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The Crossover Connection Week 6: A Touch of Britney Spears, Madonna and Taylor Swift

This is high praise when you think of the amazing accomplishments of these 3 female artists. I was initially hesitant to make such a comparison, but God has blessed Brit Nicole with a vast range of musical talents. When I reflect upon Brit’s collection of inspiration ballads, countryish tunes from time to time, the rhythm to dance, finger snapping pop songs with an uncanny ability to crossover into hip-hop, she’s approaching Amy Grant status.

Let them praise His name in chorus and choir and with the [single or group] dance; let them sing praises to Him with the tambourine and lyre! – Psalm 149:3

One of my former students at Red Lion introduced me to Brit Nicole while I was teaching high school Bible. Songs like Seeing for the First Time, The Sun is Rising and The Lost Get Found have moved and touched me over the years. While driving my kids to school for a decade, more modern songs like Vacation led my children toward Christian music. While no female artists can replace Britney Spears, Madonna or Taylor Swift, I pray that after listening to Brit Nicole for a week you’ll adopt several new favorites to your music collection.

by Jay Mankus


When Common Sense and Prayer Unite

Scanning cable news channels on any given night can be entertaining, head scratching, and frightening all at the same time. Left is right, up is down, right is wrong, and science is gender neutral. One of the things I appreciate about attending a public high school and university is that I’ve experienced several cultures, faiths, and people over my 53 years of life on earth. Despite the numerous differences that do exist, I’ve seen common sense and prayer unite a congregation.

Then [Abraham] said to Him, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak [again]. Suppose [only] thirty shall be found there. And He answered, I will not do it if I find thirty there. 31 And [Abraham] said, Behold now, I have taken upon myself to speak [again] to the Lord. Suppose [only] twenty shall be found there. And [the Lord] replied, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again only this once. Suppose ten [righteous people] shall be found there. And [the Lord] said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake, Genesis 18:30-32.

I recall a special Red Lion elder meeting hosted by the Gilberts. The entire Church Board was gathered in Larry’s office in a circle when Pastor’s Jamie’s words resonated with my good friend Mark. As the board was revisiting our mission statement and vision for Red Lion Evangelical Free Church, Mark was touched by the Holy Spirit, brought to uncontrollable tears. The Board didn’t care if visitors stayed or became members of our church, all we wanted as a group of believers is for our community is to know Jesus by entering into a personal relationship.

Yet because this widow continues to bother me, I will defend and protect and avenge her, lest she give me [b]intolerable annoyance and wear me out by her continual coming or [c]at the last she come and rail on me or [d]assault me or [e]strangle me. Then the Lord said, Listen to what the unjust judge says! And will not [our just] God defend and protect and avenge His elect (His chosen ones), who cry to Him day and night? Will He [f]defer them and [g]delay help on their behalf? I tell you, He will defend and protect and avenge them speedily. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find [[h]persistence in] faith on the earth? – Luke 18:5-8

When God reveals that Sodom, where his nephew Lot now resides, is going to be destroy, Abraham blends common sense into his prayer. Abraham begins his prayer hopeful that the presence of godly individuals will convince God to alter his judgement. Jesus points to a persistent widow who uses a similar strategy as she prays for the justice and ruling she believes is just and right. While God doesn’t grant every request that you long for in prayer, mixing common sense with prayer won’t hurt and can lead to uniting an entire church body.

by Jay Mankus

Embrace Progress Over Perfection in 2023

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis was a textbook that my high school students became familiar with at Red Lion. Yet, as their Bible teacher, one phrase has stuck with me the past twenty years, “success is the process of arrival.” Like the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:12-14, Christians don’t arrive in heaven on earth. Rather, the sanctification process of God’s grace takes a lifetime to complete. Therefore, embrace progress over perfection in 2023 as success is a process, not actually arriving.

The steps of a [good] man are directed and established by the Lord when He delights in his way [and He busies Himself with his every step]. 24 Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down, for the Lord grasps his hand in support and upholds him, Psalm 37:23-24.

I guess you can say King David learned this lesson the hard way following his affair with Bathsheba. After being rebuked by the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:1-11, David’s imperfections turned into a generational sin. Perhaps, the words in the passage above are David’s attempt to embrace small steps of spiritual progress. Whenever anyone stumbles in life due to acts of disobedience, you have to learn all over again how to keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

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.

The apostle Paul touches on embracing progress over perfection. Paul understood that Jesus calls his followers to strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, but faith is a lifelong process. Therefore, while you will have periods of backsliding, idleness or rebellion like the prodigal son in Luke 15, God still has a plan for your life. Just as the prophet Jonah didn’t go to Nineveh the route God intended, embrace progress over perfection so that God will finish the work that He began in you this year.

by Jay Mankus

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

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