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Cut It Out… Or Be Cut Off

There were two common expressions the parents of teenagers in my neighbors used while trying to discipline unruly kids. The first was “knock it off,” but my dad often said, “cut it out.” When your father is a former defensive end and tight end in college, you do exactly what he says. One Old Testament prophet and Jesus make similar points in the passages below:

Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened at all, that it cannot save, nor His ear dull with deafness, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness. None sues or calls in righteousness [but for the sake of doing injury to others—to take some undue advantage]; no one goes to law honestly and pleads [his case] in truth; they trust in emptiness, worthlessness and futility, and speaking lies! They conceive mischief and bring forth evil! – Isaiah 59:1-4

I came face to face with this expression during the summer before my senior year of college. While playing sand volleyball with my good friend Eddy, I broke my ankle. Instead of enjoying my final month of summer, I was bed-ridden for two weeks. While lying in bed, I heard the Holy Spirit whisper “cut if out or be cut off”. Like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:15-16, I had become a lukewarm Christian.

 I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser. Any branch in Me that does not bear fruit [that stops bearing] He cuts away (trims off, takes away); and He cleanses and repeatedly prunes every branch that continues to bear fruit, to make it bear more and richer and more excellent fruit. You are cleansed and pruned already, because of the word which I have given you [the teachings I have discussed with you]. Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing, John 15:1-5.

In the days that followed, I had come to a crossroads of faith. This was God’s way of saying, “make Jesus Lord of your life, Romans 10:9-11, or live for yourself.” At college I was a strong Christian, but at home in Cleveland I was chasing after earthly pleasures. August of 1991 altered my prodigal journey as I came to my spiritual senses to return home for good by beginning to cut out my former way of life, Colossians 3:5-9. May my personal journey inspire you to go all in by making Jesus Lord and Savior.

by Jay Mankus

Salvation is due to our God

The word salvation began being used in the late 1100s and early 1200s. This comes from the Old Latin term salvātiōn. Salvātiō in Latin is the equivalent of salvatus, which is the past participle where English derives the meaning to save. According to a first century physician, the apostles of Jesus, some of whom were former disciples of Jesus, came to the conclusion that true salvation is only found in Jesus.

This [Jesus] is the Stone which was despised and rejected by you, the builders, but which has become the Head of the corner [the Cornerstone]. 12 And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved, Acts 4:11-12.

Following the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, God pressed the reset button in Genesis 12:1-3. Abram soon became known as Father Abraham, sowing the seeds for God’s chosen nation. Moses was selected by God to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt and into a promised land. Yet, God needed to set up a temporary solution to cope with the human flesh and sinful nature detailed in Leviticus.

In loud voice they cried, saying, [Our] salvation is due to our God, Who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb [to Them we owe our deliverance]! – Revelation 7:10

A priesthood was developed to atone for the sins of mankind until a second Adam was sent in the form of God’s one and only son, John 3:16-17. The apostles recognized this individual as the Messiah formerly a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. While Peter thought Jesus would become an earthly king, Jesus’ death on a cross and his subsequent resurrection was necessary to complete the spiritual process known as salvation thanks be to God.

by Jay Mankus

Coming Out of the Closet to Show Others the Way

In the past century, liberals and progressives have taken symbols and terms from the Bible. Rather than highlight the biblical context of being happy and the Old Testament symbolism of a rainbow, new meanings have been ascribed. Perhaps, it’s time to flip the script by coming out of the preverbal closet to honor the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste (its strength, its quality), how can its saltness be restored? It is not good for anything any longer but to be thrown out and trodden underfoot by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden, Matthew 5:13-14.

When I turn on cable news or search the internet for what’s going on in the world, headlines seem to be turning darker and darker every day. If there was ever a time for the Christian Church to be a City on a Hill and the Light of the World, now is the time. If God is love, sirens of love should be blaring throughout places of worship to show others living in darkness the Way of Jesus.

Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a peck measure, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men that they may see your [z]moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and [aa]recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:15-16.

Unfortunately, many Christians are like high school cliques shining the light and love of Christ at each other. Meanwhile, prodigals and wayward souls continue to walk around in darkness without most churches doing anything to help. If you have similar concerns and thoughts, come out of your spiritual closet to show others the way to the love of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 164: Heart of the Journey

Today’s song is from an artist who is a hidden gem. Michele Wagner grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and received her Bachelor’s in Music Education from Ohio State University in 1983. When I first heard Heart of the Journey on a local Christian radio station in college, I was moved by the lyrics. According to Michele, trusting in God’s plan for her life is the heart of the journey.

 For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome, Jeremiah 29:11.

The author of Hebrews 12:1 compares life to running a marathon. Rather than ending after 26.2 miles, a spiritual journey does not conclude until you have breathed your last breath. As you live each new day like it’s your last, turn to Jesus daily. When your journey takes a slight detour, keep in step with the Holt Spirit, Galatians 5:25, so you don’t get lost along the way.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 163: Bride of Restoration

Mark Pogue & Fortress is one of those groups that was overshadowed by other more popular Christian artists. When I searched on the internet for the bio of this band, I didn’t find any new information that I don’t already know. One of the highlights of Mark Pogue & Fortress’ Restoration album is the ballad Bride of Restoration. Since human being all fall short of God’s glory, we all need to be restored.

For I will restore health to you, and I will heal your wounds, says the Lord, because they have called you an outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no one seeks after and for whom no one cares! – Jeremiah 30:17

Mark writes about how Jesus changed his life after failing as a husband. Similar to the storyline in the film Fireproof, Mark was able to save his marriage thanks to a newfound faith in Christ. Yet, unless your faith is active, James 2:26, you are dead inside until the Holy Spirit awakens your soul. May the testimony of Mark Pogue inspire you to draw closer to Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 159: I Believe

Today’s song comes from a group of four individuals who met in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hokus Pick or the extended name Hokus Pick Maneuver was formed shortly afterward. Hokus Pick is best known for using their quirky sense of humor which is reflected in their music. Prior to his death, Rich Mullins made a guest appearance on I Believe.

 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.

The lyrics of I Believe echo the words of Jesus in the passage above. This acoustic based tune is completed with lyrics based upon personal testimonies of the band members who sing about how they came to faith. This ballad offers soft rock with a wholesome message similar to what you would find in the Apostle’s Creed.

by Jay Mankus

A Synagogue of Satan

Slander is the act of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation. While slander is a daily occurrence on social media, human beings have been cruel from the beginning of time on earth. In the past few years, slander has resulted in lawsuits against cable news networks and newspapers. Yet, for a Christian church labeled as a synagogue of Satan, they turned the other cheek, Matthew 5:39.

I know your affliction and distress and pressing trouble and your poverty—but you are rich! and how you are abused and reviled and slandered by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan, Revelation 2:9.

To any Jewish adult steeped in religious traditions in the first century, Jesus was seen as a threat to the Jewish faith. Perhaps, this explains why Jewish elders, Pharisees and the high priest influenced the crowd on that first Good Friday nearly 2000 years ago. Meanwhile, other ancient writings refer to Jesus as the great magician, claiming the miracles Jesus performed relied on Black magic made possible by Satan.

 [And see to it that] your conscience is entirely clear ([e]unimpaired), so that, when you are falsely accused as evildoers, those who threaten you abusively and revile your right behavior in Christ may come to be ashamed [of slandering your good lives]. 17 For [it is] better to suffer [unjustly] for doing right, if that should be God’s will, than to suffer [justly] for doing wrong, 1 Peter 3:16-17.

Since slander will never go away, one of Jesus’ disciples provides advice when you are on the wrong end of abusive words. According to Peter, it is better to suffer for doing what is right. Subsequently, if you are slandered for being a faithful follower of Jesus, embrace criticism in the name of spiritual maturity. If a former church can survive being labeled as a synagogue of Satan, you too can overcome slander today.

by Jay Mankus

No Doubt About It

One of the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church is a time of prayer during each mass. Depending upon the congregation or priest, a list of prayers is usually read out loud. Following each individual request, the audience responds with “Lord hear our prayer.” One of Jesus’ disciples writes about this in the passage below. According to John, God does hear these prayers and there’s no doubt about it.

And if (since) we [positively] know that He listens to us in whatever we ask, we also know [with settled and absolute knowledge] that we have [granted us as our present possessions] the requests made of Him, 1 John 5:15.

It’s not uncommon for children to adopt an invisible friend when they are young. While parents may be uneasy about this behavior, this is the power of the imagination of a child at work. Similar to Robin Williams’ adult character in the film Hook, age and time have a way of sucking the joy out of parents. Rather than revel in the innocence of being young, the Devil has a way of wearing down faith, John 10:10.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled greatly and asked, How is it that the fig tree has withered away all at once? 21 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 21:20-22.

During a first century walk, Jesus teaches his disciples a powerful lesson about pray. This isn’t a meaningless imaginary exercise where you pretend to talk to an invisible God. Rather prayer is maximized when Christians approach God without doubt. Having belief and faith takes prayer to the next level. To those who pray without a doubt begin to move the mountains blocking God’s path for you.

by Jay Mankus

What You Don’t Plant Never Blooms

Planning and Planting share one crucial ingredient: timing is everything. If you plant crops or a garden too soon, cold weather and frost can ruin all of your hard work. Meanwhile, if you wait too long to plant each spring, arid and wet weather can diminish and or nullify every seed that was soon. My last season of snap peas in Delaware never came up due to several inches of rain; swamping my garden for a week.

He who observes the wind [and waits for all conditions to be favorable] will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. As you know not what is the way of the wind, or how the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a pregnant woman, even so you know not the work of God, Who does all. In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening withhold not your hands, for you know not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether both alike will be good, Ecclesiastes 11:4-6.

One of my favorite classes in college was Economic Geography. Most of this class was based upon simulations using natural resources and climate. One unit was farming, using the Farmer’s Almanac to determine what crop or crops you were going to plant based upon previous weather patterns. I decided to diversify, planting two different crops. While I did okay, planting anything involves taking a risk.

Other seeds fell on good soil, and yielded grain—some a hundred times as much as was sown, some sixty times as much, and some thirty. He who has ears [to hear], let him be listening and let him [a]consider and [b]perceive and comprehend by hearing, Matthew 13:8-9.

In the parable of the Sower, Jesus explains the meaning of this story to his disciples. Most soils that you plant in will have limitations. Some regions are too arid, others too rocky and a few are so wild that thorns and vines can overwhelm anything you try to plant. The goal for any homeowner is to improve your environment (soil) annually. Although the weather may not cooperate for you, what you don’t plant never blooms.

by Jay Mankus

You Can Only Serve One Lord Faithfully

Between telling stories of parables, teaching at local synagogues and preaching to the masses, Jesus visually connected with his audience. While Jesus never told anyone the answers outside of his disciples, illustrations were shared in public to make people think. This style of teaching created a spiritual hunger deep inside of many of Jesus’ followers. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that you can only serve one master faithfully. Depending upon what you treasure dictates your final decision.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:21-22.

Unfortunately, theology (the science of God) is used by some modern-day preachers to speak down to members of their congregation. This is not consistent with Jesus’ first century teachings. Your eyes are designed by God to be the lamp of your body. However, if your eyes start to deteriorate, darkness will enter your life. If this darkness is not addressed, you might find yourself trying to serve God and money.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your [r]conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stand by and be devoted to the one and despise and be [s]against the other. You cannot serve God and mammon ([t]deceitful riches, money, possessions, or [u]whatever is trusted in), Matthew 6:23-24.

At some point over the past 50 years, the fire and brimstone preaching of the 1970’s has become water downed with positive and politically correct sermons. Instead of focusing on hard-hitting messages that confront darkness living inside of Christians, mainline churches prefer themes that promote increased giving. While the apostle Paul is clear that no one is perfect, Romans 3:9-12, your priorities and time dictate who you’re serving, Matthew 6:33-34. Who and what you seek first will determine who you will serve in the future.

by Jay Mankus

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