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S.A.N.S. Episode 237: Closer to Love

Long distance relationships are one of those difficult decisions that people who are in love make. Sometimes these relationships survive, and others end up failing due to a lack of trust. Today’s song Closer to Love by Mat Kearney is based upon how one phone call can change your life forever. While distance makes the heart grow fonder, loneliness opens the door for temptation.

For there is no good (healthy) tree that bears decayed (worthless, stale) fruit, nor on the other hand does a decayed (worthless, sickly) tree bear good fruit. 44 For each tree is known and identified by its own fruit; for figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor is a cluster of grapes picked from a bramblebush. 45 The upright (honorable, intrinsically good) man out of the good treasure [stored] in his heart produces what is upright (honorable and intrinsically good), and the evil man out of the evil storehouse brings forth that which is depraved (wicked and intrinsically evil); for out of the abundance (overflow) of the heart his mouth speaks, Luke 6:43-45.

My wife Leanne and I dated for a year living 8 hours apart. We tried to meet in Chicago once a month which was the halfway point. Yet, military families don’t have this option unless some sort of leave is granted over the holidays. While Closer to Love isn’t a spiritual song, it’s a topic that many people can relate to. I hope you enjoy today’s ballad.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 134: Standing on the Edge of Night

Today’s song comes from Element 101, not a compound on the Periodic Table but a Christian band. Element 101 is made up of vocalist Crissie Verhagen, guitarists Chris Mizzone and Danny Papa, bassist Sal Ciaravino, and drummer Nick Acocella. Standing on the Edge of Night by Element 101 is one of those finger snapping tunes that is great for keeping you awake at night.

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, Psalm 1:1.

Standing in the Bible is symbolic for getting behind someone or something. Whether you’re walking, standing or sitting, temptation has a way of convincing you to stand on the edge of night. Rather than join in with sinners, set a spiritual tone daily by seeking God’s counsel daily. If you keep in step with the Holy Spirit, blessings and good fortunes will follow.

by Jay Mankus

Where Was God in Uvalde?

Following the most recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, one of the first headlines I saw on social media pierced my heart. This one particular comment blamed God for not intervening. The exact quote was “Where was God in the Uvalde School Shooting?” Unfortunately, when freewill is exercised and someone has already made up their mind like Cain, the only thing remaining is the actual act of evil.

But for [a]Cain and his offering He had no respect or regard. So Cain was exceedingly angry and indignant, and he looked sad and depressed. And the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? And why do you look sad and depressed and dejected? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it, Genesis 4:5-7.

Based upon the initial investigation into the life of the school shooter Salvador Ramos, he had a speech impediment, a stutter that caused other students to tease him. Beside recently dropping out of high school, Salvador’s family had a criminal record that led him to live with his grandparents. One psychologist suggested that the pictures of graduating seniors displayed throughout downtown UValde may have been one of the triggers that caused Salvador to snap.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

While Texas officials may never uncover the reason for Salvador’s evil actions, the Bible shines light upon what is going on inside of sinful minds. Cain was envious of his younger brother Abel who was blessed by God. This jealousy conceived hatred inside of Cain’s heart that Jesus compares to the root of murder in Matthew 5:21-22. Meanwhile, temptation does originate from God. Rather, temptation is an internal process that baits, entices and lures people like Salvador to sin. Just like God tried to talk Cain out of getting rid of his brother, God’s attempt to change Salvador’s mind was unsuccessful to stop freewill.

by Jay Mankus

Wasting the Time God Gives You

Whether you own an alarm clock, phone, or watch, time doesn’t stop when you fall asleep. From the time you get to the time you go to bed; time keeps ticking away. Some days you may be productive while others have too many distractions to get what you want done. Subsequently, you’re either living the abundant life that Jesus promised, John 10:10, or you’re wasting the time that God has given you.

And He said, There was a certain man who had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the part of the property that falls [to me]. And he divided the estate between them. 13 And not many days after that, the younger son gathered up all that he had and journeyed into a distant country, and there he wasted his fortune in reckless and loose [from restraint] living. 14 And when he had spent all he had, a [g]mighty famine came upon that country, and he began to fall behind and be in want, Luke 15:11-14.

The Bible uses the expression of sitting down to signal completion. When completing God’s will for His life by dying on a cross, Jesus sat down to be with God the Father in heaven. Yet, many Christians sit down at the end of each day without finishing what the Holy Spirit has called them to do. Subsequently, sitting down often results in wasting the time that God has given you on earth.

For while we were yet with you, we gave you this rule and charge: If anyone will not work, neither let him eat. 11 Indeed, we hear that some among you are disorderly [that they are passing their lives in idleness, neglectful of duty], being busy with other people’s affairs instead of their own and doing no work, 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11.

Whether you want to admit it or not, there is a little bit of prodigal spirit within all human beings. For some it’s the temptation of temporary pleasures, others struggle with materialism and people like me have a stubbornness that is hard to let go of. These weaknesses prevent Christians from seizing the moments in each day. Perhaps it’s time to stop wasting God’s time so that you can begin to taste the abundant life which Jesus has promised, John 10:10.

by Jay Mankus

Taking a Stand or Falling from Grace

Stephen King’s post-apocalyptic vision of a world decimated by plague is the backdrop of his 1994 mini-series entitled the Stand. The survivors of this deadly biological disease are forced to make one of two decisions: take a stand or fall from God’s grace. Each is tempted along their journey with images of darkness and light. Depending upon the choices made, believers head for a cornfield to meet Mother Abagail Freemantle while sinners depart for Las Vegas to meet up with Flagg; a.k.a. the Devil.

By this it is made clear who take their nature from God and are His children and who take their nature from the devil and are his children: no one who does not practice righteousness [who does not conform to God’s will in purpose, thought, and action] is of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother (his fellow [i]believer in Christ), 1 John 3:10.

During the first century, people followed one of two natures: the flesh or the Spirit. Immaturity, stubbornness and rebellion caused many to embrace the highway to hell, Matthew 7:13-14. John blames a lack of conformity to God’s will as the reason for prodigal like behavior, Luke 15:11-16. What you practice will define who you become. You may not want to be a vessel of the Devil, but we all have periods in our lives where we stray from God by doing what’s right in our own eyes.

For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not [b]adjusted and [c]adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to [d]a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

While the earthly brother of Jesus provides advice about temptation in James 1:2-15, the apostle Paul takes this one step further in the passage above. Since decision making in the midst of temptation can be poor, Paul urges Christians to look for the way out. Every day that you wake up to live, you should expect temptation and trials. As you battle with your own inner demons, Galatians 5:16-17, ask Jesus to give you the strength to endure, overcome and find the way out of tempting situation. Make the decision to make a stand today or else you’ll fall from grace like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

by Jay Mankus

The Delusion

Delusions occur when a false belief is accepted, or a judgment is made about an external reality. Author Chester Kylstra refers to this as ungodly beliefs in his book Restoring the Foundations. One of the best illustrations of a delusion happens in the film Rudy. Waiting for a bus to take him to Notre Dame, Rudy’s father tries to stop Rudy from chasing his childhood dream. According to Rudy’s father, he’s not smart and talented enough. This delusion prevented Rudy’s father from ever achieving his full potential in life.

If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts], 1 John 1:8.

Ungodly beliefs are not the only delusion that human beings endure. As sin enters your life in the form of enticement or lust, when the seed of sin is planted in your minds it’s only a matter of time before you will give into temptation, James 1:13-15. Unfortunately, to make yourself feel better, you might compare yourself with other people to conceal your own spiritual condition, Romans 2:1. This delusion comes in the form of justification and rationalization like the apostle Paul’s own struggle in Romans 7:15.

And by unlimited seduction to evil and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing (going to perdition) because they did not welcome the Truth but refused to love it that they might be saved. 11 Therefore God sends upon them a misleading influence, a working of error and a strong delusion to make them believe what is false, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11.

The apostle Paul alludes to full blown sin in the passage above, James 1:15. Like an addict struggling to unhook their lives from an unhealthy substance, seduction is another delusion that you must confront. Anyone who has failed to break a bad habit understands the helpless feeling of compromise, asking God for forgiveness before indulging sinful passions. One of the lies of the Devil is that you’ll never change. Yet, if you follow Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 10:13, God does provide a way out of temptation as long as you are willing to break free from sinful delusions.

by Jay Mankus

The Reason to Forgive

Everyone has been burned, disappointed with or hurt by a close friend. Whether this was due to betrayal, growing apart or temptation bought on by human nature, there is no one righteous, not even one, Romans 3:9-12. When the shoe is on the other foot and you are the guilty one, remember the principle you reap what you sow. When you add this to Jesus’ teaching in the passage below, this is the reason to forgive.

And lead (bring) us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. 14 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 6:13-15.

As a child, forgiveness is a daily ordeal. Someone hurts your feelings, said something mean to you or as you get older, breaks your heart. If the words of Jeremiah 17:9 are any indication, life is filled with anguish, frustration, and pain. This is where children learn the hard way that it’s better to forgive rather than holding a grudge. The sooner you mend fences with friends, the better you’ll feel. Unfortunately, stubbornness often blocks the path toward peace.

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.

The words of the passage above might have been conceived in John 21:15-17. Peter is confronted by Jesus following his public denial. This conversation serves as a form of reconciliation as Jesus forgives Peter for his past sin. While the Lord’s Prayer is a basic prayer children learned in Sunday School classes, this is a great aid for forgiveness. As you reflect upon the past day, week, month or year, forgive those who have trespassed against you. If you want God to forgive you, this is the reason to forgive others.

by Jay Mankus

Freedom as a Pretext for Wickedness?

A pretext is given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason. Whenever you are caught in the act of wrongdoing, the creative will come out with a logical excuse right off the top of their head. While watching an episode of Cold Case Files, one serial killer blamed a Succubus; a female demon. Similar to a child whose is caught by a parent, “the Devil made me do it” is a common rationale to explain irrational behavior.

[Live] as free people, [yet] without employing your freedom as a pretext for wickedness; but [live at all times] as servants of God, 1 Peter 2:16.

In a letter to the Church at Corinth, the apostle Paul explains that everything is permissible via freewill, but not everything is beneficial, 1 Corinthians 6:12. A few verses later, Paul uses a prostitute to introduce the concept of soul ties. Whenever human beings participate in any sexual act, a bond is formed. Instead of waiting for marriage to consecrate sacred vows made by a couple, temporary pleasures are gratified by giving into temptation.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. 16 The people answered, Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods; Joshua 24:15-16.

Following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, there were several religious cults that arose. Some of these groups cheapened God’s grace by professing the more you sinned, the greater God’s grace will be poured out upon you. This likely explains the words in Hebrews 6:4-6 as freewill was being used as a pretext for wickedness. Rather than follow the trends in today’s progressive culture, God wants more leaders like Joshua who aren’t afraid to take a stand by faithfully serving the Lord.

by Jay Mankus

Seductive Impulses

Seduction is usually associated with persuading someone to have sex. Yet, there are multiple meanings which illustrate what individuals experience as seductive impulses ignite fleshly desires. This persuasion toward disobedience takes away the innocence of children as well as the curious and naive. Just as a cunning serpent planted a lie within Eve’s mind, the longer human beings contemplate bending a rule, seductive impulses intensify, Genesis 3:1-6.

For [although] they hold a form of piety (true religion), they deny and reject and are strangers to the power of it [their conduct belies the genuineness of their profession]. Avoid [all] such people [turn away from them]. For among them are those who worm their way into homes and captivate silly and weak-natured and spiritually dwarfed women, loaded down with [the burden of their] sins [and easily] swayed and led away by various evil desires and seductive impulses, 2 Timothy 3:5-6.

The context of the passage above is based upon the end of days. Verses 2-4 is a list of actions, behaviors and choices that individuals will pursue prior to Jesus’ Second Coming. In another passage on End Times, Jesus states that the love of many will grow cold, Matthew 24:12. When you find yourself surrounded by people who don’t care anymore, seductive impulses become more attractive as consequences for disobedience are ignored.

Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one. 14 But every person is tempted when he is drawn away, enticed and baited by his own evil desire (lust, passions). 15 Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death, James 1:13-15.

Meanwhile, the earthly brother of Jesus provides one of the best spiritual illustrations on seductive impulses. Temptation is compared to a fishing trip. However, in this analogy Satan is the fisherman and you are the fish. When seductive impulses are dangled in front of you, how will you respond? If Satan knows all of your weaknesses, will you be able to resist lustful passions? Before sin is conceived, look for a way out so that you aren’t the next saint to have a fall from grace, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Reproofs and Consequences

The term “Reprove” comes from Elizabethan English. The biblical definition of reproof has a variety of meanings depending upon the context. A reproof could refer to convince, disprove, rebuke or reject. In many cases, reproofs occur when a spiritual leader catches a believer doing or saying something that is out of character. While most churches have become too lenient on Christians living outside of church, a reproof is designed to correct wrong behavior.

To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a loose woman. 25 Lust not after her beauty in your heart, neither let her capture you with her eyelids. 26 For on account of a harlot a man is brought to a piece of bread, and the adulteress stalks and snares [as with a hook] the precious life [of a man], Proverbs 6:24-26.

While God promises to forgive those who repent, the consequences for any sin remains. In the passage above, King Solomon uses the example of a lonely man who seeks to fulfill his sexual desires with a one night stand. However, whenever two individuals participate in a sexual encounter, soul ties are developed and last long after this one excursion. Like any type of addiction or bad habit, inner cravings continue to grow via temptation until you are lured into another comprising position, James 1:13-15.

Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, doing evil in His sight? You have slain Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife. You have murdered him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because [you have not only despised My command, but] you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your [a]own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun, [Fulfilled in II Sam. 16:21, 22.] 2 Samuel 12:9-12.

No one is exempt from the consequences of sin, even if you are a man or woman after God’s own heart. In the passage above, the prophet Samuel shares the penalty for David’s act of adultery and murder. Unfortunately, David got a taste of the expression “what comes around goes around.” Reaping the seeds of sin, David’s family and life became a living nightmare. May the consequences of sin strike a nerve in your heart so that you’ll learn quickly from the next reproof that you receive.

by Jay Mankus

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