Pop Pop Epistle #135 – 2020 By The Numbers

Dear Grandkids,

2020 has been one of those years that most people would just like to forget. And in many ways I would agree. But in other ways it has been an awesome year. Yes, a year that has created new challenges but also a year that has created new opportunities. But such is life. Every year will be like this in one way or another. Here is my annual end of the year round up… by the numbers.

0 – I am more than happy to report that I had zero kidney stones this year.

1 – I did however have 1 CAT-Scan – which showed that I DO NOT have any kind of unusual growth in my head. I had to get this checked out because I started having some hearing loss this year in my right ear. So if I ask you to repeat something sometime instead of being annoyed at your aging granddad instead rejoice that I don’t have a brain tumor.

1 – We added one more grandkid to the clan this year thanks to Scott and Mary. Haddon was born back in late February and has been a joyful delight to the family.

2 – I can officially check off a bucket list item. I can now solve both a 2×2 and a 3×3 Rubik’s Cube.

3 – As you are no doubt aware we again held the Reyner Family Disc Golf Invitational over Christmas. One day you will be included in this if you choose to do so. But this year I am proud to announce my 3rd place finish.

4 – To date, there have been 4 members of our family that have tested positive for Covid-19. In all cases, it was a very mild version of the virus. We are hopeful that 2021 will be the year of sayonara to the coronavirus.

9 – Apparently there is this thing called the enneagram that has been around for a long time. I am kind of late to the enneagram party but this year have enjoyed exploring how it works. It is a tool that is used to describe the different personality types that people have and I have found it very useful. I am a Type 9 – which probably explains why I like the Hebrew word “shalom” so much.

15 – Back in October, Nona and I went waterfall chasing and managed to see 15 waterfalls  in the western part of NC. We would love to introduce some of them to you sometime as we enjoyed the pristine beauty of nature in our great state.

18 – Back in March we started zooming with our College Age group from church but started meeting in person (socially distanced as much as possible) in July. We now meet in our church worship center so we have plenty of space to spread out and average about 18 people each Tuesday as we ponder Scripture together.

27 – I have now been serving at Ridgecrest Baptist for 27+ years. I serve with a great staff team led by a great pastor alongside great people seeking to know and follow Jesus.

44 – This is the 44th Pop Pop Epistle of 2020 that I have written. Hopefully I am around long enough to write 1000 of these to youse guys and gals.

36,600 – Back at the beginning of the year I set a goal to do 100 pushups each day. This morning I counted down my final 100 of the year and am pleased to report that I did not miss one.single.day. during the year. This tells me a few things: 1) I was healthy enough to do them every day which is a good thing and 2) a worthy goal is very motivational to me as I seek to pursue health in my advanced years.

4,717,062 – One of my other fitness goals was to keep walking and to minimally get 70,000 steps each week – an average of 10,000 steps per day. As of this writing at 4:43 PM on December 31 I have over 4.7 million steps for the year (a daily average of 12.8k). And for the 4th year in a row I have not missed a week of getting at least 70,000 steps. That works out to 208 straight weeks.

So anytime that you want to call and congratulate me on any of these numbers I would love to hear from you. But just so you know, the number that I love the most, which I did not even mention, is 8 – which represents all of you: Grayson, Bowen, Keller, Miller, Asher, Audrey, Ezra, and Haddon.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Pop Pop Epistle #134 – 40 Years Ago Today

Dear Grandkids,

40 years sure does go by fast!

It was 40 years ago today that I asked Nona to be my wife. That decision made it possible for you to read this. If I had not asked and if she had not said yes then we would not have had 3 awesome kids and you would never have been born.

Here’s how it happened. It was Christmas Day 1980. We were both 22 years old. I had gone to Kernersville, NC to hang out with Nona and her family for the evening. Kernersville is where she grew up and the house was the same house that she had come home from the hospital to. Her mom and dad and one of her sisters were there. At some point in the evening we snuck back to her bedroom to privately exchange Christmas gifts with each other. I told her that I had written a poem for her and I gave it to her and asked her to read it out loud. It was entitled “This Poem Is A Prayer” and went like this:

This poem is a prayer
So as you read you ought to pray.
I thought it best the Lord should hear
These words I have to say.

This poem is a love song
So as you read you ought to sing.
You can praise the Lord our God
Who’s given life to you and me.

This poem is a dream
Which I have waited to come true.
I had been asleep for many years
But awoke when I found you.

This poem is an ending
To the two of us apart
And it culminates a miracle
Which brought love to my heart.

This poem is a beginning
To a never ending life
Where two can live as one
And both can live in Christ.

This poem is an answer
To a prayer prayed long ago
As it brings us both together
To a life we soon shall know.

This poem is a question
Which I cannot let you read
But if you’ll look into my eyes
I’ll ask you…

At this point I got down on one knee and finished the poem by saying “will you marry me.” I told her there was something in the toe of her stocking. She fished it out and found a box with a diamond ring. She looked up at me and answered my question by quoting from Psalm 34:3-4 which says, “O magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together! I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  She said YES and told me that the Lord had given her a calm assurance about us being together despite some crazy ideas that I had at this point in my life. (Remind me sometime to tell you the story about how I never became a dairy farmer).

So that’s my story as best I remember it. I will end this epistle by saying two things: 1) It has been an awesome 40 years with Nona full of incredible memories and shared ministry, and 2) 40 years sure does go by fast!

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Quotes Worth Pondering –  Paul David Tripp (Come Let Us Adore Him)

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“Sadly, many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Sadly, many of us are no longer gripped by wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. Sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves. We walk by the garden of the incarnation, but we don’t see the roses of grace anymore. Our eyes have gone lazy and our hearts have grown cold.”

 

Pop Pop Epistle #133 – What Would Jesus Do?

Dear Grandkids,

Back in 1961, on this day in history, a song called “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by a group known as The Tokens topped the Billboard Chart pop list and became a wildly popular song.

And that brings me to a story I’m sure I have never told you.

Back in the Fall of 1985, Nona was pregnant with our first child (Christy) and I was the student pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh. I was sitting in my office when I received a phone call from a friend who ran a local Christian bookstore. He called me because he knew that part of my story included a Jewish background. He had received a phone call from a man who had just rolled into Raleigh by bus and was wanting to talk to somebody about how to become a Christian. He said that he also was from a Jewish background.

So I dropped everything that I was doing and rode 15 minutes downtown to the bus stop where I met Alan.

Alan was not in good shape emotionally, psychologically, or financially. His story went something like this: He had grown up in a Jewish household but had drifted away from his religious roots. He had married and then struck it big in the music industry. He was the lead singer for a group called The Tokens who had popularized the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” back in the early ’60s. He sang the opening part of the song for me and he was quite good. Since then, he had lost everything, his wife had died, he was drifting around the country by bus, he was suicidal, and as a last resort called the Christian bookstore as he was passing through Raleigh – who called me.

I listened to his story and then shared the gospel with him which he readily embraced. And then, because he literally had no where else to go, I invited him to come stay at our house. Now a wiser man would at the very least have asked his pregnant wife if this was OK, but alas wisdom was not one of my better virtues. I was 27 years old, naively compassionate, and trying to do what I thought Jesus would do.

Alan stayed with us for six weeks. We introduced him to our church where he was baptized. We found him a job at McDonald’s. And we gave him a place to lay his head and a chance to try to heal.

About week five Nona and I had a weekend out of town that we were obligated to and Alan went to stay with our friends Paul and Macon. Paul and Macon worked  alongside us with students at Providence and had gotten to know Alan. Paul was a lawyer and is currently serving as a judge on the North Carolina Supreme Court. A very smart guy. As they spent time with Alan that weekend some things came up in their conversation that didn’t add up. So he started doing some research. Now keep in mind that this was before the advent of the internet. By the time we got back into town he was convinced that not everything about Alan’s story was true.

So we sat down with him and confronted him with the inconsistencies. And then he told us the real story. The Jewish background – true. The singing career – not true. The wife – not true. The down and out part – true. He had fabricated the singing and wife part of the story as a way to gain our sympathy thinking that if he was just a drifter that no one would give him the time of day. He said that his conversion was genuine. He even went before our church and confessed publicly to the lies.

We believed him. We forgave him. We invited him to stay and make his home in Raleigh and grow in his faith at our church. But his feelings of guilt about the lies made him want to leave. He said that he had people out in Colorado so we bought him a bus ticket and sent him on his way. And so I said goodbye to him at the same place that I met him.

This would not be the only time that I invited a stranger into our home. But that is a story for another day. I will leave you with this thought: Asking the question “what would Jesus do” is always a good question to ask. Sometimes people will take advantage of your desire to please God but don’t let that keep you from asking the question again and again.

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #72 – Ephesians 6:10-20

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Verse 11 of this awesome passage is a succinct summary of what Paul talks about in these 11 verses:

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Paul’s concern for the Ephesian believers (and us) is that we stand firm in our faith. This is a concern because he has seen too many people fall by the spiritual wayside. I share his concern. And as I reflect on 35 years of ministry, many of them with students, I often wonder “where are they now?”

There are a few things in this passage that Paul wants believers to understand so that they will never be counted among the “where are they now”:

1) We are involved in a cosmic battle – We must never forget that we are at war and the battleground is our soul. Even though our enemy is invisible he is nonetheless real and nonetheless ruthless. The tendency among believers is to forget about Satan. This is very dangerous because our forgetting enables him to infiltrate our world without worrying about repercussions. It’s as if we give him a free pass to do what he wants.

2) Satan has a strategy to defeat us – It is a strategy that was field-tested in the Garden of Eden. And because it proved successful it has been used again and again. You would think that we would not be so easily duped after all this time, but alas, this is not so. Here are a few of his oft used tactics:

  • He creates doubt in the minds of believers. This is what he did in Genesis 3:1 with Eve – “Did God actually say…”
  • He distorts the Truth of God’s Word. Compare Genesis 2:17 with Genesis 3:3. Satan added something that God did not say. Sometimes he adds things and sometimes he subtracts things. In either case it is a distortion of truth.
  • He discourages the saints of God. Often he will plant the question “Why God” in our minds when circumstances are not going the way that we would hope.
  • He is a destroyer. He destroys relationships. He destroys churches. He destroys health. And he is clever enough so that we do not even suspect that he might be the culprit or the cause.

Once our eyes are opened to his strategy then we can begin to fight the real enemy. But too often we lash out at those closest to us when we are hurt or confused or despairing… and Satan just watches and malevolently grins.

3) We have been given everything we need to fight the good fight – Paul refers to the weapons of our warfare as the armor of God. He calls us to wield our weapons. All too often though, we leave our weapons unused, making us extremely susceptible to whatever Satan wants to do. The weapons we have been given are more than enough to defeat the enemy. So I will remind you, as I have been reminded:

  • Remind yourself of truth and reject the lies of the evil one (v.14)
  • Recognize that you are one of God’s righteous ones – made righteous because of the righteousness of Jesus. (v.14)
  • Rehearse the gospel daily – delighting in all that the Lord has done for you. (v.15)
  • Respond to everything in faith – expressing to God your confidence that He is in control. (v.16)
  • Read, ponder, and memorize the Word of God. (v.17)
  • React prayerfully in all circumstances. (v.18)

Just because these weapons don’t seem like spiritual machine guns or atomic weaponry do not make the mistake of devaluing them. They are powerful tools in our arsenal that will effectively neutralize the enemy.

May this brick help you to go into battle with confidence knowing that you you indeed will overcome the evil one.

 

 

Quotes Worth Pondering –  John Piper (The Dawning of Indestructible Joy)

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“Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can’t be changed-these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy. It is God’s message of hope this Advent that what is good need never be lost and what is bad can be changed.”

― John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent

 

Pop Pop Epistle #132 – About Jesus’ Birth

Dear Grandkids,

‘Tis the season when the Christmas story is read from Luke 2. No doubt you have heard it and are familiar with it. But I wonder if you have ever really thought about what it was like for Joseph and Mary. Here are a few things to consider the next time you hear the story…

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

  • It was 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary most likely would have traveled south along the flatlands of the Jordan River and then turned west somewhere near Jericho to head up towards Jerusalem. And by up I mean up. It was about 18 miles of uphill rocky terrain to Bethlehem.
  • As you picture this, keep in mind that Mary was 8½ months pregnant. If they were able to cover 10 miles a days it would have taken a week and a half.  This would have been a grueling trek for anybody – much less a very pregnant woman.
  • And whether she walked or rode on a donkey, which we do not know, Mary would have been sore and exhausted from the trip. She would not have been well rested as she went into labor and gave birth. Most stories of the birth account romanticize it, but I promise that Mary did not have a beatific look on her face when Jesus made His way into the world.
  • In America almost all births happen in the sterile, comfortable confines of a hospital with multiple medical personnel on the ready. Joseph and Mary were probably hoping to stay in the spare bedroom of a relative or another Jewish family or worst case in an inn but because so many people were in town because of the census the best lodging they could find was likely a dark, dank cave.
  • The cave no doubt was a respite for animals so use your imagination to take a good whiff of what Jesus’ delivery room most likely smelled like.
  • And Jesus’ birth was like any other birth. There was a lot of wailing on Mary’s part, and a lot of anxious moments on Joseph’s part. And there was no doubt a lot of amniotic fluid and blood and possibly that gross looking cheesy stuff followed by the expulsion of the placenta. It was a royal mess – pun intended – as the King of Kings made His way into the world.
  • And then Jesus began to cry – which was an awesome sound given everything that Joseph and Mary had just gone through.

And thus began the the most influential life that has ever existed.

The next time you read or hear the Christmas story – think about the story within the story. And be very grateful that God sent His Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4)

Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

Brick #71 – Romans 12:1-2

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I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Back on October 25 of this year I preached a message on verse 1 of this passage. You can find it HERE. So I will focus my pondering today on verse 2.

As believers, I think we can agree that we do NOT want to be conformed to this world – or as one paraphrase says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into it’s mold.” And we don’t want to stay the same way that we are. The only other option is to change. Or rather to be changed. To be transformed. Or to use the Greek word that you will recognize, “be metamorphosized.”

Paul tells us at the end of the verse that when we are transformed we will be able to discern God’s will. And who doesn’t want to know what God’s will is? Most of us are regularly asking the question, “Lord, what do You want me to do.” Paul is telling us how to figure out the answer to this question, which is… drumroll please… “by the renewal of your mind.” Two questions immediately come to my mind:

Why do we need our minds renewed? The answer is fairly simple. GIGO. That is computer speak for Garbage In Garbage Out. For years our minds have been programmed by the world. By the music we listen to and videos we watch. By the TV shows and movies we look at. By the books that we read. By what we are taught in school. By social media platforms. Little by little, day by day our minds have subtly been taught to believe certain things. Most of the time we have not even questioned the influence that all these things have had on us. And consequently, we have unconsciously come to believe things about God, about ourselves, about people in general, and about the world that may or may not be true. It’s time to challenge the world’s perspective that has infiltrated our minds. It’s time to have our minds renewed. So…

How do we renew our minds? Again, the answer is fairly simple. TITO. That is “Shay speak” for Truth In Truth Out. Instead of allowing the world to inform our minds we need to allow the Word to inform our minds. So here are a few very practical things that you can do to make sure that your mind is daily being renewed. All of these are things you have heard many times – but sometimes we try to make things too complicated and we ignore the simple answers:

  • Read the Word daily – give the Truth of Scripture access to your mind
  • Ponder the Word – Don’t just read Scripture, take some time and think about what it is saying.
  • Apply the Word – Make sure that you are putting the commands of God into practice. If God says to do something, do it. If God says not to do something, don’t do it.
  • Memorize the Word – Find a passage of Scripture that you really like and take the time to commit it to memory.
  • Talk about the Word – As you go about your day find someone that you can have a conversation with about what you have been reading.
  • Listen to the Word – Make sure that you are in church and hearing the Word being preached and the Word being taught.
  • Sing the Word – Tune into a good Christian radio station or use the Pandora or Spotify Apps to sing and worship the Word of God.
  • Exalt the Word – John 1 tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory….” Jesus is the incarnate Word of God. Honor Him. Praise Him. Magnify His name. Exalt Him.

May the Lord use this brick to remind you to get back to the basics and to be intentional about renewing your mind.

Quotes Worth Pondering –  David Mathis (Habits of Grace)

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Grace sanctifies. It is too wild to let us stay in love with unrighteousness. Too free to leave us in slavery to sin. Too untamed to let our lusts go unconquered. Grace’s power is too uninhibited to not unleash us for the happiness of true holiness.

David Mathis – Habits of Grace

Pop Pop Epistle #131 – HB Audrey and About Change

Dear Audrey,

Change!

Without a doubt we can say that your third year of life was a year full of change. Let’s do a quick review of some of the major changes you’ve experienced the last 12 months.

  • In February you went from being the baby sister to being a big sister when your family welcomed Haddon into the world.
  • In March the whole world changed when the coronavirus pandemic hit and it forced everybody to make significant changes in their lives.
  • In November you found out that your family would be moving to Raleigh – new city, new home, new church, new job for your daddy.

Those three changes alone are enough to rock anybody’s world. Add to that the crazy-ness of being a two year old and all the changes you were experiencing just by being a healthy, growing little girl.

Some people handle change better than other people. Even as I wrote that I heard your great Aunt Jeanne say out loud, “Amen!” But one thing that you can count on is that you will go through hundreds of changes in your life. Some of them you will readily embrace and some you will fight to avoid. Some will come from out of nowhere and some you will have a lot of time to prepare for. Some will make you laugh and some will make you cry. Some you will initiate and some will be thrust upon you.

The best advice that I can give you as you grow up to prepare for the changes that will come your way is this: Draw near to God! Psalm 91 says it this way:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you…

He will deliver you no matter what changes might come your way…. Draw near to God!

As a bonus, here are 4 quotes that I came across about change that I like.

  • “Worrying about something you can’t change will forever be the biggest waste of your time.”
  • “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ―Mother Teresa
  • “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” —C.S. Lewis
  • “You’re always one decision away from a totally different life.” —Mark Batterson

I hope you have an awesome day celebrating your birthday and that it is full of lots of fun surprises. Never ever forget that you are very loved!

Pop Pop

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