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Tag Archives: Chicago

My Own Personal Story of the Living Years

Mike Rutherford started Mike and the Mechanics as a side project while a member of the group Genesis. This decision opened the door for Mike to leave the spotlight of lead singer Phil Collins to begin his own music legacy. While Mike and the Mechanics released several popular songs, the Living Years was by far their most meaningful hit. I was reminded of this song when my mother-in-law passed away last week.

 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.

In the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic, my wife and her sister decided to remove Barb from a nursing home in Chicago so that she could stay the remainder of her living years at Laura’s home in South Carolina. This wasn’t an easy decision but was made so that Barb could live as close to a normal life as possible for someone in her weakened condition. While living in Delaware, Leanne made as many trips to Aiken as possible until our families move in June of 2022.

I have been crucified with Christ [in Him I have shared His crucifixion]; it is no longer I who live, but Christ (the Messiah) lives in me; and the life I now live in the body I live by faith in (by adherence to and reliance on and complete trust in) the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me, Galatians 2:20.

Barb fought hard, living 22 months in South Carolina, allowing my wife to be there for the final two months. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when a loved one can’t communicate with you. Yet, Leanne was there for the final 48 hours until Barb went home to be with the Lord on August 4th, 2022. As the Wagner family prepares to say goodbye at the funeral in Chicago, I will always remember the Living Years when Barb was at her best playing with her grandchildren or improving her home. R.I.P.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 122: How Could I Ask for More?

When I was working full time in youth ministry, Cindy Morgan was one of my favorite female Christian artists. While working in Columbus, Indiana at a Methodist Church, Cindy was one of the featured artists at an outdoor concert at Mill Race Park. The album that touched my heart the most was Real Life. At this time, there wasn’t many artists who addressed real life issues like How Could I Ask for More?

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved ([c]delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself,] Ephesians 2:8-9.

As a child, the alure with being rich and famous is common. Yet, when my parents moved to a wealthy area of Ohio and my girlfriend Leanne lived in an affluent suburb in Chicago, the emptiness of wealth was revealed to me. I didn’t see what I expected except for a desire to keep up with the Joneses. Looking back, the lyrics of How Could I Ask For Me reminds me that happiness comes the love of Jesus. So as my future job in South Carolina is still unknown, all I can do is thank God for the little things as I wait.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 81: Welcome to the Jesus Movement

It’s not very often that Junior High School aspirations become a reality. Yet, for the Christian blues-rock group Three Crosses, this is exactly what happened. Lifelong friends from New Jersey, Steve Pasch and Ralphie Barrientos formed Three Crosses in 1995. When my wife Leanne was a youth director in Chicago, we took the youth group to see Three Crosses during one of their tours.

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth, Acts 1:8.

Three Crosses is best known for their moving worship songs. Yet, Welcome to the Jesus Movement is one of those tunes that provides a great song with solid lyrics. When you add songs like The Stone Was Rolled Away, Christians can prepare their minds to celebrate a resurrected Lord. If you ever want to uplift your soul, play the first two Three Crosses albums and the Holy Spirit will stir and touch your heart.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 60: Carmen

Today’s featured song combines a biblical story with music. After getting married in Chicago, my wife Leanne got a position as a youth director in Bolingbrook, Illinois. For nearly two years, we served as partners in youth ministry. One of the first events I attended with this youth group was a Carmen concert at the Rosemont Horizon. Between the dancers, props and overall production of this show, I was blown away.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [[h]in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

While my high school mentor and swim coach introduced me to Carmen, seeing these stories of the Bible live come to life in a song was amazing. Following this concert, I purchased nearly all of Carmen’s albums. While Carmen has dozens of famous songs, the athlete in men has made the Champion my favorite. This song is like a scene from one of the Rocky movies that turns into a worship service. I hope you enjoy the Champion.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 45: I Believe You

Today’s song comes from a group that I discovered in another bargain bin. Anytime you take a chance on an unknown artist, it’s either boom or bust. Yet, since it usually costs 99 cents to download a song onto your computer or phone, I don’t mind spending a dollar to see what I can uncover. Of the 14 songs on the This Too Shall Pass album by the Fold, I Believe You is my favorite.

Jesus said to him, Because you have seen Me, Thomas, do you now believe (trust, have faith)? Blessed and happy and[c]to be envied are those who have never seen Me and yet have believed and adhered to and trusted and relied on Me, John 20:29.

The Fold is an American indie rock band from Chicago, Illinois. While I lived in Chicago for a couple of years after getting married, the Fold didn’t form until 2002, long after Leanne and I moved to Delaware. I Believe You uses a similar style found in modern spontaneous worship montages. The initial pop rock melody transitions into a slower Spirit filled song before ending with the original beat. I hope you enjoy the Fold.

by Jay Mankus

Who is There to Hurt You?

While anxiety is less intense than fear, stress tends to be a more sustained emotional response than phobias. Although human beings may be threatened by overreaching and power-hungry individuals, inner demons are often your own worst enemy. Anyone who has ever experienced an anxiety attack, know the overwhelming feeling you endure and how it can interfere with your daily life.

Now who is there to hurt you if you are [d]zealous followers of that which is good? – 1 Peter 3:13

Since my days at Hanby Junior High School in Wilmington, Delaware, I’ve turned to music to find comfort and hope. Whenever I was sad, I’d listen to Air Supply or Chicago which made me even more depressed. Perhaps this empty feeling eventually drew me to only listen to Christian music. While in college, a friend introduced me to punk rock and a group called the Altar Boys. The emptiness I once experienced was replaced by a quiet confidence thanks to the song “When I’m with God.”

But even in case you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, [you are] blessed (happy, to be envied). Do not dread or be afraid of their threats, nor be disturbed [by their opposition], 1 Peter 3:14.

No matter how big, tall or old you may be, there is always someone faster, stronger and smarter. Despite all of the new threats that you may experience, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ has eased many of my anxieties in life. Like the words of one of Jesus’ disciples in the passage above, who is there to hurt you if you are passionately following the Lord? No one likes hardships, persecution or trials, but when I’m with God my fears tend to fade away. Place your hope in Jesus today, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Myth, Mystery or Monster?

After getting married in Chicago, I spent two years living next to Algonquian Road. This name didn’t mean anything to me at the time until watching a recent documentary on this North American Indian tribe. One of the legendary myths of the Algonquian Tribe is the presence of a Wendigo. This terrifying creature made it’s presence known during the winter months. Algonquian folklore refers to the manifestation of this dark spirit within human beings similar to someone being possessed by the Devil.

In that day [the Lord will deliver Israel from her enemies and also from the rebel powers of evil and darkness] His sharp and unrelenting, great, and strong sword will visit and punish Leviathan the swiftly fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting and winding serpent; and He will slay the monster that is in the sea, Isaiah 27:1.

Like any myth, until eyewitnesses come forward with tangible evidence, the idea that a Wendigo exists is nothing more than folklore. A fictional character like Big Foot with a more aggressive craving for human flesh. Perhaps the story of a man named Swift Runner in 1878 near Hudson Bay conceived and fueled the idea that of the Wendigo is not so far fetched. After killing and eating his entire family over a long cold winter, modern doctors have given this condition a name. The “Wendigo Psychosis” refers to the inexplicably desire to be overcome with the need to consume human flesh.

For such men are false apostles [spurious, counterfeits], deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles (special messengers) of Christ (the Messiah). 14 And it is no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light; 15 So it is not surprising if his servants also masquerade as ministers of righteousness. [But] their end will correspond with their deeds, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.

If you search for the term monsters in the Bible, the Old Testament refers to a Leviathan. Apparently, Jewish folklore spoke of the Leviathan in terms of a giant sea serpent. Meanwhile, the New Testament compares Satan to a spiritual con artist, able to masquerade as an angel of light. If these two creatures joined forces, the idea of some being like a Wendigo might be possible. Yet, for now the Wendigo is still a myth or mystery to most human beings, unless of course you’ve had your own personal encounter with this legendary beast.

by Jay Mankus

24

To the casual observer, this title suggests I am referring to the television series starring Kiefer Sutherland. While this counter-terrorist drama brought Jack Bauer to life, I mention this because 24 is the only television show that I have followed live since getting married in 1995. In the early years of my marriage, cable wasn’t a priority, just watching the four major networks and whatever else our antenna could pick up. While visiting my father in law in Chicago, 24 watch parties were a common occurrence, fixated for the entire hour once a week.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:22.

However, the real meaning of today’s title is the number of years that I now have been married. For today, November 25th is my 24th wedding anniversary. While eating brunch with my groomsmen, I watched Ohio State, where I did part of my college internship, lose to Michigan in college football. As the 3 pm wedding time drew near, Chicago was seasonably warm, in the fifties. While Leanne did most of the planning, my input was the music, having two friends sing in our wedding and DJ from Indiana where I served as a youth pastor. My favorite part of this day was personally greeting each row, meeting and talking with family and friends. Yet, it’s hard to believe that 24 years have passed in a blinking of an eye.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

Looking forward, next year will mark a quarter of a century and the following year will mean that I have spent half of my life on earth with Leanne. What Moses says in Genesis about marriage is true, two people become one. While selfish desires still exist, part of marriage is coming together as a team to follow God’s will. Three children and one wedding later, there are still many events that await in the future. Yet, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet Leanne Marie Wagner at a youth workers convention 26 years ago. I pray that as our home becomes an empty nest in three years that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the years ahead. As for today, I wish my bride Leanne a happy anniversary.

by Jay Mankus

Bad for Business

I spent the first two years of my youngest son’s life, James, trying to start my own business. Well before the reality show Shipping Wars aired on A&E, I was making bids to deliver freight and important documents up and down the East Coast. My shining moment occurred when I made $3000 in 24 hours, delivering a few pallets from Wilmington, Delaware to Chicago, Illinois. Since my parents lived in Cleveland, Ohio at the time, I drove 7 hours, slept for 7 hours and finished the remaining 7 hours with a couple to spare. However, I did spent $1000 on renting a truck, gas and tolls so I only profited 2K. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining two vehicles, driving 1000 miles a week and breaking down a couple of times finally inspired me to walk away from this business by entering the classroom as a teacher.

About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way (Jesus, Christianity). 24 Now a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of [the goddess] Artemis (Diana), was bringing no small profit to the craftsmen, Acts 19:23-24.

According to Luke, the spread of Christianity had a negative impact on craftsmen during the first century. As followers of Artemis began to convert to Christ, idol worship gradually declined. Thus, requests for silver decorations, idols and shrines of Diana plummeted. This economic downturn inspired craftsmen throughout the province of Asia to gather together in Ephesus. Luke details the discussion in the passage below, trying to figure out how to restore the popularity of Artemis and idol worship throughout the world. Workmen in similar trades were panicking, fearful that if Christianity continued to spread, their occupation would no longer be in demand or needed.

These [craftsmen] he called together, along with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you are well aware that we make a good living from this business. 26 You see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but almost all over [the province of] Asia, this Paul has persuaded [people to believe his teaching] and has misled a large number of people, claiming that gods made by [human] hands are not really gods at all. 27 Not only is there danger that this trade of ours will be discredited, but also that the [magnificent] temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and that she whom all Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned and lose her glorious magnificence,” Acts 19:25-27.

During more recent great awakenings, there are more examples of how the spread of Christianity was bad for business but good for the community. This is best detailed in a book and sermons by Leonard Ravenhill who spent most of his life as a Christian evangelist. Born in Leeds, England in 1907, Ravenhill reveals how the revival of the early 1900’s transformed parts of England. At the height of this spiritual awakening, crime disappeared causing police to be laid off. As attendance at evening church services skyrocketed, policemen were hired by churches to direct traffic. Meanwhile, mules from local mines needed to be retrained as transformed miners stopped curses causing mules to not know to respond to calm, gentle voices. Although recent revivals haven’t completely transformed nearby communities, when true awakening breaks out, God’s business of saving souls prospers.

by Jay Mankus

Distortions of Truth

During my senior year of college, I became president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the University of Delaware.  With any type of leadership position, there are numerous responsibilities that you must face and fulfill.  My first week on campus was spent sitting at a table in different venues, meeting and greeting incoming freshmen as well as transfers who wanted to know what our group had to offer.  During an outdoor event later that week, I was positioned next to a Make Cannabis Legal table.  A reporter for our college newspaper thought this was ironic, Christians and pot together, stopping by to ask me a few questions.  When the article was posted, I realized that I was set up as what I said was taken out of context.  This was my first encounter with a distortion of truth.

As it is written and forever remains written, There is none righteous [none that meets God’s standard], not even one. There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God, Romans 3:10-11.

Five years later I attended a Promise Keepers event at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  Sixty five thousand men filled this stadium eager to hear Colorado University football coach Bill McCartney.  One of my co-workers at Four Winds Golf Club, who wasn’t a believer, was amazed by this speech.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the headlines which led Chicago’s nightly news.  Roughly six million people lived in Chicago at the time of this event who heard reporters interview women who opposed the Promise Keepers movement.  These protestors labeled participants as anti-woman, bigots and sexists.  The coverage suggested that several hundred women marched outside the stadium, standing in unison against Promise Keepers.  However, the press failed to tell their six millions viewers that there were only ten protestors on Friday night and two on Saturday.  Nonetheless, the media had a specific narrative that they wanted to communicate and the only way to execute this plan was through a distortion of truth.

All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, no, not one,” Romans 3:12.

In the last few months, there hasn’t been a day without some sort of news story on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process.  From week to week, there have been twists and turns creating a media feeding frenzy.  The initial stage began by trying to collect and uncover all of Judge Kavanaugh’s opinions on previous court cases and decisions.  After an extensive examination, Senate hearings followed with days of questioning.  Despite allegations, criticism and doubt, Brett Kavanaugh passed the second phase with relative ease.  On the verge of a senate confirmation vote for this Supreme Court nominee, Democrats have unleashed a desperate attempt to derail this process by smearing this man with a series a sexual assault allegations going back to Brett’s high school days.  A letter leaked to the press resulted in another hearing with an accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.  While compelling, this didn’t satisfy every senator, leading to a seventh FBI investigation of Brett Kavanaugh.  If you watch cable news, ninety percent of the coverage on Kavanaugh has been negative with an odd talking point, “guilty until proven innocent.”  Perhaps, a distortion of the truth?

This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, 23 since all have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:22-23.

This current Supreme Court nomination process reminds me of a previous election in the state of Washington.  When the candidate who was suppose to win lost, there was a series of recounts done.  Each time the individual who lost picked up a number of votes.  By the third recount, the democrat was victorious with the republican departing quietly into the night.  If this current standard, going back to your days in high school is applied to future judges or politicians, there will be no one left to run for these offices.  No matter how hard you try to do the right thing daily, sooner or later you will fall, giving into the temptation on earth.  Human beings are imperfect people, full of distortions that deviate from truth.  According to the apostle Paul, the only way to overcome mankind’s flawed human nature is by coming to faith in Christ.  As you reflect upon current events in the United States, may you pause to consider what’s reality important, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

 

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