Pastoral Resources

Sunday Bulletin Inserts

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Keep It Simple

It is easy for us to lose heart, to lose focus, and to get off track in our spiritual lives. It is not easy to make time to be with our Lord and to open His Word. It is not easy to take in Biblical teaching. Satan has a way of deluding us and distracting us, even when we are aware that we are being attacked. By faith, we must stand firm, resist him, and walk according to the Word and by the Spirit. One of Satan's greatest ploys is to make things more complex than they really are. After all, the gospel is very, very simple such that even a young child can understand it. Paul reminds the Corinthians in based upon the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. We receive Him as Father, and we become His children (. We turn from our sin, and we receive His cleansing (. It is simple, really. Satan can make us begin to think that we can do things to earn God's favor or that we can begin to lose our standing in heaven. But it is not about us gaining or keeping our salvation. Salvation, sanctification, and our future glorification is a gift and work of God in and through us. Our job is simply to respond humbly, contritely and according to His Word. Jesus is the main thing, and life only makes sense when it is centered around Him. As this new year unfolds, we would do well to keep our focus simple and our ways pure, for the way of life, happiness, and joy forevermore is through relationship with Jesus, nothing more, and nothing less. It is only in His presence that joy is found that will not disappoint or run out (.

It just makes no sense to keep living life as if we are supposed to find some one thing outside of Jesus that is going to make us happy given that the simple and pure answer has already been given to us in Christ. Why run the treadmill of happiness-seeking when happiness is already available in Jesus? Family is wonderful, but family is not Jesus. A successful career can be fulfilling, but it is not soul-filling like Jesus. A new and improved physique can boost self-esteem, but it is not going to satisfy our hearts' deepest longings. There just isn't something else that can take the place of Jesus. Satan will try to draw our attention away from this fact both when things are going wrong and when things are going smoothly. But our call is to remember the simple truth that Jesus is the answer, the reason, the end, the beginning, the sum, and the fullness of all in all (.

Here are three 'one things' from the Bible that we would do well to remember so that we don't get distracted from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. First, we need to remember the glory and certainty of being a child of God lest Satan steal our joy and bring us doubt as to our salvation. Like the blind man who physically received his sight, so, we who have received spiritual sight must never forget the change which we have experienced (. The blind man said in .

In this year and in the days beyond, let us remember each day that God is our all in all and that Christ is our life. There is no other path to joy and no other way to freedom. Let us keep it simple, remembering the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

Special thanks to a message from Alistair Begg called 'One Thing' which pointed my attention to these 'one things'

Keep It Simple

Sometimes things just don't go according to my plan. When I think about it, many things have not gone according to my plan in the past, that has not always been a bad thing. Some of those change-of-plans have been blessings in disguise. I am in a position where nothing in my life seems to be going according to plan. In fact there are days when I can feel like I am being crushed. It's like running on to a train in the nick of time sure that it is going towards your destination and finding a seat, only to find out 10 stops too late that you are not only on the wrong train, but you have endured, in hopes of your stop being next, being smushed by the person next to you who obviously forgot to shower! Ok, maybe that's just me.

In circumstances when I am being crushed it is hard for me to allow my faith to keep me. Being smushed is an opportunity to refine my patience but I would much rather get off God's train and catch an empty express heading my way. I realized that patience is one area of my life I have not matured in, in a long time.

Matt.18:3-4 (The Message) 3 'I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. 4Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom.

As I have gotten older I have become wiser in my own eyes. This sense of wisdom has puffed me up. I can think I have so much experience in the different aspects of my life. As I started my job, more than 6 months ago, I thought I was experienced for it. However, I am seeing that I have a lot to learn and in many cases the lesson is a call back to elementary tasks that I should have mastered by now but because of my pride and impatience I have not. I can complicate things when I should return to childlike simplicity. I am called back to simple basics but in my rush to get to whatever 'next level' I envision attaining I forget the elementary things.

James 3:1-2 1Don't be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards. 2And none of us is perfectly qualified. We get it wrong nearly every time we open our mouths. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you'd have a perfect person, in perfect control of life.

Wisdom comes from God. Truth reveals itself if I take the time to seek it. Sometimes this requires just sitting back and letting things unfold, such as watching an old flame walk into and letting him walk out of your life, being able to recognize the difference between truth and sentimentality. Time and patience gives clarity and allows the initial daze of infatuation to fade enabling one to see reality again. Other times it requires my taking time to pay attention to detail and doing a task slowly and carefully, such as writing a professional email at work which doesn't require hitting the "recall" button. Wisdom comes from a pure heart. In order to have a pure heart I have to not only recognize my sin but also actively pursue changing. I may be mature but that does not mean I have experience. Experience is developed over time and every new thing I learn makes me an amateur all over again. Sometimes I want to grasp some self-defined next best level in the world as well as in my relationship with God. In those times, all I really need to do is ask myself if I am living out the simple things. I need to remain aware of what God has given me and continually give back to others. When I keep things simple the truth is a lot easier to see; I am able to walk away from the things and people that are not beneficial to me; to see things and people for what and who they are instead of what I want them to be; and it enables me to walk patiently towards the truth.

Keep Resisting The Devil

Sin is typically the easy way out, being often a source of fun, pleasure, or distraction, albeit a temporary and destructive one (. But sin is not God's way, and the call for us as believers is to do what is hard and requires great faith and self-control. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that sin is ever acceptable. Even if circumstances are ridiculous, horrible, or extremely difficult, we cannot justify or rationalize sinning. The reason for this is described in one very powerful verse. , but sometimes God will allow us to be tempted (. This is just the reality of the human experience. Humans all will give in (, and even Christians will stumble at times (. But the message that Paul says by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that we don't have to give in. We do give in because our faith is weak, but our sinning is a choice. We are not helpless because God is faithful, and He will never allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we are able to resist as we place our trust in God. In other words, we are fully responsible for our own sin. We cannot blame the devil, another person, a circumstance, or a feeling. We can't even blame God, even though it wouldn't make sense to do so given that He doesn't do the tempting (. We are ultimately responsible because we have the power to choose. Unbelievers are not able to free themselves from the power of sin, though they are responsible for keeping themselves in such a state and failing to receive the grace of God in Christ. Such is their choice. Believers, on the other hand, are able to resist the devil because of the power of Christ in them. They have no excuse because God has given them "everything pertaining to life and godliness" in Christ (. We can never be justified in our sinning because God has made available to us the strength, self-control, and perseverance which we need. When we sin, it is because we choose to sin. The resources to do right are ours in Christ, and we must take advantage of them.

Let us not be surprised when temptation comes our way (. Let us not be taken off guard, but let us be ready to fight. The world needs more Christians who are willing to stand their ground against the devil. Paul says in . God doesn't say that he might flee or that he will only flee in selected instances. It says that if we resist him and stand firm in Christ, he will flee. He might wage a war for a good long time, but we have the resources in Christ to stand for as long as we need because God is faithful. He will provide the way of escape and give us the strength so that we can endure whatever Satan tries to throw at us. God's command to us when it comes to battling sin and the devil is in . We must keep the belt of truth wrapped around us so that lies don't take us down (. We must know the Word of God so that we are able to stand our ground and not be tricked into giving in unnecessarily to the devil (. We must keep our helmet of salvation on so that we remember who we are in Christ and just Who is standing in our court (. Our strength is nothing compared to the devil's, but the devil's strength is nothing compared to Christ's strength which is ours. By faith in God's Word and His promises, we can win the battle. To win, we must put on Christ, trusting in His strength and infallible Word.

Life is tough, and Satan is merciless. But our God is stronger, and He will deliver us from evil. He may not spare us the temptation, but He will enable us to walk away unscathed from sin. May God enable us to walk by faith such that we resist the devil, forcing him to flee, so that we can go on advancing the kingdom of God. Battles will come, and may we, like good soldiers, stand firm.

Keeping Faith and a Good Conscience

'This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.'

-. Thus, lest we, though in Christ, be led astray into rebellion or deception and in turn risk leading others astray along with us, we must guard our hearts above all else. We must be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might (, trusting in Christ to provide the way of escape from temptation (, not relying on our own power to battle the devil and escape his wiles. Paul wants Timothy to continue to persevere in faithfulness and holiness so that he upholds sound doctrine and advances the truth in a world full of lies. Paul wants him to be victorious in his daily struggles against sin and the devil. Though it is true that we all stumble at times, it is also true that we ought to keep fighting and pressing on. Those who wish to fight the good fight of faith to the end must find a way by faith to keep faith and a good conscience.

To keep faith is to not turn from sound doctrine. There are countless deceptions out there which could lead us astray and totally render us ineffective in true fruit-bearing ministry if we place our faith in them. We must commit ourselves to putting our faith in God's Word alone. If something feels funny, doesn't sound quite right, or purports itself as some original idea that Christians have all missed up to this point, we should beware. Of course, the best test is simply to measure every idea in light of Scripture. If a chapter and verse cannot be referenced to support a conclusion, then the conclusion should be doubted and disposed of. Unless the Bible tells us so, we have no right to accept and propagate supposed 'knowledge' which in reality is likely worldly wisdom (. Timothy must hold fast to the faith by continuing to remain convinced of and anchored in the truth of God which he knows and has learned and studied (.

He must also keep a clean conscience. The way to get led astray is to either believe a lie, and therefore move from keeping the faith, or to make a moral compromise and go against what we know in our hearts and minds is right, good, noble, pure, and of sound repute (. The Bible is clear that we must abhor what is evil, and cling to what is good (. We can't put one foot in darkness and one in light. We must be more extreme than this. As God tells the lukewarm Laodicean church, 'Be zealous and repent' (. Our zeal and passion must be directed toward what is good, and if it is not, we need to repent, lest our consciences be defiled. We don't want to grieve the Holy Spirit ( and regard sin in our hearts (. If we do, then we can expect to have a powerless ministry. To move away from sound doctrine is to pervert the faith and develop a deviant, dangerous lifestyle and/or ministry. To move away from a clean heart before God that is free from unconfessed sin is to develop a hypocritical lifestyle and/or ministry that is not Spirit-led, Spirit-filled, or Spirit-empowered. We can't accomplish Biblical ministry on our own, for apart from Christ we can do nothing (. God accomplishes not based upon human strength but by His Spirit (. Thus, if we grieve and resist the Spirit by holding on to sin, we can expect our minds to be clouded and to become vessels of no use to God. Thus, it is of utmost importance that Timothy take care that he resists the devil's temptation so that the devil flees (. He must take evil thoughts captive unto obedience to Christ (. Then he can sustain a powerful, eternally effective ministry over the long haul.

We must make no mistake about the reality of our situation. Though Christ has won the war, the battle still rages while the devil is yet allowed to roam about the earth. His battle is to keep lost souls lost and to keep freed souls from being fruitful souls. He will battle long and hard against those who keep the faith and determine to walk in purity. Yet Christ will enable us to hold to faith and a clear conscience if only we believe. May He give us the strength we need, the faith we need, and the perseverance to keep battling and to continue resisting sin and the devil for the sake of His glory and kingdom.

Keeping the Garbage in

Commercials can be absolutely the most entertaining part of TV or they can be the most disgusting and vulgar. There is one little slice of life that I have seen recently about a boy and a garbage bag. His mother fills the bag in front of him, even to the point of pressing items inside the bag that stretch the sides rather alarmingly. The little boy is bug-eyed. Then dear sweet Mom tells the boy that he gets the happy privilege of taking the loaded to almost bursting garbage bag down to the trash can. The boy begins carrying the bag but ultimately winds up dragging, flipping, pushing and bouncing the bag down the steps to the trash can, all without a mishap. He then picks up the bag and tosses it into the can without incident.

What is at stake here is the integrity of the bag. It has to be able to handle being overstuffed and then punished profusely in order to be the bag for America. One rupture, one tear, one little problem where little Johnny gets goobie all over himself and the bag doesn't work. Truth be told, that's what we want out of a trash bag; for it to hold up from the kitchen to the curb. Once it's to the curb it is the problem of the experts, the sanitation engineers, the garbage guys. They take it, haul it off and dispose of it properly.

So what have we stuffed in our garbage bag? No, not the one under the kitchen sink or in the hall closet. The one labeled, 'The Blood of Christ.' What have we stuffed in there? Have we surrendered everything to the blood of Jesus? When we called out to Christ for salvation, did we give Him every sin or have we been holding something back for future references? I know what you're thinking. Doesn't He automatically take all of our sin? Not so fast. He does wash away our sin, but is there a sin that He either can't or won't wash away?

'For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.' Hebrews 10:26 Maybe we think that God expects us to continue to sin so this is the one sin we'll hang onto. Maybe we have a habit that keeps us from totally trusting and surrendering to God. Maybe we have fulfilled anger issues. Or maybe we think that this one just won't fit the garbage bag. Does that mean that we question the ability of Jesus to save? Often, willful sin is the realm of those who believe in Jesus, but they just don't quite buy it that He can forgive every sin. They think that one is just too big and will burst the bag.

'For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.' Hebrews 10:14 'Perfected forever' is a guarantee. God is saying, 'Go ahead, stuff that garbage bag. In fact, over stuff it.' There is nothing that won't fit. No matter how much it gets banged around as we try our best to live for Jesus, but fail from time to time, it will not rupture. It won't break. It may be dragged, flipped, pushed and even bounced down the stairs. It won't break. Give the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord every sin you have. He'll keep it all to Himself against that day. He'll be sure to keep the grabage in.

Killing Time

During my sophomore year at Johnson Bible College near Knoxville, Tennessee, I had a roommate named Bill Green. Bill and I had a good relationship and tried our best to motivate each other to do the work we were supposed to do for our classes. I hate to admit it but I resisted a lot of Bill's good urgings and sloughed off a lot of my classwork due to some poor choices I was making with my life. I was just killing time.

During the second semester Bill found a neat little placard and put it on the front part in the middle of the bottom shelf at our desks. The placard read, "If you're going to kill time, work it to death." Sadly, it was a bit too late for me as I was already on my way out of JBC. But the sentiment has stuck with me. However, I recently learned another saying from noted author/philosopher Henry David Thoreau. "You cannot kill time without injuring eternity," Thoreau wrote.

How can killing a little time injure eternity? Ever have an opportunity to do something good and fail to do it? Why did you fail to do the good you knew to do? You killed time. We've all done it. The situation is there for us to do something positive to affect the life of another person in a positive, perhaps even spiritual way and we found something else to do so we wouldn't have to do the good deed.

Jesus' half brother, James, wrote one of the most pointed arguments against such time killing. "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin." James 4:17 Kind of cuts to the chase, doesn't it? No beating around the proverbial bush, just plain talk. The Christian who fails to do what God lays before him is committing a sin. It has been referred to as the sin of omission. We have omitted an act for which God has opened a door.

Paul had a suggestion which makes killing time obsolete. "See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil." Ephesians 5:15,16 That phrase, "redeeming the time," literally means to buy up the opportunities. Paul is urging us to invest our lives in the lives of others for their greater benefit. I guess you would say that's the way you play the spiritual stock market. We can kill eternity for us by not investing in the time we have here to serve the Lord. Killing time does injure eternity.



Rain plinked on the roof, a soothing sound far outweighed by the splattering of rain in the puddles. The dampness soaked into my clothes and settled into my bones. The small blaze in the brazier finally gave up the fight against the cold and went out. I shivered.

Slipping the roped leather sandals from my feet, I tossed them to the corner of my bed and tucked my feet under me to warm them. I succeeded in chilling the only part of my body that had any warmth left. I brushed dirt from the thin sheet, my hand found a worn place and my broken nail caught a thread, tearing a hole in the only thing I owned between me and the cold winter.

The bed on which I sat, and the box it filled, for it could not be called a room at all, belonged to the man whose back I was watching. His coat was thick with animal fur and his turban was wound around his head in thick braids with a double portion protecting his neck. I didn't have to see his face. It held a permanent expression of displeasure even when he was taking his pleasure, if you know what I mean. He snarled his words. As each day passed into night he would allow man after man to look in my box, and when they would shake their heads refusing me, his disposition got increasingly malevolent.

I know what they saw. I had no comb so my hair was ratty and dirty. I had no bath so my body was caked with dirt and grime. I had no perfume so the stink was unbearable. I was not old in years, but I was very old in experience.

So I dreamed.

My feet were in soft, hand-worked leather slippers. My body was draped with silk and a girdle of gold about my small waist. I smelled of the finest perfume and my hair was soft against my cheek. My husband settled a stole of softest fur around my chilled shoulders. I lifted my cheek for his kiss and waved him on his way. As soon as I heard the door close, I rose and powered myself. Without a thought to the babes in their cribs, I ran to meet my lover. I melted in his arms. His strength was beyond bearing. His weight was a seal upon my heart. His breath was sweet and his passion was intense. I savored the glow of pleasure. I craved it. More and more I needed the release of it. I dressed in the gifts of my husband. I ate what he gave me but I craved pleasure from another.

I tried to recall my first lover. His face was blank above me. I was not married then. I was free to choose when I would take pleasure. I flitted from one to another, tasting what was offered and offering myself for tasting. Sensuous pleasure lasts for such a fleeting moment. I craved it more and more so I became the party-hungry, going home with whomever I could coax into my bed, far grander than the one I sat upon at the moment. I gathered gifts from my lovers… fig trees and grape vines. I had a forest. After I married, I saw no reason to change my ways. He knew what I was when he married me. So what? Yes… Yes… He gave me all I could ever have wanted. But, he also gave me children! My body changed and bloated and I thought I would never get it back. After months of working at it and refusing those succulent morsels from my table, I finally got my slim form back. Then, I slipped from my husbands arms and ran to the lover I had seduced before the pregnancy. He didn't want me! He slammed the door in my face!

I went to the next one. He said I disgusted him… a far different tune he had been playing in my bed. I met wall upon wall and had no where to find pleasure... or comfort.

So. I returned home. My feet dragged in the dust. I had chased so many lovers, I had worn holes in my shoes and blisters rose on my tender feet. The path was hot. The sun beat on my back. My throat dried up and I craved water more than any thing I had ever wanted. I stopped at our well, but the bucket came up empty of water, but full of mud.

Winter wind blew in the opening of my box, spraying my face with cold rain. It was just as well for I had no desire to remember what happened next. It was too humiliating… too painful. I scrubbed my face with the thin sheet, and some of the grime transferred from my face to it. This is probably why the next man to poke his head into my box decided to taste my wares. Money clinked from one hand to another and I transported my mind from this box back to that hot day. What was the difference? The shame was the same.

I stood there staring into that bucket, my thirst to a point of a dry, cracked river bottom. My tongue cleaved to the roof of my mouth. That day every secret was exposed and I could not have defended myself even if I had that desire.

That day, my husband called a meeting in the gates.

Jezreel, my oldest born, came flying from the doorway. He fell to his knees and his pleas were just a jumble of words. Loruhammah, my lovely daughter added her cries to those of her brothers for Loammi had joined us by the well. After some moments, I dropped the bucket and tried to sort out their distress. All of life stood still as I gazed at their faces streaked with tears. Surely thunder cracked overhead when the lightening strike of understanding hit my thirst-craved mind. Their names made sense to me for the very first time. God Will Sow… No Mercy… for you are Not My People.

No Mercy. Not my people. Not my wife. Disowned. Rejected. No Mercy.

No wonder I had been tossed out with nothing save the clothes on my back. No wonder I landed in a box the size of a small bed with a mattress of dirty straw and a thin sheet for warmth. He disowned me, but I sold myself to another for food and a box. I had valued things over Him. I loved silks and perfumes rather than my children. I craved those fleeting moments of pleasure rather than the warmth and strength of my husband's arms. I chose the raspy voices of many over the sweet words of love offered by my husband. I chose drunkenness over refreshing waters. I desired sweets rather than roasted meat and therefore I was starving. I was thirsty. I was blind to the true treasure which was what my husband provided. I was wretched.

Icy tears slid from my closed eyes. I had not even noticed when the latest invasion had left my cold bed. I curled into a ball and let the tears flow. I lost it all. No hope. No love for me. I had it all, but tossed it away like a dirty rag.

I heard the chink of coin again and groaned. Not another! How much more could I endure?

"Aiyi! From the looks of it, this is your day of fortune!" the raspy voice of my owner raked over my nerves as he jiggled and poked me to sit up.

"Eh?" I rubbed my eyes and looked at the veiled face in front of me. It was of such fine, thin material his breath ruffled it from his face for he was male, all male, broad of shoulder and thick of arm. His chest expanse seemed to fill the box opening. Fear snaked through me. This brawny brute could do lots of painful things with those hammer arms if he so chose.

"Fifteen pieces of silver! Ha! Not even the going rate for a slave girl. You are not worth the spit from my mouth so I have sold you. I will eat well for all winter with my 17 bushels of barley and my 15 pieces of silver! You, my ugly one, have provided well for me this night. Be off with you. No! Leave the sheet. I paid good money for it and will need it later."

I scrambled from the box and blinked in the rain. With no covering for my head, my hair was soon soaked and my clothes clung to my thin body for all to see each bony angle. The man slipped a fur lined cloak around my shoulders. It was warm from his body and held a scent of…

I quickly glanced up. The eyes were so different from the last time I'd looked into them. Gone was the anger and fire. In their place was something I had not seen since the day of my marriage. It was gentleness and mercy and compassion. Those eyes held the kindest expression. His arm was wrapped warmly around my cold shoulders and then He swept me up into his snug embrace. Where I had foolishly chased dreams with no substance, he offered kindness and I grabbed it with all my being.

"You will be with me for the rest of your life," he whispered to me, his breath warm in my ear. "No longer will you lay on your back for coin. No more sleeping around with others. I betroth you to me forever. This time our wedding will be full of feasting and dancing and your eyes will be only for me and mine for you. To you I am no longer Baali. You will call me Ishi… My beloved husband. I will give you vast vineyards and precious treasures, but your greatest treasure is your Ishi. Come rejoice with me, Beloved."

Isaiah 61:10 Rejoicing I will rejoice in Jehovah. My soul shall be joyful in my God. For He clothed me with garments of salvation; He put on me the robe of righteousness, even as a bridegroom dons as a priest his head-dress, and as a bride wears her ornaments.

Know When To Quit

I am a fighter. This can be a good thing or it can have its draw backs. It really all depends on what exactly I am fighting for. Recently, I realized I fight sometimes just for the sake of fighting. I want to fight simply to prove a point, or prove myself, or get something I want. I want my own way. I found myself fighting in this way for my job. I have been unhappy there for a while but instead of accepting the situation for what it was and being open to what is to come I found myself fighting to prove myself. It took a wise mentor to point out to me that if I was fighting just to prove I could do the job that I would most likely win the fight but at the end of the day would still not be happy or more content because I was not passionate about what I was fighting for. What she didn't realize was that she also helped me to see that I was fighting God just as hard for my own plan and validation in this as well as other areas of my life.

Genesis 32:24-32 24So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the 21Be not afraid, O land; be glad and rejoice. Surely the LORD has done great things. 22Be not afraid, O wild animals, for the open pastures are becoming green. The trees are bearing their fruit; the fig tree and the vine yield their riches. 23Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the LORD your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before. 24The threshing floors will be filled with grain; the vats will overflow with new wine and oil. 25 'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten - the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm - my great army that I sent among you. 26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full, and you will praise the name of the LORD your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed. 27 Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed.

It has taken a lot for me to fight my fear over the last few weeks. Specifically at work, I have had to come in extra early and go through my email inbox and tasks for the day. When I feel the frustration boiling to my face, I get up and leave to take time to meditate, pray and spend time with God. I have then returned to my job with a better mindset because I have been able to take the time to focus on who God really is in the situation. He is my God. He will send rains during my life's droughts.

Daniel 10:12-13 12Then he continued, 'Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. 13But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia.

God has never forgotten me. Even during, what seemed to be, the hardest of times He has come through. I have seen rainbows on rainy days. So how dare I question him now? He is right there with me. It is I that choses to ignore him some times. Not only that but he sends angles to help me, even if they run late some times, they are on their way. I have clung onto the image in Joel and Daniel this past week and it has truly helped me to be grounded in who God is. It has helped me to give up and submit to God - to stop fighting Him and myself. By doing this it has also helped me to resist the temptations to be bitter, angry, frustrated, or selfish; well, you get the picture. It has helped me to flee when I needed to and draw nearer to God. I have learned that these three things go hand in hand. I must submit, resist and come near to God in order to truly be able to fight the right way and for all the right reasons. If I just resist and don't run to God to draw near to Him I will only get hit harder. And lastly I have seen that nothing has given me peace like when I run to Him. Sometimes it may take time, but the angel does get there and peace will come. Now the fight to hold on to it, well, umm, that's a lesson for a different time but at least I know that I am not fighting alone.

Knowing the Rules

Games have rules. Golf is not different than baseball, basketball, cricket or rugby. Its rules book has been refined and updated over the years to accommodate the changes that have been made in course conditions and the ever-being-modified equipment. Invariably, some place in a friendly match I play, a question concerning the rules comes up. Usually it has something to do with a ball leaving the field of play and coming to rest in an area that is unplayable or out-of-bounds. Knowing the differences between the two can save a golfer a lot of strokes.

The United States Golf Association runs rules workshops periodically during the year to benefit golfers who might be interested in understanding the finer points of their game. In 1997, thirteen such workshops were held at different locations across the United States. The USGA even made sure that the professional tours were made aware of the times and places of the workshops. Notices were repeatedly posted for the PGA, LPGA and Senior PGA Tour players. Out of the hundreds who could have attended from the professional tours only one took the time; the LPGA's Annika Sorenstam.

Now comes the question. How much does her knowledge of the rules of the game have to do with the fact that, next to Lance Armstrong, she is probably the most dominant figure in sports among athletes around the world? She is more dominant than Tiger, Shaq, or any other athlete who is considered at the top of their game. To successfully manage a round of golf is to know where not to hit the ball as well as it is to know where to hit the ball.

Danger lurks on many holes. However, the danger can sometimes be as different as night and day. The danger of having to hit out of a sand trap is nowhere as penal as having to take the stroke and distance penalty of hitting a ball out of bounds. Hitting into ground under repair is a free drop whereas laying out of a bad lie in a hazard is a stroke. Having a ball lying up against a tree results in playing the ball as it lies. A ball lying against a moveable grandstand or other temporary structure receives free relief. Golfers have wasted strokes not knowing such simple rules.

How many people have struggled with their Christian existence because they have no idea of the "rules?" God's Word is right there for the studying. His precepts and principles for life, and their accompanying blessings, are as plain as day, but only to those who bother to read them. "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God might be complete, thoroughly furnished for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16,17