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S.A.N.S. Episode 300: Christmas at Denny’s

There are some artists who become synonymous with one song. Such is the case for Randy Stonehill who released Christmas at Denny’s on his 1989 “Return to Paradise” album. I met Randy back in college before I was fully aware of his talents as a songwriter and storyteller. I could have used Charlie the Weatherman as the featured song for Stonehill, but I was waiting for after Thanksgiving to reflect upon the powerful imagery provided within Christmas at Denny’s.

For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father [of Eternity], Prince of Peace, Isaiah 9:6.

Whenever I listen to this song, I am moved by the orphans depicted having their Christmas dinner at a local Denny’s restaurant. Depending upon the cards that you have been dealt in the game of life, it makes me think of what could have been in my own life. While it would be nice to turn back the clock and change what has already happened, you have to make the best of cruel circumstances, James 1:2-4. May the lyrics of Christmas at Denny’s help you appreciate what you have rather dwell on what might have been.

by Jay Mankus

What I Need this Christmas

You and I wasn’t available on You Tube so I substituted this song with Rain Down.

Every Thanksgiving my family members are expected to provide a list of presents that they want for Christmas. Yet, the more I ponder about what I want, I can’t think of anything that I really need this year. Rather than waste money on presents that I may not use or want, all I need for this Christmas is to spend time with my family. After working my first sixty-hour week leading up to Thanksgiving, family is what makes the holidays special.

 I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who [g]infuses inner strength into me; I am [h]self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency], Philippians 4:13.

This perspective was conceived after listening to the song You and I by Oceans Above. The lyrics of this song start off with a prayer request for a wide range of individuals throughout the world. Similar to the beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5-7, the lead singer turns their prayer toward “what I need.” Part of the chorus references the words of the apostle Paul in the passage below. What Christians really need is for Jesus to be strong in your weak moments in life.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 10 So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength), 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Therefore, don’t make Christmas self- centered by seeking presents. Instead, it’s time for me to be the giver rather than a receiver. One of my favorite Christmas gifts over the years was a letter from someone I met on a Misson’s trip in college. Despite not receiving a letter in return for 3 months, I continued to write to see how they were doing. When I returned home during Christmas break, I got a letter about all the trials she had endured. Sometimes the greatest gift is not giving up on those who have lost hope.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 294: Thank God

Prior to the Carolina Panthers Atlanta Falcons Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime, I had never heard of Kane Brown. During a promo for the featured artist following the game, Two Chains spoke with Brown to share what to expect to hear during Amazon’s Thursday Night Concert series. Kane briefly shared one song entitled Thank God. Before the game ended, I went to You Tube to check out this country music’s new song.

The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him, Psalm 28:7.

While the lyrics of Thank God speak about the physical aspects of love, Kane does go into his relationship with God. It’s a shame that more secular artists don’t openly speak about their faith in Jesus. Nonetheless, I’m thankful I was watching tonight’s TNF’s game so I could be introduced to Kane Brown and his music. May the lyrics of Thank God inspire you to be more thankful about life as Thanksgiving approaches.

by Jay Mankus

When There’s Not Much to be Thankful for this Thanksgiving

This year will be the first Thanksgiving for my wife Leanne without a living parent. Meanwhile, this will be the first Thanksgiving for me without my sister Kathie who is battling blood clots and cancer. While my parents are still living, each have been hindered by a slew of health-related issues in 2022. Subsequently, when there’s not much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, you have to find a siler lining.

Speak out to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, offering praise with voices [[e]and instruments] and making melody with all your heart to the Lord, 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father, Ephesians 5:20.

One of the ways the apostle Paul remained thankful in the midst of trials was through music. Rather than click on a car stereo or You-Tube, Paul writes about singing his favorite songs from church. Whether you’re humming a chorus in your head, playing an instrument or raising your voice in song, singing has a way of taking a mental break from any pain you’re currently experiencing. Anyone who dwells upon biblically based lyrics will be elevated toward a more thankful spirit.

Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-hearted continually (always); 17 Be unceasing in prayer [praying perseveringly]; 18 Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19.

If this doesn’t work, Paul urges Christians to turn to prayer. This shouldn’t be haphazard. Instead, prayer should become a state of mind, unceasing throughout your day. Paul suggests that praying is a means to will yourself toward a thankful heart. Unfortunately, the root of bitterness has a way of ruining the mood to pray. Once prayer ceases minds turn their attention away from the Lord and race to anxiety, doubt and worry. If you’re struggling this Thanksgiving to be thankful, may the advice in the passages above turn your week around.

by Jay Mankus

Making the Best of a Bad Situation

When you walk into the middle of a conversation during a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering, there is a chance that you’ll miss the context. If you listen attentively, you may be able to figure out what’s happening. Yet, sometimes you’ll be lost, moving on the next room to see what else is going on. When pastors prepare their weekly message, sometimes they will skip over certain details in the Bible.

[The letter was sent] by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the captives whom I have caused to be carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Jeremiah 29:3-4.

This is what happens in the beginning of Jeremiah 29. Ninety percent of the speeches that quote the famous passage below fail to mention that Israel was living in exile at this moment in history. Beside being forced out of their homes, the prophet Jeremiah was given a message by God to share. To summarize the beginning of chapter 29, Jeremiah asks his people to make the best of a bad situation.

For thus says the Lord, When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you and keep My good promise to you, causing you to return to this place. 11 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, Jeremiah 29:10-11.

Rather than dwell on the past, God wanted Israel to build houses, settle down, plant gardens and eat what they produce. The path to healing starts with changing your perspective. Then and only then can you begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This is the context that brings Jeremiah to declare the plans that God has for Israel in the future. May you learn from this passage when you are forced to make the best of a bad situation.

by Jay Mankus

My First Thanksgiving without Rush

For as long as I can remember, I tuned into the Excellent in Broadcasting radio network the day before Thanksgiving. From noon to three in the afternoon, Rush Limbaugh became the godfather of conservative talk radio. Yet, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving was devoted to sharing the real story of America’s first Thanksgiving, not found in modern textbooks. Yet, on February 17th, 2021 Rush lost his battle with lung cancer, ending his 33 year Hall of Fame career in broadcasting.

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition ([b]definite requests), with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God. And God’s peace [shall be yours, that [c]tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and being content with its earthly lot of whatever sort that is, that peace] which transcends all understanding shall [d]garrison and mount guard over your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:6-7.

My brother in law Bob first introduced me to Rush in 1992. Initially, I didn’t get the show. Nor did I like Rush’s humor as some of his comments offended me as a Christian. Yet, the more I listened, I began to understand his political perspective. One comment that has stuck with me through years is “no listener ever graduates from his show as the learning never ends.” When I became a high school teacher back in 2002, I adopted some of Rush’s methods to form my favorite class: Steeling the Minds of America.

Thank [God] in everything [no matter what the circumstances may be, be thankful and give thanks], for this is the will of God for you [who are] in Christ Jesus [the Revealer and Mediator of that will]. 19 Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:18-19.

Attached is Rush’s detailed explanation of the first Thanksgiving in America. When I heard Rush’s account many years ago, this was far different from anything that I was taught as a child. The Pilgrims believed that God sent Squanto, a native American Indian, to help them survive their second winter in New England. Squanto’s knowledge and teachable spirit led these Pilgrims to have a tremendous harvest in 1621. This is the context of the first Thanksgiving feast so as you gather around a table to break bread with family, thank God for the Squantos in your life.

by Jay Mankus

The Sole Expression of Glory

The word glory is found 619 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, glory appears 148 times, but has two entirely unrelated meanings and, thus, describes two completely different ideas. When you dig deeper, glory is derived from twenty different words: twelve in Hebrew and eight in the Greek. Translations from terms like kâbôd, pâ’ar, tiph’ârâh, hâdâr and addereth are specific aspects of glory.

In many separate revelations [[a]each of which set forth a portion of the Truth] and in different ways God spoke of old to [our] forefathers in and by the prophets, [But] in [b]the last of these days He has spoken to us in [the person of a] Son, Whom He appointed Heir and lawful Owner of all things, also by and through Whom He created the worlds and the reaches of space and the ages of time [He made, produced, built, operated, and arranged them in order], Hebrews 1:1-2.

While the basic definition of glory is high renown or honor won by notable achievements, biblical glory is a combination of awe, praise, worship, and thanksgiving. The author of Hebrews begins this book with a summary of past revelations. While reflecting upon why the earth was created, a conclusion is reached by verse 2. Jesus is the sole expression of the glory of God, the reflection of our divine heavenly father.

He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the [c]out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature, upholding and maintaining and guiding and propelling the universe by His mighty word of power. When He had by offering Himself accomplished our cleansing of sins and riddance of guilt, He sat down at the right hand of the divine Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3.

The first mention of Jesus occurs in Genesis 3:15. Following the punishment handed out to Eve and the Serpent, aka the Devil, the first prophecy of Jesus is subtle. This cryptic message lays out God’s plan to send a second Adam to earth to seek and to save that which was lost in the Garden of Eden, Luke 19:10. Once carried out by a virgin, Jesus lived 33 years on earth before becoming obedient to death on a cross. Three days after being pronounced dead, the sole expression of glory was realized in Jesus’ resurrection.

by Jay Mankus

Escaping the Snares of the Devil

One of the motivating forces for me to become a Bible Teacher was to warn high school students of the mistakes that I made when I was their age. Instead of using the expression of escaping the snares of the Devil, I regularly shared stories from my own life. Instead of giving students a license to sin by saying everybody does it, I revealed how you can overcome temptation as well as what happened when I stumbled and fell spiritually.

He must correct his opponents with courtesy and gentleness, in the hope that God may grant that they will repent and come to know the Truth [that they will perceive and recognize and become accurately acquainted with and acknowledge it], 26 And that they may come to their senses [and] escape out of the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him, [henceforth] to do His [God’s] will, 2 Timothy 2:25-26.

One of the requested stories that I shared with every class was my seat belt story. This parable illustrated what happens when you’re focused on God and when you’re not. I spent my first summer as a college student working as a Camp Counselor for a day camp five days a week. Over Thanksgiving break we had a camp reunion at a banquet hall. Before leaving, one of my counselors in training asked me for a ride home. This is where the story gets good.

Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [[f]in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour. Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined], knowing that the same ([g]identical) sufferings are appointed to your brotherhood (the whole body of Christians) throughout the world, 1 Peter 5:8-9.

The Devil goes fishing every day, throwing out bait laced with addiction, bad habits and cravings. Once you take a bite, it’s only a matter of time before the Devil has you hooked. As for the ride home, this girl lived in a house with a long driveway. When I reached the back door, she said that her seat belt was stuck. Without a thought, I reached over to unlock her belt. Based upon the look on her face, I realized on my ride home this was just a ploy for me to kiss her. When your mind is focused on God, choosing the way out of temptation is unveiled, 1 Corinthians 10:13.

by Jay Mankus

Recovering from an Uprooted Faith

As the summer comes to an end on the East Coast, the Atlantic Hurricane season tends to intensity. Whether you’re talking about a nor’easter, tropical depression, super storm or major hurricane, these weather events wash away dreams and uproot lives. When these systems dissipate, survivors are forced to come together as communities to pick up the pieces of what these storms have left behind to be salvaged.

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. And he shall be like a tree firmly planted [and tended] by the streams of water, ready to bring forth its fruit in its season; its leaf also shall not fade or wither; and everything he does shall prosper [and come to maturity], Psalm 1:1-3.

The Psalmist compares a healthy individual to a tree planted by flowing streams of water. This daily nourishment promotes growth that enables fruit to prosper in season. Whenever an internal or physical storm uproots your faith, reading and meditating upon God’s promises in the Bible is the best way to start your recovery. When all seems lost, these living words stirs hearts and touch souls, Hebrews 4:12.

As you have therefore received Christ, [even] Jesus the Lord, [so] walk (regulate your lives and conduct yourselves) in union with and conformity to Him. Have the roots [of your being] firmly and deeply planted [in Him, fixed and founded in Him], being continually built up in Him, becoming increasingly more confirmed and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and abounding and overflowing in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7.

According to the apostle Paul, there is only one Cornerstone upon which you can rebuild your faith. Jesus is like a thermostat that allows Christians to regulate their lives and recover from storms that uproot your lives. The more you read, study and share what you believe, Romans 10:17, faith springs to life. The more Jesus becomes your firm foundation for faith, a spirit of thanksgiving is conceived to give you a proper perspective after any storm.

by Jay Mankus

What a Will to Love Can Do for You

Twenty five years ago I was initiated into a large family. At a Thanksgiving Dinner of nearly 100 relatives, I was a target of those who attended. “Wondering who is this guy who is going to marry Leanne,” I was introduced, interviewed, and grilled by complete strangers. After several hours of intense conversations, I passed this final test two days prior to our wedding.

Be gentle and forbearing with one another and, if one has a difference (a grievance or complaint) against another, readily pardoning each other; even as the Lord has [freely] forgiven you, so must you also [forgive], Colossians 3:13.

A quarter of a century ago, God was just beginning to reveal a special gift in me. This talent was first unveiled while teaching poetry at a boarding school in West Virginia. Thus, as I was finishing up the final details of our wedding, I wrote a paragraph about what love meant to me. After a couple of edits, this appeared in our wedding bulletin. This statement served as a testimony about the importance of the will to love in marriage.

And above all these [put on] love and enfold yourselves with the bond of perfectness [which binds everything together completely in ideal harmony]. 15 And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds, in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ’s] one body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful (appreciative), [giving praise to God always], Colossians 3:14-15.

The best way to define a will is something that you are bound to. In the context of marriage, this is a covenant that you enter in, promising “til death due us part.” Meanwhile, the Greek word for charity is φιλανθρωπία. The apostle Paul writes an entire chapter devoted to love in 1 Corinthians 13, a common Bible reading for weddings. Yet, if you want your marriage to last a lifetime, a will to love is the secret to maintaining my marriage for the past 25 years. Wishing my wife Leanne a Happy Anniversary. I love you!

by Jay Mankus

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