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S.A.N.S. Episode 292: Tend

The word tend refers to regularly or frequently behavior in a particular way or have a certain characteristic. Every individual has certain habits and rituals that become part of a daily routine. Unfortunately, no matter how consistent you may be, everyone breaks from these patterns. For a Christian, there are spiritual disciplines that should become part of your daily schedule. While sometimes you may skip Bible Study or prayer, hopefully this trend is few and far between.

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. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken-off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned. If you live in Me [abide vitally united to Me] and My words remain in you and continue to live in your hearts, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you, John 15:5-7.

The lyrics of Emily Rose’ song Tend are based upon Jesus’ words in the passage above. Jesus uses an analogy where God is a gardener and Jesus is the vine, the source of all life on earth. God prunes areas of our lives that are dormant or death. Pruning is designed to stimulate growth. Perhaps, Tend is all about staying connected with Jesus. Any other decision will result in curses in the form of hardship and pain. Enjoy today’s song.

by Jay Mankus

What Will You Be?

Americans spent $10.14 billion on Halloween in 2021. A majority of this amount is centered around one question: what will you be for Halloween this year? Die hard Halloweener’s plan a year ahead, trying to outdo their costume from the previous year. For one night every year, kids and adults roleplay the creature, individual or superhero they dress up as. Yet, the Bible speaks of a spiritual costume.

And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory. So kill (deaden, [a]deprive of power) the evil desire lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin]: sexual vice, impurity, sensual appetites, unholy desires, and all greed and covetousness, for that is idolatry (the deifying of self and other created things instead of God), Colossians 3:2-5.

The apostle Paul writes about the mental preparation involved in being a biblical follower of Jesus. Once Halloween is over, as you leave your home daily, who will you be today? Will you put on your happy face, drag down your co-workers with criticism or lead by example? Just as Galatians 5:16-18 speaks of the internal struggle between the flesh and God’s Spirit, your thought life will dictate who you will be on any given day.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper]. 13 Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony], Colossians 3:12-14.

After writing about putting to death your old self, Paul transitions to putting on Christ like qualities. Unfortunately, maintaining a positive perspective on life when things don’t go your way isn’t easy. What will you be can change in an instant if prayer and daily Bible Study becomes part of your routine. Therefore, if you want to be Jesus the other 364 days of the year, put an end to bad habits of your past and start putting on the love of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Faith and Family Come Together

The concept of “Pay it forward” has ties to ancient Greece and the 1916 book In the Garden of Delight. Yet, as I studied the Bible last week, the apostles of the first century used pay it forward as a means to eliminate poverty. When faith and family come together to form a church, various expenses arise which one person can rarely pay for on his own. Yet, when an entire congregation develops the mindset that everyone in the church is family, every financial need is met.

And they steadfastly persevered, devoting themselves constantly to the instruction and fellowship of the apostles, to the breaking of bread [including the Lord’s Supper] and prayers. 43 And a sense of awe (reverential fear) came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were performed through the apostles (the special messengers). 44 And all who believed (who adhered to and trusted in and relied on Jesus Christ) were united and [together] they had everything in common; Acts 2:42-44.

Based upon the passage above, the first century church practiced four core principles. Bible study, fellowship outside the church. meeting together as a body to worship and prayer. As members of the first century church habitually maintained these core spiritual disciplines, faith and family slowly came together. Yet, Philippians 2:1-4 serves as a reminder that sometimes individuals need to take a step back to get their own life back on track before they can help others in the church.

And they sold their possessions (both their landed property and their movable goods) and distributed the price among all, according as any had need. 46 And day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose, and in their homes they broke bread [including the Lord’s Supper]. They partook of their food with gladness and simplicity and generous hearts, 47 Constantly praising God and being in favor and goodwill with all the people; and the Lord kept adding [to their number] daily those who were being saved [from spiritual death], Acts 2:45-47.

Unfortunately, most families have a hard time meeting together over the holidays without two members getting into some sort of a heated argument. When personal preferences interfere with unity, it’s better to agree to disagree rather than carrying on with a long-winded exchange of words. The apostle Paul’s advice for moving beyond disagreements is by adopting the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:5-8. While this transformation won’t happen overnight, as Christian’s become servants of God, faith and family come together.

by Jay Mankus

A Habitual Faith

As a child, exceling as a student did not come naturally to me. Playing sports did, but only baseball was easy and natural. If I wanted to get better, habitually practicing was my goal. I spent most of my free time playing ball outside, hitting tennis balls against the side of our house and playing the course golf course that I created in my backyard. Unfortunately, I wasn’t gifted with great size or strength, so I learned to be gritty, willing myself to get better and enhance my skills daily.

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]. If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts], 1 John 1:7-8.

When I became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes event in the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I began to apply these same principles to my faith. I started a Bible Study at my house, even though I didn’t know what I was doing. My drive to become a better Christian led me to join a weekly accountability group, attend a Methodist youth group religiously every Sunday night and pursue opportunities for monthly retreats. By my senior year, I was appointed the Program Director for my FCA huddle meetings at Concord High School.

If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action], 1 John 1:9.

Yet, this is not what a habitual faith resembles. During a Christian retreat in college, pastor Tommy Nelson introduced me to “Spit Baths.” Pastor Nelson was referring to Christians who schedule time with God daily, but their Bible Study and prayer times are short and meaningless. This message has stuck with me over the years, urging me to dig deeper into God’s Word and pour out my heart to God in prayer. Genuine habitual faith occurs when believers naturally keep in step with the Holy Spirit, daily sharing with others what God is teaching you about the Bible and how it applies to life. May this blog inspire you to pursue a habitual faith.

by Jay Mankus

Time of Your Life

The concept of “Time of Your Life” began with a 1939 play written by William Saroyan. In more recent years, movies like Dirty Dancing have brought songs with this concept in the title. I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Jennifer Warnes uses dancing as a means to have fun. Depending upon your hobbies and personality, the goal of any day is to have the time of your life.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

When I look back on the past half-century, one year sticks out, 1993. I left a youth director position in Delaware to attend a youth ministry trade school in Minnesota. For 7 straight weeks, I was having the time of my life, living with other people my age who wanted to minister to young people. Not only was I transformed by the teaching I received, I also experienced a revival while living in Columbus, Indiana.

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.

When I was having the time of my life, I was also working 90 hours a week. My only day off began with a Bible Study at McDonald’s with students, followed by lunch in Cincinnati with my good friend Phil, and ended with an adult Bible Study back at church. When you’re having the time of your life, make sure you don’t burn yourself out like I did in 1994. Balance is crucial for developing stability and longevity. If I only knew this back then, I’d still be having the time on my life. For now, I’m trying to recapture what was lost.

by Jay Mankus

When the Bible is Difficult to Understand

When students get stumped in class as a new chapter or concept is introduced, there is a teacher to ask to help you figure it out. Yet, when you open up the Bible and come across a confusing section, unless you’re at a Bible Study, you are on your own. If one of Jesus’ own disciples mentioned that some of the apostle Paul’s epistles are difficult to understand, you will definitely need a mediator to properly interpret the Bible. This is where you need to reach out to and lean on the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts.

Speaking of this as he does in all of his letters. There are some things in those [epistles of Paul] that are difficult to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist and misconstrue to their own [g]utter destruction, just as [they distort and misinterpret] the rest of the Scriptures, 2 Peter 3:16.

One of the common mistake’s readers of the Bible make is to treat this like a regular book. Human wisdom will only take you so far. And besides, one New Testament author refers to the Bible as a spiritual book that is living and active, Hebrews 4:12. When the Bible is difficult to understand, you need to learn to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:3-4. According to Peter, a member of Jesus’ inner circle, the Holy Spirit provides everything that you need for life.

And we are setting these truths forth in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the [Holy] Spirit, combining and interpreting spiritual truths with spiritual language [to those who possess the Holy Spirit]. 14 But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14.

The apostle Paul had several encounters with Greek philosophers during a visit to Athens in Acts 17:16-32. While Paul was able to convince some of these scholars, many of them relied on human knowledge. This is the context of the passage above where Paul urges Corinthians to go beyond education. When the Bible is too difficult to understand, only the Holy Spirit will open your mind to the spiritual truths that lie within. Though you won’t have all of your questions answered like Job, you will grow in the knowledge of God’s character and nature.

by Jay Mankus

The Fraternity of Christ

Fraternities and sororities are typically college groups that use Greek-letters to name their organization. The origin of fraternities in the United States began with the founding of The Phi Beta Kappa Society. On December 5, 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was launched at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. While movies like Animal House glorify fraternity life, the Bible speaks of a spiritual fraternity.

Show respect for all men [treat them honorably]. Love the brotherhood (the Christian fraternity of which Christ is the Head). Reverence God. Honor the emperor, 1 Peter 2:17.

The first semester of my freshman year in college was a blur. I pretended to be a Christian during and day and partied with a couple of friends from my dorm every weekend. For the first time in my life, I was one of the most popular people at school, getting invites to parties at a number of fraternities. When pledge week came around, it didn’t think it was necessary as I already had my crew to roll with and hang.

Whoever says he is in the Light and [yet] hates his brother [Christian, [h]born-again child of God his Father] is in darkness even until now. 10 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. 11 But he who hates (detests, despises) his brother [[i]in Christ] is in darkness and walking (living) in the dark; he is straying and does not perceive or know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes, 1 John 2:9-11.

When I returned for the Spring semester, half of my floor funked out. Feeling empty and ashamed, I decided to join as many Christian groups as possible, including the Black Student Union Bible Study. During a retreat on the campus of James Madison University, I rededicated my life to the Lord. Over the next four years, new friendships developed and prospered, welcoming me into the Fraternity of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 5: Secret Ambition

I didn’t even know that Christian music existed until I asked Jesus to come into my heart, Romans 10:9-10, in the middle of my sophomore year of high school. I met Mindy at a FCA Bible Study. She was the only person I knew in high school who was an advocate for Christian music. Mindy made different mixes for me so I could figure out which artists I liked before purchasing an album. Mindy’s parents drove me and a couple of friends from Concord to my first ever Christian concert.

Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, Ephesians 5:19-20.

If you haven’t already guessed by today’s song title Secret Ambition, Michael W. Smith gave me a good first impression of Christian music. While I barely recognized any of the songs that were sung that night, I went on to buy every one of Michael’s new albums over the next 5 years. The week i2(Eye) Album was released, I attended a youth convention in Salisbury, Maryland. This was the most fun I ever had on a retreat as a seed was sown to become a youth pastor. Thanks to Secret Ambition, this became a reality.

by Jay Mankus

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Ten years ago, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. Thanks to the guidance of Pastor Bruce and Linda from Bible Study, I chose Word Press to share the messages that God has put on my heart. I didn’t really know what I was doing early on. Nor did I think this blog would last a decade. To celebrate my 10th year, I will be adding a second post per day entitled Sing A New Song. This combines my favorite two passions Christian music and writing.

Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully [on the strings] with a loud and joyful sound, Psalm 33:3.

My goal for S.A.N.S. is to share how music has influenced my life. This journey began at the Sonshine House in Bear, Delaware. Located just down the street from my church, I made this Christian Bookstore like a second home. After hearing an inspiration song on the radio, I had to stop by to ask Jackie, the owner, if she had this song. I regularly sang tunes out loud in the store if I didn’t catch the title. Jackie became my Christian music guru throughout college as this collection continued to expand.

And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord, Psalm 40:3.

Since most of my friends didn’t share my passion, I began to make cassette mixes of my favorite songs. I made about 30 different best of tapes before finally stopping with each one based on a specific genre. My very first mix received the most compliments which led me to make multiple copies for high school students who went on Chrysalis weekends. One of the two sides was entitled A Father’s Love based upon the Billy Crockett song which happens to be today’s song. S.A.N.S. Volume 1 is A Father’s Love.

by Jay Mankus

From I Can’t to God Can

For most of my childhood, I was extremely negative. As accidents happened over and over again, I developed a low sense of esteem. When you add to this a severe speech impediment, my thoughts quickly filled my mind with a I Can’t mentality. This doom and gloom became a self fulfilling prophecy as accidents, disappoint and failure followed me for more than a decade.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their distress and troubles. 18 The Lord is close to those who are of a broken heart and saves such as are crushed with sorrow for sin and are humbly and thoroughly penitent. 19 Many evils confront the [consistently] righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all, Psalm 34:17-19.

While I didn’t recognize this at the time, God began to send strong Christians into my life. My 8th grade Science teacher was like a modern day Jesus who daily lived out the Bible. As I reached high school, I was invited to attend the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, but I kept saying no. I guess I was too cool for God. Yet, ungodly beliefs like “I’m not good enough” or I’ll never amount to anything” separated me from God.

I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want. 13 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 4:12-13.

By the middle of my sophomore year of high school, I became addicted to Jesus. As I started to attend Bible Studies with other Christian athletes, the negativity which once consumed me began to fade away. Subsequently, when a spiritual mentor introduced me to the passage above, I started to shed my I Can’t mindset. Following an amazing FCA summer camp experience, I was transformed from I Can’t to God can.

by Jay Mankus

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