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S.A.N.S. Episode 181: Soldiers Under Command

My brother-in-law took me to a local high school who was hosting one of his favorite Christian bands. At one point during the concert, Bibles were thrown into the crowd like a giveaway at a minor league baseball game. Between the outfits and stage set up, attending this Stryper concert was like watching one of the major secular metal bands of the 1980’s.

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole, Isaiah 53:5.

Lead singer Michael Sweet shared his testimony that night. One of the things Michael mentioned was a pastor from his home church in Orange County, California who served as a mentor to keep Stryper on track spiritually while on tour. Soldiers Under Command is a byproduct of this accountability. While metal may not be for everyone, Soldiers Under Command is still a great tune to blast in your car.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 158: Cavewoman

Today’s featured song comes from an alternative rock group that formed in La Habra, California at the La Habra Four-Square Church. Perhaps this unusual location explains why these musicians came up with the name Breakfast with Amy. Whatever the reason, Cavewoman is related to the conversation that Jesus has with a Pharisee in the passage below.

Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God, John 3:3.

Nicodemus was trying to figure out the answers to life’s questions on his own. One chapter later, Jesus talks to a Samaritan woman at a well. Despite the knowledge of Pharisees, this woman was much more teachable and open to what Jesus was trying to communicate. Before the day was over, this woman and her entire family became born again.

by Jay Mankus

The Hope of a New Day

Ten years ago, I was on my way to a family re-union in California. This trip served as a pain killer to avoid the reality of being unemployed. While sitting in an airplane on a cross country flight, I listened to the song Up and Up by Reliant K. The lyrics of this song examines life as a way to become a better version of yourself. Part of the chorus uses the hope of a new day as a source for motivation.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord. 12 Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer, Romans 12:11-12.

One of the greatest promises in the Bible is made by a weeping prophet. Jeremiah had a tendency to be a bearer of bad news as Israel was going through a period of rebellion and stubbornness. Lamentations 3:21 serves as a transition, “But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation.” This hope of a new day is due to the Lord’s compassion, mercy and loving-kindness.

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.

The apostle Paul provides advice for anyone who is on the verge of losing hope. Those who never lag in zeal, burn with the Holy Spirit in your heart, and are aglow with God’s resurrecting power will find hope. Paul uses the imagery of a natural spring, bubbling out of the earth, overflowing so that the thirsty can fill their empty jugs with water. May the song Up and Up help you celebrate the hope of a new day.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 26: World to Wait

While swimming in the Pacific Ocean for the first time a decade ago, I enjoyed Newport Beach and nearby Huntington Beach. After getting hungry, my family walked to the Huntington Beach Pier to Ruby’s, the restaurant that overlooks the Pacific. If you want to know where I’m going with this, today’s featured song is by the group Staves Acre which is from Huntington Beach, California.

I will give great praise and thanks to the Lord with my mouth; yes, and I will praise Him among the multitude, Psalm 109:30.

Staves Acre provides my go to mix at the start of every shift to get blood pumping through my body. The genre of Staves Acre is a cross between classic rock and metal. A few of their songs sound like Rush while others provide more of a metal sound of the 1990’s. As for today’s song, World to Wait provides a great sound with lyrics designed to create a sense of urgency within your soul. I hope you enjoy Staves Acre.

by Jay Mankus

Have You Been Knocked Down??? Perhaps it’s Time to Get Up

Living in South Jersey at the time, I remember my parents taking me to see Rocky I shortly after it debuted in theaters in November of 1976. Despite seeing this film 49 years ago, I still recall how engaged the audience was with Rocky’s character played by Sylvester Stallone. Beside the raucous cheering, total strangers bonded as the fight scene continued until the 15th and final round. Men and women began to cry out, “get up Rocky; get up!” Have you been knocked down in 2020? If so, perhaps it’s time to get up.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While the Coronavirus has resulted in a living nightmare for countless Americans, the worst year for me was 2012. Before I could enjoying celebrating the start of a new year, I received a phone call on New Year’s Day informing me that my teaching position of 10 years would be terminated at the end of the month. This call was like a punch to the gut, knocking the wind out of my sails. Beside flying to California for Leanne’s uncle’s 80th birthday party, the next 18 months was filled with disappointment, heartbreak and unemployment.

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Just think of Him Who endured from sinners such grievous opposition and bitter hostility against Himself [reckon up and consider it all in comparison with your trials], so that you may not grow weary or exhausted, losing heart and relaxing and fainting in your minds, Hebrews 12:2-3.

At the time, I never thought this trial would end until I landed on my feet at Amazon. If 2020 has left you in the dark, clueless to where to go or what to do, you’re not alone. According to the author of Hebrews, Christians who have passed away are up in heaven cheering you on. Life is compared to a marathon like spectators at the Olympics encouraging tired runners to keep on going until the race is finished. Whatever your current circumstances maybe, don’t let pain keep you down. Rather, get up while there is still time to finish what God has prepared for you to do, Philippians 1:6.

by Jay Mankus

God’s Safety Deposit Box

Banks in the United States began offering safekeeping services in the early 1800’s. This form of special deposit coincided with America’s Gold Rush that inspired prospectors to travel west to California. Thus, storing newly discovered gold in banks for security purposes gave birth to safety deposit boxes. To avoid getting robbed, banks became the safest place in town to hold valuable assets.

For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God. 21 But it is God Who confirms and makes us steadfast and establishes us [in joint fellowship] with you in Christ, and has consecrated and anointed us [enduing us with the gifts of the Holy Spirit]; 2 Corinthians 1:20-21.

While writing a first century letter, the apostle Paul refers to a special security deposit. According to Paul, God guarantees this as a fulfillment of His promises in the Bible. Based upon Romans 10:9-11, this seal comes in the form of the Holy Spirit. While modern believers were not present on the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, today’s outpouring of God’s Spirit serves as a counselor and guide, John 16:13.

[He has also appropriated and acknowledged us as His by] putting His seal upon us and giving us His [Holy] Spirit in our hearts as the security deposit and guarantee [of the fulfillment of His promise], 2 Corinthians 1:22.

Instead of needing a key to access this safety deposit box, God designed an unique door. There is no knob on God’s side of this door, Revelation 3:20. Rather, the only handle is on our side. God is standing on the other side, knocking on this door, trying to get your attention. Yet, freewill doesn’t force God upon you as individuals have the choice to open or ignore God’s voice. If you haven’t experienced the treasure inside of God’s Safety Deposit Box, it’s only a prayer away, 2 Peter 1:3-7.

by Jay Mankus

Why Did You Do It?

A strange string of current events in my local newspaper has caused me to wonder, “why did you do it?” One couple turned their hotel room into a drug dealing center. Another adult male thought it was a good idea to fill his home with a number of bombs recently uncovered in connection with a local explosion. As I was writing this blog, I heard the news update that the latest school shooter just shot five classmates and himself on his birthday. If this teenage shooter dies, no one will know for sure, why did you do it?

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any living creature of the field which the Lord God had made. And he [Satan] said to the woman, Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from every tree of the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden, Except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden. God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, Genesis 3:1-4.

The only logical conclusion that makes sense to me is that all of these individuals were deceived by the Devil in some manner or form. While they didn’t have a face to face conversation like Eve in the Garden of Eden, some type of justification and rationalization process occurred within their minds before acting out. Whispers of evil and possibly a desire for 15 seconds of fame has overruled the human conscience. Thus, free will was exercised to do the opposite of what many were taught.

For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit and are controlled by the desires of the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit, Romans 8:5.

The Bible’s rationale to explain sinful acts is the mental war between the human flesh and Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter of the Bible to his own struggle to do that which is right. This battle is detailed in Romans 7, followed by the spiritual connection in Romans 8 as sinful minds are hostile to God. Thus, as souls straddle the fence between right and wrong, the longer you allow enticement to reside in your mind, the easier it become to pull the trigger, indulging in wrongful acts. May this latest incident turn the attention toward mental health and not just guns.

by Jay Mankus

Not the Thanksgiving I Invisioned

A routine physical earlier this week has turned my life upside down.  Standing on a scale revealed my heaviest weight ever, not a good way to start this check up.  Before my primary care doctor entered the room, I took a brief depression survey, confident in my responses.  However, after my blood pressure was sky high, a series of comments from my doctor sucked the joy out of my soul, wanting to go back to change my previous answers.

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20.

Like a warning from God, I listened to all the possible conditions that might be wrong with me.  This internal alarm resulted in a series of tests on my heart, kidney and thyroid.  The past 48 hours has been like a whirlwind, hooked up to machines, placed on new medicine and forced to endure another series of examinations and tests next week.  This wasn’t the way I expected to spend the week of Thanksgiving.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

As I began to embrace self pity, a whisper from God via the Holy Spirit has put my circumstances into it’s proper perspective.  “At least you’re alive.  What about the residents of Paradise, California, losing their city, homes and loved ones?”  While I still don’t know what’s exactly wrong with me beside being overweight, Thanksgiving has a new meaning to me.  Although there will be aches and pains throughout life, staying positive, hopeful and thankful is what get’s you through the tough times.  God uses trials like mine to remind people to place their trust in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

A Message from Molly

Today if anyone wants to research a foreign topic, people often rely on Google, Wikipedia or reach out to Alexia or Siri for information.  In one click of a mouse, everything you want to know instantly pops up on a mobile device or tablet.  However, before computers, libraries provided a vast collection of historical records waiting for those hungry for knowledge.  The Farmer’s Almanac gives insight into previous trends, allowing land owners to ascertain which is the best crop to plant.  Indians relied on wisdom passed down from previous chiefs to survive harsh winters and flourish during the harvest season.  Seeking advice is a good practice before making important decisions for your future.  Yet, sometimes even the least unlikely sources divulge powerful life lessons that should be heard and incorporated into your life.

Now these things [the warnings and admonitions] took place as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, 1 Corinthians 10:6.

Prior to this week, I never knew who the Poker Queen was or anything about the woman who earned this nickname.  Nonetheless, the 2014 memoirs and 2017 film Molly’s Game introduces the world to Molly Bloom.  When Molly’s ski accidently fell off during her final run of the woman’s moguls, any hopes of qualifying for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah disappeared.  Prior to entering law school, Molly moved to Los Angeles, California to start the next phase of her life.  A job as a personal assistant introduced Molly to a weekly poker game between celebrities and Hollywood stars.  The professional athlete within Molly drove her to quickly become an expert of the game of poker.  This passion opened the door for a thriving business, networking with the rich and famous to run high stake poker games.  This uncontrollable rush took its toll, sending Molly into a ethical and moral tailspin.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold, Proverbs 22:1.

To avoid a spoiler alert, I will focus on the honorable message Molly sends at the conclusion of the film Molly’s Game.  After tabloids leaked a list of former players from a deposition, sworn evidence given by Molly, her reputation was tarnished.  Despite growing financial issues, Molly refused to hand over her laptop and phone to the prosecution.  These devices contained damaging details which would have ruined families and relationships across the country.  Molly was holding the winning lottery ticket in her hand, offered millions of dollars to hand over this dirt.  Nonetheless, Molly has decided to protect her former players rather than betray them for money.  Why you may ask?  In a few closing remarks, Molly replied, “the only thing I have left is my reputation.”  While her book and film may suggest its already questionable, Molly has chosen to defend her name rather than cash in the poker chips that she is holding.  May this message from Molly Bloom inspire you to devote your life toward developing a godly reputation.

Jby Jay Mankus

A Story of Persistence: The Untold Story of Tabassco Sauce

Avery Island is located on the Vermilion Bay, 3 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.  In the 1840’s, former Maryland banker Edmund McIIhenny moved to this island.  Hoping to live off the land, McIIhenny tried to plant various crops.  Unfortunately, the salt dome underneath the soil only yielded peppers.  During a famine in the 1850’s, most of the residents left, abandoning this island.  Trying to figure out what to do with all of these pepper plants, Edmund began to experiment.  By the 1860’s, McIIhenny developed a hot sauce which tasted good on everything that he eat.  Initially, collecting discarded cologne bottles left behind, Edmund shared his discovery with family and friends.  By 1868 Tabassco Sauce was marketed and sold to the public, using bottles from a New Orleans glass supplier.  Five generations later, Tabassco Sauce remains a household name across the country and throughout the world.

But now bring me a harpist.” While the harpist was playing, the hand of the LORD came on Elisha 16and he said, “This is what the LORD says: I will fill this valley with pools of water, 2 Kings 3:15-16.

During the reign of Jehoshaphat, Israel faced a similar famine.  Unsure what to do, the king brought in a reliable prophet to provide insight on what to do.  After requesting a musician for inspiration, Elisha received a clear message from God.  However, this command didn’t make sense initially, “dig a ditch.”  Perhaps Jehoshaphat asked for more specific instructions, but the gist of this advice was to start digging in the desert.  While Avery Island contains a salt dome, this desert floor revealed underground springs like Palm Springs, California.  This vital resource provided ample water for animals, cattle and everyone in the kingdom.  Instead of abandoning this region, God provided for Israel in their time of need.

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you, Luke 6:38.

According to Jesus’ little brother, God uses trials to test the faith of human beings, James 1:2-6.  While most people talk a good game, you never know how you are going to react until you are thrust into turmoil.  Edmund McIIhenny could have left Avery Island like many of his former neighbors.  Jehoshaphat could have surrendered to an enemy in exchange for food and water.  Yet, both men persisted, sticking things out until each figured out and completed their purpose on earth.  McIIhenny waited almost 30 years before he realized why he came to Avery Island.  As you read this blog, maybe you are experiencing your own arid season, frustrated and on the verge of quitting.  Before you make any decision, remember the promise of James 1:12 so that a steadfast spirit will carry you on until you experience the fruits of persistence.

by Jay Mankus

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