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Tag Archives: church

Starting to Believe

If you listen, follow or watch cable news on a regular basis, you might begin to believe that the world is falling apart.  A majority of these networks blame Donald Trump for the world’s demise.  Yet, when you spend time outside in the real world, current accusations don’t appear to be as bad as initially reported.  If the media outlet you depend upon isn’t telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, who and what should you believe?

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” – Mark 9:24

In the passage above, a man approaches Jesus like a disgruntled shopper, complaining about the service he received from a couple of the disciples.  Evidently, the disciples were unable to heal this man’s son possessed by an evil spirit.  This boy was often thrown into epileptic seizures, foaming at the mouth and unable to control his own body.  Jesus attributes this failed miracle to a lack of faith.  Desperate to see his son freed from this helpless state, the man pleads with Jesus to help him overcome his unbelief.

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe,” Mark 5:36.

In the 1992 film A Few Good Men, Jack Nicholson plays Colonel Nathan Jessup who is called to testify in court about one of the marines under his command who was killed.  During a cross examination by Tom Cruise who plays Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee a Navy defense lawyer, a heated argument ensues.  Known as”You Can’t Handle the Truth,” this scene depicts the effort and struggle to unravel truth from fiction.  When forming a belief system, this process is just as difficult, sorting through what your church, education and parents have taught you.  Meanwhile, friends, mentors and professors may be pressuring your to confirm to post-modernism or secularism humanism beliefs.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, Acts 17:11.

When you come to a spiritual crossroads, the best advice is to follow in the footsteps of Berea.  This first century church urged their members to test everything they heard before reaching a conclusion.  Fact checking practices entailed combing through the Bible to determine if ideas, new teaching or theories were consistent with what the apostles taught.  Sometimes information is easy to decipher while other pieces take weeks. months or possibly years to grasp.  During a letter to Thessalonica, Paul reminds the people he visited to abstain from evil, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.  Although you will never know all the answers to life’s questions, at some point you have to start believing.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

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When Religion is Too Much Work

Within any religion, there is a set of beliefs, doctrines and rules that appeal to certain individuals.  You have to weigh the good with the bad as no perfect church exists.  Thus, denominations offer a wide range of options for families to select from before joining a church.  However, if your connection with God is based upon a religion rather than a relationship, some have come to the conclusion that religion is too much work.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless, James 1:26.

As someone who was brought up in the Roman Catholic Church,  I understand the amount of energy a religion based faith requires.  I memorized the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, partook in my first communion, spent six years taking religion classes in CCD and completed my confirmation by taking ownership of my faith.  Fortunately, I was introduced to a Methodist youth group during my sophomore year in high school.  While the church services were similar in some ways, there was a climate of genuine love that was passed on to everyone, even strangers like me.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ, Galatians 1:10.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul writes about his struggle between letting go of his zeal for Judaism and his new relationship with Christ.  When you follow a rigid set of rules, there is a tendency to seek the approval of others.  Yet, when anyone makes a decision to devote their life to Jesus, the religious may resent you.  Meanwhile, others reject you from deviating from the defined path within your church doctrine.  If you want to be free from this rigid course, a line from the Shack provides the answer.  During a conversation the main character Mack is talking with Jesus about stereotypes.  Jesus replies, “religion is too much work.  God doesn’t want slaves; He wants you to be part of his family.”

by Jay Mankus

Without You I’m a Disaster

You don’t have to experience the heart break of a broken relationship to know loneliness, pain and suffering.  Busy schedules may hide your grief momentarily, but idle time will eventually reveal the hole in your heart.  Reflection often stokes emotions held in check until now.  Over the holidays some will come to the conclusion without you I’m a disaster.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful,” John 15:1-2.

My Darkest Days sings about this reality in their song Without You.  While most people will think of this in a context of a man and woman, this also applies spiritually.  Biblical scholars and theologians reference John 15:1-8 as the answer to this connection.  Jesus uses an illustration of a gardener watering his vineyard.  Jesus is symbolic of the vine, human beings are the branches and the Holy Spirit nurtures and oversees life.  Unfortunately, many individuals attempt to live without remaining connected to the vine, Jesus.  This decision usually results in disaster.

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing,” John 15:4-5.

One of the ways Christians neglect Jesus’ instructions is by trying to go through life without any regular time attending church, praying or reading the Bible.  While you may not recognize the difference, each day without interaction with God breeds selfish tendencies.  If this pattern continues, you will likely reach a point where you think you don’t need God.  Sure, in times of desperation Jesus will be like crutches until you can walk again on your own.  As someone who went down this path in college, your mind becomes transformed by the world, believing in lies whispered to you by the Devil.  Justification and rationalization become a new religion.  As 2018 approaches, I pray that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to help you see without accepting Jesus into your heart, Romans 10:9-10, life is a disaster waiting to happen.

by Jay Mankus

 

The Murmuring

As technology replaces words with emojis, the English language is losing descriptive terms.  One example is known as murmuring; where individuals complain without confronting or solving the problem in question.  Rather, dissenters quietly express their displeasure via gripes, moans or muttering.

In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food, Acts 6:1.

If you belong to a church, there should an annual congregational meeting.  The purpose of this event is for church leaders to illustrate through a financial report where all gifts and tithes are invested or spent.  If this document does not appear to be genuine or above reproach, expect the murmuring to begin.  During the first century, apostles discovered that they were overlooking the needs of certain widows.  This complaint convinced leadership to separate teachers from servants.  In this case, murmuring was effective.

So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables,” Acts 6:2.

Today, social media has revolutionized murmuring.  Instead of sitting in the back of a church grumbling, disagreements are posted as blogs, posts or tweets.  Some of this dirty laundry goes viral, creating dumpster fires that affect, impact and wound the body of Christ.  Those afraid of confrontation are empowered to express how things should be without talking to anyone.  In the end, this type of murmuring does more harm than good.  If this trend continues, no one will want to enter certain churches due to past murmurings of the disenfranchised.  The next time you feel the urge to mumble discontent, realize that any complaint may cause a child of God to stumble.  May this image put to rest unwholesome talk which tears down the church.

by Jay Mankus

Where’s the Meat?

In 1984 the Wendy’s Fast Food Chain introduced one of the most memorable advertising slogans of my time, “where’s the beef?”  Actress Clara Peller receives a small burger on a large bun which sets the stage for this classic line.  This commercial convinced customers for a period of time that you had to go to Wendy’s to enjoy a beefy hamburger.

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil, Hebrews 5:14.

In spiritual houses of worship, there is a similar question asked by hungry souls, “where’s the meat?”  Due to a movement toward entertaining church services, there appears to be more fluff and less detailed teaching.  Thus, many believers are struggling to grow, lacking challenging sermons filled with spiritual meat.

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,” Matthew 9:12.

During a conversation among disciples and Pharisees, Jesus makes an assumption about spiritual growth.  Sooner or later, the spiritually mature must grow up by learning to take care of their own faith.  When you reach this stage in life, you can feed yourself through times of Bible Study, fellowship with other believers and prayer.  As you develop healthy spiritual disciplines, you can find the meat, godly principles, within the Bible daily.

by Jay Mankus

 

An Absentee Christian

This state usually begins with a logical excuse.  Perhaps, you’re traveling, on vacation or under the weather so you decide to skip church.  Like any other form of compromise, the second time is always easier, sleeping in after a long week at work.  If this pattern continues, it won’t be long until you become an absentee Christian.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out, Romans 7:18.

In election years, the phrase absentee voters is a common term.  This applies to students going out of state to attend college or someone who spends weeks on the road for business trips.  If you plan ahead, anyone can request an absentee ballot which you can fill out and mail to insure your vote counts.  Unfortunately, absentee Christians tend to be wayward souls who don’t have a church home, have lost faith or are caught somewhere in between.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective, James 5:16.

When I awoke this morning, I can’t deny the truth any longer, I have become an absentee Christian.  Sure, I could use my recent surgery and night work schedule as an excuse, but God isn’t pleased with my lack of obedience.  All I can do is follow the example set by Jesus’ earthly brother, to publicly confess my sins so that healing will come quickly.  As for now, I’m a humbled absentee Christian trying to get back where the Lord wants me to be.

by Jay Mankus

 

Stimulate Wholesome Thinking

When I was younger, the FCC held higher standards, limiting adult content to late night television.  Now, whether its sitcoms laughing at broken marriages, questionable commercials during sporting events or indecent lyrics within modern songs, wholesome thinking is being phased out.  In a recent Philadelphia radio ad, charities are now selling tickets to hear local celebrities made fun of, mocked and roasted in public.  I guess sin does sell.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving, Ephesians 5:4.

Unfortunately, negativity is nothing new.  In a letter to church officials in Ephesus, Paul addresses a concern he experienced first hand during his long stay.  When an individual steps across an unwritten line, there’s a temptation to join in, similar to a feeding frenzy.  Even if you didn’t start teasing someone or throwing another under the bus, resisting the desire to jump in is difficult.  Weekly, I find myself participating, indulging in unwholesome talk before its too late to take something back.

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking, 2 Peter 3:1.

The disciple Peter who also had a reputation for running his mouth came to a crossroads.  At some point near the end of his life, Peter became an advocate for wholesome thinking.  Torn up inside over the collateral damage of hurtful words, Peter encouraged believers to embrace wholesome thinking.  Therefore, if you’re feed up by societies destructive vocabulary, join this fight by stimulating those around you to engage in wholesome thinking.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

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