Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

Chapter 17: Faith

A Summary of Christian Faith

A summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to understand what you believe, and what the qualities of the Christian faith are. ...

Child-Like Trust in the Lord

This shows us what trust looks like, and helps us understand why trusting God brings such soothing peace. Jesus said we must have faith like children to come to Him. Apparently, trust is also best exemplified in little ones. ...

Crossing Threshold of Faith - The Year of Faith

Faith is a grace, a gift from God. "Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger... in a continuous crescendo of self-abandonment into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God" ...

Be Faithful in the Small Things

When God gives us a task - whether big or small, glamorous or tedious - He expects our faithfulness. Fear and indifference are no excuse for not finishing our tasks. ...

Seven Habits That Will Destroy Your Faith

If you are in Christ you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) capable of developing new habits that build, rather than destroy your faith. Recommit your heart to Him and trust Him as He allows circumstances to come your way that stretch and strengthen your faith. ...

25 Ways Not to be Lukewarm in Faith

So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth. ...

Ten Ways to Grow Your Faith

You can deepen your faith next year, but you must be intentional about it. Here are ten steps you can take that will help you grow as a Christian this year. ...

Jesus Is Always Looking For Faith

Jesus loves it when people have faith in Him, and takes it as an unkind cut it is when people who should be displaying it do not. ...

 Chapter 17: Faith

A Summary of Christian Faith
A summary of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to understand what you believe, and what the qualities of the Christian faith are.

The Credibility of its Founder (Jesus Christ)

Christ said He came from heaven to fulfill prophecy, to die for our sins, and to bring to His Father all who believe in Him. Logic says that He was either a liar, a lunatic, a legend, or the Lord of heaven.

His first-century followers drew their own conclusions. They said they saw Him walk on water, still a storm, heal crippled limbs, feed 5,000 with a few pieces of bread and fish, live a blameless life, die a terrible death, and alive again.

During His ministry, when some of Jesus' followers took issue with His teachings and left, He asked those closest to Him if they too wanted to leave. Peter spoke for the others when he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68-69).

The Reliability of its Book (Bible)

Written over a period of about 1,600 years by 40 different authors, the book on which the Christian faith rests tells one story that begins with creation and concludes on the threshold of eternity. The integrity of its historical and geographical record is supported by archeology.

The accuracy with which it has been copied and handed down to us has been confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls of Qumran.

Originating neither in the East or the West, but in the Middle East--the cradle of civilization--the Bible continues to speak not only with spiritual power but with convincing prophetic accuracy.

Christianity's Explanations for Life

All religious systems attempt to give meaning to our existence. All attempt to explain our thirst for significance, the problem of pain, and the inevitability of death. All religions attempt to apply the design of the cosmos to our individual lives. It is the Christian faith, however, that reflects the caring attention to detail so evident in the species and ecosystems of the natural world.

It is Christ who speaks of a Father who takes note of every sparrow that falls, a Father who numbers even the hairs of our head (Matthew 10:29-31). It is Christ who reveals a God who shows how much He cares for all that He has created. It is Christ who clothed Himself in our humanity to feel what we feel, and then to suffer and die in our place. It is Christ who reveals a God who cares as much about His creation as the design and detail of the natural world indicates (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:16-25).

Continuity With The Past

The Christian faith offers continuity with our deepest ancestral roots. Those who trust Christ are accepting the same Creator and Lord worshipped by Adam, Abraham, Sarah, and Solomon.

Jesus didn't reject the past. He was the God of the past (John 1:14). When He lived among us, He showed us how to live according to the original plan. When He died, He fulfilled the whole Old Testament sacrificial system. And when He rose from the dead, the salvation He offered fulfilled God's promise to Abraham that through his descendant He would bring blessing to the whole world.

The Christian faith is not new with Christ. From Genesis to Revelation it is one story. It is His story--and ours (Acts 2:22-39; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Foundational Claim of Christianity

The first Christians were not driven by political or religious dissent. Their primary issues were not moral or social. They were not well-credentialed theologians or social philosophers. They were witnesses.

They risked their lives to tell the world that with their own eyes they had seen an innocent man die and then miraculously walk among them 3 days later (Acts 5:17-42).

Their argument was very concrete. Jesus was crucified under the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. His body was buried and sealed in a borrowed tomb. Guards were posted to prevent grave tampering. Yet after 3 days the tomb was empty and witnesses were risking their lives to declare that He was alive.

Christianity's Power to Change Lives

Not only were the first disciples dramatically changed, but so was one of their worst enemies. Paul was transformed from a Christian killer into one of their chief advocates (Galatians 1:11-24).

Later Paul reflected the changes that had occurred in others as well when he wrote to the church in Corinth, "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Analysis of Human Nature According to Christianity

The Bible says that society's real problems are problems of the heart.

In an age of information and technology, failures of character have scandalized institutions of family, government, science, industry, religion, education, and the arts. In the most sophisticated society the world has ever known, our national reputation is marred by problems of racial prejudice, addiction, abuse, divorce, and sexually transmitted disease. Many want to believe that our problems are rooted in ignorance, diet, and government.

But to our generation and all others, Jesus said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20).

Christian View of Human Achievement

Generation after generation has hope for the best. We fought wars that would end all wars. We developed educational theories that would produce enlightened, nonviolent children. We conceived technologies that would deliver us from the oppressive slavery of work.

Yet we are as close as ever to what the New Testament describes as an endtime marked by wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, disease, loss of affection, and spiritual deception (Matthew 24:5-31).

People will love only themselves and money. They will be proud, stuck-up, rude, and disobedient to their parents. They will also be ungrateful, godless, heartless, and hateful. Their words will be cruel, and they will have no self-control or pity. These people will hate everything that is good. They will be sneaky, reckless, and puffed up with pride. Instead of loving God, they will love pleasure. Even though they will make a show of being religious, their religion won't be real. (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Christianity's Impact on Society

A carpenter rabbi from Nazareth changed the world. Calendars and dated documents bear silent witness to His birth. From rooftops, necklaces, and earrings, the sign of the cross bears visual witness to His death.

The Western world-view, which provided a basis for social morality, scientific methodology, and a work ethic that fueled industry, had roots in basic Christian values.

Social relief agencies, whether in the West or East, are not fueled by the values of Hinduism, Buddhism, atheism, or secular agnosticism, but by the direct or residual values of the Bible.

The Christian Offer of Salvation

Alternative religious views have saviors who remain in the grave. No other system offers everlasting life as a gift to those who trust One who has overcome death for them.

No other system offers assurance of forgiveness, eternal life, and adoption into the family of God by calling on and trusting Someone in the same way a drowning person calls for and relies on the rescue of a lifeguard.

So you will be saved, if you honestly say, "Jesus is Lord," and if you believe with all your heart that God raised him from death.

God will accept you and save you, if you truly believe this and tell it to others. The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed, no matter if that person is a Jew or a Gentile. There is only one Lord, and he is generous to everyone who asks for his help. All who call out to the Lord will be saved. (Romans 10:9-13).

The Salvation Christ offers does not depend on what we have done for Him, but on our acceptance of what He has done for us. Instead of moral and religious effort, this salvation requires a helpless admission of our sins. Instead of personal accomplishments of faith, it requires confession of failure.

Unlike all other options of faith, Christ asks us to follow Him--not to merit salvation but as an expression of gratitude, love, and confidence in the One who has saved us (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Adapted from 1stap.com

Child-Like Trust in the Lord

by Shawn McEvoy, Managing Editor, Crosswalk.com

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
Psalm 131:1-2, NAS

This song, like most of the Psalms, was written by David - the man who would be Israel's greatest king. Is David who comes to mind when you think of someone "not involved in great matters" (kingdom conflicts, maybe)? Or unbothered by "things too difficult" (slaying a giant, anyone)? No, to me, this doesn't really sound like David. Doesn't really sound like me most of the time either.

Let's take a quick look at three things that stand out about this little Psalm:

1) Attitude.

David's "heart" - his inner being, his spirit, is not proud... of things he's done, of where he's been and where he's going... but neither is he beating himself up. He is just... content.

2) Appetite.

David's "eyes" - his senses - are not haughty. He's not seeking to please them. He doesn't have the look of arrogance. He knows Whose he is, and that his needs are met not of himself. He is not restless to feed like an infant, he is not stalking around asking to eat out of boredom like my 2-year-old.

3) Aptitude.

David places the responsibility for this peaceful state upon himself. Not circumstances, not achievements, not even on God. "Surely I have quieted my soul," he says.

Taken all together, this shows us what trust looks like, and helps us understand why trusting God brings such soothing peace. Jesus said we must have faith like children to come to Him. Apparently, trust is also best exemplified in little ones.

David's "talk" is of not being proud; his "walk" then backs it up by what he "involves" (or doesn't involve) himself in. This doesn't mean God hasn't given him - or you - important stuff to get done, just that David has "declared himself free from excessive ambition" (Ryrie study notes).

To sing not of self, to seek not to fill the senses, to seek the will only to be quiet before God - that is trust. A "weaned child" knows instinctively where to find trust. By extension, and through the example of "the man after God's own heart," so do we.

Intersecting Faith & Life:

"Involve" yourself in a small, humble matter today - perhaps a child's squabble, creating a meal, or going for a walk - and see if you can compose your soul.

Further Reading

Matthew 18:4-5
When Old Men Trust, by Calvin Miller

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

Crossing Threshold of Faith - The Year of Faith

By Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, S.J. (now Pope Francis)

One of the most powerful impressions in recent decades has been the experience of finding closed doors. Growing insecurity has been leading people, little by little, to lock the doors, to install safety devices and security cameras, to distrust the stranger who calls at the door. Nevertheless, in some neighborhoods there still are doors that are open. The closed door is a perfect symbol of today's world. It is something more than a simple sociological fact; it is an existential reality that characterizes a life style, a way to stop confronting reality, dealing with others, and facing the future. The closed door of my house, which is the intimate place of my dreams, my hopes and sufferings and also of my joys, is closed to others. And this is not just about my material house; this is true also of the enclosed area of my life, my heart. Fewer and fewer people can cross this threshold. The security of some shuttered doors guards the insecurity of a life that is becoming more fragile and less susceptible to the risks of life and to the love of others.

The image of an open door has always been the symbol of light, friendship, joy, freedom, confidence. How we need to recover these things! The closed door harms us, paralyzes us, separates us.

We are beginning the Year of Faith, and paradoxically the image that the Pope suggests is that of the door, a door that we have to go through so as to be able to encounter the One whom we need so much. The Church, through the voice and heart of her Shepherd is inviting us to cross the threshold, to take a step that is a free, interior decision: to encourage us to enter into a new life.

The door of faith reminds us of the Acts of the Apostles: "And when they arrived, they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles" (Acts 14:27). God always takes the initiative and does not want anyone to be excluded. God calls at the door of our hearts: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me" (Rev 3:20). Faith is a grace, a gift from God. "Only through believing, then, does faith grow and become stronger... in a continuous crescendo of self-abandonment into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly because it has its origin in God" (Apostolic Letter Porta fidei, 7).

Passing through this door involves setting out on a journey that lasts a lifetime, while we walk onward past so many doors that nowadays are opened to us, many of them wrong doors that very attractively but deceptively invite us to take another path; doors that promise an empty, narcissistic happiness with an expiration date; doors that lead us to cross-roads where, whatever option we follow, it will in the short or long term cause anxiety and bewilderment; self-referential doors that tire themselves out with no guarantee of a future. While the doors of the houses are closed, the doors of the shopping malls are always open. Someone goes through the door of faith, this threshold is crossed, when the Word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be molded by the grace that transforms it. A grace that bears a specific name, and this name is Jesus. Jesus is the door (Jn 10:9). He, and He alone, is and always will be the door. No one goes to the Father except through Him (see Jn 14:6). If there is no Christ, there is no way to God. As a door He opens up for us the way to God, and as the Good Shepherd He is the only One who cares for us at the cost of his own life.

Jesus is the door and calls at our door so that we will let him cross the threshold of our life. "Be not afraid ... open the doors to Christ," Blessed John Paul II told us at the beginning of his pontificate. Open the doors of the heart as the disciples did in Emmaus, asking the Lord to remain with us so that we can go through the doors of faith: the same Lord leads us to understand the reasons why we believe, so as then to go out and proclaim him. Faith involves deciding to be with the Lord so as to live with him and to share him with our brethren.

We give thanks to God for this opportunity to appreciate our life as children of God, through this journey of faith that started in our life with the waters of baptism, the inexhaustible and fruitful shower that makes us children of God and brothers and sisters as members of the Church. The goal, the destination or the purpose is the encounter with God with whom we have already entered into communion and who desires to restore us, purify us, lift us up, sanctify us, and give us the happiness that our heart yearns for.

We wish to thank God because He sowed in the heart of our Archdiocesan Church the desire to spread and to give with open hands this gift of Baptism. It is the result of a long journey that began with the question, "How can we be the Church in Buenos Aires?" and proceeded by way of the [Archdiocesan] Synod Report [Estado de Asamblea] so as to take root in the [Archdiocesan] Mission Statement [Estado de Misión] as a permanent pastoral option.

Beginning this Year of Faith is a new call to deepen in our lives this faith that we have received. Professing the faith with our mouths implies living it in our hearts and showing it in our works: a witness and a public commitment. The disciple of Christ, son or daughter of the Church, can never think that believing is a private act. This is an important and intense challenge for every day, since we are convinced that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil 1:6). Considering our reality, as missionary disciples, we ask: "What does crossing the threshold of faith challenge us to do?"

Crossing the threshold of faith challenges us to discover that although it seems today that death reigns in its various forms and that history is ruled by the law of the most powerful or the most cunning, and although hatred and ambition operate as driving forces of so many human struggles, nevertheless we are absolutely and decisively convinced that this sad reality can change and must change, because "if God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom 8:31, 37).

Crossing the threshold of faith means not being ashamed to have the heart of a child who, because he still believes in impossible things, can live in hope—the one thing that is capable of giving meaning and transforming history. To ask for it without ceasing, to pray without fainting and to adore so as be transfigured by what we contemplate.

Crossing the threshold of faith leads us to beg for each one of us the "mind... which was in Jesus Christ" (Phil 2:5), so that we may experience a new way of thinking, of communicating, of being in the family, of planning the future, of living out the virtue of charity and our vocation.

Crossing the threshold of faith is acting, trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit present in the Church and who also manifests himself in the signs of the times; it is accompanying the constant movement of life and of history without falling into the paralyzing defeatism that regards any time in the past as being better; it is a sense of urgency to think of something new, to contribute something new, to create something new, kneading into life "the new leaven of justice and holiness" (cf. 1 Cor 5:8).

Crossing the threshold of faith implies keeping our sense of wonder and a heart that has not lazily settled into a routine, but is capable of recognizing that every time a woman brings a child into this world she is logically betting on life and on the future, that when we protect the innocence of children we guarantee the truth of a tomorrow, and when we act as caregivers for an elderly person we perform an act of justice and cherish our roots.

Crossing the threshold of faith is work performed with dignity and a vocation of service, with the self-denial of someone who in either case goes back to daily life to begin again without slackening, as though all that had already been done were just one step in the journey toward the kingdom, the fullness of life. It is the silent hope after the daily sowing, contemplating the fruit gathered and thanking the Lord because He is good and asking him not to abandon the work of his hands (Ps 138).

Crossing the threshold of faith demands striving for freedom and peaceful coexistence even though everyone around us is faltering, in the certainty that the Lord is asking us to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Crossing the threshold of faith entails the ongoing conversion of our attitudes, the manners and the standards by which we live; voicing our thoughts in new, unvarnished terms, without papering over differences; offering the new form that Jesus Christ imprints on anyone whom He has touched with his hand and his Gospel of Life, encouraging one another to do something unprecedented for society and for the Church; because "if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation" (2 Cor 5:17-21).

Crossing the threshold of faith leads us to forgive and to be able to put on a smile; it is drawing near to everyone who lives a marginalized existence and calling him by name, it is caring for the frailties of the weakest and supporting their tottering steps, certain that whatever we do for the least of our brethren we do for Jesus himself (Mt 25:40).

Crossing the threshold of faith means celebrating life, allowing ourselves to be transformed so that we become one with Jesus at the table of the Eucharist celebrated in community, and being there with our hand and our heart busy working on the great project of the Kingdom: all the rest will be given us as well (Mt 6:33).

Crossing the threshold of faith for our Archdiocesan Church means to feel that we are confirmed in the Mission to be a Church that lives, prays and works in a missionary key.

Crossing the threshold of faith is, finally, accepting the newness of the life of the Risen Lord in our poor flesh so as to make it a sign of his new life.

Meditating on all these things, we look to Mary, that She, the Virgin Mother, might accompany us in this crossing of the threshold of faith and draw down upon our Church in Buenos Aires the Holy Spirit, as in Nazareth, so that just like her we might adore the Lord and go out to proclaim the marvels that He has done among us.

Dated: October 1, 2012
Source: Catholic World Report

Be Faithful in the Small Things

by Dr. Michael Youssef

Have you ever grumbled about a "small" job? Maybe you felt it was a thankless task or beneath your abilities. Or perhaps you yearned for something with more responsibility and authority. But the Bible tells us about the importance of being faithful in the small things.

Read Joshua 13-17. After the Israelites conquered the land, they still needed to distribute it among the tribes. In this passage, we learn a valuable lesson about how God assigns His territories and opportunities. When we receive a territory - whether it be our workplace, community, or classroom - God wants us to conquer that territory for Him.

God distributed the Promised Land based on faithfulness to Him, not on birthright. In our limited understanding, we may think God was being unfair or unjust. Yet God sees everything from beginning to end, far beyond our comprehension. He knows the secrets and motives of every heart, even when we do not. God knows how we handle the small tasks, the small blessings, the small opportunities and our future territories depend on how we handle the little things.

When God gives us a task - whether big or small, glamorous or tedious - He expects our faithfulness. Fear and indifference are no excuse for not finishing our tasks.

The person who will be faithful with small territories will be faithful with the larger ones. And that is why we see Caleb being honored by God in Joshua 14. Forty-five years earlier, when the Israelites were still in the wilderness, Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land - one from each of the 12 tribes (see Numbers 13). When the group found giants in the land, only two of the spies - Joshua and Caleb - were undaunted. The other 10 spies were ready to give up out of fear. Yet Caleb reported, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it" (Numbers 13:30).

God loves to see risk-taking faith and optimism in His children. Caleb had that kind of faith. The other 10 spies saw obstacles and danger, but Caleb saw victory. Caleb kept his eyes on the God of promise, the God who controls the future. Instead of fearing what he saw with his eyes, Caleb trusted in the God of all hope.

Caleb received his promised inheritance "because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly" (Joshua 14:14). But Caleb wasn’t ready to retire from God’s work. Even though the hill country was still inhabited by the Anakites, Caleb said, "Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. . . . I will drive them out just as he said" (Joshua 14:12). Even at 85 years of age, he was ready to take on the giants. He was ready to take on the tough assignment because he trusted in the power of God.

There are plenty of unoccupied territories around us today. Will you say with Caleb, "Give me this hill country?"

Commit yourself today to serving the Lord wholeheartedly like Caleb. Ask God for His strength to face the giants, and to keep serving Him until you see Him in heaven.

Source: Leading The Way

Seven Habits That Will Destroy Your Faith

by Cindi McMenamin

Is your faith on a steady course or could you be in danger of shipwreck?

Scripture warns us of the possibility of being shipwrecked in our faith - getting so far off course that we find ourselves beaten by the winds of the world and going down, spiritually. The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to "fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience" so that he wouldn't "shipwreck" his faith (1 Timothy 1:18-19).

So what shipwrecks our faith? I believe certain habits can slowly divert our course to the point where we are in dangerous waters, quickly going down, and eventually stranded on an island, isolated from our brothers and sisters in the faith who were once there to help us stand strong.

Here are seven habits to steer clear of so they don't destroy your faith.

1. Loving the World

It starts so innocently. We never intend to desire the things of the world more than the things of God. But before we know it, we have made idols of the objects of our desires and our faith pays the price. Scripture warns us: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). The world will vie for your love and affection. Be wary of loving anything in this world more than Jesus. When something else captures your heart, it will eventually destroy your faith.

2. Neglecting the Word

One of the easiest ways to become attached to the world and to pursue the temporary, rather than the eternal is to neglect God's Word. If we aren't constantly pouring God's Word and principles into our hearts and minds, we will be stained by the perceptions and priorities of the world in which we live. In His parable of the sower, Jesus warned of "the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Matthew 13:22). Reading and understanding Scripture strengthens our faith in the God we sometimes struggle to understand. Don't neglect the Word.

3. Trusting Your Feelings

While we should be discerning of the Holy Spirit's direction and aware of His conviction on our hearts, we can never put our feelings overthe facts of Who God is and what His Word says. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure..." Our feelings can mislead us by making us think God has abandoned us, when the facts of His Word say He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). Our feelings might tell us God is angry with us and will not give us another chance, but the facts of His Word tell us "there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Base your faith not on your feelings, but on the facts of Who God is and What He says in His Word. Your feelings constantly fluctuate but the facts about God (He is good, He is loving, He is all-powerful, He is in control of all things) never change.

4. Worrying

Worrying is an easy thing to do. But it's dangerous. And it's a habit that insults God. To worry is to say to ourselves and others "God can't handle this, therefore I must stress." Jesus instructed His disciples five times in Luke 12 not to worry, because God would take care of them. We are also told in Philippians 4:6 to worry about nothing and instead, pray about everything. Faith, like a muscle, must be exercised, or it will atrophy. Faith is exercised when we choose not to worry, but to trust our Heavenly Father - trust in His timing, His wisdom, His goodness, and the times He says "wait" or "no" for our own good.

5. Hanging with the Wrong Crowd

Psalm 1:1 tells us prosperity comes to "the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers." And throughout the Proverbs we are told to choose our friends carefully (Proverbs 12:26). Are you around others who sharpen your faith and challenge you to grow spiritually (Proverbs 27:17)? Or do you hang out with those who complain, criticize, gossip, and whittle away your faith, unknowingly? Choose your friends carefully so your faith is protected.

6. Relying on Self

We live in a world that praises self-reliance. But Jesus never did. He stressed God-reliance, which takes faith. To rely on God, our achievements, success, blessings and rewards are no longer about us and our abilities. If they were, we'd have only ourselves to thank. This occurred to me recently after my husband interviewed for a job that we really need him to get at this point in our lives. He was going over in his mind the interview and how he might've responded better. But is God ultimately in control of whether or not he gets that job? Yes. And because we prayed, laid it before God, and then my husband did the best He could do, our hope is now in the God who opens one door and closes the other. We will trust in His best for us when it comes to getting that job offer or not. We will not trust in my husband's first impressions, or his abilities to "wow" people. No longer relying on yourself propels your faith forward in ways you can't imagine. However, to remain "self-sufficient" is to remain "faith-inefficient."

7. Refusing to Hope

It is in our human nature to become cynical and refuse to hope out of a desire to protect ourselves from disappointment. I used to be this way... expecting the worst, not the best, so I wouldn't be disappointed. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop so I wouldn't get my hopes up. I was finding myself saying the words "that's just my luck." But that is not faith. That is doubt and cynicism. And it is not the actions of a loved child of God who maintains hope in his or her Heavenly Father. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Who are you hoping in, regardless of the odds? What are you sure of that you don't yet see? Place your faith, not in circumstances, odds, or people, but in the One who does wonders.

If you struggle with any (or all) of the habits above, you don't have to stay stuck in that rut. If you are in Christ you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) capable of developing new habits that build, rather than destroy your faith. Recommit your heart to Him and trust Him as He allows circumstances to come your way that stretch and strengthen your faith.

About The Author:

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of 15 books who helps women and couples through the struggles of life. Her books include her best-selling When Women Walk Alone , When a Woman Overcomes Life's Hurts, When God Sees Your Tears, and her most recent, 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom. See her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com

25 Ways Not to be Lukewarm in Faith

by Kelly Balarie

"So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." Rev. 3:16

This verse right here, gives me the chills. It's one of those things that makes you sit up straight. It reminds me of coasting on a bike. The thing about coasting is - you can't coast up to God, you're always coasting somewhat downwards and away from him.

I don't want to coast. I certainly don't want to be looking at the world and living my life, only to die and find out - I was never really that close to him to begin with.

Whoops! Big Whoops! Eternal Whoops!

You all know I just wrote the book, Fear Fighting. So, it's not that I have to fear what I am doing wrong, it's just that I have to fear God. Get my eyes on him. Seek him. Be with him. Pursue him.

Like dominoes, everything falls in line when we do this. We get near him and he gets in us. I like that.

With this in mind here are my 25 Ways Not To Be Lukewarm:

1. Pray

2. Praise

3. Practically search out ways to love others

4. Read scripture

5. Ask God for help.

6. Submit all your plans to God.

7. Enjoy creation with God.

8. Remember Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.

9. Forgive others.

10. Forgo anxiety and replace it with praise.

11. Encourage another person.

12. Hold fast to the belief that trials are training you into the image of Christ.

13. Grab on to faith, even when you feel like you are falling.

14. Thank God for everything.

15. Die to your selfish ways and live for Christ's.

16. Renew your mind in truth, throughout the day, every day.

17. Worship through songs and Psalms.

18. Seek to understand others, verses judge them.

19. Ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide, then follow.

20. Seek holy in everything you do.

21. Put on the armor of God (Eph. 6)

22. Proclaim the gospel, no matter how scared you may feel.

23. Remember God's faithfulness in the past. Speak it over your life.

24. Receive and extend grace. Repeat.

25. Uncover your heart and ready it for God's transformation.

The good news is - even if we've lived lukewarm, we don't have to fear our salvation. If we are saved, it is as done and done is done. We also don't have to fear that we messed up, drifted away from God or turned our back for moment. Why? Because God's love is greater than our deep worry we won't be loved again. It extends beyond our feelings, thoughts and hurts. It reaches in - and once again - accepts us.

About The Author:

Kelly Balarie is a passionate national speaker who has spent nearly ten years leading groups of women in spiritual growth, marriage building, and general Bible studies across the nation. She has lived her subject matter. Her faith was built as she battled through a debilitating eating disorder, depression, multiple sclerosis testing and concerns, company failures, family deaths, job losses, and times without income or money. Throughout difficult circumstances, Kelly has looked past the pain to uncover the beauty of God's always-developing purposes for her life.  She hosts Purposeful Faith blog.

Source: Purposeful Faith blog

Ten Ways to Grow Your Faith

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

No one becomes godly by accident.

You can grow spiritually.
You can become a better person.
You can deepen your walk with God.
You can change.

Every Christian is to grow in grace (2 Peter 3:18). That means that a year from now, we ought to be further along in our spiritual journey than we are today. If we do not grow in grace, then we’ve got a serious problem in our relationship with God.

I wonder how many of us made a resolution to lose weight this year. Maybe you’re tired of carrying those extra pounds and having your clothes not fit right. I suppose the vast majority of people make some sort of fitness-related resolution each January. Let me offer one word of advice. If you’re going to lose weight this year, something will have to change. You can’t keep on doing what you’ve done and hope to lose weight. It won’t work. If you don’t change what you’re doing, you’ll still be overweight and out of shape 12 months from now. The same is true if you want to grow spiritually. It won’t happen by accident. At some point you’ve got to change your schedule and rearrange your priorities.

You can deepen your faith next year, but you must be intentional about it. Here are ten steps you can take that will help you grow as a Christian this year.

1. Meet with God before you check Facebook

We live in a social media world. We text, we tweet, we update Facebook, we post our projects on Pinterest, and we put photos on Instagram Some days I feel like I live on Facebook. And I like to start my day checking my Twitter feed. While there is nothing wrong with social media, it can control us if we're not careful.

Start every day with God in 2016. Commit yourself to reading God's Word and praying before you get absorbed in the latest updates. "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33). Your day will go better when you start with God, not with social media.

2. Choose a book of the Bible to study this year

Many people will start reading through the Bible in January. Nothing wrong with that. I encourage you to read through the whole Bible in 2016, especially if you've never done it before. But there is a great value in digging deeply into one book of the Bible and letting its message soak into your heart. You could read Genesis or Proverbs or Daniel or Mark or 1 Peter. If you don't know where to begin, start with Ephesians. Read it at least 20 times. Read it slowly. Read it fast. Read a few verses a day. Use a Bible commentary to help you with difficult passages. Ephesians is so rich that you could spend all of 2016 studying it.

3. Buy a study Bible

Owning a study Bible is like having a seminary faculty on your bookshelf. A good study Bible has notes on every passage, book introductions, outlines, maps, charts, diagrams, and illustrations. Today you have many excellent options: The ESV Study Bible, the NLT Study Bible, the MacArthur Study Bible, the Life Application Bible, the Ryrie Study Bible, the Reformation Study Bible, and the NKJV Study Bible, to name only a few. You'll never regret investing money in a good study Bible. It will jumpstart your knowledge of God's Word.

4. Get involved in a small group

While it is possible to grow on your own, you will grow much faster when you are involved with a small group of other Christians. You could join a Sunday School class, a men's group, a women's group, a Bible study group, or a prayer team. The possibilities are endless. Don't sit on the sidelines. Share your life with other Christians who can encourage you, pray with you, laugh with you, and cry with you. Taking part in a healthy small group is like taking an energy shot for your soul.

5. Start a journal

Twenty years ago I started journaling after reading Chuck Swindoll's testimony. He said he found journaling a useful way to track God's work in his life. Keeping a journal is like keeping a diary, except that you use your journal to do "God sightings." Where has God shown up unexpectedly in your life? Where have you seen the fingerprints of the Lord? Write it down so you won't forget it. Over time your journal will help you see how God's plan is unfolding in your life.

6. Memorize Psalm 1

That's the one that starts this way:

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night."

Psalm 1 stands at the head of the psalter for a reason. It describes the fundamental difference between a life lived for self versus a life lived for God. Because we live in a me-centered world, we need to tattoo these verses on our heart so we won't forget them.

Start with Psalm 1 and memorize a verse or two each day. You could easily finish it in a week. After that, go on to Psalm 2 or Ephesians 1 or 1 Corinthians 3 or Matthew 5:1-16. Whatever passage you choose, commit yourself to storing God's truth in your heart this year.

7. Do some Bible listening

Start by downloading these two apps: YouVersion and Bible.Is. Bible listening means that instead of reading the Bible, you listen as someone reads it aloud. The Bible.Is app contains hundreds of audio versions of the Bible, including tribal languages from around the world. They also include dramatized versions that include music and other sound effects. After listening to a large part of the Bible on audio, I can testify that many passages came alive to me for the first time, even though I had read them many times on my own.

8. Become a quick forgiver

Mark Twain once remarked that forgiveness is the fragrance the violet yields to the heel that has crushed it. Easy to say, hard to do. Make up your mind that you won't be a grievance collector in 2016. "Love doesn't keep score of the sins of others" (1 Corinthians 13:5 MSG). Add to that 1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." Love has a short memory and sealed lips. We need to hear this word because others will indeed fail us a “multitude” of times. Sometimes the people we love the most will hurt us deeply. Love expects others to fail, expects to be hurt and expects to be used unfairly. It goes on loving anyway.

There is nothing sadder than a bitter Christian. Don't fall into that trap this year. Be a quick forgiver.

9. Do something crazy for God this year

Start by reading Hebrews 11. Noah built a boat. Abraham left a prosperous city, not knowing where he was going. Sarah got pregnant when she was 89. Abraham offered Isaac. Moses refused the riches of Egypt in favor of suffering with his own people. The Hebrews marched around Jericho. Rahab hid the spies.

Faith is belief plus unbelief, and acting on the belief part. At some point, you've got to get off the couch and do something. Faith grows when we, like Peter, dare to get out of the boat. What does that mean? It might mean pursuing a God-sized dream. It might mean giving more than some think is wise. It might mean getting involved in a new ministry. It might mean spending two weeks on a missions trip. It might mean daring to start over again.

Living by faith means that you stop making excuses and get in the game for God. If it doesn't scare you, it's probably not crazy enough. True faith leads you out of your comfort zone. God will help you, but you've got to take the first step.

10. Pray for missionary eyes

Every day you meet people who need the help only you can give. Some of them need a word of encouragement, and you are the only one who can give them that word. Some of them are staggering beneath a heavy load, and you are the only one who can lift that burden from their shoulders. Some of them are about to quit, and you are the only one who can keep them in the race. Some of them have been hit with an incredible string of trials, and you are the only one who can help them keep going.

Pray that God will give you Missionary Eyes to see the real needs of the people you meet. Pray that God will bring at least one person across your path who needs the help only you can give. That's a prayer God will answer, for there are folks all around you who are just barely making it. You see them where you work, and you live next door to them. Your children go to school with their children. They are out there waiting for someone to give them help.

So there you have it. Here are ten ways you can grow your faith in 2016. But remember the key point: No one becomes godly by accident. Intentionality is the key. If you want to grow next year, you can. With God's help, you can be a different person 365 days from now.

Lord Jesus, without you we can do nothing. Without your help, all our resolutions and new beginnings will come to nothing. Help us, Lord! We want to draw closer to you. We want to grow in grace. We pray that a year from now we might know you better and love you more than ever before. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Jesus Is Always Looking For Faith

(And finding it in the unlikeliest of places)

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8)

Jesus was always on the lookout for faith.

Like a geiger counter in search of uranium or a metal detector on the beach, His heart seems to have started pinging when someone in His presence got the faith-thing right.

Our Lord was busy teaching in a crowded little house in Capernaum one day when the ceiling began falling on him. Four local men had brought their paralyzed buddy for Jesus to heal, and unable to get him in the house because of the crowd, they carried him onto the rooftop and tore open the tiles. (They couldn't wait? we wonder.) As the opening grew bigger, the crowd moved back and some of those inside helped to lower the man into the room. What a moment that must have been.

Scripture says, "When Jesus saw their faith," He forgave the paralytic of his sin, then healed him of his paralysis. (Mark 2:1-12).

He could spot faith a mile off.

When the blind beggar of Jericho heard Jesus of Nazareth was coming "this way," without a clue whether the Lord was nearby or a mile off, he began yelling, "Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!" Then, when people around tried to shush him - this was embarrassing! - he began calling out even louder, "Jesus! Have mercy on me!"

He would not be deterred. He was going to get to Jesus.

As the Lord came within earshot and saw what was happening, He asked people to bring the man to him and healed him of his blindness.

Jesus loves it when people have faith in Him, and takes it as an unkind cut it is when people who should be displaying it do not.

To the fearful disciples who were crying that the boat was about to sink in the storm, the Lord said, "Why did you fear? Where is your faith?" (Matthew 8:26) They, of all people, - after all they had seen and heard - should have known they were safe in His presence. And yet, their faith deserted them.

The Lord watched as the poor widow took her place in the queue and moved along with the other contributors in the Temple treasury that day. Most had bags of coins to drop into the brass urns labeled for the support of the Temple, the priesthood, the holy days, and benevolence. The woman held two tiny coins in her fingers, the last bit of wealth she possessed on earth. As she dropped it into an urn and walked away, never knowing she has been spotted by the Savior of the world, Jesus told His disciples, "Everyone else gave of their excess. She has put in all she had. This woman gave more than anyone here."

He was impressed by her faith, by the faith of the blind beggar of Jericho, of the faith of the four men of Capernaum.

Faith always makes itself known.

The widow's faith showed up in her offering. The beggar's faith showed up in his persistence. The faith of the four showed up in their labors to get their friend to Jesus.

The widow said, "Whatever I have." The beggar said, "Whatever I have to do." The four men of Capernaum said, "Whatever it takes."

Faith itself is not visible, but its effects can always be seen.

There is no such thing as secret faith, any more than there can be a private atomic explosion. If it's there, it will be seen and known and registered.

The nature of faith is that there are always obstacles.

Either you don't have as much information as you would like, you're being discouraged by those around you, your knees are knocking, the vote is against you, you stand alone, or something. There is always the negative factor.

Here's one of the Lord's favorites…

A centurion of the Roman army stationed in Capernaum approached Jesus. "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home. He's in great pain."

Jesus said, "Then, come on and let's go to him."

The officer said, "Lord, I am unworthy for you to come into my home. If you will just speak the word, my man will be well."

He went on to explain, "I too am a man under authority. I say something to these soldiers and they do it. And that's how I know you are under the authority of God in Heaven."

The servant carrying out the wishes of his master has the authority of the master.

Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith with anyone in these parts." Then, He said the words and healed the servant. (Matthew 8:1-13).

Why was the faith of the centurion so special? He was the last one anyone expected to be having faith in a Jewish citizen, much less an itinerant preacher who was being castigated by their own authorities. He was a man of position, prestige, and authority, and perhaps because of that, he had an insight into the authority Jesus was exhibiting.

Scripture says three times "The just shall live by faith." That's Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17, and Galatians 3:11.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith, it is impossible to please God."
And 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us, "We walk by faith and not by sight."

Don't like to walk by faith, do you?

You find it hard, and lonely, and uphill? There will come a time when "faith shall be sight," my friend, and you will be so glad you got this right.

Jesus wondered aloud: "When I return from Heaven, will I find anyone still living by faith?"
Worshiping by faith.
Giving by faith.
Obeying by faith.
Witnessing and serving and helping and forgiving, all by faith and not by sight.

I want to say, "Yes, Lord. Here's one!" as my hand goes into the air.
You too? Let's say it together now.
"Yes, Lord, I believe! "

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