Pondering the Word – Psalm 23

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 11.48.09 AMPsalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This is not an unfamiliar passage of Scripture. And there is a reason for that. There are so many rich, comforting truths in these 6 verses that, other than John 3:16 and The Lord’s Prayer, it may very well be the next best know passage in the Bible.

What struck me, as I read this as part of the F260 Bible Reading Plan this week, was one word – twice repeated. It was the word “leads”.

David uses the shepherding metaphor to help share his thoughts. If the Lord is the shepherd, the metaphor implies that we are his sheep. Now David was a great leader of men and one of the great leaders of God’s people Israel. And yet even he understood that he needed to be led.

Leaders lead. But leaders are also being led. Whether they know it or not. And great, godly leaders are being led the Lord.

Not by… public opinion or their feelings or political correctness or financial opportunities or slick advertisers, or our sinful nature. But by the Lord.

I know that I need the Lord to lead me…

…beside still waters (v.2) – Life can be crazy and hectic and stressful and troubling and hard. In the middle of all of this there are “still waters” that I need the Lord to lead me to so that I maintain His perspective and find the peace that surpasses all understanding and can be fueled by His joy to face life as it comes my way. I also need the Lord to lead me…

…in paths of righteousness (v.3) – When I am not following the Lord and being led by Him my sinful, selfish nature will often lead my astray. Not in such a way that those watching me would notice but in such a way that I notice – because I am aware of what my heart starts craving when I am not led by the Lord.

So I recognize that I am being led every day – and hopefully and prayerfully it is the Lord that I allowing to lead me as I read His Word and do what He says. Because I want to experience His still waters and His righteousness in my life.

Pondering the Word – 1 Samuel 17:45-47

2016BibleReadingChallenge45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord‘s, and he will give you into our hand.”

David has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. On the one hand he is a murderer and an adulterer. He did not seem to do a good job of parenting his kids. He had wife issues. He at times comes across as manic-depressive. But on the other hand, he knows how to be a great friend. He is not vengeful. He is courageous. He is a natural leader. And he loves God. Acts 13:22 describes him as a man after God’s own heart.

And this passage in 1 Samuel 17 is an indication of his love for and trust in the Lord.

Here are a few questions to ponder as you think about David’s encounter with Goliath. No answers – just questions.

  1. How was David’s perspective towards Goliath different than everyone else’s?
  2. What was going through David’s mind as he faced this giant of a man?
  3. How had God prepared him for this very moment?
  4. Was David by nature a risk taker or was it his faith in God that just took over in the moment?
  5. How had this kind of faith developed in him – his brothers certainly didn’t seem to possess such faith?
  6. Do you think he had a back up plan if the “slingshot strategy” did not work? After all, Goliath had a lot of armor on so David had a very small window for success.
  7. Was he at all worried about what everyone else was thinking as he made his bold move?

After pondering these questions you can then begin to make some personal applications. Most people want to jump to the application of this passage without first thinking it through – i.e , Who are the Goliaths in your life? Make sure you do the pondering of the passage prior to making the practical application of the passage. This is a lesson you want to use for any passage you are reading.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Gordon Fee

QuotesWorthPondering“The genius of the biblical story is what it tells us about God himself: a God who sacrifices himself in death out of love for his enemies; a God who would rather experience the death we deserved than to be apart from the people he created for his pleasure; a God who himself bore our likeness, experienced our creatureliness, and carried our sins so that he might provide pardon and reconciliation; a God who would not let us go, but who would pursue us—all of us, even the worst of us—so that he might restore us into joyful fellowship with himself; a God who in Christ Jesus has so forever identified with his beloved creatures that he came to be known and praised as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:3).”

Pondering the Word – 1 Samuel (thoughts on Samuel and Thoughts on Parenting)

2016BibleReadingChallengeAs I read about Samuel this week I was reminded of a few things I already knew and surprised by something I had evidently forgotten about him.

1 Samuel 1:19 – Samuel was a miracle child. His mother Hannah prayed and prayed and God finally answered her plea for a child. And she dedicated him to the Lord and allowed him to be raised by Eli the priest at the house of the Lord in Shiloh. Those of us who have been blessed with children need to daily dedicate them to the Lord – they are first of all His children before they are our children.

1 Samuel 3:10 – Samuel started hearing voices at night calling him. Thinking it was Eli, he ran to Eli’s room several times – but Eli had not called him. Eli finally told him to stay in bed and the next time he heard the voice to respond by saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” This is a great prayer for us to pray on a daily basis as we come to the Word of God.

1 Samuel 3:19“The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of His words fall to the ground.”  I am too often guilty of letting God’s Word go in one ear and out the other. I (we) need to be very intentional about putting God’s Word into practice lest they fall to the ground. Perhaps we need to ask daily what our “Action Points” are after hearing the Word preached or after reading His Word at home.

1 Samuel 8:1-3 – This is the thing that I had forgotten. As great a prophet as Samuel evidently was (he made the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11) his kiddos did not follow in his spiritual footsteps.  “But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.”  A few things I have learned over the years about parenting: 1) Great parenting does not guarantee godly kids – kids make their own choices. 2) Great parenting does slant the odds in our favor but it still provides no guarantees. Here are a few things that great parents seem to have in common:

  • They are present for their kids – physically, emotionally, spiritually
  • They love their wives and their kids know that mama comes first
  • They teach their kids the Scriptures – and don’t pawn this off on the church
  • They live with integrity – their kids don’t hear them saying one thing and doing another
  • They pray with and for their kids
  • They discipline their kids out of love as opposed to punishing their kids out of anger
  • They keep their kids in church
  • They make sure that their kids choose the “right” friends to hang around with
  • They have the hard conversations with their kids as needed.
  • They don’t try to be their kids best friend. They intentionally parent.
  • They buy lifelong memories with their kids more than buying stuff for their kids.

Grace and Peace!

Pondering The Voice and Our Gospel Mandate

voiceSo last night my friend Katie Basden ended her run on The Voice. It was an amazing journey that began last summer. I was with her in Poland on a mission trip when she found out that she was being invited to Hollywood and it has been great fun to watch everything happen. She will tell you herself that it has been a crazy wonderful ride and that she is very grateful for the opportunities she has had and WILL have as a result of The Voice.

I had never watched The Voice before this year. I’ve always been an American Idol fan. But this year I was invested. And it got me thinking…

Whoever came up with the concept for how The Voice works is a genius. They are brilliant! Absolutely brilliant. Think about it…

They gather exceptional talent from all over the country and put them on a TV show together. Then they tell them that we are going to give you a platform to showcase your talent – all we ask is that you get the word out to as many people as possible to watch the show so that they can see you perform and vote for you.

So the contestants are invested from the very beginning as a grassroots army to make The Voice successful. Brilliant! So they begin a campaign to get people to watch who will get people to watch who will get people to watch on their behalf. The contestants themselves provide a very personal reason for literally hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people to turn on the TV and tune in to NBC from 8-10 PM sometimes up to three times per week. Genius! They organize watch parties. They set up web sites and facebook pages. They get you to follow on Instagram, and Snapchat, and Twitter. They send out emails. They appear on local TV and radio shows – with the intent of getting people to watch and vote.

And then when the live shows start The Voice has figured out a way to sell merchandise by the boat load. They have tied the number of votes that a contestant gets in part to the number of song downloads from iTunes that the contestant has. These are smart people! I can only imagine that advertisers are waiting in line to promote their wares on The Voice. And I can only imagine just how many advertising dollars the show takes in. Somebody should have thought about this kind of campaign before.

Oh wait, they did.

Of course it was in an age when all this technology did not exist but the concept was the same. Jesus gathered around Him 12 guys and he spent 3 years coaching them. He gave them a platform, as the disciples of a famous Rabbi (aka the Son of God), and told them to get the word out to as many people as possible – and tell those people to spread the word. Jesus developed a grassroots movement that very quickly spread across the world because people were personally invested in the gospel. Their lives had been transformed and they knew the power of the gospel to literally change the world by changing the hearts and minds of people. It was a brilliant strategy.

It is still a brilliant strategy. And the only way that the strategy breaks down is if we the people who have been changed by the power of the gospel fail to spread the word. The gospel mandate that we have been given will only goes as far as we take it. So let’s learn a lesson from The Voice and spread the word and get people on board with a mission that will not only change their lives but change the world – one person at a time… as they listen to the only Voice that really matters.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Tony Merida

QuotesWorthPondering“I love how Paul says to the Thessalonians, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves.” For some, evangelism is gospel with no life—megaphone preaching, handing out tracts, or street evangelism. For others, evangelism is life with no gospel. They equate doing lunch with doing mission. But Paul gives us a nice pattern here: Live life among others, as we speak the gospel to them.”

Top Ten – Masters Memories

Screen shot 2016-04-07 at 3.26.48 PMThis is the first of a series of “Top Ten” posts that I plan on doing over the next few years. I thought it appropriate, since my favorite golf tournament teed off today, to start with my top ten Master’s memories. These are confined to memories from my lifetime – whether I saw them in person or on the telly. I started going to The Masters around 1968 when I lived in Aiken SC thanks to the generosity of 1) friends who stayed at our house who had tickets and 2) my 1st cousin Alan who graciously allowed me to use his tickets many times over the years. The Master’s is the greatest golf tournament in the world and I have had the fortune to watch some of the greatest in the game make some of the most memorable shots ever recorded. So here are 10 of my favorite memories from Augusta National…

1) Over the years I have probably been to Augusta National 30+ times. And as much as I have enjoyed going I have also loved being able to take people with me who have never ever been – and then watching them fall in love with the course. One of my favorite memories is from the late 70’s when I took my buddy Andre Hawkins (a Tulane University suite mate). He was a huge Jack Nicklaus fan and when we walked on to the course and he saw him on the 1st tee he broke out into goosebumps because he was so excited. That happens a lot at The Masters.

2) This time of year it is not uncommon to see people proudly sporting their Master’s gear – hats, shirts, etc. Augusta National is very proud of their branding and it is not inexpensive to buy Master’s paraphernalia. But their concessions are  very affordable. I always look forward to getting their ham on rye sandwiches at the course, They are very yummy.

3) Nowadays you are not allowed to do any autograph seeking on the course side of the clubhouse. I was able to twice get Jack’s autograph as he walked from the practice tee back to the clubhouse. But in the early days of my going I got two autographs I am very proud of on the course side: 1) In 1972, I saw this 20 year old kid who was playing in his first Master’s standing near the 1st fairway with no one around him. I went and asked him for his autograph which he was glad to give me. In 1984 he won his 1st green jacket and then added a 2nd in 1995. His name was Ben Crenshaw. 2) In 1973, Tommy Aaron won the Masters. But he had to hold off a hard charging Jack Nicklaus who shot 66 in the final round and finished tied for 3rd. I had followed him around the course that day. When Jack exited the scoring tent just behind the 18th green he was mobbed by hundreds of people, including me, trying to get an autograph. I was several rows of people deep but thrust my arm through the crowd and somehow he grabbed my pad and pen, signed it, and even more miraculously got it back into my hand. I still have that autograph… somewhere.

4) In 1993 Bernhard Langer won the Master’s. It was his 2nd green jacket, having also won in 1985. The Sunday that he won also happened to be Easter Sunday. Langer is a very strong believer. I remember him saying after he had donned the green jacket that he considered it a great blessing to win The Master’s on the same day that we celebrate Christ rising from the dead.

5) Of course one of my favorite memories is from 1986. As a Nicklaus fan for many years and having followed him around Augusta dozens of rounds, I was thrilled to see him him win his 6th green jacket. Here is one of the most iconic moments in Master’s history:

6) One of the other iconic moments is when Tiger chipped in on #16 as he clawed his way to victory in 2005 for his 4th win and his last at The Master’s.

7) In 2004 I was out of the country on a missions trip to Jamaica during The Master’s. On Sunday afternoon I was very surprised to find a TV that picked up the telecast. A bunch of us from the team huddled around the TV and watched Phil win his first Master’s and then make his incredibly goofy jump into the air to celebrate. A jump I will never forget.

8) In 1986, 1987, and 1996 Greg Norman managed NOT to win The Master’s in very memorable ways. In ’86 he was tied for the lead going to #18, made bogey and lost to Nicklaus. In 1987, he lost to Larry Mize on the 2nd playoff hole when Mize chipped in from off the green. And in 1996 he blew a 6 shot lead on Sunday and lost to Nick Faldo who said, “It was the only time I felt sorry for someone I’d beaten.”

9) I will include 2 memories here just because they have similarity. In 1997 Tiger exploded on to the golf world with his 12 stroke victory over Tom Kite at -18. And then last year when Jordan Spieth made a definitive statement when he also shot -18 and finished 4 strokes ahead of Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

10) I will also include 2 memories here from the 2012 Master’s. The first memory is when Louis Oosthuizen made double eagle on #2 to vault him into contention. The 2nd memory is Bubba Watson’s shot from the woods on #10 – the 2nd sudden death playoff hole – an incredible gap wedge that he hooked 40 yards to put on the green and win him the championship over Oosy.

In years past I have written a couple of other Master’s related posts. If interested you can check them out here…

Amen Corner – A Metaphor for My Life

Easter and the Masters

Memories of the Masters – I wrote this 5 years ago – it has a few of the same things I mention here but also some that I don’t mention

Pondering the Word – Judges 6

2016BibleReadingChallengeJudges 6 tells us the story about Gideon and his initial encounter with and calling by the Lord. It is a story that has a lot of personal applications for us today. For example here are some of the application questions that come to my mind as I read this narrative…

Who am I afraid of? Who are the people that cause me to tremble? (v.11)

Do I recognize that the Lord is indeed with me at ALL times? Does He see me different than I see myself? (v.12)

Are there ever times when I feel forsaken and abandoned by God? (v.13)

What are the “wonderful deeds” that God has done that I can point to in my own life? (v.13)

How do I act like a man of valor when I do not feel like a man of valor? (v.14)

Do I ever try to get out of doing what God has called me to do? (v.15)

Do I ever question the fact that I have found favor in the eyes of God? (v.17)

How do I experience peace when life seems upside down? (v.23)

Speaking of peace… one of the great words of the Bible is used here to help Gideon get ready for the role he is to play. After scaring the bejeebies out of him, God says to Gideon “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” And Gideon responds by building an altar to the Lord and calling it “The Lord is Peace.”  The word for peace is shalom. Here is a little more info about this incredible Hebrew word (adapted from GotQuestions)

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 8.26.43 AMCommonly translated as “peace” and used as both a greeting and farewell, shalom has rich meaning in Hebrew. “Peace” is an accurate translation of the term, but shalom implies more than lack of conflict. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” It is translated “success” and used as part of an inspired blessing in 1 Chronicles 12:18. Shalom is applicable to an external peace between two entities—such as individuals or nations—and to an internal sense of peace within the individual.

True shalom comes only from God. Paul explains, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. . . . But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Romans 5:1–3, 8–10). We are no longer God’s enemies, but He has made peace with us through the blood of Christ.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him” (Romans 15:13)

Quotes Worth Pondering – Kent Hughes

QuotesWorthPonderingThe abiding spiritual fact is, there is no way to grow into spiritual maturity without committing one’s giving to the Lord. God can have our money and not have our hearts, but He cannot have our hearts without having all our money. Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21)

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