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The Freedom from Religion Movement

When I was a senior in high school, I was naïve about the spiritual dangers that existed in college.  A few of my spiritual mentors who already spent a year away at college warned me about giving into temptation.  These concerns fell upon deaf ears, causing me to wander away from the Lord during my first semester at the University of Delaware.  If I only listened to one of Jesus’ disciples in the passage below, I could have avoided the bad habits and heartache that I experienced during this dark period of my life.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, 1 Peter 5:8.

One of the modern dangers that lurks in the distance is the Freedom from Religion Movement. The Freedom from Religion Foundation is an American non-profit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin, with members from all 50 states.  This organization was founded by atheists and humanists who seek to censor and or prevent prayer from taking place in public schools.  The leaders of this movement decided to run a commercial during Tuesday night’s Democratic Presidential Debate.  The attached ad speaks for itself, an eerie preview of the future.

Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18.

According to the apostle Paul, the best way to combat the Freedom from Religion Movement is through prayer.  As atheists rely on and use activist judges to take away religious freedoms, Christians need to keep alert by praying in the Spirit at all times.  When hope dies, the power of prayer fades.  Yet, if a concert of prayer begins within churches, communities and homes, hope can be restored.  Throughout history, one movement replaces another, seeking to accomplish it’s goals.  However, when God’s people stand in the spiritual gaps that exists, the Holy Spirit will be unleashed to ensure that the Jesus Movement prevails.

by Jay Mankus

When Religion and Politics Mix

Los Angeles became the first city in the United States to be designated as a sanctuary city.  This 1979 decision was designed to prevent police from inquiring about the immigration status of arrestees.  Today, there are 36 other United State cities that have adopted this policy.  In recent years, churches in border states have been recruited to hide and protect illegal immigrants.  From time to time, I see cable news exclusives of local pastors defending their position.  This is where religion and politics mix.

But the Jews incited the devout, prominent women and the leading men of the city, and instigated persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them forcibly out of their district, Acts 13:50.

During the first century, Jewish leaders were fearful of the Jesus movement.  As more Jews converted to Christianity, influence and political power was being lost.  Thus, high priests, Pharisees, Sadducees and zealots sought whatever means necessary to stop any other Jews from turning their back on their Jewish heritage.  According to Luke, Jewish leaders used prominent, powerful and wealthy individuals to drive Christian leaders from their district.  This is where religious obsessions cloud minds and judgment.

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.

An earthly brother of Jesus makes an interesting observation in the passage above.  Religion and politics can and will mix from time to time, but if your tongue leads you astray, religion is worthless.  Jesus uses an analogy of a city on a hill in his Sermon on the Mount.  Christians are suppose to stand out, like a city with bright lights in the dark.  Actions, behavior and words reflect what is inside of your heart.  Unfortunately, the pressure of religion and politics may result in compromise, temptation or unexpected words.  When religion and politics and a fall from grace ensues, may conviction bring you back to the place where God desires.

by Jay Mankus

When People Are Divided

Disagreeing over religious beliefs is nothing new.  During a trip to the region known as Galatia, comprised of four cities, Paul and Barnabas swayed half of their audience.  Unfortunately, those who opposed the gospel consisted of Gentiles, Jews and political rulers in the town of Iconium.  Instead of asking Paul and Barnabas to politely leave their town, a plot was devised to have them stoned to death.  Apparently, one of their advocates overheard this plan and helped Paul and Barnabas escape.

So Paul and Barnabas stayed for a long time, speaking boldly and confidently for the Lord, who continued to testify to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders (attesting miracles) be done by them. But the people of the city were divided; some were siding with the Jews, and some with the apostles, Acts 14:3-4.

This wasn’t Paul and Barnabas’ only brush with death.  Devout Jews often responded to the good news about Jesus Christ with anger, fear and resentment.  The thought that the Jewish faith was no longer solely God’s chosen people was too difficult to accept.  Thus, Jewish religious leaders regularly turned to violence to stop the Jesus movement from spreading.  The book of Acts is filled with attacks upon apostles who boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, Jude 1:3.

The only thing that has changed in the past 2000 years when it comes to religious divisions are the responses by those who have rejected the gospel.  You see if the gospel is true, people have to change their lifestyle to conform with biblical teaching.  However, if you reject the Bible you can continue on your current path.  Instead of publicly beatings or stoning, social media have come up with creative ways to punish those who don’t share a secular worldview.  Today, Christians are banned, censored and demonetized for sharing biblical beliefs.  Despite these unpleasant experiences, believers must dust themselves off, get back up and keep sharing the good news about Jesus Christ like Paul and Barnabas.

by Jay Mankus

Can’t Stop Thinking About It

Mind-wandering is referred to today as task-unrelated thought. Depending upon the situation, you might experience thoughts not remaining on a single topic for a long period of time. This state of mind is allowed to continue when people are not engaged in an attention-demanding task.
Once individuals are less bogged down by the pressure of day to day life, minds can begin to narrow in on what’s important.

But after ordering them to step out of the Council [chamber], they began to confer among themselves, 16 saying, “What are we to do with these men? For the fact that an extraordinary miracle has taken place through them is public knowledge and clearly evident to all the residents of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people and the nation, let us [sternly] warn them not to speak again to anyone in this name.” 18 So they sent for them, and commanded them not to speak [as His representatives] or teach at all in the name of Jesus [using Him as their authority]., Acts 4:15-18.

Following the day of Pentecost, miracles once performed by Jesus began to occur by his followers. After a man lame from birth was deemed healed after showing himself to a priest, John and Peter was brought in for questioning. A group of ruling men known as the Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Court, were concerned that Jews were getting caught up in a new Jesus Movement. Evidently, people couldn’t stop thinking about miracles performed under the authority of Jesus Christ.

But Peter and John replied to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you and obey you rather than God, you must judge [for yourselves]; 20 for we, on our part, cannot stop telling [people] about what we have seen and heard,” Acts 4:19-20.

Thus, the Sanhedrin tried to stop this spiritual movement from spreading any further. This suggestion presented John and Peter with a moral dilemma. Should we give into this peer pressure to become politically correct or should we obey God? These former disciples of Jesus chose the latter, risking imprisonment to stand up for their beliefs and convictions. If there is one thing you shouldn’t stop thinking about, it’s Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

The Original Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption film was inspired by the Stephen King 1982 novel collection Different Seasons.  In the 1994 movie, Tim Robbins plays a banker, Andy Dufresne, falsely accused of killing his wife and a golf professional during an affair which took place at his own home.  The jury had enough motive to convict and sentence Dufresne to two life terms in prision at Shawshank State Penitentiary.  When a new inmate reveals a confessional of this crime from a former cell mate, the warden denies Andy’s request for a re-trial as well as killing the prisoner who could prove Dufresne’s innocence.

When he saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread, Acts 12:3.

During the first century, a fisherman turned evangelist experiences a similar ordeal.  When the Jesus movement threaten to weaken Judaism, one of its leaders was arrested by King Herod.  Although his life was spared unlike his friend James of Zebedee, Peter is held by armed guards awaiting his trial after the Passover celebration.  To insure he would not escape, Peter was bound with chains on each arm.  Neither predicament seemed plausible until redemption entered the equation.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists, Acts 12:7.

Andy Dufresne used a rock hammer, a poster of Rita Hayworth and time to escape through the tunnel used as the prison’s sewage pipe.  Switching the accounting book in the vault, Andy sent a letter to a local newspaper exposing the corruption at Shawshank on his first day as a free man.  Meanwhile, an angel wakes up Peter, releases his chains and leads him out of prison without anyone noticing his escape.  Following years of injustice, the warden commits suicide instead of facing law enforcement and Herod dies after failing to praise the Lord.  Although each story has its own twists and turns, the accounts by Luke of Peter in Acts 12 can be described as the original Shawshank Redemption.

by Jay Mankus

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