Brick #110 – 2 Timothy 1

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There is much in this chapter to ponder. I will focus on verse 7 and try to answer the question “How do we fight fear?”

…for God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.

 

Timothy was the pastor of the church in Ephesus at the time that Paul wrote him this letter. Paul was  most likely imprisoned in the Mamertine Prison in Rome and not many days away from being put to death. If anyone had much to fear it was Paul. And yet he writes with a calm assurance that all is well with his soul. Timothy on the other hand was struggling with fear.

Perhaps his fear was because of antagonism towards the gospel. Perhaps it was fear of disappointing Paul. Perhaps it was because of growing persecution. Perhaps Timothy did not feel that he was good enough to fill Paul’s shoes – a good enough preacher and teacher, a good enough pastor and leader, a good enough model and mentor for others.

We all carry around certain fears. Paul writes to encourage his young protege to fight fear lest it paralyze him and keep him from being used as an instrument of God. In verses 6-14, Paul mentions 6 things that Timothy can use to fight fear…

1) Remember that the Lord has gifted you to do what He has called you to do (v. 6) – To say it another way –  whatever God requires, God supplies. The Lord equips His servants to do whatever He requires of them.

2) Embrace suffering for the sake of the gospel (v. 8) – When we accept the fact that suffering is not only a natural part of our journey but also a supernatural tool that God uses for His purposes then it makes it easier for fear to give way to faith.

3) Never forget what Jesus did for you (vs. 9-10) – We will never have to go through what Jesus went through. As we fix our eyes on Jesus who willingly and for our sake endured the cross, things in this life begin to take on a new perspective and that which we fear loses its grip on us.

4) Watch those who heroically champion the gospel and follow their example (vs. 11-12a, 13) – Boldness will often emerge when we watch others do what we are afraid to do. The thinking goes like this: If they can do it then surely I can do it too.

5) Make sure you really believe what you say you believe (v. 12b) – Sometimes fear will take root in our lives when our convictions are not what they should be. Do we really believe that God’s Word is truth? Do we really believe that people are far from God and need a Savior? Do we really believe that we need God’s abiding presence in our lives to help us navigate this world? If not then the enemy will use fear to immobilize us and keep us from pursuing kingdom purposes.

6) Allow the Holy Spirit to fill you, lead you, and empower you. (v. 14) – Courage is not the absence of fear. It is doing what we fear in the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells mightily within us. Sometimes fear is an indication that we are doing what is right and that we need to trust the Spirit within us to overcome.

May this brick help you to fight against any of the fears that are keeping you from taking your next steps in this great adventure that the Lord has given us.

Pop Pop Epistle # 159 – About The Baseball Hall of Fame

 

Dear Grandkids,

In my last epistle I told you about our Niagara Falls adventure which checked a box on Nona’s bucket list. We traveled from there to the Finger Lakes  – had an awesome hike at Watkins Glen State Park – and then on to Cooperstown to take care of one of my bucket list items. Truth be told, I had been to Cooperstown when I was about 11 years old but I had almost no memory of that visit. And a lot of baseball has been played since then so since we were in Upper State New York it made sense, for a baseball fan such as myself, to pay a visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The first thing you do when visiting the hall of Fame is to watch a 15 minute video that reminds you of some of the great moments of the game. I’m not gonna lie, I teared up watching it as I remembered just how much baseball was a part of my growing up years and how much I loved learning about the history of the game.

Then you can spend however much time you want to just walking around the three floors and looking at all the exhibits. It would not be hard to spend 6+ hours doing this – but we spent about two. I included the plague of Willie Mays in the picture above because he was my favorite player growing up… The Say Hey Kid. The two guys on the bottom left are Babe Ruth and Ted Williams (The Sultan of Swat and the Splendid Splinter). The fella on the bottom right is Roberto Clemente (The Great One). You can tell that one of the legacies of the best to ever the play the game is the nicknames that they were given.

You probably know that the people of God have their own Hall of Fame – or rather Hall of Faith – found in Hebrews 11. It would not surprise you to see inductees like Noah, Abraham, and Moses. But the surprising thing to me is to see names like Gideon, Samson, and Jepththah. The Book of Judges seems to go out of its way to point out their flaws and seeming lack of faith. And yet here they are in Hebrews 11. Although it is surprising it is nonetheless encouraging. Evidently these men, as flawed as they were, demonstrated remarkable faith during the course of their lives – perhaps in ways that were not recorded in Scripture but were a part of the oral history passed down through the generations.

So there is hope for me yet. Perhaps my flaws, though recognized, will be far outweighed by my faith. Hebrews 11:6 puts it this way…

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.

 

And perhaps one day too I will be tagged with a really cool nickname like Willie, or Babe, or Ted, or Roberto, or Hank, or Joe, or Ernie, or Ozzie, etc.

But you can always call me Pop Pop! That’s the coolest name that I can think of.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #109 – Psalm 42

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The Psalmist gives us several ideas about what to do when our soul is in turmoil. Two of them you might be familiar with. The third idea perhaps not so much.

1) Sing and Praise God – The Psalmist wrote this song (maskil) as a way of dealing with his despondency. He knew that by writing and then worshiping God through music he would intentionally take his eyes off of his own situation and put them on God. That is always a good thing because our tendency is to focus on everything that is wrong rather than the One who makes all things right.

2) Talk to God – In the first few verses we see the Psalmist pouring his heart out to God. Watchman Nee said, “Our prayers lay the track down upon which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, His power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.” Prayer is the first step toward harnessing the power of God. And if ever we need God’s power to be manifest in our lives it is when our soul is downcast.

3) Talk to Ourselves – Always we need to talk to God and often we need to give ourselves a good talking to. That is what we see the Psalmist doing throughout this Psalm. What do you say to yourself when the soundtrack running on replay in your mind is “Woe is me?” 

  • Remind yourself  of a time when you experienced the nearness of God and remember what that was like. This is what we see him doing in verse 4.
  • Remind yourself of all that God has done for you beginning with what He did for you at the cross. (verse 5)
  • Remind yourself of some of the promises of God that are near and dear to your heart. (verse 8) Here is one of my favorites:

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. (Zephaniah 3:17)

 

  • Remind yourself of who God is. In verse 9 we see the Psalmist reminding himself that God is, has been, and always will be his Rock.

May this brick give you some ideas of what to do when you find that your soul is in turmoil.

Brick #108 – Psalm 34

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Before looking at Psalm 34 specifically here are a few tips I came across about reading and pondering The Psalms in general.
 
1) Read Contextually – For most of the Psalms we do not really know what the context is. But for some of the Psalms we do. In these cases read about the surrounding context and what prompted the psalmist to write what he did.
 
2) Read Theologically – In other words, as you  read the Psalm try to understand what it teaches you about the character of God – how can the Psalm help us to know God better.
 
3) Read Devotionally – This is the way most of us approach The Psalms. We need nourishment for our soul. We need to know that someone else can identify with what we are dealing with, We need a way to appropriately express our sadness and fear and discouragement and depression and waywardness. The Psalms help us do this perhaps better than any other book in Scripture.
 
4) Read Christocentrically  – How does the Psalm point us to Jesus? What does the Psalm say that looks forward to the coming of Messiah and how does it help us keep our eyes on Jesus?
 
Now about Psalm 34 specifically….
 
Psalm 34 is what is known as an acrostic Psalm. Each verse starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet… almost. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. There are 22 verses in Psalm 34. Successive Hebrew letters are used to begin most of the 22 verses. Why did David use this writing technique? Perhaps it was for pneumonic purposes (a memory aid) which is why most acrostics are used.
 
Reading it Contextually – This is what we are told: “Of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away.” To get the full context  you can read 1 Samuel 21- 22:2. The short story is this – David was running for his life from Saul who was trying to kill him. After his encounter with Abimelech (aka Achish), he took refuge in a cave along with his family and a bunch of other social misfits. It is probably while David is hiding out in the cave that he writes this Psalm. Knowing this is very helpful to understand the emotions and difficulties that he was dealing with and helps us identify with what he was going through.
 
Reading it Theologically – Some of things that see this Psalm teaching me  and reminding me about God include…
  • He is my deliverer (vs. 4, 7, 17, 19)
  • He hears me (vs. 6, 17)
  • He is good (vs. 8, 10, 12)
  • He is my refuge (vs. 8, 22)
  • He is my redeemer (v. 22)

Reading it Devotionally – Verse 1 is my biggest devotional takeaway: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” No doubt David was confused and afraid and crushed in spirit (v. 18) and yet he determined to praise the Lord no matter what his circumstances were and what his emotions suggested he do. What a lesson – praise helps us focus on God when we are prone to want to focus on ourselves. It is a biblical remedy for whatever ails us.

Reading if Christocentrically

Some verses of Psalm 34 are referenced in the New Testament:

  • Verse 8 is quoted by Peter in 1 Peter 2:3 and verses 12-16 are cited in 1 Peter 3:10–12. No doubt this was a favorite Psalm of Peter.
  • Verse 20 is alluded to in John 19:36 where it is noted that not one of Jesus’ bones were broken during the crucifixion.

For bonus reading you might check out Psalm 57 which also was written during the same time frame as Psalm 34. Evidently when David was feeling like life was crazy, he was greatly inspired as a songwriter.

May this brick help you to better understand how to read the Psalms and to nourishment for your soul from Psalm 34. 

Pop Pop Epistle # 158 – About Niagara Falls

 

Dear Grandkids,

Nona and I just got back from a 40th anniversary getaway. Our anniversary was back on August 1 but because Judah was expected to be born around that time we put off our trip until last week. Glad we did. The cooler weather was awesome.

One of the places we visited was a bucket list item for Nona – Niagara Falls. I had gone there with Bett and Gus about 50 years ago but had almost no memory of it other than being there. (Perhaps you have already seen this post from last year.) It really is worth a visit just because the waterfalls are so spectacular. There are in fact 3 waterfalls – The American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls – which can all be seen in the picture below on the left. The American Falls is on the left, Bridal Veil is just to the right of the American separated by Luna Island, and Horseshoe is on the right.

A couple of things that I was amazed by:

1) Just how close you can actually get to the top of the waterfalls…

2) Just how cool it is to be on a boat at the bottom of the falls…

3) How much water flows over the falls day after day after day.

Having seen the Falls up close and in person made me wonder why someone might say to themselves, ” I wonder what it would be like to go over the Falls in a pickle barrel?” That is exactly what Annie Edison Taylor did in 1901. She was 63 years old, a civil war widow, a retired school teacher who needed money. And she surmised that a plunge over the Falls was a good way to make some. She survived the stunt – perhaps because she took her cat with her who had some extra lives to share – but the scheme did not produce the cash flow she hoped for. 16 people have gone over the Falls in the name of adventure and the hope of fame and fortune. 11 have survived.

I like a good adventure as much as anyone – but…

I hope you get to visit the Falls one day. As Nona said, “Niagara Falls did not disappoint.”

To reiterate the Scripture I posted from Psalm 42 in the aforementioned Pop Pop epistle…

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

 

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #107 – Jude

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I’m going about this pondering post a bit different than I usually do. Instead of giving some of my ponderings, I am going to give some questions that came to mind as I read the book – as well as a few internet resources that I found helpful.

 
Who was Jude? (see #3 in this link)
 
Verse 1: What does the word Beloved mean? Jude uses it several times in the first few verses.
 
Verse 3: What does it mean to contend for the faith? How do we do it?
 
Verse 4: What are some ways in our day that we see the grace of God being perverted? (Check out this article)
 
Verse 5: What reminders do we need to hear often today as the people of God?

Verse 11: “The way of Cain” – The way of Cain refers to any individual who attempts to approach God on his or her own terms rather than on God’s terms.

Verse 14: What do you know about Enoch? See Genesis 5:18 and THIS
 
 
Verse 20: How do you build yourself up in the faith? How do you “keep yourself in the love of God?”
 
Verse 23: How do you demonstrate mercy to those who doubt? How do you “snatch” them out of the fire?
 
Verse 24: What is a doxology?
 
May this brick help you get to know this little book better and to think about some of the issues that he addresses.

Brick #106 – 3 John

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This is a great little letter from the Apostle John to a dear friend named Gaius. I love the first five verses:

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2 Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 5 Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are…

Got Questions says this about the word beloved, which John uses 3 times in these verses to refer to Gaius: “In the inspired letters, beloved means “friends dearly loved by God.” In the New Testament, the use of the word beloved implies more than human affection. It suggests an esteem for others that comes from recognizing their worth as children of God. Those addressed were more than friends; they were brothers and sisters in Christ and therefore highly valued.”

 

Three other things strike me about these verses…

1) John prays for Gaius about mundane things – that things will go well; that his health will be good; that his soul will be refreshed. His prayer does not use flowery language or sound super spiritual. It is just a simple prayer for a dear friend.

 

2) John encourages Gaius because of his “walking in the truth.” I need to do more of what John does here – write an encourage note to those who are steadfast in their pursuit of God and let them know that it gives us joy to see how they are living out their faith.

 

3) John affirms Gaius’ faithful ministry even to those who are strangers to him. It is much easier to minister to those that we like and who are friends. But strangers are a different story. John wants Gaius to know how much he appreciates his ministry to people who will most likely not be able to reciprocate his kindness and generosity.

 

May this brick give you some ideas about how you can encourage those in your “beloved” circle of friends.

Pop Pop Epistle # 157 – About Sunset Beach 2021… and Naked Man

 

Dear Grandkids,

Perhaps you notice that I am unveiling a new picture with this epistle. Judah makes his first appearance on the banner picture and now all nine of you are accounted for – as well as your parents. As I look at this picture I can see a little bit of each of your personalities shining through in this one moment frozen in time.

So what will we remember from Sunset Beach 2021. Here are a few from my perspective.

Great weather – Not too hot. Not too cold. Good breeze off the ocean. Maybe the best weather we’ve had yet.

Lots of walks – All the early morning walks. The turtle hatchlings walk where we did not get to see turtle hatchlings. The excursion to “jellyfish” bay. Walks to Crab Island and the shops at Sunset. Lots of steps for the week.

The melted ice cream fiasco – My new love affair with Blue Bell ice cream did not turn out so well since the freezer was not keeping the ice cream frozen  But the soft serve was still yummy.

Sam – If this doesn’t ring a bell, just think of Aunt Jeanne’s foot.

Boogie boarding and wave jumping – Really good waves to catch with G and to jump over with the younger cousins

Chess Games – Lots of chess games and trying to teach about the dignity of resigning honorably.

Desserts – So many great cookie varieties – especially my double chocolate pudding cookies.

Naked Man – This is the one we will probably remember most about Sunset 2021. Police cars outside our house. Christy opening the door to go downstairs to find out what was going on – only to find a naked man passed out on the top step of of the stairway. “There’s a naked man on our steps” will long be remembered as an iconic beach memory and one of those statements you just don’t expect to hear on vacation.

Christy always does such a fantastic job with a recap video – we tried to do a re-enactment of naked man but it just doesn’t have the same effect with clothes on. Enjoy and remember and…

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #105 – 2 John

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2 John is the shortest book in the Bible – a mere 13 verses. John has two things he is trying to communicate in this succinct communique’.

Walk in Truth – John continues to be concerned, as he was in his first epistle, about deceivers who have infiltrated the ranks of the church. These are people who are teaching a false gospel and spreading untruth. This is still a concern in our world today. As a believer in the one true God and the one true gospel, make sure that you measure everything that you hear being taught against the truth of the Word of God. Not everyone who preaches or teaches in the name of God does so with a conviction that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

Walk in Love – Warren W. Wiersbe said: “Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy.”

Scott Mehl said, “Too many people have been convinced that biblical truth “doesn’t work,” not because there was a problem with the truth, but because the truth wasn’t communicated with love.”

We must speak the truth. But we must absolutely do it in a way that is accompanied by love.

May this brick help you to experience what John says in verse 3 at the beginning of this letter:

“Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.”

Pop Pop Epistle # 156 – Where I was 20 Years Ago Today

 

Dear Grandkids,

Today we say goodbye to Sunset Beach. Another family vacation is in the books, more memories to hold onto, and back to real life. But it only seems appropriate to remember for you what happened 20 years ago today. It was perhaps THE most culturally defining day of my lifetime. And I have lived through a lot of defining moments – a presidential assassination, Watergate, Vietnam, a moon landing, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, etc. What happened 20 years ago today dramatically changed our country and we feel the ripple effects every. single. day.

It was a Tuesday. Sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 AM. I was in the parking lot at the Post Office down the street from my church when it was announced on the radio that a plane had crashed into the side of one of New York City’s Twin Towers. At the time it was reported as a crazy air mishap. But 30 minutes later when another plane crashed into the other Twin Tower we began to understand that this was more than accidental.

Little did we know how much more. I was meeting a friend for lunch at Elmo’s Diner in Durham when we got the news  that a plane had crashed into the Pentagon and another plane (Flight 93) had crashed in Pennsylvania. We would later find out that it was targeting either the White House or The US Capitol Building. I can remember saying to my friend, “What is going on?”

As the day unfolded we learned that these four planes has been hijacked by  terrorists – later to be associated with the group known as al-Qaeda and masterminded by Osama bin Laden. Almost 3000 people died that day. The attacks resulted in the largest loss of life by a foreign attack on American soil.

Your parents were in middle school and high school when 911 (as it is referred to) happened. I was planning that coming weekend to raft the Gauley River in West Virginia (and its class 5 rapids) with a buddy to celebrate his 40th birthday. That did not happen as he got grounded in Toronto when air travel was shut down. Overnight the world became a scarier place to live.

Things that we are quite familiar with today did not even exist prior to 911. The Department of Homeland Security, The US Patriot Act, The War in Afghanistan (which just ended, sort of), ISIS, the TSA, Immigration Reform, the TV show 24 and it’s hero Jack Bauer.

September 11, 2001 will rightfully get talked about and remembered a lot today. But there are other things worth remembering as well…

  • The God that we worship and serve was not surprised by anything that happened on that day.
  • A quote that bears repeating: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
  • A Scripture from Matthew 16:33 where Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
  • A reminder that when things seem out of control, God is still in control.
  • Our faith is built on the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus and the  blessed hope that He will return one day to make all things right.
  • People are capable of incredibly heroic exploits – but the most heroic thing that we can do is to demonstrate love to the people around us every day.

There will no doubt be more days like 911 in our future but as a people of faith we are not to live in fear, but rather to hold out the hope of the gospel. God’s good news always trumps the world’s bad news.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

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