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When There’s Not Much to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

This year will be the first Thanksgiving for my wife Leanne without a living parent. Meanwhile, this will be the first Thanksgiving for me without my sister Kathie who is battling blood clots and cancer. While my parents are still living, each have been hindered by a slew of health-related issues in 2022. Subsequently, when there’s not much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, you have to find a siler lining.

Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, Ephesians 5:20.

One of the ways the apostle Paul remained thankful in the midst of trials was through music. Rather than click on a car stereo or You-Tube, Paul writes about singing his favorite songs from church. Whether you’re humming a chorus in your head, playing an instrument or raising your voice in song, singing has a way of taking a mental break from any pain you’re currently experiencing. Anyone who dwells upon biblically based lyrics will be elevated toward a more thankful spirit.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

If this doesn’t work, Paul urges Christians to turn to prayer. This shouldn’t be haphazard. Instead, prayer should become a state of mind, unceasing throughout your day. Paul suggests that praying is a means to will yourself toward a thankful heart. Unfortunately, the root of bitterness has a way of ruining the mood to pray. Once prayer ceases minds turn their attention away from the Lord and race to anxiety, doubt and worry. If you’re struggling this Thanksgiving to be thankful, may the advice in the passages above turn your week around.

by Jay Mankus

The Second Death

After moving back to Delaware in the late 1990’s, I worked for one of my college roommates. John has just started a new Christian wholesale business and needed someone to help out with the Warehouse. As John and his wife Stacy focused on Retail Sales in their showroom, I spent two years as a production manager, overseeing the Inbound and Outbound shipping operations.

Blessed (happy, [a]to be envied) and holy (spiritually whole, of unimpaired innocence and proved virtue) is the person who takes part (shares) in the first resurrection! Over them the second death exerts no power or authority, but they shall be ministers of God and of Christ (the Messiah), and they shall rule along with Him a thousand years, Revelation 20:6.

Like any job that I’ve ever done, music or the radio is needed to keep me focused. When I wasn’t blasting Christian music, I listened to books on tape and famous Bible teachers. The one cassette tape that got the most replays was a series of sermons on Great Awakenings. Former church historian Leonard Ravenhill is who introduced me to the concept of the second death.

Then death and Hades ([d]the state of death or disembodied existence) were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire, Revelation 20:14.

Ravenhill looked at the past to make sure modern Christians didn’t fall prey to the mistakes of previous generations. Leonard specialty was as educating churches on prayer and revival. Ravenhill had a way of bringing alive the past as if you were part of some sort of a time capsule. While everyone goes through a physical death on earth, the second death only occurs to those not listed in the Book of Life. To avoid this eternal destination, make sure your make your reservations before it’s too late, 1 John 5:12-13.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 68: Reach

When it comes to music, I try to be as open minded as possible. Depending upon the type of mood that you are in, there is a specific style of music that will keep you going regardless of how you feel. Even if this means turning to a group called Strange Occurrence, you’ll be surprised to find another song to start your day. While the name of today’s featured artist sounds bizarre, Reach is a song worth listening to.

Whoever says he abides in Him ought [as [d]a personal debt] to walk and conduct himself in the same way in which He walked and conducted Himself, 1 John 2:6.

Strange Occurrence has a classic rock sound with biblically based lyrics. Like going dumpster diving for something that you need, I found Strange Occurrence in another bargain bin of a Christian bookstore. This pleasant surprise wasn’t merely a one hit wonder. Rather, the Another Day to Start Again album contains a couple of solid songs that rock and roll fans will enjoy.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 25: For Those Who Wait

A couple of years ago, my work station was moved underneath a flat sorter. Due to the constant noise, I was forced to use ear protection whenever I sit at my desk. The positive side of this change is that I’ve been able to listen to music, podcasts and shows throughout my shift. As I’ve scanned the internet to find new Christian artists, I came across a group called Fireflight.

Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name, Hebrews 13:15.

The best way to describe their music is a mix between Fleetwood Mac and Pat Benatar. Today’s feature song is also the name of one of Fireflight’s 5 albums. The attached video uses an aspiring violinist who has a father who doesn’t support her dream to use her God given gift. As you listen and watch, I pray that the lyrics of For Those Who Wait will inspire you not to give up until fulfilling goals that others said were impossible to achieve.

by Jay Mankus

Sing to the Lord a New Song

Ten years ago, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. Thanks to the guidance of Pastor Bruce and Linda from Bible Study, I chose Word Press to share the messages that God has put on my heart. I didn’t really know what I was doing early on. Nor did I think this blog would last a decade. To celebrate my 10th year, I will be adding a second post per day entitled Sing A New Song. This combines my favorite two passions Christian music and writing.

Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully [on the strings] with a loud and joyful sound, Psalm 33:3.

My goal for S.A.N.S. is to share how music has influenced my life. This journey began at the Sonshine House in Bear, Delaware. Located just down the street from my church, I made this Christian Bookstore like a second home. After hearing an inspiration song on the radio, I had to stop by to ask Jackie, the owner, if she had this song. I regularly sang tunes out loud in the store if I didn’t catch the title. Jackie became my Christian music guru throughout college as this collection continued to expand.

And He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and fear (revere and worship) and put their trust and confident reliance in the Lord, Psalm 40:3.

Since most of my friends didn’t share my passion, I began to make cassette mixes of my favorite songs. I made about 30 different best of tapes before finally stopping with each one based on a specific genre. My very first mix received the most compliments which led me to make multiple copies for high school students who went on Chrysalis weekends. One of the two sides was entitled A Father’s Love based upon the Billy Crockett song which happens to be today’s song. S.A.N.S. Volume 1 is A Father’s Love.

by Jay Mankus

Oh What a Feeling

Beginning in Junior High, music became an integral part of my life. I was there when MTV debuted in August of 1981, going over a friends house every day after school to watch Behind the Music. This was well before Reality Television caused music to become an afterthought on MTV. One of the songs ingrained in my mind is What a Feeling by Irene Cara. Cara’s song went on to become the theme song for the film Flashdance in 1983. When high school began for me, music filled me with an adrenaline rush each time I pressed the play button on my Walkman.

He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is absolute remission (forgiveness and cancellation of the penalty) of these [sins and lawbreaking], there is no longer any offering made to atone for sin, Hebrews 10:17-18.

The Bible talks about a different kind of feeling. This particular one is based upon the overwhelming sense of being forgiven. The author of Hebrews provides a reason to celebrate. Jesus was the missing link, the perfect lamb of God who serves as an eternal Great High Priest. While guilt and shame will still continue to haunt souls, there is absolute remission of past and present sins. Yet, Hebrews 10:26-27 does offer a cause for concern. Apparently, some first century Christians were taking God’s grace and mercy for granted. So don’t let the exhilarating feeling of forgiveness spoil your faith with an on again, off again mentality.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us, Psalm 103:11-12.

The Old Testament provides an analogy that reminds me of Irene Cara’s song. When the degree of God’s forgiveness is compared to infinity, this news makes me want to leap into the air and proclaim, “oh what a feeling!” From a human perspective, this concept is hard to comprehend. Yet, if God forgives and forgets our sins as far as the east is from the west, this fact should result in a greater appreciation. Whatever genre of music that you prefer, the next time that you feel overwhelmed by addiction or bad habits, turn up the volume so that you can celebrate God’s grace and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

When You Lose the Desire to Sing

Over the course of my life, there were several years that I never wanted to end as I was having the time of my life. Other years can be best described by “blah, ho hum or nothing special.” However, as December begins and a New Year approaches, most Americans are ready now to turn the page on 2020. Between the Coronavirus, countless deaths, a troubled economy and whatever else you have endured, finding something to sing about is tough.

By the rivers of Babylon, there we [captives] sat down, yes, we wept when we [earnestly] remembered Zion [the city of our God imprinted on our hearts]. On the willow trees in the midst of [Babylon] we hung our harps, Psalm 137:1-2.

The Psalmist writes about a similar period in his own life. The forced detention of Jews to Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah began in 598. This exile would last a total of 12 years, removing the wind beneath the wings of this harp player. After being removed from their beloved land, musicians lost their desire to play an instrument. Subsequently, harps were abandoned, hung in nearby willow trees in Babylon.

For there they who led us captive required of us a song with words, and our tormentors and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill [with the harp]. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I remember you not, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy! – Psalm 137:3-6.

People listen to music for a variety of reasons. Some listen as a form of entertainment, others to pass the time or seek inspiration from a particular song or genre of music. While music can sooth human souls as in the case of King Saul in 1 Samuel 16, depressing music can plant troubling thoughts. Whenever I am depressed, I rely on certain songs to uplift my mood. Yet, when you lose the desire to sing, come to Jesus to lighten your load, Matthew 11:28-30.

by Jay Mankus

When You Feel Like You Can’t Hold On Any Longer

Over the course of my life, music has gotten me through several difficult moments.  While in college, I developed an unhealthy pattern of drawing close to the Lord during the school year, then falling away over the summer.  On any given day, I listened to a few hours of music.  Whether I was running, studying or working out, the beat, lyrics and sound motivated me to press on.  One of the songs that touched my soul in college was Hold On by Wilson Phillips.  The following stanza helped me overcome the stress of college: “Don’t you know things can change. Things’ll go your way. If you hold on for one more day. Can you hold on for one more day. Things’ll go your way. Hold on for one more day.”

So be subject to God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you. Come close to God and He will come close to you. [Recognize that you are] sinners, get your soiled hands clean; [realize that you have been disloyal] wavering individuals with divided interests, and purify your hearts [of your spiritual adultery], James 4:7-8.

When I became a high school Bible teacher I tried to incorporate music into my classes and lesson plans.  Unfortunately, most of my music was archaic, out of date and wasn’t appealing to my students.  After swallowing my pride, I began to search for modern artists that my students could relate to.  One of my former students Evan introduced me to the group Stellar Kart.  Although I didn’t have much disposable income back then, I searched the Sonshine House for discounted music.  After losing my teaching job, I spent a month struggling to find a new one.  The song that got me through this ordeal was Hold on to Jesus by Stellar Kart.  While walking through un-charted territories, the Lord used this song to help me persevere.

But test and prove all things [until you can recognize] what is good; [to that] hold fast. 22 Abstain from evil [shrink from it and keep aloof from it] in whatever form or whatever kind it may be, 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22.

Since the Coronavirus shut down professional sports in March, I have increased my time listening to music.  During the week, I spend 5 hours a day minimum, listening to Christian music.  Although I still struggle to find artists, groups and songs with a specific message and style, there is one song that gotten me through these months of social distancing.  While listening to You Tube one night, I came across a spontaneous worship montage.  Kari Jobe has a 19 minute video starting with Speak to Me before moving into the songs Defender and Closer.  This worship medley has become a daily prayer for me, another way of Holding on to Jesus as the world tries to makes sense of COVID-19.  May these songs touch you like they have inspired me to hold on when you feel like you can’t hold on any longer.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

24

To the casual observer, this title suggests I am referring to the television series starring Kiefer Sutherland. While this counter-terrorist drama brought Jack Bauer to life, I mention this because 24 is the only television show that I have followed live since getting married in 1995. In the early years of my marriage, cable wasn’t a priority, just watching the four major networks and whatever else our antenna could pick up. While visiting my father in law in Chicago, 24 watch parties were a common occurrence, fixated for the entire hour once a week.

He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord, Proverbs 18:22.

However, the real meaning of today’s title is the number of years that I now have been married. For today, November 25th is my 24th wedding anniversary. While eating brunch with my groomsmen, I watched Ohio State, where I did part of my college internship, lose to Michigan in college football. As the 3 pm wedding time drew near, Chicago was seasonably warm, in the fifties. While Leanne did most of the planning, my input was the music, having two friends sing in our wedding and DJ from Indiana where I served as a youth pastor. My favorite part of this day was personally greeting each row, meeting and talking with family and friends. Yet, it’s hard to believe that 24 years have passed in a blinking of an eye.

House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord, Proverbs 19:14.

Looking forward, next year will mark a quarter of a century and the following year will mean that I have spent half of my life on earth with Leanne. What Moses says in Genesis about marriage is true, two people become one. While selfish desires still exist, part of marriage is coming together as a team to follow God’s will. Three children and one wedding later, there are still many events that await in the future. Yet, I am thankful that the Lord allowed me to meet Leanne Marie Wagner at a youth workers convention 26 years ago. I pray that as our home becomes an empty nest in three years that the Holy Spirit will guide us in the years ahead. As for today, I wish my bride Leanne a happy anniversary.

by Jay Mankus

Stopping to Take a Deep Breathe

The idiom “taking a deep breathe” refers to pausing for a moment to calm and compose yourself. If you work in a stressful environment like me, taking a personal day or vacation is essential to prevent emotional or physical burnout from occurring. Removing yourself from deadlines, hectic circumstances and pressure for a while is good for your own mental health.

“Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalm 46:10.

One of the Psalms of the Bible is entitled God the Refuge His people. This chapter is dedicated to the chief musician. The sons of Korah wrote this song, Psalm 46, set to soprano voices. The end of this piece contains one of the most famous and quoted stanzas of the Bible. When disappointment, hardships or trials begin to stress you out, the Psalmist urges believers to slow down by being still before God.

The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower], Psalm 46:11.

No matter how many friends or relationships you may have, there will always be at least one moment in time where no one will know what to say to you. When comfort can not be found by human means, the Lord is always available. Thus, when you reach a point of despair, stop to take a deep breathe. As you do, pour out your heart to God in prayer so that Selah is achieved, a peace that surpasses all understanding.

by Jay Mankus

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