Archive for October, 2021


October 30, 2021

Birthdays are a time of special introspection for me that is different from the normal naval gazing and nostalgia attacks of codgerhood. To wit:

–Newton’s first law of motion speaks loudly when the “body” is mine and the “at rest” venue is my recliner.

–Naps are near the top of my list of pleaures and I enjoy them frequently. A bed isn’t necessary. The downside is that the urge to indulge can be overwhelming and at inconvenient times…like in the middle of the sermon, and my pastor is NOT boring!  I am grateful for an attentive wife with sharp elbows.

–Hearing is hard. Just because I am nodding and smiling as you talk it does not mean your words are reaching my brain coherently. I am more frustrated at my repeatedly having to ask, “What?” than you are at having to repeat yourself.

–In this age of pain, wire mesh and recycled cow parts keep the heart from complaining, but I would forfeit half my kingdom for a cure for osteoarthritis.


–Though worn out parts and pain are my cross to bear, it’s feather light compared to what my Savior bore for me on His cross.

–A broken and contrite heart God will not despise. Just so a broken body and humbled ego are a Sovereign God’s preparation for the unspeakable perfection of eternal Glory. 

–The fire in the belly for earthly pursuits has burned down to warm coals of contentment, but a heart aflame for God has never burned more intensely.

–The sun looms larger at the end of the day. Just so the Son at the close of life’s little day,  and in Him there will be no night.

“The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6).

–In 2 days I’ll have completed 78 solar circuits, 55 of them with the love of my life. I am grateful for 7 more laps than my Dad or Granddad or brother made. I am as ready to run a dozen more as I am to break the tape. What ‘er my God ordains is right.

” I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand…” (Psalm 31:14).

See you in church.


October 27, 2021

“Americans are expected to spend a [mind boggling] $708 million on pumpkins for carving into jack-o-lanterns in 2021,” with ghoulish images originally intended by the ancient pagan Celts to scare away evil spirits. The term Halloween grows out of All Hallows Eve and the following All Saints Day, a religious observance paying homage to martyred saints. (“hallows” = “saints”) It is still celebrated by many churches in the world, but in 21st century America it would appear the pagans own All Hallows Eve.

But, by God’s unfailing promise, the church endures, celebrating and worshiping the most important martyr who ever lived, the Son of God who offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross as atonement for the sins of those elect who would believe in Him. It was the pivotal event in the history of mankind. “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). That is truly an amazing promise from the Son of God’s own lips! God came to man because depraved man would not come to God (Romans 3:11). Such is God’s infinite hatred of sin, such is His infinite love for His chosen, and they converged at the cross. Those, and only those who believe in Him will never suffer the dancing flames of that fiery pit behind it, depicted in my wooden jack’o-lantern.

Christian, only that cross stands between you and eternity in hell. Such a sight of reality should induce more fear in an unsaved soul than any imaginary ghoulish face ever carved on a pumpkin. Our God reigns.


October 23, 2021

A few weeks back we sold our mountaintop property in the Blue Ridge Moutains of North Carolina where I had long dreamed of one day building a home. It was a sad day indeed, and I am still grieving the broken dream, one of the very few in my life. In the end, proximity to beloved family overpowered a lifelong lust. We are left with wonderful memories of 6.5 years joyfully serving like Levites in God’s wilderness tabernacle, called Ridge Haven, North Carolina, just down the mountain from this property. We marveled at seven seasons of spectacular fall colors on and in the neighborhood of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

But God has been gracious, as His annual art show unfolds, and provided an  alternative that suffices just fine, all things considered. I arise long before daylight, a lifetime habit, crank up the Keurig, and dive into God’s Word with a fresh and variously well-rested mind before it can get contaminated with the trauma and trivia of daily life in 21st century America. There is just no better time for me to be alone with my Lord and Savior than in the pre-dawn solitude. This fall season I also throw open the curtains on my living room window on the world–a 3′ by 5,’ 4G flat screen –and pull up a YouTube video of fall colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway (dozens to choose from). The picture looks real enough to walk into, and drone video provides dramatic camera angles heretofore available only to the birds. There is not a lot of ambiance left for memory and imagination to fill in. I’m a little spotty on the memory but still possess an untamed imagination. I mute the audio, recline the La-Z-Boy, immerse myself in God’s glorious artistry and “have a little talk with Jesus.” It “makes me whole…”

Abraham speaks for me: Jehovah Jireh–“The LORD will provide.”  And this small sweet consolation is FAR from His most gracious provision–eternal life with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Master Artist. He reigns!

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts. The whole Earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

See you in church.


October 20, 2021

On March 11, 1942, President Roosevelt ordered General Douglas MacArthur to abandon his army to a far superior surrounding Japanese force and get out of the Philippines, specifically Corregidor, any way he could and run WW II in the Pacific from Australia. He  narrowly escaped in the middle of the night with a small security detail and vowed, very publicly, “I shall return.” The surrender of the Philippines was a humiliating, catastrophic turn of events for America and for a man with a colossal ego like the brilliant General MacArthur, and gruesomely life-ending for thousands of American soldiers on the Bataan Death March.

On this day, October 20, 1944, after 31 months and thousands of lives lost in bloody island-hopping battles, MacArthur fulfilled his vow, wading ashore on the island of Luzon in the Philippines shortly after his invading troops. There ensued one of the most horrific battles of the war in the Pacific–The Battle of Manila, a once beautiful thriving metropolis. Allied forces took the city building by building, floor by floor, room by room against a tenacious enemy, freeing thousands of grateful Philippine residents who had been starved into walking/crawling cadavers, those they couldn’t slaughter wholesale as they retreated block by block.

My brother in Christ, Larry Acosta, a 19-year-old Army infantryman, was at the very point of that spear and witnessed that famous picture being taken. To this day he struggles to find words to describe what he saw and experienced in that metropolitan hell on Earth in the fall of ’44. He doesn’t even try until his wife leaves the room and it’s just the two of us sharing that unique bond of combat veterans from all wars.

These days my beloved brother is on a select list of shut-in saints in my church that I get to hang out, share The Word and pray with once a month. The blessing is all mine.

Thank you, Lord, for putting such dear friends/heroic patriots of the greatest generation in my life. Besides Larry Acosta there was Rene Schmidt, D-day survivor with the 101st Airborne and founding signatory of the Presbyterian Church in America, and Jack Bennett, Pearl Harbor survivor, hero of the Sea Battle at Guadalcanal and born again at 80, both now glorified. To sit in their presence and hear their first person accounts of God’s grace in their lives at ground zero in such world-changing events is a blessed privilege. Dear Father, by your grace may I be worthy of the company of such men. Meantime I will persevere in this 21st century phase of the battle “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness,” secure in  the knowledge that Jesus’ vow to return for His chosen carries far more assurance than all the generals who ever lived:

“…I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

For those not in Christ it will be much more traumatic than Manila (Revelation 6:15-17).


October 17, 2021

In this Pastor Appreciation Month I have been reminiscing  with much admiration and appreciation for some great pastors I have known. I have been a regular church attender most of my life and a Ruling Elder in four Presbyterian churches. I have gotten to know good men called by God from the perspective of a Sunday morning pew-warmer and as a fellow combatant in the trenches of the cosmic battle for souls that rages in this fallen world. I have long been convinced they have the toughest job on the planet.

I personally rank preaching as a pastor’s highest priority. Dr. John Owen, iconic theologian of the English Reformation and vice chancellor of Oxford University (1652), is reputed to have said that he would willingly trade all of his knowledge if he could simply preach like that tinker, John Bunyan, author (Pilgrim’s Progress) and incarcerated non-conformist pastor with no formal advanced degree or theological training.

As a pastor search committee member, I once asked a candidate where he ranked preaching among the priorities of a church pastor. He said, “Preaching is the part I do for free. It’s all the other duties that you pay me for.” As a grateful beneficiary of such zeal for proclaiming God’s Word, I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment.

Exhorting a sanctuary full of sinners often entails getting them out of their comfort zone. Doing that efficaciously requires copious quantities of Grace, in the exhorter as well exhortee. But God said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20).

Immensely time consuming as sermon prep is, it is not the only priority of a pastor. Shepherding duties can easily consume even more time. When I first became a Ruling Elder and had to deal with some of the  trials, troubles and sin issues behind the benign smiles of my pew mates on Sunday morning, I gained a whole new appreciation for a pastor’s shepherding burden. He knew far more details than I did.

Now, anchored for the duration, I am immensely blessed to sit under the preaching and shepherding of a man who embodies these gifts on a foundation of godly character better than any preacherman God has ever put in my life–Rev. Dr. Jason Hutchinson. His big shoes are beautiful!

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ ” (Isaiah 52:7).

He reigns indeed! See you in church.


October 15, 2021

My head is still in the clouds after my visit with friend and fellow aviator/author Mark Barent earlier this week. It’s a sweet refuge for codgers with a past like ours. Only a blessed few get to see the world from this perspective. Thank you, Lord. Only a blessed few have been given the knowhow and the means (with all but the enabling code) to turn everything in that picture into a smoldering ruin. This is what the world looks like seconds before mashing the pickle button with your right thumb, releasing a conventional micro-version of the doomsday nuke, which I was called on to do hundreds of times in the jungles of Southeast Asia. For a portion of my life I sat on alert with my plane preflighted and cocked for quick take off with the doomsday bomb on the center line pylon of my F-100, but by God’s grace was never called to launch. Only God knows how terrifyingly close the world has ever come to such a moment. Only He knows how close it might be at this very moment–closer, I fear, than most refuse to think about. Meantime America obsesses over outrageous otherworldly ways to offend the Sovereign God who holds our destiny in His hands. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

“Behold, I am coming soon…”


October 10, 2021

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the not-so-enlightened, debouched exponent of the 18th century Enlightenment, wrote that man is naturally good (and poisoned much of protestantism to this day), but he apparently quit reading his Bible before he got to that scene in the garden where Adam and Eve committed cosmic treason against God and condemned all of mankind. Genesis 3 is the proof text for the Doctrine of Original Sin–in 21st century mean street parlance, man is no damned good. Since the fall, all are born in sin and damned to eternal perdition. Six thousand years of human history have validated that doctrine. King David, a man after God’s own heart, confessed, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me (Psalm 51:5).  The Apostle Paul, in a grim indictment of all men said, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10–12).

But God (perhaps the most important phrase in all the Bible) provided a way to redeem the damned: Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Rebirth–spiritual regeneration–is absolutely essential to our redemption, and not an act man can do for himself or help in any way, just like physical birth. It is a gracious act by a Sovereign God. The apostle Paul provides further clarification: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5). For emphasis he adds, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Grace is God’s favor toward those who deserve His wrath. According to the Apostle, all deserve his wrath. Grace is God’s fix for incorrigible sinners. But for His unmerited favor, no one would be saved. It is God’s grace that led God the Son to the cross. He so hated sin but so loved sinners that he suffered and died horrifically to save some–His church–from His own perfect justice. That’s a storyline that could not be hatched in the mind of any creature short of The Creator Himself. Every step in God’s plan of salvation for sinners is an act of His grace. Furthermore, a Sovereign God tracks every hair on my head. He has graciously controlled my next breath, blink of my eyes, and beat of my heart since my conception in my mother’s womb to this very moment, 78+ years later, and guarantees my eternal salvation. Grace made the sea to part, the donkey talk, the axehead float, the sun to stand still in its orbit, midnight darkness at noon, and the dead to rise again. Even my faith is a gift of His grace. Glory! Grace makes the world go round! In this cyclonic evil age, a subserviant angel drives the whirlwind, and such astounding truth as amazing grace is the solid rock on which I stand. “All other ground is sinking sand.”  And that heretical rascal Rousseau sank out of sight in the sand long ago. Our God reigns.

“For from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace” (John 1:16).

See you in church


October 3, 2021

We spent three days this week holed up deep in a densely treed hollow where the sun rose and set an hour after and an hour before the rest of flatland Ohio, in a rustic cozy cabin. The weather was decidedly clement, as Jeeves used to say. We hiked the woods and embedded rock formations in the mornings and I catnapped the afternoons away on the balmy back deck under blinding blue skies, inhaling air as fresh and pure as can be found in heartland America, watching the trees grow and the leaves beginning to turn while listening to the sounds of angels’ wings in the shimmering treetops. And as if God were not gracious enough, it was 99% bug-free. In the language of my heritage, it was down right heaven on earth in that holler. It’s amazing how a man’s idea of what constitutes a good time changes as he ages.

The venue was Hocking Hills County, Ohio, in the heavily forested, deeply dissected foothills of the Appalachian Plateau, where an omnipotent God applied the weakness of water to the permanence of stone and created massive, breathtaking works of art in the deep shadows of a lush sylvan setting. And lest we forget, only God can make trees, towering sentinels of His glory.

We were there through the gracious generosity of two dear friends in Christ who are raising a second family after their first has grown. Their two young adopted sons–natural born brothers–come by my house once a week after school. I refuel them with my famous sugar-free oatmeal cookies while they fill me in on the adolescent drama of their day, and then we play in my woodworking shop. Their lovable demeanor, youthful vigor, inquisitiveness, and eagerness to learn, in spite of some really hard knocks in their pre-adoption life, speaks so powerfully about God’s grace and the two saints who now nurture them. They’re a life-giving tonic to this codger. Such a joyful time is its own reward, but their amazing parents thought otherwise and offered us their getaway cottage less than 2 hours from home. We are so grateful.

I have absolutely nothing I long to get away from these days, but escaping the routine for a few days in idyllic serenity far from the buzz of suburban life rejuvenates the soul of this country boy. To walk in the woods and be awe-struck anew by the grandeur of God’s magnificent creation, unsullied by man’s haphazard efforts to subdue it, is to see the face of God and to hear His voice…and rejoice that He still reigns!

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Hosts. The whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

See you in church.

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