Pop Pop Epistle #130 – About Feasting and Leftovers

Dear Grandkids,

Yesterday we feasted.

I always look forward to our meal together on Thanksgiving because there is SOOO much yummy food. And so many yummy leftovers. I am a big fan of leftovers. I know that some people don’t like to eat leftover food but my philosophy is that if it is good enough to eat once then it is good enough to eat twice… or three times. Besides the turkey, I’m excited about my continued enjoyment of sweet potato casserole, corn casserole, deviled eggs, and mocha cheesecake. Yummers!

There is a feast that is mentioned in Scripture that I would love to have been a part of.

It is mentioned in Exodus 24 and I have never heard anybody teach or preach about this passage – but it intrigues me. Moses had just finished delivering the Ten Commandments and all the other rules from God for the people of Israel. Then the Lord invited Moses and the 70 elders of Israel to go up on the mountain for a time of worship and a thanksgiving feast. Verses 9-11 say this:

Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

It is passages like this capture my imagination. Here are some questions that I would love to know the answer to:

  • What was their first reaction when they saw God?
  • How would they describe Him to family and friends when they came down off the mountain?
  • What kind of food did God serve?
  • How did this moment change them? Was it a life-changing experience?
  • In light of this experience, what were they thinking  during the infamous “golden calf” incident (Exodus 32) that took place not too long after the mountain top experience?

Even though Aaron was on the mountain and a part of the feast with God we know from Exodus 32:2 that he was definitely complicit in the forging of the golden calf. I find it hard to imagine after what he experienced on the mountain how he could do this or let the Israelites talk him into doing this.

And then I am reminded that my memory is also short lived. I can feast on God’s Word and be in His presence in the morning and then turn around later in the day and pay homage to my own idols.

So here is my encouragement to you…. Enjoy the feasting each morning as you spend time in the Word but then nibble on the leftovers throughout the day so that you are never long removed from Scripture. This might take the form of going over a memory verse or pondering something you read in the morning or putting Scripture into practice or praying over the passage or having a conversation with someone about the text.

Feast. Nibble. Nibble. Nibble. Repeat tomorrow. This will go a long way in keeping you from having your own golden calf incident. If you are not yet familiar with this story then read Exodus 32 and let it serve as a warning to you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #69 – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

This succinct verse is one of many such admonitions that Paul gives at the end of his letter to the Thessalonians. It’s as if he has lots more to say but little time to say it so he just records any last minute thoughts that pop into his head.

This verse raises one very practical question: How do you pray without ceasing? Is it even possible to do what Paul is asking?

Me thinks the answer is yes, of course.  But it means that we need to get rid of our traditional way of thinking about prayer. Praying without ceasing has nothing to do with the posture of our body and everything to do with the posture of our heart. Traditionally we bow our heads and close our eyes as we pray. This is what we are taught to do when we are kids. This is what is modeled for us by our parents and pastors and Sunday School teachers. What we really need to learn how to do is not so much to bow our heads but to bow our hearts as we come before God’s throne of grace. Here are a  few postures of the heart that need to become ingrained in us if we are going to learn how to pray without ceasing.

1) A Heart Posture of Dependence – This may be the hardest posture for us to learn because as Americans we value independence so much. The American way is to do it ourselves and not depend on anyone else. So when it comes to complete surrender and dependence on God there is much that needs to be unlearned. Perhaps a good way to start a conversation with God is by saying at the very beginning, “Lord, I need you,” as a reminder to ourselves as much as anything. 

2) A Heart Posture of Obedience – There is a tendency for us to pick and choose what we want to obey or not obey. A posture of obedience says that we will obey what God’s Word says EVEN IF it doesn’t suit our fancy and EVEN IF it cramps our preferred lifestyle.

3) A Heart Posture of Gratefulness – We are looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The very next verse which is a part of the same sentence says this, “…give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ALL circumstances! A heart that is able to say “thank you” to God even when circumstances would suggest doing the opposite is especially pleasing to the Lord and is an audacious expression of faith in the goodness of God.

4) A Heart Posture of Expectancy – It was William Carey who said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” A posture of expectancy gets the order right. Pray FIRST, then act boldly anticipating that God is already at work. It is not uncommon for us to act first and then pray that God will boldly bless OUR actions. This is a posture of presumption and often results in unfounded disappointment with God.

May this brick motivate you to practice these four postures of the heart as you seek to “pray without ceasing.”

 

Pop Pop Epistle #129 – About being Thankful… for Fleas

Dear Grandkids,

So this is the week that our nation sets aside for giving thanks. The origin of Thanksgiving goes back to the Pilgrims in the 17th century but it was not until 1941 that the holiday was officially declared by the president to be celebrated the 4th Thursday of November.

For those of us who are believers in Jesus and hold Scripture up as the holy Word of God, thanksgiving is supposed to be a daily practice as we recognize that the Lord is at work in ALL the details of our lives. So we give thanks when things are going well and we give thanks when things are going not so well. During these crazy COVID-19 days it would be very easy to grumble and whine but our calling is to do otherwise. Gratitude is an expression of faith and faith is the primary identifying mark of Christians.

This was a lesson that Corrie Ten Boon learned when she and her sister were enduring the insane suffering that took place in World War Two concentration camps. She relates an incident in her book The Hiding Place that is worth remembering when life is less than ideal.

She and her sister, Betsy, had just been transferred to the worst German prison camp they had seen yet, Ravensbruck. On entering the barracks, they found them extremely overcrowded and flea-infested. That morning, their Scripture reading in 1 Thessalonians had reminded them to “rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks in all circumstances.” Betsy told Corrie to stop and thank the Lord for every detail of their new living quarters. Corrie at first flatly refused to give thanks for the fleas, but Betsy persisted, and Corrie finally succumbed to her pleadings. During the months spent at the camp, they were surprised to find how openly they could hold Bible study and prayer meetings without the guards interference. It was not until several months later that they learned the reason the guards would not enter the barracks was because of the fleas.

You have often heard me say that “Reyners are not whiners” – so the next time you are tempted to whine about something just picture yourself being covered with fleas… and then give thanks that you are not.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Francis Chan (Letters to the Church)

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“Many of us make decisions based on what brings us the most pleasure….We pursue what we want; then we make sure there are no biblical commands we are violating. In essence, we want to know what God will tolerate rather than what He desires. Maybe we are afraid to ask what will bring Him the most pleasure. Ignorance feels better than disobedience.”
Francis Chan – Letters to the Church

Brick #68 – Philippians 4:4

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“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice.”

So just how do we do what Paul is telling us to do? How do we “rejoice in the Lord always”? Does this mean that we can never be sad or depressed or grieve? I don’t think it means this at all. After all, we are human and we are emotional beings. But I think we can agree that finding our joy always in the Lord is a good thing. So again, how do we do that when so much of what we experience everyday is set up to rob us of whatever joy we do have?

Here are a few Scripture verses and a few comments that might help as you seek to “rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice.”

Reset your mindset. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds…” We need to train our minds to consider the trials and difficulties that come our way as growth opportunities and not roadblocks to our success.

Think eschatologically. Hebrews 12:2  says, “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.” If we can keep the end of our pilgrimage in mind then the journey becomes much less arduous and much more adventurous.

Listen for the singing voice of God. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Have you ever heard God singing over you? Find a quiet place and attune your heart to the heavens.

Sing when you don’t feel like singing. Psalm 5 which is a song starts off “Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.” And it ends like this, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.”  Oft times a good song is what is needed to rejuvenate and nourish the soul. Do you have a song like that?

Confess and repent. Psalm 51:12  says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”  Sin had cost David his joy. Heartfelt confession and genuine repentance was the way to get it back. The question we have to ask ourselves is this: Do we enjoy sin more that we enjoy God?

Remind yourself of who God is. Psalm 33:21 says, “For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.” The names of God are in effect reminders to us of the promises of God. Jehovah Shalom – God is our Peace. Jehovah Jireh – God is our Provider. Jehovah Rapha – God is our Healer. We often forget who our God is and it saddens our heart rather than gladdening our heart.

Delight yourself in God’s Word. Psalm 19:8 says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” And Jeremiah 15:16 says, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.”  Do we hunger for the Word of God in the same way that we look forward to our next meal? And have you asked yourself the question, “why not?”

May this brick help you to diagnose why you might not find your joy in the Lord and then give you some help in restoring the joy of your salvation.

 

Pop Pop Epistle #128 – HB Grayson… and About the Rubik’s Cube

Dear Grayson,

Happy Birthday my eight year old grandson. It continues to be an incredible pleasure to watch you grow up. I see you as a kind, compassionate, curious, smart young man who is an awesome role model for your brothers to look up to. And it is because of you that I tried a new thang this year. Because of your interest in the Rubik’s Cube I decided to buy a 3×3 cube and learn how to solve it. Which I did. I am not fast but I can solve it to my satisfactory pace.

But it has occurred to me that there are several lessons that can be gleamed from the Rubik’s Cube that you might not have thought about.

#1 – The cube is seemingly complex, but actually straightforward. There are millions of different permutations and yet it can be solved by knowing a few basic moves (algorithms) as well as when and how to apply them. Life can be this way too. Sometimes it appears as if it is a complete and unsolvable mess but once you understand what to do it is generally just a matter of time and patience to unravel the mess. The best place to learn how to solve an unsolvable mess is God’s Word. The Lord has a track record of creating beauty out of ashes.

#2 – Watching others solve the cube can be very very helpful. There are no doubt many people who have solved the cube without help from anybody. I am not one of them. I watched several YouTube tutorials to learn a method that made sense to me. As you grow up you will be tempted to try to figure out life on your own. My encouragement to you is to find people that you respect and learn as much as you can from them. Paul said in Philippians 4:9, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Find worthy role models – but also be a worthy role model for others.

#3 – Did you know that the center cube on each face is immutable? It never moves. It never changes position. Having confidence that those center pieces will never move lets you use them as a framework to arrange all the other cubes around. This is also true about God. He is immutable. And you can have complete confidence that if the framework of your life is built around Him then you can make sense of life even when it seems to make no sense. James 1:17 says it this way, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

#4 – There’s a huge difference between learning how to solve the cube and figuring it out. I have learned how to solve the cube but I have not figured it out. As far as the Rubik’s Cube goes, I am content with this. I am not content with this as far as my relationship with God goes. Many people are. Many people are content with knowing their way around the Bible; with being able to quote a few key Scripture verses; with knowing a lot of things about God. They have solved the “God problem” part of their life. But God is not a problem to be solved. I don’t want to know about God. I want to know God. And I know that I will NEVER “figure Him out”. Nor would I want to. If I could then He would not be a God worth knowing. Knowing God is a worthy lifelong pursuit of getting to know Him better. And as J.I. Packer says,  it a pursuit “calculated to thrill a man’s soul.” I hope it is a pursuit that you will zealously aspire to.

I am very grateful for you and love being your Pop Pop! May your birthday be full of bodacious surprises.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Philip Yancey (Prayer)

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“Like a flask of lightening, prayer exposes for a nanosecond what I would prefer to ignore: my own true state of fragile dependence…. Prayer helps correct myopia, calling to mind a perspective I daily forget. I keep reversing roles, thinking of ways in which God should serve me, rather than vice versa…. I need the corrective vision of prayer because all day long I will lose sight of God’s perspective.”

Brick #67 – Matthew 16:24-28

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Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

This week my pondering will be a little different. I want to share one quote and one story that I came across this week that I think are helpful in thinking about these verses.

The Quote…

John MacArthur writes: This passage sets forth the heart of Christian discipleship and it strikes a death blow to the self-centered false gospels that are so popular in contemporary Christianity. It leaves no room for the gospel of getting, in which God is considered a type of utilitarian genie who jumps to provide a believer’s every whim. It closes the door to the gospel of health and wealth, which asserts that if a believer is not healthy and prosperous he has simply not exercised his divine rights or else does not have enough faith to claim his blessings. It undermines the gospel of self-esteem, self-love, and high self-image, which appeals to man’s natural narcissism and prostitutes the spirit of humble brokenness and repentance that marks the gospel of the cross.

The Story…

Jim Elliot was a promising student at Wheaton College in Illinois. He was a champion wrestler, honor student, amateur poet, and was warmly admired by students at Wheaton. He dated and married the prettiest girl at the school. He was truly the “big man” on campus.

In his studies, he read the words of Matthew 16:24-28 and took them seriously. During his senior year, he wrote in his journal these now famous words: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

God called him to take the gospel to an unreached tribe, the Auca Indians in Ecuador. Elliot wrote, “Glad to get the opportunity to preach the gospel of the matchless grace of our God to stoical, pagan Indians. I only hope that He will let me preach to those who have never heard that name Jesus. What else is better in this life? I have heard of nothing better. ‘Lord, send me!'”

Unfortunately, he and his four associates were killed by the warriors before they could share with them. Jim gave up what he could not keep. He gave up his earthly life to gain what he could not lose: eternal life.

Due to the publicity generated by the martyrdom of the missionaries, thousands of other young men and women committed to missions to take their place. Beyond that, the widows of the martyred missionaries went back to that tribe and led those warriors to Christ.

Years later, a young man traveling in Ecuador flew in a small plane over the country. The pilot knew of Jim Elliot’s ministry.

“When we fly over the place where Jim Elliot and the others died, show me,” the man said to the pilot.

“I can’t take you there,” replied the pilot.

“Why not?”

“Because Jim Elliot did not die in Ecuador.”

Perplexed, the young man remarked, “Yes, I know Jim Elliot died here in Ecuador.”

“Jim Elliot’s body died in South America,” the pilot said, “but Jim Elliot died while a college student at Wheaton College several years before when he yielded his life to God no matter the consequences.”

May this brick help you to think about what it really means to die to self and to live for Christ; to deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Dallas Willard (The Divine Conspiracy)

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“Recently a pilot was practicing high-speed maneuvers in a jet fighter. She turned the controls for what she thought was a steep ascent-and flew straight into the ground. She was unaware that she had been flying upside down. This is a parable of human existence in our times-not exactly that everyone is crashing, though there is enough of that-but most of us as individuals, and world society as a whole, live at high-speed, and often with no clue to whether we are flying upside down or right-side up. Indeed, we are haunted by a strong suspicion that there may be no difference-or at least that it is unknown or irrelevant.”

Pop Pop Epistle #127 – About the Presidential Election Again – And Abraham Lincoln

Dear Grandkids,

The election I talked about in my last epistle is still not over. Half a dozen states are still being contested, law suits are being filed, accusations of election fraud are being tossed around and our country – once the envy of every nation in the world – is being mocked worldwide. This makes me sad.

I was recently asked the following question by a very compassionate and wise woman – you know her as Bett: Given everything that is going on in our country, what is the most important thing you want the next administration to work on? Here was my answer…

“Right now the political culture is Republicans versus Democrats. And there is a wide divide. I would love for the next administration to begin building bipartisan bridges where it is not us against them. So instead of Republicans versus Democrats, rather it is Republicans and Democrats working together for the good of our nation. The divide that exists in our country is just a reflection of the divide that exists in Washington. If we are indeed going to be the UNITED States of America then we need to model from the top down what that looks like.”

Interestingly, 160 years ago today, America elected a new president at a time when our country was probably even more divided than it is today. He received only 40% of the popular vote but still easily outdistanced the three other candidates that were on the ballot. That gives you an idea of the division that existed. That president was Abraham Lincoln.

By the time of Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states had seceded, and the Confederate States of America had been formally established. One month after that the Civil War began. Those were indeed dark days for our country. But as we look back through the lens of history, Lincoln is regarded as one of our greatest presidents for what he did to preserve these United States and to bring an end to slavery – and also for his powerful oratorical gifts. Here are a few quotes from him that are worth pondering during these turbulent days.

  • “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
  • “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.”
  • “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”
  • “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
  • “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
  • “I do not think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday.”
  • “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
  • “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.”
  • “Life is hard but so very beautiful”

My hope and prayer is that our country will heal and will once again become the moral and democratic leader among the nations of the earth. Perhaps in the years to come the Lord will raise up a leader that can effectively lead us to that end so that you can experience the greatness of America that I have known. But no matter what happens…

… Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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