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S.A.N.S. Episode 157: PLF

While the popularity of Mercy Me has long surpassed that of the lesser-known Christian group Mercy, there is a reason to celebrate PLF. Short for Peace. Love, and Faith, Mercy features Laura Misuik as the lead singer. I was first introduced to Laura as the lead singer of Acoustic Shack, one of my favorite groups in college. Laura’s husband Michael is the man behind the music serving as the led guitarist of Mercy.

And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love, 1 Corinthians 13:13.

While the passage above doesn’t mention peace directly, this is a byproduct of faith. According to C.S. Lewis, faith, hope, and love are theological virtues, only accessible through the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. The King James Version of the Bible doesn’t contain love, opting for charity. Yet, whenever Christians actively pursue these virtues, peace is one of the blessings that you will receive. Enjoy PLF.

by Jay Mankus

What is Your Record?

When I was in grade school, boys were obsessed with records. Every day at lunch and recess debates broke out about who was the best athlete, rock band, and professional sports team. Lines were drawn, voices were raised and the victor teased anyone who didn’t hold their position. According to one of Jesus’ disciples, God knows your spiritual record based upon what you’ve done in life.

I know your record and what you are doing, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your recent works are more numerous and greater than your first ones, Revelation 2:19.

There was a long stretch in my life where I received a job offer for every position that I interviewed for. Despite stumbling through a couple of interviews when stuttering was still an obstacle in my life, God’s favor was clearly on my life. Unfortunately, sometime over the last decade, my record for interviews has hit a major losing streak. Like one of the churches in the Book of Revelation, my love for God has grown cold and the favor which was once bright as a rising sun has quickly faded.

Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong], 1 Corinthians 13:4-5.

The good news to my current dilemma is that God keeps no record of wrongs. The apostle Paul reveals this fact in a chapter devoted to spiritual love. Meanwhile, King David provides hope for anyone with a losing record in life, Psalm 103:7-12. God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy is infinite. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you’ve experienced a life filled with losing. According to Jesus, the only record God cares about is forgiving others just as the Lord has forgiven you, Matthew 6:14-15. When Christians start loving your neighbor as yourself, God’s favor will return.

by Jay Mankus

Multiply the Fruits of the Spirit

The use of multiplication tables can be traced to ancient Sumerian civilizations 4600 years ago. The Egyptians built upon this principle of mathematics by practicing multiplication using hieroglyphics. Based upon the beginning of the last Catholic Letter, the author is an earthly brother of a disciple of Jesus. After a traditional introduction, Jude’s first biblical message is to multiply some fruits of the Holy Spirit.

May mercy, [soul] peace, and love be multiplied to you, Jude 1:2.

When I was applying for my recertification as a teacher more than a decade ago, I discovered that I was one class away from qualifying as a certified math teacher. Despite taking numerous Calculus classes as a civil engineer, I wasn’t passionate about math. Yet, when the Bible talks about math, I do get excited. Jude suggests that first century Christians were lacking in mercy, peace and love.

But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, 23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [[f]that can bring a charge], Galatians 5:22-23.

Rather than gloss over this spiritual deficiency, Jude longed to multiply the fruits of the Holy Spirit. In the passage above, the apostle Paul lists all of the benefits of having the presence of God’s Spirit in your life. One chapter later, Galatians 6:7-10 references the principle of sowing and reaping. Rather than get tripped up internally by acts of your flesh, Galatians 5:16-18, Paul urges Christians to invest their time by chasing after God’s Spirit, Galatians 5:25. When you do, the fruits of God’s Spirit will multiply.

by Jay Mankus

Abiding in Love

There are three common Greek words that appear in the New Testament of the Bible. Eros is a romantic and sensual form of love. Phillia refers to a brotherly love in the context of friends and family. Agape is God’s unconditional love that offers grace, forgiveness, and mercy to undeserving human beings. Yet, in a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul refers to charity as the greatest spiritual force in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin, 1 John 2:10.

Romans 6:23 is known as the Gift Illustration in Evangelism Explosion. There are three ways that people respond to a gift. The first is to accept this as your own by taking it home with you. The second is to receive a gift only to return this or regift it at a later time. Finally, the bitter will reject someone’s offer and leave without it. To abide in love refers to accepting, conforming to, and following the source of love who is Jesus.

But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:7.

One of Jesus’ former disciples provides a check list to see whether you are abiding in God’s love. John uses light and darkness as a way to evaluate your own current life. Those who abide in Jesus display fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. Yet, if these fruits are overshadowed by acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21, you’re likely abiding in darkness. Like Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, you will know Christians by their love. Therefore, abide in God’s love so that any darkness in life will quickly fade.

by Jay Mankus

An Unreserved Approach to God

Approach refers to draw closer; to come very near to. Prior to coming to faith, I viewed God as the great disciplinarian. Growing up in a Roman Catholic Church, God’s grace, love, and mercy was foreign to me. Thus, I developed an Old Testament perspective, one of judgment and wrath. I never felt good enough or worthy to approach God. Until joining a Methodist Youth Group in high school, I couldn’t comprehend an unreserved approach to God.

In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom and without fear). 13 So I ask you not to lose heart [not to faint or become despondent through fear] at what I am suffering in your behalf. [Rather glory in it] for it is an honor to you. 14 For this reason [seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ], I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 3:12-14.

As the apostle Paul began to meet other Jewish converts to Christianity, a similar mindset prevented many from drawing near to God. The passage above serves as encouragement, opening the door to what is possible for those who believe in Jesus. Instead of allowing doubt to reign in your head, dare to have the boldness, courage, and confidence to approach God. When the presence of fear is removed, an unreserved approach to God is possible.

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. 16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it], Hebrews 4:15-16.

The passage above connects the Old Testament with the realization of the Messiah in the New Testament. Rather than continue in the ways of Mosaic Law to atone for sin, the author of Hebrews refers to Jesus as a great High Priest. This symbolism fulfills the words of Moses in Leviticus 17:11 which grants access to the throne of God. Part of the good news about Jesus Christ is that those who believe are granted permission to an unreserved approach to God. Take advantage of this new access, Romans 5:1-2.

by Jay Mankus

Just What I Needed

As a teenager, the Cars became one of my favorite bands in high school. I actually met Rick Ocasek in passing, the lead singer of Cars, while walking through downtown Boston during a Spring Break in college. Ocasek wrote Just What I Needed in a basement at a commune in Newton, Massachusetts. While the inspiration behind this song varies depending upon the site you visit, the title speaks to human beings searching for a boost to get them through each day.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my [brimming] cup runs over. Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life, and through the length of my days the house of the Lord [and His presence] shall be my dwelling place, Psalm 23:5-6.

In the passage above, King David reflects back to his life as a lowly shepherd boy. This eloquent Psalm compares the responsibilities of a shepherd to how God provides for the needs of human beings. Whether you are in green pastures, having a great day or approaching the shadow of death, the Lord is all that you need to weave your way through life. While many search for love in all the wrong places, Jesus is just what I needed, Romans 10:9-11.

And my God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19.

In a letter to the Church at Philippi, the apostle Paul builds upon Psalm 23. Like a global retail chain, the Lord serves as a massive supplier to fill all of our needs. Meanwhile, one of Jesus’ disciples claims that God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life, 2 Peter 1:3-4. While songs like Just What I Needed may meet an emotional need, God’s grace, love, and mercy is a spiritual gift from heaven, John 3:16-17. As individuals accept this free gift, Romans 6:23, hearts, souls, and minds come to realize that this is just what I needed.

by Jay Mankus

Going Under

Whenever you receive a call from a doctor’s office that you’ll need to bring a living will and testament along with you for your upcoming appointment, minds begin to panic. These are the emotions that I’ve experienced the last two times I’ve had outpatient surgery. Part of me thought, “I’m too young to die.” However, my conscious whispered another bit of advice, “only God knows when your time on earth will run out.” These are the thoughts that raced through my mind today.

But the other one reproved him, saying, Do you not even fear God, seeing you yourself are under the same sentence of condemnation and suffering the same penalty? 41 And we indeed suffer it justly, receiving the due reward of our actions; but this Man has done nothing out of the way [nothing strange or eccentric or perverse or unreasonable], Luke 23:40-41.

At age 51, today was my first colonoscopy. Fortunately, I was able to be there for my wife last year when she had her own procedure. Yet, due to COVID-19 protocol, I was forced to go through this alone as Leanne wasn’t allowed to enter this facility. While I wasn’t nervous, I did sit alone in my room for nearly 2 hours before I was escorted into the operating room. After a brief conversation going over this procedure with my doctor, I received general Anesthesia. Due to a lack of sleep the night before, I was knocked out in a few minutes.

Then he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when You come in Your kingly glory! 43 And He answered him, Truly I tell you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise, Luke 23:42-43.

Whenever you go under to prepare for a surgery, there is a chance that you won’t wake up. Whether through complications or a rare diagnosis, there are moments in life when time is not on your side. This was the fate of two criminals hanging from a cross on either side of Jesus. One became selfish, asking Jesus to save himself first and then save him. The other criminal felt unworthy, crying out to Jesus for mercy. According to Luke, Jesus offers this second man paradise in the form of heaven. Thus. that next time you field yourself getting ready for a surgery, about to go under, remember this passage so a reservation can be secured today, 1 John 5:13. In case you were still wondering, my procedure went well as my doctor gave me a clean bill of health.

by Jay Mankus

The Dumbing Down of America

If you follow current events, every day there is at least one news story that sounds like an April Fools’ joke. Unfortunately, most of these are true, a sign of the dumbing down of America. Take for example a recent press conference by the mayor of New Your City. Mayor Bill de Blasio was shocked on April 20, saying it is “unconscionable” that criminals released early from prison over coronavirus fears would commit new crimes. De Blasio could not understand how someone who was shown mercy could quickly become a repeat offender. Can someone say, “hello McFly.”

For the story and message of the cross is sheer absurdity and folly to those who are perishing and on their way to perdition, but to us who are being saved it is the [manifestation of] the power of God, 1 Corinthians 1:18.

In the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul made a head scratching statement. While the educators, philosophers and scholars of his day likely scoffed upon receiving news of his comment, Paul’s words have proven to be prophetic. From a historical context, a painting from the Italian Renaissance points to this transition. Raphael’s School of Athens includes two well known philosophers. Plato represents the old school of thought, pointing up to heaven. Meanwhile, Aristotle is symbolic of the new age, pointing within. As the centuries have past, many have rejected God in favor of science.

For it is written, I will baffle and render useless and destroy the learning of the learned and the philosophy of the philosophers and the cleverness of the clever and the discernment of the discerning; I will frustrate and nullify [them] and bring [them] to nothing, 1 Corinthians 1:19.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul uses the expression “baffle and render the wise useless.” Perhaps, Paul was referring to mere intellectual assent. This occurs when individuals have a logical appreciation for God, knowledge without belief. On average, there is 18 inches between the human heart and mind. Yet, until the heart and mind are on the same page as Roman 10:9-10, faith is merely a concept. When individuals are brilliant, logical or wealthy, trusting in an invisible God seems foolish. While in college, I came across a stat that said 85% of people who decide to follow Jesus do so before the age of 18. Thus, the older you get, the harder it becomes to surrender. When people resist God, foolish statements and dumb reasons often follow.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming the Burnout Syndrome

This week the World Health Organization has officially added Burnout Syndrome to its’ list of recognized disorders.  Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.  Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress.  Those most affected by this disorder are individuals forced to work a second job, those seeking to reinvent themselves in a new career after being laid off and workaholics.  Whenever human beings do not possess some sort of balance in the form of active hobbies, people are at risk of becoming burned out.

Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship, Romans 12:1.

According to a 2015 Gallup Poll, only one third of Americans enjoy and feel engaged by their current occupation.  If this study is accurate, nearly 70% of adults go to work each week disappointed, frustrated and unsatisfied with their job.   Trying to find what you were born to do or the job or your dreams can be extremely difficult.  This search can take months, years and even decades to complete until you find yourself eager to get up daily to do what you love.  For those of you in a holding pattern, doing whatever position you have to until another door opens, staying optimistic is hard.  Yet, as individuals wrestle with symptoms of the burnout syndrome, there is a cure for this disorder in the Bible.

And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you], Romans 12:2.

The apostle Paul writes a letter to the church at Rome to help people feeling lost, not sure about what direction to take in life.  Overcoming the burnout syndrome begins with viewing your life as a gift from God.  Just as Rush Limbaugh has coined the phrase “talent on loan from God, ” each day on earth should be devoted to becoming a living sacrifice for God.  When a decision is made to dedicate your life to God, holiness and worship become a daily priority.  According to Paul, as believers begin to read, study and meditate upon the Word of God, the Bible, hearts and mind become aligned with God.  Therefore, if you want to overcome the burnout syndrome, begin the quest to ascertain God’s will for your life so that your job will become a mission from above.

by Jay Mankus

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