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S.A.N.S. Episode 283: Sparrows

Worry is one of the topics Jesus addressed in his Sermon on the Mount. Jesus points to the birds of the air who wait to see what food mothers will be able to bring back to their nest. If God prepares food for these small creatures, how much more will the Lord provide for human beings. This is the context and inspiration behind Cory Asbury’s new song Sparrows. This worship pastor at Radiant Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan is best known for songs “Let Me See Your Eyes” and “Reckless Love”.

Therefore I tell you, stop being [v]perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the [w]span of his life? – Matthew 6:25-27

Despite Jesus’ famous speech, millions of people wrestle with anxiety, concerns, and worry daily. Perhaps, the desire to be in control is what fuels anxiety and worry. When things are going well in life, anxiety and worry is low on my list. When situations and trials enter my life, it’s easy to allow worry to fester. May the lyrics of Sparrows by Cory Asbury speak to your heart and calm any concerns eating away at you.

by Jay Mankus

A Proactive Approach to Stop the Root of Bitterness

I spent my final year of college taking agricultural engineering classes. Some of my classmates who grew up on farms in southern Delaware joked about all the lawncare companies that claimed to have the secret to ridding yards of weeds. Years later while teaching, I spent summers working for a local Hardscaping company. One of the products we used on the job was Roundup. Before the recent lawsuit against Roundup, I discovered that most store-bought brands were watered down, needing to place a special order for the potent stuff.

Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace (His unmerited favor and spiritual blessing), in order that no root of resentment (rancor, bitterness, or hatred) shoots forth and causes trouble and bitter torment, and the many become contaminated and defiled by it—Hebrews 12:15.

The author of Hebrews brings up a spiritual weed. One of the Veggie Tales videos brought up a similar concept in the Rumor Weed. Instead of dramatizing how quickly rumors can spread, one first century historian touches on the dangers of bitterness. Like opening a door for the Devil to enter your life, Ephesians 4:26-27, if bitterness is allowed to linger within your heart, it can poison your soul. Jesus talks about this in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:22. Perhaps, envy and jealous conceived within Cain the root of bitterness that ultimately led him to take Abel’s life.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [do not offend or vex or sadden Him], by Whom you were sealed (marked, branded as God’s own, secured) for the day of redemption (of final deliverance through Christ from evil and the consequences of sin). 31 Let all bitterness and indignation and wrath (passion, rage, bad temper) and resentment (anger, animosity) and quarreling (brawling, clamor, contention) and slander (evil-speaking, abusive or blasphemous language) be banished from you, with all malice (spite, ill will, or baseness of any kind), Ephesians 4:30-31.

Following the apostle Paul’s introduction to giving the Devil an open door, a few verses later there are additional consequences of the root of bitterness. One byproduct is grieving the Holy Spirit by lashing out in a fit of rage, frustrated by a specific person or situation in life. Two chapters later, the armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-20 serves as a proactive approach to stop the root of bitterness from spreading like a spiritual cancer. As you learn to put on each of these pieces of spiritual armor daily, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, bitterness will begin to fade.

by Jay Mankus

Coming Out of the Closet to Show Others the Way

In the past century, liberals and progressives have taken symbols and terms from the Bible. Rather than highlight the biblical context of being happy and the Old Testament symbolism of a rainbow, new meanings have been ascribed. Perhaps, it’s time to flip the script by coming out of the preverbal closet to honor the words of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount.

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, Matthew 5:13-14.

When I turn on cable news or search the internet for what’s going on in the world, headlines seem to be turning darker and darker every day. If there was ever a time for the Christian Church to be a City on a Hill and the Light of the World, now is the time. If God is love, sirens of love should be blaring throughout places of worship to show others living in darkness the Way of Jesus.

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 5:15-16.

Unfortunately, many Christians are like high school cliques shining the light and love of Christ at each other. Meanwhile, prodigals and wayward souls continue to walk around in darkness without most churches doing anything to help. If you have similar concerns and thoughts, come out of your spiritual closet to show others the way to the love of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Your Distinguishing Mark?

There are 96 verses in the Bible that refer to being set apart. Jesus makes a specific distinction in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:43-47. A follower of Jesus is called to higher standards than an unbelieving heathens. Perhaps, this is why one of Jesus’ disciples asks first century Christians, what’s your distinguishing mark? As you are forced to reside in a world of darkness, how are you making a difference?

What we have seen and [ourselves] heard, we are also telling you, so that you too may [d]realize and enjoy fellowship as partners and partakers with us. And [this] fellowship that we have [which is a [e]distinguishing mark of Christians] is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ (the Messiah). And we are now writing these things to you so that our joy [in seeing you included] may be full [and [f]your joy may be complete], 1 John 1:3-4.

The apostle Paul alludes to a distinguishing mark while writing a letter to a teenager pastor. When you add Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 1:6 with 1 Corinthians 12:1-7, each Christian possesses a hidden talent known as a spiritual gift. As individuals begin to switch their allegiance from the world to the Lord, minds can be transformed by the Word of God, Romans 12:1-2. When faith is nurtured by the Holy Spirit, knowing what God’s will for your life becomes achievable.

I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it [b]overflows), John 10:9-10.

Your distinguishing mark should align your spiritual gift with God’s will for your life. Unfortunately, this process often takes decades to sort through to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For example, I set out to be a social worker, changed to a youth pastor and ended up being a high school Bible teacher. When I lost my job a decade ago, I had to start over from scratch. Like an ongoing work of art, each day serves as a fine-tuning process to magnify your distinguishing mark as a member of the body of Christ.

by Jay Mankus

The Faithful Will Become Fruitful

From a human point of view, no one will ever be faithful 100% of the time. The apostle Paul quotes an Old Testament prophet to illustrate this in Romans 3:9-12. The Bible implies faithfulness is an unswerving adherence to God’s commands and calling. While Jesus asks his followers to strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, Paul understood that the weaker you become opens the door for Christ to become strong.

[The Father] has delivered and [m]drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son [n]of His love, 14 In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins. 15 [Now] He is the [o]exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation, Colossians 1:13-15.

In the passage above, Paul explains the spiritual condition that Jesus rescued Christians out of. In a letter to the Church at Rome, Paul states that new believers have an obligation to live according to the Holy Spirit, Romans 812. This means faith in Christ involves fleeing your old self along with any former addictions, bad habits and desires. This is the first step toward faithfulness as you will live and learn via trial and error like new parents figure out how to raise an infant.

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.

Jesus’ advice in the Sermon on the Mount is centered around developing the proper mindset. Instead of questioning God about why you haven’t received this or that, you might want to re-examine your priorities. According to Jesus, whoever begins to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness, all your concerns and worries will be taken care of by God. Another way to express this truth is the faithful will become fruitful.

by Jay Mankus

Welcome the Word of God in 2022

If you have children or received any sort of electronic gift for Christmas, you will find instructions enclosed inside. This manual is designed to show you how to put this gift together if not already assembled and how to use it. The best selling book of all time does not contain instructions in the beginning. Rather, the Bible uses history to illustrate how to and how not to live your life. If you’re stuck in a rut or tired of not being able to turn your life around, welcome the Word of God in 2022 to jump start this new year.

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth], James 1:21-22.

According to the passage above, Jesus’ earthly brother made an important connection between the Bible and this spiritual leader. When Joshua took over for Moses to lead Israel into God’s promised land, one of his first commands was to meditate upon God’s Word daily. If this practice results in the spiritual discipline of Bible Study, these truths will become implanted within your mind. Meanwhile, anyone who hungers and thirsts for righteousness will began to develop a heart for God.

For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; 24 For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience), James 1:23-25.

Yet, whenever you read any book, you have two choices. Are you the type of person who loves plowing through book after book eager to discover the next one? Or do you savor each page, stopping to write down notes as you read so you don’t forget an important insight, lesson or point? At the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls his audience to become doers of the Word, not just listeners. Anyone can read the Bible, but those who are convicted to turn their life around will welcome the Word of God in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

Clear the Board

One of my favorite parts of teaching was using a white board. I tried to find as many colors as possible to write down crucial points that I wanted my students to remember. Prior to creating Power Point presentations for all of my lessons, the board contained everything I wanted my students to know for upcoming quizzes and tests. At the end of every class, I cleared the board as students cried out “wait!”

He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 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 103:10-12.

God had another thing in mind when talking about clearing the board. The beginning of the Old Testament speaks of a God of wrath and punishment for those who disobey. Yet, the Psalmist in the passage above provides a picture of forgiveness. Instead of keeping of list of who have been naughty and who has been nice this year, God clears the board of any wrong you’ve ever committed or done. These transgressions are erased as far as the east is from the west for infinity.

For if you forgive people their trespasses [their [g]reckless and willful sins, [h]leaving them, letting them go, and [i]giving up resentment], your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their trespasses [their [j]reckless and willful sins, [k]leaving them, letting them go, and [l]giving up resentment], neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses, Matthew 6:14-15.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides more of a personal approach to clearing the board. While the Psalmist shares something that sounds too good to be true, Jesus introduces the conditions placed upon forgiveness. If you’re willing to clear the board by forgiving those who have done wrong to you, God will forgive you. However, if you can’t forgive and forget, you won’t be forgiven by God. Therefore, the next time you feel like holding a grudge, let go of any past pain by clearing the board.

by Jay Mankus

Overcoming Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Upon graduating from the University of Delaware, I accepted a position as a Summer Work Camp Coordinator. Since the pay wasn’t great, I took a part time job as a Youth Director to put gas in my car. For the first six months of my adult life, I slept on a couch in my sister’s basement. When my car broke down just before Christmas, I depleted all of my savings, without the funds for food or gas. This is my story of overcoming anxiety and panic attacks.

Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? 32 For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all, Matthew 6:31-32.

A prosperous future was certainty is doubt, but I knew that God had something better for me. As a desperate man, I found as many odd jobs that I could to survive. In my spare time, I practically lived at Cornerstone Church. I led an Accountability Group and Bible Study at night and painted whenever I wasn’t working. Despite the anxiety and panic living inside of me, serving God daily helped keep me in the present. In my poverty, I put my complete faith and trust in the Lord.

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.

Jesus addresses anxiety and panic attacks in his Sermon on the Mount. Instead of directing his message toward human beings, Jesus uses the birds of the air as a way to illustrate how God provides for all creatures. Since God created human beings in His own image, how much more does and will God provide for you and me? Subsequently, when I was $400 short of being able to attend a Youth Ministry Trade School, my church took a love offering for me. I received the exact amount that I needed. In the years that have followed, I don’t always feel peace, but I know the Lord will provide daily bread to survive.

by Jay Mankus

Going Off to an Invisible War

When individuals turn 18 in the United States, you can register to vote and enlist into the military if that is the path you want to choose. Prior to January 27th 1973, young men were forced to serve this country via a draft. Today, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of service conscription. As for modern day Christians, instead of heading off to boot camp for training, all you need to find is a quiet before going off to an invisible war.

But when you pray, go into your [most] private room, and, closing the door, pray to your Father, Who is in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open, Matthew 6:6.

This concept was first introduced by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. The context of this passage was to ensure that prayer was done in a private setting, not as a way to show off in public as some Pharisees were doing. Jesus didn’t just preach to the masses, He lived out biblical disciplines. One of the apostle Paul’s ministry helpers recalls the time Jesus went missing in the middle of the night. As the disciples began to panic, Jesus was merely going off to an invisible war.

And in the morning, long before daylight, He got up and went out to a deserted place, and there He prayed. 36 And Simon [Peter] and those who were with him followed Him 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 went for a walk before sunset, finding a quiet place to begin his day with prayer. While Mark does not provide the length of time spent out in the wilderness, Jesus likely prayed for more than an hour, possibly two. As Jesus arose from this spiritual battle on his knees, He was armed with exactly where to go and what to do. As King Solomon once wrote about, “many are the plan’s in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose prevail,” Proverbs 19:21. This is what it means to go off to an invisible war.

by Jay Mankus

An Atheist with Passion

During a late night drive to Liberty University, I took a stroll down Memory Lane. Listening to a 2 CD set from In Reach, a Christian Band with lead vocalist Brett Williams, I was taken back in time to the 1990’s. The Waterline album debuted my senior year of college and Power and Promise came out while I was attending a Youth Ministry Trade School. A line from their song Savannah, “An Atheist with passion” reminded me of a former student.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light, Matthew 6:22.

Since 2011 was my last year of teaching high school, certain songs tend to help me recall the good and difficult times in my classroom. Jennifer was a byproduct of a broken home. Apparently, her older sister was the only adult in the house, making sure she got her two younger sisters to school on time every morning. While Jen’s parents claimed to be Bible believing Christians, their actions continued to feed fleshly desires. Subsequently, this hypocrisy left a sour taste in Jen’s soul, conceiving an Atheist with passion.

But if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you [your conscience] is darkened, how dense is that darkness! – Matthew 6:23

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his followers of the side affects of darkness. When addictions, bad habits or poor choices continue to happen, it’s only a matter of time before you too may find yourself in a similar state like Jennifer. During tests and quizzes, Jen regularly shared her disdain for Christianity. As a Bible teacher at this time, it was a hard pill to swallow. Yet, as time went by, all I could do was be a light for Christ. All Christians can do today is hope and pray that something you say or live out will persuade future Jen’s to leave their state of darkness by coming to the light.

by Jay Mankus

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