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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

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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