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

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.

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