Monthly devotional

KNOWING GOD

And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, the one and only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent. (John 17:3, The Message)

There is a world of difference between knowing about God and knowing God. Mark Twain said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.” Knowing God is like the lightning. Once we have experienced the difference between knowing about God and really knowing God, which results in a personal relationship with him, our lives will never be the same.

A.W. Tozer said, “Knowledge by description may lead to knowledge by acquaintance. May lead on, I say, but does not necessarily do so. Thus we dare not conclude that because we learn about the Spirit, we for that reason actually know Him. Knowing Him comes only by a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit Himself.”

My good friend Alex told a beautiful story about knowing God, while standing in the pulpit at his father-in-law’s funeral. A few years earlier his father-in-law called Alex late one night and asked him to come over. He had some questions about God and his faith. Well, Alex jumped at this opportunity to share his faith with him and hopefully answer his questions about God. His father-in-law knew about God, but Alex wondered whether he really knew God. Alex used this metaphor in his explanation because his father-in-law would understand if he used Troy Aikman and the Dallas Cowboys in his explanation: “I know you really love Troy Aikman. You know all about his stats on the football field. You actually also know about his weight and height and even his shoe size. You know about his wife and family. But do you really know Troy Aikman? If you called him and left a message, would he call you back? Could you run up to him and tell him about your day?”

There is a huge difference between knowing about Troy Aikman and really knowing Troy Aikman.

Alex then concluded his story and metaphor about relationship with these words: “I know you know about God, but do you have a personal relationship with God? How much time do you spend with him and how much do you talk with him? Have you read his Book? Have you asked him for help and have you seen him supply all your needs?”

Alex understands that this is where the metaphor breaks down. You see, God knows us even when we just know about him. He loves us more than we can imagine. He purchased us with a price, forgave our sins, and adopted us into his family with an inheritance that is out of this world. And he desperately wants us to know all about him and love him in return. He wants us to spend time with him. He knows the plans that he has for us“plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11, NASB).

And the very good news is that Alex’s father-in-law now knows God’s promise to those who reallyknow him and love him. He is now living the life that the God he knows promised.

When you rush into God’s arms, he really wants to hear about your day. The Lord we have come to know already knows all about us and loves us with abundant mercy and grace forever.

Randy Wolff
September 2, 2015
Copyright 2015 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.

Monthly devotional

‘THERE’S ALWAYS BETTER’

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. (Galatians 5:7-8, NASB)

The Nike ad for its new Vapor driver says, “There’s always better.” The ad challenges Rory McIlroy, Michelle Wie, and Tiger Woods to “to hit it further, to win more Opens, and to win more majors.” They seem satisfied with their driver now, but the hidden message is “there’s always better.” Then they show Charles Barkley’s swing with his driver and exclaim, “You, sir, can get a big better!”

We experience this conundrum in life as well. We are doing all right, but then we get off course for a variety of different reasons. That is real life, isn’t it? We are following Jesus and thinking those good thoughts as we come out of the Bible study, and then it happens. Within an hour, we become an impatient sinner yelling at our brothers and sisters in traffic or dealing with co-workers with bad breath who have the ability to change our disposition.

The apostle Paul was challenged here just as we are. My friend and ministry partner, Tim Philpot, is convinced that Paul was a golfer. He quotes Romans 7:15: “For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.”

I meet each week with a friend who is raising his grandson. He is a relatively new Christian, but oh how he loves this new life in Jesus! We both get emotional together as we study the Scriptures in Luby’s Restaurant. We talk openly about this good life in Christ but also wail that we fail so much. He always uses these words with me, “Randy, I just want to get better.”

Desire does count. We were running well and then wandered off the trail. A simple desire to get back on the trail to God is an integral part of the race we run. The Bible says that David was “a man after God’s own heart.” For every one of David’s victories, it seems as if he suffered two moral defeats. How could he be a man after God’s own heart? I think the secret of his success in God’s eyes was that 1) he always maintained a lofty view of God and life, and 2) he knew where to run with the broken pieces. He knew God would always be there for him to make him stronger in the broken places.

Last week in our church we sang the beautiful song, “Thank You God for Saving Me.” When we begin to fully understand this amazing truth, our life will be lived in grateful response to the one who saved us. He not only saves us, he is perfecting us.

To the Philippians, Paul wrote, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). It is our choice to run with the one who will perfect us in the end. Then we can all say in unison, “I knew there was better.” Eternal life with Jesus does not get any better than perfect. Thank you God for saving me for perfection in the end. That will be a lot better!

Randy Wolff
August 5, 2015
Copyright 2015 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.

Monthly devotional

OF INFINITE IMPORTANCE

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you; love him with all you’ve got! (Deuteronomy 6:5, MSG)

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If Christianity is false, it is of no importance. If it is true, it is of infinite importance. What can never be said is that it is moderately important.”

How important is your golf game? How about your job and family or your pursuits of pleasure? I remember a speaker years ago presenting this convicting challenge: “Rank the following in order of importance in your life: faith, family, career, and leisure time.”

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once told his players: “Gentlemen, it is faith, family, and then football!” A player then responded, “I think sometimes he gets the order confused.”

How would you rank faith, family, career, and leisure time, these four tenets of our life? Today’s verse boldly proclaims that God should be the top priority. And if he is so, this should be reflected in all we do with our family, our career, and even our leisure time. All our life should reflect God as the priority and become our conviction. The late Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary said, “Belief is something we can argue about. Conviction is something we would die for.” Our genuine faith spills over into all of life, not just our quiet time with God.

William Rees uncovered this so well in his poem, “Three Dollars Worth of God”:

I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.
Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk
or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of God to make me love a black man
or pick beets with a migrant.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please.

Here is the rub. We have some faith and a little knowledge. We sincerely want to live out the commands of our Savior, but life, job, and leisure time crowd out what is most important. Jeff Hopper recently stated in a Links Devotional, “I’m not sure I want to love like this (wholeheartedly), but because Jesus showed the way, I know I must.”

The message of salvation through grace can literally change our lives and our priorities. When God changes us, our faith then becomes our life in every arena. Our grateful response is generous gratitude to the one who still loves us very much. That’s of infinite importance: Love God, your God, with your whole heart. Because he first loved us, love him with all that’s in you; love him with all you’ve got!

Randy Wolff
July 7, 2015
Copyright 2015 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.

Monthly devotional

THE LEGACY OF CALVIN PEETE

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. (1 Timothy 1:15, NASB)

Calvin Peete died on April 29 at the age of 71. He won 12 PGA Tour events, including the Players Championship 30 years ago this year. His life was an extraordinary example of perseverance through many of life’s challenges, but most importantly, he was an example of God’s amazing grace. God had Calvin under construction for 71 years, and we all can learn a lot from this remarkable man.

His story started in a sharecropper’s field in Florida where he picked vegetables at a very young age. This eventually gave way to selling jewelry out of the back of his station wagon in parking lots. He took up golf at the age of 23 and earned his PGA Tour card nine years later.

In addition to his PGA Tour wins, Calvin won the 1984 Vardon Trophy for the lowest stroke average for the year, as well as leading the Tour in driving accuracy for 10 years in a row. Tiger Woods remarked on the Golf Channel that the most astounding statistic that he knows about Calvin is that for over three consecutive Memorial Tournaments at Muirfield Village, he never missed a fairway. Imagine that! Twelve rounds of golf without missing a single fairway!

But Calvin’s story is really God’s story. He was a humble man who was embarrassed when people would remind him of his remarkable accomplishments. He told Steve Eubanks of the Global Golf Post, “I just did what I did.” When Steve asked Calvin how he was doing, he simply remarked, “I am a saved sinner fighting the devil everyday.”

Isn’t that the message for all of us who are still under construction? We fight everyday to stay the course and follow God. Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife of 64 years, died in 2007. The marker on her gravesite memorial testifies to the truth of this message. Ruth got this idea from a highway sign that she had seen. The memorial reads: “End of construction. Thank you for your patience.”

John Newton penned the classic hymn Amazing Grace in 1779 after years of running from God. At the end of his life, Newton told his audience this: “All I know is that I am a great sinner, and he is a great Savior.”

Dr. Jim Denison’s son, Craig Denison, from Dallas, recently stated in a blog: “God doesn’t want you to reveal perfection; he wants you to reveal the fact that in your imperfection he has loved you from the beginning with an everlasting love.” Calvin’s legacy is that he was a great sinner like all of us and that Jesus is a greater Savior. It has never been about how good we have been or how many tournaments we have won or how many accomplishments we have earned. It has always been about how a magnificent God continues to save sinners like you and me and Calvin. That is a legacy worth living for, and that is the reason Jesus came in the first place.

Randy Wolff
June 2, 2015
Copyright 2015 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.

Monthly Devotional

YOUR LIFE STORY

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy;
in Your right hand there are pleasures forever. (Psalm 16:11, NASB)

Tommy Morrissey is golf prodigy at the age of three. He can hit drives that carry 100 yards in the air. He recently met Tiger Woods, who was very impressed.

Here is the rest of the story. He does this with one arm. Tommy was born missing his right hand and part of his right arm below the elbow. Little Tommy got interested in the game of golf watching it on television and playing with his dad, an avid golfer. His father contemplatively remarked about his future in the game: “Right now we do not know if golf will be a paragraph, a chapter, or his life story.”

I believe this insightful quote is an interesting way of describing our priorities in life. How would you describe your life in following Jesus? Is it most important or just part of the filler in your life story? Would your life with Jesus be a paragraph, a chapter, or your life story?

It is all about relationship and time. What do we really love, and where do we spend our time? What do we think about? What do we really treasure?

The song “Love is Motion,” by Jon Troast, reveals the truth that we are all getting better or worse. We don’t just stand still. Our habits/thoughts/actions create a pattern, and our life story is being written as we do life. What will the sum and ending say?

Would those who know you best call you a Christian? The definition of Christian must be one who follows and imitates Christ. Our life’s story is really for others to tell. It is not for us to determine or manipulate. The ones who know us best know our real story.

I just played in a golf tournament with a good friend who recently lost his wife of 47 years. He was loyal and faithful for the past four years as she battled the effects of a debilitating stroke. During this difficult time, he would remind me that he and his wife were in the middle of a manuscript. That manuscript is being written by God. The trials and storms have driven him closer to God, and even now as he goes on with life without his mate, he realizes that he is still in the middle of that manuscript that is being lived out. He wants to finish his story well.

How we live today will determine how we will be remembered tomorrow. And always remember, it is an audience of one, the Lord, who will make the final determination. God’s perspective will determine if our relationship with him has been a paragraph, a chapter, or our life story. We have the blessed choice to cooperate with the Master Planner in the story he is telling the world through us.

Randy Wolff
May 12, 2015
Copyright 2015 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com.

Devotional April 2015

THE PERFECT PLAN

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23, NASB)

Golf is not a game of perfect. Neither is life. We all have issues.

In golf, some days are easier than others, but we will never get it right. A true champion in golf learns how to return a good score even on those days when all the breaks go the other way. You know what I mean. The golfer who overcomes adversity and continues to have a good attitude is the one who ultimately wins.

In life too, we all struggle from time to time here on earth. No one will get out alive unless Jesus returns first. We have all been infected with the sin disease. Jim Morrison sang in one of his songs, “No one gets out alive,” a fact proved by his untimely death.

Here is the major difference in the life of the one following Jesus—anyone can ask Jesus to forgive his or her sin and live forever. Anyone and everyone. God has given us the ultimate cure to make us immune from death: amazing grace through faith in what Jesus has already done for us. He died for our sin problem and promised an eternal life with him. What a win!

Jesus promised that believers “will never die” (John 11:26). When we take our last breath here, we take our first breath there. We step from time into eternity and from death into paradise. So what do we do about this wonderful bit of good news? We simply rejoice and tell others with our life.

It is our honor and responsibility to share God’s cure with the world. We do this with our Spirit-filled conversation, our unselfish love, and our care and encouragement of fellow strugglers along the way. This is about how we live life. It is not just about our knowledge of Scripture or what we say. Our simple plan is to lead others to God’s plan now and in the life to come.

Last month I attended the funeral of a very close friend. She and I had grown up together and stayed friends for over 60 years. She was a sinner who knew God’s grace and had accepted Jesus as her Savior. As I sat there hearing all the beautiful God stories of her imperfect life here, I reflected on the passage from Ecclesiastes 7:2: “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart.”

You see, in the house of mourning, we hear words that are life-giving. We hear words that overcome this flawed life and lead to the eternal life later. We heard those words again this week, with our reflections on both the death and resurrection of Jesus. We’re part of a perfect plan to share these wonders with others all the time, but with them ringing so freshly in our ears we can eagerly take their message to the world today.

Randy Wolff
April 7, 2015