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S.A.N.S. Episode 310: Ave Maria

Of all of the great Christmas classics that have been recorded over the years, the one that touches my heart, stirs my soul and often brings tears streaming down my face is Ave Maria. There were numerous versions that I wanted to feature, but I thought it would be appropriate to play one sang in Latin. When translated from Latin into English Ave Marie means “Hail Mary.” Whoopi Goldberg charcter uses a portion of this sang as she leads a group of nuns as their choir director in Sister Act.

And Mary said to the angel, How can this be, since I have no [intimacy with any man as a] husband? 35 Then the angel said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a shining cloud]; and so the holy (pure, sinless) Thing (Offspring) which shall be born of you will be called the Son of God, Luke 1:34-35.

In the Christan film the Nativity Story, the 2005 version, there is an amazing scene without words that illustrates what Mary had to endure. A virgin seen pregnant in public will elicit gossip, judgment and stigmas. According to Gospel of Matthew, Joseph had plans to divorce Mary quietly because he thought like many others in his village that she had been unfaithful. This all changed when an angel appeared to Jospeh in a dream, Matthew 1:20-25. This is the inspiration behind Ave Maria.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 307: O Holy Night

Rush Limbaugh introduced me to Mannheim Steamroller as it was one of his favorite groups to play on his radio show every Christmas season. O Holy Night was one of the Carols my parents church in Ohio would sing annually as part of their midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The service began at 10:30 p.m. with singing the first half hour. Following this time of worship, a tradition Catholic Mass lasted an hour as the final hymn ended right around midnight every year.

Now in the sixth month [after that], the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 To a girl never having been married and a [v]virgin engaged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, Hail, O favored one [[w]endued with grace]! The Lord is with you! [x]Blessed (favored of God) are you before all other women! – Luke 1:26-28.

Before moving to Cleveland, I focused on the commercialism and gifts that I received Christmas morning. Yet, this 90-minute service every Christmas Eve helped turn my attention away from what was waiting for me under a tree at home and toward that holy night more than 2000 years ago. As you listen to today’s feature song O Holy Night, may the lyrics help prepare your heart to make room for Jesus this season and throughout 2023.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 298: Heartbeat

The lack of techno in Heartbeat by Elevation Rhythm makes this one of my favorite electronic praise songs. The lyrics of Heartbeat point to the word of Jesus in the passage below. If the heart is the well spring of life, Proverbs 4:23, then putting your heart into your faith in Jesus is a game changer. According to Jesus, loving God with all your heart, soul and mind is the greatest commandment to keep in life.

Teacher, which [e]kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?] 37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). 38 This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment, Matthew 22:36-38.

When hearts are set on things above, Colossians 3:1-4, loving your neighbor as yourself is attainable. C.S. Lewis claims that only Christians have access to biblical love as this is one of three theological virtues mentioned at the end of 1 Corinthians 13. When the Holy Spirit enters your heart via a public confession of faith, Romans 10:9-10, hearts are transformed. May the lyrics of Heartbeat inspire you to continue to love God with all your heart, soul and mind.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 296: Never Alone

There are several remixes of Transform’s song Never Alone. While I wasn’t able to find an older remix that is longer and better than the attached video, this one will have to do. While the lyrics aren’t that spiritual in nature, the song points to the biblical promise in the passage below. In his letter to the Church at Rome, the apostle Paul tells this congregation that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Therefore, you’re never alone.

For I am persuaded beyond doubt (am sure) that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nor things [n]impending and threatening nor things to come, nor powers, 39 Nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, Romans 8:38-39.

One of the ways Jesus comforted his disciples during Passion Week was to introduce the concept of a Holy Ghost, John 14:16-17. While Jesus doesn’t go into detail like the prophet Isaiah, Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to a spiritual counselor and guide. When you add this fact to the apostle Paul’s words, Christians should never feel alone. If you do, it’s likely due to the schemes of the Devil trying to separate you from God’s flock, 1 Peter 5:8. May today’s song comfort your heart.

by Jay Mankus

Active and Moving

To survive in the spiritual realm, you have to be alert, discerning, and proactive. Based upon the words of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-12, the Devil is always scheming something to take down Christians daily. One of Jesus’ disciples reveals this plot in 1 Peter 5:8. As someone who wasn’t prepared for Jesus’ arrest, Peter learned the hard way after publicly denying Jesus three times. Staying spiritually active and moving prevents you from becoming separated from God’s flock, other believers.

The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters, Genesis 1:2.

During an interaction at work last month, one of my managers noticed that I was always diligent and working hard when he sees me. My quick response naturally flowed out of me, “I only have one speed.” Either I’m still a hyperactive child in my fifties or I possess an old school mentality: “work is work and play comes after hours.” Like the Spirit of God hovering and moving over the earth prior to creation, I get antsy when I remain stagnant. Active and moving is more of my natural pace in life.

For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the [g]breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart, Hebrews 4:12.

According to one biblical author, the Holy Spirit isn’t the only thing moving and active. While the Bible has been translated into 724 languages as of 2022, the words inside this book are supernatural. The passage above highlights how a verse or an entire passage can emotionally move you. Whether it’s your conscience, heart or soul, conviction has a way of moving through our bodies. The next time you read the Bible, may you experience an active and moving God who resides in your heart via Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 290: Household of Faith

Sometimes you hear a song on the radio, but the DJ fails to tell you after the song is over who this was by. I first heard this song months ago but didn’t catch the artist’s name. While I assumed the title was Household of Faith, something distracted me on my way home from work. Subsequently, my short-term memory erased the lyrics from my mind. After a recent You Tube search, this song was on the top of my computer screen as I discover Household of Faith is by Winner and Shen.

Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths, Proverbs 3:5-6.

As someone who was witnessed multiple friends and neighbors have their marriages end in divorce, the lyrics of Household of Faith serve as a prayer to keep faith at the center of your marriage. Unfortunately, when couples lose the will to love one another, it’s like Eve in the Garden of Eden staring at the forbidden fruit hanging from the Tree of Knowledge. May today’s song inspire you to hold fast to faith whenever a spiritual storm approaches.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 274: Never Been a Moment

Today’s song contains a little bit of country with a great biblical message. Micah Tyler became an overnight sensation with his debut album The Story I Tell. While the featured song comes from a new album, Micah has a special gift of telling a story through his music. The song Never Been a Moment highlights God’s omnipresence, touching our lives through with hints of the love of Jesus.

How shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed and keeping watch [on himself] according to Your word [conforming his life to it]. 10 With my whole heart have I sought You, inquiring for and of You and yearning for You; Oh, let me not wander or step aside [either in ignorance or willfully] from Your commandments. 11 Your word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against You, Psalm 119:9-11.

Unfortunately, I often get distracted, especially by bad days which tend suck the joy out of my life. Instead of remembering the words of James 1:2-4 and 1 Peter 1:6-7, I let tough moments influence how I act and feel. May the lyrics of Never Been a Moment speak to your heart like it has to mine. Therefore, the next time your day spins out of control, remember Micah’s words so you embrace God’s love.

by Jay Mankus

How Great is Your Love?

One of my first nights as a college freshman, a girl in my dorm opened up about a traumatic experience that happened over the summer. Her parents’ house backed up to one of the major interstates in New Jersey. While hanging out in her backyard, she heard a large explosion. Something inside of her moved her toward this massive pile up. Moments later, she helped drag a child from a burning car. This instinct was something she couldn’t explain, but it was a sign of love deep inside her heart.

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. 14 You are My friends if you keep on doing the things which I command you to do, John 15:12-14.

As God’s plan for His life was a few days from being fulfilled, Jesus began to open up to His disciples. Passion Week served as a way to prepare these twelve men for life after His ascension into heaven. Looking back, it’s clear that Jesus is pointing to his death on a cross in the passage above. Yet, most of the disciples thought that Jesus was merely introducing another expectation for his followers. To someone like Peter, this is an extension of Matthew 16:24-27, a call to prove your love for God.

Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die. But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us, Romans 5:7-8.

Alain de Lille is a French theologian and poet who referred to the apostle Paul’s letter to Rome as the Road to Romans in 1175. This first century epistle is considered one of the most theological books in the New Testament. The passage above along with Romans 6:23 play a crucial role in Evangelism Explosion, a course I took at a local Methodist Church in Delaware. Paul illustrates the greatness of Jesus’ love. Nearly 2000 years after his death and resurrection, Jesus wants to know how great is your love on earth?

by Jay Mankus

Stop Messing Around

While in high school, I usually played one of two roles. I was either messing around, acting like a childish immature kid who wanted to take a break from being serious. Or I was the adult in the room later on in school, overwhelmed by my conscience asking my friends, “are you sure we should be doing this?” In the case of Abraham, God placed him into a scenario where he was forced to stop messing around in life.

After these events, God tested and proved Abraham and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am. [God] said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah; and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I will tell you, Genesis 22:1-2.

When called by God to sacrifice the promised son that Abraham and his elderly wife waited decades to be fulfilled, he leaves before daybreak. Abraham doesn’t consult his wife about this matter as this isn’t a suggestion. After a sleepless night, Abraham mentally prepares himself for the journey that awaits. I can only imagine the thoughts going through Abe’s mind as he set out to sacrifice his beloved son.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and his son Isaac; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and then began the trip to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance, Genesis 22:3-4.

Looking back on my own life, I spent four years of college straddling the fence with one foot indulging my sinful nature and the other wanting to please God. There was one song that struck a nerve in my heart of my lukewarm spirit, Revelation 3:16. Ray Boltz in Feel the Nails uses the expression “stop playing games” in this chorus. While on a retreat in Friendship, Maryland, this song changed my life and brought me to a place like Abraham to stop messing around by taking my faith in Jesus serious.

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

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