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The Crossover Connection Week 6: A Touch of Britney Spears, Madonna and Taylor Swift

This is high praise when you think of the amazing accomplishments of these 3 female artists. I was initially hesitant to make such a comparison, but God has blessed Brit Nicole with a vast range of musical talents. When I reflect upon Brit’s collection of inspiration ballads, countryish tunes from time to time, the rhythm to dance, finger snapping pop songs with an uncanny ability to crossover into hip-hop, she’s approaching Amy Grant status.

Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre! – Psalm 149:3

One of my former students at Red Lion introduced me to Brit Nicole while I was teaching high school Bible. Songs like Seeing for the First Time, The Sun is Rising and The Lost Get Found have moved and touched me over the years. While driving my kids to school for a decade, more modern songs like Vacation led my children toward Christian music. While no female artists can replace Britney Spears, Madonna or Taylor Swift, I pray that after listening to Brit Nicole for a week you’ll adopt several new favorites to your music collection.

by Jay Mankus


When Common Sense and Prayer Unite

Scanning cable news channels on any given night can be entertaining, head scratching, and frightening all at the same time. Left is right, up is down, right is wrong, and science is gender neutral. One of the things I appreciate about attending a public high school and university is that I’ve experienced several cultures, faiths, and people over my 53 years of life on earth. Despite the numerous differences that do exist, I’ve seen common sense and prayer unite a congregation.

Then [Abraham] said to Him, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak [again]. Suppose [only] thirty shall be found there. And He answered, I will not do it if I find thirty there. 31 And [Abraham] said, Behold now, I have taken upon myself to speak [again] to the Lord. Suppose [only] twenty shall be found there. And [the Lord] replied, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again only this once. Suppose ten [righteous people] shall be found there. And [the Lord] said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake, Genesis 18:30-32.

I recall a special Red Lion elder meeting hosted by the Gilberts. The entire Church Board was gathered in Larry’s office in a circle when Pastor’s Jamie’s words resonated with my good friend Mark. As the board was revisiting our mission statement and vision for Red Lion Evangelical Free Church, Mark was touched by the Holy Spirit, brought to uncontrollable tears. The Board didn’t care if visitors stayed or became members of our church, all we wanted as a group of believers is for our community is to know Jesus by entering into a personal relationship.

Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me [b]intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or [c]at the last she come and rail on me or [d]assault me or [e]strangle me. Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He [f]defer them and [g]delay help on their behalf? I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [[h]persistence in] faith on the earth? – Luke 18:5-8

When God reveals that Sodom, where his nephew Lot now resides, is going to be destroy, Abraham blends common sense into his prayer. Abraham begins his prayer hopeful that the presence of godly individuals will convince God to alter his judgement. Jesus points to a persistent widow who uses a similar strategy as she prays for the justice and ruling she believes is just and right. While God doesn’t grant every request that you long for in prayer, mixing common sense with prayer won’t hurt and can lead to uniting an entire church body.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a New Name

One of my favorite parts of the Confirmation Process in the Roman Catholic Church was adopting a name new, symbolic of a spiritual transformation. The confirmation name I selected was John Jay, after the first chief justice of the United States. Jay’s accomplishments include American statesman, patriot, diplomat, and abolitionist. While Revisionist Historians are attempting to rewrite the history and spiritual heritage of our founding fathers, there is power in a name who demonstrates the love of Jesus.

As for Me, behold, My covenant (solemn pledge) is with you, and you shall be the father of many nations. Nor shall your name any longer be Abram [high, exalted father]; but your name shall be Abraham [father of a multitude], for I have made you the father of many nations, Genesis 17:4-5.

While Moses doesn’t go into specifics, God renames Abram Abraham and Sarai Sarah at the beginning of Genesis 17. As a teenager, my cross-country teammates were big on nicknames. Over my four-year running career, I accumulated several. Some of these names I hated, but others were earned throughout the course of a season. In the passage above, Abram’s new name symbolizes the future that God has prepared in advance for Abraham, Philippians 1:6.

And God said to Abraham, As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai; but Sarah [Princess] her name shall be. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son also by her. Yes, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her, Genesis 17:15-16.

Meanwhile, Moses’ recollections of Sarai wasn’t impressive. Beside becoming a member of Pharaoh’s harem for a short period of time, Sarai became a bitter old woman who wasn’t able to have children. Desperate to have children, Sarai tried to force the issue, granting permission for Hagar to become Abram’s secondary wife. If anyone needed a new name, Sarai was ready for a do-over in life. Just as Abraham was granted a new name, Sarai becomes Sarah, meaning princess and future mother of nations. This is the power of a new name.

by Jay Mankus

Where are You Intending to Go?

Before cell phones were invented, if I was lost I’d stop at the nearest gas station to get directions. If the individual behind the counter seemed just as directionally challenged as me, I’d ask someone outside while I was pumping my gas. Now that GPS is built into every cell phone, arriving at your desired destination is much easier today. However, just because you get where want want to go doesn’t mean that this is where God wants you at this location.

But [a]the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness on the road to Shur. And He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where did you come from, and where are you intending to go? And she said, I am running away from my mistress Sarai, Genesis 16:7-8.

The context of the passage above began with Sarai’s desperate attempt to grant her husband Abram a child. However, after giving her husband permission to sleep with her maidservant Hagar, she regrets this irrational decision. Subsequently, when Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s child, Sarai took all of her frustrations as a barren woman out on Hagar. When Hagar couldn’t bear Sarai’s mistreatment anymore, she ran away into the wilderness where an angel of the Lord finds her.

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, when you were young you girded yourself [put on your own belt or girdle] and you walked about wherever you pleased to go. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a girdle around you and carry you where you do not wish to go. 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. And after this, He said to him, Follow Me! – John 21:18-19

While Hagar wanted to take the easy way out, God had a different plan, Proverbs 19:21. Just like Hagar who returned to Sarai until Ishmael was born, Peter’s life also takes a detour following his public denial of knowing Jesus. Spiritually maturity takes time and can be awfully painful, especially from a humility standpoint. Nonetheless, as you make your plans for your next intended destination, look to God for guidance, Galatians 5:25, so you eventually end up in the place God wants you to be.

by Jay Mankus

It’s About that Time for Another Spiritual Alignment

My wife Leanne spent the last four years working at the front desk of an auto repair shop in Delaware. While Leanne’s knowledge about cars started with basic details, every year she has picked up a keen sense to notice subtle sounds. These noises that don’t mean anything to me, serve as warning signals that a part is about to break, needs to be replaced or is wearing down. Just as my wife weekly points out these signs for me in my car, it’s about time for another spiritual alignment.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, I am the Almighty God; walk and live habitually before Me and be perfect (blameless, wholehearted, complete), Genesis 17:1.

From a vehicle point of view, whenever a bus, car or truck is out of alignment, this unequally wears out the tread of your tires. If you don’t notice this sound or vibrations, you’re putting your vehicle at risk as well as increasing the cost of your next alignment. Based upon the passage above, the Lord provides instructions to Abraham for a spiritual alignment. God’s call is to walk with God habitually, day after day, with your whole heart, soul and mind.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; 44 But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 [aj]To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike]. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? – Matthew 5:43-46

In the first portion of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers a similar call to those in attendance. Recognizing man’s fallen state in Romans 3:9-12, Jesus isn’t demanding perfection; He is asking Christians to strive for perfection. Jesus expects Christians to go above and beyond how the world lives. Thus, the call is to pray for and forgive those who hate you. Spiritual alignments help you love God and love your neighbors as yourself, Matthew 22:37-40. This spiritual exercise allows believers to keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25, awake and alert for God’s next warning sounds in life.

by Jay Mankus

Counting the Stars

Astronomy is the scientific study of everything in outer space. The telescope provides amateurs and scientists with an investigative tool to explore astronomy. Since the cost of a telescope can be pricy, most human beings star gaze on clear nights. If you live in a large city, you won’t have the same experience as someone in the country. Nonetheless, when you’re young and carefree, you may find yourself one evening trying to count the stars visible in the night sky.

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, This man shall not be your heir, but he who shall come from your own body shall be your heir. And He brought him outside [his tent into the starlight] and said, Look now toward the heavens and count the stars—if you are able to number them. Then He said to him, So shall your descendants be, Genesis 15:4-5.

After a moment of doubt, struggling to believe that he would become the father of a great nation, the Word of the Lord comes to Abram. During this encounter, Abram is drawn outside of his tent, into the starlight of this countryside. While Moses does not provide a timeline of Abram’s moment with God, counting the stars appears to be a rhetorical question. Since Moses doesn’t mention Abram counting out loud, this reference is a foreshadowing of the future of Israel’s descendants.

And [God] said to Abram, Know positively that your descendants will be strangers dwelling as temporary residents in a land that is not theirs [Egypt], and they will be slaves there and will be afflicted and oppressed for 400 years. [Fulfilled in Exod. 12:40.] 14 But I will bring judgment on that nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with great possessions, Genesis 15:13-14.

Meanwhile, this encounter continues with a brief nightmare which fills Abram with fear and terror. God uses this dark image as a teachable moment, explaining to Abram what has to happened before the promise spoken in Genesis 12:1-3 is fulfilled. This portion of Scripture gets Moses’ attention as he was the man God chose to lead the Exodus out of Egypt. The next time you find yourself engaged by a vivid starlight, remember that God delivered for Abraham and continues to fulfill promises made in the Bible.

by Jay Mankus

Playing the What if Game with God

My oldest sister Kathie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in October. I don’t remember the exact stage of this cancer, but the cells were so numerous that her chances for survival didn’t look good. As a former resident of Delaware, the cancer rate of this state is one of the highest in the nation. Despite the odds, I started playing the what if game with God in prayer.

Suppose there are in the city fifty righteous; will You destroy the place and not spare it for [the sake of] the fifty righteous in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing—to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as do the wicked! Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth execute judgment and do righteously? 26 And the Lord said, If I find in the city of Sodom fifty righteous (upright and in right standing with God), I will spare the whole place for their sake, Genesis 18:24-26.

This concept in introduced by Moses in Genesis 18. Leading up to Abraham’s prayer listed above, God appears to be talking out loud to Himself, wondering if He should let Abraham know about his plans to judge the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. After a brief time of consideration, God clues Abraham in on His plan. Since Abraham’s nephew Lot is a resident of Sodom, Abraham begins playing the what if game with God in his own prayer.

Abraham answered, Behold now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken upon myself to speak to the Lord. 28 If five of the fifty righteous should be lacking—will You destroy the whole city for lack of five? He said, If I find forty-five, I will not destroy it, Genesis 18:28-29.

The more Abraham prays, it comes to his attention that they may not be that many righteous people in right standing with God. Subsequently, Abraham emulates the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8, wrestling with God in prayer. Although Lot escapes God’s wrath, his wife and the remaining residents aren’t as fortunate. Following Kathie’s five-hour surgery on Monday, only three more precautionary chemotherapy sessions remain. While only God knows the ultimate outcome, wrestling with God in prayer was worth every minute.

by Jay Mankus

Seeing the Future Purposes of God’s Design

A few days before I began Express Yourself 4Him, I attended a two-day Discernment Seminar at a church known by locals as the Barn. Since I was recently unemployed at this time, I had nothing to lose. Pastor Bruce served as a facilitator Friday night which helped everyone in attendance to get to know one another. During a series of exercises, I realized that I possessed as special gift, the ability to write in the Spirit. This one insight laid the foundation for God’s future purpose, writing out my faith.

And the Angel of the Lord continued, See now, you are with child and shall bear a son, and shall call his name Ishmael [God hears], because the Lord has heard and paid attention to your affliction. 12 And he [Ishmael] will be as a [b]wild ass among men; his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he will live to the east and on the borders of all his kinsmen. 13 So she called the name of the Lord Who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing, for she said, Have I [not] even here [in the wilderness] looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]? Or have I here also seen [the future purposes or designs of] Him Who sees me? – Genesis 16:11-13

Sarah’s maidservant has a similar experience in the above passage. After running away from Abraham’s camp due to overbearing harassment and mistreatment from Sarah, Hagar has a comforting encounter with an angel of the Lord. Alone in the wilderness with an expecting child on the way, this angel casts a vision of future purposes of God’s design. Despite this amazing news, the angel tells Hagar that she must return to Sarah and submit to her. This decision is what’s best for her soon to be child, Ishmael.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

There isn’t a formula for seeing future purposes of God’s design. However, the apostle does provide thorough details of how to mature spirituality. This begins by dedicating your life and body to the Lord, Colossians 3:17. As Christians draw close to Jesus via prayer and worship, this isn’t enough to discernment God’s will for your life. Discerning God’s future designs occurs gradually as Christians meditate upon and study God’s Word. If faith comes from hearing the message, Romans 10:17, seeing the future purposes of God’s design for your life is a process of prayer, fasting, Bible Study and worship. God willing you will see your purpose in the near future.

by Jay Mankus

What Can God Give You?

Giving is one those traits which either comes naturally or has to be acquired. As the son of an immigrant, I was taught to be frugal and thrifty. My grandmother on my dad’s side of the family always kept the plastic on the outside of couches and mattresses so that these items would last as long as possible. While I grew up with a couple of rich neighbors who got whatever they wanted, I had to work at giving. Over time, God tested me, providing opportunities for me to give which I passed and failed.

And Abram said, Lord God, what can You give me, since I am going on [from this world] childless and he who shall be the owner and heir of my house is this [steward] Eliezer of Damascus? – Genesis 15:2.

The context of the passage above occurs as Abram begins to doubt that he will become the father of a great nation. From a logical perspective, Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to have children and their biological clock for having children at their old age was becoming less likely. This dire situation prompted Abram to ask, “what can you give me God?” If I was placed in this situation, I’d probably ask God a similar question.

And He said to him, I am the [same] Lord, Who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees to give you this land as an inheritance. But he [Abram] said, Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it? – Genesis 15:7-8

Up until this point in their relationship, God blessed Abram with possessions and great wealth, but no children. Based upon Sarai’s irrational decision in Genesis 16, this issue was driving a wedge into their marriage. While human beings struggle to see beyond today, God is a supernatural being who is often multiple steps ahead of us. Therefore, the next time you doubt’s ability to provide, Matthew 6:33, recall the vast miracles in the Bible to calm anxiety, any concerns, or worry about your own future.

by Jay Mankus

The Crossover Connection Week 5: A Mix of Bob Dylan and the Doors

Bob Hanson was featured last February in the first week of my Sing A New Song year long series of blog posts. I stumbled upon Bob at a Christian bookstore in Ohio while I was in college and have been a fan ever since. Bob’s career as a musician spanned more than a decade, releasing four albums: Nuff Said, The Traveler, New Heart New Mind, and Know His Heart. When your style of music doesn’t fit into the Christian industries little box, artists like Bob Hanson become a distant memory.

To make it your ambition and definitely endeavor to live quietly and peacefully, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you, 12 So that you may bear yourselves becomingly and be correct and honorable and command the respect of the outside world, being dependent on nobody [self-supporting] and having need of nothing, 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12.

My goal for the Crossover Connection is bring awareness to talented musicians who were inspired by secular musicians like Bob Dylan and the Doors as a child. Although I wasn’t able to find a best of collection on the internet, the Nuff Said album has been ranked as one the top 100 Canadian Christian Rock Albums of all time since 1994. This one album contains a half dozen songs that I still enjoy today. For anyone wondering, “who the heck is Bob Hanson, I hope that Bob’s music will leave a lasting memory and touch your soul as you listen to Nuff Said this week.

by Jay Mankus

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