Pop Pop Epistle #122 – 100 Days Left In 2020

Dear Grandkids,

Most people cannot wait until 2020 is over. It has been a year that most people would just as soon forget. So let the countdown begin.

September 22, 1862. There were 3 million people in our country who could not wait for that year to be over and were literally counting down each day.

On that date, Abraham Lincoln signed The Emancipation Proclamation which set a date (January 1, 1863) for the 3,000,000+ slaves in America to be freed. The proclamation officially recast the Civil War as a fight against slavery – a fight that many people would suggest is still going on 158 years later.

Even though slavery was officially abolished in principle it did not mean that it was abolished in practice. In fact, it did not become law for another 3 years with the passing of the 13th Amendment – but the Emancipation Proclamation was a very important first step towards ending slavery.

In Luke 4 Jesus applied an Isaiah 61 Scripture text to Himself when He said:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

His proclamation became “law” when He rose from the dead, amending the old covenant and providing a way for everyone enslaved to sin to be emancipated. Romans 8:1-2 puts it this way: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”

A few other choice verses to ponder:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Freedom is a wonderful thing. And yet many people, even believers who have been liberated from bondage to sin, do not experience genuine freedom in their lives. They still live in many ways as if they had never been emancipated. Don’t live “as if” lives. Cling to the cross daily and let the power of the cross and the power of the resurrection enable you to live in the freedom that the Lord created you to experience. A freedom that allows you to enjoy walking in the newness of life and savoring each day as a gift from God.

And never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Quotes Worth Pondering – A.W. Tozer (The Knowledge of the Holy)

QuotesWorthPondering

“Until we have seen ourselves as God see us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of hand as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing.”
Unholiness in our culture does not bother us the way that it should nor does unholiness in our lives bother us as it should. It would be like looking at Michelangelo’s David and watching someone splash paint on it and not caring that this pièce de résistance is being marred. “We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

Pop Pop Epistle #121 – Because God Said No

Dear Grandkids,

You are reading this now because God said NO! If God had said yes you would not be alive to read this.

Let me explain.

I was in the middle of my junior year at Tulane University in New Orleans. I was involved with a campus ministry organization called Campus Crusade for Christ and wanted to go on one of their summer beach projects in Myrtle Beach, SC. This would give me a chance not only to do the project but also to see many of my hometown friends over summer break. But God said no. I was not accepted to the project and planned just to go back to Aiken for the summer.

Meanwhile, Nona was in the middle of her junior year at UNC-Greensboro. She also applied to go to the beach project at Myrtle Beach. But God said no. She also was not accepted to the project.

Now keep in mind that at this point we had never met. I grew up in South Carolina. She grew up in North Carolina. And we went to different universities that were 800 miles apart.

We both received notification that even though we were not accepted to the Myrtle Beach project that we were accepted to the Galveston, Texas project. And you can guess how the story ends. We both went. We met. We fell in love. We dated 2 years. We got married. We had three awesome kids named Christy, Scott, and Tucker. They grew up and married three awesome spouses named Chad, Mary, and Danielle. And they had children named Grayson, Bowen, Miller, Keller, Audrey, Haddon, Asher, and Ezra (so far).

So you see that if God had not said no then you would never have been born because Nona and I never would have met.

We love it when God says yes! But sometimes (maybe more than we would like), God says no. And it confuses us and disappoints us and frustrates us and makes us wonder if God is even listening. But sometimes His no to one thing means that He is just waiting to say yes to something else. So while I still get confused and disappointed when God says no, I have learned to do something that can be really really hard – and that is to wait. Waiting is probably one of the hardest things we American Christians have to learn how to do because we are so used to instant gratification and getting what we want when we want it.

I am also learning to rejoice (even when I don’t feel like it) when God says no. I am certainly glad that HE said no in 1979 to Myrtle Beach. Because if He had said yes I would not get to be your Pop Pop. And I can’t imagine missing out on that.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #59 – Colossians 3:1-4

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Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (NIV)

So here’s the questions I’ve been thinking about: What’s the difference between “setting your heart on things above” and “setting your mind on things above”? And then, how do you set your heart and mind on things above in practice?

Setting your heart, I believe, has to do with desire. But how do you fuel desire for something? How do you develop desire? How can I increase my desire for God and the things of God. I think the answer, at least in part, has to do with “setting your mind on things above.” In other words I set my heart on things above BY setting my mind on things above. Why do I think this?

I love my wife. I have desire for my wife. But if I were to intentionally set my mind on other women, and think about them then I have no doubt that desire  for my wife would decrease and desire for women not my wife would increase. This is why porn is so destructive to a marriage. If I want to fuel desire for God then I need to think often about God. If I think often about ungodly things then my desire for them will increase and my desire for God will decrease.

Additionally, if I want to fuel desire for God then I need to participate in God experiences. Worship! Service! Missions! The more I experience God the more I will desire Him. Just as the more experiences Linda and I share together the more our desire for one another grows. If I were to neglect her and live my life without any regard for her – then any desire we share would soon fade away.

Now why would I even want to be so intentional about making sure that my heart and my mind are set on things above. Because…

1) according to verse 3, I belong to God. I have died to my old way of life. If I find that I am not interested in doing this then maybe I need to seriously consider whether I really do belong to God and really have died to sin and my old way of life.

2) According to verse 4, one day I will appear before God and I want to be able to do that without feeling ashamed or full of regret for the way that I defiled my heart and mind.

So all this to say that this is why this pondering of Scripture thing is so necessary and so beneficial  and why Scripture memory is such a great discipline to be in the habit of doing. This is why thinking intentionally about the beauty of Christ and the cross is so necessary. These help me to set my heart on things above and to set my mind on things above – thus fueling my desire for God and drawing me into closer relationship with Him.

May this brick help you to better understand how to set your heart on things above and draw you into a deeper, richer, more intimate relationship with our Father.

Quotes Worth Pondering – C. S. Lewis (The Great Divorce)

QuotesWorthPondering

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
(C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)
A question that unbelievers often ask is this: How can a good and loving God send people to Hell?” The truth that C. S. Lewis points out is that He doesn’t have to. Those who end up in Hell choose to go there themselves. There is another option. It’s just that most people are not willing to choose Door #1. Door #2, on the outside, looks much more appealing. It is only once the door is opened that people begin to regret their choice. No one who has ever walked through Door #1 has ever regretted their choice.

Pop Pop Epistle #120 – About Sunset Beach 2020

Dear Grandkids,

Well we didn’t get chased away from the beach by a hurricane this year. And actually we had very good weather. Maybe a few more flies and mosquitos than we would have liked. But still a great week. A loud, wild and crazy, crowded week – but a great week and it was awesome.

It was really interesting for me to see each of your personalities over the course of a week and to see the Lord’s unique handiwork on display. You are each a masterpiece of creation, being fashioned and formed into His likeness. Even the picture above gives a bit of a glance into each of your uniquenesses.

A year ago I wrote an epistle  rehearsing some of the memories from when your  parents were kids. Now we are creating a whole new generation of memories. Here are some that I suspect we will be talking about in year’s to come:

  • Crab Island
  • Jumping waves
  • The awesome holes that were dug on the beach
  • Game nights
  • Ryan and his “speedo”
  • Audrey’s elephant junk
  • Home made ice cream
  • The candy store
  • The 1000’s of bluefish that turned up dead on shore
  • Nacho table night

Here is a video that Christy put together to help us remember the week:

Here are a few verses to ponder as we think about our family:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

May we always remember the Lord’s faithfulness to our family and hold fast to the hope that we have. May we indeed spur one another on and encourage each other to treasure Christ and to seek to do good toward one another and those around us.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #58 – Matthew 14:22-36

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This passage is not an unfamiliar passage to most people as it details a well known incident in the life of Jesus: when He walked on the water and subsequently when Peter famously attempted to walk on the water as well.

But most people overlook the emotional context of these verses. Jesus had been trying to find some quiet space all day. This is why Jesus had sent his disciples to the other side of the lake without Him. He had just finished an exhausting day of taking care of other people’s needs – feeding 5000+ people and healing lots of folks in the crowd – crowds that would not leave Him alone.

But even before all that happened He was looking for “a desolate place” where He could be alone. He greatly desired some time to Himself. Why? Because that morning He had gotten the devastating news that His cousin and good friend and fellow preacher John the Baptist had been put to death at the hand of Herod the tetrarch. He wanted some alone time so that He could grieve and spend time in prayer with His Father.

Sometimes the demands of life do not allow us to do what we would like to do. Jesus could easily have begged off for the day – and given the circumstances people would have probably understood. But He knew that He was needed so He plodded along even though He was physically and emotionally weary.

And I am grateful that He did. Two of the greatest miracles recorded in the New Testament happened because He plodded along, doing what needed to be done even when He would have preferred to just be alone.

As someone who greatly values alone time I know how hard it is to keep plodding and to keep being available to people when I don’t feel like it. But I also know the value of trusting God to use me and to strengthen me and to fuel me for what He wants to do through me. Sometimes God will do His greatest works in our lives when we don’t feel like doing anything.

So just keep plodding! Easier said than done sometimes. Here are three succinct thoughts that might help you proficiently plod.

  • Keep looking forward. When you look down or look back you will lose sight of the goal and are more likely to give up.
  • Never forget that His grace is sufficient for you and that His power is made perfect in our weakness.
  • There is nothing wrong with being a lifelong plodder. This is how the turtle beat the hare.

So just keep plodding!

May the Lord use this brick in your life to remind you that His greatest miracles might just happen when you least expect it as you just keep plodding.

Quotes Worth Pondering – Charles Colson

QuotesWorthPondering

“For most of us, life is messy and confusing, filled with paradoxes. We wake up in the night, worrying about our jobs, our kids, or the best laid plans, which suddenly unravel due to the pressures of living in our high-tech, fast-moving world. One day we seem to have things under control; the next day we get steamrollered by events. If you haven’t experienced this, please write me; you would be the first person I know to have life all together.”
Charles W. Colson, The Good Life
We have a tendency to put on a good front when in reality most of our lives are “messy and confusing, filled with paradoxes.” This is a good reminder that all of us are dealing with the messiness of life and that NOBODY has their entire act together. Some of us just do a better job of hiding our messiness than others.

Pop Pop Epistle #119 – About My High School Yearbook

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

I took a walk down memory lane yesterday. I pulled out my high school yearbook from my senior year (1976) and looked through all the pictures and read most of the things that were written to me. Here are a few of the things things that I discovered:

  • Evidently I didn’t make a great first impression on people – several people didn’t like me at first, but then when they got to know me they loved me.
  • My eyes and my smile must have been 2 of my good features.
  • I was thought of as a good athlete and a good student.
  • Several people that signed my yearbook I have absolutely no recollection of
  • In my mind, all of the people in that book still look the way that they did 44 years ago. As do I.

As I looked at the pictures of all the people I graduated with, I began wondering about their stories – and what tales they would tell about the almost last half century. What did they do with their lives? Here is a short list of just some of the people I know about – there are lots of people that I don’t know about. Our graduating class included:

A Navy Seal, a college professor, a college administrator, a college football player, a Business Development Director for DisneyWorld, doctors, dentists, lawyers, sales executives. pastors, entrepreneurs, a novelist, a sports management consultant, teachers, a high school principal, the first African American woman to graduate from the Naval Academy, an Airline pilot, stay-at-home-moms, an interior decorator, career military, accountants, bankers, etc.

We were an accomplished bunch. And as impressed as I am, if they were telling me their stories what I would really want to know would be questions like these:

Did they experience joy in their lives?

Do they even now live with contentment and satisfaction?

Did their jobs help them do what God created them to do?

Are they leaving a legacy that makes their heart glad?

As they look back on their life do they smile?

So many faces stared back at me as I flipped the pages of my yearbook. So many stories I would love to hear. But what I am looking forward to is watching your stories unfold and being a part of helping to write them. Now is a good time to begin asking the right questions so that 44 years from now you can re-read the story of your life… and smile.

Can you pick me out in this picture?

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Brick #57 – 1 John 5:11-15

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There is much that can be pondered from this passage but I will focus on verse 13:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

Jesus defines eternal life back in John 17:3 like this: “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

So another way to say 1 John 5:13 might be like this: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you know God and His Son Jesus.”

Know that you know. It is important that we know that we know. That we have confidence and assurance that we are children of the King. So let me explore this word “know” a bit.

 The word “know” can be pretty nuanced. I can think of at least three different ways this is true in relation to God…

1) It is possible to know about God and not really know God. It is even possible to express love for God and not really know Him. For example, when I was growing up my first favorite musical artist was Jim Croce. I did not know Jim Croce. But I did know a lot about Jim Croce and even had most of his songs memorized. It would not have been unusual for me to say, “I love Jim Croce.” Now of course what I meant was that I loved his music. In the same way, it is  possible to know a lot about God and even have a lot of His Word memorized but to not really know Him at all.

2) It is possible to know God personally but to not know Him intimately. In other words, it is possible to have a relationship with God and that that relationship is only superficial. And it is superficial because that is the way that we choose it to be not the way that God chooses it to be. The Prodigal Son is an example of this. The father yearned for a close relationship with his son but the son kept him at arm’s length for much of his early life. Much like we do with our Heavenly Father. We know Him and have a relationship with Him but we don’t have the kind of relationship that the Father longs for.

3) It is possible to know God both personally and intimately. The Hebrew word for “know” in the Old Testament is an interesting word. It is transliterated “yada.” ( Some of you will remember the yada yada yada Seinfield episode from the 1990’s.) Genesis 4:1 says “And Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” There was an intimacy in that kind knowing that husbands and wives (hopefully) experience when they make love. As believers we are the bride of Christ and designed to know Him not just personally but also intimately. The Lord longs for a closeness with us as a father does with his children. He doesn’t want to be kept at arm’s length.

May the Lord use this brick to help you discern the level of “knowing” that you have with the Father and to take the next step to know Him better.

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