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The Fervor of Faith

During a discussion with a woman at a well in Samaria, the topic of conversation transitions to worship. The woman refers to her descendants who worshiped on this mountain, pointing toward Mount Gerissim. Apparently, first century Jews were legalistic, belittling Samaritans for not going to temple at Jerusalem to worship God. However, Jesus points to a time in the future, following his death and resurrection, when individuals will be able to worship God in any place or time.

God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:24.

In the passage below, the apostle Paul builds upon this concept. Whenever individuals enter into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, an intimacy develops. As faith increases, man’s relationship with God becomes a daily priority. Thus, faith isn’t something that you put back on the shelf and walk away from like a Bible. Rather, faith becomes part of you, growing into a fervor through a higher calling via the Holy Spirit.

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

This Samaritan woman mentioned by John, one of Jesus’ disciples, is introduced as a restless individual, searching for answers to life’s questions. This journey led the Samaritan woman to look for love in relationships, leaving one man after another when love disappeared. However, when Jesus talked about living water, a spark was triggered within her soul. Hungry for more, John 4:39 reveals that a fervor for faith was conceived, leading her entire family to faith in Christ. This is the kind of fervor that we all need today.

by Jay Mankus

The Mystery of the Holy Spirit

As of 1980, British statistical researcher David B Barrett identified 20,800 Christian denominations in the world.  From a historical perspective, there were two large branches of Christianity.  The Catholic Church in the west and the Orthodox Church in the east.  Following the Protestant Reformation in 1517, a third major group emerged.  Beside Martin Luther’s influence, Christian denominations vary depending upon which beliefs, creeds, doctrines and teachings are emphasized.

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that [the people of] Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 They came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16 for He had not yet fallen on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus [as His possession], Acts 8:14-16.

One of the greatest disagreements among Christian churches is their understanding of the Holy Spirit.  The theology of baptism highlights this difference as a believer’s baptism, christenings, and infant baptisms mean different things to different denominations.  Some conservative and rigid churches believe if you are not baptized in a certain way or manner, you’re not really saved.  Meanwhile, some apostolic faiths claim if you do not speak in tongues, you aren’t saved either.  These debates magnify the mystery of the Holy Spirit.

Then Peter and John laid their hands on them [one by one], and they received the Holy Spirit. 18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this authority and power too, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your money be destroyed along with you, because you thought you could buy the [free] gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this matter, because your heart (motive, purpose) is not right before God, Acts 8:17-21.

Beginning in the book of Acts, a conversation to Christianity was immediately followed by baptism.  Luke, the author of Acts, reports that initial converts were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit as soon as each baptism ceremony was completed.  This trend continued until Philip brought the gospel to Samaria.  When news spread to John and Peter that the Holy Spirit did not fill new believers, the laying on of hands and prayer was necessary to draw out God’s spirit.  This same dilemma continues today as visible signs of the Holy Spirit are rare.  Thus, some may question “am I really saved or what’s blocking the Holy Spirit?”  If I had the answer to this question, it wouldn’t be a mystery.  All believers can do today is trust God to shed the light of truth on the mystery of the Holy Spirit.

by Jay Mankus

Earning Your Way on Board

Every day provides a golden opportunity to meet, interact with and make an impact on strangers.  Unfortunately, less and less people view life in this manner.  Thus, as many are simply trying to survive, most stay in their little comfort zone, coasting through life.

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked, Acts 8:30.

The apostle Philip was called to extend the gospel beyond the Jewish community, into Samaria, Judea and into the ends of the earth.  Fueled by an angelic encounter, Philip is steered toward a man from Ethiopia.  However, Philip recognized he needed to find some sort of common ground before trust could be formed.  When the opportunity arose, Philip earned his way on board.

“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him, Acts 8:31.

Seizing the moment, Philip fulfilled the great commission left behind by Jesus for his disciples.  According to this event, the Ethiopian Eunuch returns home as a new believer.  Although its unclear whether this man founded churches in Africa, Philip earned his way on board a chariot, planting a seed of faith which transformed this man’s life.  While this isn’t easy, God is waiting for his children to earn their way on board to revive dying souls.

by Jay Mankus

Somethings Money Can’t Buy

In the 1990 classic Pretty Woman, Richard Gere plays a powerful man who buys failing businesses, sells off their assets and makes money on the demise of others.  Starting off as a heartless human being, a rendezvous with Julia Roberts begins a subtle transformation.  During his next business deal, Gere realizes that money can’t buy happiness or love, something his business partners could not fathom.

Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, Acts 8:9.

During the first century, there was a famous sorcerer named Simon.  Citizens of Samaria were in awe of Simon’s powers.  Yet, when Simon began to witness Philip’s ability to heal and perform miracles, jealousy consumed his soul.  Desperate to obtain more power, Simon thought he could persuade the apostles to purchase the Holy Spirit.  Unfortunately, this too can’t be bought, only available by God’s grace through faith.

When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, Acts 8:18.

While money may curry favor with friends initially, maintaining friendships requires dedication, effort and hard work.  Money is simply a vehicle to access resources most individuals don’t have.  Yet, temporary treasures often fade away leaving a distant memory of the glory days.  In view of this reality, may you spend your remaining days of earth investing in family, faith and relationships that will continue in eternity.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

A Memorial Day Offering

Like a feud between siblings, the origin of the first Memorial Day celebration is clouded by history, with over 25 American cities taking credit.  The initial holiday was coined Decoration Day, based upon a 1867 hymn Kneel Where Our Loves Are Sleeping.  Inspired by the end of the Civil War, ladies of the South decorated the graves of dead confederate soldiers.  Although president Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, the debate continues today as several cities had spontaneous celebrations back in the 1860’s.

Acts 10:4 introduces another memorial day, one with a spiritual background.  Legalism within the Jewish faith had exploded by the first century, creating social barriers between Jews, Gentiles and half-Jews due to inter marriage.  Like a leper, outcast by society, Gentiles were not initially accepted by the 12 apostles, who focused on reaching all the Jews within Jerusalem, Acts 1:8.  However, the persecution led by Saul caused early church leaders to shift directions in Acts 8:1-4 toward believers located in Judea and Samaria.  When the time had arrived, the prayers of a Gentile named Cornelius were answered.

An angel of the Lord came to Cornelius in a vision one afternoon, Acts 10:3.  While silent for years, God brings him great news.  Cornelius’ prayers and gifts to the poor have not been overlooked, brought to light in a memorial offering.  The final touch is communicated to Peter in a vision found in Acts 10:9-16.  This occurred so that legalism of Jewish Christians would be broken, lifted to welcome any Gentile into the kingdom of God.  Since Jesus died once and for all for all sin, 1 Peter 3:18, as a memorial offering for mankind, God’s goal was to eliminate cliches, factions and social barriers within the church, Colossians 2:20-23.  In view of this, don’t let holiday shopping, weather or worldly ways keep you from offering up a Memorial Day prayer!

by Jay Mankus

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