Playing Golf with Jesus

In June, Foundations Christian Counseling Services held our 2nd Annual Golf Tournament to benefit the Karen Hoffner Memorial Fund, our scholarship program to reduce the rates for low-income families in need of Biblical counseling. This is a written summary of the message given:

How do you deal with making bad shots in golf?  Do you get mad at yourself?  Do you curse or throw your club?  Do you shrug it off?  Does it mess up your confidence level?  Do you carry your failure from hole to hole remembering it at each shot?  Henry Longhurst, a renowned British golf writer and commentator said, “No man can succeed at golf until he has mastered the art of not permitting one bad hole, or indeed one bad shot, to affect the rest of his game.”

What are the worst things that you have ever done?  You know what they are because you carry them in your memory only to be brought up on occasion to feel the guilt and shame and then to be buried again.  One terrible shot can bring us down for a hole.  A series of terrible shots may cause us to give up the game.  But it is the one good shot that keeps us coming back.  In life, one big mistake will bring us down awhile.  A series of mistakes may keep us down and ashamed for the rest of our lives.  Now there are some good things that we do that keep us in the game, but at best, they do not bring about what we need to play perfectly.

In golf, the perfect score is 18.  A hole in one…every hole.  You may, at best, get 1 hole-in-one, but for 18 holes it is impossible for us.  In life, the perfect score is O.  If every sin is a stroke against us, it is impossible to obtain.  Today, we played in a four person Scramble.  We each took our turns and made our best efforts to get as close to perfect as we could and we went with the person who had the best shot (or best ball)…the one that’s closest to perfection.  In life, we are in a two-person Scramble.  It’s you and Jesus.  In order to get to the 19th Hole of Heaven and the Trophy of Eternal Life, you need to score a perfect score.  This is impossible for us.  With each stroke we take, we fall short of that perfection.  The only way we can receive the prize is by Jesus’ efforts alone.  He met the standard of perfection.  We might as well put our own efforts down, lay down our clubs, and let Jesus do the work that is required…for the only work that we must do is believe in Him and accept the work that He did for us on the cross.  This can be difficult as we want to do our part, but our best shots (and efforts) end up being unplayable.  

Remember those things that you did in the past that you carry with you and cause shame?  All of those acts can be wiped clean.  You can begin a new round in life with Jesus.  Just ask Him to be your partner in the 2 person Scramble of life, lay down your clubs, and believe.  

Extra Innings

There is excitement when you’re watching your favorite sports team battle for a win, but when it gets into extra innings, you’re on the edge of your seat, especially if your team is the underdog.  You know that every moment and every play matter, because soon the game will be over, and you will either come out on top or be defeated and disappointed.  I’d like to share with you a brief personal story of a person whose life went into extra innings…where every moment counted…where the chances of being victorious were slim to none…but in the end, who came out on top.  This person is my grandmother, Muriel Dietrich.

On Thursday, November 10, 2011, my grandmother went to be with the Lord.  She lived to be 91 years of age and battled cancer for 56 years.  Her life was a testimony of faith, perseverance, thanksgiving, and love.  When first diagnosed with cancer, the doctors gave her about 5 years to live.  The cancer started in her lungs and moved towards her neck to the base of her skull.  Through surgeries, chemo, periods of remission, and additional doctor’s visits throughout the next 56 years, the doctors continued to limit her life span to years or even months…yet she kept going, baffling the doctors and their false predictions.  Her attitude was “I’m going to give it to God and keep living”.  And she did.

Throughout the years, especially the past few years as her health began to deteriorate (but also throughout her life), she expressed thanksgiving to God for allowing her to live when the doctors said that she would not.  She would often state how God had seen her through, how blessed she was to have two wonderful daughters who have two wonderful partners.  She would state how blessed she was to have upstanding grandchildren who chose wonderful spouses.  Sometimes, she would say how great my wife was so often that I would wonder if she loved my wife more than me!

I believe that the cancer she fought had a large impact on her perspective on life.  She knew that she was living on borrowed time, in extra innings, and that the extra time was a gift to her from God to see her family grow in numbers, in faith, and in love for her and one another.  Upon every visit, she would share some stories of the past, but would always share how blessed she was for living a long life.

Though eventually the cancer took her life, she did not lose in those extra innings.  No, she had won.  When facing the cancer, she said she would “give it to God and keep on living.”  When considering her heart & soul, she said the same thing.  “I’m going to give it to God and keep on living.”  Death would not be the end, because she had given her life to Christ.  She had accepted his sacrifice for her sins on the cross.  In living, her life belonged to Him.  In dying, her life belonged to Him.  In death, her life remains in Him and with Him.  Since she had made this decision to accept Christ’s death and resurrection, her life remains connected to His.  She will keep on living…and not just in our hearts and in our memories, but with Christ in heaven.  No, death through cancer is not a victory for cancer.  Cancer could not separate her from His love or His presence.

If we think about it…we are all in extra innings.  Our lives will be nearing an end (some closer than others).  Our time on earth is “like a vapor.”  Each of us lives under the common grace that He gives us, allowing us time to spend with loved ones and time to come near to Him….Since we cannot win in extra innings by ourselves, we need someone who will win it for us.  We need a God who loves us so much that He will provide a way for our weak selves to have victory over a stronger opponent (death).  We need Christ.  Now all we have to do is “give our lives to God and then keep on living.”

Moving Heaven

Have you ever watched a movie (or Hallmark commercial) that simply moved you?  There is something about the theme, or words spoken or action shared, that literally moved your emotion from one state to another.  Ever since my body chemistry changed from having children :), I’ve found myself emotionally moved by actions of love towards others, or forgiveness granted, of the loss of a loved one, and from a father expressing pride in his son.   These things often provoke unmanly watering from my eyes and I find myself in need of being rescued from Saint Kleenex, who is there for me when my nose runneth over.

I can’t help but recognize that in the same way, God our Heavenly Father is moved by what He sees in our lives, too.  When we show love to others, we move Him.  When we humble ourselves to seek forgiveness (Lk 15:7), we move Him.  When we lose loved ones, He is deeply moved by our grief (Jn 11:35).  When we reflect His Son, the Father is moved and His pride comes out as He utters the words, “Well done, good & faithful servant” (Lk 19:17).  He is moved by us and by our actions.  He is moved by our circumstances.  This is worth contemplating as we often focus on our own selves and lives and don’t often see how our actions move heaven.

In Luke 15:7, Jesus says “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”    Want to move heaven?  If you’re involved in sin… repent.  Share with others the Good news of salvation through Christ alone.  Let’s move heaven today!