Happy Mothers’ Day in heaven, Mom!

May 9, 2021
Of all Mom gave her eldest son,
A poet’s bent was only one.
Her words and deeds, with steadfast love,
Instilled the same for God above.

TO THE MEMBERS OF BETHEL LUTHERAN CHURCH
[On the death of my father, by Alberta L. Wetterling]

How do you tell your Bethel friends
How much they mean to you?
How words of comfort gave your strength
And helped to see you through—
A trying time—
A sad time—
And yet a victory!
For one who was among us
Has earned his rest, you see…

THIS THING CALLED SIN
By JD Wetterling

Astounding is this thing called sin,
It makes the God of love and grace
The enemy of men.

Those with the deepest sense of sin
Still can but weakly comprehend
The sinfulness of sin.

But this we know from Holy Writ,
It took the blood of His own Son 
To sate His hate of it.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, 
And the teaching of her kindness is on her tongue…
Her children rise up and call her blessed…” 
(Proverbs, 31: 26, 28)

See you in church.

THE WONDERS OF GOD’S WAYS

May 6, 2021
O LORD, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things…
 (Isa. 25:1).

Fifty-two years ago today I last flew F-100 #995—May 6, 1969—my 261st combat mission from Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, on the beach of the South China Sea. I next sat in that cockpit 48 years and a month later, on June 7, 2017, as did my wife, son, daughter-in-law and 3 grandchildren, when it (out of over 2000 built) was magnificently restored and dedicated at the Georgia Museum of Aviation, the second largest Air Force Museum in the nation. It was a mountaintop moment to be there for the dedication and let my family sit in the cramped, cluttered cockpit where Dad/Granddad dodged and sweat a lot of bullets and fired a lot of his own (4×20 mm) in the Vietnam War. In His amazing grace God gave me a swept wing angel of death who never failed me in 268 combat missions, supplied copious quantities of adrenaline to compensate for paralyzing fear, and put enemy gunners with bad aim in my flight path. But for His mercy in my survival, four of my family members at that dedication would never have been born.

As the sun wanes in the western sky of my brief day, I have few greater pleasures than tracing the wonders of God’s ways in my life. of which the war was just one phase. I share Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones’ worldview: “My whole life experiences are proof of the sovereignty of God and His direct interference in the lives of men. I cannot help believing what I believe. I would be a madman to believe anything else—the guiding hand of God! It is an astonishment to me.”

Were that not enough, even better awaits. If I may borrow from one more saint—Fanny Crosby, in one of her many great hymns: 

“To God be the glory great things he has done…
But purer and higher and greater will be
Our wonder our transport when Jesus we see.”

THE CHURCH WILL STAND

May 2, 2021

“The church will stand at the grave of the BBC.” –Lord North

Substitute any manmade institution or government you can think of in place of BBC and the statement loses not an ounce of truth. Lord North, a founder and director of the BBC, made the statement back in the mid-60’s in response to a suggestion that the BBC should discontinue religious programming because the people were no longer interested in religion and the church was obsolete.

Alistair Begg mentioned it when he wrote for The Gospel Coalition this past week, and included this:

“Christians are increasingly going to be seen as different, and not in a good way. We are increasingly going to have to choose between obedience and comfort. The next decades will not bring apathy to the gospel, but antagonism. And that’s OK. After all, that has been the reality for most of God’s people through most of history.” [Excellent read. Alistair Begg: ‘Welcome to Exile. It’s Going to Be OK.’ (thegospelcoalition.org)

My Men’s Bible Study leader, a first-rate Bible scholar, said it in fewer words: “The days ahead are darker for believers.”


The Apostle Paul can speak with more authority on the subject that anyone else but Christ. He had to deal with a corrupt monolithic government often in cahoots with a large segment of the population working against him. 5 times he received 40 lashes less one, 3 times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, 6 years he spent in prison. He suffered shipwreck, starvation, deprivation, and despair. Yet he told the Corinthians, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Beyond all comparison—let that soak in. When he spoke and wrote God spoke and wrote and his voice still echoes through the ages. When his allotted days were up he got a quick trip to glory, compared to Christ—he died by the executioner’s axe.

Tell me again about your persecution, Christian friend.

“…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Jesus in Matt. 16:18b).

See you in church.

THOMAS PAINE, REIMAGINED

April 25, 2021

Thomas Paine (1776), reimagined as a 21st century Christian—his famous speech accordingly edited:

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier christian and the sunshine patriot church-goer will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country God; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman all true Christians. 

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this [Biblical] consolation that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.

What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness and only that that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom [in Christ] should not be highly rated.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…” (2 Corinthians 4:18). See you in church.

REPENTANCE

April 18, 2021

“From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:17).

“Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life, it is the Christian life.” (John Calvin)

“Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day.” (Charles Spurgeon)

Repentance is necessary for more than just violations of the letter of the Ten Commandments, which, “weakened by the flesh,” we cannot keep. It’s worse than that. Jesus made painfully plain in the Sermon on the Mount that lust is adultery, envy is covetousness, and anger is murder, just for starters. In other words, thoughts equal deeds in God’s economy, and according to the National Science Foundation, the average person thinks 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day, of which 85% are negative. Who is naïve enough to think those are all pure thoughts? “There is none righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10).  

Therein is the need for repentance. Daily. Continually. What does the repentance that Jesus commands look like in the mundane days of faithfulness? He presented a model in the story He told of the praying publican in Luke 18:13—‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Pair the publican’s brief but soulful prayer with Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 5:17) to “pray without ceasing.” Then try substituting some of those 50,000 negative thoughts a day with that quick prayer. Let a sinful thought be a triggering tweak of your conscience that prompts the prayer and, God willing, it can be a sanctifying experience. You can pray it in one exhalation. Don’t make it a mindless mantra—the publican beat his breast as he prayed. The aim is not to accumulate points to earn your passage to glory—that is not possible (Romans 3:20)—but to continually acknowledge and confess to God and to your self-deluded self just who you are and what you desperately need and who is your only hope. We are depraved souls in need of a savior and Christ is it—the only it. The sinless Son of God took the punishment we deserve on the cross and by His grace we are saved through faith in Him, and even that faith is a gift of His mercy (Ephesians 2:8-9)! “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you…” (1Kings 8:23).

Jesus said, “… unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3). May this be your perpetual prayer of repentance to the last beat of your heart:

‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

See you in church.

ODE TO A WINGMAN: A Post-Midnight Passage to Glory

April 17, 2021
We both were gung-ho, two young fighter jocks.
Our blight was psychotic—a love affair.
Belov’d was inert, ferocious and fast. 
She looked mach one as she sat in the chocks.

The Super Sabre, but we called her “hun—”
A sweptwing killer and seraphic fly’r,
We fondled her switches and lit her fire
Then mated on takeoff—became as one.

My wingman and I liked night sorties best.
The trucks all southbound on Ho Chi Minh’s Trail
Made awesome explosions when we prevailed.
The dark made it hard, but we ace’d the test.

Once as we ravaged a truck motorcade,
Big triple-A guns tried to stop our huns.
I pulled off the trucks and dove on those guns.
High noon at midnight—a bold (?) escapade.

The big guns went silent. Were they all dead?
Can’t know for sure on an inky dark night. 
My wingman then asked where to take the fight.
“Just drop another round right on their head.”

A lifetime later those words I regret.
More guns belched fire as he dove in the night.
Two huge explosions said both lost the fight.
MIA is the term—he and his jet.

The term haunts the soul so much more than “dead.” 
The God who made both of us worked His plan, 
And eons from now we’ll both understand—
His blessing was greater: he went ahead.

RIP: Robert “Vince” Willett, Jr., August 5, 1944 –April 17, 1969

HERE I STAND

April 13, 2021

500 years ago today—April 13, 1521—Martin Luther stood before the assembled heads of state of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms, Germany.  Roman Catholic historian Lord Acton termed the moment “the hinge of history…” Luther himself had a different hinge in mind—a hinge on heaven’s door.  He was there to defend his writings, which contradicted church rules and traditions. They all stemmed from a revelation he had while meditating on the first chapter of Romans in his monastery cell a few years earlier.  Verse 17, an old familiar passage, hit him like a thunderbolt this time—“…the righteous shall live by faith.” R. C. Sproul relates, “And he began to understand that what Paul was speaking of here was a righteousness that God in His grace was making available to those who would receive it passively, not those who would achieve it actively, but that would receive it by faith, and by which a person could be reconciled to a holy and righteous God… ‘When I discovered that, I was born again of the Holy Ghost. And the doors of paradise swung open, and I walked through.’” That led to his writing 95 Theses, controversial issues and practices he wished to debate with church authorities, which he had nailed on the Wittenberg Church door. It shook the world like a massive meteor strike that became known as the Protestant Reformation and led to Luther’s command performance at Worms. But there was no defense or debate allowed, just a demand by the church authorities to recant. Luther refused. He declared, “My conscience is captive to the Word of God,” and in the providence of God he changed the course of world history.   

Out of a few hundred works of art I’ve produced on my scroll saw, this depiction of the Reformation is my favorite: Luther’s Rose, his personal seal, itself rich in symbolism, anchored to the framework of the Triune God whose Gospel is explained by the five “Sola’s,” (Latin for “alone”), of the Reformation:  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone as revealed in Scripture alone, all by Grace alone for the glory of God alone.

Catholics and Protestants, though we share the foundational Apostles Creed, will earnestly debate the sola part of these “Sola’s,” clarified in the Reformation, till Jesus returns. No matter where you attend church, know its doctrinal claims. Be a Berean. Search the scriptures. Pray that the Holy Spirit would enlighten you through His Word. Examine yourself. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. There’s nothing more important in life than the state of your eternal soul. Five hundred years after saying it, knowing it could bring a death sentence in that era but fearing God more than man, Luther’s courageous words at Worms still resonate in millions of Christian minds around the world, including mine—“Here I stand.”

LEGACY

April 11, 2021

When our daughter, Lizz, was 13 years old, her friend, who was an only child, invited her along on a family vacation. One of their stops was in Savannah, GA, and she sent us a postcard with a picture of a beautiful church with towering twin steeples. She filled us in with vacation news and squeezed in a PS that read, “I saw the church and I thought of you.” Melted my heart. That post card has spent the intervening 30 years in the inside cover pocket of my Bible with all my other most precious communications.

After a lifetime of world travels we now live near her and her family. It’s not my beloved mountains nor the beach, just mundane Midwest, my roots, right where we want to be—with our family who loves The Lord. When beloved daughter wiggles her index finger I unwind myself from her little finger and jump, with tool chest in hand. When it’s an Easter meal or any excuse for a special occasion, I jump even more eagerly.

Lord, may I never give Lizz a reason to not think of her Dadd when she sees a church.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

 God knows I was a mediocre trainer on my best day, but His grace overcame.

See you in church.

JD Wetterlingwww.jdwetterling.comAuthor Blog: Cogitations 

EASTER SUNDAY

April 4, 2021

Up from the grave he arose,
With a mighty triumph o’er his foes;
He arose a victor from the dark domain,
And he lives forever, with his saints to reign.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

(Robert Lowry)


We heard from our pulpit this past Palm Sunday that the day has dawned in America when we Christians are now not just tolerated, we are considered the problem with our crazed culture. This Easter, 2021, we celebrate the Risen Savior, even as we have sadly but apathetically witnessed the declension our “one nation, under God,” to one nation given up by God (Ro.1:24, 26, 28). That changes nothing about the facts of the Son of God’s death and resurrection for the salvation of His chosen, but it certainly should lead you to ask, “Am I indeed among that blessed number?”


“…the hour has come for you to wake from sleep” (Ro. 13:11), lest you sleepwalk to perdition. Friend, are you willing, this glorious victorious Easter morning, to suffer persecution for proclaiming your faith in the Risen Savior, who suffered and died for you?

The cross is empty, so’s the tomb.

The Hinge of Hist’ry sealed death’s doom.

Stand boldly and echo the angel that first Easter morning (Matthew 28:6). Inconceivably great is your reward!

“HE IS RISEN!”

SILENT SATURDAY REDUX

April 3, 2021

It’s Saturday morning and no one had a good night. In his nightmares a centurion rubbed his hands raw trying to get the blood off.  A feverish soldier, feeling like he was enveloped by the fires of hell in his newly-won single-piece tunic, cried out and flung it away in the night. Sanhedrin members tossed and turned fitfully, haunted by the guilt pangs of their misdeeds as their own haughty words bored into their conscience: “Let his blood be on us and on our children.” Pilate, already on a short tether from Caesar for botching the last Jewish riot, did violence to his conscience to avoid another one, and executed an innocent man. His sleep was haunted and his equally tormented wife was driving him crazy with, “I told you so.” Sleep was impossible for the devastated disciples, who feared getting dragged away in the night to the same fate as Jesus. A grief-stricken mother was traumatized by visions of her son’s inhuman torture. Hundreds of temple worshipers stared wide-eyed at their bedroom ceilings, the sound of the 60-foot high 4-inch thick temple curtain ripping from top to bottom still echoing in their ears. The earth had ceased its rock-splitting quakes, but folks still quaked in their beds and terrorized children cried through the night. Innumerable sleepless souls lay in abject despair as the most promising candidate ever for the long-awaited Messiah was crucified before the eyes of thousands. The very rocks cried out. A lost world never felt more lost. And the devil danced till dawn.

But Sunday’s coming…


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