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S.A.N.S. Episode 63: This is Living

When I became the senior class representative at Red Lion, student leaders met in my classroom once a month. These discussions enabled me to get to know teenagers outside of a typical classroom setting. One of the members of the class officers was a big fan of Lecrae. Following a conversation of cutting-edge Christian music, Daniel suggested that I needed to add Lecrae to my rotation of music in class if I wanted to boys his age.

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 12:2.

After purchasing Lecrae’s most recent album at the time, this style of Hip Hop/Rap didn’t appeal to me. However, one decade later I came across This is Living by Lecrae. Whether I’m getting old or losing touch with today’s younger generation, but I feel that this softer version of Lecrae reaches a broader audience. Rather than use a preachy style of hip hop, This is Living reveals what a personal relationship with Jesus should entail. This song provides a glimpse of what living the abundant life of Christ resembles.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 58: Changed Forever

For a decade, I drove my children to school every day. When my older son James entered Junior High, I began to try to find Christian music to play on our ride to Red Lion. One of my high school Bible students led me toward Toby Mac. While I was never a fanatical fan of DC Talk, their former lead singer, Toby Mac’s Tonight album came at a perfect time. James connected with several of the songs on this album.

Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go, Joshua 1:6-7.

Today’s featured song Changed Forever was one of those tunes that was repeated at least once each day. When I drove my golf team to away matches, Toby Mac stayed in my CD player without any objections. The lyrics of Changed Forever reminds me of the words of Joshua as he was preparing Israel to enter into God’s Promised Land. When you make the decision to follow Jesus, the Bible is a valuable resource to make sure you continue to be changed forever.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 44: City on a Hill

When I first started teaching at Red Lion, Casting Crowns became extremely popular at this Christian Academy with hits like Who Am I? This popular style of music inspired a couple of student leaders to start a drama team that ministered to teenagers. Unfortunately, two of my former Bible students Kaylyn Warren and Joseph Feeley lost their lives to cancer. Yet, each of them fought their battle like a spiritual warrior, shining the light of Christ like a city on a hill in the darkness of this deadly disease.

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 [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 5:14-16.

While I’ve never been to a Casting Crowns concert, I’ve purchased several of their albums. Today’s song is from the Come to the Well album. As a writer, City on a Hill immediately touched my soul the first time I heard this song. The stanza with “Each one thought that they knew better; But they were different by design; Instead of standing strong together they let their differences divide” spoke to my heart. When you reach the chorus, you realize that every Christian has a role to play. When the body of Christ puts their differences aside, congregations become a city on a hill like Jesus designed in the passage above.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 42: On Fire

I was introduced to Switchfoot through a Christian movie entitled The Ultimate Gift. While teaching at Red Lion, parents would occasionally buy me Christmas presents. One of the last gifts I received was The Ultimate Gift. For some unknown reason, this DVD sat on a shelf, collecting dust for a number of years. Yet, when I finally opened this and watched the movie, I was overwhelmed by the story and touched by the music.

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.

There are plenty of films where the money from a will changes an individual’s life. Yet, when James Garner leaves his grandson a series of tests that lead to an ultimate gift, I was intrigued to figure out how this was going to end for Jason Stevens played by Drew Filler. One of these tests involves leaving the country alone, without his new girl friend. This decision montage uses On Fire to highlight Jason’s final choice. While Switchfoot has plenty of great songs, I hope you enjoy On Fire.

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

S.A.N.S. Episode 32: Six Candles

On January 1st, 2012, I played in a disc golf tournament with my three children, won the closest to the pin (basket), and celebrated by going to Dairy Queen on the way home. When I got home, I received a call from one of the new members of Red Lion’s leadership team. After starting out 2012 in grand fashion, before this call was over I was fired from my teaching position of a decade. While some of my friends were canned prior to Christmas, my replacement wasn’t able to start until February 1st so I finished out the second semester. In the days that followed, I was critically ashamed and clueless of what to do next.

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. 12 Then you will call upon Me, and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear and heed you, Nehemiah 29:11-12.

January 2012 was one of the most difficult months of my life. The position that I was born for and created to do was taken away from me in an instant. While family and friends were extremely supportive, one song kept me going. I had recently purchased FM Static’s Critically Ashamed album over Christmas Break so I was in the process of listening to all of their songs. I can’t point to a specific lyric of Six Candles, but the sound and tone served as a source of healing in 2012. There were other songs that I relied on through this tough stretch, but I am forever thankful for Six Candles on the role that it played in reinventing myself over the past decade.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 28: Mirror

When I first started teaching at Red Lion two decades ago, some of my former students tried to update my Christian music collection. Since most of these teenagers weren’t impressed with my favorite artists, a couple made a few mixes for me to listen to before I purchased any new albums. One of the songs on this CD was from Barlow Girl, all-female rock band from Elgin, Illinois.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; sing praises with the harp or the lyre to our God!—Psalm 147:7

Today’s song by Barlow Girl uses a scene from the fairy tale Snow White to illustrate how girls struggle with their own self-esteem and self-image. Instead of singing about the evil queen was asks “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all,” Barlow Girl looks to Jesus to find their true identity, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Although Mirror is nearly 20 years old, it still stirs my soul. Pass this song on to any girl or woman who needs to be encouraged today.

by Jay Mankus

Be Done with Every Trace of Wickedness

While the apostle Paul provides a general classification of the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21, other New Testament authors go into more specific aspects of wickedness. Jesus’ earthly brother refers to the process of temptation that wears down weakened souls, James 1:13-15. The disciple whom Jesus loved blames this on sensual desires, lustful eyes and pride in 1 John 2:15-17. These passages serve as warnings for Christians to be done with every trace of wickedness.

So be done with every trace of wickedness (depravity, malignity) and all deceit and insincerity (pretense, hypocrisy) and grudges (envy, jealousy) and slander and evil speaking of every kind, 1 Peter 2:1.

The decision to become a Christian is like committing to a new diet. Whenever you make a transition from eating whatever you want to healthy or full vegan, taste will be one of the greatest obstacles. When I served as an elder at Red Lion, one of our members went off to a cancer treatment center. This particular facility used natural foods to make human bodies less acidic. In the case of my friend, after 6 months on a rigid diet, he became cancer free. Yet, his roommate was unable to alter his eating habits.

Strip yourselves of your former nature [put off and discard your old unrenewed self] which characterized your previous manner of life and becomes corrupt through lusts and desires that spring from delusion; 23 And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude], 24 And put on the new nature (the regenerate self) created in God’s image, [Godlike] in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, rejecting all falsity and being done now with it, let everyone express the truth with his neighbor, for we are all parts of one body and members one of another, Ephesians 4:22-25.

The apostle Paul applies a similar method to altering one’s lifestyle. Like a filthy kid playing in the mud all day, Paul urges new Christians to strip off their former nature. Whenever you hold on to bad habits and former addictions, traces of a wicked past will cling to your soul. This is when a divine intervention may be necessary. Like doing laundry once a week so that you can have clean clothes to wear, Christians need to practice Paul’s advice in Colossians 3:1-9 to remove your past and replace this with Jesus Christ.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

A Conscious Decision

As an adult, there will be many memorable moments in your life. When things are going good, you may be having such a great time that you forget your responsibility as a parent. While coaching and teaching at Red Lion, I neglected my family, spending countless hours each week grading papers, preparing lesson plans and overseeing my golf team. In my free time, I played on a church softball team every Friday night. About 10 years ago, I was so consumed with my own life that I had become an absent father.

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

One night I was able to watch James play in a Little League baseball game. His team lost 2-1, but James hit an inside the park home run. The only other time James got up he doubled, but go stranded on base as the game ended. I was surprised to see James batting 10th. Sure, every parent believes that their child is better they actually are, but batting at the bottom of the lineup didn’t make sense. After a conversation with a neighbor, I discovered James used the coaches son’s bat without asking. Thus, James was punished by his coach. This petty act led me to make a conscious decision to become more involved in the lives of my children. The following year I became one of James’ coach, the first of 7 straight years coaching or managing a team for Greater Newark Baseball.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, Ephesians 6:4.

Like I have mentioned in previous blogs, I do everything to the extreme. I’m either all in or mentally unattached. This conscious decision has made me spend most of my free time in the last decade attending activities, competitions and sporting events. Although I don’t have the friendships that I once did outside my home, I am seizing every moment left that I have with Daniel and Lydia before they graduate high school. I definitely don’t have the energy that I once did, but I am doing my best to be an active and supportive father. Looking back, maybe I could have done things differently, but I don’t regret my conscious decision to make my children and family a major priority.

by Jay Mankus

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