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

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

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

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

 

Pop Pop Epistle #118 – About Math

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Solve: 9+8×7-6+5-4×3÷2-1

It’s a pretty simple math problem – as long as you know what to do. For some reason math always came easy to me. It still does. Now I am talking about simple math. Not differential equations and certainly not geometry but your basic addition and multiplication kind of stuff. Math is the reason I majored in engineering in college. Math is the reason I know how long I’ve been married to Nona. Math is the reason I know how many of you grandkids there are.

Math is something that you need to know because it is useful in almost everything. Just in the last 24 hours I have used math to shop and bank and cook and play golf and do my 100 push ups and even to write this epistle. But did you know that it helps to know math if you want to read the Bible well? I could give you lots of examples but here are just a few:

Peter needed to know math to understand a lesson on forgiveness: Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:22). He also needed it in his fishing business: So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. (John 21:11)

John needed to know math to understand The Revelation: The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. (Revelation 9:16)

And there was a time when I needed math to get the full impact of this verse from Matthew – though not so much these days: But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30)

Right now I’m counting down the days until we get to hang out at the beach together – that takes math. 

Tell you what – give me a call and tell me the correct answer to the math problem up above and I will give you a Chick-fil-A gift card. I’ll just need to figure out how much that will cost me – which will take math.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle #117 – About the Womb

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Just curious… do any of you remember your time in your mommy’s womb? Most of you hung out in there for about 9 months. Keller only wanted to stay for 7½. A few of you would have been quite content to stay for 10. But my guess is that you don’t remember much about that time.

Here are a few things that might jog your memory about those prenatal days…
  • It was a time of incredible growth for you
  • All your needs and desires were taken care of
  • It was a place that was safe and secure.
  • You didn’t have to worry about anything
  • All the voices you heard were so excited about meeting you
  • You didn’t experience anything like fear or anger or frustration

But in the fulness of time you made your grand entrance into this world and the first thing that you did was to cry. Yeah, me too. It was as if you knew that you had traded a place of health and happiness for a place of hurt and hunger; a place where you would constantly have to work to have all your appetites satisfied; a place that you quickly realized was anything but safe and secure; a place where you were reliant on the whims of others to have your needs met.

Here’s the good news: Just like the womb was a short term incubator to get you ready for this world, this world is a short term incubator to get you ready for the next world. Now I know that sometimes our time here does not feel like short term but compared to how long eternity is it is just a dot on an unending line.

Check out this awesome Scripture in Romans 8. It is worth spending some pondering time on:

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. 

Right before you were born your mommy started having “birth pains.” These were an indication that it was about time for you to leave the comfort of the womb and make your grand entrance into this world. It was not an easy time for your mommy and I suspect that even you were kind of weirded out by what was going on. I can kind of imagine you thinking something like this: “Wait, what! You mean this isn’t what life is all about. You’re telling me that I have to leave the comfort of this place and go to a place that has so many unknowns and where everyday there will be some kind of trouble to deal with. No thanks, I’ll just stay right here.”

But of course you can’t do that.

Here is my promise to you. If you can keep things in perspective you will be OK as you navigate your way through this world. Remember that this is NOT the world that you were created for. This world is just getting you ready for the world to come. Every hurt and every hardship is just an opportunity to grow. Lean into them. Learn from them. Let the Lord use them to transform you and prepare you for the life that is truly LIFE. And while you are on this crazy oft times frustrating journey…

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

P.S. – Turns out that 2 of ya’ll have a dad that exited the womb on this day 30 years ago. Happy Birthday Tucker.

Pop Pop Epistle #116 – Through the Years

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

Eight One Eighty-One – or to say it a different way: August 1, 1981.

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 12.14.27 PM39 years ago today Nona and I stood before a cloud of witnesses in Kernersville, NC and said our “I do’s” to each other and before God. It has been a great journey and a wonderful adventure and a blessed partnership. And one of the best things about it is that now we get to share it with you.

Here are a few pictures of us through the years. Each picture has a memory that goes along with it. We have lots and lots of shared memories that we hope to tell you about over the years. Feel free to ask us about any of these pictures and the story behind it. And our hope and prayer is that one day in the future you will have a husband or wife that will be a blessing and joy to your heart and help you to honor and glorify the Lord.

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 9.38.23 AM

Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 9.37.43 AM

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

 

Pop Pop Epistle #115 – HB Keller and About Firefighters

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Keller,

Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 10.29.16 AMFour years old. What a great age to be. So much energy. So much curiosity. So much trust.

I had a great time at your birthday party on Saturday with you. The fire truck motif was a blast – especially when the firetruck showed up at our house blaring its siren and tooting its horn.

I was talking to a fireman friend of mine this past week and he was telling me a few things about the life of a fireman. It would seem that about 90% of a fireman’s job is preparation. A fireman spends a lot of time maintaining fire apparatus so that when it is needed it will do what it is supposed to do. They spend a lot of time training – not only do they have to be ready to fight fires but they are also first-responders. So they have to be ready to provide emergency care at the scene of accidents and in response to 911 calls. And firemen also have to stay in excellent physical shape in order to endure the physical demands of their job.

So preparation is essential! The 90% of their time that they spend being prepared will determine their success in the 10% when they respond and react to actual emergencies.

So it is with life!

These next 20 years of your life are all about preparing you for the 60+ years that will come after that. Your success spiritually will most likely be determined by your preparation during these years. As will your success vocationally, relationally, and financially. So here are a few things I hope you will learn that will help you prepare well for the days to come…

  • Learn to read and ponder Scripture
  • Learn the value of patience
  • Learn how to manage money
  • Learn the value of working hard
  • Learn the value of perseverance
  • Learn how to cook
  • Learn how to fix things around the house
  • Learn to think deeply
  • Learn the value of gratitude
  • Learn to take risks
  • Learn how to connect with people of all ages
  • Learn how to pray
  • Learn the value of generosity
  • Learn how to encourage other people
  • Learn how to fail successfully
  • Learn how to abide in the love of God
  • Learn how to learn

So that’s a lot to learn. But you don’t have to learn it all on on your own. Your mom and dad will help you. Nona and I will help you. And there will be others that the Lord will put in your life that will help you as well. Your part is to be willing to learn and prepare so that you will be equipped to deal with life as it unfolds before you. Mostly I will encourage you to learn the truth of this verse from Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.

Learn to trust God. He is always faithful.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #114 – About J.I. Packer

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)

Dear Grandkids,

J.I. Packer died a few days ago. I’m sure that you have no idea who he is but you should.

For my generation, he was one of the guys that would be included in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith if they were accepting new honorees.

Screen Shot 2020-07-21 at 9.07.02 AMIt’s fascinating to watch how God can take tragedy and turn it into triumph. This was certainly the case for Packer. When he was 7 years old he suffered a severe head injury in a collision with a bread van, which caused him to not be able to play sports, so he became interested in reading and writing.  This proved to be very fortuitous for the Church. In 1973 he wrote a book called Knowing God which is considered one of the most influential books for evangelicals of the 20th century.

It was definitely an influential book in my life. I became a Christian in 1974 and it was one of the first books I read as a growing new believer. I still have that book on my shelf and wanted to share a few quotes that I underlined (this was before highlighters were widely used).

“How can we turn our knowledge about God into knowledge of God? The rule for doing this is simple but demanding. It is that we turn each Truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

“Men who know their God are before anything else men who pray, and their first point where their zeal and energy for God’s glory come to expression is in their prayers.”

“Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

“What makes life worthwhile is having a big enough objective, something which catches our imagination and lays hold of our allegiance; and this the Christian has in a way that no other person has. For what higher, more exalted, and more compelling goal can there be than to know God?”

“Knowing God is a relationship calculated to thrill a man’s heart.”

“The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.”

Read the book when you get a chance. I have written you a note on the inside cover of my original copy. Find it on my shelf sometime and read it. My hope is that it will be a blessing to you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle # 113 – About Nero and the 200th Day of the Year

Pop Pop Epistles (Main)Dear Grandkids,

Today is the 200th day of the year.

Something very significant happened on the 200th day of the year 64.  Not 1964 or even 1864. But 64. That makes it 1,956 years ago.

The city was Rome. A fire broke out just south of the legendary Palatine Hill, which is just  a short walk from the Coliseum. I know this because Nona and I made this walk back in 2014. The fire raged for three days and destroyed much of the city. The emperor at the time was Nero and an unsubstantiated legend has it that he played his fiddle while the fire ravaged the city. We know that this legend is NOT true. But what we do know IS true is that he placed the blame for the fire squarely on the shoulders of Christians to clamp down on their growing influence. He arrested, tortured and executed hundreds of believers on the pretext that they had something to do with the fire. Which they did not!

Nero has been described as a “megalomaniacal, murderous tyrant.” He had an obsession with being known as a great ruler which turned into a delusion which fueled many of the atrocities he committed. He was put into a position where he indeed could have built a great and long lasting legacy but instead he will forever be remembered as one of the worst people to ever live.

I give you this brief snapshot of Nero to tell you this: We all have within us a desire for greatness. But greatness will not be found by being self-serving but rather by serving God and others. Jesus put it this way when talking to his disciples, The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

Today would be a great day to look for a way to serve someone. It will be one of the first steps you can take to greatness.

On another note about the 200th day of the year. Back on the 100th day of this year I mentioned that I had a goal to do 100 pushups everyday of the year. So far so good. So the next time you see me lets have a pushup challenge and see if this old man can still out pushup you.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

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