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S.A.N.S. Episode 106: Shout to the Lord

SKA is a music genre that originated in Jamaica in the late 1950s. I went through my own SKA phase back in the early 2000’s. This mixture of big band with American jazz and rhythm and blues appealed to me. Today’s featured song comes from Insyderz which is the first Christian SKA band I was introduced to. The featured song Shout to the Lord was my favorite when I attended Community Services at Willow Creek.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving and a thank offering and into His courts with praise! Be thankful and say so to Him, bless and affectionately praise His name! – Psalm 100:4

The Insyderz version is unlike any that I’ve heard, but it brings back fond memories of worshiping the Lord on Wednesday nights with thousands of people in Chicago. The Book of Psalm is filled with commands to sing and shout to the Lord. When you’re moved by the Holy Spirit, worshiping God can be as exhilarating as dancing. May today’s song inspire you to lift up your voice as you sing to God.

by Jay Mankus

Time of Your Life

The concept of “Time of Your Life” began with a 1939 play written by William Saroyan. In more recent years, movies like Dirty Dancing have brought songs with this concept in the title. I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Jennifer Warnes uses dancing as a means to have fun. Depending upon your hobbies and personality, the goal of any day is to have the time of your life.

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.

When I look back on the past half-century, one year sticks out, 1993. I left a youth director position in Delaware to attend a youth ministry trade school in Minnesota. For 7 straight weeks, I was having the time of my life, living with other people my age who wanted to minister to young people. Not only was I transformed by the teaching I received, I also experienced a revival while living in Columbus, Indiana.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

When I was having the time of my life, I was also working 90 hours a week. My only day off began with a Bible Study at McDonald’s with students, followed by lunch in Cincinnati with my good friend Phil, and ended with an adult Bible Study back at church. When you’re having the time of your life, make sure you don’t burn yourself out like I did in 1994. Balance is crucial for developing stability and longevity. If I only knew this back then, I’d still be having the time on my life. For now, I’m trying to recapture what was lost.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 53: Purify

During my first summer as a full-time youth director in Indiana, my church hosted 30 students from the Netherlands. One of my responsibilities was to give these teens a tour of downtown Columbus when their group first arrived. While playing tour guide for a day; I met a teenager who was desperately missing his European Techo Music. Today’s feature song comes from the group 65dBA who I discovered in a Christian bookstore on my quest to share Jesus with these Netherlanders.

And everyone who has this hope [resting] on Him cleanses (purifies) himself just as He is pure (chaste, undefiled, guiltless), 1 John 3:3.

One of my favorite pastimes in high school was going dancing. I first learned to dance at a Concord High School Homecoming with my cross-country teammates. Once I developed as a dancer, I went to a local disco night club called Pulsations. When I first listened to today’s song Purify by 65dBA, I felt like I was at a college nightclub. While today’s song may not be for everyone, if you appreciate modern dance, disco or techno music, this song is for you.

by Jay Mankus

Exercise Every Kind of Endurance and Patience

The origin of organized exercise can be traced back to Johann Bernard Basedow. Building upon Rousseau’s ideas of the “Natural Human,” Basedow opened the Philanthropinum in Germany in 1774. This center for physical exercise began by offering wrestling, running, riding, fencing, vaulting, and dancing. While writing a first century teenage pastor, the apostle Paul acknowledged the benefits of physical training. Yet, Paul felt that spiritual training provides a greater value for life.

For physical training is of some value (useful for a little), but godliness (spiritual training) is useful and of value in everything and in every way, for it holds promise for the present life and also for the life which is to come. This saying is reliable and worthy of complete acceptance by everybody, 1 Timothy 4:8-9.

While runners warm up with stretching, Christians lean on prayer to prepare their hearts and minds for a new day. Just as muscles need to be loosened up prior to jogging, spiritual exercises requires tapping into the Holy Spirit. In a letter to the Church at Galatia, Paul lists a series of spiritual fruits to shoot for, Galatians 5:22-23. Perhaps, the passage below is a direct reference to the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Rather than develop an “Eye of the Tiger” mentality, Paul urges readers to hang in there with endurance and patience.

[We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy, Colossians 1:11.

From a human point of view, discipline and hard work will only take you so far. You may be able to beat yourself into submission like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27. However, over the long haul, individuals need a higher power to invigorate and strengthen their soul. This is the type of spiritual exercise that Paul is talking about. If you’re feeling tired and weary, on the verge of giving up, spiritual exercise provides a spark to persevere. An Old Testament prophet uses the analogy of being lifted up by God so that endurance prevails. Isaiah 40:30-31.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God’s Glory

Attention, concentration and emphasis are words associated with focus.  These synonyms highlight the priority for those individuals who hone in on what’s important in life.  Depending upon your age, hobbies and interests, time will be allocated and invested in specific areas.  However, discipline, resolve and zeal are necessary traits to make your goals a reality.  Nonetheless, human nature has a subtle way of distracting good intentions.  The end result often leads to losing sight of God’s glory.

And David was dancing before the Lord with great enthusiasm, and David was wearing a linen ephod [a priest’s upper garment], 2 Samuel 6:14.

Prior to achieving fame by defeating the giant Philistine Goliath in battle, David was a skilled musician and shepherd.  The Old Testament does not reveal whether or not David combined these two abilities.  However, to stay sharp, I can see David practicing his harp at night, using a camp fire as a source for light.  As a former saxophone player, there is an adrenaline rush from playing moving songs.  Perhaps, this might explain the inspiration behind dancing, moving your body to the beat of music.  Beside performing for King Saul, David was also known to dance with enthusiasm, at one point dancing naked before the ark of the covenant.  Yet, five chapters later, seeing a beautiful woman bathing caused David to lose sight of God’s glory.

Let everything that has breath and every breath of life praise the LordPraise the Lord! (Hallelujah!) – Psalm 150:6

Romans 3:9-12 addresses mankind’s inability to avoid sin.  At some point, everyone screws up, falling prey to temporary pleasures.  As great as David’s act of adultery and murder detailed in 2 Samuel 11 may be, there is a way to regain your focus back toward glorifying God.  If you pray for a new heart, seeking to become a man or woman after God’s own heart, your spiritual vision will be renewed.  I have wasted years on earth trying to do what I want, to make a name for myself.  This selfish venture has blinded me from my real purpose for existing, Psalm 150:6.  Instead of waking up with the attitude what will God do for me today, there is a better alternative.  Start each day with a verse, a song and prayer to praise the Lord.  This is why you and I were born.  Therefore, don’t let the sun go down before practicing praise and worship of the great I Am.

by Jay Mankus

 

I Never Knew You

There are various classifications of friendship which exist.  Work related individuals whom you share a relationship with based upon your occupation is one category.  You may have social friends who you share a common interest in or with like dancing, karaoke or sports.  However, most people usually only have a small handful of individuals who actually know you.  Yet, even within this closely knitted network, there is a hesitancy to withhold information.  This fear keeps scars from the past unspoken, secrets locked deep within your soul.  This lack of trust keeps many friendships at a distance, never knowing the true you.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” Matthew 7:21.

This same concept applies to relationships with God.  Whether you were introduced to church as an infant, youth or adult, it takes time to grasp and understand the nature of God.  Those who attempt to make up for lost time often become overwhelmed by all the mysteries in life that go unanswered.  During a high school youth group, I was introduced to the trust illustration.  You stand up on a chair or stage, then fall back hoping your peers will catch you before you hit the ground.  This exercise helped me realize that I wasn’t trusting God completely.  Rather, I was doing everything in my power to maintain control, yielding to God only when I wasn’t strong enough.  If I continued on this path, I would end up like the people Jesus refers to in Matthew 7.

Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ – Matthew 7:22

Despite from wanting to exempt myself from the scenario above, I can’t say for sure that I don’t fit into this category.  I have back tracked, slipped and fallen from my spiritual high as a high school Bible teacher for a decade.  Yet, somehow I have lost my way, unable to find the support system that I need to regain that faith I once possessed.  I guess the passage above serves as a warning, not to be complacent, thinking you have arrived spiritually.  Rather, Jesus’ words humbled me, a reminder to get back to discovering and following God’s will in my living years.  If not, we all might hear the chilling voice of Jesus say, “away from me, for I never knew you.”

by Jay Mankus

 

Runnin’ with the Devil

In 2009, VH1 rated Van Halen’s song the 9th greatest hard rock song of all time.  Runnin’ with the Devil debuted in 1978.  Like most songs in its day, you had to buy a vinyl record, a 45 with Eruption playing on the B-side.  Maybe I was naive back then, but running with the Devil is now literally occurring rather than a figure of speech.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, 2 Corinthians 4:4.

The apostle Paul warns people about the perfect storm which causes individuals to become deceived by the Devil.  The ruler of the air, also known as Satan, uses fallen angels turned demons to cast a spell upon human minds.  This process is subtle, slowly poisoning pure hearts and minds with a virus.  When sin spreads, judgment is skewed, eventually leading some to run with the Devil.

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever, Revelation 20:10.

In an imperfect world, everyone will have their stints, moments of irrational thoughts.  Periods when you will do or say the wrong thing.  Yet, despite the path you are currently on, there’s still one card anyone can play.  This trump card reveals the Devil’s future in hell.  Therefore, whether you are dancing, flirting or running with the Devil, turn back now while there is still time.

by Jay Mankus

Do I Hold On to the Past or Trust God for the Future?

In the 1984 film Footloose, John Lithgow plays reverend Shaw Moore.  After Moore’s son dies in a car accident coming home from a night of dancing, reverend Shaw responds by banning all music in his small rural Utah town.  Kevin Bacon, plays Ren, a high school senior who goes to a town hall meeting in an attempt to reverse this ban for a Senior Prom.  Following a rejection, Ren’s boss comes up with an alternative which is presented to Shaw Moore.  During his next Sunday message, the reverend is confronted with a dilemma.  Do I hold on to the past of trust God with the future?

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ, Philippians 3:7.

Thirty years later, this question still applies.  Within each individual life, there are defining moments, trials which force people to mature.  How these events are handled, shape the outcome of lives.  Whether its death, illness or injury, bad things will occur sooner or later.  As Rich Mullins once sang prior to a car accident that ended his own life, there is bound to come some trouble to our lives.  When tragedy strikes, will you hold on to the past or trust God for the future?

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me, Philippians 3:12.

When life takes an unexpected turn, its hard to get over it or fully recovery.  Almost four years after I lost my teaching position, I’m close to picking up all the pieces, but not where I would like to be.  Scars from the past are still present, resulting in soul spirit hurts that are not fully healed.  However, as the apostle Paul once said in a letter to the church at Philippi, you must learn to leave your past by keeping your eyes on the overall goal, heaven.  Therefore, the next time you reach a crossroad in life, let go of the past by trusting God with your future.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

The Emotions of Praise

Depending upon what church, temple or mosque you attend, an increasing number of people are reserved, afraid of letting others know what’s inside of them.  Meanwhile, Pharisees still exist in most places of worship, putting on a show for others to see, Matthew 6:5.  Therefore, when you enter a house of praise where emotions are on display as a genuine act of worship, outsiders struggle to accept or embrace this movement.

Music causes unique styles of expression like individuals moved to toe tap, gradually turning their bodies into human tambourines.  Others begin to snap their fingers and clap their hands.  Those with rhythm may follow the beat, dancing and swaying side to side.  When touched by the lyrics, one might lift their hands high, closing their eyes to heighten their focus on God.  Tears often fall as you reach this stage of worship, moving some to fall to their knees or bow at the altar.

While numerous churches are spiritually dead today, void of these emotions of praise, a remnant remains alive and well.  The sons of Korah highlight acts of praise in Psalm 47 including clapping hands, shouts of praise and cries of joy.  The moment the human soul approaches the throne of grace, Hebrews 4:16, with a humble heart, the emotions of praise break out.  This act of worship is what you offer up to God on the Sabbath.  You may bring a tithe or appreciate the biblical message, yet the emotions of praise is where you meet and experience the presence of God.

Have you ever been moved by the Holy Spirit to let your guard down?  Please share a story of your own emotions of praise.

by Jay Mankus

Hyperreality

Candy bars that can dance, roller coasters that make you feel like you can fly and water rides that defy the laws of gravity.  Just another day of living in America’s hyperreality.  A term used by post-modern philosophy, hyperreality hinders one’s ability from distinguishing reality from that which is manufactured.  Behind the surface of fame, glory and riches, lies empty hearts, void of true fulfillment and purpose in life.

Hyperreality has turned Martin Luther King Junior’s I Have a Dream message upside down.  Instead of focusing on the character of someone’s heart, society has turned their attention toward dress, fashion and image.  The Material Girl can say whatever she wants as long as her physical appearance keeps up with the Joneses.  Reality television adds to this delusion as film edits, political motives and the great puppet master pulls the strings to falsify what you see.  Once again, behind the scenes, people aren’t who they appear to be on the big screen.

Peter began to see hyperreality in his day based upon comments made in 1 Peter 2:11-12.  His solution recognizes the obvious, you can’t control the world, but you can control how you respond.  Thus, the more one is able to follow the words of Joshua 1:8 and Colossians 3:1-3, the greater one’s ability is to detect truth from fiction.  Don’t be deceived by hyperreality.  Rather, be transformed by the Word of God, Romans 12:2.

by Jay Mankus

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