Religion or relationship…another both/and answer to an either/or question.
People talk about the need for a personal relationship with the Lord instead of religion. I hear it all the time in evangelical circles…and even really good, God-loving people will completely dismiss the one in favor of the other.
Growing up Protestant, I was taught that religion is man’s effort to reach God, and all our efforts will never accomplish that. Relationship, on the other hand, is God reaching down to man and drawing man to Himself. Of course, when defined that way, it’s easy to see why one would dismiss “mere religion” in favor of a friendship with God, and so, I joined them, for many years in ditching anything that “looked” religious, and bragged about “my personal relationship” with God.
But is that the true definition of religion? I had to look and see.
According to World English Dictionary, religion is defined as:
- belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny
- any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief: the Christian religion
- the attitude and feeling of one who believes in a transcendent controlling power or powers
- chiefly RC Church the way of life determined by the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience entered upon by monks, friars, and nuns: to enter religion
- something of overwhelming importance to a person: football is his religion
- archaic — a. the practice of sacred ritual observances b. sacred rites and ceremonies
[C12: via Old French from Latin religiō fear of the supernatural, piety, probably from religāre to tie up, from re- + ligāre to bind]
I LOVE the word picture of the origination of the word “religion”. I see “fear of the Lord”, tied up, bound together…I see relationship here. Because of my fear of the Lord, I respond to Him, and we are bound together as one. I see relationship AND religion working together, one is God’s initiation to me, the other is my response to God.
According to the Bible, there is a religion that is valuable, pure, and faultless…it comes as a response to God’s initiation…a response to His gift of grace:
James 1:26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.
27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I’ve been challenged with this lately, in my thoughts, and in my daily walk with the Lord. As a Catholic, I’m finding it is not an either/or dilemma at all, but that BOTH are valuable and essential. God, in His love and mercy, sent His son to die for my sins, and to bridge the gap from heaven to earth. The “work” of redeeming man is done. The gift is there, but it is not a relationship until the gift is unwrapped and accepted.
Found this Sunday prayer I posted two years ago. I find myself still praying it! Have a blessed Sunday!
May the wisdom of God instruct me,
The eye of God watch over me,
The ear of God hear me,
The word of God give me sweet talk,
The hand of God defend me,
The way of God guide me.
Christ be with me.
Christ before me.
Christ in me.
Christ under me.
Christ over me.
Christ on my right hand.
Christ on my left hand.
Christ on this side.
Christ on that side.
Christ in the head of everyone to whom I speak.
Christ in the mouth of every person who speaks to me.
Christ in the eye of every person who looks upon me.
Christ in the ear of everyone who hears me today. -Amen
I stumbled onto two really excellent posts this morning, that I so totally relate to as a new convert to the Catholic Church. I don’t know how many times I’ve been reading through my familiar verses and something new will seem to have magically appeared there that I didn’t see before. I love how the Word of God is alive and active! You can read these articles here and here.
This past week has been a strange one. As a result of catching some sort of stomach bug, I sleepwalked through the first half of the week, and spent the other half reading and writing in preparation for my grand idea of a virtual ladies retreat here at New Things. As a result, I found myself at the end of the week a bit discombobulated and spacey. I put my youngest (last daughter at home) on a plane yesterday, headed for Dallas to spend four weeks with her older sister, and am contemplating the coming month without her vivacious presence. I plan to seize the day (weeks) and finish up my studies on prayer that I will share in August.
After I announced the virtual retreat plan, about midway through one of my posts about prayer, I got this overwhelming feeling of panic and dread. I certainly feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, and wonder if giving myself four weeks was enough. I am praying fervently as I share what I am learning about prayer, that God will teach me, and guide me, and that it would be His work, not mine. I am also praying for the readers of these posts, that they would be personally ministered to as the Holy Spirit meets the individual needs of the reader, right where she is…and mostly, that God would be glorified through it all.
I need a retreat.
A full-blown, unplugged, leave the house and all its stress and mess, meet with my sisters in Christ, take in God’s word for an entire weekend, pray, discern, laugh, and cry…ladies retreat.
But who can afford one anymore? Retreats are for wealthy Christians. What working class Christian can afford to flush $5oo into two quickly forgotten days? Besides, I don’t know anyone here, really….even if I had that kind of money, I’m not sure I’d pay it to cry in front of strangers.
We live an hour away from our church family, and circumstances being what they are at this point, have been unable to connect in person with our parish congregation. Truth is, I’ve been far away from people I know and love “in real life” for going on three years now, I have become accustomed to relying on social media for keeping in touch, and in the process, I’ve found some really sweet facebook groups of Christian ladies and some sweet virtual fellowship here on the WWW.
On one of the groups, the topic of prayer books came up. I didn’t realize there were so many, and we talked favorites and recommendations. I also explained about my “little book fettish”…of which I cannot resist, but never really know what to do with them when I get them…and my homemade prayer book. While we were in Canada, I started filling one (that had previously been used for jotting down important numbers and information) in with my favorite prayers, verses, and things that I wanted to memorize (like the prayers of the rosary and special novenas, so I could recite them when I didn’t have a computer handy).
This particular conversation set me on an idea to have a Virtual Ladies Retreat here at New Things. I’m working on a devotional on prayer and will be sharing some of my favorite prayers in verse, as well as linking to some other wonderful articles on prayer and unity. I would love to see New Things comments filled up with fellowship and personal testimonies about the work of the Lord in your lives.
What ladies retreat would be complete without a craft project? I’ll show you my homemade prayer book and start on another one. So, join me, would ya?
I’ll start the retreat on Friday, August 9, and will wrap it all up on Sunday, the 11th.
Grab your empty journal and artsy supplies and bring your best ideas to share…it’s been way too long since I’ve had a retreat…the best part, it’s FREE (unless you are like me and have to go buy a new book for the occasion, then, the total cost of the retreat is spare change and a little bit of time out of your weekend routine).
My blogger friend, SR, from Being Faithful to Grace talks often about her Saint Friend, Maria Faustina. I happened upon this quote today on my facebook newsfeed, and was so blessed by it today, that I had to share!
The Diary of St. Faustina is on my “need to purchase” list…there are several sites that have broken links to where her diary could once be read online, but none of them are functioning anymore. If anyone knows where I can view her diary online, I’d be so very grateful for the link.
Edited to add: I love the way God works! Yesterday, I found this verse:
Thus says the Lord:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
I love the word picture of this verse coupled with the quote above.
My niece has a great new series in the works, check her out at anewhopethroughchrist.wordpress.com and join in the fun!
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
1 Corinthians 13:1
For the next 15 weeks, starting tomorrow, I am going to be doing a “study” or “challenge” (Call it whatever) on 1 Corinthians 13. Basically what will happen is, I went through the chapter and anytime it said “love is/isn’t ___” I wrote it down. For example “Love is patient” There was 15 of them. So. For the first week I will be studying patience, and working on being patient. The second week I will study a work on being kind. (Love is kind.)
At the beginning of the week I will write some sort of blog post that has to do with the “Characteristic” I’m going to be working on. For example, the first week I will probably write about how…
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