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Conversations That Make Your Heart Burn For More

As someone who endured a severe speech impediment during my childhood, I never imagined entering into conversations where I was able to share everything on my heart and in my mind. Prior to high school, I lived my life as a loner. Besides playing sports, I kept to myself. Except for a few friends in my neighborhood, nobody really knew me. While my heart burned for meaningful conversations, stuttering prevented me from experiencing what others took for granted.

And it happened that as He reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 Then their eyes were [suddenly] opened [by God] and they [clearly] recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight, Luke 24:30-31.

Beside first century historians, the only other way to get to know Jesus of Nazareth is through reading the Bible. In the passage above, Jesus appears to be the life of a party, eager to recline, relax and engage other people. Jesus had a special gift of probing into the lives of others by asking open ended questions, forcing participants to go beyond surface level content. Instead of judging people prematurely, Jesus shows compassion, love and understanding to those eager to learn. While individuals may struggle to remember the last time they had a meaningful conversation, every encounter with Jesus made hearts burn for more.

They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking with us on the road and opening the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32

One of the reasons why I became a youth pastor after college rather pursue a career as a golf course architect was centered around conversations. During a duel internship, God filled me with a desire to win souls to Christ. Talking about golf courses during the day was fun, but connecting with young people who wanted to draw near to Christ at night was more invigorating. Thus, I declined an opportunity to move to Boston, Massachusetts to work on a future project. Instead, I accepted a position as a Work Camp Coordinator in Inner City Wilmington. While this decision didn’t make sense to my parents, I was like a young disciple with a heart burning to know more about Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

You Only Get One Life

As the 2018 National Basketball Association kicked off their season in Boston this week, I am reminded of a tragedy from the past.  Len Bias was the second overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, selected by the Boston Celtics.  This former all American who played at the University of Maryland was primed for greatness.  Yet, during a post draft party, Len decided to try Cocaine, apparently for the first time.  This fateful decision induced cardiac arrhythmia resulting in Bias’ death two days later.

“Listen closely, I have set before you today life and prosperity (good), and death and adversity (evil); 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk [that is, to live each and every day] in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments (precepts), so that you will live and multiply, and that the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to possess, Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

I was about to start my senior year of high school when I first heard of Len Bias’ death.  Growing up ninety minutes from College Park, Maryland, this news was devastating.  To make matters worse, I lost one of my best friends to cancer during my sophomore year of college.  When my grand father passed away, it was tough to deal with, but at least he lived a full life.  However, when a young person, who hasn’t entered the prime of their life is taken away by death, this reality is hard to accept.  Unfortunately, human beings don’t have nine lives like cats who seem to escape death on numerous occasions.

But if your heart turns away and you will not hear and obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you will certainly perish. You will not live long in the land which you cross the Jordan to enter and possess, Deuteronomy 30:17-18.

During his farewell address as leader of Israel, Moses pours out his heart to his followers.  In the middle of his speech, Moses urges the crowd to be careful to make wise decisions.  According to the passage above, each choice you make on earth leads to one of two destinations: life or death.  Since you only get one life to live, choose life.  This isn’t a video game where you get to hit a reset button to receive a new life.  Rather, actions have consequences, especially when poor choices are made.  Therefore, may the words of Moses speak to your heart as you seek to make the most of the life God has given you.

by Jay Mankus

 

Living by Design… Not by Default

I changed my major three times before my junior year of college.  Initially, I went into Business Administration, then Civil Engineering before deciding upon Recreation and Parks Administration.  This indecision forced me to take the five year plan, spending one semester doing an internship in Golf Course Design and Maintenance.  With most of my friends in Cleveland back at school, I volunteered at a local church 2 days a week as an informal youth ministry internship.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse, Romans 1:20.

After graduating in May of 1992, the default position was to accept an apprenticeship in Boston, Massachusetts.  The company performing the redesign in Cleveland wanted me to become familiar with running all of the high tech equipment before guaranteeing a salary.  Unsure of where I would live and how I would I survive without getting paid for six months, I declined this offer.  Instead, I trusted the Holy Spirit to live by God’s design.  This choice led to a position as the Work Camp Coordinator for Inner city Wilmington, Delaware.  While the pay was puny, the experience was life changing.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers, Romans 8:28-29.

Looking back over the past 25 years, I wish I could say that I have followed God’s will throughout my life.  Unfortunately, the older you become, life gets more complicated.  Living by design requires sacrifices that I have been unwilling to submit to and take.  Thus, I find myself today living by default, living pay check to pay check without much purpose or reason.  Although I can’t go back and change the decisions that I have made in the past, I can alter my current course.  Therefore, I urge anyone struggling to find meaning in life to starting living by God’s design, Romans 12:1-2.  Reflect, pray and ask God for vision so that you can begin to seize each day through a life devoted to living by God’s design.

by Jay Mankus

Not For Long

Professional football analysts, commentators and former players often refer to the National Football League by the acronym Not For Long.  For example, all 32 teams have to trim their 90 man rosters down to 75 players by tomorrow afternoon, August 27th.  In addition, within the next week, teams will have to cut another 22 players before completing their 53 man roster before the start of the season.  As a result, 1,184 individuals will lose their jobs, having their dreams of playing professional football shattered this season.  Although some will be added to practice squads, the reality of not for long will ring true for most of these newly unemployed athletes.

From a golfing perspective, the P.G.A. Tour commenced their 2013 playoffs, sponsored by FedEx, this past weekend won by Adam Scott, with only 125 independent contractors assured of a spot on tour next season.  Each week, players are eliminated with only the top 100 advancing to play in Boston, the best 70 moving on to Chicago and the 30 highest point earners finish the season in Atlanta at the Tour Championship.  My professional career only lasted 6 months, playing in a few mini-tour events and failing to advance at the Canadian P.G.A. Tour Qualifying School.  Like the college stars who will be cut by one of 32 N.F.L. teams, letting go and moving on is a difficult transition, especially for young and gifted athletes.

The brother of Jesus uses a similar expression to describe life in James 4:14.  James compares someone’s life to a mist, like the morning dew which appears for a little while, then vanishes as the sun evaporates any traces of its previous existence.  Just read the morning headlines of a local paper, click on breaking news alerts or listen to the news of the day as helpless and innocent bystanders have their lives end in tragedy.  With this in mind, try to develop a James 4:15 mindset, making the most of each precious day God gives you!

by Jay Mankus

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