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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

A Reason to Pay Closer Attention Than Ever Before

There are certain things in life that I’m not very good at or know much about. While reflecting earlier today, these areas of weakness have one thing in common. When something interested me as a child, I payed close to attention to my teachers on this subject matter. Yet, when I was bored by a topic, my thoughts drifted and wandered. Subsequently, as an adult I have huge deficiencies in being a handy man as well as fixing things around my house.

My son, attend to my words; consent and submit to my sayings. 21 Let them not depart from your sight; keep them in the center of your heart. 22 For they are life to those who find them, healing and health to all their flesh. 23 Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life. 24 Put away from you false and dishonest speech, and willful and contrary talk put far from you. 25 Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you, Proverbs 4:20-25.

Another father devotes an entire book of the Bible to provide advice and directions for his children to follow. King Solomon refers to human hearts as the wellspring of life. If you want to live a long and prosperous life, this information is worth reflecting upon. When you are able to guard your heart from the temptations in this life, you’ll be able to fix your eyes upon Jesus whatever trial comes your way.

Since all this is true, we ought to pay much closer attention than ever to the truths that we have heard, lest in any way we drift past [them] and slip away, Hebrews 2:1.

In the beginning of a New Testament book, one author builds upon the words of Solomon. The context of the passage above references the teachings of Moses. Also known as the Torah, the author of Hebrews stresses the importance of paying much closer attention to this ancient wisdom. If you want to learn from history by avoiding the same mistakes of the past, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, rely on the Bible as a light for your feet, Psalm 119:105.

by Jay Mankus

Known or Unknown

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was built following the first World War. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier from World War I in the plaza of Arlington National Cemetery. On September 1921, four more American bodies were exhumed from unmarked battlefield graves in France and placed in the new Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington. This memorial was dedicated on November 11, 1921, but additional work needed to be completed before being opened to the public on April 9, 1932. The first military guards were troopers from the 3rd Cavalry, “Brave Rifles”, posted at Fort Myer. Since April 6, 1948,  the regiment was reactivated and has been guarded by soldiers from 3rd Infantry which you see today when visiting.

So Paul, standing in the center of the Areopagus [Mars Hill meeting place], said: Men of Athens, I perceive in every way [on every hand and with every turn I make] that you are most religious or very reverent to demons. 23 For as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you, Acts 17:22-23.

During the middle of the first century, the apostle Paul stumbled upon a monument dedicated to an unknown god. Unlike other idols erected to the various gods of Greece, this altar suggested the presence of a higher power. This subtle memorial provides an open door for the apostle Paul to introduce philosophers to the God who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul’s speech on Mars Hill got mixed reviews. Like any debate, preconceived notions, stereotypes and uncertainty prevented skeptics from accepting or embracing this unknown god. Based upon the end of Acts 17, the resurrection of the dead was a stumbling block, too unbelievable for minds to grasp. Nonetheless, Paul was welcomed back to speak, winning over Dionysius, a judge of the Areopagus.

For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification], Romans 1:20.

I spent the first portion of my life in a religious setting, forced to attend Mass every weekend, even on vacation. Unfortunately, I spent more time looking at my watch than paying attention to the priest giving the Homily. If you haven’t already noticed, I was raised Catholic, trained to pursue the Sacraments such as Communion and Confirmation. The dangerous aspect about being religious is that you know just enough to get by. Instead of practicing faith by entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, I treated God like a check list. I went to church, completed confirmation and confessed my sins to a priest. Despite attending church for 15 years, I didn’t know God. If it wasn’t for the Fellowship of Christian Athlete’s Bible Study at my high school, God still might be a mystery to me. However, if you want the unknown to become known, look for the signs in creation so that an invisible God becomes visible through faith.

by Jay Mankus

I’m Fine… Not!

As a former counselor and teacher at a boarding school, there are certain red flags which students indirectly raise in a given week.  If you are not paying attention, these obvious signs can be ignored.  While body language often reveals someone’s mood, subtle responses like “I’m fine” sugar coat the truth.

“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” John 8:32.

On one occasion near the end of the school year, one of my students threatened to kill another.  During a heart to heart, I threw his bunk bed across the room.  This act of frustration served as a break through causing him to reveal the reason behind his threat.  Breaking down in tears, I learned his parents were alcoholics and he’d rather go to jail than endure another night in that environment.

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come, John 16:13.

At this moment in time, I sensed the Holy Spirit beginning to speak through me.  Yet, today there are countless adults, neighbors and students who continue to reply to daily conversation with the words I’m fine or okay.  Unless you take the time to reach out to needy souls, healing will never come.  Therefore, don’t be afraid to reach out, lend a helping hand or break through the superficial to enable hearts to heal.

by Jay Mankus

Slip Proof

Whether you’re driving a car in wintry weather, trying to walk on a slippery surface or seek to keep a conversation clean with children ease dropping, its impossible to guarantee a slip proof day.  You may have good intentions, yet how can you be so sure that you won’t misstep, stumble and fall?  Daily obstacles await individuals, like potholes that can lead to blunders, errors or gaffes if you’re not paying careful attention.

Despite these odds, there was a king who suggested another way.  Psalm 37:31 contains a plan that is slip proof, demonstrated by a man after God’s own heart.  The key is to hide the words of the Bible in your heart, meditating on God’s laws as an honor student hungers for straight A’s, Psalm 119:7-9.  Once the mind is transformed, Romans 12:2, a slip proof day isn’t out of the equation.  This is the goal set out for people to strive for, Matthew 5:48.

Slipping often occurs in 3 ways: physically, mentally and spiritually.  Physically slipping could be an accident or a byproduct of poor judgment.  Perhaps, this may explain the apostle Paul’s warning to believers in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.  Compromise is conceived in minds, trying to convince souls to alter their values.  If an Eve like moment occurs, a mental weakness produces a spiritual slip known as sin.  Whenever you reach this point, go back to the drawing board, remember David’s words in Psalm 37:31 to regain a slip proof footing.

Do you have a stategy for avoiding “slips”? If so, please share.

 

by Jay Mankus

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Everything I Missed Before

In the lyrics of the hymn Amazing Grace, the chorus proclaims “I once was blind but now I see!”  If any part of this stanza is true about life, it opens up a can of worms spiritually.  For instance, when did you have blinders on, what did you miss and are there any consequences for your lack of discernment?

While listening to Britt Nicole’s song Seeing for the First Time, I was struck by this concept.  Memories of my childhood flashed to the surface, causing me to ponder more questions.  Did I misread signs from God?  Was I ignorant, naive or stubborn to change my way of life?  Fast forwarding to the present, I am fearful that I have missed opportunities to be the kind of father and husband God wants me to be.

Everything I missed before I gave my life to Jesus, Romans 10:9-10, is out of my hands.  Yet, for the future, I need to begin to see things through God’s eyes for the first time.  Like a healing from the cravings of this world, 1 John 2:16, may God help you and I both to see, hear and believe, John 5:24.  Act now or else you may regret the blessings you miss in life.

by Jay Mankus

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