Pop Pop Epistle # 166 – About Eternal Life

 

Dear Grandkids,

One of my very first blog posts many years ago pondered eternal life. I wanted to share it with you here in a Pop Pop Epistle.

John 17:3 says, “ Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the greatest classic series ever written  On the final page of the final book (The Last Battle) of the series, some of the children who have been to Narnia are very sad that they once again must return to their homeland—called the Shadowlands. Aslan (the lion who represents Jesus) asks them about this:

[Aslan spoke to the children,] “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.”

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

The point here is that the children of Narnia dreaded the idea of going back to the Shadowlands and leaving Narnia – not because they didn’t like their home but because it meant leaving Aslan. Whereas we, for the most part, dread the idea of leaving this world for the next. Let’s face it, we like it here. We’re comfortable here. We have our stuff here. This world is known. We don’t generally get excited about the unknown. We don’t like the idea of either dying or being dead. Contrast this with how the Apostle Paul felt about facing death and leaving this world:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain….I desire to depart and be with Christ which is better by far… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 1:21, 22; 3:8)

Perhaps he knew something that we think we know but don’t really know: that knowing Christ is what we were made for and what we were saved for. That knowing Him is what makes heaven worth waiting for and life worth living. That knowing Him is the secret to experiencing eternal life in the fullest sense of the term.

So here’s the question that I have to ask myself: Do I know Him like this? Not just know about Him. Not just believe in Him or even trust Him for my salvation. But do I know Him? Know Him like Paul knew Him. Know Him like the children of Narnia knew Aslan.  The answer to this question will determine whether I merely have eternal life or whether I am enjoying and savoring the eternal life that I have been given.

Perhaps it is a question that you need to ponder as well.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 165 – HB Bowen and About Baseball Cards

 

Dear Bowen,

Happy 7th birthday my young grandson. It seems like only yesterday that you were just 6. Time is flying by!

I continue to be amazed by the way that you care for other people. I see this in the way that you treat your younger cousins but also know that your heart has a tenderness for people and that the Lord is going to use you to show others the love of Christ as you grow up and you grow older. It is my pleasure and privilege to be your Pop Pop.

It has been fun over this past year to share with you my love of baseball by showing you all my baseball cards. As you know many of them are New York Mets cards because I have been a Mets fan for over 50 years. Here are a few of my Mets cards that you have seen that are special to me. Both Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan are Hall of Famers. Dwight Gooden probably would have been if he had not been young and stupid and gotten himself addicted to drugs, All three of them played on a Met’s World Championship team. Tom and Nolan in 1969 and Dwight in 1986.

There was a time when some of these cards would have been worth a good deal of money but not so much anymore. But remind me to show you my card of Honus Wagner – I’ve heard that it might still have some value.

Here is a Scripture verse for you to ponder as you move into your 8th year. It is one that I preached on this past Sunday…

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:8-9)

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 164 – About Calvin and Hobbes Last Strip

 

Dear Grandkids,

Check this out.

On December 31, 1995 Bill Waterson dropped his last Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. Now that we are at the end of almost 2 years of Covid drudgery the optimism of the message here seems quite appropriate. I’m looking forward to exploring 2022 with you.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 163 – Where I Was 10 Years Ago Today – About The Accident

 

Dear Grandkids,

India. I was in India.

Long before I started writing these Pop Pop Epistles, a thing happened that has in many ways framed the last 10 years of my life. Mostly because I am alive to write this. It happened 10 years ago today. Nona and I and Scott and Tucker (before they were married) went to visit Christy and Chad who were serving in India at the time. We had an awesome trip planned, that included time in India as well as Thailand, but things did not turn out in any way shape or form as we had planned things out. I will refer you to the following three blog posts to give you the details rather than re-writing what has already been chronicled. The first post was written by Christy. The other two were written by me.

You have no doubt heard us reference “the accident” over the years. This will help you better understand what happened and why it has shaped our lives so significantly. Suffice it to say that if the Lord had not been our Protector then many of you would not even be around to read this.

The Scooter Accident

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

More Lessons Learned

We are very grateful that we have had these years to be your Nona and Pop Pop and Lord willing are looking forward to many many more. Here is one major takeaway that I will leave you with:

Live your life in such a way that you will have stories to tell but never ever take the life you have been given for granted.

And never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #116 – Titus 3

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Verses 4-7. Wow! Just Wow!

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

Assuming that you just read those verses now go back and read them again. Slowly. Pondering each phrase. Blessing God for what He has done for us. Rejoicing in the God of our salvation. And after you have done this go back and read them one more time. They are cause to worship.

So here is the worship song that came to my mind as I pondered these verses…

VICTORY IN JESUS

I heard an old, old story how a Savior came from glory,
How He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me;
I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood’s atoning,
Then I repented of my sins and won the victory.

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about His healing, of His cleansing power revealing.
How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see;
And then I cried, “Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit,”
And somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory.
And I heard about the streets of gold beyond the crystal sea;
About the angels singing and the old redemption story,
And some sweet day I’ll sing up there the song of victory.

O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever.
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him,
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

Here is Carrie Underwood singing the song with a bit of a country twang…

May this brick remind you all over again of what Jesus did for you by giving His life so that you might indeed have LIFE.

Pop Pop Epistle # 162 – HB Audrey and About Advent

 

Dear Audrey,

Happy birthday number 4. It’s been about a year since you moved from our house and I must say that I miss Audrey snuggles. Over the past year it has been fun to watch your independent spirit develop as well as your impish sense of humor. We are, however, going to have to work on getting over your “fear” of Mr. Hippopotamus.

Did you know that you are the only one of the 9 cousins that has your birthday at this most awesome time of year – what is often called Advent? Here are a few “Advent” facts for you…

The word advent itself means “arrival” or “an appearing.” Christians often speak of Christ’s “first advent” and “second advent”; that is, His first and second comings to earth. His first advent would be the incarnation.

The Advent season lasts for four Sundays. It begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. It can last from anywhere between 22 and 29 days depending on the calendar.

Advent is seen as a time to prepare one’s heart for Christmas and for the eventual return of Christ. This is what we sing each Christmas when we sing the first verse of Joy To The World:

Joy to the world! the Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

We often sing this Christmas carol without really giving thought to what we are singing. We should be asking ourselves this question: What am I doing to prepare my heart to worship the incarnate King? Here are a few Pop Pop thoughts about this…

  • Read and ponder some of the great Advent Scripture passages such as Luke 1:26-2:38, John 1:1-18, Matthew 2.
  • Take inventory of what occupies your heart. Spend some time before the Lord confessing that the desire for worldly things have been given priority over your desire for Christ.
  • Sing with joyful abandon some of the great Christmas hymns – and think about what you are singing.

Here is Joy To The World being performed by one of my current favorite groups – Pentatonix. Feel free to sing along and to sing out loud.

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #115 – Titus 2

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Focusing on verses 11-14. Here is how the New International Version reads…

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

The words that immediately stand out to me from this passage are the first 5: “For the grace of God”.  Here are the things that came to mind about the grace of God as I pondered.

The grace of God – a stark contrast to the Law: God’s people had for many years lived under a harsh taskmaster – the Law. It was impossible for them to measure up to the Law’s standards. The whole idea of grace that was ushered in by Jesus must have been a welcome relief. And it must have felt to the average Jew like an emancipation from the dungeon of legalism. Amazing grace must have seemed like a sweet sound to those who felt condemned by their inability to meet the holy requirements of the Law.

The grace of God appeared in the flesh: Jesus was grace incarnate. He was God’s gift to a hurting, hopeless, and helpless world. Jesus was God’s way of showing us what He really thought about us. He came to heal our sickness, to forgive our sin, to restore hope to a world filled with despair. He came with compassion and laughter and joy and selflessness. He made people feel like they mattered. He touched the untouchable. He gave life to those who had had life drained out of them. He demonstrated what it meant to have a relationship with God that gave purpose and peace and passion to our day to day living.

The grace of God teaches us to say “No” and then teaches us to say “Yes”: When we fully comprehend what grace is, when we finally understand the incredible gift that has been offered to us in Jesus, then it makes saying “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions very easy to do. Unfortunately, not many people grasp grace. We really don’t get it at all. It is the most taken for granted gift that has ever been given. That is why our churches are so anemic these days – because we sing about God’s amazing grace and then turn around and spit in God’s face as we live lives that don’t look a whole lot different from those who are outside the church. When you grasp grace, you run daily into the arms of God,  flee the evil desires of this world, and live “self-controlled upright and godly lives.”

Verse 14 is a great encapsulation of the gospel and the effects of the gospel and what grace is all about.  Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

May this brick challenge you to ponder the awesome, amazing, abundant grace of God that has been freely given to those who believe.

 

Brick #114 – Titus 1

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Paul’s introduction in this letter to Titus is the most protracted introduction he gives other than his intro to Romans. In these verses he conveys to his young protege a confidence that it would do us well to emulate. The confidence was threefold:

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, 2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began 3 and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior…

He was confident in God’s purpose for his life – Is it even possible to know the purpose that God created us for? Paul certainly seems to think so. Servant of God. Apostle. Preacher. How do you discern God’s purpose? Do you have to have a Damascus Road experience like Paul did? I certainly hope not. And I certainly don’t think so. The answer to the question is a subject for another blog post – but suffice it to say that it starts with having an undeniable saving encounter with God that results in undeniable life transformation. Have you experienced both?

He was confident in God’s character – God does not lie! God keeps His promises! God manifests! Paul had certainly experienced his share of difficulties in life and yet through everything his faith in God never wavered because he was confident in God’s love, confident in God’s sovereignty, and confident that God would never ever leave him or forsake him. No matter what. When you have that kind of confidence you can endure whatever this world might throw at you. Do you have that kind of confidence?

He was confident in God’s Word – Truth matters! We live in a world where truth doesn’t really matter. Everybody has there own version of what truth is.  The reason the world is in such a mess is because of a disregard for truth. If your truth is different than my truth then battle lines are drawn. But there is no such thing as your truth and my truth there is only God’s Truth. And this is what Paul based his life on. What about you? Is your life based on the inerrant truth of God’s unchanging Word?

May this brick help you to think about where your confidence is based.

 

Pop Pop Epistle # 161 – HB Grayson and About Running the Race

 

Dear Grayson,

I’m only two days late with this but…. Never mind. No buts. I just forgot. This happens more often than I would like in my senior saint years.

Happy birthday number nine. A pretty significant year since it is your last year of single digits. Nona and I enjoyed celebrating with you last week ahead of your birthday. You are an outstanding young man and we love watching you grow up.

It was really fun competing with you in your first ever 5K road race. I use that term loosely because you were very gracious to let me stay up with you.

There are a lot of parallels to running a race and our journey through the Christian life. The Apostle Paul points this out in several places:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-26)

…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Here are just a few parallels that you might ponder as you pursue following Jesus…

  • The Christian race is a marathon not a sprint – it is a lifelong pursuit that requires “a long obedience in the same direction.”
  • A diligent pursuit  of Christ requires discipline and rigorous training – Just as a championship runner trains daily so following Christ demands the daily disciplines of time in the Word and prayer to build spiritual muscle.
  • Following Jesus wholeheartedly means we often have to say “No” – Titus 2:11-13 puts it this way, For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ…”
  • The Christian race is difficult – It is definitely not for wimps. Those who choose to follow Jesus are promised that they will encounter hardship and persecution and suffering.
  • The Christian race is worth pursuing – Yes the race is difficult, but the reward is great for those who faithfully finish.

Thanks for pushing me this past weekend to run when I did not feel like running. There will be many times in your pursuit of Christ when you will not feel like running. Perhaps I will be be able to encourage you to keep going when you don’t feel like it.

 

Never forget that you are very loved,

Pop Pop

 

Brick #113 – 2 Timothy 4

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In verses 1-8, Paul is thinking “eschatologically.” He is thinking with the end times in mind. Many years ago Stephen Covey wrote a book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. One of the habits he talked about was this: Begin with the end in mind!

This seems to be something that Paul intentionally put into practice. And here at the end of his 2nd letter to Timothy he is trying to pass on this practice to his young protege. Now Paul is not a head in the clouds kind of guy. He does not think about heaven so much that he is no earthly good. He is intensely practical. It is his eschatological thinking in fact that makes him so practical. Primarily because he believes what he says he believes.

He believes that Jesus will indeed judge the living and the dead. He believes that Jesus will indeed appear again (v.1). He believes that Jesus will indeed reward those who long for His appearing (v.8). And because he wholeheartedly believes these things they motivate him to live his life in a certain way.

And they should us as well. Our beliefs should determine our behavior.

So in these verses Paul encourages young Timothy (and us as well) to do three things:

1) Fulfill your Ministry (v.5) – The ministry that Timothy had been called to was to pastor and to preach the Word. Paul was exhorting Timothy – that in view of the fact that Jesus would one day return – to proclaim the Truth so that people would have every opportunity to respond to the gospel and to be prepared for Jesus’ return.

What is the ministry that the Lord has called you to? It may not be vocational ministry but each of us has the call of God upon our lives. We are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works….” What is the good work that God wants you to pursue. If you cannot define this in a sentence or two then perhaps you need to ask the Lord to give you clarity as to what your purpose here on earth is specifically for. And then… fulfill your ministry!

2) Fight the Good Fight (v.7) – You are no doubt aware that we are involved in a great cosmic battle – a fight for our very lives. The enemy of our souls wants nothing less than to steal, kill, and destroy. Every day is a fight against sin and temptation. Everyday we encounter opposing world views in our culture. Everyday we deal with the hardness and harshness of life. Paul’s encouragement to us echoes ver succinctly what Winston Churchill famously said,

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…. Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days–the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.

3) Finish the Race. Keep the Faith. (v.7) – Our race is not a sprint. It is a marathon. It is “a long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson). We don’t want to merely finish the race, limping across the finish line. We want to finish strong. Like Paul, we want to get to the end of our days – having endured everything that the enemy can throw at us – and be able to stand before the righteous Judge knowing that we have carried the banner of the gospel courageously and valiantly to the very end. We want to stand in His presence and hear Him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

May this brick help you to think eschatologically, always keeping the end in mind as we pursue Jesus through the good times and the hard times that this life brings.

 

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