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Details and Steps Toward Delight in 2023

As someone who has broken my leg, ankle and had major reconstruction surgery on my left leg and ankle, each time my cast was taken off, I had to relearn how to walk again without a limp. This concept also applies to your spiritual life. Whenever addictions, bad habits and sinful cravings that you can’t control pull you away from God, it takes time to recovery spiritually. Just as it takes a long-distance runner time to get back into shape at the start of a new season, developing a quality time of Bible Study and prayer doesn’t happen overnight.

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step], Psalm 37:23.

According to King David, you have to take one step at a time spiritually. As a new resident of Aiken, South Carolina, I’ve taken my fair share of U-turns to head back in the right direction. For Christians, U-turns are an admission that you’ve been heading in the opposite directions of God. Like a stubborn man unwilling to stop and ask for directions when he’s lost, the quicker Christians stop to confess the errors of their ways to God, James 5:16, the sooner you’ll be heading back in the right direction. Spiritual details come to you as you step toward delighting the Lord once again.

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. 106 I have sworn [an oath] and have confirmed it, that I will keep Your righteous ordinances [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying them], Psalm 119:103-106.

Psalm 119:105 is one of the most quote passages from the Old Testament. Unfortunately, the context of the verses before and after this verse has been neglected. As a teenager, I thought fundamental Christians were crazy. My faith was nothing more than a religion, missing out on a personal relationship with Jesus, Romans 10:9-11. Yet, when I became on fire for God through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the words of the Bible became sweeter than honey. Nearly 40 years later, my daily Bible Study provides details and steps toward delighting the Lord. May today’s blog inspire you to daily read the Bible in 2023.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 334: Jesus Take the Wheel

The first stanza of Carrie Underwood’s song Jesus Take the Wheel is a scenario that many Americans can relate to, consumed by a busy lifestyle. I’m not sure if Carrie is referring to herself or a friend, but she doesn’t pray to God until her life flashes before her eyes. Whether you’re driving on a highway about to crash or find yourself losing a battle with a crippling disease, it’s never to late to prayer to God for help, James 5:16-20.

But now since you have been set free from sin and have become the slaves of God, you have your present reward in holiness and its end is eternal life. 23 For the wages which sin pays is death, but the [bountiful] free gift of God is eternal life through (in union with) Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:22-23.

The apostle Paul compares eternal life to a free gift, offered to every human being. However, like faith, you can’t ride on your parents’ coattails forever. At some point in life, you have to take ownership of this free gift. From a spiritual perspective, when you ask Jesus to take the wheel of your life, you’re actually yielding control of every aspect. As you say goodbye to 2022 tonight and welcome in 2023, may you be inspired to make Jesus the Lord of your life, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Vanished

If you have ever lost something valuable in life, certain things seem to vanish. When I was a child, I asked my parents if I could hold the money for a local ice-cream shop at the beach. On the final night of our vacation, I was given the cash for everyone’s ice-cream. I remember grasping it tight, walking with my hands in my pocket. Yet, when I went to pull the money out of my pocket, it was gone. Despite desperately retracing my steps, the money vanished from sight, blown by the wind into the night.

And Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God; and he was not, for God took him [home with Him], Genesis 5:24.

One New Testament author speaks of Enoch, living seven generations from Adam, Jude 1:14. The author of Hebrews includes this same individual in the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11:5-6. According to Moses, one day when Enoch was 365 days old, about 36.5 years old if you consider the Open Canopy Theory which slowed down the aging process from the sun, this man vanished from the face of the earth. There were no milk cartons back then, but if there were his picture would have been on the back of one.

And when they had gone over, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray you, let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. 10 He said, You have asked a hard thing. However, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you—but if not, it shall not be so. 11 As they still went on and talked, behold, a chariot of fire and horses of fire parted the two of them, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, My father, my father! The chariot of Israel and its horsemen! And he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces, 2 Kings 2:9-12.

Jeremiah is much more descriptive when a similar event occurs several hundreds of years later. After Elijah had finished grooming his apprentice Elisha, Jeremiah writes about an event out of a science fiction film. According to Jeremiah, a chariot of fire and horses appeared in the sky. This wasn’t Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, but a spiritual prophet escorted by the Lord into heaven. Enoch and Elijah are the only two individuals who simply vanished from earth, never to experience death. May these two accounts make you a believer in an Almighty God this Christmas season, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 294: Thank God

Prior to the Carolina Panthers Atlanta Falcons Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, I had never heard of Kane Brown. During a promo for the featured artist following the game, Two Chains spoke with Brown to share what to expect to hear during Amazon’s Thursday Night Concert series. Kane briefly shared one song entitled Thank God. Before the game ended, I went to You Tube to check out this country music’s new song.

The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him, Psalm 28:7.

While the lyrics of Thank God speak about the physical aspects of love, Kane does go into his relationship with God. It’s a shame that more secular artists don’t openly speak about their faith in Jesus. Nonetheless, I’m thankful I was watching tonight’s TNF’s game so I could be introduced to Kane Brown and his music. May the lyrics of Thank God inspire you to be more thankful about life as Thanksgiving approaches.

by Jay Mankus

A Spiritual Breakdown of Transformation

At halftime and following the conclusion of any televised sporting event, commentators try to break down what actually happened. There are certain plays in a game that are highlighted to enhance their overall analysis. These replays may be paused or repeated a couple of times to show why this particular play was successful. Radio broadcasters often refer to this as the turning point of the game which shifted the momentum. The attached song provides one of the best breakdowns of a spiritual transformation.

But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). 17 For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do, Galatians 5:16-17.

The apostle Paul addresses the internal tug of war which goes on when someone places their trust in Jesus for the first time, Romans 10:9-11. In a letter to the Church at Rome, Paul confesses his own struggles to deny his own former way of life. Despite being told by Barnabas and other disciples of Jesus on how to live out his faith daily, it was much harder than Paul thought, Romans 7:15-17. In the passage below, Paul provides a solution by setting his heart and mind on things above.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, Who is our life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in [the splendor of His] glory, Colossians 3:1-4.

The lyrics of Love Break Me by Oceans Above serves as a prayer as well as a spiritual breakdown of transformation. Rain is used to suggest that like erosion washes away loose soil, the Holy Spirit needs to erode what remains of your old self. Colossians 3 makes a transition in verse 5 with a call to put to death your old self. If you allow this nature to stick around, Romans 8:5-8 speaks of the hostility that exists toward God. As you listen to Love Break Me, may the love of Jesus in your heart result in a spiritual transformation.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 291: God Who Moves the Mountains

I recently moved from one of the flattest states in the country, Delaware, to the Midlands of western South Carolina. My commute to work is up and down steep hills, over and over again for an hour. When I first heard the lyrics of today’s song, God Who Moves the Mountains, I’m reminded of why many prayers lifted up by Christians that go unanswered. Mountains serve as a mental block, causing doubt to replace faith as described by Jesus in the passage below.

And Jesus answered them, Truly I say to you, if you have faith (a [n]firm relying trust) and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and cast into the sea, it will be done. 22 And whatever you ask for in prayer, having faith and [really] believing, you will receive, Matthew 21:21-22.

Despite the unknown of the future, Jesus taught his disciples to trust in the One who can move mountains. This in the inspiration behind Corey Voss’ song God Who Moves the Mountains. Jesus presents twelve men with the ideal scenario: the could be/should be result for any prayer spoken as long as you believe in the God who moves mountains. As you listen to the lyrics, may you be inspired to intensify your prayer life with a faith that moves mountains.

by Jay Mankus

Halloween House Cleaning

When I was a teenager, I participated in a seance. I had a crush on the girl leading it, so I didn’t hesitate to join in this late-night summertime activity. I was in Junior High at the time, and I didn’t know what faith was, so I didn’t think about the spiritual consequences. At the time, I thought this was pretend, like Whoppi Goldberg’s character in Ghost. This is my Halloween house cleaning story.

But when the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it roams through dry [arid] places in search of rest, but it does not find any. 44 Then it says, I will go back to my house from which I came out. And when it arrives, it finds the place unoccupied, swept, put in order, and decorated, Matthew 12:43-44.

In the years that followed these seances, I battled severe depression. During one restless night, I even planned my own suicide, jumping off my second-floor banister with a noose around my neck. Before I went through with this, my best friend from baseball actually hung himself a week later. I was an emotional wreck for the next few years until my high school swim coach introduced me to Jesus.

Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and make their home there. And the last condition of that man becomes worse than the first. So also shall it be with this wicked generation, Matthew 12:45.

Halloween has become the second most celebrated holiday in the United States, a close second to Christmas. Halloween is the only time each year that children and parents come into your house, a great time to witness by sharing the love of Jesus. Unfortunately, if you participate in certain activities, there are spiritual doors that you may open like I did at seances. Though I don’t believe everything I see on television, there are many who speak about opening the door for the Devil to enter their life, Ephesians 4:26-27. May this blog prompt you to do your own Halloween House Cleaning this fall.

by Jay Mankus

The Cost of Sacrifice

Prior to taking a walk with his disciples, Jesus rebukes James and John for their worldly mindset in Luke 9:54-56. This verbal admonishment appears to have gotten all of the disciple’s attention. Rather than say something stupid, the disciples listened intently to Jesus’ interactions with three individuals who were eager to become one of Jesus’ disciples. What they all heard was the cost of sacrifice.

And it occurred that as they were going along the road, a man said to Him, Lord, I will follow You wherever You go. 58 And Jesus told him, Foxes have lurking holes and the birds of the air have roosts and nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head. 59 And He said to another, [v]Become My disciple, side with My party, and accompany Me! But he replied, Lord, permit me first to go and bury ([w]await the death of) my father. 60 But Jesus said to him, Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and publish abroad [x]throughout all regions the kingdom of God, Luke 9:57-60.

Jesus wasn’t being rude to these young Christians hoping to join His ministry team. Rather, Jesus was like a spiritual drill sergeant trying to expose the flaws and weaknesses of their faith. In the classic film Hoosiers, Gene Hackman tells parents of his basketball team that his players have to be stripped down before he can build them back up the right way. This is what Jesus was doing in today’s passage.

Another also said, I will follow You, Lord, and become Your disciple and side with Your party; but let me first say good-bye to those at my home. 62 Jesus said to him, No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back [to the things behind] is fit for the kingdom of God, Luke 9:61-62.

I’ve spent the last decade of my life in a comfortable place. My move to South Carolina this summer taught me about the cost of sacrifice. While I gave up a great paying job that was an ideal fit for my talents, family is more important than making money. Sure, good paying jobs provide luxuries in life. In the end, you have to solely trust in the Lord to provide, Matthew 6:33. May today’s blog help remind you of the cost of sacrifice.

by Jay Mankus

Love is Faith in Action

When the topic of faith is preached about in the pulpit, Hebrews 11 and James 2 is often referenced. Yet, after considering the words of King Solomon and Jesus, faith and love is a matter of the heart. Solomon warns one of his sons to guard his heart above all else. When the flow of blood to a heart is cut off, physical life is in jeopardy. However, Jesus speaks of the spiritual condition of hearts.

Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life, Proverbs 4:23.

During a rough week of cross-country practice in high school, Coach Mauer give some advice dating girls during the season. I can still hear coach proclaiming, “if you let girls screw with your mind, you won’t be able to concentrate.” Unfortunately, these words came a week too late as I was turned down to attend homecoming with a female runner. As DC Talk once sang, love isn’t just another word, love is a verb.

For there is no good (healthy) tree that bears decayed (worthless, stale) fruit, nor on the other hand does a decayed (worthless, sickly) tree bear good fruit. 44 For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit; for figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a bramblebush. 45 The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks, Luke 6:43-45.

Love isn’t something that you can take on and off like an article of clothing. Rather, love begins in your heart. Jesus taught that what’s in your heart naturally flows out of you in the form of words. The battered, beaten, and bruised will likely spew hatred and resentment of the life they have endured. Yet, this doesn’t have to be the end as Galatians 5:22-23 speaks of a Spirit of spiritual fruit. May the words of Solomon and Jesus give you hope of a new heart where God’s love flows in the form of faith in action.

by Jay Mankus

The Origin of Hope

Before entering into a relationship with God as a sophomore in high school, hope was just another word to me. Hope was one of those words that self-help gurus used in infomercials to get you to buy their latest book or video. As I stood in front of my mirror performing a pep talk, “I think I can, I think I can,” was my man-made expression of hope.

My soul has them continually in remembrance and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: 22 It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness, Lamentations 3:20-23.

When I searched the internet for the origins of hope, my results were obscure. Therefore, I moved onto my first memory of Mere Christianity as a high school Bible teacher. According to C.S. Lewis, hope is one of three theological virtues along with charity (love) and faith. One of Jesus’ former disciples writes about how individuals can access hope, 2 Peter 1:3-4.

Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, [a]the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses], Hebrews 11:1.

While Cardinal virtues are accessible to anyone, true hope is only available through the power of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul lists a series of traits that naturally flow out of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. This is the origin of hope which makes producing the spiritual fruits in the Bible possible, Galatians 5:22-25. I pray that you share this message with friends who need to experience hope. by Jay Mankus

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