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I’m Just an Average Joe Who Serves an Almighty God

Telling a man that they are average is like responding to a woman who asks you how they look in a new outfit “you look okay.” These subtle words appear harmless unless you’re struggling with your self-esteem. While telling the truth about your own observations may get you in trouble with a significant other, I’ve reached a point in life where I’ve accepted who I am. I’m just an average Joe who serves an almighty God.

And to keep me from being puffed up and too much elated by the exceeding greatness (preeminence) of these revelations, there was given me a thorn ([a]a splinter) in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to rack and buffet and harass me, to keep me from being excessively exalted. Three times I called upon the Lord and besought [Him] about this and begged that it might depart from me; 2 Corinthians 12:7-8.

Although most people call me Jay, my birth name is Joseph J. Mankus Jr. Minus my Lithuanian middle name, which is another story for a later time. By the time I reached high school, answering the phone with “Joe Junior or Senior” got too annoying as most calls were for my father. Subsequently, I made it known to everyone that from here on out, call me Jay.

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! – 2 Corinthians 12:8

This decision coincides with when I first became a Christian on December 4th, 1984. Like the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-31, I haven’t always taken a straight path, wandering off and abandoning God for multiple periods and seasons. Yet now I’m back and have come to terms with my current role in life. Like the old Bruce Carroll song, I’m an Average Joe who is ready to serve an almighty God.

by Jay Mankus

When God Gives People Time to Repent

I spent five seasons as a youth baseball coach. As a former pitcher myself, the mound can be a lonely place when you can’t find the strike zone. I developed a reputation for pulling pitchers too soon, not giving young players the chance to work their way out of trouble. However, according to one of Jesus’ disciples, God does gives wayward people time to repent.

I gave her time to repent, but she has no desire to repent of her immorality [symbolic of idolatry] and refuses to do so, Revelation 2:21.

Unfortunately, God’s timing and mine rarely coincide. Whether you’re stubborn, rebellious or wayward, God doesn’t force anyone to repent. Rather, as individuals get closer to the bottom of the barrel, coming to your senses varies, Luke 15:14-17. As desperation lingers and a sense of urgency is conceived, sinners come forward on their own, trying to catch up with God.

Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working], James 5:16.

Ian Murray’s book Revival and Revivalism sets the scene for America’s poor spiritual state in 1799. It only took 23 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence for the spiritual climate in the United States to deteriorate. Like the condition of the prodigal son in Luke 15, when God gives people time to repent a spirit of confession forms within broken hearts. May the power of the Holy Spirit be poured out once again upon this country to ignite another spiritual awakening in 2022.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 123: Atrocity

Mukala reminds me of an old computer game that I played when I was a teacher, Mancala. Yet, Mukala is a Christian group that blends electronic dance with a mix of pop and rock. Mukala is led by singer and keyboardist Dan Muckala, guitarist Alex Nifong, and drummer Jason Collum. The lyrics of Atrocity is based upon a secret sin that results in a series of bad choices detailed in James 1:13-15.

The woman answered, I have no husband. Jesus said to her, You have spoken truly in saying, I have no husband. 18 For you have had five husbands, and the man you are now living with is not your husband. In this you have spoken truly, John 4:17-18.

While the context of Atrocity is unclear, there are traces of the classic song by the Police Roxanne. Apparently, a Christian leader that bandmembers knew ends up becoming an adult entertainer at a strip club. Mukala is so shocked that Dan wonders how this individual can sleep at night. Yet, like the prodigal son, until someone reaches the bottom of the barrel, atrocities will continue today.

by Jay Mankus

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

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