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S.A.N.S. Episode 115: Rescue

Since my two boys have attended Liberty University, there are exposed to a variety of Christian artists who are featured at weekly convocations and concerts. Today’s featured song was introduced to me by my son Daniel. Although Lauren Daigle’s mellow worship music isn’t his typical style, Rescue is one of the many songs Daniel downloaded onto his phone that he has shared with me.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring out [k]that [wheat-]fattened calf and kill it; and let us [l]revel and feast and be happy and make merry, 24 Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to [m]revel and feast and make merry, Luke 15:20-24.

From a spiritual point of view, the portion of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the passage above is the type of rescue Daigle sings about. While human nature influences many people to try to save themselves, the apostle Paul gives readers of the Bible the bad news in Romans 3:9-12. May the words of Daigle’s Rescue uplift your spirit and remind you of the God of second chances.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 39: Supernatural

While attending my first spiritual retreat in college, a couple of students stepped up on top of a cafeteria table and began to rap. Later that night a friend informed me that these students were from Liberty University and referred to themselves as DC Talk. This strange encounter didn’t win me over to rap music, but the Supernatural album made me a fan of DC Talk.

Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only,” Matthew 4:10.

When I first purchased this album, I drove a couple of students from Red Lion to a leadership conference in the Pocono Mountains. No one in my car objected to replaying this CD once the final song came to an end. While the song Red Letters moved me due to the inspiration lyrics, Supernatural in my mind is by far the best overall song. I hope that Supernatural touches you like it did for me two decades ago.

by Jay Mankus

An Atheist with Passion

During a late night drive to Liberty University, I took a stroll down Memory Lane. Listening to a 2 CD set from In Reach, a Christian Band with lead vocalist Brett Williams, I was taken back in time to the 1990’s. The Waterline album debuted my senior year of college and Power and Promise came out while I was attending a Youth Ministry Trade School. A line from their song Savannah, “An Atheist with passion” reminded me of a former student.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:22.

Since 2011 was my last year of teaching high school, certain songs tend to help me recall the good and difficult times in my classroom. Jennifer was a byproduct of a broken home. Apparently, her older sister was the only adult in the house, making sure she got her two younger sisters to school on time every morning. While Jen’s parents claimed to be Bible believing Christians, their actions continued to feed fleshly desires. Subsequently, this hypocrisy left a sour taste in Jen’s soul, conceiving an Atheist with passion.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:23

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers of the side affects of darkness. When addictions, bad habits or poor choices continue to happen, it’s only a matter of time before you too may find yourself in a similar state like Jennifer. During tests and quizzes, Jen regularly shared her disdain for Christianity. As a Bible teacher at this time, it was a hard pill to swallow. Yet, as time went by, all I could do was be a light for Christ. All Christians can do today is hope and pray that something you say or live out will persuade future Jen’s to leave their state of darkness by coming to the light.

by Jay Mankus

Free Falling

Jeff Lynne produced Tom Petty’s 1989 album Full Moon Fever. Liner notes in Petty’s Playback box set includes the story behind Petty’s hit song Free Fallin’. While playing some elaborate stuff on the keyboard, Jeff and Tom stumbled upon three simple chords. According to this insert, Lynne suggested that Tom stop playing all the hard stuff and just sing some words to these three chords. Although Lynne came up with the title Free Fallin’, Tom figured out the best way to sing this phrase.

He who loves [and takes more pleasure in] father or mother more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves [and takes more pleasure in] son or daughter more than [in] Me is not worthy of Me; 38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conforming wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also] is not worthy of Me. 39 Whoever finds his [lower] life will lose it [the higher life], and whoever loses his [lower] life on My account will find it [the higher life], Matthew 10:37-39.

The phrase free falling presupposes that an individual has reached a certain height or point in life before coming back to earth. The Bible suggests that idleness triggers people of faith to begin to their descent, sliding further and further away from God. The greatest example of this in the Bible occurs in 2 Samuel 11:1-5. When David decided not to go off to war in the Spring, he took an extended vacation from work. When you’re not where you are suppose to be, even Christians can fall from grace.

And so they incur condemnation for having set aside and slighted their previous pledge. Moreover, as they go about from house to house, they learn to be idlers, and not only idlers, but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say and talking of things they should not mention, 1 Timothy 5:12-13.

Every year a famous Christian leader held in high regards is exposed when their spiritual free fall is revealed by headline news. The latest victim is Jerry Falwell Jr, former president of Liberty University. In a recent article by Jeff E. Schapiro in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Virginia Democrats are enjoying this latest sex scandal. As politicians scrape the bottom of the barrel, may Jerry’s demise serve as a wake up call for those of you with an idle faith. May this free fall inspire you to repent and draw near to God.

by Jay Mankus

While Money Can Buy Dreams, Families Leave a Legacy

I heard this expression during a sermon a few weeks ago. At the time, it sounded good, but didn’t strike a cord with my soul. After helping my younger son Daniel move into his college dorm room at Liberty University, I can see the parallel. Money gives individuals the opportunity to pursue a dream. However, what you do with college will leave behind some sort of legacy either good, bad or indifferent.

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 other night I watched the 2013 film the Ultimate Life. This is the sequel to the Ultimate Gift, following Jason Stevens’ journey in pursuit 12 gifts his grandfather Red Stevens left behind for him to achieve. The Ultimate Life follows Red Stevens life long pursuit to become a billionaire. As Jason Stevens goes through a mid life crisis, his grandfather’s lawyer unveils Red’s journal. As Jason begins reading, Red highlights crucial life lessons.

We will not hide them from their children, but we will tell to the generation to come the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonderful works that He has performed, Psalm 78:4.

Upon achieving his goal, Red Stevens’ eyes are opened to the sacrifices made at home along the way. After discussing the future with his wife, Red reveals a plan to leave a legacy with his children over a meal. Red decides to give each child $10,000 with the goal to give this money away to a needy cause. Unfortunately, only one child, Jay, donates his money with the others following in the footsteps of the prodigal, Luke 15:11-13. Anybody can say they are going to do the right thing, but legacies are built by putting Jesus’ words into practice, Matthew 7:24.

by Jay Mankus

Pressured to Make a Change

As my oldest son James completes his final semester at Liberty University, I have become one of his guinea pigs. Part of his current Exercise Science class involves serving as a personal trainer for his parents, Leanne and I. After filling out a questionnaire, doing a stress test over the course of one week and checking my blood pressure, heart rate and pulse daily, James has designed a workout schedule based upon our physical states.

If you point out these instructions to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished [through study] on the words of the faith and of the good [Christian] doctrine which you have closely followed, 1 Timothy 4:6.

Unfortunately, my last few measurements of blood pressure were off the charts. Before I could exercise week one, I needed to be placed back on high blood pressure medication. Once my blood pressure readings return to normal, I can begin to get back into shape. However, this harsh reality is God’s way of opening my eyes to how badly I have taken care of my body. After initially watching my diet early in 2019, I having given into junk food.

But have nothing to do with irreverent folklore and silly myths. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness [keeping yourself spiritually fit]. For physical training is of some value, but godliness (spiritual training) is of value in everything and in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:7-8.

As I reflect upon my current condition, a lack of balance in my life is to blame. In a letter to a teenager pastor, the apostle Paul writes about a good minister’s discipline. Without using the term balance, Paul urges Timothy to make time for physical and spiritual exercise. While Paul places more emphasis on spiritual growth, physical training does play a valuable role. Thus, as I struggle to regain my health, I guess you can say that this experience has pressured me into making a change for the better.

by Jay Mankus

Handing off the Baton

In a track relay race, participants need to hand off a baton between a set distance.  Individuals may drop this and still continue, but if anyone wander outside of their lane judges can disqualify an entire team.  During the 2016 Rio Olympics, the United States woman’s 400 x 100 team failed to finish after dropping their baton.  However, after a video review, a replay revealed another woman in an adjacent lane caused this drop to occur.  Thus, the woman were allowed to re-qualify following an appeal, going on to win the gold medal.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it, Proverbs 22:6.

In life, some compare passing off a baton to raising children like Dr. Jeff Myers in his book Passing the Baton.  At some point, parents have to let go, knowing they have done all they could do with the time given.  Yet, if you are like me, there are some regrets.  There were conversations I didn’t have, issues I didn’t properly address and life lessons I didn’t impart.  Nonetheless, what’s done is done.  I can’t change the past.  All I can do is learn from my mistakes and do a better job with my last 2 kids before they leave for college.

Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart, Proverbs 29:17.

Upon dropping my son James off to college, I thought came to my mind, “its time to trust the Lord.”  Sure, as long my oldest resides in my home, I’m still responsible to encourage and nurture his faith.  Yet, the best thing I can do is pray that the faculty and staff of Liberty University challenges James and pushes him to new heights.  While nothing in life is guaranteed, I am holding out hope that the Christian influences at this institution will lead James to discover his calling on earth.

by Jay Mankus

Savor the Moments

As a parent, I have a tendency to fast forward to the future.  It’s natural to want to skip diapers, the terrible twos and questioning stage.  Yet, if you avoid these difficult phases, its hard to appreciate the little things in life.  Thus, as my oldest son James starts his freshman year of college at Liberty University in the fall, all I can do is savor the moments.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” – Luke 10:40

Most people fall into one of two categories, possessing a personality like Mary or Martha.  Martha’s tend to be worry warts, usually serious, struggling to slow down.  Thus, in the passage above, Martha’s tunnel vision prevents her from enjoying Jesus’ visit.  Frustrated by the lack of concern by her sister, Martha’s words are played out in countless households daily.  Unfortunately, this character flaw steals the joy Martha should possess at this moment.

But few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her,” Luke 10:42.

Those of you who are carefree tend to fall into the Mary category.  Sure, she might not be task oriented like her sister, but she longs for conversations.  Eager to find out where Jesus has been, the people he’s met and progress the ministry has made, this explains the compliment Mary receives.  Although it may be difficult to alter your personalty, you don’t want to miss out on the blessings God has in store for you.  Therefore, with the help of the Holy Spirit, may you learn to savor the moments.

by Jay Mankus

 

Graduating on to the Next Phase in Life

Commencement refers to the time when something begins.  Thus, every spring colleges and high schools hand out degrees and diplomas for completing a required set of courses.  After these ceremonies end, its time for individuals to begin their next phase in life.  Subsequently, as my oldest son graduates today its time for James to prepare himself for Liberty University and possibly a spot as a pole vaulter at the Division 1 level.

When Jesus was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom, Luke 2:42.

One of the 4 gospels suggests Jesus celebrated a bar-mitzvah after becoming a teenager.  The Jewish faith continues this tradition today, giving young men and women an opportunity to publicly share what they have learned about the Torah.  Thus, Jesus was able to teach about the Word of God at the synagogue for the first time in Luke 2.  However, Jesus waited 17 more years before beginning his three year ministry on earth.

When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me, 1 Corinthians 13:11.

Perhaps, the apostle Paul was reflecting upon his own bar-mitzvah in the passage above.  Regardless of the context, modern churches offer those who seek the Lord a chance to complete their confirmation.  Essentially, this year long process or longer in some denominations, encourages boys and girls to take ownership of their faith.  At the end of this process, like graduation, its time keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.  Whether someone is going off to college, participating in a mission trip or starting a new career, the time has arrived to graduate on to the next phase in life.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

What Did I Do to Deserve This?

On October 21st, the 2015 World Long Driving Champion was crowned on the Golf Channel.  However, there was one competitor who should have been there, but God had another plan.  One of my former students, the starting center fielder for Liberty University at the time, began to dabble in long drive competitions.  During a round I played with Joseph, he drove over the first green, a 380 yard par 4.  On the second hole, his tee shot plugged by the 150 marker on a par 5.  Joseph Feeley was destined to contend for this championship, but the Lord took him home before ever finishing college.

If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king, Daniel 3:17.

Another friend had just received a full time job at a local university.  This meant his daughter’s final two years of tuition would be free along with an opportunity to complete his masters.  After years of frustration, things were finally coming together.  Then, out of the blue, within a two day period, my Christian brother lost his job and father to a heart attack.  In the weeks and months that followed, one of his initial thoughts was “what did I do to deserve this?”

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” – Daniel 6:16

When Daniel was thrown to a lion’s den, I wonder what was going through his mind?  On their way to being thrown into a fiery furnace, did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego second guess their decision not to bow down and worship the god of Nebuchadnezzar?  At some point during a trial, human nature is bound to cause individuals to question God?  In the end, time is the great equalizer, providing insight to the how’s and why’s.  Yet, nothing is guaranteed, a waiting game until your last breath.  Thus, the next time you experience heartbreak hotel, seek the Lord for comfort, peace and understanding.

by Jay Mankus

 

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