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S.A.N.S. Episode 287: Grace

Jonathan McReynolds was raised by a single mother in Chicago, Illinois. Thanks to a loving church family, Jonathon learned how to play the drums at age five. This love for music opened future doors to become a Grammy winning gospel singer. Rather than succumb to gangs which is prevalent in the Chicago area, the Lord has truly blessed Jonathon McReynolds with songs like Grace.

But if it is by grace (His unmerited favor and graciousness), it is no longer conditioned on works or anything men have done. Otherwise, grace would no longer be grace [it would be meaningless], Romans 11:6.

As a former Roman Catholic, good works was what I was taught to strive for in life. While isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it prevented me from embracing God’s grace. Like the words written to members of the Church in Rome in the passage above, grace replaces a works mentality. Instead of earning your way into heaven, the reality of God’s grace makes me to love and serve others.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 286: Call It Grace

Despite how much I listen to and search for new Christian music, there always seems to be an artist each week that I stumble upon. This usually occurs when I’m trying to find a song title on You Tube that matches the theme of my daily devotional. Such is the cause for the Christian band Unspoken. This group is comprised of Chad Mattson, Jon Lowry, and Ariel Munoz. While looking for a sound about grace, Call It Grace by Unspoken was one of the first songs that popped up.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and[b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! – 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Grace is one of those theological terms that seminary students tend to over analyze. I prefer the acronym God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense. Rather than ramble on about Greek and Hebrews words on this topic, Unspoken simply calls it grace. In the above passage, the apostle Paul writes about grace during a difficult period in his life. Despite fighting through a painful physical condition, Paul came to realize that his weak state opened the door for Jesus to make him strong once again.

by Jay Mankus

I’m Just an Average Joe Who Serves an Almighty God

Telling a man that they are average is like responding to a woman who asks you how they look in a new outfit “you look okay.” These subtle words appear harmless unless you’re struggling with your self-esteem. While telling the truth about your own observations may get you in trouble with a significant other, I’ve reached a point in life where I’ve accepted who I am. I’m just an average Joe who serves an almighty God.

And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn ([a]a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

Although most people call me Jay, my birth name is Joseph J. Mankus Jr. Minus my Lithuanian middle name, which is another story for a later time. By the time I reached high school, answering the phone with “Joe Junior or Senior” got too annoying as most calls were for my father. Subsequently, I made it known to everyone that from here on out, call me Jay.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! – 2 Corinthians 12:8

This decision coincides with when I first became a Christian on December 4th, 1984. Like the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-31, I haven’t always taken a straight path, wandering off and abandoning God for multiple periods and seasons. Yet now I’m back and have come to terms with my current role in life. Like the old Bruce Carroll song, I’m an Average Joe who is ready to serve an almighty God.

by Jay Mankus

Getting on the Same Page of Unity

The origin of being on the same page is not fully clear. However, it is believed that this expression developed at some point during business meetings with executives. Rather than try to undermine one another, companies function best when leadership teams are on the same page. Churches often develop mission statements so that when questions arise, pastors and elders can get back on the same page as well.

Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper], Colossians 3:12.

Unfortunately, there has only been one reported church that has sustained unity, Acts 2:42-47. While great awakenings of the18th and 19th centuries breathed new life into churches, unity did not last. According to Luke who served as a first century historian, traveling with Paul on several missionary trips, the early church-maintained unity by eliminating poverty. Rather than take up a weekly offering during a worship service, wealthy Christians sold their own possessions to provide funds for every emergency.

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive]. 14 And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony], Colossians 3:13-14.

The apostle Paul is blunt about what is necessary before unity can be achieved. This requires grace, love, patience, and selflessness. Apparently, early Christians practiced the words of Philippians 2:1-5 by taking on the attitude of Jesus. When church leaders emulate unity, members of a congregation start to follow. However, when unity is merely a spoken word without any action, getting on the same page of unity remains an unfulfilled goal.

by Jay Mankus

Responding to the Open Doors in Life

Human nature is on full display in Genesis 3. Back in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 2:15-17, God only gave Adam and Eve one rule. The rest of the garden was free to explore. The story of mankind’s fall from grace was passed down orally until Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. According to Genesis 3, no timetable is provided on the length of the serpent’s temptation. Sometimes open doors are snare traps set by the Devil. Responding to these open doors require caution, maturity and wisdom.

When angry, do not sin; do not ever let your wrath (your exasperation, your fury or indignation) last until the sun goes down. 27 Leave no [such] room or foothold for the devil [give no opportunity to him]. 28 Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need, Ephesians 4:26-28.

One chapter after the warning in the passage above, the apostle Paul introduces the concept of keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, Ephesians 5:25. Galatians 5:16-18 details this internal tug of war which Adam and Eve both lost. When a child is told not to do something by their parents, this boundary or restriction elicits a sense of curiosity. Subsequently, the Tree of Knowledge was accessible by exercising free will. Today, there are countless temptations, opens doors that end up trapping the curious into addictions.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:19-20.

One of the most beneficial visions in the Bible is a door which only has one handle. God’s side of this door doesn’t have a handle. John’s vision is symbolic of free will. God will try to get your attention daily by knocking or via a still small voice, 1 Kings 19:12. The door handle is on your side so the only way to access open doors is by exercising freewill. Faith comes into play when you try to open these doors, but some may be locked for a season. May today’s song help you learn how to respond to open doors in life.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 165: Does Anybody Love the Lord?

Today’s song was ranked among the top 25 Christian tunes of the twentieth century. If I can recall on the countdown that took place on New Year’s Eve in 1999, another one of Crawford’s ballads also cracked the top 100. When it comes to inspirational Christian songwriters, I would rank Rick third all-time behind Bruce Carroll and Benny Hester. Does Anybody Love the Lord serves as an open ended question.

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love, 1 John 4:8.

In the lyrics of Does Anybody Love the Lord, Rick points out the spiritual giants of the past. You don’t have tell anyone that you love the Lord if you’re a person of grace, integrity and mercy. Unfortunately, most Christians have their own prodigal experience, leaving the Lord for a period of time. Rick urges modern Christians to become people of action, faith and works. May today’s song challenge you to deepen your relationship with Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Abiding in Love

There are three common Greek words that appear in the New Testament of the Bible. Eros is a romantic and sensual form of love. Phillia refers to a brotherly love in the context of friends and family. Agape is God’s unconditional love that offers grace, forgiveness, and mercy to undeserving human beings. Yet, in a letter to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul refers to charity as the greatest spiritual force in 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Whoever loves his brother [believer] abides (lives) in the Light, and in It or in him there is no occasion for stumbling or cause for error or sin, 1 John 2:10.

Romans 6:23 is known as the Gift Illustration in Evangelism Explosion. There are three ways that people respond to a gift. The first is to accept this as your own by taking it home with you. The second is to receive a gift only to return this or regift it at a later time. Finally, the bitter will reject someone’s offer and leave without it. To abide in love refers to accepting, conforming to, and following the source of love who is Jesus.

But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:7.

One of Jesus’ former disciples provides a check list to see whether you are abiding in God’s love. John uses light and darkness as a way to evaluate your own current life. Those who abide in Jesus display fruits of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. Yet, if these fruits are overshadowed by acts of the sinful nature, Galatians 5:19-21, you’re likely abiding in darkness. Like Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, you will know Christians by their love. Therefore, abide in God’s love so that any darkness in life will quickly fade.

by Jay Mankus

Cordial and Gracious

In this age of Cancel Culture and Wokeness, cordial and grace has gone AWOL, absent without leave. Instead, there is a tenseness driven by hatred and revenge. Political correctness has divided communities, neighborhoods, and occupations like truckers. Rather than exercise common sense, a spirit of pettiness is motivating human beings to ruin anyone who doesn’t agree with their progressive and secular worldview.

Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ’s body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him), 1 Peter 4:9.

When I was growing up, my parents forced me to join the Boy Scouts. This is what parents were supposed to do back in the day to help their boys become prepared and well-rounded. While my heart was never into Scouts, I did learn valuable life skills as I completed merit badges and increased my rank to Star before focusing on high school sports. Despite not earning the highest honor, I can say that I am more cordial and gracious due to my time in this organization.

Do all things without grumbling and faultfinding and complaining [[l]against God] and [m]questioning and doubting [among yourselves], 15 That you may show yourselves to be blameless and guileless, innocent and uncontaminated, children of God without blemish (faultless, unrebukable) in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation [spiritually perverted and perverse], among whom you are seen as bright lights (stars or beacons shining out clearly) in the [dark] world, Philippians 2:14-15.

The Bible provides its own version of Scouting. Rather than memorizing the Boy Scouts motto to complete the requirements for a merit badge, the Bible is an instructional manual for life. In the passage above, the apostle Paul provides directions on how to become a spiritual star in your community. Using principles from books like Bring Out the Best in People and How to Win Friends and Influence People, Paul calls Christians to emulate Christ, Ephesians 5:1-9. Anyone who strives to live as children of the light will become more cordial and gracious as they mature and draw closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

When Anyone Strays from the Truth

Now that most of your New Year Resolutions have been broken, where do you go from here? Well as February begins, maybe you can reboot 2022 with more realistic goals? Yet, if you were the baby brother of Jesus, being honest and forthright with God is a good place to start. The sooner you acknowledge your own shortcomings, the freer you become to turn this year around.

[My] brethren, if anyone among you strays from the Truth and falls into error and another [person] brings him back [to God], 20 Let the [latter] one be sure that whoever turns a sinner from his evil course will save [that one’s] soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins [[a]procure the pardon of the many sins committed by the convert], James 5:19-20.

One of Jesus’ disciples refers to the concept of being spiritually governed in 1 Peter 1:14. Do you want to be influenced and led by the Holy Spirit as in Galatians 5:25? Or do you prefer to fall back to the days of being governed by your sinful nature? Heck just trying to eat right and healthy is a daily struggle for me. Yet, like the apostle Paul in Romans 7:14-15, I hate being a slave to sin.

[So] if we say we are partakers together and enjoy fellowship with Him when we live and move and are walking about in darkness, we are [both] speaking falsely and do not live and practice the Truth [which the Gospel presents]. But if we [really] are living and walking in the Light, as He [Himself] is in the Light, we have [true, unbroken] fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses (removes) us from all sin and guilt [keeps us cleansed from sin in all its forms and manifestations], 1 John 1:6-7.

Whenever you stray from the truth, you’re merely being reunited with your former way of life. You might feel good for a while reminiscing, but faith involves entering into a new fellowship. You may be able to fool your co-workers or family members, but you can’t fool God. Therefore, come clean by being honest. This goes against everything the world says to do, but confession leads to freedom and healing. May the rest of 2022 be filled with grace, mercy and forgiveness.

by Jay Mankus

The Discipline of Believers

As a former teacher at a Christian school, every human being needs discipline. Upon my first day in a classroom, I made the assumption that these kids were all raised in Christian home. When I observed unruly behavior day after day, I was forced to alter my classroom management style. As a rookie in the area of discipline, I struggled to maintain control and order in my first semester. This painful experience led me to understand the need for disciplining believers.

For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward]. 27 [There is nothing left for us then] but a kind of awful and fearful prospect and expectation of divine judgment and the fury of burning wrath and indignation which will consume those who put themselves in opposition [to God], Hebrews 10:26-27.

The author of Hebrews addresses individuals who constantly cheapened God’s grace. There was an ungodly belief that spread throughout the first century that the more you sinned, the more God would pour out his grace upon you. This topic is first brought up in Hebrews 6:4-6, warning careless believers of the dangerous path they are going down. Four chapters later, the passage above serves as a grave warning for anyone heading toward the gates of hell. Perhaps this in the Bible’s version of scaring sinners straight back to the narrow path, Matthew 7:13-14.

And have you [completely] forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure [correction] for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not [thus] train and correct and discipline? – Hebrews 12:5-7

Following the chapter known as the Hall of Faith, Hebrews 11, the author returns to the reason why discipline is necessary. As you go through life, compared to a marathon, certain aspects will where you down over time. Subsequently, when you find yourself falling away from God, correction and discipline is a form of love. As I once taught to my junior high students, biblical boundaries are designed to keep you close to God while keeping dangers and evil out. While no one like to be disciplined in public, this is a necessary for believers to get back on the narrow road which leads to heaven.

by Jay Mankus

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