Archive for March, 2021


March 28, 2021

Whither America? Rather ask whither mankind? Easter provides the only out against all the powers of darkness, disease and death. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

Two millennia ago, on the original Palm Sunday, the Son of God came to town as an itinerant preacher riding on a donkey, with a peace overture for the ages, the solution for mankind’s most perilous problem: sin. He successfully accomplished his mission in a week, at an incomprehensible cost and concluding with an unfathomable miracle. He’s coming back. He won’t be on a donkey, meek and mild. “Justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). Are you walking like you know it’s true, or are you just talking? For most His return will not be peaceful.

“So I pray with all my heart that God will awaken each one of us today to the sweetness, the loveliness, the glory of the gospel declared by Christ.” (The last sentence of the last sermon delivered by R. C. Sproul.)

[Jesus said,] ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

‘Seek me and live…’ (Amos 5:4)

See you in church.


March 27, 2021

In his book on London’s back-to-back seventeenth century disasters, the Great Plague of 1665 followed by the fire of ‘66—God’s Terrible Voice in the City—Puritan minister Thomas Vincent recounts the wrath of God in His judgment on the city. Over 7000 died a week at the plague’s peak. All who could afford it or had a place to go left the city, leaving the poorest to fend for themselves.  The churches’ preachers had fled with them. The nonconformist preachers, who had been put out of their pulpits when the monarchy was restored in 1660 under King Charles II, saw the desperate need of panic-stricken lost souls and selflessly stepped into the empty pulpits. Though unlawful, the unlicensed ministers fervently preached “…on the brink of the pit of hell into which thousands were tumbling.” Churches were filled to overflowing. Many would not live out the day, many more the week, all highly motivated to get right with God. In Vincent’s words:

“If you ever saw a drowning man catch at a rope, you may guess how eagerly many people did catch at the Word, when they were ready to be overwhelmed by this overflowing scourge which was passing through the city!… how they then did harken as for their lives, as if every sermon were their last, as if death stood at the door of the church…”

The dead were piling up so much faster than they could be buried there was the additional fear there would not be enough left alive to bury the dead and the city would be “quite depopulated by the plague.” 97,000 souls, out of a population of 460,000, lost their lives—21%. The percentage of deaths over the number who stayed in the ravaged city was at least double that.

Less than a year after the terrors of the Great Plague the survivors awoke on a September Sunday morning in ’66 to a horrifying conflagration like the fires of hell consuming “the greatest part of the city,” so hot that church bells were melting. They fled for their lives with whatever they could snatch and carry on their backs.  All else was turned to ashes—a seventeenth century Sodom. By all appearances London suffered the condemnation of an angry God’s judgment.

It is in His wrath that we most vividly see God’s holiness. Vincent paints the picture of God’s judgment on London, meticulously cataloguing the sins of the great city that justified a Holy God’s righteous anger. “It was the ungodliness of London which brought the plague and fire upon London.” It reads like the first chapter of Isaiah detailing the sins of Judah; it reads like Romans 1 describing the judgment of God on the unrighteous; it reads like the headlines of 21st century American news media.

John MacArthur, one of America’s foremost pastors, lists three stages of God’s judgment as proclaimed in the first chapter of Romans. 1.) Sexual Revolution, 2.) Homosexual revolution, 3.) Insanity—“a debased mind” (Ro. 1:28, 32)—from which there is no turning back. Sound familiar? In addition to the sins of Judah, the unrighteousness of Romans 1 and the sins of 17th century London, America has legalized sin, criminalized righteousness, mocked God, reviled His chosen, and gruesomely slain multi-millions of its own innocent offspring. The great gospel sin of unbelief in the God of the Bible abounds in the USA.

MacArthur says “It is too late for our nation [God’s judgment is here and we’re in stage 3!], but it is not too late for God’s elect.” In every age there is always a remnant of God’s elect, chosen by Grace. (Ro. 11:5, Isa. 6:13, Gen. 45:7 et al) Be in that number, friend. Get to church this week, with the urgency of a citizen of plague-stricken London. Isaiah’s nation under God’s judgment was laid waste and the people taken away into captivity. London under God’s judgement was destroyed by disease and fire. Whither America?    

See you in church tomorrow.

“Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come…” (Revelation 14:7).


March 21, 2021

I have the great blessing of calling on the shut-in saints in our church family. I know our pastors would dispute this, but I think I have the most fulfilling ministry in our church. In what other ministry can you bring so much joy, just by showing up? I have accumulated a treasure chest of golden moments that I will cherish forever with saints like Carolyn Sellers. The downside is we become good friends and then all too soon they graduate to a higher realm. Carolyn graduated this week. Her 85-year-old mind, ravaged by an awful disease, has worn completely out and she now dwells in a mansion not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. I called on her for four years, till the virus struck, passing through two digitally locked doors of the dementia ward to get to her room. I don’t think she ever knew my name. I’ve never known her any other way, but that wisp of a woman has a special place in my heart. I always introduced myself and included our church name—familiar words to her, I think—and she responded with the sweetest smile in loving tones, “Oh Hi!” It was as if she had been eagerly waiting my arrival. Early on she’d ask multiple times each visit, “How’s Pastor Cook?” (our long retired beloved pastor).  That was about as long as her sentences ever got, and they were usually in response to my questions. As her memory and vocabulary continued to decline I discovered that hymn lyrics and her favorite scripture passages could be dredged up with a little prompting. She had been a longtime choir member and we sang her favorite hymns unaccompanied (I had to guess what they might be, which is not hard for an old school Presbyterian). You would not want to have heard us, but the light came back into her eyes and the appearance of awareness and understanding. She looked angelic when she sang. When reciting scripture I would look right into her eyes and they would start to sparkle as I spoke and she would join in within 3 or 4 words and sometimes run ahead of me with enthusiasm till she hit a blank, then she’d pause and wait for me to catch up and lead the way, then take off again.  Then I would hold her delicate hand and pray for her. When I departed she always said, “Thank you for coming,” and it never sounded just polite. As long as her ability to communicate lasted, her sweet personality persisted. In an extended end all my efforts to get a response failed—she was bedfast and mute, her eyes open but as unseeing as a baby doll’s. I would read her Scripture and pray anyway, and trust in the Holy Spirit to do the rest. I confess I sometimes wept as I walked back to my car.  

Our Sovereign Lord works in ways beyond our comprehension—His ways are not our ways—but His promises are sure and His cross proves his infinite love. Carolyn sees perfectly now. She’s more lucid than she has ever been, and she smiles and sings her favorite hymns with great joy in the bosom of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and it will never end.

“Blessed are those who die in the Lord…” (Revelation 14:13). Amen.

See you in church.


March 14, 2021

Man is a social animal, as this quarantine season has so painfully reminded me.  In my younger days I took men’s groups for granted—football team, fraternity, fighter squadron. Each had a common bond—a love for football, a fraternal group designed to make friends and meet girls, and a highly-skilled egomaniacal group who shared a love for fast airplanes. The rest of life has showed me just how rare and important a good men’s group is.

And then there’s my Saturday morning men’s breakfast/Bible study group. I’ve been in many Bible study groups over the years but never one like this. We are a diverse group of 20 to 25 men, from teenagers to octogenarians, from retirees to high performance professionals, and fathers and sons. Our common bond is a love of God and a desire to know Him better, manifested in a willingness to get out of bed early on Saturday to be there at 7:30 a.m. One guy gets up even earlier to prepare breakfast for the rest and we rotate the duty through the whole group. Men come early and linger late for the social interaction, and it’s not just small talk. The teenagers are not the least intimidated by the older wiser men in the room—virtually everyone participates as we wrestle with the tough issues of applying Scripture to our lives.

The secret to the group’s success is a Sovereign God who has given us a highly-skilled, passionate, well-prepared discussion leader who knows how to ask the right questions, and a de facto social chairman who begins each session with a self-revelatory question that requires an answer in turn from all. It gets everyone talking and laughing and bonding. Our discussion leader is a gentle giant, a medical professional who finds more productive hours in a day than any 3 men I know. Our social chairman is a big city cop, a mild-mannered soul on Saturday morning, but Monday to Friday don’t cross him—he can put your face on the pavement in a heartbeat.

Our group is called Men Transformed by Samuel (MTS).  In the past we’ve been transformed by other books in the Bible. The life story of David in the book of Samuel is chock full of hard truths and 21st century application for men. The faith and unity we are building is the kind that Rod Dreher advocated in his prescient bestseller four years ago—The Benedict Option. The Benedictine monks of the dark ages cloistered themselves for mutual support and edification in the Word and moved among the culture in the daytime.  Dreher avers they were the reason that Christianity survived those dark times, and their operating principles are what real Christians need to put into practice now. We are steeled by the God-given faith and resolve of Peter, whom our Sovereign God promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church He builds (Matt. 16:18), as the culture careens into the godless abyss of Romans 1. 

Men of all ages are invited to join this band of “Benedictine Presbyterians” at Grace Bible Presbyterian Church, 12060 Lebanon Rd., Cincinnati, OH, as we cloister every Saturday morning from 7:30 to 9 for mutual support and edification in God’s Word … and the jolly camaraderie of brothers in Christ.   

See you in church.

“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:11-12). [The stated purpose of MTS]    


March 8, 2021

I’ve reached a traumatic milestone in an otherwise richly blessed life—my longtime dream of a mountaintop home is not going to happen. After years of searching I found the ideal property 16 years ago, but the time to build was never right…and now it’s too late. Perhaps it could be your dream come true. It’s a high and wide drop-off view, 2.8 acre pristine property near Asheville, NC. It has a nearly 180 degree wide westerly view of magnificent multi-ridgeline Blue Ridge Mountain scenery with paved road, electricity, and water to the lot, plus convenient proximity (20 minutes) to the necessities of life. If commanding views of mountain grandeur and the glory of God’s creation soothes your soul, it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s a perfect work-from-home or vacation home location. You can deplane at the Asheville airport and be decompressing on your back deck, soaking up this glorious sunset view in less than an hour.

* * *

2.8 acres never before on the market, now for sale just below the summit of Claypole Mountain, 2,943’, 12 paved miles southwest (9 of which are straight and wide US 64) from Brevard NC, (pop. 8,000) and 50 minutes SW of the Asheville Airport in western North Carolina. Sunset views to die for all year long. Views of the 1.) Blue Ridge Parkway, (15 miles by Rt. 215; 2.) Devil’s Courthouse (5,720’), and 3.) Black Balsam Knob (6,214’) on the horizon (see pic below). Abundant dogwoods, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, evergreens and a variety of deciduous trees (with spectacular fall and spring colors). Paved private road (Property Owners Association), electric and water to lot. POA covenants protect your values. Lot borders a green space on the north side and sits back from the street for privacy. A cell phone tower is within sight of the lot 2 miles away. Emergency responders 15 minutes away. Lot 49, Panther Ridge Subdivision, Panther Run, Brevard, NC 28712.  $109,000. Call Cindy Petit, Realtor, at 828-553-1023 mobile, or 828-966-7800 office. See Realtor’s listing

View (easterly) of lot from Ridge Haven Camp and Conference Center down in the valley
Northerly zoom view. From left to right on horizon, 1) Blue Ridge Parkway, 2) Devil’s Courthouse, 3) Black Balsam Knob
“…the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

2.8 acres never before on the market, now for sale just below the summit of Claypole Mountain, 2,943′, 12 miles southwest (9 of which are straight and wide!) from Brevard NC, (pop. 8,000) and 50 minutes SSW of Asheville Airport in western North Carolina. Broad westerly views with multiple ridgelines to the horizon provide to-die-for sunsets seen from your living room and deck. Views of the 1.) Blue Ridge Parkway, (15 miles by Rt. 215; 2.) Devil’s Courthouse (5,720’), and 3.) Black Balsam Knob (6,214’) on the horizon (see pic below). Dogwoods, mountain laurel, rhododendrons, evergreens and a variety of deciduous trees (with spectacular fall and spring colors) in abundance on lot. If mountain views soothe your soul, it doesn’t get any better than this. Paved private road (Property Owners Association), electric and water to lot. POA  covenants protect your values. Cell tower within sight of lot 2 miles away.   Emergency responders 15 minutes away in Rosman, NC. Lot 49, Panther Ridge Subdivision, 28 Panther Run, Brevard, NC 28712. $115,000. If you’ve shopped Blue Ridge Mountain property at all, you’ll know this is an extremely attractive price for panoramic views, acreage and amenities like this. You can easily double your cost looking for water (and maybe strike out) and bringing in a paved road and electric. Or spend hours of seasick driving just getting to your property. Call Cindy Petit, Realtor, at 828-553-1023 mobile, or 828-966-7800 office.


March 7, 2021

It’s late in my 8th decade and the frame is a bit bent, the grinders are all store-bought, the windows are dim and bifocal (Ecclesiastes 12:3) and the ears are more odd ornaments than utility.  The heart cranks with the life-prolonging support of wire mesh and recycled cow parts,–and breath by breath Amazing Grace—but I can still drag myself along at a better clip than a geriatric grasshopper (12:5). The neurons in the brain travel at decidedly subsonic speeds, but I can still absorb The Word and words and scenery and marvel at God’s creation and His marvelous grace.

I spend a big part of my time reading, beginning in God’s Word daily before dawn, alone with the Lord of life and glory. My routine rarely varies, but some days the Scriptures come so alive—‘…the wind blows where it wishes…’ (John 3:8). I follow that with associated works by the theological titans of the Christian faith, a great cloud of puritan witnesses, and a handful of contemporary preachers and theologians. After the Bible, the greatest book I’ve ever read is usually the last one. Among them, the Letters of John Newton (Amazing Grace) stands out. Transformative!

In second through tenth place among my preferred reading categories is historical nonfiction, especially biography. My favorite authors are Eric Metaxas and David McCullough (2 Pulitzers and 2 National Book Awards)—the two greatest contemporary wordsmiths on the planet, in my view.

I have read and highly recommend three of Metaxas’ books 1.) Bonhoeffer, 2.) Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce…, and 3.) Martin Luther. It’s a three-way tie for which is best. I intend to read and be edified by the rest of his large body of work.

With McCullough I recommend starting with 1776 (If you don’t believe in miracles, you will when you’ve read this book.), then John Adams, Truman, The Wright Brothers, and Mornings on Horseback (Teddy Roosevelt). Without the author ever stating the obvious, the lives of these great men showcase the sovereignty of a gracious God in the affairs of men. McCullough has a vast portfolio of other works I am working through, and he can describe grass growing in a scintillating way. I’m hopeful that some of the literary genius of all the authors I read will get reflected in my scribbling.  

Retirement is a wonderful opportunity to focus and expand your knowledge on the most important things in life, of which you cannot know too much, and prepare for the life to come, “…before the dust returns to the earth as it was and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl 12:7). So ancient friend, in this Alzheimer’s era, why not engage the brain while you still can, kick the social media addiction and excessive napping and give serious reading a try?

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). And that path “…leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

See you in church.


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