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The Adapted Truth

Adaptation is the biological mechanism by which organisms adjust to new environments or changes in their current environment. This evolutionary theory was discussed by scientists prior to the 1800’s, but it was Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace who developed the theory of natural selection. As time presses on and what human beings once thought was right has been altered, an adapted truth is necessary to combine the past with the present.

Hold fast and follow the pattern of wholesome and sound teaching which you have heard from me, in [all] the faith and love which are [for us] in Christ Jesus, 2 Timothy 1:13.

As a child, I assumed I was a Christian. Growing up in a Romans Catholic Church, I was taught if I followed the Ten Commandments and practiced the Holy Sacraments, I would go to heaven. After attending a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I was encouraged to study the Bible. The more that I read I began to realize Christianity is a relationship, not a religious practice. This new adapted truth forced me to evolve spiritually.

Guard and keep [with the greatest care] the precious and excellently adapted [Truth] which has been entrusted [to you], by the [help of the] Holy Spirit Who makes His home in us, 2 Timothy 1:14.

Whether new nuggets of faith are unveiled, Romans 10:17, or you’re exposed to a new teaching that helps connect all the dots, you have to be open to change. During visits to Thessalonica and Berea in Acts 17, the apostle Paul began to recognize the shrewd from the silly. When you test everything you hear with God’s Word, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, you may be forced to a new adapted truth so that what you believe aligns with the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

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

I’ll Pray for You

Recently, a public school teacher in Augusta, Maine told a co-worker “I’ll pray for you” at the end of a conversation.  While the context is unclear, I’m assuming this individual shared some concerns, issues or trial in life.  Despite attending the same church, these words were deemed offensive by the other woman.  Subsequently, the political correct “police” are now investigating this matter with some sort of discipline likely to follow.  I wish this was a practical joke, but its just another day in America.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours, Mark 11:24.

After completing my confirmation of faith in the Roman Catholic Church in 8th grade, I began to attend a Methodist youth group in high school.  Beside Sunday night, there were other activities offered to get to know people.  Initially, I chose a sharing group.  Students talked about what was going on weekly with a short prayer at the end of each meeting.  This non-threatening environment was a great way to ease into a relationship with God.  Shy at the time, I was afraid to ask for prayer as my life wasn’t as bad as those who constantly requested prayers.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, Romans 8:26.

Today, I have a new appreciation for prayer.  Early on I saw how some individuals sought attention, almost as if to elicit a pity party on their behalf.  Yet, now I am no longer timid about requesting prayers, especially for my eyes.  I’m sure there is a happy medium, but prayer leads to healing.  Thus, regardless of how outsiders may respond, don’t ever give up verbally expressing the words “I’ll pray for you.”

by Jay Mankus

Brain Washed, Deceived or Set Free?

When I was in high school, theology was not something I addressed with people from different religious backgrounds.  Thus, I hung out in the Mormon Church playing volleyball, went to a Methodist youth group and was a member of a Roman Catholic church.  Unfortunately, this atmosphere changed as I entered college.  Religious leaders often went out of their way exposing the flaws and shortcomings of each faith.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15.

This climate leads to one of three responses.  Those who change their beliefs are either brain washed, deceived by false teachers or set free.  This commonly held mindset ended several relationships I had with individuals from different faiths.  On one occasion, I discovered I was placed on the do not talk to list by one cult, afraid I might convince members to leave this church.  In a quest to prove whose God is true, division often ruins friendships.

Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander, 1 Peter 3:16.

I’m assuming the context of the 2 passages above refer to a similar situation.  Peter understood that when you are debating or discussing differences in religions that you must be respectful.  Any type of arrogance, pride or smugness will offend those you are trying to convince to come over to your side of an issue.  Perhaps, individuals should follow in the footsteps of God who offers free will, not forcing anyone to believe.  Regardless of how passionate you may be, remember to talk to others who you disagree with gentleness and respect.  This honors the Lord and helps others keep an open mind in the future.

by Jay Mankus

 

Spicing Up Church

Church history tends to go in cycles with one generation often forgetting the mistakes of the past.  Church growth experts substitute previously failed measures with cutting edge facilities, programs and technology.  Thus, if you attend modern church services you will find many replicate a concert with loud music, some sort of light show and overhead projectors that replace hymnals.  Only time will tell if spicing up church is successful.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends, John 15:13.

My spiritual background is a like a blended family.  I grew up in the Roman Catholic church, attending CCD until my confirmation.  While in high school, I began to attend a Methodist youth group.  During my college years I spent time at Baptist, Pentecostal and Non-denomination congregations before graduating.  Six months later I participated in a Lutheran dominated Youth Ministry Trade School.  I could go on, but for me the only thing that spices up church is developing permanent meaningful lasting relationships.

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.

I can recall one night walking for miles, spending several hours pouring out my heart to close friends Dave and Liz.  The earthly brother of Jesus is correct when he states publicly confessing your sins leads to healing.  In fact, a teenager in England ignited the second great awakening by asking his congregation for forgiveness, revealing his deep and dark sins.  Perhaps, if the leaders of modern churches begin to practice the biblical principles which led to previous spiritual awakenings, communities would notice what it means to spice up the church.

by Jay Mankus

 

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