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Naughty or Nice?

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Dr. Suess first released the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas in 1957. The man behind Dr. Suess is actually Theodor Seuss Geisel. The concept of a Christmas Naughty and Nice list was implied by Dr. Suess with the Grinch as the poster child for the naughty. Seven years later Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer introduced Santa’s Naughty and Nice List. Meanwhile, the 1973 Christmas classic The Year Without a Santa Claus reenergized Santa’s calling to travel the world on Christmas Eve to reward good children.

But I tell you, on the day of judgment men will have to give account for every [s]idle (inoperative, nonworking) word they speak. 37 For by your words you will be justified and acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned and sentenced, Matthew 12:36-37.

As I’m about the finish my study of the Book of Revelation, I was reminded of the Bible’s own Naughty and Nice List. In the first century, Jesus pointed to the Book of Life while teaching about Judgment Day. Anyone who has made their reservations in advance, Romans 10:9-11 and 1 John 5:12-13, will be acquitted on Judgment Day. The apostle Paul explains this in Galatians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 15:53-58. Subsequently, anyone who has entered into a personal relationship with Jesus makes the Nice List.

And the sea delivered up the dead who were in it, death and Hades ([c]the state of death or disembodied existence) surrendered the dead in them, and all were tried and their cases determined by what they had done [according to their motives, aims, and works], Revelation 20:13.

The apostle Paul writes about those individuals who pass away without ever being introduced to Jesus in Romans 1:18-20. According to the disciple whom Jesus loved, these people will be judged based upon their aims, motives and works. The great commission is currently in its third and final stage, Acts 1:8, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth. God’s Naughty and Nice List is finalized based upon these three categories. If you’re unsure if your name is in The Book of Life, there’s still time to join the nice list, Hebrews 10:26-27.

by Jay Mankus

Regaining Your Childhood Gaze

A gaze is to look steadily and intently, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought. While it’s hard to remember my own childhood, I do recall faces my own children made when they were young. Certain things caused each of them to be in awe. As an adult, you can get caught up in the rat race called life. When you don’t take the time to have balance, all work and no fun, it’s easy to lose your excitement and joy for life.

For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit, And have felt how good the Word of God is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come, Hebrews 6:4-5.

The author of Hebrews writes about a spiritual gaze. Whenever an individual enters into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, there is an enlightenment along with an internal peace within your heart. Unfortunately, just as a child can lose their gaze, any addiction, bad habit or habitual act will cheapen God’s grace. When temptation becomes too great, some Christians pray for God’s forgiveness before indulging in sin all over again. This appears to be the context of the passage above.

If they then deviate from the faith and turn away from their allegiance—[it is impossible] to bring them back to repentance, for (because, while, as long as) they nail upon the cross the Son of God afresh [as far as they are concerned] and are holding [Him] up to contempt and shame and public disgrace, Hebrews 6:6.

I was introduced to Lay Witness Misson Weekends in high school. A visiting team of adults and teenagers come Friday for dinner as a meet and great and leave Sunday afternoon following church. I didn’t know what a spiritual revival was until I attended one. Under the leadership of Ken Horne, building blocks were used to point toward a climax on Saturday night. Over a decade, I was fortunate to attend several of these weekends which helped me regain my childhood gaze. It’s never too late to retreat to a place where you can reconnect with Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 285: Friend

Today’s featured song comes from a musician that began as a worship director. Joel Vaughn went on to release three albums: Don’t Give Up in 2010, In the Waiting in2014, and Kinetic in 2016. After listening to one of his newest songs Friends, Joel uses Psalm 23 to highlight the friend that God is to all Christians. Despite being invisible, God’s presence can be sensed for those who have gone through difficult and trying times.

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me, Psalm 23:1-4.

While this Psalm is often reserved for funerals, David shares the impacts that God has made on his life. During David’s years as a shepherd, he began to see how God provides for him as he protects and watches over his families’ own sheep. Anyone who enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11, you become a friend with God. As you read the Bible and pray, this relationship develops as Joel sings about in Friend. Enjoy this song.

by Jay Mankus

A Power Outage in the Sky

The humidity and heat of summertime tends to push power grids to the limit. Some states use PSA’s (public safety announcements) to warn residents of potential rolling blackouts. As air conditioners are blasted to keep homes cool, states without nuclear power plants have a history of power outages like California and Texas. Yet, the Bible speaks of a power outage in the sky.

Then the fourth angel blew [his] trumpet, and a third of the sun was smitten, and a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that [the light of] a third of them was darkened, and a third of the daylight [itself] was withdrawn, and likewise a third [of the light] of the night was kept from shining, Revelation 8:12.

One of John’s visions refers to a power outage in the sky. On this bizarre day like a scene from a modern Science Fiction film, 1/3 of the light generated from the moon and stars was darkened. This power outage in the sky altered the normal 24-hour light cycle on earth. This reminds me of what happened following Jesus’ death on a cross as historians wrote about a cosmic global power outage in the sky.

And there shall be no more night; they have no need for lamplight or sunlight, for the Lord God will illuminate them and be their light, and they shall reign [as kings] forever and ever (through the eternities of the eternities), Revelation 22:5.

Rather than focus on the worldwide hysteria of John’s vision, this one event will set the stage for life after death in heaven. One of Jesus’ former disciples speaks on the contrast between heaven and hell, 2 Peter 2:4. Those individuals who never entered into a personal relationship with Jesus will be plunged into eternal darkness. Meanwhile, heaven eliminates darkness with 24 hours of light every single day.

by Jay Mankus

What are You Willing to Tolerate?

Tolerate refers to allowing the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that you don’t necessarily like or agree with without interference. As a former high school teacher, students would test me regularly to see what behavior I would tolerate. As my classroom discipline and management improved over the years, I became less and less tolerant of immature and inappropriate acts.

I know your industry and activities, laborious toil and trouble, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot tolerate wicked [men] and have tested and critically appraised those who call [themselves] apostles (special messengers of Christ) and yet are not, and have found them to be impostors and liars Revelation 2:2.

One of my biggest regrets as a former youth pastor occurred during a bonfire. This outreach event was before Halloween with nearly 100 teenagers in attendance. Prior to this night, I always gave a speech followed by an altar call to give students a chance to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus. Yet, for some reason I focused too much on fun rather than faith. This lack of action was the beginning of the end for my ministry in Indiana as I started to tolerate improper behavior.

But I have this against you: that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess [claiming to be inspired], and who is teaching and leading astray my servants and beguiling them into practicing sexual vice and eating food sacrificed to idols, Revelation 2:20.

When it comes to carrying out discipline, the energy that I possess at the time of an incident will dictate what I ultimately tolerate. As a former junior high teacher, my worst behaved class occurred last period every Thursday and Friday. While there were days I laid down the line, as the year wore on I lost the desire to discipline. Perhaps, this was the condition of the first century church mentioned in the passage above. Whether its a woman named Jezebel or someone with ADHD, your energy level will often determine what you tolerate.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Boiling Over Inside the Church

One of the things I learned from serving on a church board for 7 years is that Christians don’t lose the desire to be in control after entering into a personal relationship with Jesus. I remember being in a conference room until 2 in the morning on a school night as a few men tried to exercise a power grab. Not much has changed from the first century as human nature continues to raise its ugly head in the form of heated arguments and dissensions.

So when I arrive, I will call attention to what he is doing, his boiling over and casting malicious reflections upon us with insinuating language. And not satisfied with that, he refuses to receive and welcome the [missionary] brethren himself, and also interferes with and forbids those who would welcome them, and tries to expel (excommunicate) them from the church, 3 John 1:10.

If you read the Gospel of John and his epistles, love is a central theme. Yet, John has to break away from his normal tendencies to address what’s boiling over inside a first century church. Based upon 3 John, one man is behind this dissension, Diotrephes. Based upon John’s attempts to advise and counsel Diotrephes, he his taken control of this church and is using political pressure to remain in power, 3 John 1:10.

I appeal to you, brethren, to be on your guard concerning those who create dissensions and difficulties and cause divisions, in opposition to the doctrine (the teaching) which you have been taught. [I warn you to turn aside from them, to] avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites and base desires, and by ingratiating and flattering speech, they beguile the hearts of the unsuspecting and simpleminded [people], Romans 16:17-18.

Acts 2:42-47 serves as the blueprint for all first century churches. Based upon the words of Luke, poverty was eliminated as the wealthy freely gave to those in need. While this is the ideal scenario, it’s far from reality as impure motives spur on modern day leaders to turn churches into their own private club. Paul claims that the love of money is the root of all evil, 1 Timothy 6:10. What’s boiling over in today’s church is a pursuit for power leaving many sheep broken hearted and sometimes excommunicated by the body of Christ they tried to save from corruption.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 63: This is Living

When I became the senior class representative at Red Lion, student leaders met in my classroom once a month. These discussions enabled me to get to know teenagers outside of a typical classroom setting. One of the members of the class officers was a big fan of Lecrae. Following a conversation of cutting-edge Christian music, Daniel suggested that I needed to add Lecrae to my rotation of music in class if I wanted to boys his age.

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 12:2.

After purchasing Lecrae’s most recent album at the time, this style of Hip Hop/Rap didn’t appeal to me. However, one decade later I came across This is Living by Lecrae. Whether I’m getting old or losing touch with today’s younger generation, but I feel that this softer version of Lecrae reaches a broader audience. Rather than use a preachy style of hip hop, This is Living reveals what a personal relationship with Jesus should entail. This song provides a glimpse of what living the abundant life of Christ resembles.

by Jay Mankus

The Law of Liberty

When I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church, the fear of God was quickly ingrained within me. Subsequently, this mindset caused me to refer to the Bible as a long list of Do’s and Don’ts. Religiously following God’s commandments, decrees and precepts gradually wore me out. Yet, once I entered into a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11, I began to see the Bible as a means toward liberation.

But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:25.

Jesus’ earthly brother refers to the Torah as the law of liberty in the first two chapters of his letter to first century Christians. I wouldn’t be surprised if this concept was shared with him by Jesus. Rather than treat the Bible as a rigorous list of spiritual chores to carry out daily, James began to become liberated. Based upon the passage above, James sounds like Moses during his farewell address in Deuteronomy 30:15-16.

But sin, finding opportunity in the commandment [to express itself], got a hold on me and aroused and stimulated all kinds of forbidden desires (lust, covetousness). For without the Law sin is dead [the sense of it is inactive and a lifeless thing]. Once I was alive, but quite apart from and unconscious of the Law. But when the commandment came, sin lived again and I died (was sentenced by the Law to death). 10 And the very legal ordinance which was designed and intended to bring life actually proved [to mean to me] death, Romans 7:8-10.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter in the Book of Romans to reveal how God’s law eventually liberated his troubled soul. Paul doesn’t hold back, pouring out his heart in frustration about his bleak spiritual condition. No matter how hard Paul tried to keep God’s Commandments, he failed miserably time after time, Romans 7:19-20. Despite Paul’s fallen nature, the final portion of Romans 7:21-25 illustrates how sinners can be liberated by the law of liberty through Christ, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus, Joy, and Generosity

Before I became a Christian, there were several individuals that I met which stood out to me. I couldn’t figure out what it was about these people, but each of them possessed an inner peace. One winter night during my sophomore year of high school, a man in a wheel chair gave the keynote address to an audience full of athletes. By the time Skip Wilkins reached the conclusion of his testimony, I wanted what he had inside of his heart, Jesus.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Joy isn’t a feeling that comes and goes. Rather, joy is a state of mind that is fueled by the hope of eternal life, 1 John 5:13. Yet, joy isn’t a recognizable attribute in every Christian. Your degree of commitment to the Lord will affect what spiritual fruit if any that is naturally displayed every day. Yet, free will causes many college students to partake in their own prodigal like experiences. Subsequently, until human beings hit rock bottom or when common sense returns, joy will be absent.

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. 14 Personally I am satisfied about you, my brethren, that you yourselves are rich in goodness, amply filled with all [spiritual] knowledge and competent to admonish and counsel and instruct one another also, Romans 15:13-14.

The goal of any Christian is to put everything together so that a personal relationship with Jesus yields joy and generosity. The apostle Paul refers to this in the passage above. When anyone reaches this state, an assurance in God spreads hope to your heart. For those that continue their journey with God, joy and peace comes from a spiritual understanding of God’s promises, Philippians 4:6-7. As you draw near to God, may the love of Jesus result in joy and generosity.

by Jay Mankus

The Impact of a Gentle Spirit

Gentleness isn’t considered a manly quality. Meanwhile, the macho tend to view a gentle spirit as a form of weakness. As a former high school teacher, boys would regularly refer to passive individuals as wimps. Subsequently, gentleness is one of those godly qualities that few men possess or pursue. Yet, when a gentle spirit is demonstrated and present within a challenging situation, the impact can be life changing.

Remind people to be submissive to [their] magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be prepared and willing to do any upright and honorable work, To slander or abuse or speak evil of no one, to avoid being contentious, to be forbearing (yielding, gentle, and conciliatory), and to show unqualified courtesy toward everybody, Titus 3:1-2.

In a letter to a spiritual son, leading Titus into a personal relationship with Jesus, Paul urges him to be conciliatory, gentile and yielding to the needs of others. While Titus likely had impulses to question authority, a gentle spirit has a way of smoothing over the rough edges that most human beings possess. Instead of being bent out of shape over disagreement, gentle people tend to be honorable and upright.

But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. 16 [And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear ([e]unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives], 1 Peter 3:15-16.

One of Jesus’ most vocal disciples isn’t referred to as being gentile. Rather, Peter had a tendency to be brash, speaking without thinking about how his words might affect other people. Based upon the passage above, Jesus or some other spiritual leader confronted Peter about his lack of gentleness. Nobody wants to be looked down upon or treated like child. However, when Christians begin to display a gentle spirit, the world will become a better place to live.

by Jay Mankus

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