Pop Pop Epistle #68 – Happy Birthday Keller

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Dear Keller,

CC807F04-0852-4D82-91B0-14FD6CB75AFEThis may be the only Happy Birthday salute that you get from someone out of the country this year. Sorry I am not there to see you on your birthday but as you know I am on mission with a team from our church in Eastern Europe.

We are working at a camp with about 100 students from around the country – many of them who have never heard nor responded to the gospel. Our mission is to try to build relationships and initiate conversations. We hope these will lead to an opportunity to tell them about our Savior Jesus and how He went to the Cross, offers forgiveness of sin, brings about reconciliation with God the Father, and gives them hope not only for this life but for the life to come.

My hope and prayer is that you will always live your life ON MISSION. You do not need to go out of the country to do this. You can do it wherever you are because wherever you are there are going to be people who need the hope of the gospel.

I hope that you have an awesome 3rd birthday. I will be praying for you as you celebrate with all the people that love you. Nona has been instructed to give you an extra big hug from Pop Pop. I will see you in a few days.

 

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #67 – About Apollo 11

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Dear Grandkids,

There are a handful of historical events that have happened in my lifetime that I remember exactly where I was when I heard about them…

  • I was in the living room of Nona’s home in Kernersville, NC (before we got married) when the US Olympic Hockey Team defeated Russia  in an epic cold war victory that shocked the world.
  • I was coming out of a theatre in Gloucester, Massachusettes when I heard that there had been an assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life in March of 1981.
  • I was in my office in Raleigh, NC when I heard that the Space Shuttle Challenger had exploded in January of 1986.
  • I was in my office in Durham, NC when I heard that OJ Simpson had been acquitted in the “Trial of the Century” in October of 1995.
  • I was sitting in the parking lot in front of the post office in Durham when I first heard about the 911 attacks in September of 2001.

But the first major historical event that I remember where I was happened 50 years ago today when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set step on the moon in July of 1969. I was at the beach with my family (and extended family) as we gathered around the television to watch “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” I had just turned 11 years old and I remember staring up at at the moon and thinking “there are people walking around up there.” It was a crazy thought.

In July of 1962 President John F. Kennedy declared that the United States would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. It was a bold, audacious declaration that he followed up by saying:

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

As you grow up I hope that you will NOT be content to take the easy path. Do hard things! Make bold, audacious choices! Choices that might seem crazy to most people but, because you follow the God who makes all things possible, you are willing to take risks and be daring and act courageously.

I am looking forward to watching how the Lord uses you in the years to come as you pursue a life of faith and take the path less traveled by.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #66 – About The Tour de France and The Running of the Bulls

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Dear Grandkids,

This week our church has been doing Vacation Bible School and our theme has been “The Incredible Race.” We have been talking about how there is only one race of people – the human race – and one color of people. All of us are really just varied shades of brown depending on how much melanin we have in our skin. God created us to be an incredible race of people whom He has demonstrated His love to in an incredible way – by allowing His Son Jesus to go to the cross and restore a relationship between us and God that had been devastated by sin. The idea is this – because God has shown His love to us in such an incredible way then we also ought to show love to other people – even if they are a different shade of brown – in incredible ways.

But while there is only one human race there are two spiritual races of people: those who make up the people of God and those who don’t. We get to choose which race we want to be a part of.

Interestingly, there are two races going on in Europe this week that help to illustrate this choice.

1) The Tour de France – This bike race takes place primarily in France over a period of 23 days. There are 21 legs of the race which cover about 2200 miles overall. It is a race that takes commitment, determination, and perseverance. It is a beautiful, exhausting, grueling race that bikers want to quit many times along the way but take incredible joy in crossing the finish line once it is over.

2) The Running of the Bulls – This is a race that takes place in Pamplona Spain several times during this week that is basically for idiotic people. Here is what happens: Long-horned bulls are released into the narrow streets of Pamplona and people run in front of them while while trying not to get gored by the bulls.

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The Tour de France is a good illustration of what the Christian life is like: Exhilarating, exhausting, beautiful, terrifying, challenging, daring, breathtaking. It is not for the weak nor the uncommitted nor those who like the status quo. It takes perseverance and resilience and a stout heart but results in unsurpassed joy for those who endure to the end.

On the other hand…

In The Running of the Bulls people are doing the very best that they can just to stay ahead of pain, mutilation, and death. Yes there is an exhilaration to the experience, or so I am told, but the cost of running a poor race could be fatal. One of the interesting aspects of the race is all the spectators who seem to take great delight  in watching the bulls claim victims along the way. Why people even want to run in this race is something I don’t understand. Like I said, it seems idiotic. But this is often the way of life that people choose. They hope to have a thrill or two along the way and survive without too many scars to show for it.

Two choices my grand-kiddos. Two races. Choose well and…

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #65 – About Mosquitos and the Glory of God

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Dear Grandkids,

I have often asked myself the question, “Why in the world did God create mosquitos?” They are pesky little bloodsuckers that cause me lots of irritation and itching. But they are also responsible for about one million deaths worldwide each year as the vexatious culprit of malaria, dengue, zika and West Nile virus, and yellow fever. So it is a valid question. I am not sure I have  a great answer to the question but there are a few things that I have recently learned that might help you the next time you try to kill one of these meddlesome varmints.

Mosquitos were a part of creation and way back in Genesis 1:31 the Bible says that “God saw everything that He had made and behold, it was very good.”  In God’s perfect creation, the animals were given “every green plant for food” (verse 30). So mosquitos as well as all creatures were wholly vegetarian. There was no need for them to bite humans or animals for blood.

The need for mosquitoes to prey on humans resulted from the Fall and the curse that followed. The world changed drastically with the entrance of sin. Romans 6:23 tells us that the “wages of sin is death” and mosquitos have certainly been used by God to bring about this fatal consequence.

  • Did you know the male mosquito never consumes blood. It is only some females that need blood to aid them in egg production?
  • Did you know that female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time?
  • Did you know that there are 3500 different species of mosquitos?
  • Did you know that mosquitoes play an important part in various ecosystems? They are a valuable food source for fish and migratory birds. They also serve as pollinators for various plants.
  • Did you know that a mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood?
  • Did you know that mosquitos hibernate?

So here are my three takeaways as I rethink the question, “Why did God make mosquitos?”

  1. There were originally good but now are being used as instruments in the hands of God to deliver the consequences of sin to a world that has forsaken Him.
  2. The are important in helping to maintain many ecosystems and play a positive role in sustaining many species of plant and animals.
  3. They are yet another reason why we as believers should yearn for That Day when God will restore all things and make creation good again.

In all three cases we can declare that mosquitos are formidable agents that advance the glory of God.

But that doesn’t mean that I have to like them.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle # 64 – About Alaska

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Dear Grandkids,

Nona and I just got back from our cruise to Alaska a few days ago. We had 3 days up in Denali and then 7 days on the Coral Princess cruise ship along with 14 other friends. It was a great trip for many reasons but not the least of which was seeing and being awed by the Lord’s creation. Here are just a few pictures that won’t even do justice to how spectacular  it was in real life.

Remember this: The whole earth declares the glory of God. You can see it in the awesome beauty of the Alaskan wilderness. You can see it in the faces of the people you see everyday. You can see it when you look up at the stars each night. You can even see it in some of the most unlikely places or things if you look hard enough – like in mosquitos. I’ll tell you about that in my next epistle.

In the meantime, look around and be awed by all the creative ways that the Lord displays His glory.

And never forget that you are very loved!,

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #63 – Happy 2nd Birthday Asher (and the 1960’s)

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Dear Asher,

A very happy 2nd birthday to you.

The world was very different when I was two years old.

The year was 1960 and the craziness of what many people consider the most tumultuous and divisive decade in history had not yet kicked in. The world, and our country in particular, would look very different by the time 1970 rolled around.

The history books will tell you as much as you want to know about some of the significant events of the ’60s: The Cuban Missile Crisis. The assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. The assassination of Martin Luther King. The Civil Rights Movement. Vietnam. The Apollo 11 landing on the moon. The Beatles. Woodstock. Helter Skelter. The Black Panthers. Etc.

But what the history books will make little mention of was probably the two single most influential decisions that have been made in the life of our country that are still having far reaching and disastrous effects. In June of 1962  the Supreme Court voted  to remove prayer from our public schools and they followed that up in 1963 with a mandate to ban Bible reading.

These two decisions effectively set the tone for the morality of our country for the last 50+ years. We have been in a downward moral spiral ever since and it is only going to get worse.

So here is what I want to say to you about that.

The Supreme Court can keep public schools from having institutional prayer and Bible reading but it can’t keep you from praying and reading your Bible. Prayer and Scripture are two of the things that God has given us as believers to help us stay close to Him. When you stop doing these two things you will inevitably move away from Him – just as our country continues to do. If you want to maintain your moral compass in a world where that compass no longer exists then read, ponder, and abide in God’s Word and spend time talking with (not to) your Father in Heaven.

May the Lord fuel you with an ever increasing desire to know Him better.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #62 – About Helen Keller

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Dear Grandkids,

In June of 1968 I turned 10 years old. I moved across town from one house to another in Aiken, SC. I started 5th grade at a new (to me) school (Aiken Elementary). I left behind one set of neighborhood friends and met a new set. I had surgery to remove a swollen lymph gland from the side of my head. My folks were divorced and my dad lived 60 miles away. There was a lot of upheaval in my life that year – but nothing compared to the upheaval that our country was experiencing.

1968 was a very bad year for the United States. Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King was assassinated. Robert Kennedy, who more than likely would have won the presidency, was assassinated. We were in the middle of the Vietnam War, the My Lai massacre took place, and the anti war movement was at its height. Richard Nixon was elected president in November and that initiated 6 years of political disaster.

And Helen Keller died – 51 years ago today at the age of 87.

In case you are not familiar with her, Helen Keller was blind and deaf from infancy. And yet she became an accomplished writer, lecturer, and international advocate for the disabled. She graduated cum laude from Radcliffe and in 1964 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, by President Lyndon Johnson.

Keller was famously taught how to speak and read by Anne Sullivan. The first word that she learned was “water.” She later described the experience this way: “I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free.”

There was a time many years ago when I was in many ways like Helen Keller. I was spiritually blind. I was deaf to the words of Scripture. And my sin had disabled me from enjoying a relationship with God – a relationship that I had been created for. And then when I was 17 my soul was awakened when I placed my faith in Jesus. I saw the light. I experienced hope. I found joy. I was set free. Jesus said in John 7:37-38…

“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.’”

May you also thirstily drink from the fountain of living water and find soul awakening refreshment by believing in the One who died so that you can live! (see Pop Pop Epistle #52 for a few other thoughts about this living water)

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #61 – About Obedience

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Dear Grandkids,

Because (the Lord) wants us to flourish He restricts us in order to truly free us.

I came across this quote this morning as I was reading a little book called Before You Open Your Bible by Matt Smethurst. It is a book well worth your time to read – and it is very short.

He is talking about the subject of obedience. Even at your age I know that you struggle with obeying what your parents tell you to do. Sometimes it is easy to obey. Sometimes not so easy. This will be true for your entire lives. Especially when it comes to obeying what God tells us to do – and not to do. I want you to understand early on in your life that God’s commandments are there for a very good reason….

Because (the Lord) wants us to flourish He restricts us in order to truly free us.

Here is an illustration that Smethurst shares that I think will be helpful:

Fish are made for the water and birds for the air, right? Now imagine a fish who decides he’s tired of being restricted to the water. He wants to be free, to experience the joy of life on land. So he manages to flop around and “free” himself onto dry land – which turns out to be a death sentence. Why? He was only designed for water not for air. Conversely, imagine a seagull growing jealous of the freedom he witnesses in the ocean below. I’m sick of being confined to the air, he thinks. I want to be truly free. So he plunges in – and perishes. Why? He was only designed for air, not water.

In a similar way, just as the fish was built for the water and the bird for air, so you were built for God- and you will not find true life and freedom anywhere else.

It will always be in YOUR BEST INTEREST to choose obedience – because the Lord wants you to flourish!

And so do I!

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #60 – About May the 9th

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Dear Grandkids,

It was just a little more than a year ago that I did a similar “May” post for May the 5th.  I just might make this an annual tradition. We shall see. Here are some of my “May the 9th” benedictory prayers for you…

May the 9th verse of Romans 10 be the starting point for for your life as you build a foundation that will carry you through the adventures that lie ahead…

9  If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

May the 9th verse of 2 Corinthians 12 be a regular reminder that your dependence is to be upon the Lord and that you will need to fight daily the temptation to take control of your life from Him after you have reached a point of surrender…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

May the 9th verse of Galatians 6 encourage you when life becomes exhausting and when you wonder if living for Jesus is really worth it…

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

May the 9th verse of 1 Peter 2 stir you to declare the “excellencies” of our awesome God  as you are reminded of who you are and what He has done for you.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

May the 9th verse of 1 John 1 admonish you when you turn away from the One who has justified us, who is sanctifying us, and who will glorify us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And may the 9th verse of Colossians 1 remind you of one the prayers that your Nona and Pop Pop pray for you each night as we get ready to turn out the light at the end of the day…

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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Pop Pop Epistle #59 – Happy Birthday Miller

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Dear Miller,

There has been a lot of craziness this past week so I apologize for being a few days late with this Pop Pop post. But it was fun to be able to celebrate your birthday with you on Saturday and have you hang out with us last week.

Two years old is an awesome age to be. So much to learn. So much to discover. So many adventures in your future. Your mom recently posted a video of you and your brothers that was incredible. The closing shot was of you riding down the street on your gator as if you are off to explore the world. The video perfectly captured a lesson I hope you always remember. Everything is sacred when you take time to notice. Big love happens in the small moments. We just have to be on the look out for those small mundane moments or else we are liable to overlook them.

The American painter Andrew Wyeth once said…

Most artists look for something fresh to paint, frankly I find that quite boring. For me it is much more exciting to find fresh meaning in something familiar.

As you continue to grow up, ask the Lord to “open the eyes of your heart” every day to see people in a fresh way. To see circumstances in a fresh way. To see Scripture in a fresh way. To see nature in a fresh way. To see the gospel in a fresh way.

May the Lord give you eyes to see and a heart to understand and a mind to comprehend just how awesome God’s creation is and to find joy in knowing that you were put on this earth to help others discover the freshness of the love of God and the beauty of the gospel.

Never forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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