Pop Pop Epistle #30 – About Apollo 13


Dear Grandkids,

There are not many movies that I like to watch more than one time. And there are not many movies that make me cry. But the movie Apollo 13 fits both of these categories. Apollo 13 the movie ironically is based on Apollo 13 the lunar spacecraft, that suffered a severe malfunction on its journey to the moon but miraculously returned safely to earth.

The reason why this comes to mind is because 48 years ago today, in 1970, Apollo 13 landed safely back in the Pacific Ocean. Now back in 1970 space exploration was a really big deal. In fact, in April of 1970 the U.S. was only 9 months away from its historic Apollo 11 landing on the moon. Our country was in the middle of what was known as the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union and the space race was, for us at least, a matter of national pride. So on the one hand what happened to Apollo 13 was a devastating failure. But on the other hand, even though the mission was aborted, NASA  classified it as a “successful failure” because of the experience gained in rescuing the crew.

A “successful failure.” It’s an interesting phrase and one that you need to know because there will be many times in the years to come when you will fail. But failure only defines you if you let it. But if you let failure be your teacher then you will do some extraordinary things. Here are a few examples that you might want to read up on sometime:

  • The Wright brothers crashed numerous flight tests before they got one to fly only about 30 feet.
  • Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade and was defeated in every public office role he ran for.
  • Thomas Edison’s teachers told him he was “too stupid to learn anything.”
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

But here are also a few verses from Scripture that are worth pondering:

Isaiah 40:30-31

30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Psalm 145:13-14

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.

One day we’ll sit down and watch Apollo 13 together. In the mean time…

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop


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Pop Pop Epistle #29 – Best Week of the Year


Dear Grandkids,

We are getting ready to start the BEST week of the year – at least from my perspective. I can think of at least 4 reasons why this week is so good.

Baseball is back – Opening Day this year is March 29 which is a few days earlier than usual. It has been about 5 months since the Astros beat the Dodgers for the World Championship. In the meantime we’ve had to put up with a lot of football and basketball but now we can finally get back to the greatest of all the sports. You may or may not know that baseball was and is my first love of sports. I played a lot of baseball growing up and was a huge fan of the New York Mets. They were in the World Series as recent as 2015. Last year was not so good but this week we start fresh and hopefully watch something amazing happen.

The Final Four – Unfortunately none  of the teams that I root for made it to the Final Four this year. Duke came the closest – they were just a roll away from making it – but there is always an intriguing story line that makes the Final Four interesting. This year it is with Loyola Chicago and their number # 1 fan Sister Jean.  Only one team will be left standing after Monday night and they will have earned the right to call themselves National Champions. Then we will say goodbye to college hoops for about 8 months.

The Masters – As much as I love baseball, The Masters is my favorite sporting event of the year to watch. This is probably because I grew up near the course and had a chance to go to The Masters in person more times than I can count. The Masters is never without drama which makes it so exciting and this year has promise to be as dramatic as any of them. I hope that as you get older we can spend a Sunday afternoon of Master’s week sitting and watching the tournament together and letting me tell you about some of my favorite memories. (I have blogged about these elsewhere if you want to check them out)

Easter – As much as I enjoy the first 3, this last one is what truly makes this week the best week of the year. Sunday is Easter – the day that we celebrate as Christians the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity. 1 Corinthians 15:17 says, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” The resurrection changes everything. It gives us hope. It proves that Jesus is who He says He is. It strengthens us with the same power that raised Jesus. It enables us to live as overcomers. It fuels us with joy even while living in a world full of darkness and despair.

I hope you thoroughly enjoy this next week as much as I will. But then I enjoy every week… and I hope that you do too.

Never ever forget that you are very very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #28 – About “Potamus” Finding Milk


Dear Grandkids,

I always enjoy playing “Find the Potamus” with you when you are at our house. But do you know the history of the “Potamus”? You probably know that my favorite animal is the hippopotamus.  This is true for several reasons: 1) I think they have a really cool name that is fun to say, 2) they are magnificent creatures, and 3) they are incredibly graceful despite their size and weight.

Back in 2006, Nona and I and your parents all had a chance to travel to Botswana Africa for an International World Changers Mission trip which I had the honor of directing. While we were there we were able to visit a game preserve and to see hippos in their natural habitat (not in a zoo). They are quite fascinating. Anyway, while I was there I bought the  wood carved hippopotamus  that we use for our “Find the Potamus” game.


One time when we were playing I had found a particularly good hiding spot and you could not find the potamus. So we came up with the idea that drinking some “potamus finding milk” might help. And it just so happened that we had some in the refrigerator. (For those of you reading this who are unaware, potamus finding milk also goes by the name of Mapleview Chocolate Milk. Yum! Yum!)

image1 (1)And it turns out that drinking the milk does indeed help to find the potamus. So we make it a regular part of our game now and have created a fun little milk drinking tradition that I very much enjoy as we gather around a glass of milk and all drink at the same time using especially designed potamus milk drinking straws. Though I suspect that it will become harder and harder to do this once the 3 younger cousins are old enough to play.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how good that milk is… and it prompted me to think about a few verses in Scripture that you would do well to remember as you grow up:

1 Peter 2:2-3  – Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.  – Every time you drink a glass of milk or put milk on your cereal or play the potamus finding game be reminded that the gospel is pure spiritual milk that you desperately need each day so that your soul can be nourished and so that you can continue to grow up in your salvation. Without this milk of the gospel – the essentials of the faith –  you will stay a little baby and will not mature as you ought to. 

But there will come a time, hopefully sooner rather than later, that you will need more than just milk if you are going to continue to grow and be strong in the Lord.

Hebrews 5:13-14 – 1for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is (still) a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. You will need to learn to chew on the meat of the Word. You will need to let God’s Word satisfy you instead of allowing your appetite to be filled by the junk food that this world will continually offer.

Ponder these verses and ask your parents to help you to continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. And each time that we play the potamus finding game I will try to remind you of these things as well.

And never ever forget that you are very very loved,

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle # 27 – About Valentine’s Day


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


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


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


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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2017: By the Numbers

2017 has been a good year – here are a few significant numbers that help to illustrate this.

6 – This has to be at the top of the list. Linda and I went into 2017 with 3 grandkids and as we leave 2017 behind we now have 6 grandkids. We still find it hard to believe that we are even old enough to be grandparents but we are very blessed by our kids and their kids.

5 – Linda and I were in Poland in August for a mission trip with our church and then stayed over in Europe to take an anniversary cruise around Scandinavia. 5 represents the number of countries we went to that I previously had never been to: Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. This brings my total of countries visited to 47. My Mom built a love for travel into me as a young lad and it is something I still enjoy doing.

4,000,000+ – Just before 2017 started I got a Fitbit and set a goal for the year of 70,000 steps per week (10,000 per day). I am happy to say that I have eclipsed that goal by averaging 11-12,000 steps each day. My Fitbit has been a good motivation tool for me as I try to keep exercising in my older years.

59 – This is a huge number because it represents the fact that I am still alive. 59 years old. Or to say it another way – I am well into my 60th year. I know that by most standards I am an older man now but that does not stop me from still thinking of myself as a young man – and acting that way on many occasions.

24 – This is the number of years that I have served on staff at Ridgecrest Baptist Church in Durham. I serve with an awesome group of other pastors among an awesome family of believers that encourage me as I seek to encourage them. It has been said, “Find a job that you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” This is how I feel about working at my church.

23 – This year I started a series of blog posts that I call “The Pop Pop Epistles”  – subtitled “Legacy Letters For My Grandkids.” To date I have written 23 of them. It is one way that I am trying to invest in them and leave something behind long after I am with the Lord.

And since I am talking about numbers, here are a great few verses from Numbers 6:24-26 that is my blessing for you as we move into 2018…

Numbers 6

Pop Pop Epistle #23 – About Chanukkah


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


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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