How To Ponder A Passage

I’m excited about growing together in the Word with those of you who accepted my challenge from last week.

A few years ago I put some thoughts together from Proverbs 2:1-11  about how to ponder a passage. Here are those thoughts then a few others that will pertain specifically to our challenge. The Scripture says:

1 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding,
3 and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.

“Accept” Read the passage slowly 2-3 times. Write down any thoughts that stand out to you. Accept the words from God as a personal message to you.

“Store up” Choose a verse or phrase in the passage to memorize. The key to effective Scripture memory is repetition. Repeat the verse a dozen or more times throughout the day.

“Turn your ear” Listen to what God has to say to you through the passage. Ask God to speak to your heart and to give you ears to hear what He has to say to you. Write down what He tells you.

“Apply your heart” How can you apply the passage to your life? How can you put it into practice? What will you DO as a result of reading God’s Word.

“Call out Ponder the passage out loud with someone else. Talk about it with a friend or spouse. Ask what their thoughts are on the passage – what God is teaching them through this passage?

“Cry aloud” Pray the Scripture out loud. Turn the passage into a prayer to God.

“Look for it” Meditate on the passage. Think about it in different ways. Chew on the Word as a cow chews it’s cud.

“Search for it” If there are aspects of the passage that you don’t understand, use reference tools to help you… Such as a Bible dictionary, concordance, or commentary.

Now, how to apply this to the challenge I’ve given. A few ideas that may be helpful. This plan assumes that you have 10 or so minutes that you can give each day to be in the Word.

1) On day 1 read the passage through 2-3 times to just familiarize yourself with it. Repeat the memory verse 4-5 times. Write it out and look at it several times during the day.

2) On day 2 read the passage again – write down any things that stand out to you or catch your attention. Write down any questions that pop out at you. Ask God to teach you as you think about His Word. Continue reviewing the memory verse.

3) On day 3 read the passage again – look for things you might have missed. Meditate (think deeply) about what God is saying and how it applies to you. Write out your thoughts. Continue reviewing the memory verse.

4) On day 4 read the passage again. As you read it, turn it into a prayer for God. (Example from Proverbs 2:1 – “Lord, give me the courage to accept your Word as truth and not just read it and do nothing about it.”) Write out your prayer. Continue reviewing the memory verse.

5) Talk to others about what you are learning – ask them what they are learning. Write out what God has shown you. Continue reviewing the memory verse.

6) Post your thoughts on the blog as a comment to my thoughts (which will be posted on Thursday) so that we can learn from each other. Continue reviewing the memory verse.

*** Obviously, if you miss some days then you can combine some of these. Don’t worry about not doing it this way – this is just a few ideas. I promise that most weeks I won’t do it this way. The key is to stay in the Word and keep seeking God. Do that and you WILL grow.

The first passage that we will ponder together is…. Ephesians 1:3-14.

The first memory verse to work on is… Ephesians 1:3

(I will be using the NIV translation in my posts but you use whatever you are comfortable with)

(Look for my thoughts on this passage next Thursday – then add your own)

Ready. Set . Go. Get ready to grow.

A Challenge To Ponder Great Passages With Me

I have a strong conviction that the best way to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ – the best way to mature as a believer – is to get to know God better through the reading, studying, and meditating on His Word. I call this “pondering Scripture.”

I would like to invite you to ponder Scripture with me throughout 2011. Here’s the deal…

  • Over the course of the year we will look at 40 of the great passages in the New Testament.
  • Each week we will ponder a different passage together.
  • Each week we will have a memory verse to work on together. Scripture memory is one of the best tools we have to combat sin and to grow in holiness. We need to get in the habit again of hiding God’s Word in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him.
  • Every 4 weeks we will take a break to review  what we have been learning and rehearse our memory verses.
  • Each week you will be encouraged to write down what you are learning as you ponder the passage on your own.
  • Each Thursday I will post the thoughts that I have as I have pondered the passage.
  • You will then be encouraged to add your thoughts to mine so that we can mutually learn from each other.

If you stick with me on this, at the end of one year you will have thoroughly immersed yourself in 40 of the greatest passages of Scripture in the Bible. You will have committed 40 verses to memory. And I dare say that you will have grown much closer to God and to those of us who pursue this challenge together.

In a few days I will post some hints on “How to Ponder a Passage” and reveal the first passage we will look at together. I hope you’ll join me for this great adventure.

Reyner Invitational Finals

So … one of these two guys ended up as the eventual champion this year. Here’s how things unfolded in our two round final. To recap: Going into the final day the 2 round score stood at Chad 7, Shay 6, Tucker 5, Scott 2.

Our first round today was played at the Cornwallis course. Things got very interesting as that round came to an end. It was won by Tucker with -2, Shay finished 2nd at -1, Scott 3rd at even and Chad 4th at +2. So total scoring after 3 rounds then put things like this: Tucker and Shay tied with 9 points, Chad with 8, and Scott with 4. We took a quick break at Bojangles and then headed out to Valley Springs for the final.

The round stayed pretty even through the first 9 holes and then things began to separate.  At the end of 18 Chad had won the round, Tucker 2nd, Shay 3rd, and Scott 4th. So total points after our four rounds ended with Chad and Tucker tied at 12 points. They then went to a 4 hole playoff. Still tied after 1 hole. Chad up one after 2. Tied again after 3. Both guys had good tee shots with a chance at birdie on #4. Tucker missed his putt. Chad made his putt and we crowned a new champion.

It was great fun to hang together and play together and all the snow made for some memorable golf. Already looking forward to next year when I will have a chance to claim the crown.

Reyner Invitational Round 2

Such great fun!! Round 2 was played after church today at Valley Springs in the snow. The round took 2 hours – whereas it would usually take a bit more that an hour. We spent a good amount of time looking for discs and amazingly only lost one out of the 4 of us. Here’s how we finished: Shay 1st, Chad 2nd, Tucker 3rd, Scott 4th. So after 2 rounds the total score is as follows: Chad – 7 points, Shay – 6 points, Tucker – 5 points, Scott  – 2 points. Anybody’s game at this point. Tomorrow we play two rounds – one at Cornwallis and then finish at Valley Springs.

2010 Reyner Invitational

For the third Christmas in row my sons and I are competing in the Reyner Disc Golf Invitational Tournament. Scott is the two time defending champion. In past years we have played one round – winner take all. This year we are changing up the format. It is a four round competition. We are playing one round at Leigh Farm, one at Cornwallis, and two at our home course Valley Springs. Scoring goes like this: For each round  the 1st place finisher gets 4 points, 2nd place – 3 points, 3rd place  – 2 points, and 4th place – 1 point. Total points after all rounds is the winner. After our first round this is how we stand. Chad 4, Tucker 3, Shay 2, Scott 1. Our next match will be Sunday – weather permitting.

Ode to Al Huffman and the DCP

So for those of you reading this who are not RBCers let me bring you into the loop. For 21 years Ridgecrest has put on the Durham Christmas Pageant at Page Auditorium (at Duke) as a gift to the city of Durham. It is a 2+ hour Broadway style show that features great Christmas music, a poignant modern Christmas story, and a telling of the gospel through drama and music. It was created by Al Huffman (worship pastor at RBC), produced by Al Huffman, and directed by Al Huffman.

Today’s performance of the DCP was the last one. The DCP is being retired after 21 years. I’m sure for Al that it is a bittersweet ending. It has been a labor of love for all these years and has been used to reach our city with the gospel and to create community and a shared purpose in our church. But I know that it is an exhausting endeavor each year. It takes at least 4 months of constant work to pull it together and I have a suspicion that it is never far from Al’s mind the rest of the year.

So with the lights going out on the DCP I wanted to say thanks to Al:

Thanks Al for all the hard work you have put in over the years to make the DCP such a huge success.

Thanks Al for creating something that our entire church could rally around each year for ministry.

Thanks Al for demonstrating such passion through the years to see the DCP come together.

Thanks Al on behalf of Billy Wentz and scores of others who are now in the kingdom of God because of the DCP.

Thanks Al for all the funny stories that have come out of these productions that now have a life of their own.

Thanks Al for giving kids a chance to shine and have fun performing on stage.

Thanks Al for introducing us to some of the best Christmas music around.

Thanks Al for the Hobos, and the Santa Clauses, and the Babies, and all the other characters that will never be forgotten.

Thanks Al for showing us your love for the Lord through this labor of love.

Thanks Al… for all the memories!

Incarnation Begins With I

Incarnation Begins With “I”

‘Tis the season. Christmas is upon us. And if we are not careful it would be easy to lose sight of what Christmas is all about.  Bottom line – Christmas is about the incarnation. Now that’s just a fancy shmancy word which means that God took on flesh and became a man – in the person of Jesus. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. God knew that the only way a lost and dying world was going to fully understand how great His love was was to show them up close and in person.

The same is true today. The only difference is that He chooses to show the world how great His love is through His children. WE are to incarnate the gospel to the world around us. People should be able to look at our lives and catch a pretty good glimpse of the nature and character of God. So when I say that incarnation begins with “I”, I mean that it begins with me – and it begins with you. Here are a few specific ways  for you to think on about how incarnation begins with “I”.

Ignorant of sin – Jesus walked through this world confronted daily with opportunities to sin and yet chose not to sin. He lived a holy life. His holiness pointed people to God. In the same way, when we choose to be ignorant of sin – not falling prey to temptation – our lives can point people to God as they see a life of faith and integrity being lived out.

Illuminates the darkness – Jesus came to be “the Light of the World.” We also are to let our lights so shine that the world will see our good deeds and give glory to our Father in heaven. As we illuminate the dark places around us the world will be able to see Jesus shining through us and the darkness will have no choice but to retreat.

Identifies with those who are helpless and hurting – It seems like everywhere Jesus went He met people who had desperate needs and huge hurts. He took the time to touch their lives whether it was through a word of hope or act of healing. We are called to incarnate Christ in similar ways as we reach out to those who are helpless and hurting in real and practical ways.

Initiates forgiveness – The greatest spiritual need we have as humans is for forgiveness. This is what Jesus came into the world to address. He came to reconcile  sinful people to a holy God and rebuild the relationship that had been destroyed when we willingly and deliberately turned away from God. We, as God’s children who enjoy His forgiveness, are called to be agents of reconciliation offering Gods’ free gift of forgiveness to a spiritually destitute world. We have the message that people need to hear – the gospel of a forgiving God who yearns for people to turn back to Him and experience amazing grace and abundant life.

Illustrates servanthood – Jesus himself said, “I did not come into the world to be served but to serve.” As we take up the mantle of servanthood, putting aside our rights and desires to have others serve us, then the world will see a visible demonstration of what it means to know Christ.

Intercedes for others – Scripture records numerous instances where Jesus engages the Father in prayer on behalf of the people He connected with. His example should be motivation for us to do the same. God chooses to use the prayers of His people to provoke His hand to work and His heart to save those we are connected to. Lack of prayer on our behalf indicates unbelief and effectually says to God, “I don’t need you. I can get through this life on my own.”

A few years ago I shared the words to a song I wrote in a message I preached about the incarnation. Enjoy and don’t forget that not only does incarnation begin with “I” but it also begins with you!!!

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and lived for awhile
In a world plagued with sorrow and sin
The Magnificent Son, The Most Holy One
Was determined the plaque had to end.

The Word became flesh as the Father revealed
All His love in the life of His Son
His Manifest grace must have felt out of place
When He saw what the devil had done.


The Word became flesh as God testified
To the truth that had never been heard.
The Savior appeared, God spoke loud and clear
Through the voice of His Incarnate Word.

The Word became flesh as the Father set fort
To give freedom to all who were bound.
Hope was restored, though God’s Word was ignored
When a cross took the place of a crown.

The Word became flesh leaving heaven behind
Giving up all the honor He had.
“Abba Father” He cried, as He suffered and died
I now know what makes You so mad.


Our 2010 Christmas Letter

Incarnate. Now there’s a word that you don’t hear every day. It does tend to pop up a bit more at this time of year. In case you are not familiar with the word, it means “in the flesh.” And it is used to describe what happened 2000+ years ago when God appeared in the flesh in the person of Jesus. Why did He do that you might ask. Great question. The succinct answer is this: God wanted to communicate in an unmistakable way a few things that couldn’t be done from His throne in heaven. He needed some face time with the people that He created, that He loved so much, and that had turned away from following Him. He wanted to make a loud and clear statement that would once and for all prove the depth of His love and His desire for reconciliation. He didn’t want people to spend an eternity separated from Him and unable to enjoy the magnificence of a home in heaven with Him. Thus the cross! Thus the resurrection! But it began with the birth! That pivotal moment in human history when God took on the appearance of a man. The incarnation! The virgin birth! The baby in a manger! Jesus!

How’s that for an opening to our Christmas letter this year. I am astounded at the extent to which God went to fix the mess that I (we) had made of things. Then I started thinking this week about a “what if.” What if Jesus had never been born? What if the incarnation had never taken place? How would that have changed our world? How would that have changed my world? I want to frame our Christmas this year with that question in mind.

If Jesus had never been born…

There would be no us! This year Linda and I celebrated our 29th anniversary. Yes that means that we are old. But we met 31 years ago on a Campus Crusade for CHRIST beach project. No Jesus. No Shay and Linda.

The next few follow quite naturally. There would be no Christy. We would not have watched she and her husband Chad continue to grow in their 3rd year of marriage. We would not have seen her excel as a 2nd grade teacher. We would not have watched Chad graduate from seminary. We would not have found out what an incredible blogger  and photographer she is.  We would not be praying now for the place of ministry the Lord has for them – possibly overseas.

There would be no Scott. We would never have seen him graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill in May. He would never have started seminary at Southeastern in August. He would not be preparing to go overseas as a part of the seminary’s 2+2 program (2 years theological education + 2 years overseas on the mission field.) I would never have seen him make an unbelievable ace on one of the hardest holes of our favorite disc golf course. He would never be working at The Bargain Box in Raleigh to support himself.

There would be no Tucker. He would not be a sophomore at NC State this year. He would not be leading a freshman Bible Study through Campus Crusade.  He would not have gone to India for 2+ weeks last summer to serve with missionaries there. Nor would he have worked at Crossroads Camp as a counselor when he returned.  He would not be enjoying rock climbing, disc golf, Harry Potter movies, or be in 1st place in his fantasy football league.

If Jesus had never been born…

I would not be the Executive Pastor at Ridgecrest Baptist Church – now in my 18th year. I would not have been the Project Coordinator for the IWC trip to Peru this past summer (that Linda, Christy, and Chad were all a part of).  We were able to share the gospel message and disciple believers in 5 villages along the Amazon.

If Jesus had never been born… we would not know the One who is the Prince of Peace and we would not have known such peace in the midst of so much transition in our lives: 1) our pastor retiring, 2) our youth pastor leaving to go on the mission field, 3) my responsibilities on staff changing as a result of both of these, 4) Linda’s principal changing and new counseling colleagues to work with, 5) Christy and Chad figuring out “what next?” 6) Scott preparing to go overseas.

So perhaps you can see why we celebrate the incarnation. Why Christmas is special to us. Why we are thrilled that Jesus was indeed born! We are incredibly blessed as a family and our desire is that you would experience the blessing of God upon your life and understand in it’s most profound way the meaning of John 1:14…

“The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us!”

(If interested in staying connected with us, both Linda and I are on Facebook. Christy’s blog is and my blog is )

Christy, Chad, Tucker, Scott

Shay and Linda

Dog Days of Christmas

So Linda and I are dog sitting this weekend. First time we have had a dog in our house in three and a half years. We have had 2 dogs since we got married. Both golden retrievers. We got Cassidy while we were in Massachusettes when I was in seminary. She was with us for 7 years and died right before Tucker was born in 1990. We got Molly in January of 1994 after we moved to Durham. She lived just over 13 years. Golden retrievers are wonderful dogs. Great pets – though don’t let them know that they are not people as they will be offended. And yes we are most definitely dog people. Not cat people. Don’t ask us to cat sit. It ain’t gonna happen. So this is Duke. He has taken to us quite nicely. A very laid back mutt. Doesn’t demand attention. Doesn’t beg for food. Seems to be content to just lie around and be a dog. My kind of pooch.

So in honor of Duke and given that it is Christmas here is a little doggie humor for you to enjoy:

Holiday Etiquette for Dogs

1. Be especially patient with your humans during this time. They may appear to be more stressed-out than usual and they will appreciate long comforting dog leans.

2. They may come home with large bags of things they call gifts. Do not assume that all the gifts are yours.

3. Be tolerant if your humans put decorations on you. They seem to get some special kind of pleasure out of seeing how you look with fake antlers.

4. They may bring a large tree into the house and set it up in a prominent place and cover it with lights and decorations. Bizarre as this may seem to you, it is an important ritual for your humans, so there are some things you need to know:

– – don’t pee on the tree
– – don’t drink water in the container that holds the tree
– – mind your tail when you are near the tree
– – if there are packages under the tree, even ones that smell interesting or that have your name on them, don’t rip them open
– – don’t chew on the cord that runs from the funny-looking hole in the wall to the tree

5. Your humans may occasionally invite lots of strangers to come visit during this season. These parties can be lots of fun, but they also call for some discretion on your part:

– – not all strangers appreciate kisses and leans
– – don’t eat off the buffet table
– – beg for goodies subtly
– – be pleasant, even if unknowing strangers sit on your sofa
– – don’t drink out of glasses that are left within your reach.

6. Likewise, your humans may take you visiting. Here your manners will also be important:

– -observe all the rules in #4 for trees that may be in other people’s houses.
– – respect the territory of other animals that may live in the house
– – tolerate children
– – turn on your charm big time.

7. A big man with a white beard and a very loud laugh may emerge from your fireplace in the middle of the night. DON’T BITE HIM!!

A Life Lesson from Coleoptera Scarabaeidea

One of my favorite cartoonists is Scott Hilborn who publishes “The Argyle Sweater”  comic strip. You have probably noticed some of these popping up in my posts.I came across this one the other day and it reminded me of the story of the dung beetle (order: coleoptera, family: scarabaeidea). Quite fascinating, albeit pretty gross.

The dung beetle it would seem has one purpose in life: to collect dung. When they come upon a pile of dung they begin creating dung balls which they roll away from the pile to keep their property from being plundered by other beetles. They can roll dung balls up to 50 times their weight. Beetles generally work as couples. Usually it is the male that rolls the ball, with the female hitch-hiking or simply following behind. In some cases the male and the female roll together. When a spot with soft soil is found, they stop and bury the dung ball. They will then mate underground. After the mating, both or one of them will prepare the ball as a birthing bed. When the ball is finished, the female lays eggs inside it. When the eggs hatch, they feed on the dung.

So what life lessons are to be learned from these interesting creatures. Here are a few that come to mind:

1) Like the dung beetle, are we fulfilling the purpose that God has created us for – with as much diligence and tenacity?

2) And like the dung beetle, are we investing our lives in the collection of  “dung” – stuff that really isn’t worth a poop.

3) Are we willing to share our “dung piles” with others – the stuff that we have worked so hard for – or do we hide it away for our own enjoyment only?

4) What do we hunger for – dung and more dung? Or do we hunger for the kind of food that will feed our souls?

Paul said this in Philippians 3:8: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them like dung (literally this is what the Greek says) that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…”

(If interested in how this really works for the dung beetle then check out this You Tube Video)

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