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S.A.N.S. Episode 101: Innocent Lost

Today’s featured song was part of a rotation of songs that I played every night while I was attending a youth ministry school in the winter of 1993. Since I needed to get up early every morning, I played a series of ballads to put me to sleep as quick as possible. These 7 weeks in Minnesota was one of the best times in my life which infused me with a spiritual confidence that I never had before.

But the serpent said to the woman, You shall not surely die, For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing the difference between good and evil and blessing and calamity. And when the woman saw that the tree was good (suitable, pleasant) for food and that it was delightful to look at, and a tree to be desired in order to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave some also to her husband, and he ate, Genesis 3:4-6.

Susan Ashton’s Innocence Lost isn’t a deeply spiritual song, but it’s one of those that everyone can relate to as a sinner. While you may have good intentions, if you’re not careful you too could be reliving Adam and Eve’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Just as this couple was filled with guilt and shame, Innocence Lost serves as a warning to avoid repeating the same mistakes of your past.

by Jay Mankus

Time of Your Life

The concept of “Time of Your Life” began with a 1939 play written by William Saroyan. In more recent years, movies like Dirty Dancing have brought songs with this concept in the title. I’ve Had the Time of My Life by Jennifer Warnes uses dancing as a means to have fun. Depending upon your hobbies and personality, the goal of any day is to have the time of your life.

For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten ([d]unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him, John 3:16-17.

When I look back on the past half-century, one year sticks out, 1993. I left a youth director position in Delaware to attend a youth ministry trade school in Minnesota. For 7 straight weeks, I was having the time of my life, living with other people my age who wanted to minister to young people. Not only was I transformed by the teaching I received, I also experienced a revival while living in Columbus, Indiana.

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.

When I was having the time of my life, I was also working 90 hours a week. My only day off began with a Bible Study at McDonald’s with students, followed by lunch in Cincinnati with my good friend Phil, and ended with an adult Bible Study back at church. When you’re having the time of your life, make sure you don’t burn yourself out like I did in 1994. Balance is crucial for developing stability and longevity. If I only knew this back then, I’d still be having the time on my life. For now, I’m trying to recapture what was lost.

by Jay Mankus

The Kind of Person You Ought to Be

Six months after graduating college, I attended a Youth Ministry Trade School in Minnesota. These 7 weeks completely changed my life; encouraging me to stretch and expand my comfort zone. One of the techniques that I learned was setting goals from a Could Be/Should Be perspective. From a spiritual standpoint, I learned to take an inventory of where I am currently and where I need to be. While writing a first century letter, Peter challenges his listeners to consider the person that you ought to be in Christ.

Since all these things are thus [b]in the process of being dissolved, what kind of person ought [each of] you to be [in the meanwhile] in consecrated and holy behavior and devout and godly qualities, 12 While you wait and earnestly long for (expect and hasten) the coming of the day of God by reason of which the flaming heavens will be dissolved, and the [[c]material] elements [of the universe] will flare and melt with fire? – 2 Peter 3:11-12

The origin of the term Christian dates back to sometime between 30 and 40 A.D. Citizens in the city of Antioch were impressed by members of their local church. Something was different about these people, a specific quality that set them apart from everyone else in town. As these followers of Jesus began to share their faith with the locals, one person put two and two together. “These people must be Christians, followers of Christ Jesus.

Therefore be imitators of God [copy Him and follow His example], as well-beloved children [imitate their father]. And walk in love, [esteeming and delighting in one another] as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a [a]slain offering and sacrifice to God [for you, so that it became] a sweet fragrance, Ephesians 5:1-2.

As this expression spread, the apostle Paul provided other churches with a simple spiritual goal to shoot for daily. As people of faith become imitators of Jesus, the fruits of the Spirit take precedence over the acts of your flesh, Galatians 5:1625. As hearts and minds become renewed by the Bible, Romans 12:1-2, the Holy Spirit steers you toward the person you ought to be in Christ. Prayer, reflection, and worship provide spiritual disciplines to keep your mind on becoming Jesus to your local community.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 60: Carmen

Today’s featured song combines a biblical story with music. After getting married in Chicago, my wife Leanne got a position as a youth director in Bolingbrook, Illinois. For nearly two years, we served as partners in youth ministry. One of the first events I attended with this youth group was a Carmen concert at the Rosemont Horizon. Between the dancers, props and overall production of this show, I was blown away.

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [[h]in death], 1 Thessalonians 4:14.

While my high school mentor and swim coach introduced me to Carmen, seeing these stories of the Bible live come to life in a song was amazing. Following this concert, I purchased nearly all of Carmen’s albums. While Carmen has dozens of famous songs, the athlete in men has made the Champion my favorite. This song is like a scene from one of the Rocky movies that turns into a worship service. I hope you enjoy the Champion.

by Jay Mankus

S.A.N.S. Episode 6: Carry On

If you are old enough, everyone has the favorite time of their lives. For me this was 1993 as I ventured west from Delaware to Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. This 7-week intensive training program transformed my life and gave me an inner confidence that I could do anything. The friendships that I made along the way were a blessing. When my initial interview at a church in Rapid City, South Dakota didn’t go well, I spent a semester teaching at a boarding school in West Virginia.

O give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His doings among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; meditate on and talk of all His marvelous deeds and devoutly praise them, Psalm 105:1-2.

Little did I know that teaching Communications and Poetry would ignite a desire to write. I created an album entitled A Simple Confession with 12 songs and wrote a book of poems. Before the year was over, I was offered a full-time youth ministry position in Indiana and met Leanne, my wife at a national convention. Before leaving Minnesota, I came across an obscure band named Shadow Wings. After listening closely, I discovered Pat Benatar is a lead vocalist on the Carry On Album. While the attached link isn’t the greatest, I wanted to introduce you to the song Carry On by Shadow Wings.

by Jay Mankus

The Focal Point

A focal point is the point at which rays or waves meet after reflection or refraction. In the context of ornamental horticulture, a focal point is the center of attention. While the focal point is usually the front door of a house, columns, gardens and statues are architectural features that are also highlighted. From a spiritual perspective, Jesus isn’t merely an accessory, He’s the Centerpiece and Focal Point of Faith.

But they have not all heeded the Gospel; for Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed (had faith in) what he has heard from us? 17 So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself), Romans 10:16-17.

My higher education in golf course design never made it past my internship in my final year of college. Since I worked early in the morning, I ended up as an overachiever doing a double internship in youth ministry. Sometimes I wonder why God allows individuals to head down paths in life that end up in dead ends. Perhaps this occurs so that believers refocus their attention on the focal point of faith.

Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me, Revelation 3:19-20.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is listed above. While certain verses are self explanatory, others require time to reflect upon the spiritual truth hidden within. John received a vision of a door with only one handle. Apparently, God’s side does not have a handle, symbolic of free will given to all human beings. While you can’t physically see God, subtle signs are present daily if you’re paying attention, Romans 1:20. Like the words of Hebrews 12:1-2 that compares life to running a marathon, fix your eyes on Jesus, the focal point of the Christian faith.

by Jay Mankus

When the Christian Community Gets Upset by God’s Grace

During my second year in youth ministry, I became in charge of the Confirmation process for 8th graders. The final event prior to the Confirmation Ceremony was a weekend retreat. Over this 48 hour period, one girl made a complete transformation. Prior to this decision, she was cruel, mean and wrecked many relationships throughout the church. Thus, when she made a commitment to dedicate her life to the Lord, several of her peers got angry at God.

So he ran on ahead and climbed up in a sycamore tree in order to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus reached the place, He looked up and said to him, Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today. So he hurried and came down, and he received and welcomed Him joyfully. And when the people saw it, they all [a]muttered among themselves and indignantly complained, He has gone in to be the guest of and lodge with a man who is devoted to sin and preeminently a sinner, Luke 19:4-7.

On one first century visit to Jericho, Jesus encountered a similar situation. A short corrupt tax collector climbed a tree tried to get Jesus’ attention. Whatever Zacchaeus did to get recognized worked as Jesus left the crowd to have a private meeting at his house. Knowing Zacchaeus’ horrible reputation, members of the crowd questioned why in the world that Jesus would want to spend any time with this crook. Before even entering into a conversation, the community got upset with the possibility of God’s grace.

And immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, saying, He is the Son of God! 21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, Is not this the very man who harassed and overthrew and destroyed in Jerusalem those who called upon this Name? And he has come here for the express purpose of arresting them and bringing them in chains before the chief priests, Acts 9:20-21.

The apostle Paul experienced this judgment following his conversion on the Road to Damascus. As a former persecutor of Christians and who oversaw the death of the apostle Steven, first century Christians were afraid of Paul. Some believed this was merely a plot to infiltrate the church. If it wasn’t for Barnabas who earned the nickname as the son of encouragement, Paul would have been banned from the church. Therefore, the next time someone in your church gets upset by God’s grace, be willing to give others a second chance with a heart of forgiveness and mercy.

by Jay Mankus

Jesus: The Master of All Trades

While attending a youth ministry trade school following college, I read a book entitled The Master of all Trades. The author used miracles performed by Jesus in the Gospel of John as a case study. When I studied each of these accounts, I realized that Jesus was proving his mastery over a series of elements. Although I can’t remember the author’s name or find the book online, this comparison provides a clear illustration that Jesus indeed is the master of all trades.

Eight Miracles In The Gospel Of John  

  1. Water Into Wine John 2:1-11
  2. Healing the official’s son John 4:43-54.
  3. The Healing at the Pool of Bethesda John 5:1-9 
  4. The Feeding of the 5000 John 6:1-14.
  5. Walking on the Water (John 6:16-25).
  6. The Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41).
  7. Raising Lazarus From The Dead (John 11:1-44).
  8. Casting net into sea catching 153 fishes (John 21:5-8).

When Jesus turns water into wine, he defies the laws of science and reveals his mastery over quality. In the process of healing an official’s son, Jesus conquers distance by healing this boy from afar. While visiting an invalid at a pool, lingering with this condition for thirty-eight years, Jesus shows his mastery over time. During the feeding of the 5000, Jesus shows his ability to overcome the odds, able to provide no matter how great the quantity. In a storm, Jesus walks on water to highlight his power over the elements on the earth.

There are also many other signs and miracles which Jesus performed in the presence of the disciples which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written (recorded) in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the Anointed One), the Son of God, and that through believing and cleaving to and trusting and relying upon Him you may have life through (in) His name [through Who He is], John 20:30-31.

At the end of John’s gospel, it’s clear that thousands of miracles performed by Jesus were left out of the Bible. John merely selects 8 that illustrate Jesus’ mastery of all trades. The final 3 give hope to those who seem to be in an irrevocable situation. Whether you’ve been without one of your 5 key senses from birth, on the verge of death, or failing miserably in your career, Jesus has the power to alter your current situation. As long as you believe, the master of all trades can do wonders for you and your family.

by Jay Mankus

The Power of a Lie

While spending 3 years of my life in full time youth ministry, I attended several conferences, seminars and workshops. One of the most beneficial aspects of these events was learning new Ice Breakers. Although not every idea worked, I found that playing telephone once a year forced my students to become better listeners. Also known as Chinese Whispers, one teenager starts by reading a written down message or sharing a short story. This information is shared via a whisper over and over again until the last person recounts what this initial message has morphed into.

Truthful lips shall be established forever, but a lying tongue is [credited] but for a moment. 20 Deceit is in the hearts of those who devise evil, but for the counselors of peace there is joy. Proverbs 12:19-20.

The first participants of telephone were Adam and Eve. Despite knowing the only rule established by God, Genesis 2:16-17, each were intrigued by what a crafty serpent had to say. As soon as the boundary lines were set in the Garden of Eden, both knew that the Tree of Knowledge was off limits. Nonetheless, Eve began to entertain the thought planted into her mind. Instead of telling this snake to scram, Adam began to second guess God. This is the power of a lie, convincing yourself through good intentions to justify wrong actions. Since this day of deception, human beings have become more and more gullible, falling for lie after lie.

No [actual] evil, misfortune, or calamity shall come upon the righteous, but the wicked shall be filled with evil, misfortune, and calamity. 22 Lying lips are extremely disgusting and hateful to the Lord, but they who deal faithfully are His delight, Proverbs 12:21-22.

Since the death of George Floyd, a few riots have been fueled by false reports posted on Twitter. By the time this lie was exposed, it was too late as city streets, local businesses and neighborhoods resembled a war zone. Instead of double checking sources to confirm the accuracy of a report, cable news and the print media have become sloppy, jumping the gun so to speak. While President Trump refers to these felonious accounts as “Fake News,” the Bible calls this lying. In the passage above, King Solomon doesn’t speak kindly to those who distort, exaggerate or fib a little. If a politician in cooperation with the media tells a lie over and over again, sooner or later the masses will believe this to be the truth. This is the power of a lie.

by Jay Mankus

Five Decades of Life

From Hurricane Camille to the Coronavirus, my life has now spanned more than a half century. While I was being born in New Jersey, one of the most violent tropical storms to hit the Gulf Coast formed as a tropical depression. While I don’t remember much of the early years, a little over half of my first ten years were spent in Oxford, New Jersey before my father was transferred to Wilmington, Delaware. Back in the 1970’s, Delaware was like living in the south, overflowing with hospitality, love and openness. As a boy with a severe speech impediment, this was the fresh start that I needed.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst,” John 635.

During the 1980’s, it was the best and worse of times. Living as a loner most of junior high, I didn’t value life until I was introduced to cross country at Concord High. Between my neighborhood, school, and running friends, I began to come out of my shell, ready to face my fear of expressing myself. Thanks to my swimming coach and Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s leader Ken Horne, I invited God to become part of my life. Although I didn’t really know what I was doing at times, retreats, summer camps and youth group propelled me into the 1990’s.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly, John 10:10.

My third decade on earth was my most adventurous, taking a semester off from college to travel the country. Initially, I felt called to become a social worker with the Methodist Action Plan. Since I didn’t make much money, I got a part time job as a youth director in Rising Sun, Maryland. As time passed quickly, I realized that I didn’t really know what to do which led me to the Twin Cities in Minnesota to attend a youth ministry trade school. Looking back, 1993 was probably the best year of my life which culminated in meeting my wife Leanne at a National Youth Ministry Convention.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” John 14:6.

As I enjoyed my early years as a newlywed, it was clear that my calling to be a professional golfer faded quickly. When the haze dissipated, another calling to attend seminary moved Leanne and I back to the east coast. Shortly afterward, the first of our 3 children was born. A rare eye disease cut this plan, causing a few years of transition before landing on my feet as a High School Bible Teacher and Golf Coach. When all the stars aligned, I found myself doing what I loved for a decade. Yet, like anything in life, all good things come to an end, leaving Red Lion at the beginning of 2012.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope, Jeremiah 29:11.

This past decade has been the most difficult, being unemployed and unsure of my place in the world. Perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the last 10 years is not quite knowing where I belong. Out of this uncertainty, Express Yourself 4 Him was conceived. During the storms and trials of 2010’s, my good friend Spencer Saints introduced me to screen writing. Beside my current job at Amazon, I don’t how much to display as accomplishments. Nonetheless, I keep writing. Hoping, praying and pouring out my heart and soul into ideas for future Christian movies and television series. Maybe in the 2020’s I will finally see the fruits of my labor. Yet, for now, I am thankful to be alive for 51 years.

by Jay Mankus

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