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Cut It Out… Or Be Cut Off

There were two common expressions the parents of teenagers in my neighbors used while trying to discipline unruly kids. The first was “knock it off,” but my dad often said, “cut it out.” When your father is a former defensive end and tight end in college, you do exactly what he says. One Old Testament prophet and Jesus make similar points in the passages below:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened at all, that it cannot save, nor His ear dull with deafness, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. None sues or calls in righteousness [but for the sake of doing injury to others—to take some undue advantage]; no one goes to law honestly and pleads [his case] in truth; they trust in emptiness, worthlessness and futility, and speaking lies! They conceive mischief and bring forth evil! – Isaiah 59:1-4

I came face to face with this expression during the summer before my senior year of college. While playing sand volleyball with my good friend Eddy, I broke my ankle. Instead of enjoying my final month of summer, I was bed-ridden for two weeks. While lying in bed, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “cut if out or be cut off”. Like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:15-16, I had become a lukewarm Christian.

 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. 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, John 15:1-5.

In the days that followed, I had come to a crossroads of faith. This was God’s way of saying, “make Jesus Lord of your life, Romans 10:9-11, or live for yourself.” At college I was a strong Christian, but at home in Cleveland I was chasing after earthly pleasures. August of 1991 altered my prodigal journey as I came to my spiritual senses to return home for good by beginning to cut out my former way of life, Colossians 3:5-9. May my personal journey inspire you to go all in by making Jesus Lord and Savior.

by Jay Mankus

The Greater Your Love…The Bigger Your Sacrifice

Jesus makes two transformational comments about love which one disciple couldn’t get off of his mind. The first is made to a Pharisee named Nicodemus. Based upon John 7:50-52 and John 19:38-42, the passage below changed Nick’s life. Meanwhile, the second passage was spoken to all 12 disciples during Passion Week. Unfortunately, none of the disciples were mentally prepared for Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice.

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.

Between my best two friends in high school, Carl and Paul, I was voted most likely to get married first. While I spent college trying to figure out which qualities I wanted in a future wife, I was an all or nothing kind of guy so I stayed single as my two friends got married. During a pre-marriage conference in Cleveland, Ohio, I learned that I needed to have a will to love before I could truly love Leanne.

This is My commandment: that you love one another [just] as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love [no one has shown stronger affection] than to lay down (give up) his own life for his friends, John 15:12-13.

As a former middle and high school coach, it’s easy to distinguish the committed from the uncommitted. Attitudes and actions revealed who would become great and who might improve but would likely remain average at best. Jesus didn’t just talk about God in parables. Rather, Jesus was a man of action, living out and fulfilling that which He promised. The greater your love, the bigger your sacrifice as a parent or spouse.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 177: Dance

Today’s song reminds me of the classic film Footloose. Yet, Hoi Polloi’s music is alternative and more modern than the1980’s soundtrack Hoi Polloi was formed in New Zealand by vocalist Jenny Gullen and her husband. Jenny’s voice provides the feel of the Indigo Girls, but with creative lyrics and style that gives Hoi Polloi their distinct sound.

A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, Ecclesiastes 3:4.

Dancing was one of my favorite pastimes in high school and college. While I started out like Kenneth Wormald’s character in Footloose, I ended up developing into a smooth dancer. Songs like Dance remind me of my college days where I went clubbing with friends every summer in Cleveland, Ohio. When you play today’s you tube, I hope you’re inspired to put on your dancing shoes.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 164: Heart of the Journey

Today’s song is from an artist who is a hidden gem. Michele Wagner grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and received her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Ohio State University in 1983. When I first heard Heart of the Journey on a local Christian radio station in college, I was moved by the lyrics. According to Michele, trusting in God’s plan for her life is the heart of the journey.

 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

The author of Hebrews 12:1 compares life to running a marathon. Rather than ending after 26.2 miles, a spiritual journey does not conclude until you have breathed your last breath. As you live each new day like it’s your last, turn to Jesus daily. When your journey takes a slight detour, keep in step with the Holt Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you don’t get lost along the way.

by Jay Mankus

When You’re Too Tired to Love

As the summer months begin, it’s only a matter of time before triple digit temperatures become part of weekly forecasts. As I begin a new life living in South Carolina, the heat and humidity quickly drains me of energy. In the last book of the Bible, John writes to the Church in Ephesus. Despite severe persecution in the first century, their faith did not waver. Yet, it appears that at some point exhaustion took its toll as their love for God grew cold.

I know you are enduring patiently and are bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not fainted or become exhausted or grown weary, Revelation 2:3.

Before getting married, Leanne and I attended a conference in Cleveland for young couples. One of the speakers used the analogy of leftovers. This illustration warned against giving God and your future spouse the leftovers of your time. The context of this expression was at the end of a busy day when you barely have energy for anything. This appears to be what happened to the Ephesians as the only time they made for God was at the end of their days, exhausted and worn out.

But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love], Revelation 2:4.

According to marriage statistics from 2020, nearly 2,400 divorces occur every single day in the United States. At this pace, by the end of just one week, 16,800 divorces and or separations commence. Sadly, if this trend continues, 875,000 couple will break their marriage vows annually in America. When you’re too tired to love, relationships with God and spouses start to fall apart. In view of these dire statistics, may Jesus give you to strength to be reunited with God and your spouse.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 13: Leaving Jesus

Sometimes artists use a play on words to communicate a completely different message from what a title suggests. Such is the case of today’s song by Send the Beggar, an alternative rock group from Columbus, Ohio. While living in Cleveland I came across this band which is one of my favorites despite their limited number of albums, just two. Send the Beggar’s sound and lyrics struck a cord with my soul while in college.

Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice, be in high spirits and glory with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem [in that day], Zephaniah 3:14.

Leaving Jesus refers to making a spiritual impact on your community. Rather than abandon Jesus while out in public, Send the Beggar wants their listeners to leave behind a legacy of faith. Apparently, parts of Columbus were run down and dangerous. As a former social worker for the Methodist Action Plan in inner city, Wilmington, cleaning up run down areas gives people hope of a brighter future by leaving Jesus everywhere you go in life.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Volume 2: You Need to Know

Every song has a story of when you first heard it, what you were doing at the time and how this song impacted your life. The second new song I want to introduce you to is one I discovered in Cleveland, Ohio. When my father was transferred during my sophomore year of college, I needed to find a new place that sold Christian music. A friend from church gave me directions and when I arrived, it was the largest Christian Bookstore that I have ever encountered.

The Lord is my strength and my [impenetrable] shield; My heart trusts [with unwavering confidence] in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I shall thank Him and praise Him, Psalm 28:7.

The selection of music took up an entire section of a large warehouse as I entered Christian Music Heaven. You were able to select from a section of sample cassettes before purchasing a brand new one. I spent countless hours listening to music with headphones on. This is where my vast collection of genres began. Visiting this store gave me the idea of creating a cross over list of Christian artists who are similar to secular music stars. Today’s song is by Bob Hanson: a Bob Dylan sound mixed with a feel of the Doors. You Need to Know serves as a remainder to tell others what their relationship means to you.

by Jay Mankus

Improving Your Environment in 2022

The modern environmental movement began in the 1970’s following the great fire on the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. Prior the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency, most water ways were treated like dumps, hoping water would move trash downstream. While individuals can’t control what others do, you can begin efforts to improve your own environment in 2022.

As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving, Colossians 2:6-7.

According to the apostle Paul, spiritual growth is maximized when you plant yourself in the right environment. The ideal situation is to develop a strong root system that is firmed planted in Christ. Perhaps Paul is referencing John 15:1-7 where Jesus is a living vine and human beings are the connecting branches. As long as Christians stay close to the Lord, a healthy environment is guaranteed.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity], Psalm 1:1-3.

The Psalmist uses similar imagery in the passage above. Yet, the Psalmist refers to environment in the context of the friends that you make in life. Who you walk with will dictate your circle of friends. When you begin to hang around individuals with questionable character, they will influence how you act and behave. If you want to improve your environment in 2022, plant yourself in the Word of God.

by Jay Mankus

Find Your Passion and Pursue It

When I was in high school, Michael W. Smith was the top Christian artist in the nation. Songs like Go West Young Man, Secret Ambition and Place in this World inspired me to start thinking about the future. While in college at the University of Delaware, I was torn between becoming a golf course architect and serving as a youth pastor. Following a dual internship in Cleveland, Ohio, I discovered my true passion and began to pursue it.

Not that I have now attained [this ideal], or have already been made perfect, but I press on to lay hold of (grasp) and make my own, that for which Christ Jesus (the Messiah) has laid hold of me and made me His own, Philippians 3:12.

After working as an Inner City Workcamp Coordinator and Youth Director at a Methodist Church, I wasn’t sure about how to build a ministry. Following a visit to a Youth Ministry Trade School, a renewed passion was conceived as this training gave me the knowledge and vision to succeed. However, in any ministry there are big egos with a tendency for control and power which make maintaining healthy relationships difficult.

I do not consider, brethren, that I have captured and made it my own [yet]; but one thing I do [it is my one aspiration]: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the [supreme and heavenly] prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward, Philippians 3:13-14.

Over the years I’ve learned that desires and passions come and go. What you believe and think about your role in life today may change as the situations around you fluctuate. Just as societies and the world evolves, it’s important to re-evaluate where you want to go and what you want to do. Once you discover your spiritual gifts and unleash the desires within your heart, pursue God’s will as you seize each day.

by Jay Mankus

Personal Responsibility

After my father was transferred to the mid-west, I spent nearly a decade living in Cleveland. This enabled me to visit local attractions like Cedar Point Amusement Park and Sea World. Over time I began to learn some of the local history of this area. While discovering the Flats in downtown Cleveland, a series of night clubs, sports bars and restaurants, I was informed about the famous fire on the Cuyahoga River. The more I researched this river that runs through downtown Cleveland, I found that much of this dark past has been hidden from the public.

So you shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood shed in it, but by the blood of him who shed it. 34 And you shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I, the Lord, dwell in the midst of the people of Israel, Numbers 35:33-34.

As a growing industrial city, pollution in Cleveland was never a concern until a 10th fire broke out on the Cuyahoga River. Beginning in 1868, fires were accepted as a byproduct of the Industrial Revolution. These first 9 fires were mostly hidden from the national media, despite the 1.5 million dollars in damage caused by the 1952 blaze. Unfortunately, up until the 1970’s, bodies of water were used as dumping areas, expecting currents to carry this trash downstream. However, the optics of the 1969 Cuyahoga River fire was so bad, that Congress acted a year later to form the Environmental Protection Agency.

Beloved, I implore you as aliens and strangers and exiles [in this world] to abstain from the sensual urges (the evil desires, the passions of the flesh, your lower nature) that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock], 1 Peter 2:11-12.

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, pollution is considered a personal responsibility. Under the leadership of Moses, God urged Israel to be good stewards of their new promised land. When individuals decide to become lazy or sloppy with their surrounding environment, people are defiling the land in God’s eyes. In the passage above, one of Jesus’ disciples speaks of another type of pollution. Cursing and destructive words are viewed as a form of air pollution. Meanwhile, inappropriate actions, behavior, and choices result in spiritual corruption, polluting souls. Thus, if you want to make a difference in this world, exercise personal responsibility by seeking to live an upright life.

by Jay Mankus

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