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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

Powerful in Deed and Word

The reality show Undercover Boss premiered in February of 2010. Business owners, CEO’s and presidents go undercover to interact with employees. While disguises vary, the employee’s impression will prove to the boss how important their job is to them. During a seven mile trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus, Jesus performs a similar act on a couple of his disciples. Jesus plays coy, pretending not to know what happened three days earlier. According to Luke 24:16, no one recognized Jesus, playing the part of an undercover boss.

He asked, “What things?” And they replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet powerful in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, Luke 24:19.

Near the end of this discussion, one disciple makes an interesting observation. While reflecting upon his life, this man compares Jesus to a prophet whose deeds and words are powerful. Jesus wasn’t all talk, no action. Rather, compassion led to miracles, day after day, helping those who came to Jesus as a last resort. Despite the compliments given to Jesus, these men lacked hope, faith and joy, acting like modern defeated Christians.

For indeed you already do practice it toward all the believers throughout Macedonia [by actively displaying your love and concern for them]. But we urge you, brothers and sisters, that you excel [in this matter] more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to live quietly and peacefully, and to mind your own affairs and work with your hands, just as we directed you, 12 so that you will behave properly toward outsiders [exhibiting good character, personal integrity, and moral courage worthy of the respect of the outside world], and be dependent on no one and in need of nothing [be self-supporting], 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12.

The apostle Paul encourages the congregation of Thessalonica to practice displaying the love of God. Instead of speaking too much, Paul urges believers to live out their faith quietly. Unless you earn the respect of outsiders, you won’t be able to expand the gospel. Thus, while some people find it easy to talk to strangers, living out your faith is more important. When the timing is right, doors will open to further God’s kingdom. Until then, may your deeds be just as powerful as your words.

by Jay Mankus

The Prayer of Moses

You can learn a lot about someone by the content of their prayers. Over my years of attending Bible studies, sharing groups and Sunday School classes, its easy to decipher who has a quality prayer life for those who casually pray. The only known Psalm written by Moses begins with a brief history of the Old Testament. Like any introduction, Moses is attempting to get God’s attention by acknowledging who the Lord is and what He has done.

Lord, You have been our dwelling place [our refuge, our sanctuary, our stability] in all generations. Before the mountains were born or before You had given birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are [the eternal] God. You turn man back to dust,
And say, “Return [to the earth], O children of [mortal] men!” For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night, Psalm 90:1-4.

During Moses’ first conversation with God, Exodus 4:10-13, readers discover that Moses was born with a severe speech impediment. As someone who has endured a similar fate early in my life, speaking out loud makes a stutterer nervous. Speaking directly to the Creator of heaven and earth probably exasperated Moses’ condition. Instead of believing that God could heal his speech, Moses rejects God’s initial offer to be the Lord’s spokesman.

Who understands the power of Your anger? [Who connects this brevity of life among us with Your judgment of sin?] And Your wrath, [who connects it] with the [reverent] fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, that we may cultivate and bring to You a heart of wisdom. Turn, O Lord [from Your fierce anger]; how long will it be? Be compassionate toward Your servants—revoke Your sentence, Psalm 90:11-13.

Based upon the words of Psalm 90, Moses wrote this chapter after being healed of stuttering. The passage above sounds like someone who is mature, reflecting back over the course of his life. There will be moments in time when you won’t understand why God is doing this or that. Nonetheless, Moses asks the Lord for wisdom and the ability to seize each day God gives you on earth. While all have fallen short of God’s glory, Moses pleads with God to lean on the side of compassion. May this ancient prayer cultivate your faith as you reflect upon God’s Word.

by Jay Mankus

A Brand New Day

If I didn’t put Lamentations at the end of the passage below, these words could have spoken or written by any disgruntled individual today.  Whenever anyone endures a stretch of bad breaks, failure and sadness, it feels as if God is punishing you for some unknown reason.  As a child I attended a church that over emphasized the Old Testament, painting a different picture of God from the New Testament.  Thus, I grew up without a limited perspective of God’s true character and nature, seeing the Lord as a disciplinarian, judge and punisher for those who do evil.

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath.  He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long, Lamentations 3:1-3.

The book of Lamentations has one of the most interesting chapters in the Bible.  The prophet Jeremiah begins by expressing the anguish of his depression.  This remorse continues like a tirade of complaining for twenty verses.  After letting all of his emotions out in the form of recorded words, Jeremiah transitions to the positive.  Despite how bad things may look, Jeremiah recalls a message of hope from the Torah, another name for the first five books of the Bible.  This promise altered his mood, bringing to light that each new day serves as a fresh start on life.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness, Lamentations 3:21-23.

While you can’t reset life like a video game without removing the consequences, altering your attitude is a good place to start.  The hardest part of any complete transformation is learning how to forgive yourself.  This is even more difficult for those who possess a quest for perfection.  While God forgives and forgets, casting your sins as far as the east is from the west, the Devil uses guilt to haunt your mind by bringing up secret scars.  For most of my life, I have fought a losing battle, overlooking God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, distracted by past failures.  After hearing a song from the group Firefight earlier in the week, I know the course of action I must take; viewing each morning as a Brand New Day.

by Jay Mankus

What You Say Isn’t Always What God Wants Others to Hear

As someone who works at Amazon, I come across thousands of products weekly.  Some of these units I have to examine, investigate or test.  Due to the bizarre nature of some or unusual name of others, I am tempted by sarcasm.  Without any type of a filter, I may blurt out something comical, funny or witty.  Despite how humorous my comments may be from time to time, what I say isn’t always what God wants others to hear.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect, Romans 12:2.

I can’t speak for other people, but I tend to go through various stages of conviction.  When I am in tune with God, my spiritual antennas are heightened.  This usually results in obeying God.  The rest of the year I experience weeks when I am numb, aimlessly wondering through life like Israel in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.  This stage produces periods of coarse joking and sarcasm, as I lose my direction and vision for life.  If I allow apathy to reign, this is where I lose control of my vocabulary, letting loose words slip.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:5.

As I have fallen into bad habits, the Lord reminded me of this verse above.  Frustrated by my current state, I tried to apply taking my thoughts captive.  What I learned is that what was funny to me last week, isn’t funny to God.  Thus, as I performed my daily responsibilities, keeping my mouth shut was tough, much harder than I thought.  Although I blurted out a few sarcastic responses, taking every thought captive requires extreme discipline.  While I don’t have the ability to be perfect, in my own weakness to do and say the right thing, Jesus can be strong.  Therefore, I press on forgetting my past to focus on the future so that God’s sanctifying grace will make me whole.  In the meantime, make sure the words you utter reflect the compassion, grace and love of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Healing is Complicated

Teetotalism is a term related to the Bible that is rarely spoken today.  This word refers to a strict adherence to the Old Testament.  By the first century, Pharisees and other religious leaders added several human stipulations to existing laws.  One of these limitations prohibited individuals from physical exertion on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.  Subsequently, any type of exercise could be construed as breaking the law.  This interpretation prompted the zealous to avoid going out of their way to help someone on Saturday, even if it meant healing or saving a life.

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”  At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.  The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, John 5:7-8.

This is the dilemma which confronted Jesus every week, to heal or not to heal.  Despite public pressure to conform to these man made regulations, Jesus fulfilled the will of his heavenly father.  In the passage above, a man had been an invalid for 38 years.  Visiting a healing pool, these waters were believed to have mystical powers.  Those who had been cured, healed or set free from physical infirmities gave credit to angels who came down to stir the waters.  The first person to enter the pool was healed.  Unfortunately, this invalid was never fast enough, sitting and waiting, year after year, watching others become cleansed and made new.  The sight of this pitiful man inspired Jesus to have compassion, reach out and perform a miracle.

And so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”  But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk,’ ” John 5:9-10.

In the passage above, you can see how teetotalism blinds someone’s perspective of God.  Instead of rejoicing with this fully healed man, religious leaders were trying to discover who brought the Sabbath rules and why.  This mindset doesn’t make any sense, especially in the sight of an amazing miracle.  Nonetheless, human traditions created by powerful leaders attempted the steal the joy on this special occasion.  Today, similar rules have been established by government officials.  Whether it’s prayer, reading the Bible or sharing your faith, you have to consider the cost.  To heal or not to heal, to help or not to help and to pray or not to pray?  In the end, if your heart is in the right place, you will follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit by fulfilling God’s will for your life on earth.

by Jay Mankus

The Orchestrator of Comebacks

The phrase comeback is often associated with sports.  A retired boxer may get the itch to regain the title belt he gave up.  After walking away due to injury, a new medical procedure gives a former star one last chance for glory.  Following a successful career in the armed services, a former athlete tries out for a team seeking to fulfill a life long dream.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled, John 11:33.

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of individuals get to play a professional sport.  Thus, everyone else has to go to school, pursue a trade or find out the hard way that life can be a long and lonely road.  Without any cameras, reality show or viewers to cheer you on, average people struggle to survive.  Yet, those who refuse to accept defeat make an upturn by rallying, fueled by a spirit of determination.  Anyone on the verge of giving up needs the orchestrator of comebacks.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” – John 11:40

There are two factors that initiate a comeback.  The first is heart felt compassion that inspires individuals into action.  The second involves an unswerving confidence in God’s power to make the impossible reality.  Raising someone who has been dead for more than three days would be considered one of the greatest comebacks ever.  The passage above highlights the resurrection of Lazarus, a close friend of the family.  When the odds are stacked against you and science says it’s not possible, there is only one person to call; the orchestrator of comebacks, aka the Son of the Living God.  Reach out to Jesus today.

by Jay Mankus

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