FROM the start, let me apologize for, once again, using sports as an analogy. I am aware I use them often, but I do like my sports.

            WHILE on vacation last week I was watching a sports talk show hosted by Colin Cowherd. He started off his segment by saying that he does not like to go camping. Immediately I was intrigued because I do not like camping either. Camping for me is a Motel 6 and hiking is when your room is on the second floor. Anyway, Colin was saying that he didn't like camping because he did not want to get eaten by wild animals or bitten by reptiles or bugs. He said, "That is their backyard." He went on to say that in his backyard, "there are no bears." He also commented on how a surfer shouldn't complain if bitten by a shark. Once again, you are in the shark's back yard. I was kind of wondering where he was going with this and then he started talking about Aaron Rodgers, the Quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers had been injured the previous game and could likely miss the season. The reason for the injury, Colin stated, was because Rodgers left the pocket (his backyard) and ran into the backyard of the linebackers. He went on to say that "running quarterbacks" are much more likely to face injury than pocket passers (those who don't run). He also gave the list of quarterbacks who seldom leave the pocket and who have the longest active game streaks. Amazing analysis. Stay in the pocket and stay safe. Venture out and possibly get creamed.

            THIS got me to thinking about my own life and the life of you, the members of The Foothills. When, in fact, do I face the greatest risk to my spiritual life? It's usually when I venture outside the pocket because I either think I am as swift as a Cheetah or agile as a Squirrel.

            JESUS said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Notice Jesus said, "The thief comes only..." There is no other purpose or goal of the Devil than to destroy you, your spouse, your kids, your finances... your life. He, the Devil, doesn't play fair, doesn't play nice, doesn't take pity and doesn't play games. He wants to steal your relationship with God and people, kill all your hopes and dreams for the future and finally destroy you in the pit of Hell for eternity. I know that sounds a bit morbid or over the top, but if you don't believe me, trust Jesus, He is the one who said it.

            JUST how does the Devil end up destroying us? By getting us to leave the pocket, assuming we will be O.K., and then cutting us down in an unsuspected blind-side. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." I want to do that. I want to be safe and guard my heart and in doing so my life, my family, my future and my friends. But how?           

            STAY IN THE POCKET! What is the pocket of protection that God has provided and assigned for me? There are several: #1) Read God's Word. Every morning of my life I get up and spend time in the Bible. It is a safe haven for me. #2) Spend time in Prayer. Each day and at various times throughout the day I ask God for wisdom and guidance. His voice to me is life, health and wholeness. #3) Church attendance. One hour a week. O.k. with shower and getting ready time and then drive time, an hour and a half. That's it. We all have one full week (52 of them a year) and God asks you to spend one hour with Him at His house, per week. Church is a great pocket of protection for you... and for your kids! #4) Small Groups. Ladies Bible studies (morning and evenings), Men's Bible Studies, The Forge, Marriage classes... All of these are meant to keep you safe and strong in the Lord. #5) Worship & Thanksgiving. It is so important to thank God, sing to God and listen to Worship music. Worship of God can change our attitudes quick, fast and in a hurry.

            THERE are no short-cuts to growth, maturity and safety in the Lord. Stray outside the pocket (His backyard) and don't be surprised if life kicks you upside the head. Folks, it's a dangerous world and dangerous times. All I want for you, as your Pastor, are the words of John, "I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well." III John 2