Thoughts on my time at Augusta National

I am at best a casual fan of Golf and Golfer. I know the big names, and that is about it. I follow the results of two of the four Modern Majors. I tend to forget about the British Open and the PGA because I’m American and I’m busy. However I always watch the Masters. So when my older sister offered the chance to go and watch the Masters in person I couldn’t pass it up. The experience was sublime.

There are things you will hear people talk about with Augusta. Mostly about it’s beauty and it’s azaleas in bloom. They will talk about how well manicured it is, and it’s all true. If the Garden of Eden were still on earth, I imagine it would look a lot like those 60 acres in Georgia with the addition of a few more fruit trees.

What is harder to describe are the sweeping views that are offered at many points on the course, and how open the course is as a whole. There are many spots from which the course lays open to you and you can see much of the action. It’s a course upon which a great tournament was designed to be watched.

Additionally, what is particularly difficult to put into words is how demanding the course is with your approach shots. You must be accurate or disaster awaits. If you didn’t put it in the right place par is a great score and a bogey is almost certainly realistic. That these players can shoot so low is a testament to their extreme skill.

While any of the most avid fans of the Masters certainly know the holes that befuddle the best in the world, the truth is that almost any hole offers the chance for you to blow it by simply being on the wrong side of the hole with your shot into the green. You have to know the right distance, the particular spot on the green that your ball will land, and where it will roll to in order to get close to the pin. Then you have to execute it.

It was amazing to watch these guys do it time and time again. It was amazing to see them miss it badly too, and then somehow, beyond belief,  recover and do something amazing. When watching from home it is easy to get the impression that they are simply lucky, but a day at the masters, watching group after group play their approaches into number two, made me realize that these guys are absolutely awesome at hitting it perfectly. Or hitting it perfectly on the next shot to save the hole.

If you get a chance to go there are 3 things you absolutely must do:

Stay as Late as You Can

First make sure you stay until the last group plays their final hole. Then walk from 18 to the South Gate. This was probably my favorite part of the whole experience. There was no one on the course but my brother and I. We got to see the greens up close, and take our time near the tee boxes. On top of that the scene in the sky matched the beauty of the course. The clouds were turning their hues of pink and orange as the sun slipped below the western trees. It was a lovely sight to behold.

Get There Early

Second, get there early to take part in the greatest group of speed walkers you will ever see trying to secure their spots around their favorite green or tee box. Since you are allowed to bring armless folding chairs into the tournament, and you can leave them there without fear of anyone daring to move them, it sets up a race for the best seats at the tournament. The catch is they kick you out if you run. So everyone has to do their best impression of an olympic speed walker.

They allow you on to the course around 7:30 but people start arriving around 5:30, I’m told, to get their place in line for the speed walking contest. You go through security around 7 AM.  Then try to beat as many people as you can to just outside the course where they then hold you for another 30 minutes or so. Then you’re off as fast as your stubby little legs can carry you to try to place down your chairs in your coveted spots.

It’s great fun trying to out walk all these people, but the bigger thing is, once you have your chairs down, you get to walk the course with no one on it. You can grab a chicken biscuit, with a coffee, at the concession stand, and walk up to a crook of chairs at 14 tee to get as close as you will ever get to 13 green. You can walk Amen Corner, and see the sweep of 13 fairway without having to fight someone for the view. You can see the dreaded number 12 green from the players point of view, and maybe finally understand why it gives them so much trouble. You get to be on one of the most beautiful stretches of grass, looking at the views the competitors will soon have in the silence of the morning; knowing that soon this place will soon be filled with excited roars of the patrons as the beauty of the course is matched by beauty of the golf being played.

After you have done all that you have your chairs to come back to at any point, hopefully set-up so you can watch the action up close, and watch your favorite golfers play through. Even your not so favorite golfers. One thing that is different about golf from other sports is that it really is the golfer versus the course and not each other. So in that way the patrons really do pull for every golfer. It doesn’t really matter if you like them or not. Seeing someone you don’t even know sink a shot of a sand trap will get you screaming at the top of your lungs, while you jump and pump your fist in the air.

Food!

Last, everyone talks about the pimento cheese sandwiches for $1.50. They are great. Eat a few of them, but please do yourself a favor and eat a egg salad sandwich too! And you have to try the Peach Ice Cream cookie sandwich. Incredible! Oh yea, don’t forget to watch the golf. It’s all incredible.

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Jesus: the Historical, Eternal Word of Life

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 John 1:1–4

If we have grown up hearing the scriptures, we can become so accustomed to hearing profound statements that we almost become numb to their full impact. It’s like the phrase at the end of our wedding vows. The pastor says “until death do us part”. It’s a beautiful statement of commitment to love until the end of our natural lives. But we hear it so often it’s very easy to glide right past it. Similarly, 1 John opens with a spectacular declaration of who Jesus is and if we aren’t careful we will miss it.

1 John is dealing with a church who had some of their members leave because they denied the apostles teaching on who Jesus was (2:18-25 & 4:1-6). And so John writes to reassure these believers that they know the truth. He does this by setting out a series of tests. Some are a set of beliefs, and others are a set of behaviors. But as much as it speaks to the people of his day it speaks to our day as well.

Correcting the errors of the party that left is extremely important to him so his opening remarks go straight to that effort.

Jesus is a historical person and his life a historical fact.

Three times in three verses John tells us that he, And the rest of the disciples, have seen, have heard and physically touched Jesus. His point is Jesus is a real live human. He had a body. John and the other apostles bore witness to his actions. They smelled him. They put their hands on him. They listen to his teaching. They shared meals with him.  John knew him intimately.

Why was it important? It seems that some of those who left the church in John’s day sought to deny that Jesus actually had a physical body. There were some who claimed that Jesus was simply a spiritual being. However as Paul teaches us in Romans chapter 5 that in order for God to rescue humanity he had to become human. Because of Adam’s sin we needed a human champion, a human representative before God, that could set things right. Jesus did this by living his perfect, sinless life, and by his death on the cross. If Jesus was not human then humanity was not redeemed.

And similarly in our own day there are people that would seek to deny that Jesus really ever lived at all. They may not teach that he was simply a spiritual being, but they seek to emphasize that he never existed as he’s presented to us in the Gospels. They would have you believe that he was simply made up by his followers,and his actions didn’t really occur. God did not really come down from heaven and take on a human form to live among us. If this is true, then we have no hope of salvation. For our sin is very real, and cannot be undone by mere myths.

So John starts his letter to these believers reaffirming that Jesus is very real. And it wasn’t just John that witnessed these things. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that not only did Peter see Jesus after his resurrection but so did James and so did 500 other believers.Paul himself saw the resurrected Jesus. Jesus is a historical person. His life is a historical fact recorded for us in the Gospels. We can take comfort in the fact that his words and deeds are so well attested to us in the scriptures.

Jesus is eternal

In verse 1, John writes, “That which was from the Beginning.” We should hear the echoes of Genesis 1 and John 1 where the creative word of God brings everything into existence. In Genesis it was Yahweh, and in the gospel of  John it was Jesus. This idea of Jesus being from the beginning is clearly pointing to fact he existed from all eternity, and that He existed before the creation of world. And if that isn’t clear enough, John calls Jesus “the eternal life, which with the Father.” This is clearly a claim to Jesus’ divinity since eternal self-existence is only an attribute of God.

Why was this important? To misunderstand who Jesus was on this point is to misunderstand the Gospel. The Scriptures teach us that each man is born into sin. The Scriptures teach us that our hearts are wicked, and that we cannot bring salvation to ourselves. They make clear that salvation belongs to the Lord. So salvation required a miraculous  act on the part of God. The Gospels teach us that Jesus’ perfect life and his death on the cross as both a man and the divine Son of God was that necessary work for our salvation. To deny Jesus’ divinity is to deny our salvation.

Likewise in our own day there those who will say that sure Jesus was a man who lived but there’s no way in which he was divine. Sure he lived an exemplary life. Sure he was a great teacher, but he was not God.This too misses who we are as sinners. We didn’t just need a better teacher. We needed a redeemer. We needed God to remake humanity in his own image. The image of his own Son.

Jesus is the word of life

Again think back to Genesis chapter 1 where it says, “God said let there be light and there was.” In Genesis 1 it was God’s word that created everything that came to be. Now go to John chapter 1 and we see Jesus, the word made flesh, is the one who created all that came to be. We hear that echo when 1 John 1:2 says, “Concerning the word of life.” I believe John means to reenforce that Jesus is the creative word of God.

But Jesus is not just simply the creative word of God. John tells us that he is the “word of life.”  What I take John to saying being here is that God did not simply create us and then leave us to live our lives as we see fit, but that He means for us to find our very purpose, the meaning of our existence in his Son, Jesus. John 17:3 is even more explicit when Jesus says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

In this John is very clear that there is life in Jesus and there is life nowhere else. As we will see in the rest of the letter of 1 John there is only life or death. There is no middle ground. There is no middle option. Life can only be found, meaning can only be found, and purpose can only be found in Jesus. Jesus is the historical, eternal word of life.

Modern Insanity

When you deny the obvious it is not a sign of intelligence but rather insanity. We live in a day and culture that seeks to deny the obvious on a regular basis. Rather than seeing it as insanity our culture believes that it has brought us to an enlightened sphere of existence. This insanity cannot long persist without major consequences for us and our children.

Now, We could go in one-hundred different directions from basic economics to sexual promiscuity to demonstrate how we believe things as a culture that are contrary to common sense. They are, however, all just symptoms of the real issue. What is really going on is that we would like to be autonomous and self sufficient. To believe this we must deny God’s existence, His nearness, and His authority. All nonsensical belief starts here.

We shouldn’t be surprised that our culture is doing this though. As crazy as it all seems it shouldn’t shock us. This is after all part of our sinful nature as fallen humans. This is why we fell in the garden, and certainly is almost exactly what Paul writes about in Romans 1:18-32. This is who we are as humans, and our hearts betray us all the time.

I know we weren’t always like this as a nation, and it saddens me that the stones of remembrance we erected years ago to protect us from ourselves have eroded. The kingdom of God advances, however, even though we do not. Maybe this all just makes apparent to us, that the United States was never synonymous with the Kingdom of God.