RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Cleveland

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

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

Lies within Your Heart

As someone who grew up in the Catholic church, I was raised to believe that priests were the only individuals who were worthy enough to study the Bible and teach God’s Word. After a revival during the 1970’s, some priests began to encourage members of their congregation to start reading the Bible outside of church. Unfortunately, the church my family attended in Wilmington, Delaware was stuck in the dark ages until my dad’s relocation to Cleveland, Ohio. About this same time, I began to open my own Bible outside of church which exposed lies within my heart.

The [intrinsically] good man produces what is good and honorable and moral out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart; and the [intrinsically] evil man produces what is wicked and depraved out of the evil [in his heart]; for his mouth speaks from the overflow of his heart, Luke 6:45.

When I started teaching high school Bible at Red Lion, a Sunday School class that I attended introduced me to a book called Restoring the Foundations. Written by Chester and Becky Kylstra, I discovered that this book inspired a healing ministry based upon addressing ungodly beliefs individuals have collected over the course of their lives. Like spiritual baggage weighing down your heart, soul and mind, this integrated approach introduced me to new terms such as soul spirit hurts. As people unpack this baggage, exposed lies can haunt you; preventing you from being healed.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is recognized and judged by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart,” Matthew 12:33-34.

During the first century, Jesus introduced a troubling new teaching. When these words were first verbalized, I’m sure conviction silenced any whispers in the crowd. The thought of lies within your heart likely deflated souls previously filled with confidence and pride. This biblical truth sent shockwaves across town as murmurs echoed of this hidden evil from within. Scholars likely declared the words of the prophet are true, Jeremiah 17:1-10. As modern believers are introduced to this truth today, lies within your heart can finally be addressed by an integrated approach to healing.

by Jay Mankus

When You Become the Prodigal

During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group.  The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat.  This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God.  Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards.  Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon.  Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.

You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal.  Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions.  Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention.  Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single.  When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman.  A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11  Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness.  Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair.  Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal.  This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions.  While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow.  It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid.  Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate.  Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.

by Jay Mankus

From Heaven or Earth?

When my father was forced to transfer to Cleveland, Ohio to keep his job, I was introduced to cocktail parties.  If you want to move from the middle to upper class, I learned that these social events were a necessary evil.  These house parties enabled my parents to make new friends.  This group called New Clevelanders encouraged parents to bring their own college children to these functions as a way to network as families started over in a new town.  I quickly realized that colleges, degrees and majors provided surface level discussions.  If you wanted to fit in, going clubbing, drinking and partying were code names into this elite club.  I went along with the crowd for a while until conviction made it clear that I was living a lie.

Jesus replied, “I will also ask you a question. You tell Me: The baptism of John [the Baptist]—was it from heaven [that is, ordained by God] or from men?” – Luke 20:3-4

During the first century, Jesus began to debate religious scholars.  Raised in elite and wealthy families, these men were schooled by the best and brightest minds.  Meanwhile, Jesus who spent most of his life as a carpenter, void of any formal educational, drew much larger crowds.  Thus, resentment manifested in the hearts of these men, jealous of Jesus’ popularity.  This culminated in the passage above as Jesus uses John the Baptist to illustrate that authority can come from heaven, not just through earthly institutions.  Certain aspects, knowledge and qualities can only be explained as ordained by God despite what earthly wisdom may suggest.

They discussed and debated it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us to death, for they are firmly convinced that John was a prophet,” Luke 20:5-6.

During a breakfast I had with a friend in December, he marveled at my ability to come up with thousands of ideas for my blogs.  From an earthly point of view, my only credentials for writing involve teaching poetry at a boarding school.  This tangible experience ignited a passion for writing.  Nothing in my past pointed to a career in writing.  My English grades, grammar and vocabulary were average at best.  Yet, just as John the Baptist received a special anointing from God, the Lord has given me the gift of writing in the Spirit.  The more in tune with God I become, the deeper my blogs tend to be.  However, on occasion, I become unplugged, relying on earthly knowledge, struggling to come up with material for a week.  These phases are natural, a by product of human nature.  Nonetheless, while earthly credentials do lead to successful writers, I credit my heavenly father for Express Yourself 4Him.

by Jay Mankus

 

Living by Design… Not by Default

I changed my major three times before my junior year of college.  Initially, I went into Business Administration, then Civil Engineering before deciding upon Recreation and Parks Administration.  This indecision forced me to take the five year plan, spending one semester doing an internship in Golf Course Design and Maintenance.  With most of my friends in Cleveland back at school, I volunteered at a local church 2 days a week as an informal youth ministry internship.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse, Romans 1:20.

After graduating in May of 1992, the default position was to accept an apprenticeship in Boston, Massachusetts.  The company performing the redesign in Cleveland wanted me to become familiar with running all of the high tech equipment before guaranteeing a salary.  Unsure of where I would live and how I would I survive without getting paid for six months, I declined this offer.  Instead, I trusted the Holy Spirit to live by God’s design.  This choice led to a position as the Work Camp Coordinator for Inner city Wilmington, Delaware.  While the pay was puny, the experience was life changing.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers, Romans 8:28-29.

Looking back over the past 25 years, I wish I could say that I have followed God’s will throughout my life.  Unfortunately, the older you become, life gets more complicated.  Living by design requires sacrifices that I have been unwilling to submit to and take.  Thus, I find myself today living by default, living pay check to pay check without much purpose or reason.  Although I can’t go back and change the decisions that I have made in the past, I can alter my current course.  Therefore, I urge anyone struggling to find meaning in life to starting living by God’s design, Romans 12:1-2.  Reflect, pray and ask God for vision so that you can begin to seize each day through a life devoted to living by God’s design.

by Jay Mankus

%d bloggers like this: