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S.A.N.S. Episode 303: The Thrill of Hope

The origin of Advent comes from the Latin term adventus. Advent is a season of the liturgical year observed in Christian denominations as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Christ at Christmas and the return of Christ at the Second Coming. Over the years, advent has evolved into a four-week family celebration. Yet, the earliest observances of Advent consisted of 40 days of repentance, fasting and prayer leading up to baptism for new believers in Jesus.

May the God of your hope so fill you with all joy and peace in believing [through the experience of your faith] that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound and be overflowing (bubbling over) with hope, Romans 15:13.

Christy Nockels adds a new twist to Advent with her song The Thrill of Hope. Unfortunately, the commercialism of Christmas has altered the spiritual celebration of Advent. The watering down of Advent has pushed prayer and fasting ahead to the New Year. Yet, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas should be spent making room in your heart and life for Jesus. May the lyrics of The Thrill of Hope prepare you for the season of Advent.

by Jay Mankus

It’s Not Good to Be Alone

Depending upon your personality, silence can be a harsh punishment or needed break from the chaos of life. As the youngest child with two older sisters, I barely saw Kathie and Cindy once my family moved to Delaware from New Jersey. When my sisters became teenagers, they did their own thing, so I just hung out with neighborhood kids. Since I struggled with severe stuttering as a child, I didn’t mind passing time in solitary play in my backyard pretending to be one of the Philadelphia Phillies.

Now the Lord God said, It is not good (sufficient, satisfactory) that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every [wild] beast and living creature of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them; and whatever Adam called every living creature, that was its name. 20 And Adam gave names to all the livestock and to the birds of the air and to every [wild] beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a helper meet (suitable, adapted, complementary) for him, Genesis 2:18-20.

When I recently read the passage above, it’s clear that God designed human being to be relational creatures. Any time God looks down from heaven and see lonely people on earth, His heart breaks. Based upon Moses’ words, God was sad when Adam wasn’t able to find a suitable helper among the animals. While animal lovers believe that dogs are a man’s best friend, God demands and wants more in a relationship on earth.

Two are better than one, because they have a good [more satisfying] reward for their labor; 10 For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie down together, then they have warmth; but how can one be warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against him who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

King Solomon highlights the benefits of having a suitable helper and or a soulmate. The helper will make a day at work more bearable, cheer you up or make you laugh. Meanwhile, the soulmate will keep you warm on a cold night, listen to your struggles from the day and encourage you when you’re feeling down. Last week, Leanne and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary. I’m amazed at how quick life flies by, but we still have the rest of our lives to be together, not alone.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 302: Glory (Let There Be Peace)

While I don’t agree with most of the political stances that You Tube takes in the United States, this internet platform has become beneficials for songwriters and worship leaders across this country and throughout the world. Today’s song comes from Matt Maher who is from Newfoundland, Canada. A few years ago, Matt’s song Glory (Let There Be Peace) was selected as one of the top hundred Christmas worship songs.

I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you,] John 16:33.

The context of the passage above is shared by Jesus with the disciples in private during Passion Week. As Jesus tried to prepare his disciples for his ultimate sacrifice, the purpose of this act was to bring peace to the earth. Not peace in a political sense between nation. Rather the peace Jesus introduces is a spiritual peace brought forth by fulfilling God’s will for His life. May the words of Glory (Let There Be Peace) help you make room in your heart for Jesus this Christmas Season.

by Jay Mankus

Let Us

One of my greatest regrets in life was taking for granted my education as a child. Despite having several amazing teachers, I was never really impressed by the topic of English. If I had only paid attention in class to grammar back then, my career as an aspiring writer probably would have taken off by now. Nonetheless, the trinity within the Bible is revealed early in the Bible by Moses through the words “let us.”

God said, Let Us [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] make mankind in Our image, after Our likeness, and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the [tame] beasts, and over all of the earth, and over everything that creeps upon the earth. 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them, Genesis 1:26-27.

As the Classic Amplified Version of the Bible reveals in the passage above, Let Us refers to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost is used in the King James version to highlight this powerful invisible force. One of the ways I came to grasp the trinity was one person with three distinct personality traits. God the Father is the spiritual adult in the room, the disciplinarian who reminds you whenever you stray off course. Jesus the Son is the youthful version of God with the Spirit who serves as our spiritual guide.

In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ([a]Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God [b]Himself. He was present originally with God. All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men, John 1:1-4.

One of Jesus’ disciples refers to Him as homoousias. This theological term was first used at the Council of Nicaea which was presided over by the emperor Constantine. The Nicene Creed was conceived at this council which agreed that Jesus is the same in being and the same in essence with God the Father. Jesus introduces the Holy Spirit of a counselor in John 14:14-16. Therefore, when you see the expression “Let Us” in the Bible, this united agreement was the force behind the Creation of the World.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 301: What a Beautiful Name/Agnus Dei

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone in 2022, it’s officially time for Christmas music. While stores in Aiken have been playing Christmas music since the days following Halloween, Christmas season is now here. As you listen to the Cottrell’s version of What a Beautiful Name / Agnus Dei worship montage, may the words help you overcome the commercialism of Christmas. The lyrics should help you make Jesus the reason for this special season.

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth, John 1:14.

A first century physician serves as a church historian. Luke is the author of Acts who writes about several of the apostle Paul’s missionary trips in accordance with the Great Commission left behind by Jesus, Acts 1:8. At some point during this spiritual journey, even this doctor was moved by what he saw and witnessed. Luke came to the conclusion that there is no other name on earth that compares with Jesus, Acts 4:12. May today’s song bring you closer to the One who saves.

by Jay Mankus

The Bible’s Version of Weird Science

Weird Science provides a snapshot of life in the 1980’s. Two teenage nerds attempt to create the perfect woman on a computer program. Rather than pretend, these two push the limits of their minds, breaking the law to achieve their ultimate goal. After a chain reaction similar to a scene from Ghost Busters out pops a real-life Playboy Bunny wearing low cut underwear and shirt. After recently reading the Creation Story in Genesis, God provides the Bible’s version of Weird Science in the verses below.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam; and while he slept, He took one of his ribs or a part of his side and closed up the [place with] flesh. 22 And the rib or part of his side which the Lord God had taken from the man He built up and made into a woman, and He brought her to the man, Genesis 2:21-22.

Teenagers aren’t the only ones who push the limits of science. The world’s first “test tube” baby was born on July 25, in 1978, The child’s name of this artificial birth was Louise Joy Brown. This scientific feat was the Jurassic Park for creating human life. While this was impressive, creating a woman out of one of Adam’s rib and part of his flesh is a miracle. If Hollywood tried to capture this event on film, it would be unbelievable.

Then Adam said, This [creature] is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of a man, Genesis 2:23.

Rather than use anesthesia, God places Adam into a deep sleep. According to oral tradition, Adam had a similar reaction to the two boys in Weird Science. While the Bible doesn’t mention that Adam reached for his side, as someone who has broken a couple of ribs the words above suggest Adam placed his hand over the incision as he spoke. If you haven’t seen Weird Science, the attached trailer might enhance your ability to imagine Adam’s reaction to the world’s first full-grown woman.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 300: Christmas at Denny’s

There are some artists who become synonymous with one song. Such is the case for Randy Stonehill who released Christmas at Denny’s on his 1989 “Return to Paradise” album. I met Randy back in college before I was fully aware of his talents as a songwriter and storyteller. I could have used Charlie the Weatherman as the featured song for Stonehill, but I was waiting for after Thanksgiving to reflect upon the powerful imagery provided within Christmas at Denny’s.

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.

Whenever I listen to this song, I am moved by the orphans depicted having their Christmas dinner at a local Denny’s restaurant. Depending upon the cards that you have been dealt in the game of life, it makes me think of what could have been in my own life. While it would be nice to turn back the clock and change what has already happened, you have to make the best of cruel circumstances, James 1:2-4. May the lyrics of Christmas at Denny’s help you appreciate what you have rather dwell on what might have been.

by Jay Mankus

The Tree of Life and Knowledge

As a student at the University of Delaware who majored in Golf Course Design and Maintenance, I was forced to take Botany I and Botany II. These were probably two of the most boring classes that I ever experience, but I did learn tons about plants, especially their Latin names. Although I never studied the Tree of Life or Tree of Knowledge, I did learn about the century year old trees on campus. According to Revelation 22:1-2, the Tree of Life will bear 12 different kinds of fruit.

And out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight or to be desired—good (suitable, pleasant) for food; the tree of life also in the center of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of [the difference between] good and evil and blessing and calamity, Genesis 2:9.

This miracle tree will yield a different fruit each month. Meanwhile, John infers that the leaves of the Tree of Life have the ability to heal nations. On the other hand, the Tree of Knowledge is thought to be a fig tree based upon Jewish and Christian traditions. I’m not sure what caused Eve to stare at a particular fig, low bearing fruit? Perhaps, hunger led to a second glance that planted the seed of sin within Eve’s heart. At some point, Adam and Eve talked about this as both gave in without a second thought.

 Blessed (happy and [c]to be envied) are those who cleanse their garments, that they may have the authority and right to [approach] the tree of life and to enter through the gates into the city, Revelation 22:14.

My favorite modern tree is the Japanese Cherry Tree. For the past 25 years, each Spring I waited for the pink flowers to bloom. While millions flock to Washington, D.C. each March to see white and pink cherry trees in full blown, all I had to do was walk out of my front door. Over the years, my kids have taken pictures in this tree to mark their growth. Since we moved this summer, next spring we’ll have to find another tree to celebrate. Then again, there will the tree of life awaiting in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 299: Everything About You

Today’s song comes from one of my last purchases at a Christian Bookstore in Delaware before it closed its doors for good. Oceans Above is an Electronic Worship group that puts their own spin on classic worship songs. I was initially going to feature Gazing which is one of the topic songs on the attached album cover. However, the remake of Everything About You touches my heart each time I hear the ending which is like a prayer from a prodigal who finally came to their senses.

I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing, John 15:5.

Everything About You was part of a unit on Listening that I taught as a high school Bible at Red Lion. Students listened to a wide variety of Christian songs for an entire period, journaling about the beat, lyrics and melody of each. One of the songs I got the most surprising feedback was Everything About You. The song seems like it’s going to end before a soft prayer with guitar is added to enhance this song. May Oceans Above touch your life like it has mine.

by Jay Mankus

What I Need this Christmas

You and I wasn’t available on You Tube so I substituted this song with Rain Down.

Every Thanksgiving my family members are expected to provide a list of presents that they want for Christmas. Yet, the more I ponder about what I want, I can’t think of anything that I really need this year. Rather than waste money on presents that I may not use or want, all I need for this Christmas is to spend time with my family. After working my first sixty-hour week leading up to Thanksgiving, family is what makes the holidays special.

 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [g]infuses inner strength into me; I am [h]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

This perspective was conceived after listening to the song You and I by Oceans Above. The lyrics of this song start off with a prayer request for a wide range of individuals throughout the world. Similar to the beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, the lead singer turns their prayer toward “what I need.” Part of the chorus references the words of the apostle Paul in the passage below. What Christians really need is for Jesus to be strong in your weak moments in life.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Therefore, don’t make Christmas self- centered by seeking presents. Instead, it’s time for me to be the giver rather than a receiver. One of my favorite Christmas gifts over the years was a letter from someone I met on a Misson’s trip in college. Despite not receiving a letter in return for 3 months, I continued to write to see how they were doing. When I returned home during Christmas break, I got a letter about all the trials she had endured. Sometimes the greatest gift is not giving up on those who have lost hope.

by Jay Mankus

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