Archive for April, 2019


April 20, 2019

The Palm Sunday Plot: a stranger comes to town

Literary legend has it there are only two plots in all of literature: 1) A person goes on a journey, and 2) A stranger comes to town. Surely this story in the planet’s perpetual bestseller is the pinnacle of all plot 2’s.

“Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

He was known for his words and deeds throughout ancient Israel, but virtually unknown in truth—the Son of God come to die for His chosen. He was deliriously adored arriving astride the donkey in the Sunday spectacle, and heartlessly, hideously slain in the Friday apocalypse. It was an outrageously implausible plot in the feeble mind of fallen man, but a perfect plan by Infinite Wisdom, a divine rescue operation designed and decreed before time began and foretold 500 years in advance: infinite wrath redressed by immeasurable love from One and the same, on a crude cross with rusty spikes. He instead of me. And then He arose from the dead, led his followers in an intense seminar in what it all meant and how to spread the Word, and, before their eyes, ascended into heaven, promising to return … as a judge. I can but fall on my knees with Job, “…abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

“Behold, I am coming soon…” (Revelation 22:12)

A Somber Anniversary—Mid-Holy Week

One-half-century ago tonight, just past midnight, April 17, 1969, two F-100’s over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos were attacking a southbound North Vietnamese truck convoy carrying ammunition, transforming it into a spectacular spontaneous fireworks display on the mountainside. In a heartbeat it was high-noon with AAA—head-on with geysers of fearsome firepower. We gave far more than we got, but the price was still too high. Our Sovereign God spared me and took my friend and wingman, Robert V. (“Vince”) Willett, in a mountain-sized mushroom-shaped fireball. MIA still. A merciful God sustains his family and me.

Today his name is engraved on a somber wall on The Mall in Washington D.C. (panel 27W, line 103) and on a memorial stone on a quiet bank of the Missouri River in Oddfellows Park in Great Falls, Montana, scene of Vince’s all-state exploits in football and basketball, placed by the citizens of Great Falls.

Somewhere deep in the dense mountainous jungle of Southeast Asia, half the planet away, there’s another plot of holy ground known only to God, likely a serene tropical Garden of Eden where no other human has ever trod, the final resting place of an All-American hero awaiting Jesus’ return. It has been my lifelong prayer that Vince and I would fly together again one day, with a host of angels in heavenly skies and never night, where war will be no more. RIP, bro.

The First Maundy Thursday: an upstairs room in Jerusalem, circa 0033

All knew something was up that evening. Can you feel the tension in the room as Jesus took off his robe, tied a towel around his waist and prepared to…wash their feet? It was the most menial of servants’ work and surely beneath the miracle-making man who called himself the Son of God. Can you sense the utter bewilderment after a baffling exchange between Jesus and one of their number, resulting in him slinking hurriedly out of the room? Can you wrap your mind around their frustration trying to comprehend wine called blood and bread called body. His body! His blood! Can you even begin to absorb the gravitas in his demeanor with the weight of the world on his shoulders? He knew precisely what would happen next. He already knew intimately the degree of pain he was about to endure. As you take the bread and the cup tonight, in commemoration of all that happens in the next 24 hours of our Savior’s life and death, remember he did it all for you, and marvel at such incomprehensibly infinite love. And confess your utter unworthiness, and pray that His grace will see you through to that great wedding feast in the mansions of the Lord. He, the Lord our God, has promised.  

Good Friday: A Picture of Sin

For 1,400 years Israel sacrificed animals daily on an altar under meticulous rules from God handed down through Moses for the atonement of their sins. Cumulative rivers of blood, a heap of carcasses that could reach to the heavens, and drops of blood as numerous as the stars in the sky, ceremoniously sprinkled on the corners of the altar, the priests’ robes, and the ark itself made it obvious to the most illiterate Jew that God loathed sin, and it all pointed to a future day and sacrifice. In sum it was all a precursor, a child’s crayon sketch of the abhorrent picture of sin as cosmic treason that God painted on that first Good Friday: midday became tempestuous midnight and the earth convulsed as our Creator was savagely slain by His creatures.

“Tetelestai” (John 19:30). And blood gushed from His riven side, splattering onto the dirt and refuse at the foot of His cross.

Think not, my friend, that the perpetrators were some nonhuman despicable species. The hand that wielded the spear, that hammered the spikes into his hands and feet, that cracked the whip across his bared back was yours…mine.

Silent Saturday

A dear friend is in the grave this day…because of me. My dearest friend was also in the grave this day…because of me. I put the former there with a command decision, in the heat of battle, to fight instead of run. I put the latter there with my incorrigible sinfulness. I can only hang my head in shameful silence this Saturday as I reflect on my culpability for both. The former died for a significant percentage of his countrymen who were ungrateful. Nearly all for whom the latter died were ungrateful and uninterested—in reality his enemies—at the time. The former died instantly, the later was savagely tortured to death. The former’s grave was new, dug at a speed of 500 knots or so with his own jet. The latter’s grave was also new, but borrowed. The former has been in the grave for fifty years last Wednesday, with an end known only to God. The latter entered the grave nearly 2000 years ago Friday, but stayed only three days. It’s a high-powered dose of humility this Holy Week. 

“…but Sunday’s coming.” We’ll commemorate with profound gratitude the latter’s rise from the dead and his victory over sin and death on our behalf. Because of the latter—the Lord Jesus Christ, our Redeemer—the former, Vince Willett, my wingman—will also arise one day, as will I, when the latter returns. O happy reunion day! Join me at the empty cross near the vacant grave tomorrow and we will celebrate love so amazing, so divine, that it demands our souls, our lives, our all!    

Easter Sunday

The Zen Buddhist says there are no happy endings. He never met my Risen Savior.

“I died, and behold, I am alive forevermore … I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he [also!] live” (Rev. 1:18, John 11:25).

Celebrate! Worship and adore Him, redeemed one! This happy ending has no ending!

crosses at easter

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