Thoughts on Authentic Faith, part 1

You can have a little faith in a new board and walk safely across a stream and you can have great faith in a rotten board and find yourself soaking wet.

Its more than just how much faith, it is about where the faith is placed. Authentic Faith has become my mantra. It is what provides a foundation for my service, my ministry and my life. For me, it is not merely that one’s faith be great or small but that it is The Authentic Faith.

Is there one authentic faith? As my faith journey has continued these past 20 years, from the foundation of Scripture, through my personal experience, through the study of traditions and the use of my mind, I am convinced there is.

In its Greek form, the word for faith is PISTIS. The most simple of definitions means, “conviction of the truth of anything.” It can be translated as confidence, trust or belief. However, it can also mean THE FAITH when it is contrasted with the law as Paul does in Romans 3:31 (NASB) Do we then nullify the Law through (the) faith?

On his journey to Jerusalem, Luke records various encounters Jesus had with his disciples, the crowds and with Pharisees. In one instance he records what has been a story which I’ve dwelt with often in recent years.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:
" "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

This story, I think reflects Wesley's thoughts in one of his letters to Thomas Church. John Wesley wrote,
“Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three – that of Repentance, of Faith, and of Holiness. The first of these we account, as it were the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself.”

In this simple story, Jesus walks with us through the journey of one who took the steps to The Authentic Faith and contrasts this with one who knows not.

1. Notice where both men are: the temple. Faith can be demonstrated and experienced in any place but most certainly in the place of worship.
2. The tax collector pays no attention to the Pharisee, he can’t bring himself to look to heaven but instead beats his breast in anguish.
3. He acknowledges God’s place as God and repents: the porch.
4. He goes home justified by faith: the door
5. Does he go on into the house? The world may never know.

Brother Wesley writes to the church that they should encourage believers and “Exhort him to press on, by all possible means…” Now Wesley did not leave us guessing to those means. As he examined the Scriptures, he found there 5 primary means which the Christian ought to engage in:

1. Prayer:

"The central theme of Wesley was always heartfelt prayer. He said that prayer is the lifting up of the heart to God."

2. Searching the Scriptures:

"Wesley has long been described as the "man of one book," while it is well-known that he read extensively in other fields and published approximately six hundred works of various themes. For him, scripture spoke to life, in its reading and proclamation, at deeply human levels."

3. Communion (The Lord’s Supper):

"Connects individuals to each other and to the grace available through the work of the Holy Spirit in our taking the bread and cup."

4. Fasting:

"Fasting for Wesley was closely connected with the continuing practice of prayer: "It is a help to prayer; particularly when we set apart larger portions of time for private prayer."

5. Christian Conference (small groups):

"The religious life and community were also inseparable for Wesley. The literal meaning of "conference" is an intensive meaning of the word "together." Conference was not merely a loose association of individuals, but an intensive, accountable, organic community."

(see also Acts 2:42 & Acts 13:1-3)

Do something,” wrote Oswald Chamber, “the test of faith is in not doing.” Faith isn’t faith until you step onto the board, be it new or rotten, and start walking.

At the beginning of my journey, I offered to God my life to use how He would. It seemed the right way. It was the way God continued to open doors and lead. In the midst of dealing with cancer and depression I sensed the Spirit’s leading. I began exploring the possibilities and felt God calling me to seek ordination as a Deacon in the United Methodist Church. I knew God wanted me to be a youth minister so it wouldn’t make any sense to be ordained as an elder and possibly be appointed as a pastor!

Well, after being told "not yet" twice by the Board of Ordained Ministry, what I knew was that I didn’t know what God was leading me into. And so I renewed the use of the means of grace. One night in August of 2004, I woke in the night and wrote down on paper, the vision for a new church.

I can tell you this rocked my world. I have had no thoughts, dreams or fantasies about being a pastor let alone a church planter. It may seem to you a short step from a youth pastor to an ordained minister but for me it was more like trying to leap the Grand Canyon. But I had to do something.

For Heather and I it was a retelling of Abraham and Sarah. It was and is a journey of faith. I remember clearly the evening when Heather said to me,

“I didn’t want to be a pastor’s wife.”

To this I responded from my heart,

“that makes two of us 'cause I didn’t want to be a pastor.”

We begin at that point to reflect on where we would go, for like Abraham," faith..., when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going, (Hebrews 11:8, 11-12 NASB)"

Faith has to do something.

May I Ask: When has your faith been put in a solid board? A rotten one? What did you learn?


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