In 1924 William H. Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover founded Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. The purpose of Congressional was to provide the political and business leaders of Washington, D.C. a spectacular venue for golf, dining, and relaxation. Located just thirteen miles from the Washington Monument, Congressional was an immediate attraction.
Since its inception Congressional has hosted five major golf championships, including three U.S. Opens and one PGA Championship. In addition, it has been the site of the Kemper Open, the AT & T National, and this year’s Quicken Loans National Tournament.
The stories of Congressional are legion. In the 1950s Congressional was one of the favorite golfing venues of Dwight D. Eisenhower. It’s said that whenever Ike was on the course, the Secret Service would station sharpshooters in the trees lining several of the fairways and greens. In the early 1980s a federal judge, who no one seemed to like, was disbarred and incarcerated for killing a Canada goose on the 17th green. The reason for its untimely death was a poorly timed “honk” in the middle of “his honor’s” putting stroke. He missed the putt, but not the goose!
Over the years there have been a number of significant changes to the championship course at Congressional. In 1957, 1995, and 2006 several of the holes were redesigned by famed golf course architects. In 2006 Rees Jones flipped the 3 par finishing hole from number 18 to number 10. When I returned to Congressional more than a decade ago, so much had changed, that in many ways, I hardly recognized the place. And that’s saying something, because from 1976 to 1982 I logged thousands of hours at that Bethesda jewel.
During my graduate school days and years working as a policy analyst for the federal government, I worked at Congressional as a caddie and bag room attendant. On the course I caddied for Sam Nunn, Tip O’Neill, Bill Marriott, Tom Watson, Craig Stadler, and other notables. But there’s one person I caddied for who I remember most vividly not for her fame, her golf prowess, or any personal achievement. I remember her for what she said to me on the 17th hole.
It was early spring. She and her husband were my second loop of the day. On their 17th hole, my 35th, I was waiting in the rough on the right side of the fairway. She had hit her second shot to the right and I was standing by her ball waiting, with her husband’s bag on my shoulder and hers on the ground. Suddenly I began sneezing uncontrollably, like I had never sneezed before. I started itching my eyes and wiping my nose with my handkerchief. And when she arrived she asked a question I had never been asked. She said, “Do you have allergies?” I said, “No, I don’t think. I’ve never had them before.” And then she said something I’ve never forgotten. She looked at my watery eyes and said, “We all change!” How simple, yet how profound. For that’s the essence of the Christian life, isn’t it? We all must change!
In the Book of Ezekiel the Lord tells His people that there was coming a day when He would change them. He says it this way, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remake your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” You know what He’s talking about? He’s talking about what He was planning to do through Christ. He’s talking about the change He will execute in every Christian through the finished work of Christ. He’s talking about a time when His Holy Spirit will inhabit every one of His redeemed children. He’s talking about what He has done in every Christian heart and life.
Paul says it this way in II Corinthians 3, “And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (changed) into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Indeed, one of the clearest signs that we are His is the change He is working in each of us. How have you changed? How are you changing? Those are the questions that are at the heart of walking with Jesus.
This week we are in Acts 16 where Paul, Silas, and Luke have come to Philippi. The fact that they are there, and not hundreds of miles away, is a testimony of God’s power to change the heart and mind of Paul. Paul wanted to stay on the eastern side of the Aegean Sea, but God said, “Go west,” and so he does. He changes his mind. And that’s only the first change we see in this text.
This Sunday we are going to dig into Acts 16:16-24 and see 4 “Ds” that each signal change in the minds, the hearts, and the circumstances of those who are walking with Him.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
- Why don’t Paul, Silas, and Luke go to the synagogue at Philippi when they arrive?
- What are those women doing down by the river? (16:13)
- What does Luke mean when he calls Lydia “a worshipper of God”?
- How do we know that she embraces the Gospel spoken by Paul?
- What is behind her invitation to have these men stay in her home?
- What is the result of this act of hospitality?
- How does the story of Lydia prove that Paul has been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit?
- Why does Paul become greatly annoyed by the slave girl? (16:18)
- What is the effect of Paul’s command in verse 18 on the girl, Paul and Silus, the jailer and his household, and the church?
- How does the imprisonment of Paul and Silas signal an outbreak of freedom throughout Philippi and beyond?
See you Sunday!