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S.A.N.S. Episode 91: Red Carpet

Jimi Ray and Rick Harwell formed Age of Faith in 1987, my senior year of high school. Age of Faith is one of those Christian groups that flew under the radar. Despite being overshadowed by the likes of Michael W. Smith and Stephen Curtis Chapman, Age of Faith continued to make quality albums one after the other. As I purchased each new Age of Faith album, I was always touched by a couple of their songs.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:20-22.

I could have chosen a dozen other hit songs from Age of Faith. Yet, the lyrics of Red Carpet were too moving to pass on. Age of Faith’s version of the Prodigal Son adds a modern Hollywood element by rolling out a red carpet. While rebellion is hard to forgive, a father’s love overlooked greed to celebrate the return of his wayward son. May this song touch your heart like it has touched mine.

by Jay Mankus

A Measurement for Correction

In this age of analytics, there is always a group of individuals who are crunching numbers to measure how to succeed in the future. This drive to win by outwitting others has taken the human element out of sports. Rather than rely on feel or improvising, owners think that they create a model for success. Yet, at some point human beings fail and discipline is exercised to correct these mistakes and shortcomings.

He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently and punishes him early. 25 The [uncompromisingly] righteous eats to his own satisfaction, but the stomach of the wicked is in want, Proverbs 13:24-25.

King Solomon writes about a rod of correction. This form of discipline is similar to spanking to steer children in the right direction. Yet, Solomon realized that discipline wasn’t embraced by all of his children. Rather than wanting to be trained, the defiant chose disobedience and rebellion. Like the prodigal son in Luke 15, some people have to learn the hard way before coming to their senses.

For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes, Hebrews 12:6.

Modern discipline techniques have moved away from physical altercations. Instead time outs rely on isolation to force children to think about what they just did. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work for every personality. Whatever form a coach, parent or teacher chooses must be done in a spirit of love. The ideal measurement for correction points young people toward the path of righteousness, Matthew 7:13-14.

by Jay Mankus

Bouncing Back from a Rough Start to Finish Strong

Leaving a good first impression with a boss, co-workers and neighbors is valuable to get ahead in life. Yet, one bad day can trigger an avalanche of chaos that can bury you for weeks, months or for a year. Whenever someone loses faith in you or wavers on trusting you, you need to bounce back as quick as possible. You may not change their minds initially, but consistent dedication will pave a path for reconciliation.

What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He came to the first and said, Son, go and work today in the vineyard. 29 And he answered, I will not; but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 Then the man came to the second and said the same [thing]. And he replied, I will [go], sir; but he did not go, Matthew 21:28-30.

Jesus understood that parents will be disappointed by their children. This may explain the Parable of Two Sons and the Prodigal Son. In both of these stories, these young men display disobedience and rebellion. Human nature causing males and females to change their minds, often doing the exact opposite of what was previously stated. Perhaps, conviction or embarrassment serve as inspiration to bounce back from a rough start.

Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently], Luke 15:17-20.

The Parable of the Prodigal is a much more famous and intriguing story. When a younger son begs his father for his inheritance, this money is quickly squandered through wild living. As homelessness and hunger arrives, this immature son comes to his senses. After putting aside his pride, he takes the walk of shame back toward home. Before you can bounce back, you need to see the error of your way so that your faith will result in a strong finish, Philippians 3:9-12.

by Jay Mankus

Going Beyond Just Being a Religious Person

When I studied the New Testament for the first time, my perception of religion changed. I guess being a good person was so ingrained into my head while being raised in a Roman Catholic Church, I overlooked the message of the gospel. The apostle Paul taught me that no matter how hard I tried to please God, following religious practices only takes you so far, Romans 3:9-12. Subsequently, I was no better than the prodigal son, a sinner in desperate need of a Savior.

Then when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father have enough food, and [even food] to spare, but I am perishing (dying) here of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants, Luke 15:17-19.

When I read the Bible sometimes, thoughts like “I can’t believe they did that” race through my mind. Yet, if the tables were turned and I was living in the first century, I’m sure I wouldn’t like the person who would portray me. Despite attempting to live a decent, good and upright life, I’ve made my own spiritual messes. I’ve squandered money like the prodigal son on all sorts of temporary pleasures. Just when I thought I hit the bottom of the barrel, I broke through to reach lower depths.

So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [[j]fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet. 23 And bring out [k]that [wheat-]fattened calf and kill it; and let us [l]revel and feast and be happy and make merry, 24 Because this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! And they began to [m]revel and feast and make merry, Luke 15:20-24.

One of the lesser stressed parts of this parable is the type of a relationship that God desires. When you finally come to your senses, asking for forgiveness and mercy is just the beginning. While Jesus suggests Christians should strive for perfection in Matthew 5:48, this is merely a religious exercise. Rather, Jesus wants a permanent meaningful lasting relationship. If you’re tired of being a flawed perfectionist, it’s time to move beyond being a religious person toward a special connection with God, John 3:16-17.

by Jay Mankus

Created, Connected and Called

If you’re not careful, life can become like a never ending roller coaster with corkscrews, free falls and upside down loops that make you dizzy. When your feet hit the pavement after immediately getting off this ride, it may take a couple of minutes before you can walk in a straight line again. On the surface, an amusement ride may look harmless, but the thrill that follows can affect your body for the rest of the day. Whenever you experience this uneasy feeling, all you want to do is find a seat. hoping that you’ll recover quickly.

Do not blush or be ashamed then, to testify to and for our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for His sake, but [[d]with me] take your share of the suffering [to which the preaching] of the Gospel [may expose you, and do it] in the power of God. [For it is He] Who delivered and saved us and called us with a calling in itself holy and leading to holiness [to a life of consecration, a vocation of holiness]; [He did it] not because of anything of merit that we have done, but because of and to further His own purpose and grace (unmerited favor) which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began [eternal ages ago], 2 Timothy 1:8-9.

From a spiritual perspective, one of Satan’s schemes to disconnect you from God. Like a long distance relationship that falls apart over time, separation causes you to forget what drew you together. Likewise, if you go a couple of days, weeks or a month with reading the Bible, spiritual qualities which once flowed naturally out of you begin to evaporate. If this persists, Christians may forgot who created them, faith will start to crack and the calling you once received from God can become like a distant memory.

We are assured and know that [[j]God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew [of whom He was [k]aware and [l]loved beforehand], He also destined from the beginning [foreordaining them] to be molded into the image of His Son [and share inwardly His likeness], that He might become the firstborn among many brethren. 30 And those whom He thus foreordained, He also called; and those whom He called, He also justified (acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself). And those whom He justified, He also glorified [raising them to a heavenly dignity and condition or state of being], Romans 8:28-30.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul touches on God’s persistence throughout life. Like the loving Father portrayed by Jesus in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, God is waiting for you to return. Just as front porches once served as ways to pass the time each summer, God is the parent in a rocking chair waiting for you to come home. When you do, minds will be refreshed by your heavenly Creator. Hearts will start to sense the Holy Spirit drawing you closer to reconnect with God. Finally, as you reflect upon the Bible and pray, God’s will and purpose will be revealed so you can continue this life long journey known as faith.

by Jay Mankus

A Precaution for Your Safety

There are 43 accounts in the Bible where God is described as a shepherd. One of the reasons for this illustration is that human beings tend to wander away from God. These lost sheep spend months, years, and decades on their own, going through life without someone to protect them. To guard against wolf attacks in the middle of the night, this blog serves as a precaution for your own safety.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust, Psalm 4:8.

A first century doctor devotes an entire chapter of his gospel to the lost. Luke shares three stories of a Lost Sheep, a Lost Coin and a Lost Soul. The Parable of the Lost Sheep illustrates the steps that God takes to reach out to individuals who wander away from their Shepherd. The Lost Coin highlights the determination it takes to find something valuable when you lose it. Finally, the Prodigal Son is a cautionary tale of what happens when rebellion clouds your judgment.

For the rest, my brethren, delight yourselves in the Lord and continue to rejoice that you are in Him. To keep writing to you [over and over] of the same things is not irksome to me, and it is [a precaution] for your safety, Philippians 3:1.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul explains the reason for his letter. Paul doesn’t want to nag this new church into following Jesus via peer pressure. Rather, Paul wants these believers to remember the delight and joy of entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Perhaps, some of these members were quick learners while others were forgetful, falling back to the way that they lived prior to knowing Jesus. Instead of taking things for granted, Paul wants to make sure that no believer is left behind.

by Jay Mankus

Placed in Right Standing with God

Joe Mantegna is best known for his role as David Rossi in Criminal Minds. While not part of the current cast, Mantegna first came to the forefront as detective Will Girardi in the series Joan of Arcadia. In the opening scene, Girardi is the new chief of police, taking over in Arcadia, a city full of corruption. As Mantegna confronts law breakers each episode, political pushback eventually results in losing his position. Despite being cast as a former altar boy in the Catholic Church, Mantegna’s character is an atheist who believes God is punishing him as he and his family face a series of ongoing trials.

But if, in our desire and endeavor to be justified in Christ [to be declared righteous and put in right standing with God wholly and solely through Christ], we have shown ourselves sinners also and convicted of sin, does that make Christ a minister (a party and contributor) to our sin? Banish the thought! [Of course not!] 18 For if I [or any others who have taught that the observance of the Law of Moses is not essential to being justified by God should now by word or practice teach or intimate that it is essential to] build up again what I tore down, I prove myself a transgressor, Galatians 2:17-18.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul references his previous life as a Pharisee, eager to adhere to a rigid and strict adherence to the Law of Moses. As the Church in Galatia is infiltrated by a religious sect known as the Judaizers, Paul warns these new Christians not to force Gentile converts to conform to Jewish traditions. Paul clarifies how to placed in right standing with God. This isn’t accomplished through following a set of rules in the Old Testament. Rather, the only way to be set free from being convicted as a sinner on Judgement Day is by placing your faith and sole trust in Christ, Ephesians 2:8-9.

I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] make me like one of your hired servants. 20 So he got up and came to his [own] father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity and tenderness [for him]; and he ran and embraced him and kissed him [fervently]. 21 And the son said to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son [I no longer deserve to be recognized as a son of yours]! 22 But the father said to his bond servants, Bring quickly the best robe (the festive robe of honor) and put it on him; and give him a ring for his hand and sandals for his feet, Luke 15:19-22.

The best example of being placed in right standing with God is a first century story shared by Jesus. This parable involves two sons, the younger who was tired of living at home. Bored and eager to get out on his own, this immature teenager wore down his father, giving into his demands. Like a freshman college student during their first semester, Luke’s word describe someone who wanted to be the life of the party. However, not long afterward this individual flunked out and became homeless, desperation sets in. Morally and spiritually bankrupt, this prodigal came to his senses. The prayer above is an outline for being placed in right standing with God.

by Jay Mankus

Making Your Way Back

No matter how disciplined you may be, everyone has a low point in life. A period where a poor decisions results in disgrace, embarrassment or public humiliation. Despite being driven, focused and goal oriented, I have allowed anger, frustration and lust lead me into a pit of despair. Looking back, I drifted way off track in junior high, high school and college. Some of these phases I went through lasted longer than others, ensnared and trapped by darkness.

And when the mourning was past, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord, 2 Samuel 11:27.

The Bible is filled with confessionals, stories of wayward souls attempting to make their way back to God. One of the most famous involves a former king who rose to power at an early age. Perhaps, a lack of maturity laid the groundwork for a year of rebellion. Adultery and murder were byproducts of David’s willful disobedience. When you read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, you’ll find a blue print for making your way back to God.

Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, As the Lord lives, the man who has done this is a son [worthy] of death. He shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no pity. Then Nathan said to David, You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king of Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:5-7.

Like the prodigal son who came to his senses in Luke 15:17-18, Nathan’s illustration opened David’s eyes to his spiritual condition. This analogy lead David to confront the errors of his way. This story moved David to finally come clean, confessing his evil deeds to God. Yet, when anyone sins, there are consequences that you must endure. The son conceived from David’s affair died, results in mourning. While your distance back to God will vary, the sooner you make a u-turn, the less painful your journey back will be.

by Jay Mankus

You Had Me at Hello

The expression “You had me at hello” comes from a classic scene from the 1996 film Jerry Maguire. The context of this saying by Renee Zellweger to Tom Cruise who plays Jerry Maguire begins early in this movie. Renee plays a little known secretary, Dorothy Boyd, observing from a distance the man who built a high powered sports agency firm where she works. When Cruise develops a conscience after talking to one of his client’s sons, this inspires a new mission statement. Unfortunately, this new philosophy results in Jerry’s firing. Upon his departure, Dorothy is the only employee who is willing to quit her job, joining Cruise to start a new sports agency. This loyalty causes Jerry to marry Dorothy before debt and failure results in their separation. When this failed business venture finally has it’s first break through, Cruise has no one to share this great news with. Thus, Jerry finds himself in the middle of a room filled with divorced women, hoping that he can salvage his marriage.

So he went and forced himself on one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He would have gladly eaten the [carob] pods that the pigs were eating [but they could not satisfy his hunger], and no one was giving anything to him. 17 But when he [finally] came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough food, while I am dying here of hunger! – Luke 15:15-17

The Bible has it’s own version of you had me at hello. During a series of three parables, Luke illustrates how these analogies by Jesus illustrate how heaven celebrates individuals who turn back to God. The parable of Lost Sheep reveal how God searches after sheep, lost souls that go astray. The parable of the Lost Coin suggests that angels in heaven celebrate each time people make a U-turn back to God by repenting. The most famous example follows a younger brother who deserts his family, squandering his inheritance on wild living. When his money runs out, this prodigal is forced to become a slave at a pig farm, longing to eat the pods fed to the herd. From God’s perspective, when wayward souls come to their senses begging for forgiveness and mercy, the Lord embraces you at hello.

I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; [just] treat me like one of your hired men.”’ 20 So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him, Luke 15:18-20.

No matter how far people stray from God today, it’s never too late to say hello. The prophet Jeremiah is often referred to as the weeping prophet. When the Lord continues to urge you to tell Israel of bad news, it’s hard to remain positive. Yet, while writing the Book of Lamentations, Jeremiah provides a glimpse of hope. Lamentations 3:19-24 contains the subtitle Hope in Relief of God’s Mercy. This passage unveils the biblical promise that God’s compassion never fails, new every morning. Therefore, whether this blog finds you in a state like Jerry Maguire, a wandering sheep or a prodigal that has gone over the deep end, the Lord is waiting for you with open arms. Luke’s depiction compares God to a retired senior citizen sitting on his front porch, waiting for his children to visit. As soon as you make that final turn back in the right direction, God the Father runs to meet you half way, welcoming you home.

by Jay Mankus

When You Become the Prodigal

During my final year of college, I joined an accountability group.  The official title of this weekly gathering was a Reunion Group with men whom I met during a Walk to Emmaus Retreat.  This sharing group involved giving a brief summary of your week which included your moment closest to Christ and furthest away from God.  Since we started meeting on Monday nights in the fall, most of this group stuck around to watch Monday Night Football afterwards.  Unfortunately, when I went back home to Cleveland, Ohio over break and the summer, I blended into the world like a chameleon.  Instead of developing into a light for Christ, I regularly walked in darkness like the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

“Now a traveler (visitor) came to the rich man, and to avoid taking one from his own flock or herd to prepare [a meal] for the traveler who had come to him, He took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for his guest.” Then David’s anger burned intensely against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die. He shall make restitution for the ewe lamb four times as much [as the lamb was worth], because he did this thing and had no compassion.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you as king over Israel, and I spared you from the hand of Saul, 2 Samuel 12:4-7.

You don’t have to squander your wealth in wild living such as Luke 15:13-15 to become a prodigal.  Rather, idleness, too much free time and a lack of vision can lead a man after God’s own heart into sinful addictions.  Instead of going to work, David took the Spring off, wandering around the roof of his palace until a naked woman got his attention.  Like any curious man, David inquired into the status of this woman, hoping that she was single.  When the answer was no, the power of being king went to David’s head, allowing compromise to imagine the possibilities of just one night with this beautiful woman.  A follower of Jesus describes this state as lust and enticement dragging individuals away from common sense until sin becomes full blown, James 1:13-15.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right and steadfast spirit within me. 11  Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12  Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit, Psalm 51:10-12.

After David realized that he was the person in Nathan’s analogy, Psalm 51 becomes a prayer for forgiveness.  Prior to this confession, sin had entangled David within a pit of despair.  Psalm 55:4-5 describes a spirit of conviction and guilt that overwhelms souls when you are revealed as the prodigal.  This narcissistic mindset blinds individuals from seeing the truth, the wayward of selfish decisions.  While David does provide a blueprint for reconciliation, the reality that I have become the prodigal is a tough pill to swallow.  It only took one week of skipping church, sleeping in on Sunday to lead me on the slippery slope that I resid.  Doing the right thing sounds so easy, but the apostle Paul reminds readers of Romans 7 that sin influences you to do what you hate.  Thus, the next time you find yourself like me, shocked to be the prodigal, take these biblical passages to heart so that forgiveness arrives in the morning, Lamentations 3:19-23.

by Jay Mankus

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