trash, sucking any joy remaining in your life. Once this removal is compete, true worship can begin. Therefore, if you are still trying to pick up the pieces shattered by Covid-19, meet with Jesus now so that you’ll be ready to worship God on Christmas Day.

by Jay Mankus

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