Archive for the category “Pop Pop Epistles”

Pop Pop Epistle # 27 – About Valentine’s Day

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Dear Grandkids,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

My guess is that you know about this day and “celebrate” this day but do not know how it originated. So let me tell you a story.

The history is somewhat murky but the story goes like this. A man named Valentine served as a bishop or priest in the Catholic Church in third-century Rome. The Roman emperor at the time, a man named  Claudius, decided that single men made better soldiers. This was based on the hypothesis that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because married soldiers might be afraid of what might happen to them or their wives or families if they died. Therefore, he banned soldiers from being married. Valentine, however,  continued to perform the weddings of young soldiers who were in love, so Claudius had Valentine imprisoned. While imprisoned, Valentine purportedly fell in love with the jailer’s daughter. Valentine sent her a card and signed it, “Love, your Valentine.” On February 14, 269 AD, Valentine was sentenced to a three part execution: beating, stoning, and finally decapitation all because of his stand for Christian marriage.

In the United States, Valentine’s Day has become a huge commercial enterprise. Over 1 billion Valentine cards are exchanged and more than 58 million pounds of chocolate are sold. But here are the lessons I want you to remember each year as this day is celebrated…

1) Always take a stand for what you believe in – Just as Valentine defied the emperor regarding his edict about marriage, taking a stand for what is right is ALWAYS a good thing.

2) Doing the right thing is rarely the easy thing – And sometimes the consequences of doing what is right is painful. But do what is right anyway.

3) Marriage is a sacred relationship – As you get older and consider marriage don’t forget that God is the One who has designed marriage to be a blessing to you and to remind people of our relationship with Him – The Blessed One.

I hope you have a most excellent Valentine’s Day and..

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #26 – About Disappointment

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Dear Grandkids,

This week as part of my Bible Reading Plan I was reading in Acts 1 and came across some verses that got my sanctified mind thinking. Jesus had just ascended into heaven. The disciples were down to 11 instead of 12 because of Judas’ betrayal  and they were looking to add another guy to their team. It came down to a choice between 2 people: Matthias and Barsabbas (also called Joseph). The 11 prayed,  cast lots (a way that was used back then to determine God’s will), and chose Matthias – who then became one of the 12 disciples.

As I was pondering this I started thinking about what was NOT in the Bible. Namely, how Barsabbas must have felt to have not been chosen… again. I say “again” because he was not chosen the first go round when Jesus made his original selection. Acts 1:21-22 indicates that he had been hanging around with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry.

So this is the second time he dealt with not being chosen. Now if this were me I would have been very disappointed, and no doubt Barsabbas experienced disappointment as well. So how did he did he handle that disappointment? There is a right way and a wrong way to handle disappointment. Apparently he handled it well… again. He handled it well the first time because he continued to follow Jesus and the twelve for 3 years after Jesus’ initial selection of the twelve. He handled it well the 2nd time because church tradition indicates that he continued to minister in Christ’s name and was eventually martyred for his faith.

Here is a Pop Pop promise: You will face much disappointment in  the course of your life and like Barsabbas others will be chosen at times over you even when you are just as qualified. So here are a few thoughts on constructive ways to handle disappointment.

Rejoice in the Lord’s sovereignty – As a believer, one of the great theological tenets of our faith is that God is in control. We can count on the fact that God knows what He is doing even when we do not. And therefore we can rejoice even when life is disappointing from our human perspective.

Rejoice with those who rejoice – We can be happy for other people when they are blessed in ways that we are not because we have confidence that God will also care for us according to His timetable – not ours.

Kill jealousy and envy in your heart – It is natural to be jealous of other’s success. But we are not called to live naturally. We are called to live supernaturally. John Owen has said, “be killing sin or it will be killing you.” When sin rears it’s ugly head in our life our job is to cut it off through confession, repentance, and a renewed commitment to pursuing holiness unto the Lord.

Continue to be faithful – When disappointment befalls us, the temptation is to want to give up and say what’s the point. But by God’s strength this is the time to step up your game and continue to do what the Lord has called you to do. He is working in your life through life’s disappointments. He is building your character and He will honor your faithfulness in due time.

Even though we don’t know much about Barsabbas, we know enough to follow his example in the wake of disappointment. Because rest assured, disappointments will be a regular part of your life.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #25 – Happy Birthday Bowen

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Dear Bowen,

I’m sorry and I apologize.

Those are hard words to say. But I am sorry that I am 3 days late in getting this Pop Pop epistle written. It was supposed to be written to you on your birthday. And though I didn’t forget that it was your birthday I did forget to write this.

So perhaps you can think of this, to use a baseball metaphor, as sending your birthday into extra innings. But it also gives me a teaching opportunity.

Saying “I’m sorry” is very hard. It is for me at least. Ask your mom about the time when she and her brothers were young that I had to gather the whole family together and apologize to them. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I can already tell that you are going to be an incredible man when you grow up. You have energy and passion. You are very loving and you feel deeply. You are creative and gifted. But as is true for all of us, you are also going to have lots of opportunities to say “I’m sorry.” There is no shame in being sorry for something that you do. It is a mark of maturity and godliness. There is, however, great shame in feeling no sorrow and having no desire to make things right.

So, again, I will say to you “I’m sorry” and I suspect it will not be the last time that I have to do so. And as I rejoice with you that you are now 3 years old, here is my birthday blessing to you…

May the Lord energize you as you grow up to do great things in His Name. May He give you a tender heart towards people  and a passionate desire to please Him. May you understand how great the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness is towards you and may you daily grow in grace.

And may you never forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #24 – About Last Night’s Game

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Dear Grandkids,

I’m guessing that you did not stay up to watch the game last night. But let me tell you a little about it. It was the college football national championship game between Alabama and Georgia. Georgia took a 13-0 lead going into halftime which was pretty surprising. Alabama’s offense really did not do much at all in the first half so the ‘Bama coach, Nick Saban, replaced him in the 2nd half with a quarterback that had only taken a few snaps all year. ALL YEAR. And the QB that was taken out had led the team to back to back national championship games and a 25-2 record. Anyway, this true freshman QB, Tua Tagovailoa, comes in and throws several touchdown passes to get Alabama back into the game. The 2 teams are tied at the end of regulation and then after a 16 yard loss on a Georgia sack Tua throws a 41 yard touchdown pass to win the game and the national championship in overtime.

It was a game that I suspect will be talked about for a long time but here are a couple of lessons that I want you to learn early in your life.

1) Excellence requires preparation – How was Tua able to play at such a high level without any game experience? Because everyday in practice for the whole season he worked as if he was one play away from getting into the game. He prepared diligently so that he would be ready if and when the time came. Well, the time came and he was ready. You can apply this principle of preparation to just about everything in life. Sports. School. Work. Spiritual life. Learn to work hard and prepare diligently so that you will be ready to excel when “game-time” comes.

2) Disappointment requires humility and courage – Most people today are talking about the performance of Tua Tagovailoa. But I was equally impressed by Jalen Hurts – the quarterback who was taken out of the game after the first half. No doubt he was disappointed when he was pulled from the game. But you will find out along the way that life is full of disappointments. The way that you handle these disappointments will reveal a lot about your character. Both on the sidelines during the second half and in the post game interviews Jalen Hurts spoke with humility and courage. He recognized that the game was not just about him. He graciously deferred to his coach’s decision to take him out of the game and as a result he is a member of a national championship team. Learn this lesson early on in your life – life is not just about you. Our selfish sinful natures often makes this hard to believe. But believe it! And then when disappointments come – which I promise you they will – you can handle them with humility and courage and grace because you know the One that life IS all about, the Lord Jesus Christ.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:3-11)

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #23 – About Chanukkah

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is the beginning of the eight daylong festival known as Chanukkah. It is probably the best known of the Jewish holidays among the general populace but most people really do not know what it celebrates. Perhaps they know that it generally coincides with the Christmas season. Perhaps they know that it has something to do with a menorah. But most do not know about the history behind the holiday. So here is a quick history lesson.

The holiday of Chanukkah celebrates the events which took place over 2,300 years ago in the land of  Israel. It begins in the reign of Alexander the Great, who conquered Syria, Egypt, and Israel, but allowed the lands under his control to continue observing their own religions.

More than 100 years after Alexander, Antiochus IV (also known as Epiphanes) rose to power in the region. He began to oppress the Jews severely, placing a Hellenistic (non-Jewish) priest in the Temple, massacring Jews, prohibiting the practice of the Jewish religion, and desecrating the Temple by requiring the sacrifice of pigs (a non-kosher animal) on the altar. One of the groups which opposed Antiochus was led by Mattathias the Hasmonean and his son Judah Maccabee (known as “The Hammer”).

This small band of pious Jews led guerrilla warfare against the Syrian army. Antiochus sent thousands of well-armed troops to crush the rebellion, but the Maccabees succeeded in driving the foreigners from their land. According to historical accounts, Jewish fighters entered Jerusalem in December 164 BC. The Holy Temple, the Jewish religious center, was in shambles, defiled and desecrated by foreign soldiers.

The Maccabees cleansed the Temple and re-dedicated it on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev. When it came time to re-light the Menorah (the multi-branched lampstand), they searched the entire Temple, but only one small jar of oil bearing the pure seal of the High Priest could be found. Miraculously, the small jar of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply of oil could be brought. From then on, Jews everywhere have observed a holiday for eight days in honor of this historic victory and the miracle of the oil. For these reasons Chanukkah is also known as The Festival of Lights or The Feast of Dedication.

It was during The Feast of Dedication, as recorded in John 10,  that Jesus made one of the most audacious claims ever. In response to the question, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly”, that Jesus boldly proclaimed Himself not just to be the long awaited Christ but to be one with the Father. As a result the Jews tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

So either He was blasphemous or He was not. Either He was indeed the Christ that the Jews had been waiting for or He was not. Either He was God in the flesh or He was not. Either He is The Light of the World or He is not. I have staked my life on the fact that He is – for some very good reasons which we can talk about as you grow up. But my prayer is that you will do the same and then every Chanukkah will be a reminder that a great Light shines in the darkness and brings salvation to those who embrace Him as Christ the Messiah.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #22 – About Pearl Harbor

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Dear Grandkids,

As you grow up you will no doubt become familiar with the significance of December 7 in the history of our nation. On December 8, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said…

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

It was a tragic day for our country. 2,403 Americans died and 1,178 more were wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. But what our enemy had no way of knowing was that that horrific attack upon our country ultimately spelled doom and defeat for them. The attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into the throes of World War II, culminating 4 years later with the conquest of the Axis powers and overwhelming victory for the Allies.

The gruesome events of December 7 were soon memorialized by the motto “Remember Pearl Harbor.” It became a rallying cry for our nation as we set our focus on avenging what the enemy had done.

As Christians, we have another rallying cry: “Remember the cross!”  It was at the cross that our enemy mockingly thought he had surely defeated Jesus and God’s redemptive plan to secure freedom for those He loved. But it was at the cross that the enemy’s sure defeat was determined.

At the cross sin was atoned for
At the cross God’s wrath was satisfied
At the cross hope was restored
At the cross God’s mercy triumphed
At the cross God’s love was demonstrated
At the cross death was defeated
At the cross salvation was secured
At the cross the righteous were vindicated
At the cross God’s enemies were vanquished
At the cross God’s justice prevailed
At the cross God’s power was displayed
At the cross grace was victorious
At the cross God’s glory was revealed

Today is a great day to remember. Remember Pearl Harbor. But every day is a great day to “Remember the Cross” and to let this catchphrase be your battle cry as you seek to fight the good fight of faith.

Remember the Cross!

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #21 – Welcome Audrey Lynn Reyner

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Dear Grandkids,

Today is an exciting day for our family. Well, actually the exciting day started at 10:28 PM last night. In case your parents haven’t told you yet, you have a new baby girl cousin – or sister as the case might be for Keller. By the time I write my next epistle that little sonogram blob below will be replaced by  a whole bunch of cuteness.

So this makes 6 times now that your Nona and I have welcomed a grandbaby into our family in just a little more than 5 years. Three of you have been born in a little more than 7 months. And at present, as far as we know, there are no more currently in the pipeline.

I hope you already know that you have been prayed for even before you were conceived and are the primary focus even now of the prayer times that Nona and I have together. Here are 6 Scripture based prayers that we will continue to pray for you in the days to come as we watch you grow up and wait to see how the Lord mightily uses you as an instrument of His grace:

“But to all who did receive (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) – Our foremost prayer will be that you put your faith in the Lord Jesus as the One who reconciles you to the Father and become a child of God.

“And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” (1 John 2:28) Abide is one of my favorite New Testament words. We will be praying that you learn how to abide, how to be nourished and find your satisfaction in Jesus alone.

“Little children, let no one deceive you.” (1 John 3:7) There will be many who will try to distract you and steer you away from the Lord. Our prayer is that you will be thoroughly grounded in the truth so that no one will be able to deceive you.

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18) We will be praying that others will know that you love them not just because of what you say but more importantly because of what you do.

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21) This verse is the way that the Apostle John concludes his first letter. It was what he wanted them to remember. Our prayer will be that you worship the Lord alone and not the things of this world that can so easily become idols to us.

“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John:4) We will pray that step by step, day by day, that you will walk in the truth. The Word of God will light your path and lead you in the way of truth if you will devote yourselves to be students of the Word.

You can count on the fact that we will pray for you.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #19 – Happy Birthday Grayson

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Dear Grayson,

So… you are the first grand young’un to have a birthday since I started writing the Pop Pop Epistles. Hence you get the first one of these to be addressed specifically to you and you will also note that your picture has been updated below.

Now that you are learning to read perhaps you can read this little story for yourself. If not, ask your dad to – since it has to do with fishing…

A father and son went fishing one day. After a couple hours out in the boat, the boy suddenly became curious about the world around him. He asked his father, “How does this boat float?” The father thought for a moment, then replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

The boy returned to his thinking, then turned back to his dad, “How do fish breath underwater?” Once again the father replied, “Don’t rightly know, son.”

A little later the boy asked his father, “Why is the sky blue?” Again, the father replied. “Don’t rightly know, son.”

Worried he was going to annoy his father, he says, “Dad, do you mind my asking you all of these questions?” “Of course not son. If you don’t ask questions, you’ll never learn anything!”

Maybe you know that one of the things that I collect is questions. Not many people collect questions but I hope that you will enjoy collecting them too. Question asking is a great skill to learn for at least two reasons:

1) It helps you learn stuff that you don’t know – I have found this is especially true as I study the Bible. When I don’t understand something I ask questions until I get a good answer.
2) It helps you get to know people that you don’t know – By asking people questions it lets them know that you are interested in their lives. And this is really important as you try to help them know about Jesus and the gospel.

Here are two things I want you to do. 1) Ask your dad what is funny about the fishing story up above if you don’t already know. And 2) get your mom to help you come up with 3 questions to ask me when you see me next week – questions that will help you learn some things about me. And I might just have some surprises in store  for you when you do.

In the meantime, I hope you have a super terrific birthday today and an awesome birthday celebration with your friends tonight. I will miss being there with you. But here is my birthday blessing for you…

May you always find joy in your walk with the Lord. May He fuel you each day with a contagious gladness as you get to know Him more and more. May He fill you with curiosity about this world that we live in and the people around you and may He teach you to ask great questions as you grow up.

And may you never ever forget that you are very loved.

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #18 – About My Pillow

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Dear Grandkids,

About 4:00 AM this morning as I was tossing and turning I made a decision…. the pillow that I was testing out for the 3rd night was definitely going back to the store. Over the past year I have probably bought, tried, and taken back about 20 pillows. Why? Because I am in search of the perfect pillow.

Here is the backstory. About 15 years ago when I was also searching for the perfect pillow I happened to stay at a hotel where I had a glorious night of sleep. I woke up thinking that my search was over. Only one problem – it was the hotel’s pillow. Well, not being bashful about these things, and because my circumstances were so tragic, I approached the hotel management, explained my situation, and asked if I could buy their pillow. (Now I know that at this point many of you reading this besides my grandkids are already grossed out because there is no way of telling what that pillow had already been through and who and how many had slept on it – but you must understand that desperate times call for desperate measures.) They would not sell it to me. But big props to Country Inn and Suites who understood my anguished predicament and GAVE me the pillow. Oh glorious day…and by that I mean Oh glorious night.

Fast forward 15 years to present day and my perfect pillow is starting to crumble and disintegrate. Pillows don’t crumble you say. Ah, but indeed they do when your perfect pillow is a foam pillow. I’m not talking about faux foam like shredded foam or gel foam or memory foam but genuine real deal foam. I have loved my pillow and now I am sad because I know it is dying a slow death. So once again I am search of the perfect pillow. And so far my search has been futile, frustrating, and fruitless. Just ask your Nona.

So as I lay wide awake at 4:00 AM thinking about my search for the perfect pillow this verse from Scripture came to mind…

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)

There are so many people in this world who are involved in a futile, frustrating, and fruitless search to fill the empty places in their heart. Like my search for the perfect pillow, they try one thing and find it unsatisfying and then try something else and something else and something else. It was Augustine of Hippo, himself a frustrated seeker until he found Christ, who wrote in his Confessions

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

As you lie on your pillow at night, take a moment before you drift off to sleep and thank God that He has given us a perfect Savior. Thank Him for sending His Son to fill the empty places in our heart, to forgive our sin, to secure our salvation, and to fuel us with joy for the journey. Thank Him for offering us hope and for giving us His Holy Spirit to guide us and comfort us and teach us. And thank Him for your pillow.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #17 – My First 8-Pointer

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Dear Grandkids,

I got my first 8 pointer last night.

Now I’m sure you know that I am not a hunter nor the son of a hunter. Never even been hunting. Pretty sure that I will never go hunting. So it was rather unfortunate that I got my first 8 pointer last night.

I was coming down St Mary’s Road on the way back from a very good meal at Vinnie’s with Nona, Scott, Mary, Keller, and Mary’s mom. It was already dark and we were probably going about 40 mph. Out of the corner of my eye I see this big buck in the other lane trying to decide if he should cross or not. I remember thinking, “don’t do it bucko.” But he chose not to listen to me and then slammed into the driver’s side of our van. Not too much damage to us – a dent in the sliding door and knocked loose the left turn signal. Pretty sure the deer got the worse end of the deal.

Here is my takeaway as I have reflected on what happened:

One of the driving lessons I have learned over the years living in deer country is this: Don’t try to swerve to miss a deer. Swerving is more likely to cause you to crash. Better to hit the deer than to risk ending up upside down on the side of the road.

Scripture teaches us something similar…

Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (Proverbs 4:27)

“So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left. (Deuteronomy 5:32)

You can get into a lot of trouble really quickly when you veer away from living according to the commands of God. In my almost 60 years of life I have seen this principle affirmed again and again… “Obedience to the Word brings blessing. Disobedience brings pain.”

There is plenty of pain to be experienced in this world without bringing it on ourselves. God will use pain to teach us some things that we would not learn any other way. But the pain and the hurt caused by our own sin and disobedience is an avoidable kind of pain. One that I hope you will steer away from as you grow up.  Choose blessing. Choose to turn your foot away from evil. Choose to do just as the Lord has commanded you. You will not regret making this choice.

And never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

 

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