Pop Pop Epistle # 144 – Memories of The Masters

 

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Dear Grandkids,

It’s that time of year! I am sure that you are aware of how much I love the Masters Golf Tournament.

Sitting here watching the Master’s and reliving lots of memories. I grew up in Aiken, SC – about 20 miles away from the course. I have had the rare fortune to be a patron (that’s the word they use) at the tournament more times than I can count. I started going in the early 70’s when friends from NC would come down and stay at our house – but not want to use their tickets  everyday. Then from the late 70’s to the present my cousin Alan, who lives in Columbia, would make his tickets available to me for the Friday round every few years. (Alan, if you happen to read this – mega thanks for all the memories.) Here are some of those memories from over the years:

Jack Nicklaus – I was a huge Nicklaus fan growing up. I would follow him around the course – and because I was young, fast, and knew my way around I could always finagle a good spot to watch him – even though he had the largest crowds. As a kid I was an autograph hound and managed to get his autograph 3 times.

Ben Crenshaw’s autograph – In 1972, Ben was playing in his first Masters. No one knew who this young kid was. I saw him standing by himself next to #1 – it appeared that he was almost in awe of the fact that he was there. I walked up and asked for his autograph. He would go on to win the tourney 2 times during his career and often credits me and the encouragement I gave him that day for his success. Not!

Tiger – I’ve also been a huge fan of Tiger, the golfer. I’ve always enjoyed watching his excellence and finesse on the course. I was there for the Friday round when he won for the first time in 1997 and I was there for the Friday round when he won in 2019 – “a win for the ages” and “a return to glory.”

Ham sandwiches – Never been a big ham eater but Augusta National had the BEST ham sandwiches. And you would be surprised to know that the food at The Master’s is priced very fairly – unlike other sporting events where you pay $10 for a sandwich and drink.

The pristine environment – Absolutely gorgeous! If you’ve ever watched The Master’s on TV then you know it is a pretty place. But I promise you that even HDTV cannot do justice to how spectacular it really is. And you will never see a speck of trash anywhere. And rumor has it that they even make sure the pine straw all lays in the same direction. Incredible attention to detail.

Taking family and friends – Because of the generosity of my cousin I have been able to take quite a few folks to see the tournament. In case you are not aware it is a very difficult ticket to get. It borders on a high and holy privilege to be able to go to The Masters. Scott has been able to go 4 times so far and Tucker once. And 2 years ago, Chad and Mary got introduced to the course. And then a bunch of my buddies. I will single out one memory. A college chum of mine, Andre Hawkins, went with me when we were at Tulane. He idolized Jack Nicklaus and loved The Masters. I remember standing beside #1 with him when Jack was on the first tee and he literally broke into goose bumps because he was so excited. That’s kind of the effect this great tournament has it’s patrons.

The roars of the crowd – You really have to be there to experience the electricity of the place – especially when it goes from being soooo quiet (again, hard to explain how quiet a crowd of 10,000 can be) to so loud when the crowd reacts to a great shot. There is a buzz that reverberates around the whole course in seconds and everyone is scoreboard watching to see what just happened.

The Greatness of the Greats – I’ve been able to see all the greats of the previous generations play the game of golf – Sarazen, Sneed, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Floyd, Casper, Nelson, Seve, Watson, Tiger, Phil, etc. It is unbelievable how good these guys are. I remember watching on the practice range as Tiger would land 300 yard shots within a few feet of each other at will. The commercial that says, “These guys are good,” is so understated. You realize this when you play the game of golf and then watch great players play the game of golf. It is a VERY hard game to be great at.

Amen Corner – This 3 hole stretch is tucked away on the far side of the course. #11 – a very difficult par 4 fronted by a pond, #12 – one of the most famous holes in golf with a tight little postage stamp green (fronted by Rae’s Creek) where many a tournament has been lost, and #13 – one of the greatest risk/reward holes in the game of golf. This little patch of property also serves as a metaphor for my life – which I have blogged about before.

A chance to play! – Okay, no not really, I haven’t had a chance to play Augusta National – but it is on my bucket list – so if any one else reading this has a connection and wants to make one of my dreams come true then you have my blessings to try.

It would be my great joy to take you to Augusta National one day. That may or may not ever happen. But perhaps we can sit in the comfort of my den and I can share some of the many memories I have of running around the course when I was a young lass.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

(Before the Pop Pop Epistles existed, and before you were born, I published a post similar to this in 2011. This is an updated version)

 

Brick #86 – Psalm 1

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The question that this Psalm prompts in my mind is this: I know that I should delight in God’s Word. I know that I would be blessed if I delighted in God’s Word. But I don’t delight in God’s Word. It feels more like drudgery than delight. How do I get to the point where pondering the Word of God is a delight and not a duty?

Great question. I want to give you an illustration and then some thoughts  by godly men who have wrestled with this very question.

The illustration:

Most people know that they should exercise. They know how much better they would feel if they exercised. They know that exercise would benefit them physically, emotionally, and mentally. But the idea of exercising defeats them before they get started. They don’t like the idea of all that sweat; those sore muscles; those dirty clothes; the cost of a gym membership or running shoes. They don’t like the time it will take and what they will have to give up if they are going to exercise consistently. But they do like the idea of feeling better; looking better; sleeping better. So they decide to start and find it to be drudgery just like they thought it would be. But they keep at it even when they don’t feel like it; even when it just feels like they are going through the motions. And after six weeks they begin to notice the benefits starting to kick in.  The have lost weight. They can run a mile without feeling like dying. They have gone from an ab to a two-pack. And before too long they realize they are looking forward to their scheduled exercise time rather than dreading it.

What once was drudgery and duty has now become delight!

Thoughts from John Piper:

So someone may ask: How can I come to delight in the word of God? My answer is twofold:

1) pray for new tastebuds on the tongue of your heart;
2) meditate on the staggering promises of God to his people.

The same psalmist who said, “How sweet are your words to my taste” (Psalm 119:103), said earlier, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). He prayed this, because to have spiritual eyes to see glory, or to have holy tastebuds on the tongue of the heart, is a gift of God. No one naturally hungers for, and delights in, God and his wisdom.

But when you have prayed, indeed while you pray, meditate on the benefits God promises to his people and on the joy of having Almighty God as your helper now and forever. Psalm 1:3–4 says that the person who meditates on God’s word “is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.”

Thoughts from David Platt:

I just want to encourage you to pray for this kind of delight in the law of the Lord. Ask the Lord for this. And pray this, and then think through, “Okay. How can I meditate on this word day and night? How can I make sure at the beginning of my day to fill my mind with God’s word? At the end of the day, to fill my mind with God’s word in a way that saturates the whole course of my day with God’s word?”

I guarantee you that if you are intentional about meditating, fixing your mind, your heart on God’s word in the beginning of your day, at the end of your day, and thinking through how can that saturate your life during the day, I guarantee you, you will see, discover, experience this word as delightful. Full of delight.

Thoughts from George Mueller:

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord…. I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God, and to meditation on it…. What is the food of the inner man? Not prayer, but the word of God; and… not the simple reading of the word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts.

May this brick help you to experience delight as you come to the Word of God each day – anticipating how the Lord is going to use His Word to strengthen you with everything that you will need to deal with whatever comes your way that day.

Pop Pop Epistle #143 – About Keith Green (and the Easter Song)

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Dear Grandkids,

As a teenager growing up in the ’70s (way back in the last century), music was a big part of my life – as it was for most people my age. I was a fan of some of the greats of the Rock and Roll era. But my very favorites included The Doobie Brothers, Chicago, The Eagles, and The Marshall Tucker Band as well as solo artists like Elton John, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor.

But the artist that had the most influence on my life was not a part of the secular music scene. I had become a believer in Jesus in 1974. Christian music was still in it’s infancy when Keith Green began his ministry as a young man of 22. He and his wife Melody, as very new believers living in the Los Angeles area, began taking people in need into their home and discipling them. Many of them were drug addicts, prostitutes, and homeless. They bought several more properties in their neighborhood as their ministry grew and as more and more people found out about their ministry. Their home was dubbed “The Greenhouse” – a place where people grow. In 1977, the Greens outreach became a non-profit ministry they called Last Days Ministries and in 1979 they relocated from the The San Fernando Valley to northeast Texas near Lindale.

Meanwhile he was writing music and performing concerts. His music called people to follow Jesus in a way that was at the same time encouraging and prophetic. People were drawn to his message because he radically lived out everything that he was singing about. (Don’t miss the lesson there). Not only was his music really good but it pierced people’s hearts like few artists were able to do. This was definitely true for me. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that you are alive because of the influence Keith Green’s music had on my life. (Read THIS and you will understand what I mean).

Tragically, at the age of 28, he was killed in a plane crash along with two of his children. But he left a legacy that many people, like myself, still tell as a part of their story.

He crafted a lot of memorable songs such as O Lord You’re Beautiful, Your love Broke Through, and You Put This Love in My Heart. But one of my favorites was actually a cover that he did of another artist. I think about and find myself singing it at this time of year. It’s called The Easter Song. It was written by Annie Herring of a group called 2nd Chapter of Acts.

The lyrics go like this:

Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
That You can be born again
Here the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ is risen from the dead
The angel up on the tombstone
Said, He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell His disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead
Joy to the world
He has risen, Hallelujah
He’s risen, Hallelujah
He’s risen, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
That You can be healed right now
Hear the bells ringing, they’re singing
Christ, He will reveal it now
The angels, they all surround us
And they are ministering Jesus’s power
Quickly now, reach out and receive it
For this could be your glorious hour

 

I had a chance to see Keith in concert in Dorton Arena in Raleigh not too long before he died. Check out his music when you get a chance. I think you will find that it nourishes and challenges your soul.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Brick #85 – Hebrews 13

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Chapter 13 is very different from all the previous chapters. The author is finishing up his letter and in a stream of consciousness sequence starts mentioning one thing after another that he wants his readers to remember. These include quick comments about love, hospitality, entertaining angels, prison ministry, marriage, sex, money, contentment, mentoring, false teaching, worship, sharing with others, obedience, leadership, and prayer.

There are two things that stand out to me besides all these one-liners. One is what I consider a funny comment and I wonder if the author said it tongue in cheek. Verse 22 says, “I appeal to you brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.” Briefly? Really? This is one of the longest epistles in the New Testament.

And secondly, I love the benediction in verses 20-21:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

If you are looking for a way to spice up the way that you pray for others just pay attention to the benedictions in the epistles. Here are some that I really enjoy: Romans 15:13, Ephesians 3:20-21, 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, Jude 24-25.

And now as we conclude our pondering of Hebrews I will pray a benedictory blessing over you:

May the God of all joy, who has torn away the veil that kept us from drawing near to Him, fuel you each day with a delight for His life-giving Word and give you a persevering hope as we endure the troubles of this world and eagerly await a kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Stuff and Such 21.8

 

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Pondering Hebrews 13 – I love the benediction that is found at the end of the Book of Hebrews…

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

I have been teaching Hebrews for the last 3+ months to college students. It has been an awesome book to ponder and to be reminded of the great truth that “Jesus is better” than anything this world has to offer.

Cabelands Trail to Eno Quarry Hike – We had a great hike with friends down to the Eno Quarry and then along the Eno River. Such a gorgeous day to be outside. We have loved our weekend hikes and it has been a great time to get to know people better.

The Zoo and Ezra’s Birthday – We spent last Tuesday at the Ashboro Zoo with Ezra who was celebrating her 2nd birthday. It had probably been 25 years since i had been to the zoo. It has changed a bunch. Lots of fun animals to look at but, alas, they do not have any hippos – my faves. Then Saturday we gathered at Moreene Park for a big birthday celebration with friends and family.

The Boys – When we left the Zoo, the boys (Grayson, Bowen, and Miller) came back to Durham with us and stayed until Saturday. Christy and Chad had their annual Friend’s Retreat in the mountains so Nona and Pop Pop got to have some grandparent time. We had lots of fun that included a hike on Eagle Trail that started at West point on the Eno and also a lot of bouncy bouncy fun. We had recently invested in a trampoline and the boys spent hours enjoying it. And from time to time Pop Pop joined in the fun as well.

A Cartoon – I am very aware that I am a much better communicator using the written word rather than the spoken word. I have a tendency to make assumptions and not seek clarity which sometimes results in unintended results. This cartoon well illustrates this.

 

Brick #84 – Hebrews 12

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3 Considerations. 2 Questions. 1 Reminder.

The Considerations

1) Consider the Race – The Christian life is often compared to a race. But it is much more like a marathon than a sprint. The race is long. The race is hard. The race requires much training in order to finish well. Serious runners are careful about diet. Serious runners train their minds as well as their bodies. Serious runners eliminate anything that would hinder their running. Serious runners have coaches to help them run better.  You get the idea. You can make the applications to running the Christian life with excellence and endurance.

2) Consider Those Watching the Race – The author has just talked about all the saints of old who are rooting for the present day believers to run well. I suspect the stands are full of our believing family members as well who have preceded us in death – cheering for us to stay the course, to run with perseverance, to do whatever it takes to run well. They have already crossed their finish line and want nothing less than for us to run  our race in a way that will have the Lord saying “Well done” when we cross our finish line.

3) Consider Jesus – I love verses 2-3: “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” There is nothing that we will go through in this life that is any worse than what Jesus went through. As we keep our focus on Him, and not the circumstances of this life, then the race is put into perspective when it seems crazy difficult.

The Questions

With all of that in mind a great question to ask ourselves is this…

Question # 1: What do I need to do NOW so that I am prepared when the race becomes unbearably hard? NOW is the time to prepare for then! Now is the time to ready ourselves for hitting the wall. Now is the time to prepare so that we do not give up when we feel like we can’t go on. What next step are you going to take so that you are ready when the time comes? And the time will indeed come. At some point, if it is not already here, life WILL be hard.

Sometimes life is hard just because we live in a fallen world. And sometimes life is hard because we are dealing with the natural consequences of our own sin. In either case, we know the promise of God’s Word that tells that “for those that love God all things work together for our good.” (Romans 8:28). So when life is hard that is NOT the time to grumble, complain, and whine. Rather it is the time to ask a great question…

Question # 2: WHAT, Lord, are you trying to teach me as I go through this sanctifying process of discipline and as You work in my life to make me more like Jesus? Many people instead ask, “Why God?” when life is hard. The better question is “What God”? It is a statement of faith to ask what rather than why because it underscores the fact that we believe the Lord is at work.

The Reminder

Even though the author of Hebrews has made it clear that life for believers will not be easy, he finishes this chapter by letting them know that it will still be worth it to run well and to finish strong. This life is temporary. The next life is eternal. This life is full of temporary pleasures; in the next life there will be fullness of joy. The kingdom of this world is shaky and unpredictable but we are receiving a “kingdom that cannot be shaken.” So his reminder to them, and to us, is that no matter what you go through in this world and no matter how hard life gets… it will get better. A LOT better.

May this brick help you to fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter  of our faith and to be encouraged when life is hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle #142 – Happy Birthday Ezra

Dear Ezra,

Happy Birthday #2 baby girl. You’ve done so much growing up in the past year. I’m looking forward to watching all the growing up you will do this next year.

Here’s something that you may already know. Your name means “helper.” Now I’m not sure if your parents named you after the Ezra in the Bible or if they just liked the name, but the Ezra in Scripture was most definitely a helper. Here are two ways that this played out in his life.

He helped the people of God return home – God’s people had been a part of the Babylonian Captivity. The Jews had been deported from Jerusalem and exiled for about 70 years almost 1000 miles from their homeland.. Ezra, along with Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, were instrumental in the return of the exiles.

He helped the people of God return to Word of God – Ezra loved Scripture. And he loved passing on his love for Scripture to others. His passion for God’s Word led to a national declaration of repentance and a renewed hunger among God’s people to live lives that were pleasing to the Lord.

Ezra 7:9-10 sums up these two things about Ezra…

 For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him.  For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

But note the key phrase in the middle of those verses: “for the good hand of his God was on him.”  The reason that Ezra was so effective in his ministry of helping was because God’s hand was upon him.

I will be praying as you grow up that God’s hand will indeed be upon you and that He will use you as a mighty helper among God’s people. In the meantime, it is my joy and pleasure to be your Pop Pop.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Brick #83 – Hebrews 11

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“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Question: What does faith look like in real life? What do those who live by faith do practically?

This is what the author of Hebrews addresses in chapter 11. As his readers are trying to get a handle on this new way of living, faith based verses rules based, he takes them back to their heroes and shows them practically how they went about living by faith. I have come up with 20 different ways – each of which are worth pondering how they might play out in your life.

Here is the question I find myself asking: Is there anything about the way that I live out my walk with Jesus that actually takes faith? Perhaps you might ask yourself the same question as you ponder these.

  • People of faith offer God acceptable sacrifices v. 4
  • People of faith seek to please God v. 5
  • People of faith live in reverent fear v. 7
  • People of faith obey even when… v. 8
  • People of faith cling to the promises of God v. 9
  • People of faith consider God to be faithful v. 11
  • People of faith live like strangers to this world v. 13
  • People of faith yearn for Heaven v. 16
  • People of faith give God that which they love most v. 17
  • People of faith bless others vs. 20-21
  • People of faith acknowledge God’s sovereignty v. 22
  • People of faith identify with the people of God v. 25
  • People of faith do not indulge in the fleeting pleasures of sin v. 25
  • People of faith look forward to their reward v. 26
  • People of faith stand against ungodly authorities v. 27
  • People of faith endure v. 27
  • People of faith live counter-culturally. They risk looking foolish v. 28
  • People of faith expect great things from God vs. 29-30
  • People of faith fight valiantly against the enemy vs. 33-34
  • People of faith suffer for righteousness’ sake v. 36

May this brick help you to live by faith each and everyday as you see to please God.

Bonus: A number of years ago I wrote a song about Hebrews 11:6. If you want to hear a bad singer and guitar player then you can check it out HERE. Just words HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle #141 – Where’s Waldo? Or Better Yet, Who’s Waldo?

Dear Grandkids,

The last time the boys were here at our house they pulled out the Where’s Waldo book from when your parents were little and we had fun looking for Waldo and scrolls and other stuff. The first Waldo book was published back in 1987 so Waldo has been in our home for a lot of years. Waldo had a great love for traveling, he seemed to always have a smile on his face, and in later books he was often accompanied by his beloved dog Woof.

But I want to tell you about another Waldo that you have probably never heard of but who is very much worth knowing about.

Peter Waldo was born around 1140 AD. He was a very wealthy, well-known merchant in the city of Lyon, France. He had a wife, two daughters, and lots of property. But something happened — some say he witnessed the sudden death of a friend, others say he heard a spiritual song of a traveling minstrel — and Waldo became deeply troubled over the spiritual state of his soul and desperate to know how he could be saved.

He started reading the Bible. But it was only available to him in Latin, so he hired someone to translate it for him. He sought counsel from a priest who pointed him to Luke 18:22, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” This Scripture pierced his heart – he realized that he had been a servant to money his entire life and he vowed from that point on to live in complete dependence on God for his provision.

He began to preach, especially among the poor. He began to develop a following that turned into a movement and spread throughout France and other parts of Europe. They became known as “The Waldensians.”

Waldo spoke out against the Catholic Church and many of it’s practices and beliefs and he began to come under fire from the church – eventually being excommunicated by Pope Lucius III. Even after Waldo’s death around 1218 the movement continued to grow – fueled by it’s love for God’s Word and it’s belief in the priesthood of believers. They were forerunners of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century and helped set the stage for everything that Luther and Calvin and Zwingli and the other reformers accomplished.

Jon Bloom says this about Waldo: “He was a merchant turned prophet who simply believed in the word of God with all his heart, which he demonstrated with all his life. And in taking God at his word, Waldo turned his world upside down.”

May it be so said of me. May it be so said of each of you.

And perhaps the next time you pick up a Where’s Waldo book you will also be prompted to ask not just where’s Waldo but who’s Waldo.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Stuff and Such 21.7

 

Disaster Relief – Last weekend I spent two days down in New Bern with 8 friends working on a house that was ruined from Hurricane Florence a few years ago. Baptist on Mission has a great Disaster Relief presence in the area and lots of houses that still need work. If anyone wants a great service experience I can hook you up for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or anywhere in between. No experience needed.

Lots of great hikes – Linda and I took 3 awesome hikes with grandkids to some of our favorite trails and then hiked with some good friends to a place that we had not explored before. The weather has been perfect for hiking and the Eno River is still running swift from all the rain which makes it fun to watch.

 

Facebook Live Pondering – On Wednesday nights our church is doing a Facebook Live Study and pondering our way through great books in the New Testament one chapter at a time. Currently we are in the Book of Hebrews. I was not scheduled to teach Wednesday but got called on that afternoon because of an illness. I am still getting used to speaking to a computer but little by little I am getting better at it. I muchly enjoyed pondering Hebrews 10 and looking at a bunch of the “LET US” passages in the book. If interested you can checkout the post HERE and click on Hebrews 10.

 

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