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Intense and Unfailing Love

My parents took me to see Rocky I in the theaters in 1976. When Rocky III debuted 6 years later, this coincided with an inner desire to become a great athlete. The theme song Eye of the Tiger was a daily goal, striving to possess the same intensity of a prized fighter in each of my sports competitions. Two years later, I became a running machine while training for cross country just like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV. Unfortunately, my high school years were full of intensity but lacked love and understanding.

Above all things have intense and unfailing love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins [forgives and [e]disregards the offenses of others], 1 Peter 4:8.

Intense refers to an extreme degree, force, or strength in which you pursue something. While intense is often associated with competitions, Peter urges first century Christians to pursue their spiritual lives with the same passion. In the passage above, Peter appears to reference Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:14-15. At the end of the Lord’s Prayer, forgiving and loving others is essential for being forgiven by God. This is the purpose and reason for pursuing intense and unfailing love.

You have granted me life and favor, and Your providence has preserved my spirit. 13 Yet these [the present evils] have You hid in Your heart [for me since my creation]; I know that this was with You [in Your purpose and thought], Job 10:12-13.

Whether I like it or not, I have become more like my father as I grow older. My passion for sports has faded, put on hold to become a better father and spiritual life coach for my children. While I am far from the earthly father that God wants me to be, the missing ingredient is an unfailing love like Jesus. Regardless of what has happened in life, all bitterness, grudges, and pain must be released and let go of for good. If I can exchange my intensity for sports and replace it with God’s unfailing love, forgiveness and reconciliation will become a reality on earth.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 30: My Deliverer

Today’s artist is best known for being a founding member of Rich Mullins’ A Ragamuffin Band. Since their final tour back in 2000, Rick Elias has released a number of solo albums, appeared as a guest bass player and served as a backup singer on several songs with friends. What I admire most about Rick is his passion to continue sharing his music at churches across the country.

And so all Israel will be saved. As it is written, The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will banish ungodliness from Jacob. 27 And this will be My covenant (My agreement) with them when I shall take away their sins, Romans 11:26-27.

I could have chosen a dozen songs from Elias’ vast collection. Yet, for today, I wanted to share the song that I first heard at the last Christian concert I attended. The lyrics of My Deliverer come right out of the Bible, following Joseph’s departure to Africa with his wife and child. Despite all of his travails, Joseph trusted that somehow and some way, the Lord would deliver him. This prayer still holds true today.

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

Embrace Holy Fervor

Since I wasn’t a good student early on in high school, I poured my heart and soul into sports. Whether I was running cross country, swimming, playing baseball or golf, I developed a fervor for greatness. I may have not been the most athletic and physically gifted individual, but I wanted to win more than most of my peers. While I didn’t have much of a social life, I didn’t care as long as I improved daily.

But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live [f]by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him, Hebrews 10:38.

This is the type of passion the Bible refers to in the passage above. Faith provides a similar adrenaline rush that I experienced as an athlete. However, this conviction comes from the power of the Holy Spirit. Rather than seek to become a winner in a competition, faith is a driving force to deepen my personal relationship with Jesus. When God becomes who you seek to delight, holy fervor is conceived.

A time will come, however, indeed it is already here, when the true (genuine) worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (reality); for the Father is seeking just such people as these as His worshipers. 24 God is a Spirit (a spiritual Being) and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth (reality), John 4:23-24.

During a conversation with a Samaritan woman, Jesus reveals how a desire for truth can give birth to holy fervor. Despite the flaws in this recently divorced woman’s life, a fire began to burn deep within her heart as Jesus spoke. This is the same sensation I experienced as a freshman in college when I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to make Jesus the Lord of my life. Regardless of what happens this holiday season, make room for Jesus so that you may embrace holy fervor.

by Jay Mankus

Progressively Passionate About God

If you ask a liberal college professor their thoughts about Jesus of Nazareth, progressive isn’t a word that you will hear. However, Jesus spent his last three years on earth surrounded by twelve men. Jesus’ ministry is the very definition of progressive: developing gradually; in stages; proceeding step by step. Jesus was the living Word of God, John 1:1-3. His display of love exemplified the fruits of the Spirit well before the apostle Paul wrote Galatians 5:16-25.

[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope], Philippians 3:10.

Shortly after his ascension into heaven, Acts 1:9, the Day of Pentecost added passion to this progressive movement. Rather than condemn and punish wrong action and behavior, grace gave hope to those who didn’t deserve it, Romans 5:8. As the apostles become filled with the Holy Spirit, this progressive passion transformed the first century church, Acts 2:42-47. Poverty was eliminated as Christians saw their neighbors as one big extended family.

For this is the will of God, that you should be consecrated (separated and set apart for pure and holy living): that you should abstain and shrink from all sexual vice, That each one of you should know how to [c]possess (control, manage) his own body in consecration (purity, separated from things profane) and honor, Not [to be used] in the passion of lust like the heathen, who are ignorant of the true God and have no knowledge of His will, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul compares the church to a well oiled machine. This body with many parts recognizes that each member has been given a special gift, trait or personality designed to share with others, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. As long as these talents are freely offered, passion continues to flow. Unfortunately, the Coronavirus has stunted the growth of many, quenching passion. Nonetheless, if you are willing to develop your faith in a progressive manner, passion will return as believers keep in step with the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:25.

by Jay Mankus

Afraid to Tell Her of Your Love

An inciting incident in a screen play is a story that upsets the status quo and begins the story’s movement forward. According to author and story guru John Truby, narrative drive is the forward propulsion of a story. When communicated in the right manner, this serves as a page turner, captivating audiences as viewers want to find out what will happen next. The inciting incident in my own life was the death of a good friend from high school. Since I was afraid to tell her of God’s love while she was battling cancer, her passing created a spirit of conviction within my heart for this to never happen again.

You have heard of my earlier career and former manner of life in the Jewish religion (Judaism), how I persecuted and abused the church of God furiously and extensively, and [with fanatical zeal did my best] to make havoc of it and destroy it. 14 And [you have heard how] I outstripped many of the men of my own generation among the people of my race in [my advancement in study and observance of the laws of] Judaism, so extremely enthusiastic and zealous I was for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when He, Who had chosen and set me apart [even] before I was born and had called me by His grace (His undeserved favor and blessing), saw fit and was pleased, Galatians 1:13-15.

In a letter to the Church at Galatia, the apostle Paul writes about his previous life before entering a relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11. The first chapter of Galatians serves as a blue print for telling your own personal story about how you came to faith. This outline begins by sharing how you acted, behaved and lived your life prior to making your spiritual decision. The second part is simply when and how you were introduced to God. The final step of a testimony is explaining how your life has been changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit. For some of you, this process may still be in it’s infancy. Yet, as time passes, light will expose traces of darkness that still exists within you.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God, 2 Peter 1:7-8.

To ensure that I was not afraid anymore, I sought out accountability groups, Bible Studies and Christian groups on campus to deepen my faith. I set up a duel internship at a Bible Fellowship Church in Ohio to spark my passion for youth ministry. I spent a decade serving as a Bible Teacher at a Christian High School and the last nine years sharing my journey with God by writing daily devotionals at Express Yourself 4 Him. I’d be lying if I haven’t fallen short in the area of fear. Yet, faith is a process of rising and falling, talking steps back and marching forward. My end goal is to no longer be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus so that when an opportunity to share my faith arises. When fear disappears, you will be prepared to give an answer for the faith that you now have, 1 Peter 3:15-16, this Easter Season.

by Jay Mankus

Don’t Extinguish Eternal Fire

During a visit to a prison in 1868, poet William J. Reynolds was inspired to write a hymn. Using the image of a camp fire, Reynolds opening stanza starts with the following words. “It only takes a spark to keep a fire going. And soon all those around will warm up to it’s glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love; once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone; you want to pass it on.” When the Holy Spirit fills newly devoted followers of Christ, faith becomes contagious like the classic song Pass It On.

And we earnestly beseech you, brethren, admonish (warn and seriously advise) those who are out of line [the loafers, the disorderly, and the unruly]; encourage the timid and fainthearted, help and give your support to the weak souls, [and] be very patient with everybody [always keeping your temper]. 15 See that none of you repays another with evil for evil, but always aim to show kindness and seek to do good to one another and to everybody, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15.

Unfortunately, rumors of apathy and complacency began to plague the Church at Thessalonica. Instead of passing on God’s love, first century Christians started pouring cold water on the spiritually optimistic. As a former Roman Catholic who was forced to attend mass every Sunday, I know what’s like not to want to be in church. While in college, I first encountered charismatic Christians, eager and passionate about worshiping God every week. Looking back, I was lukewarm, prematurely judging these on fire believers.

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.

Based upon the passage above, apparently some Thessalonians were suppressing the joy of other first century Christians. Perhaps, envy played a part in this behavior. When someone has a passion that is missing from your own life, defense mechanisms often trigger crude and unusual reactions. If you finding yourself lashing due to jealousy, you should consider Paul’s advice. Faith shouldn’t be regulated by your emotions. Rather, worship should consume your soul daily, thirsty for God’s Word which serves as fuel for eternal fire.

by Jay Mankus

Aglow and Burning with Passion

The Sermon on the Mount serves as a collection of ideas for followers of Jesus. At the end of the first chapter of this famous speech, Jesus suggests that all Christians should strive for perfection, Matthew 5:48. The passage below inspired the childhood song “This Little Light of Mine.” In other words, God expects believers to stand out, aglow and burning with passion.

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. 15 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 moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven, Matthew 5:13-16.

The apostle Paul adds a new dimension to this concept in his letter to the Church at Rome. Paul implies that spiritual gifts should be offered to others with a spirit of love. Building upon Romans 12:1, part of offering your bodies as a spiritual act of worship involves a passion and zeal for service. When aglow and burning in the Spirit, any desire to hide your faith departs.

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord, Romans 12:11.

Upon reading the passage above last week, Harry Dixon Loes’ song has a new meaning for me as an adult. While I don’t always feel like sharing my faith, staying aglow is essential. If you allow your spiritual fire for God to grow dim, darkness will surround you. Therefore, before the Holy Spirit fades, pass on the love of Jesus with the gifts, personality or talents bestowed upon you. Like the old camp fire song declares, Pass It On!

by Jay Mankus

Fighting Off Urges to Be Lazy

Idle, lethargic, languishing, plodding and remiss are words associated with lazy. After a hard week of work or mentality exhausting day of school, laziness is an appealing option. Escaping from the stress that life throws your way seems logical. Losing yourself on your phone, playing Fortnite online or indulging in social media are common hobbies where time is wasted daily. Yet, at what point does rest and relaxation turn into laziness?

I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man lacking understanding and common sense; 31 And, behold, it was all overgrown with thorns, and nettles were covering its surface, and its stone wall was broken down, Proverbs 24:30-31.

Solomon uses an example from his own life to rail against the urge to become lazy. This king isn’t alone as the Bible consistently warns readers against choices, decisions and desires to become inactive. The term work is portrayed in God’s Word as action, progress and production. Any contrary acts are compared with sloths, like giving into fleshly cravings to hit your snooze button over and over again. At these moments in time, you have to fight off urges to be lazy.

When I saw, I considered it well; I looked and received instruction.
33  “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest [and daydream],” 34  Then your poverty will come as a robber, and your want like an armed man, Proverbs 24:32-34.

During stretches of 2019, I have repeatedly given into urges to be lazy. This bad habit normally occurs at the end of my work week. As I collapse into my bed. whispers of justification have persuaded me to listen to my sinful nature. As I have tried to snap out of my spiritual slumber, passages like Hosea 4:6 come to mind. Most translations blame laziness on a lack of knowledge. Another version suggests that people perish for a lack of vision. Well, as I continue this weekly battle, to fight off the urge to be lazy,, I must turn my life around with a vision that aligns with God’s will for my life.

by Jay Mankus

More Than Just a Strange Thing

Stranger Things is an American science fiction horror show which is currently in the middle of its third season on Netflix.  This television series was created, written and directed by two brothers, Matt and Ross Duffer.  The setting of this show takes place back in the 1980’s, an era where it was common for teenager boys to binge on playing video games.  This passion or should I say addiction causes many boys to lose touch with reality.  Today, this obsession continues as many boys and girls are consumed by modern online games like Fort Nite.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?  Who has strife? Who has complaining?  Who has wounds without cause?  Whose eyes are red and dim? – Proverbs 23:29

In a recent episode of Stranger Things, social media exploded over their reaction between a scene with two teenage boys.  To avoid a spoiler alert, two characters get into an argument about girls.  One boy wants to pursue a girl that he likes while the other is not ready to grow up, clinging to his love for video games.  Unfortunately, this innocent scene has led a number of people on twitter to question the gender of this boy who doesn’t like girls at this time.  This is just another example of individuals reading way too much into a fictional show.

Your [drunken] eyes will see strange things and your mind will utter perverse things [untrue things, twisted things], Proverbs 23:33.

In 1997, the band Common Children released the song Strange Rain on their Delicate Fade album.  The lyrics of Strange Rain refers to the washing away of innocence.  The more children are exposed to adult content, growing up is accelerated.  In the second stanza of Strange Rain one line strikes a cord with me “when wonder fades in time forgive us for this crime.”  The more young children experience, hear or see things that they shouldn’t, innocence is stolen and wonder for life fades away.  While parents try to shield their children from danger, strangers things lurk around every corner.  This is where trusting God becomes essential.

by Jay Mankus

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