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S.A.N.S. Episode 349: Blessed

One of the best ways to seize 2023 as your year to live the abundant life on earth, John 10:10, is to begin January by reading the Beatitudes. The portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount sets the tone for those in attendance. Just like the words shared by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:1-3 to the nation of Israel, blessings follow anyone who is obedient to God’s command, decrees, and precepts. As you listen to Jospeh O’Brien’s song Blessed, may this promise in the Bible come to fruition in 2023.

Blessed (happy, [a]to be envied, and [b]spiritually prosperous—[c]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Blessed and enviably happy [with a [d]happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His matchless grace] are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted! Blessed (happy, blithesome, joyous, [e]spiritually prosperous—[f]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the meek (the mild, patient, long-suffering), for they shall inherit the earth! Blessed and fortunate and happy and [g]spiritually prosperous (in that state in which the born-again child of God [h]enjoys His favor and salvation) are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (uprightness and right standing with God), for they shall be [i]completely satisfied! Blessed (happy, [j]to be envied, and [k]spiritually prosperous—[l]with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy! Blessed (happy, [m]enviably fortunate, and [n]spiritually prosperous—possessing the [o]happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! – Matthew 5:3-8

When you come to the conclusion that the people you interact with daily need to change, perhaps it’s you who needs an attitude adjustment? Just as cars receive oil changes every three to five thousand miles, Christian’s need a spiritual alignment on a weekly and monthly basis. While this painful truth may not be obvious to you, it’s glaring to those whom you live with. May the lyrics of Blessed be a starting point for you in 2023 so that the power of the Holy Spirit transforms you to become like Jesus this year.

by Jay Mankus

The Third Child is a Charm

The origin of the expression the“ third times a charm ” dates back to the 17th century in Great Britain. Likely based upon their spiritual heritage and knowledge of the Bible, the English believed the number “3” was lucky, bestowing fortune on a person when they encountered it in their life. This couldn’t be more evident when you consider the third boy mentioned in the Bible. While Jude mentions that Enoch was seven generations from Adam, the rest of Adam’s descendants are skipped by Moses, Jude 1:14.

And Adam knew Eve as his wife, and she became pregnant and bore Cain; and she said, I have gotten and gained a man with the help of the Lord. And [next] she gave birth to his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground, Genesis 4:1-2.

The first child born to Adam and Eve was Cain which means “I have gotten and gained a man with the help of the Lord.” This help was followed by Abel who went on to become a successful shepherd before his life was cut short, murdered by Cain. Despite receiving harsh punishment from the Lord, Moses does mention his family lineage beginning in Genesis 4:17. Cain was allowed to have a wife who gave birth to Enoch. While Jared was the father of the second Enoch, but Cain was so proud of his son that he built a city and named it after Enoch. Perhaps Jared named his son after the first Enoch.

 [Prompted, actuated] by faith Abel brought God a better and more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, because of which it was testified of him that he was righteous [that he was upright and in right standing with God], and God bore witness by accepting and acknowledging his gifts. And though he died, yet [through the incident] he is still speaking. Because of faith Enoch was caught up and transferred to heaven, so that he did not have a glimpse of death; and he was not found, because God had translated him. For even before he was taken to heaven, he received testimony [still on record] that he had pleased and been satisfactory to God, Hebrews 11:4-5.

One of the first three boys mentioned in the Bible end up in the Hall of Faith. While Hebrews 11:1 and 11:6 receive most of the headlines in sermons, the passage above highlights the faithful nature within Abel and Jared’s Enoch. As a parent who understands the power of prayer, I’m sure Cain’s daily prayer for Enoch and his other children was to avoid the same errors, mistakes, and sins he committed. Rather than write a book like Proverbs, Cain invested his remaining days on earth to become a godly father. May the story of Cain and Enoch inspire you to not give up on your own children, intervening daily like the persistent widow in Luke 18.

by Jay Mankus

The Place of Delight

Danny Glover and Steve Martin starred in the 1991 film Grand Canyon. While the script was filled with New Age propaganda, the point of this movie is that seeing the Grand Canyon can change your life. After a few years of planning and saving funds, I spent an entire month in 2007 traveling across the country. The center piece of this summer vacation was an entire day at the Grand Canyon. While the views were breath taking, my family and I experienced several delightful places.

And the Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden [delight]; and there He put the man whom He had formed (framed, constituted), Genesis 2:8.

Day 1 was a visit to Skyline Caverns in Virginia followed by the scenic Skyline Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains. From the Smoky Mountains to Native Indian Caves to the Ozark Mountains, Bandera Volcano & Ice Cave, the Painted Desert, Pagosa Springs and Mount Rushmore, these are days that I will always treasure. Although it’s been 15 years since this trip, I have images forever sketched within my mind of these places of delight. The only repeat visit was Slide Rock State Park’s natural waterslide.

Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart, Psalm 37:4.

God’s original intent of Creation was to design a place of delight when Adam and Eve could live forever. Unfortunately, when you don’t follow God’s rules, you miss out on all the blessings that God wants to shower your life with on earth. Based upon the words of Moses in Genesis 3:16-19, partaking in temporary pleasures exchanges blessings with curses. Adam and Eve were banished from the Place of Delight, never to see it again. May we learn from their mistake by choosing life over death, Deuteronomy 30:15.

by Jay Mankus

Admirable, Fitting, and Good

I recently completely a six-month project of regrading my backyard in South Carolina. Prior to moving in, there was a 45 degree drop off at our property line due to having a house on the top of a hill. My brother-in-law Mike worked with a local landscaper to build a retaining wall along a 50 feet section in the middle of our backyard. While this was completed in March, moving 4 tons of sand/fill with wheel barrels took longer than expected. After sodding this area last weekend, I gave the final approval of this work.

God called the dry land Earth, and the accumulated waters He called Seas. And God saw that this was good (fitting, admirable) and He approved it, Genesis 1:10.

Like an artist completing a portrait, God gazed and reflected upon the land mass called the earth. At the end of the second day of creation, God approved of the work He had completed. Unfortunately, human beings often get caught up with what’s happening tomorrow that they fail to focus on what the Lord has allowed you to accomplish today. While I am a realistic, I need to be less critical of myself by developing a spirit of appreciation for all the accomplishments and blessings in my life.

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them], Philippians 4:8.

The apostle Pail writes about this positive mindset in the passage above. Perhaps, Paul learned this lesson from Jesus’ earthly brother, James 1:2-4. If you learn to consider the obstacles in life as the process and road to maturity, your perspective will change. Since part of life is trial and error, think about life lessons that are admirable, fitting, and good. While human emotions will cause knee jerk reactions in the future, accept this and move on to a healthier and positive state of mind.

by Jay Mankus

My Helper and Keeper

After taking my last graduate level teaching class, I made some radical changes in my teaching style. My Classroom Management course taught me to seek out a responsible individual in each of my classes. This person served as the heartbeat and pulse of their peers. The purpose of this leadership position was to help and keep me aware of any learning difficulties within each unit. These unclear areas were then addressed prior to each unit test. While this system wasn’t perfect, it did help and keep me on track.

My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth, Psalm 121:2.

The passage above was written during a climb or walk to the summit of a mountain in Jerusalem. This Psalmist remains nameless but was inspired to sing and write during this special stroll. One of the best ways to clear my mind in high school was to take a late-night jog while listening to my Walkman cassette player. One of my favorite music mixes was the soundtrack from Rocky IV. As each song began, adrenaline would cause me to run faster and faster.

 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand [the side not carrying a shield], Psalm 121:5.

According to the Psalmist, God gives you something greater than adrenaline. While specific details are left up to your own interpretation, the Psalmist credits God for helping each day and keeping him near. Moses speaks about this in Deuteronomy 28:1-3. Moses believes God’s presence as a helper and keeper is a form of blessings for being obedient to the Lord. Meanwhile, the Psalmist compares God to a spiritual warrior who shields the unarmed from danger. May you begin to see God as a helper and keeper.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 266: Just Like God

Evvie McKinney was recently recognized by K-Love Radio as one of 7 top emerging artists in 2022. One of Evvie’s songs that struck a chord with my soul is Just Like God. While listening to her lyrics, I was reminded of how God provides daily bread and meets my weekly needs. Unfortunately, I don’t time enough time to thank God for all the blessings in life that He has bestowed upon me.

Then Abraham looked up and glanced around, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up for a burnt offering and an ascending sacrifice instead of his son! 14 So Abraham called the name of that place The Lord Will Provide. And it is said to this day, On the mount of the Lord it will be provided, Genesis 22:13-14.

Abraham came to see God as Jehovah Jireh in the passage above. Some Bible scholars have suggested that Abraham believed that God would somehow resurrect his son Isacc if he went through with God’s call to sacrifice his son. Instead, God provided a ram caught in a thicket to spare Isaac’s life. Therefore, the next time the Lord provides something in your life, remember Evvie’s song Just Like God.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 261: Next to Me

 Sometimes when you hear a new song for the first time, it may take time to decide if you like it or not. When I first heard today’s featured song by Jordan Feliz, I was curious by his combination of folk rock and soul style of Christian pop. Jordan incorporates the parable of the Prodigal Son into the lyrics of Next to Me as a call to come back home to Jesus.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field, Deuteronomy 28:1-3.

As I listened to a portion of the lyrics, I was reminded by the words of Moses. Prior to passing the baton to Joshua as Israel’s spiritual leader, Moses writes about blessings that come from God when believers are obedient. This is what Jordan sings about in the line “feeling deep down in his soul.” May Jordan’s message in Next to Me encourage you to draw close to the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Rejoice in God’s Blessings

The biblical term Deuteronomy refers to the Second Law. This book serves as a summary of all the lessons God tried to teach the nation of Israel. From the days of Adam and Eve to Noah and the flood, Moses was called by God to remind believers to rejoice in God’s blessings. This isn’t some sort of ancient fairy tale or make-believe game; this is a living God who blesses those who trust in the Lord.

If you will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you if you heed the voice of the Lord your God, Deuteronomy 28:1-2.

The context of today’s passage occurs just prior to Moses’ farewell address prior to passing the torch to Joshua. Instead of telling Israel, “I’ve got good news and bad news; what do you want to hear first?” Moses paints a vivid picture of what life on earth could be like by simply obeying God. This is the Could Be/Should Be portion of Moses’ message in Deuteronomy 28:1-14.

Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your body and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your beasts, the increase of your cattle and the young of your flock, Deuteronomy 28:3-4.

Unfortunately, the final 54 verses of Deuteronomy 28 serve as a grim remember of a life without God. As someone who almost became a math teacher, this is the basic addition portion of the Bible. Following God’s commands plus daily obedience equals blessings in life. Rather than dwell on the negative, today’s featured passage should inspire you to rejoice in God’s blessings.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 188: Do I Stand Alone?

Mike Stand is one of the original members of the Punk rock group the Altar Boys. Mike served as the lead singer of this iconic Christian band. Back in the late 1980’s, Mike left the Altar Boys to pursue a solo career releasing a few albums on his own. While there are a number of songs I could have featured today, Do I Stand Alone applies well to current events.

And I sought a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none, Ezekiel 22:30.

History is full of cycles, times where people were obedient to God and periods of compromise that led cultures to do what’s right in their own eyes. The book of Judges illustrates this point as good leadership results in blessings while poor leaders brought curses upon Israel, Judges 21:25. The prophet lived in a day when Israelites were afraid to take a stand for God. Like Mike sings, are you willing to stand today?

by Jay Mankus

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

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