Pop Pop Epistle #130 – About Feasting and Leftovers

Dear Grandkids,

Yesterday we feasted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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

Dear Grandkids,

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

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

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

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

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

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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

Dear Grayson,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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

Dear Grandkids,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #126 – About the Presidential Election

Dear Grandkids,

In just a few days our country is going to either re-elect our current president or elect a new president. It is one of the great privileges that we as citizens of a democratic republic enjoy – the opportunity to vote and choose our own leaders. Many countries do not have this freedom.

It would seem that this election comes at a very pivotal time in the history of our country, for several reasons:

1) We are in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which our country has not experienced in just over 100 years;
2) Racial tension seems to be at a disturbingly high level;
3) There is a tremendous political divide between our two major parties that has the appearance of being irreconcilable;
4) Our economy is either on the brink of collapse or of soaring to new heights – it could go either way;
5) Climate change is real – I’m not talking about the weather related kind. But the moral climate of our country has deteriorated dramatically and is only going to get worse.;and
6) The spiritual culture of America has drastically changed so that we can no longer be considered a “christian country” – we now unequivocally live in a post-christian world. Tolerance seems to be a word that is reserved only for those lifestyles that do not have anything to do with Christianity.

Perhaps you will read this epistle 30 years from now and history will interpret just how pivotal this election really was. But in the meantime, how are we as believers in the gospel supposed to navigate the uncertainty of these times? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Cling to the truth of Scripture that our God is a sovereign God. He is in control even when this world seems out of control.
  • Remind yourself daily of the hope of the gospel – not only of the hope we can enjoy in this world even when we are surrounded by hopelessness, but also of the hope we look forward to and eagerly anticipate for the world to come.
  • Pray – desperate times call for desperate prayers. We are generally not good at praying out of desperation. We need to learn how to pray this way… quickly!
  • Ponder this passage that gripped me this morning as I was reading the Word – and notice what we are three times called to do as a prescription for letting the peace of God rule in our hearts.

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

No matter what the outcome of this election we are still commissioned to be agents of reconciliation and joy fueled hope-givers in the midst of a dark and despairing world. So whenever you read this, whether it is this week or 30 years from now, “stand firm in your faith knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

And never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #125 – About Waterfalls

Dear Grandkids,

Last week Nona and I took a few days and went to the western part of NC and did some waterfall chasing. We saw 15 waterfalls in 2 days, put 40,000+ steps on our fitbits, and had a great time exploring some of the beauty of God’s creation.

We visited Skinny Dip Falls, Lower Graveyard Falls, Soco Falls, Mingo Falls, Dry Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Glen Falls, Upper Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, Moore Cove Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls, Hooker Falls (these last 3 were all at Dupont State Park) Pearson’s Falls, and Catawba Falls. Nine of those included hikes to get to them which made the experience richer as we got away from the more touristy falls and out into nature.

One of the things that we marveled at was the amount of water that came over the falls we visited – that just kept coming and coming and coming. An unceasing flow of thunderous water that provided a majestic, awe-filled spectacle of nature that was wondrous to behold. It was in many ways a spiritual experience. When author Charles Dickens first visited Niagara Falls in 1842 he made this statement, “When I felt how near to my Creator I was standing, the first effect, and the enduring one—instant lasting—of the tremendous spectacle, was Peace.” There is very much a sense of enjoying God’s nearness while marveling at His creative genius.

Here is an interesting story about Niagara Falls. It is estimated that about 30 million people visit Niagara Falls each year. I was one of those people when I was about 10 years old. (And a bit of an adventurous daredevil as you can tell from the picture). It really is an amazing sight even if it is so touristy. But if you happened to be a visitor to the Falls on March 30, 1848 you would have been very disappointed. The mighty Niagara had slowed down to a mere trickle. The bed of the river was exposed. Fish died. Turtles floundered about. People were able to walk on the river bottom. For about 30-40 hours the waterfall ceased to exist.

So what happened? Well, it turns out that huge chunks of ice had formed at the northeastern tip of Lake Erie blocking the lake’s outlet into the head of the Niagara River. The ice jam had become an ice dam and the bottleneck effectively  stopped the flow of water over the Falls.

There is a lesson to be learned here. Psalm 42 says:

1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?…
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.

When the love of God washes over us like the rejuvenating waters of a refreshing waterfall then our souls are nourished and we can almost literally hear God singing over us. But when we choose sin over obedience, our ways over His ways; when we walk a wayward path and turn our face away from His; when the things of this world become more important to us than the things of His Word – then the music stops. The Lord seems far far away. And the refreshing waters cease.

I hope you will take this lesson to heart – and whenever you find yourself chasing waterfalls stop and ponder the deep deep love of God and let it wash over you and nourish your soul.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #124 – About Hoshana Rabbah

Dear Grandkids,

Happy Hoshana Rabbah!

OK, let me explain. This is another lesson in your Jewish heritage.

Today is the last day of the Jewish Festival known as The Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot or The Feast of Ingathering.) It was one of the three festivals on which the Israelites were commanded to perform an annual pilgrimage to the Temple and it commemorates the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.

It was a seven day festival. And there were several rituals that had become a part of the celebration. One involved building make shift tents to live in for the week. One involved the waving of palm branches. But another one has special significance in relation to Jesus.

By the time of the first century, a water pouring ceremony had become part of the tradition of the festival. The priests would go down to the pool of Siloam and they would fill a golden vessel with the water there. They would then go up to the temple, through the Water Gate, accompanied by the sound of the shofar, and would pour the water so that it flowed over the altar, along with wine from another bowl.

John 7:37-38 records…

“On the last day of the feast, the great day (Hoshana Rabbah), Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Jesus used the symbolism of this ritual at The Feast to identify Himself as the Messiah – the One whom the Jewish people were watching, waiting, and praying for. Some people believed. Some did not. (John 7:40-44) For those who did – it was indeed a “great day”! The Hebrew words Hoshana Rabbah literally mean “the great salvation.” And that is exactly what Jesus is.

There are many many people that you will see this week who are spiritually thirsty – whose soul’s are parched and are yearning to be refreshed. Perhaps the Lord will use you to offer them a drink of “living water.” Perhaps the Lord will use you to make it “a truly great day” for someone today.

Happy Hoshana Rabbah!

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #123 – About Protocols

Dear Grandkids,

In just a few minutes I am going to hit a button on my computer and this blog post is somehow going to be available for you to read almost immediately. There are no wires connecting our devices. You might be in the room upstairs or you might be on the other side of the world. It won’t matter – you will still have instant access to what I write.

I have absolutely no idea how this is even possible. It certainly was NOT possible when I was growing up. But technology has made the impossible possible.

I have read that in order for this communication to happen that there are “protocols” that have to be place – some of these include hypertext transfer protocol (http), transmission control protocol (TCP) and the Internet protocol (IP). Protocols are sets of rules that machines follow to complete tasks. Without a common set of protocols that all machines connected to the Internet must follow, communication between devices couldn’t happen. The various machines would be unable to understand one another or even send information in a meaningful way.

But again, I am clueless how this is even possible.

What I am not clueless about is that there are protocols that must be in place if communication is going to happen between us and God. These protocols are spelled out in Scripture. Here are a few for you to ponder:

  • Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (Jeremiah 33:3)
  • Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God. (John 8:47)
  • For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. (1 Peter 3:12)
  • My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5)
  • If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. (Psalm 66:18)
  • We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. (John 9:31)
  • If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)

God has made the impossible possible. We are able to communicate instantaneously with the Holy God of the universe. But we have to pay attention to the protocols that He has put in place. God does not answer the prayers of everyone. But His Word does tell us how we can be confident that He will hear our prayers. One more protocol to leave you with: And this is the confidence that we have toward Him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him.” (1 John 5: 14-15)

When you read this, take a minute and pray a prayer of thanks to God for enabling us to communicate with Him. And ask the Father to give you a desire to always follow the prayer protocols so that you can be confident that He is not only listening but also ready to answer your prayers.

And never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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

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