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GO for the GREEN
By JEFF HOPPER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 Jeff Hopper
All right reserved.
For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. PSALM 84:10
Just because you have the time to play golf doesn't mean you have no time left to dream—time to dream of a lower handicap, a better driver, a house on the fairway.
Though we know by experience that the world is full of traps, we still are coaxed by the lust of the eyes. We see something we do not have and assume that it will replace the missing pieces in our lives.
The psalmist saw something so different—so permanent—in the courts of heaven. To spend a day in God's presence is to fulfill the longing of a thousand days. More complete, though, is the new covenant, when Christ's work has restored our relationship with God! For now our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can dwell with God, and God with us, wherever we go. Every day is that spectacular one day.
Concentrate on a one-piece takeaway—wrists and arms together.
JANUARY 2 CAN'T GET AWAY?
You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. PSALM 139:3
Time to get away from it all? That makes sense in the thick of winter, with no sun in sight. And likely, the golf course is on your mind when it comes time to escape.
As far as we want to get away from our world sometimes, let's look for something else in our relationship with God—let's look to get closer to Him. For God's nearness is so good.
God's nearness brings confidence. How grand to be loved by the Author of the universe, to be part of His story!
God's nearness brings forgiveness. How wonderful to be granted grace we do not deserve, only because we are willing to be called by His name!
God's nearness brings rich gifts that empower us to do His very bidding. How awesome to gain strength from the ultimate Source of all that is strong, and to use that strength for all the right reasons!
The club's descent dictates the ball's ascent. Hit down on the ball to watch it fly up.
FOLLOW THE CROWD
Many nations shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. MICAH 4:2
Have you ever tried to invite a friend to Sunday services? It's not so easy when the competition is NFL pregame shows or morning foursomes. You can predict the apologies. Sure, they're cordial, but they all have to do with time. Time to relax, time to be with family, time to get away—"our only chance."
Whatever happened to time for God? No worry: God has always made time for Himself. Since the line of sin was opened, people have been preoccupied with the attractions of this world. None of this has concerned God. He just keeps repeating His promise: the Day is coming. Despite sin, God would forgive. Despite Satan, God would rule. Despite death, the Redeemer would live—and give life to us.
Remember, the temple of the Lord is the ultimate edifice for our Ultimate Attraction. People will yet stream to Him.
As you improve with your wedges, you'll want to keep those grooves clean for more spin.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. ROMANS 5:3–4
Golfers must suffer. Of the many truths about the game, this may be the greatest. If you have played enough golf in your life—that is, more than two or three holes—you know much about suffering.
Life is full of suffering too. In fact, suffering is one of the great issues for the nonbeliever. But the biblical writers did not shrink from the matter. They met it head-on, and they saw it as a positive experience.
In all aspects of life, suffering can produce one of two responses: retreat or advance.
When the suffering goes beyond all human capacity, it is then that we find we can persevere only by keeping our Goal in sight. For as believers our Goal and our Source of strength are the same: Jesus Christ. In Him, we can advance in spite of suffering.
When reading putts, pay closest attention to the last five feet.
He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer. PROVERBS 18:9
We all have seen what happens when we cannot pay attention to our golf game because of other commitments or interests in our lives. "The short game is the first to go," people say. But truthfully, it is consistency that first abandons us when we do not practice. Practice is vital because discipline maintains quality.
The Bible is unafraid of discipline. Even though our work is not what saves us (Ephesians 2:8–9), work does improve us. Here's how:
—Work provides for our earthly needs. Work is often how God makes provision for us.
—Work proves our commitment. We are willing to give our time and energy to what we love.
—Work produces character. When we work, we often must set aside what is easy for what simply must be done. Each time we do this, we are putting our desires in their proper place: subject to our faith.
No time to warm up? Make "slow and easy" your early swing thought.
MEETING THE MAKER
Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. PSALM 124:8
Many golfers, if asked to name one reason they love the game, would choose the beauty of the places they play. Thus, we should know God in a way that other athletes do not. Our eyes are regularly filled with the land formed by His own hand.
For too many of our golfing friends, however, this is where the communion with heaven ends. They defer to a Creator when it comes to the majesty of earth, but when they look at their own lives, they see no such presence. God made the worlds, set them in motion, and ever since has taken one long "seventh-day retreat." But the joy of knowing Christ is that we also know the Father Himself, not just His creation. What good news for us—and what good news for our friends who think that God is awesome yet distant!
Tee it up on the same side as the trouble, so you'll be angled away from it.
ARRESTING THE SLIDE
The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. PSALM 37:23–24
Is it time to change your spikes? A big swing can produce a big embarrassment if your feet aren't firmly planted!
Firm footing was one of King David's chief metaphors for his place with God. Warrior that he was, knowledgeable in wilderness craft, he was adamant that the footing of his life was not secured by his own strength or intellect—both of which he had in kingly abundance. When it came to security, David was clear that this was a gift from God.
Our own lives are full of slippery circumstances too. At such times, our focus may be heightened—looking for that one safe step—or our focus may be lost. In either case, God is there to help us. We catch our step and go on with Him. Or we fall into His rescuing arms. We are clearly not in control of our circumstances. But focusing on Christ will relieve us of the fear of falling.
Help your partners keep an eye on their balls. You'll help speed play.
BACK IT UP
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man? PROVERBS 20:6
Plenty of advertisers have the answer for you—for your driving game, your iron game, your short game, your putting. And they have much to say about why their answer is better than another.
Long ago Solomon exposed the chasm of difference between "a man of many words" and "a man of his word."
The airy man announces who he is and who he thinks he can become. He sets himself up for failure. And if his failure touches others, he sets them up as victims of his unfaithfulness.
But the godly man admits who he is, rather than announcing it. He lays his life before God and says without reservation, "My future is Yours, Lord. Make me what You will." He places his trust exclusively in the heavenly Father. Full of faith, he takes the key step to becoming faithful.
Be sure your golf budget includes a regular lesson. you'll love the results.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal." MATTHEW 6:19–20
Scorecards from special courses. Hole-in-one balls. Club championship trophies. A beautifully crafted persimmon driver. These are the keepsakes of an avid golfer, one who has spent a significant portion of his or her life playing the game. These are a golfer's "treasures on earth."
We all recognize a treasure on earth. It is a temporal item that you can't take out of this life. But what about treasures in heaven? We know we are to build our portfolios for eternity—but how?
Here's a key start: prayer, praise, and obedience. This powerful trio helps us establish and sustain our relationship with our heavenly Father. Well rehearsed, these disciplines will condition us for the activity of heaven, where we will find ourselves in the direct presence of God.
The average player is wiser to buy balls that last long than balls that go long.
"Look among the nations and watch—be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you." HABAKKUK 1:5
What would you give to see Nancy Lopez or
Arnold Palmer at the top of the leaderboard again? Your favorite wedge, perhaps? Even when we love where we are now, we all reflect on glory days.
Habakkuk did. Faced with destruction, Habakkuk longed for help, wanting to see God work as his ancestors had seen. He needed a miracle, and he was convinced God was the only source for one.
Habakkuk got more than he imagined, however. He got an out-loud answer and a promise. God was going to come through in a remarkable way.
You may feel like Habakkuk yourself—surrounded by forces that have you flustered, fearful, or downright angry. Perhaps you need to claim the prayer of Habakkuk for your own: "Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of Your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day" (3:2 NIV).
Don't forget the sunscreen. It may earn you years more golf enjoyment.
SALVATION'S STAMP OF AUTHENTICITY
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? HEBREWS 2:3–4
For all the choices golfers face in each round, it is a bigger choice that can make the difference—which driver, which irons, which putter? But how do you know? You try them out, of course. No amount of advertising stands up like a slew of test shots on the range.
Christ's deity was authenticated in the same way. First, His words were heard, and those who heard Him repeated them. And beyond the words were actions—His signs, wonders, and miracles. And from the Holy Spirit, the gifts given to each who follows Him. God, through us, still provides His own testimonial as He reveals Himself in our lives. All who seek Him will find Him, and all who honestly pursue Him will have His salvation confirmed.
If you know the rules, you'll find they help you as often as they harm you.
DO THE DO
For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." ROMANS 13:9
To succeed in golf, accomplished players select a positive target and hone in on it. Then, instead of negative don'ts, they feed themselves positive mental morsels—take it back slow; swing through to the target.
Our walk with Christ also can be crippled by concentrating on the don'ts. When we grow attached to restrictions, we can eliminate unrighteous behavior, but we also can grow robotic or prideful.
God offers a more complete righteousness in two essential dos. These two envelop all other commands of Scripture: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" and "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:30–31). Begin there and focus exclusively on those two dos. You'll be amazed to see how all the don'ts fall into place.
Be certain you're teeing from level ground—it's the only place you choose your lie.
IN OUR RIGHT MINDS
We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 1 JOHN 5:19
Who is your opponent in golf ? Survey your golfing friends, and you'll likely get three answers: other players, the golf course, and ourselves. In truth, the "enemy" in golf may be all of these.
In the spiritual world, we have a more defined enemy, but the way he works can leave us guessing as well. Satan is real, and he will seek to influence us. But in encountering him, we must not overestimate his power. For our Savior is greater still, having defeated Satan at the cross.
We cannot forget the devil. But neither can we surrender to him, throwing up our arms in despair for the evil he has wrought. If there is any arm-raising to be done, it is to be done in praise of the One who is Faithful and True. At the sound of His name—King of kings and Lord of lords—the devil will flee.
If you keep your grip relaxed, the rest of your swing will usually play along.
TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT
"When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God." LEVITICUS 23:22
Avid golfers are experts at gleaning. We constantly look for magic little clues to improve our game. We search the many golf magazines, watch the tips during the weekend telecasts, and eavesdrop on lessons being given to the neighboring player on the range.
The nice thing is, gleaning is okay. But the origin of gleaning did not put the emphasis on the gatherer. Instead, when God directed His Hebrew people to leave behind the extra crops for those who had less, the law was aimed at the giver. In God's design, those who had plenty shared with those who did not.
The grace of God is like the abundant fruit at the edge of the orchard, the wheat left lying in the field. It is rich with nourishment, even unto salvation, and it is there for all who need it. We must continue to offer it just this freely.
Excerpted from GO for the GREEN by JEFF HOPPER Copyright © 2012 by Jeff Hopper. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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