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Making God Your Top Priority in 2023

A top priority refers to something of greatest importance. While attending Seminary, one of my professors introduced me to the Triangle Theory. Based upon time management, a triangle diagram is used as an aide to analyze how you spend your time outside of sleeping. When you do an honest assessment of your day-to-day activities, the average hours you invest in this or that will highlight what your top priority is at this moment in time.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [u]deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [[v]pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

One of Paul’s missionary helpers, John Mark, recalls a story told to him by one of Jesus’ disciples. While the disciples slept in, Jesus got up early in the morning to go walking in the wilderness. After finding a quiet place, Jesus prays to his heavenly Father. Based upon the words above, Jesus top priority to begin each day was seeking guidance from God to determine where He wanted Jesus to go and what God wanted Him to do.

But seek ([z]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([aa]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [ab]taken together will be given you besides. 34 So do not worry or be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries and anxieties of its own. Sufficient for each day is its own trouble, Matthew 6:33-34.

Perhaps, the Sermon on the Mount provides an introduction to Jesus’ prayer life. This insight begins with the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:1-15. After fasting is touched upon, Jesus concludes this section of his message on what Christians should strive for: hunger and thirst for righteousness. When God becomes your top priority, your mindset changes from earth toward heaven. The apostle Paul lays this out in Colossians 3:1-17. May these passages of the Bible inspire you to make Jesus Lord of all in 2023.

by Jay Mankus

Be a Positive Trend Setter in 2023

One of the major choices you will have to make in life is if you want to go with the flow or become a trend setter? Jesus touches on this subject near the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:13-14. The analogy Jesus uses is based upon who you walk with in life. Are you following the masses on the highway to hell? Or as Robert Frost once penned are you taking, “the Road Less Traveled?” Jesus appears to be referring to Psalm 1:1-3 as who you surround yourself will dictate the choices you make in life.

When Enoch was 65 years old, Methuselah was born. 22 Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God after the birth of Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 So all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 And Enoch walked [in habitual fellowship] with God; and he was not, for God took him [home with Him], Genesis 5:21-24.

After the earth’s first family got off to a rough start with one scandal after another, the first trend setter came 7 generations after Adam. According to the passage above, Enoch wasn’t like most of the men on earth. While others were trying to please their peers, Enoch had his heart on habitually walking with God. Rather than a casual relationship, Enoch daily prayed and drew closer to the Lord. This example set by Enoch appears to have inspired Noah to become a positive trend setter in an evil society.

But Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord. This is the history of the generations of Noah. Noah was a just and righteous man, blameless in his [evil] generation; Noah walked [in habitual fellowship] with God, Genesis 6:8-9.

Apparently, everyone but Noah was heading down the highway toward hell. The life and example set by Enoch had been forgotten by followers of God. Rather than take the less traveled path, everyone but Noah went with the flow in a society becoming morally bankrupt with each passing day. Sound familiar? As bad as the media and news makes America and the world sound today, it only takes one trend setter in 2023 to alter the course of history. May the lives of Enoch and Noah inspire you to make a difference in 2023.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 285: Friend

Today’s featured song comes from a musician that began as a worship director. Joel Vaughn went on to release three albums: Don’t Give Up in 2010, In the Waiting in2014, and Kinetic in 2016. After listening to one of his newest songs Friends, Joel uses Psalm 23 to highlight the friend that God is to all Christians. Despite being invisible, God’s presence can be sensed for those who have gone through difficult and trying times.

The Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters. He refreshes and restores my life (my self); He leads me in the paths of righteousness [uprightness and right standing with Him—not for my earning it, but] for His name’s sake. Yes, though I walk through the [deep, sunless] valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me, Psalm 23:1-4.

While this Psalm is often reserved for funerals, David shares the impacts that God has made on his life. During David’s years as a shepherd, he began to see how God provides for him as he protects and watches over his families’ own sheep. Anyone who enters into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Romans 10:9-11, you become a friend with God. As you read the Bible and pray, this relationship develops as Joel sings about in Friend. Enjoy this song.

by Jay Mankus

Finding Help in God’s Promises

Samuel Smiles published the first self-help book in 1859. The goal of Smiles book was to promote self-development in individuals who were struggling with confidence. In recent years, self-help books have increased in popularity. Yet, no book compares to the best seller of all time. The Bible is full of answers to life’s question as Christians weekly find help and hope in God’s promises within this book.

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you, Philippians 1:6.

Unfortunately, as human beings we all have experienced the pain of broken and unfulfilled promises. If you have been burned multiple times by someone you care about or look up to, you may reach a point in life when you stop trusting people. Perhaps, this is why many Christians fail to take God and Jesus up on their promises. Ungodly beliefs like “this sounds too good to be true” or “the Bible isn’t completely true” conceive doubt and years of unbelief.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you], Romans 12:1-2.

Yet, anyone who has ever read Restoring the Foundations by Chester and Betsy Kylstra or attended one of their workshops, you will find help and power in the promises of the Bible. In a letter to the Church of Philippi, Paul encourages Christians not to give up hope as what God has started in your life will be brought to completion. Meanwhile, as believers begins to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, the spiritual climate is ripe to begin to grasp God’s will for your life. These two promises serve as steppingstones to dig deeper into God’s Word so you can begin to accept, believe in and claim these promises in a prayer daily.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 256: Where I Wanna Be

As the sun rises on a new day, there are two questions that Christians should consider prior to leaving for the day. The first is where does God want me to go beside school or work? The second is like it: what opportunities will God give me to be at the perfect time and in the perfect place? The group Vienna sings about this in their song Where I Wanna Be.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a [u]deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him [[v]pursuing Him eagerly and hunting Him out], 37 And they found Him and said to Him, Everybody is looking for You. 38 And He said to them, Let us be going on into the neighboring country towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out, Mark 1:35-38.

Jesus didn’t leave this up to chance in the passage above. Rather Jesus goes for a walk early in the morning, finds a quiet place to focus and calls out to his heavenly Father to provide insight on what to do today. While Jesus’ disciples each had their own ideas and plans on what to do, Jesus knew the exact place to go, ministering to others along the way. May the song Where I Wanna Be inspire you to attempt to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.

by Jay Mankus

When Your Mind Wanders…Worry Can Take Over

As someone who is dabbled in meteorology, I’ve always been fascinated by brewing storms in the distance. Sometimes these systems are unstable, breaking up before they reach your town. Yet, other storms intensify, catching residents off guard by its severity. When I take my eyes off of Jesus, my mind wanders and if I’m not careful, worry can and will take over quickly as another storm in life approaches.

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do, James 1:6-8.

Since four of Jesus’ disciples were fisherman, the New Testament contains several references to water and waves. The passage above is from Jesus’ earthly brother. Perhaps this disbelief is a public confession as first century historians suggest that James didn’t believe that his brother was the promised Messiah until after Jesus’ resurrection on the first Easter Sunday. James’ words serve as a warning that when your mind wanders, worry can take over.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

Up until recently, my motto was “control what you can control and let God take care of the rest.” Yet, as my confidence reaches an all-time low, I’m worrying about things that I rarely thought of in the past. As my confidence slides, my mind wonders “what’s going on and when will this bad streak end?” The apostle Paul gave advice to an anxious church in the passage above. The moment your thoughts wander out of control, pray immediately and spend time giving thanks to God for what you currently have.

by Jay Mankus

Guilt by Political Association

The expression “guilt by association” comes from Medieval Latin. Sometime between 1525-1535, stereotypes were made based upon the people you hung around. If any of these individuals developed a questionable reputation, other groups would cast a shadow of judgement upon you as guilty by association. One of the Psalmists speaks to this in the passage below as does the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:33 which serves as a warning to gullible Christians.

Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night, Psalm 1:1-2.

The earliest social media can be traced back to the 1970s with Compuserve and the Bulletin Board System. In the past decade, Google, Facebook and Twitter have ushered in a new age of guilt by political association. Congress tried to address this issue several years ago through hearings as executives testified about the power that Big Tech companies possess. One member of congress shared the negative results that he received after searching for his name: guilt by political association.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and [h][especially wicked] sinners came and sat (reclined) with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, Why does your Master eat with tax collectors and those [preeminently] sinful? 12 But when Jesus heard it, He replied, Those who are strong and well (healthy) have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick, Matthew 9:10-12.

Today, this guilt by political association continues, fueled by Cancel Culture and the Woke Movement. In the past 6 years, Trump aides, staff members and supporters have been targeted. While America’s justice system was built upon the motto “innocent until proven guilty,” social media is erasing this from the minds of Americans. All it takes is one blog, tweet or video to go viral on social media for reputations to be ruined. I pray that somehow and someway God will end this trend of guilt by political association.

by Jay Mankus

Focus on Character

We are approaching the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech. On August 28th, 1963, MLK delivered this speech following a March in Washington D.C. inspired by a calling for equality and freedom for all. My favorite moment in this speech is Dr. King’s fervent dream when Americans will focus on the content of character rather than the color of skin.

And Samuel did what the Lord said, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming and said, Have you come peaceably? And he said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice. And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and called them to the sacrifice. When they had come, he looked on Eliab [the eldest son] and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him, 1 Samuel 16:4-6.

While this sounds great in theory, one Old Testament prophet was deceived by the physical features and stature of Eliab. If a man of God can be fooled by a good looking individual, then anyone is susceptible. Martin Luther King Junior was the pastor of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This ministry prepared Dr. King for his dream speech that focused on character.

But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart, 1 Samuel 16:7.

Perhaps Martin reflected upon the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5. The world is full of people who jump to conclusions or base their opinions upon what members of the media profess. Rather than provide context, specific flaws and weaknesses are demonized and highlighted. At some point in the near future, this woke movement must end and be replaced by an emphasis on character. I pray that this day comes soon.

by Jay Mankus

Placing Your Trust in the Divine

Following my first observation as a teacher, I was told that I didn’t have enough posters in my room. I thought this was a strange critic, but I took this to heart. While on vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia, I visited one of the numerous outlets at this tourist destination. I don’t remember how many Bible posters I bought that day, but one of those was Proverbs 3:5-6.

Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help, Psalm 146:3.

When I attended a youth ministry trade school, this verse was one of 26 that I memorized over the course of 7 weeks. The final week of my training was spent at a Wilderness Camp with 24 hours spent in silence. The purpose of this time was to reflect on my past, enjoy the moment and dream about the future. What I learned was to place my trust in the divine.

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.

Unfortunately, human nature has a way of convincing individuals to trust in yourself. Perhaps this is the reason why King Solomon shares the message above to one of his sons. Despite his vast wealth and wisdom, Solomon realized that it was the Lord who was the source behind his blessed life. I pray that this blog will convince someone today to place their sole trust in Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 184: Even So Come

After 184 days of posting musically based blogs, Crystal Lewis may have the greatest voice of any Christian female vocalist, Additionally, Lewis is also a talented jazz singer, songwriter and actress. Over the course of her career, Crystal has been nominated for several Grammy Awards, and has won multiple GMA Dove Awards. The song Even So Come is proof of her God given talent.

Awaiting and looking for the [fulfillment, the realization of our] blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One), Titus 2:13.

The lyrics to Even So Come is about Jesus’ second coming prior to the end of days. While Crystal writes about not doing everything in life that she feels like God has called her to do, she prays “even so come.” Several praise and worship groups have created their own version of this song in recent years. Nonetheless, I still prefer Crystal’s version. I hope you enjoy Even So Come.

by Jay Mankus

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