Have faith, brother. Keep the faith. What faith are you? Faith is used in so many different ways, it's hard to say just what it is. In the first place, you can't have faith, keep faith or be faith. Faith, is an action word. It's defined as believing or trusting. Belief can stand without faith, but faith contains belief. It is an action which continues to happen because we're confident that the belief is true. Sounds deeper than the Marianna trench, huh? And yet, we practice faith, or faithe, almost every minute of our lives.
The world runs on faith. When you walk down some stairs, you move your body (action) with confidence in the belief that you won't go up because gravity happens to be light that day. That's why the Funhouse stairs and walks are fun. They fool your faith that the floor will stand still while you walk. Every move we make is based in the faith that things will be the same as they usually are.
In fact, faith is a lot like pretending. Where you can really see faith at work is when you've taken a little chance and acted like some-thing was true when you couldn't really be sure. The time you took a chance on finding a parking place right at the door of the movie house, instead of that sure spot you saw a block away, is a good example. In other words, acting like the things that could go wrong, won't; not worrying or dwelling on the negative side of things.
So you see, you can act as though you're going to get a boat in two years, and you probably will. That statement needs a little clarification of the word act. Basically, it's like setting a goal for yourself; except for the chance part. You do set the goal, but it really doesn't seem possible. "So what," you say, "I'll save my money a little at a time and, first I'll buy some life jackets, then a compass, next year a trailer, and something will happen that will help me finally afford a boat. I'll do a lot of Positive Thinking and maybe even some Meditation."
If you think about it, I'm sure you'll remember just such a process that ended in an unlikely goal being achieved. For instance, maybe you were "lucky" and found a real good TV at a garage sale. You'd already gone through three months of action, saving. You already had ninety dollars saved, but only paid sixty-five for the set. That allowed you to go rent a VCR and some movies for your first weekend with the new TV.
Brace yourself for this next statement. There are Christians that are going to hell. Why? They don't understand what faith is.
They read in the Bible that you're saved by faith, the just shall live by faith. But, most of the time the Bible has been translated "belief" where faith should be. That's because in English we don't have an action word for belief. Here's some proof. I'm sure you know the Devil believes in God and Jesus. You also know that the Old Serpent is NOT going to heaven. Satan won't Faithe. He's too proud to take God's word that His way is Best.
So all those folks who go to church every Sunday for reasons other than being with God, might have a problem. The faithing involved in church attendance is trusting the belief that God will be there and touch you. Remember that faith is an action. If you have trouble finding actions in your life that are based on God's promises, maybe you're just a believer.
All right, what we need is some simple, easy to understand way of Faithing. There are three very clear ways to practice faith. Anyone can do them and benefit. Even sinners. Whatever that means.
You don't even have to be a Christian. In fact, it might be easier if you aren't.
There's Prayer, Communion, and Giving. You can do all three of those things and never set foot in a church. If you don't see any results, then you can call God a liar. He's very clear on those three things. The Bible talks at length in God's name about those subjects. I make no apologies to anyone for my next statement. I know some won't like it a bit. The worst sinner in the world can faithe and God will keep His word to that sinner.
You see, sinning doesn't go away when you're saved. It just stops while you focus in faith on the promise of forgiveness God gives--when you ask for it. There's no such thing as once saved, always saved. The Bible says we live and are saved by faith(ing). If you think that a good Christian doesn't sin any more, try doing business with one. He's apt to take advantage of you just the same as any sinner.
The truth lies in the fact that we never lose our ability to choose. We regularly choose sinful actions. The white lies, the unreported two dollar error on our bank statement. Don't forget that Jesus said, thinking is the same as acting. That's for those folks who try to push their self-righteous behavior on the rest of us sinners, telling us that "you don't do those things if you're a Christian." If they've thought about their neighbors' wife........ There was never more than one Perfect human being. Even He had to be God to do it.
OK. If we can't stop sinning, then we better keep faithing. In other words, it's a continuing process. We need to Faithe every day of our lives. That leads us to a closer look at those three ways mentioned earlier.
Prayer. There's no faith involved in a rote reading of even the Lord's Prayer. You can read prayers out loud all day and not produce one bit of trust in God. Faith only goes to work in prayer when you pray as though someone is really listening, and will honor your words, or help with your requests. It's a lot like pretending, only it's definitely not some kids game. Every time you truly acknowledge God in your prayers sinner or not, you make a faith connection. It's easy to see how an "unsaved" person can still faithe in God's Direction.
By the way, it says in Matthew 6:6 that you should pray in secret. God knew it would be easier for us to be real when no one was there to make us think we had to pray a special way. When people are listening, we often think we have to be very Spiritual and say, "Gawd" a lot. Bunk! It's the real you, talking to the real God, that cranks up Faith.
Communion. Contrary to popular belief, communion is not some mystical mumbo jumbo that you have to go to a Seminary to be allowed to do. Communion simply consists of acting (faithing) like the wine and bread represent Jesus' blood and broken body. When you drink the wine or juice you faithe that God will forgive those bad things you've been doing. When you eat the bread or cracker you're "pretending" that it'll help heal your sickness or infirmity. Christ's blood was shed and his body broken to heal our soul and body. And any sinner or skidrow bum can take communion.
Communion is like the Passover when the Israelites were about to be let go out of Egypt. You remember, the story of Charlton Heston and the Red Sea. The people were told that if they killed a lamb, put it's blood on the doorpost, got dressed for a trip and ate the lamb, the Angel of Death would pass over their house and not kill the firstborn of their children and animals. No rules were made about being a regular church goer, or good neighbor, or volunteer charity worker. All the people were treated the same. The blood saved them all. By Faith. Faith in what God had said. Faithing in the belief that He told the truth about being passed over. There might even have been some Israelites who "tested" God that night and suffered death in their families. They still could leave Egypt in the morning with the Faithers, there was just one less of them.
The Passover and Communion were both meant to be private affairs to be practiced in the home. The Minister or Priest doesn't have to be present, you can handle it very nicely by yourself. You could take Communion three times a day if you felt the need. You might be sick with a bad case of the flu. The faith connection brings the God Energy.
The last of the Big Three faithing actions, is the one that really stirs people up. It hits us in a very tender spot: our wallet. Giving is so hard for most preachers to express to their congregations that they wind up watering the subject down so they'll get a little something in the offering plate. People don't like to be told they should give away their money. They especially don't like to be told that they don't give enough. What's enough?
We'll have to go to the Bible to find out. In the Old Testament there is a model for giving that the Israelites were expected to follow. Jesus tithed, and said we should, too. Considering that the New Testament hadn't been written yet, Christ must have used that Old Testament model. I don't think God has changed His mind about how much we should give. The Bible says more about giving than any other subject. The Book is full of it. Give to the poor, give to the priests, give to your neighbor, give to the widow, the orphan, it never stops.
With the three different tithes and all the special offerings listed in Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers, a person could wind up giving (back to God) up to twenty-five percent of his income. I can feel your raised eyebrows from here. "I can just barely manage ten percent, and you want me to give more?" Not me. God. The point in Giving is, you're faithing that God will keep His word that he'll provide. In Malachi 3:10, God promises to "open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it."
What Giving amounts to, is using God's money, so He can see that you can be trusted with more. He knows that the ten dollars some people put in the offering each week doesn't add up to ten percent of their $17,000 a year salary. If they started giving that full $l700, they might find that they got "lucky" and received a $2000 a year raise. The more you give, the more you get to give. I know that sounds materialistic, but notice the emphasis is on the word give. The more you get to give.
Sometimes we might not get money back, but our needs will still be supplied abundantly. What really counts is the faith connection that is made when you have a giving attitude. Let me clarify where the tithe should go. Our main clue is in the reason we give. We don't give to get. We give to help others understand one way God likes us to act. Some Christians call it, "Getting the Word Out." That definition is too vague for me, for then, someone could use God's money to buy gas so they could go around pestering people in their homes--telling them what they have to do to be saved. ONLY by Faithing are you saved. Look up the first few chapters of Galatians. I could also justify as faithing buying a stained glass window for the church. There's no faith that way, because my reward comes horizontally from the people in the congregation, or having my name under the window.
Where are some of the places to unload your faith dollars? Those places mentioned in the Old Testament, and another in the New. Galatians 6:6 says to share with "him that teaches you the Word." The verse following reminds us that we can't fool God with our measly five hundred dollar offering. Sow a little bit, reap a little bit.
Again, I don't believe that you have to be saved to make faith work. I have the feeling, that even if a person played the odds, and gave God's way for selfish reasons, to make more money, he probably would. The Bible doesn't single out the saved giver. Just like the blood on the door, if you do it God's way, He promises to do something in return.
Now I've got to step on a lot of Christian toes. Hate me if you must, but Matthew 6:3-4 says, that we are to give our money the same way we pray. In secret. We can't even tell the IRS! None of the money we deduct from our income tax counts in God's sight. Our reward, is our deduction. The same as the stained glass window. It only counts horizontally.
It's an easy formula. The more the earthly reward, the less the eternal reward. Don't you see that my name on some plaque or some accountants page is just me telling someone else how good I am? It really is just that selfish.
Now, for all you sinners and Believers, here are few words of warning. I could hardly be very Christian if I didn't tell you the whole truth. I've repeated many times that you don't have to be saved to Faithe. You don't. However, Faithing will save you, like it or not. That's the warning. Once you strike up that connection with God, He won't get off your tail. In fact, the process of your salvation is just the opposite of what most Christians will tell you.
Mostly you'll be told that good works save you. Not so. You Faithe, and God starts making it most uncomfortable for you to do anything but "good works." In other words, you start throwing off your bad behavior. Whether you like it or not. In fact, I wind up NOT doing a whole lot of stuff I want to do, and DOING a whole lot of stuff I don't want to do (at least at first). The pleasure is somehow missing from some of my old activities. But in the end I know (as I knew before) that those things weren't really right for me, anyway.
The Anti-Drinkers will tell you, for example, that drinking is wrong, and you can never touch another drop for fear of Hell's damnation. That's a lot of legalistic garbage. You're saved by Faith. It means merely that your loss of interest will prevent your getting drunk twice a week. Mainly the Bible teaches temperance, not abstinence. Start Faithing and you'll soon start putting the brakes on your excesses. And your wrongnesses. I heard of a guy that saved ALL his lunch tickets, even those when the family ate out, for a "business" deduction. That's cheating. That kind of thing eventually "gets to you" and you are able to stop by using your new God-given strength.
So, sinners and saints alike, watch out when you put Faith
to work. Put yourself on God's Path and He'll run you