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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

Remember, Remove and Refocus

Remember not the sins (the lapses and frailties) of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your mercy and steadfast love remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord, Psalm 25:7.

Darryl Worley released the song Have You Forgotten in 2003. In the years following September 11th, 2001, politics began to influence television. The more liberal and progressive that the United States has become, images of attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon are considered unfit for the eyes of viewers. Unfortunately, with each passing decade, public education is rewriting history so that America’s Christian heritage and founding has been erased from college and high school textbooks.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

While human beings can’t change the current path of the world, you can remove obstacles from your own life so that you can make a difference. The author of Hebrews uses the analogy of running a marathon. The longer this race goes on, the more hot, tired and weak you become. In the same way, invisible sins can weigh down souls so that individuals become entangled in a web of lies and lust. Until you begin to unload these internal or external weights holding you back, you won’t be able to experience spiritual freedom.

If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God, Colossians 3:1-3.

The apostle Paul devotes an entire chapter to those believers who need to refocus. After remembering that God has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west, Psalm 103:11-12, discard bad habits so that your mind can start focusing on Jesus again. Like a person preparing for a fast due to an upcoming procedure, spiritual focus starts by purging any reminders from your past life before knowing Jesus. When your mind is transformed by God’s Word, Romans 12:1-2, setting your heart and mind on things above becomes achievable. Remember, remove and refocus this fourth of July weekend.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Aerobics

Aerobics is a vigorous exercise designed to strengthen the heart and lungs. Besides running, swimming and walking which most of you can do by yourself at home or in your neighborhood, there are an unlimited supply of videos on aerobics. Whether you follow along to a workout video or you tube, there are numerous ways to get back into and stay in shape. However, if you keep putting this off day after day, you’ll lose all motivation for physical exercise.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. 26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

The apostle Paul introduces readers to the concept of spiritual aerobics. Using the host city of the Isthmian Games as a backdrop, a prestigious track and field event held during the off years of the Olympics, Paul references the strict training of these athletes. Spiritual aerobics is designed to strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Whether you’re reading the Bible, praying or participating in a worship service, these exercises energize your spiritual life.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-12.

The author of Hebrews takes spiritual aerobics to the next level, comparing this to running a marathon. I once ran 15 miles in an afternoon training for my senior year of cross country in high school. While one of my teammates easily cruised through the final few miles, I struggled to finish as my legs got heavier and heavier with each stride. The key to spiritual aerobics is unloading and throwing off anything that is holding you back or slowing you down. Instead of dreading the race called life, keep your head up and fix your eyes on Jesus so you will find the strength to make it to the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Holding You Back?

During my final year of coaching cross country, I started having my runners wear weights once or twice a week. Since I ran warm ups and cool downs with my junior high team, I also wore weights as well to see how it felt. Early on, you couldn’t tell much of a difference, but as practice wore on the harder it became to lift your legs. Although the 2.1 mile course I designed wasn’t hilly, the final .25 miles was all up hill. A perfect test for wearing weights despite complaining and whining runners at the end of practice.

You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? – Galatians 5:7

First century authors of the Bible use a series of analogies comparing life to running. This is likely due to the Isthmian Games, named after the Isthmus of Corinth. This event took place the year before and year after the Olympic Games. Since the Olympics were held only once every four years, the Pythian Games were held in the third year to complete the Olympiad cycle. In the passage above, the apostle Paul received news that Christians in Galatia were struggling likely due to the Judaizers, a religious sect who hindered their spiritual development.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews compares a faith journey to running a marathon. Typically, 26.1 miles, this distance requires extensive training just to compete and finish. When I was in the best shape of my life, I once tried to run 15 miles. Running with a friend from high school, he left me in the dust as I struggled to breathe the final five miles. This one experience makes me painfully aware of what Hebrews 12:1 is suggesting. In order to make it across the finish line, heaven, you need to start throwing aside any unnecessary weights. The more you discard now, the easier the homestretch will become in the future.

by Jay Mankus

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