The Dark Secret of Pastoral Ministry

Paul Tripp has an excellent piece at the Christian Post entitled: The Dark Secret of Pastoral Ministry: Why Pastors Get Tired. He does an excellent job of laying out the struggles that many pastors face when it comes to our needs and what is expected of us. He asks a lot of great questions that every pastor should have to think about and pray about:

Could it be that one of the dark secrets of pastoral ministry is that a whole lot of what we do is driven by worry and not by faith?

Could it be that at the functional level much of ministry is shaped by a long catalog of “what ifs”?

Could it be that this causes us to load the health of the church onto our shoulders?

Could it be that too much of our ministry is shaped by subtle pastoral self-sovereignty?

Could it be that in pastoral ministry the sin of unbelief is often recast as commitment, discipline, dedication, or a willingness to suffer?

Is it not possible in pastoral ministry for unbelief to be perceived as maturity?

His answer is simply that many of us worry about way too many things that are out of our control. I have to admit that I do. My typical worries falls outside of those things that I can control, like the church growing, the church remaining faithful to our calling, the church being healthy. I can do some things for those ends, but in the end, it’s all upon God’s Spirit moving in such a way to cause growth. But enough of what I’m saying, here is a bit more from Paul Trip:

What Jesus says next may be hard to accept, but it is vital to hear. He essentially says that the reason our lives are driven and shaped by fear and not faith is that we have forgotten the gospel. Christ lays down three gospel arguments for us to consider.

1. The gospel of creation. First, Jesus points to the surrounding creation (the lilies and the birds) and says that there is ample visible evidence every day that God will not abandon the work of his hands. If he cares for the flowers and the birds, will he not care for those he made in his own image? So the gospel of creation preaches rest to the pastor. Would God gift a man then abandon him? Who could be more committed to the welfare of the church then the One who established it? The welfare of the church is not the pastor’s job-it is the Lord’s promise. The pastor’s job is simply to use his God-given gifts in public and private gospel ministry.

2. The gospel of relationship. Jesus then reminds his listeners that they have a Father who knows their needs and is at work meeting them. This means, first, that it is God’s job (if I can use that language) to define our needs. No one knows better what we need than our Creator, Savior, Father. Second, it is God’s covenantal family commitment to meet each of those needs. Once your ministry is driven by your attempt to meet your needs, you are ministering for you and not for others. Others-centered ministry is always propelled by a quiet rest in the Father’s love and care. This also calls us to trust the Father’s wisdom and timing. If he is meeting our needs, then we must conclude that if we don’t have it right now it is because our Father knows that we don’t need (in the true sense of the word) it right now.

3. The diagnosis of “little faith.” So, what is the problem? Gospel-amnesia. When you forget who you are, you quit resting in the Father’s provision, you start relying on your own wisdom, and you try to do God’s job. All this results in functional ministry anxiety and a catalog of bad personal and ministry choices. Jesus’ diagnosis is quite stinging. He says that the problem is that no matter what we say we believe, there are moments when we essentially live like pagans. We live (even in ministry) like there is no God, let alone a God who has adopted us into his family and showers us moment by moment with his forgiving, empowering, and transforming grace. Because he is my Father, it is impossible for me to ever be alone in ministry, to ever be left to my own resources.

Seeking God’s kingdom in ministry means many things, but surely it means remembering his fatherly presence, relying on his fatherly care, resting in his fatherly wisdom, and trusting in his fatherly grace. Then we can say no when it is the appropriate response of faith, we don’t attempt to control what is already under the Father’s wise control, and we aren’t tempted to do more than we are able to do.

Pastor, preach this gospel to yourself today for your sake, for the sake of your family, for the sake of those to whom you minister, and for the sake of the Father’s glory.

These are good reminders for all of us.

Bill Whittle on the Failing Euro, Failing Airbus and the Warning to America

I found this video at Hotair.com which offers its own insightful evaluation after the video. But the video itself is gripping as Bill Whittle explains why an Airbus A330, Air France Flight 447, crashed into the Atlantic back in 2009. The Airbus, made by France, decided to make the plane smarter than the pilots. Instead of the plane responding to the captain in the stall created by the smartness of the plane itself, it averaged the response between the captain of the plane, and the junior officer in the right hand seat of the cockpit. The end result: it crashed into the Atlantic.

The same thing is happening to the Euro between Germany and Greece, causing that monetary system to crash as well. The signs of stalling are also apparent in the U.S. economy, unless we take action, and stick to flying what has worked in the U.S. for 200 years. For the sake of the analogy, that means flying on Boeing.

Watch the video:

Here is what Hotair’s Ed Morrissey had to say:

Frankly, the information on the Air France crash is rather unnerving.  I hadn’t heard those details before now, but it sounds like a great reason to stick with Boeing when possible.  It works well as an analogy in this case, though, and perhaps in a few others.  For instance, the problem in rapidly-rising health-care costs is a combination of technological advances that are difficult to comprehend, a legal atmosphere that forces providers to practice defensive medicine unnecessarily, and the shielding of price signals from consumers by the presence of third-party payers.  Because we don’t see the problems clearly, we respond in irrational ways — and because we tend to fear what we don’t comprehend, we’re reacting by making the third-party payer and signal-shielding issues worse instead of better.

Europe has a reason for the disunity, which goes to the core of their experiment: multiple sovereign nations managing a single currency.  Germans end up having to suffer the consequences of irresponsibility in Greece, Spain, and France without having any real political power to prevent or punish it, short of pulling out of the euro.  That has always been the rot at the center of the euro, and it was just a matter of time until it became a critical problem.  The only way the euro would work in the long run would have been a federalization of Europe into one sovereign entity, an outcome that its peoples clearly do not want and which European language and cultural barriers wouldn’t allow even if popular sentiment supported unification initially.  The UK looks like the most brilliant nation in Europe for its longstanding and prescient Euro skepticism.

The US doesn’t have that problem with the dollar; we just have the same sense of unreality and problems reading the signals.  We can act to prevent the dollar’s stall that will surely come when the entitlement collapse arrives.  The only question is whether we will.

Tiger Woods and Hank Haney: The Big Miss

I recently finished reading The Big Miss by Hank Haney, who was Tiger’s coach from 2004 until 2010. Given that I have developed a recent fascination for the game of golf, I’ve also enjoyed reading about those who play it well. Since Tiger Woods has been lauded as the greatest player ever to play the game (a statement that will always be open for debate), I wanted to read more about him and his game.

This isn’t an official book review, just some of my thoughts about Woods and the game. If you want an official review, here is a bit from Geoff Shackelford of Golf Digest.com:

Tiger Woods should be grateful Hank Haney wrote The Big Miss.

Not that the book will ever elicit any emotion from Woods other than a Mt. St. Helens fury of bulging-eye bitterness upon mention of the book’s tantalizing title. Nor is it hard to see why such a private, obsessive-compulsive control freak finds the new book to be the ultimate betrayal, even as he has shown little loyalty to those who’ve worked for him at meager wages considering the pressures involved. Yet after flying through this 247-page, mostly breezy and fascinating look into the life of a champion, I suspect most readers will ultimately have a newfound respect for Woods. I know I do.

OK, you get the idea. The book really exposes the underbelly of an obsessive-compulsive personality who happens to be extremely talented.

What struck me about the book is that it really exposed what a lonely person Tiger must be. With every relationship that is seen, from Haney’s, to that of his caddie, to his relationship with Elin, his former wife, everyone has to walk on eggs shells around him. Even those who are hired to criticize him so that he gets better, have to be so careful about that criticism or they will anger the Tiger. It’s truly sad. No one can be really open and honest with the man for fear of bringing about the wrath of that Tiger. I guess you could say he is aptly named, but that is not as it should be.

No one should have that right to live in such a manner where apologies are never accepted, and forgiveness is never given. Those aspects of a relationship are vital if the relationship is ever going to get beyond the surface level. Tiger is shown to be a person that if you cross him once, you are done. I can only imagine the wrath that has been poured out in Haney’s direction since the publication of the book (as Shackelford pointed out above). Instead of learning from the mistakes he makes with people, and forgiving them for their mistakes with him, Tiger simply cuts them off. The door to Tiger closes and that will lead to more loneliness in the end. For that reason, I pity Tiger. He will never have any true and lasting friendships because everyone will always be beholden to the Tiger for acceptance. They will never know the man behind the mask.

The other aspect of the book that just blew me away was seeing how truly talented a man he is when it comes to golf, and how difficult the game really is. Some of the practice drills that Tiger would go through on the driving ranges are incredible. Haney describes one drill he goes through using his irons where he hits the ball low to the left, middle, then the right, then medium height to the left, middle and right, then high in same pattern. For anyone who plays golf as an amateur, such control is simply beyond our comprehension. Every time I go to the driving range, my goal is simple: hit is straight. I don’t care if it goes 15 feet, if it’s straight, I won’t beat myself up too badly.

Tiger’s talent and commitment are to be admired. He has been given a gift, yet he never rested on that gift. Whereas most golfers are happy to get their occasional championship win, Tiger never was. He wanted more than just the occasional win. He wanted to be the best there is and was in the game. The sad truth is that it was this goal that really has led to his mediocrity in recent years.

Tiger got to the point of thinking: “It will never be enough.” In other words, no matter how many wins he achieves, it would never be enough and that is what led to the distractions that are dooming his career. Haney goes into great length to let us know about those distractions, like the desire to be a Navy Seal, to the point that he would train with them on a regular basis. Haney said that is what truly injured Tiger’s knee, not his golf swing. More often than not, it is the distractions that keep many of us from reaching our goals.

I remember getting to know some of the swimmers at A&M while I was there. At that time in the late 1980s, we had one of best swimmers in the butterfly in the country. Everyone expected him to make the Olympic Swim team for that stroke, but he failed to qualify. How was it that the best butterfly swimmer in the nation failed to make the Olympic Swim Team? He got distracted by the desire to grow a beard. The summer before the trials he grew a full beard that made the girls swoon. But the beard did something that neither he, nor his coach thought about. It changed his stroke. Instead of coming cleanly out of the water, he had to come up higher than normal in order to get air. This went undiscovered until after the trials, in which he did shave. But the damage was done. His stroke had been altered just enough to keep him off the swim team.

That is what Tiger has been doing since about 2008. He has allowed himself to become distracted, whether it was training with the Navy Seals, to the affairs. That is what has kept him from winning and what eventually led Haney to resign as Tiger’s coach. The greatness of his talent is all that he is resting on at this point and the reason he doesn’t win as much.

I don’t pity him in this area. He has all the money he could ever need and all the championships he needs to go down in history as one of the greatest players of the game. But his relationships with people still suffer. It’s like many people who become famous or powerful. Those who criticize, rightly or wrongly, are cut off. Tiger has done what many do, surrounded himself with “yes” men (another reason Haney stepped down. Tiger wasn’t listening any longer). That is sad.

Michael J. Fox is Changing Course

Good news on the pro-life front. Michael J. Fox, who has been a proponent of using embryonic stem-cell research in the hunt for a cure to Parkinson’s disease has admitted that a cure will more than likely come from another source, besides stem-cell research.

Last week Fox revealed he now believes that other lines of research hold more promise. “There have been some issues with stem cells, some problems along the way,” Fox told ABC News. “An answer may come from stem cell research but it’s more than likely to come from another area.”

The rest of the story is found here.

As you may recall, Fox was a proponent of using stem-cell research in finding a cure for the disease that he has to the point that he was in a political ad to help elect Claire McCaskill to the U.S. Senate back in 2006. He purposely did not use his medicine for the filming of the commercial in order to add drama. He was heavily criticized for doing just that and then those who criticized him were then demonized. I wrote about it here (hard to believe I have posts going back to 2006).

While I was critical of him then, I’m glad to see his coming around to a more pro-life position on the matter. And no, I wasn’t one of the ones that were demonized for my criticizing him. My readership is far too small. Please note, that his turning from the pro-abort crowd’s position to the pro-life position was based upon science. Those on the pro-life side have known since this debate began that the stem-cell research being done was not likely to produce any results and hasn’t shown a lot of promise (George Bush showed this to be true in his book as well, even though he approved a certain number of embryonic stem cells to be used for research.) Hopefully, those on the left will give up their pursuit of such research.

Moral Conformity?

Every time I listen to the White Horse Inn radio broadcast I’m reminded that what we want in the church for our congregation is not moral conformity, but regeneration. I know this may come as a shock to many, since they believe the church to be a place with lots of rules to live by.

Many of you know the rules: Do not smoke, cuss or chew, or go with girls who do. There are many more unspoken rules that are placed upon those of us of faith that are found nowhere in Scripture. For instance, I once has a step-grandfather show moral outrage toward me because me and my father toasted Sam Houston at the dinner table during Thanksgiving one year. I guess there is a little book of rules for pastors that says that pastors shall never show any sense of joy, humor, or camaraderie while dinning with smug moralists. I guess I failed his test for righteousness.

Yet, we all fail all tests for righteousness no matter what rules may be placed before us. This is why the church should not be a place of rules, especially the unspoken ones like: a woman should never wear white shoes after Labor Day! This is really important in high-fashion churches. Another rule I became aware of in the South was that pastors are never, ever, ever, to grow facial hair. Apparently, Jesus wouldn’t be acceptable in such established and righteous churches.

The point is that while we may conform to a lot of spoken and unspoken rules, that is not what we want for our members. We want regeneration for our members. We want our members to be participants of the first resurrection, to be born again, to be made new again by the Holy Spirit. None of those things can happen in a church full of man-made rules.

This is why it is so important that our pastors preach the gospel. This is what is necessary in our churches because the gospel in it’s fullness shows us our inadequacy in living the perfect life. When I say the “perfect life” I do not mean perfect life in some human standard which many may think we have obtained, such as having the perfect job, with a beautiful wife, and 2.5 children, a BMW, a timeshare in the Rockies and one down in Destin, Florida, along with plenty of stocks and bonds for retirement along with a bunch of gold in the closet, and plenty of guns and ammo in preparation for armageddon. That is not the perfect life I’m referring to.

The perfect life I’m referring to means that we are living in complete conformity to God’s Law and His revealed will. This means that we have not sinned at all, not even once, not even a tiny bit. We have been in perfect conformity to all Ten Commandments and have not erred once.

Given that most of us have broken the Seventh Commandment alone, just in our lust of the opposite sex, shows that we don’t measure up in this regard. All it takes to break all Ten Commandments is to break one alone.

The gospel shows us this reality: we are condemned by the Law and the Lawgiver. Yet, there is ONE who did keep the Law perfectly, and did have the perfect life before the Father. He told us He was in perfect communion with the Father and perfect in His obedience to the Father. John 5:30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

There is quite a bit of truth in that statement. Jesus is in a dispute with the Jews who have accused Him of breaking the Sabbath by healing a man on that day, and by making Himself equal with the Father, which was blasphemous. Jesus doesn’t deny that He healed on the Sabbath. He also doesn’t deny that He is equal with the Father. In fact, He confirms both by saying that He does what the Father directs Him to do with perfect obedience to the Father. For this reason, He is given authority to judge all mankind and give eternal life to those who believe in His word. He has a right to heal on the Sabbath and claim equality with the Father. While the Jews recognized these two realities, they failed to understand them correctly.

To believe these truths about Christ take a converted heart. In other words, we must be born-again in order to believe in Christ for salvation. All the morality in the world cannot bring this about. In fact, morality itself is a hindrance to the gospel because when we obey the moral codes of whatever society in which we live, we are under the illusion that we do not need the gospel, or conversion, or salvation. Morality actually hinders us in seeing our need for Christ. It makes us believe that we are OK in the culture in which we live and therefore, we are OK with God.

We are not OK with God. We all stand condemned as sinners and if we do not believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, we will remain condemned for all of eternity (read John 5:24-30). This is why it is so important that pastors do not preach moralism, but preach Christ crucified. To preach moralism hinders the gospel, and weakens the church. Preaching moralism makes those inside the church think they can do it on their own. But we cannot. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot convert ourselves. We cannot make ourselves morally clean before the Father. We cannot cause ourselves to grow spiritually. We cannot do anything for ourselves.

Only Christ can save us. He is the giver of life. He is the One that we look to be cleaned up and changed. Moralism cannot do this, only Christ alone. This is why the church cannot be a place for moral conformity. It must be a place of humility where we see our true moral bankruptcy, which leads us back to Christ, time and time again. We may be moral in the end, but that is not the goal. The goal is the gospel and the gospel doesn’t need our moral conformity.

Ask Pastor Timothy

A friend wrote and asked me to respond to the following quote:

“You can not grow spiritually healthy until your are emotionally healthy.  Emotional maturity is necessary for spiritual growth”

Wow! What a burden that places on us to get emotionally healthy, and what a hindrance for the Holy Spirit. This statement is very similar to the statement that was made to a bunch of single friends back in the 1990s: “You will never be married until you are spiritually mature!” Glad we have that going for us. Now that I’m married, I MUST be spiritually mature!

I had to speak to my friend to find out more about the quote before I gave any comment to it. Apparently the pastors of this church are preaching through a book that makes this claim on Sunday mornings. Notice, I said that they are “preaching through a book?” Please notice, they are not preaching from a book in the Bible, but some popular book out there that is supposed to help us become holistically healthy, so that we may go out into the culture and reach people for Jesus Christ.

This type of stuff always sounds great on the surface. “Let’s get you healed up and complete so that you can be used by God, people will see you for being complete and whole and want to come to know Christ too!” The problem with this mindset is that it is contrary to the gospel itself and makes evangelism/spiritual maturity, growth in Christ, all dependent upon us. It is very much like the statement from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel always. Use words when necessary.”

This isn’t the gospel at all, but humanism with a gospel dress. It’s an attempt to make those feel like they are in control of their emotions, the gospel, the kingdom, their own spiritual growth. This fails on several levels.

First, please notice that the Apostle Paul never called us to become more Christ-like so that we could preach the gospel, even using words at times. He said just the opposite: 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.

Paul wasn’t preaching himself, but Christ alone. This is the call of the church when it comes to reaching the world. We are not to preach ourselves, or put ourselves on display or even talk about how much we have benefited from being saved. We are to preach Christ. We are to tell of His death and resurrection. We are to point others to the gospel for salvation, not us, or a particular church. It is the gospel that saves, not our conformity to some holistic ministry model.

Secondly, the above quote and assertion assumes that emotional health is something under our control and precedes spiritual maturity. Emotional health may result as we grow in Christ, but it may not. That is not the goal of the gospel and sometimes the LORD leaves a thorn or two in our flesh to keep us dependent upon Him (2 Corinthians 12:7). Some people may always be emotional wrecks, yet, God may use such to help them grow spiritually.

Third, the problem with the quote is that it seems devoid of Christ’s work in our lives through the washing of the water and the word (Ephesians 5:25-26). It is Christ who cleanses us with His word and His Spirit. We don’t mature because we do something or don’t do something, we mature spiritually because He causes the growth and cleanses us and heals us. We are dependent upon Him for spiritual growth.

Now, we may aid in that growth. Just as a child will grow whether we feed him M&M’s and candy bars, or chicken soup and veggies, the child will grow. The question is: will the child be more healthy using a healthy diet, or using candy? Since we know healthy eating helps our children grow in a healthy manner, so too does eating spiritually healthy food aid us in our spiritual lives.

What is spiritual food? The preaching and teaching of God’s word. This is the spiritual food that Jesus commanded Peter to give to His sheep (John 21). If we want to be healthy spiritually speaking and grow spiritually speaking, we must seek out those things that help us grow in that manner: His word, the preached word of God, the sacraments of baptism and communion, prayer and corporate worship.

Isn’t it ironic that the above church that brought all this about is trying to grow their people spiritually but isn’t using the very means that God has given them to do so? Sad. The pastors of this church should truly repent of such foolishness. They are turning to man’s wisdom in order to grow God’s people, yet God has told us to preach Christ crucified in order to do so. Shame on them.

For more on spiritual growth, I commend the chapter on Growth in J.C. Ryle’s book: Holiness. Go here to read it.

Also, if you have a question for me, email me at askpastortimothy   at Gmail dot com. That is in code, so I hope you can figure it out. I wrote it that way so some bot doesn’t discover it and spam me.

Presbyterian vs. Baptist Baptism

The argument between Reformed Presbyterians and Reformed Baptist essentially boils down to the following statements:

BAPTIST: “You Presbyterians use too little water too early!”

PRESBYTERIANS: “You Baptist use too much water too late!”

There, now you have it.

Too good not to pass along…

Chief of the least

Said the angry agnostic Mother of three to me:

“My children are not indoctrinated!”

Was her sanctimonious plea

“We treat them as humans, not subjects at all”

As she looked down her nose, she stood proud and tall

“We don’t raise them as a Baptist or a Catholic or a Jew

No, not as the close-minded fundamentalist would do;

We instill in them ‘green’ values, and the Herbivore diet,

and Nietzsche and nihilism, you really should try it!

They will defend abortion rights with an apologetic passion

and preach humanist dogma in an evangelical fashion”

So said the angry agnostic mother of three to me

“My children are not indoctrinated!”

Was her sanctimonious plea

Bryan Daniels

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Great thoughts on dealing with critics of the Bible, from The Chief of the Least

Chief of the least

‘Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.’ Proverbs 26:4-5

(Note: Hebrew terms of “fool” and “foolish” describe a person who does not believe in God and is ignorant of wisdom based on God’s moral standard.)

Some modern critics assume the ancients were flat-out stupid. Case in point, after a brief glance at Proverbs 26:4-5 an objection may be raised along the lines of: “Look! An obvious contradiction in the very next verse! The Bible cannot be trusted…” And so a superficial argument has been framed.

But the ancients were not stupid.

The author of Proverbs actually intended to pair these seemingly contradictory verses together. And what these verses propose is not a logical contradiction, but a dilemma for the reader. It is a proposal of two choices. Proverbs 26:4-5 reveals two wise and…

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Evangelist Oprah? I Hope Not

Neil has a post today about Oprah Winfrey’s conversion to Christianity. You can go there to watch the video. I really didn’t want to waste the time, but I did respond in his comments’ section with the following along with some additional thoughts:

I’m skeptical whenever I hear someone famous making a profession of faith. I know that the Holy Spirit can and move among the famous and the rich, but I’m skeptical because so many who profess Christ, only do so for a time before the fall back into their worldly ways. See Jane Fonda’s conversion to Christ. They may be Christians, but often times, they will not submit themselves to good teachers in order to become grounded in the word of God. Just as one commentator at Neil’s blog pointed out, much of what Oprah confessed in her testimony was the same New Age teachings that she has been teaching for the past 15 or 20 years. Before she becomes a teacher or preacher (both of which the Scripture prohibits), she needs to become grounded in the truth and that means she needs to submit to the elders of a local church (1 Peter 5:5). More than likely this will not happen since THE Oprah isn’t use to submitting to anyone at all (nor is the rest of America). This is why I say that the word “submit” is one of the three dirty words that should never be mentioned in polite, Christian society (the other two words are sin and suffering).

This is also why I don’t think we should put famous people on parade the moment they trust in Christ in some half-baked scheme to get others to “trust” Christ. This philosophy comes from the error that if we can get someone famous to give their testimony, others will come to know Christ as well. We see this all the time when some moderate Christian hits the big time in the world. Suddenly, because they hit it big, they are now qualified to preach and teach on what it means to be a Christian. Please note the subtle health-and-wealth prosperity message in all of this. “I’m a Christian, I hit it big. I’m now an expert on what it means to be a Christian… hitting it big!”

The irony of this is that this isn’t the message of the gospel. I know we want to hit it big and become rich, at least some of it. But these things never lead to a more fulfilling life. Only Christ can do that and He rarely uses wealth, popularity and prosperity to do so, despite what the televangelist might say.

I had a woman tell me yesterday how she and her husband started making a lot of money years ago and how they thought they were walking so close to the LORD because they gave a lot of money to charity. It wasn’t until all that was removed that they really began walking with the LORD. It wasn’t until they were depending upon Him to get by that they truly began to grow in the LORD. It wasn’t until the suffering in their lives was put into context of suffering with Christ that spiritual maturity came about.

This message doesn’t preach well among the rich and famous. This is why God doesn’t use these people to advance His Kingdom. We never see such in the Bible. We have King Nebuchadnezzer coming to faith in Daniel 4, yet, Babylon didn’t suddenly become a believing nation. We have Paul coming close to convincing King Agrippa in Acts 26, but does not. That is because God doesn’t use the wise of this world to advance His kingdom.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.

He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise for His glory (this gives me hope that he will use THIS foolish one for HIS glory as well). We don’t need people like Oprah advancing the kingdom. We need the faithful nobody’s that God has called to preach His word faithfully, to do just that. Preach the word faithfully in season and out of season. He moves when and where and how He pleases… Let us preach not ourselves, nor Oprah converted, nor Jane Fonda converted, nor anyone else converted, but preach Christ crucified!

1 Corinthians 1:25-27 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;

Golf and the Meltdown

I did it again yesterday. I was approaching the Number 9 hole at Spring River Golf Course with a personal best 47 strokes for the front 9. For those of you who do not golf, this means that I was approaching mediocrity in my golf game as opposed to just bad golf. But for me, it was a big deal. My goal is to shoot less than 50 on the front 9 and back nine for a score less than 100 by the end of the year.

My goal yesterday was to shoot a 54 or less on the front nine. I learned a trick from my brother while playing golf out in Arizona with him. Realize what your game is, then set your own par accordingly. It’s the same principle that many use to figure a handicap, which is used in amateur golf all the time. My brother’s method was to set a 5 stroke limit for every hole. Five ends up being his par. Well, I know I’m not going to do that well, so I set a 6 hole limit for every hole, which would have given me a 54 for 9 holes.

Six is my par. That takes the pressure off me to obtain what I cannot obtain in the real game, a true par. Doing this gives the golfer a psychological advantage in that when you come to a par 4 and you decide it is a par 6, the pressure is off to make 4. To make a true par you cannot muff a single shot for the hole. To make a true par for each hole, your tee shot has to be really good, along with your mid-range shot, your short shot onto the green and your first putt. 90 percent of golfers cannot do that, especially given that most of the game is played in the six inches between one’s ears. (With my par at six, I actually hit a par on the Sixth hole. That truly helped my score.)

This is why handicaps were introduced. We may see great golfers like Tiger Woods shoot a 68 on any given day, but most golfers are not great. In fact, statistics show that 90 percent of all golfers never break an 80, and only about 75 percent of all golfers ever break 100.

My brother shot a 102 when we played, so he is above average, and falls into the 25 percent that do break into the double digits. It was the first time he has golfed in 4 years, so I imagine if he continues, he will drop back into the double digits.

Breaking 100 is my goal and I was trying to take a baby step toward that goal yesterday, just shoot 54 or less on the front 9. That goal was in reach when I came off the green at number 8 and headed for the tee box of 9. To be honest, butterflies begin bouncing in my stomach as I approached number 9. When it comes to Spring River Golf Course, number 9 has witnessed some of my biggest meltdowns. You could say that hole is doing her duty in getting inside my head, because she is there, sitting on a bucket, just laughing in my face when it comes to my game.

I tried not to listen to her. My mind immediately jumped to the facts. I have a 47, I simply need to finish the hole with 7 strokes to reach my goal. That is truly doable. In fact, I’ve done it before. I scored a par on this very hole… o so many months ago. She just laughed and shouted “meltdown!” I couldn’t get that word out of my head.

I teed up the ball, relaxed, took several easy practice swings and then launched my shot. I hit it well, but just slightly to the left and into the trees. “No problem,” I thought. “Just another opportunity for greatness to follow.”

Then I had to wait. There were four golfers ahead of me that I had not had to wait for since passing the elderly foursome back on the fourth hole (which is where my game really began to improve.) I had to wait to take my second shot… and I began thinking.

As every golfer knows, you must concentrate on your game because the most important aspect of the game is mental. Or is Yogi Berra once proclaimed, “90 percent of the game is half mental?” But to think too much about the game is catastrophic. In other words, you need to concentrate, but not think too much.

I was thinking too much. I thought I could hit my second shot along the tree line and get it closer to the green for an easy chip shot. That wasn’t clear thinking. I should have aimed for the middle of the fairway for the longer, but easier followup shot. Instead, my second shot went right along the tree line until it hit another tree and ended up behind a small burn.

OK,” I thought. “Wait for the foursome to get off the green and put the ball right up on it.” Again, I was still thinking too much. I should have shot for the front of the green, then my chip shot instead of trying to go for the green.

Again, another tree. The ball went left again and now I had bunkers to worry about.

The next shot went to far to the right, but actually landed with an easy chip shot onto the green. If I got the ball onto the green and two putted, things would be well. But it was too late. By now, the pressure inside my head to finish off the hole meant that the nerves between my brain and muscles were no longer firing as they should. I wanted so bad to finish off this hole so well, that my muscles could no longer function. The chip shot flew over the green and to the fence. I was officially in meltdown mode.

I haven’t figured out how to break the cycle. But I do know the feeling really well. I could tell what I needed to do, but my muscles, hands and arms couldn’t do it. Every swing was filled with an unbeatable tension, followed by complete disgust at the results. I even ended up in the sand bunker, twice. Normally, I can play the bunkers well, but not in meltdown mode.

Instead of getting on the green in 4 strokes, it took me 9 strokes. I was utterly defeated. The goal of 54 was long gone and Number 9 was dancing around me shouting “Meltdown! Meltdown!” 

OK,” I thought with futility once again. “Just 2 putt and everything will be well.” Only problem, I couldn’t putt either. Another normally descent aspect of my game had left me. It took me three strokes to get the ball in. Instead of getting my my 54, I ended up with my normal 59. What looked like it would be a good 9-holes of golf, was shattered with one hole. Number 9 had won. She had done her duty and humiliated me. I couldn’t help but think that had I had just found one decent stroke in all of that, I could have come away with something. But even my putting was putrid.

That’s why the call it a “meltdown.” It’s purely psychological. It’s not as though the ability isn’t there physically, but the hole itself truly is inside my head like a giant mountain standing between me and my goal.

I’ve talked to other golfers about it. Zach, who works in the pro shop, said that is the hardest part of golf. Getting over the psychological barriers we face is what makes the game so difficult. Good golfers find a way to play through it. I haven’t yet discovered the ability to do so. I know when I’m in meltdown mode, but haven’t found a way through it.

I know when I do… I will score a 54 or even better. But until then… I will have to face the meltdown again.

I did try to play the back 9. But I must confess the joy had left me. I was truly having a good time on the front 9. I did manage to get the ball on the green on Number 13, which is a par 3. But I 5 putted to get it in.

By the time I hit my tee shot off Number 15, the joy was completely gone. So much so, that the thought of a turkey sandwich sounded much more appealing than finishing out the round of golf. I picked up my ball and headed for home.

Here is a clip from the movie about Bobby Jones, the greatest golfer ever to live.

Here is one on the life of Bobby Jones.