Archive for January, 2023


January 29, 2023

Pictured is a collage of three zoom views of a tiny piece of the Andromeda Galaxy by the James Webb Space Telescope, a technological marvel, from its observation outpost a million miles from Earth. The farthest of countless stars the telescope can see are 13.6 billion light years away, and all are spinning through space at incomprehensible speeds and every one of them precisely choreographed. God-made them. God placed them. God named them (Psalm 147:4). If God “marked off the heavens with a span” (Isaiah 40:12), the distance between an outstretched tip of the thumb and little finger, then how big is God?

He tells us through the Psalmist in 19:1 “the heavens declare the glory of God” and “proclaim his handiwork” as “they pour out speech” and “reveal knowledge.” If you’re a “time and chance” religionist, you could try calculating the godless probabilities of this mind-boggling heavenly extravaganza and at the end of the day you’d still be 13.6 billion light years away from the truth. Best you listen to the stars and bow to reality and confess with Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).

See you in church.


January 22, 2023

“Some men have a mind to go to h*** for company’s sake.” – Thomas Brooks 

Late one night a long time ago in an elegant home before a crackling fireplace on a hillside above San Francisco Bay, I was having an intense witnessing episode with an unsaved soul. He was a most amiable pagan and a longtime friend but a hard case. He replied, “If my father is in h*** then that’s where I want to go.” I had to fight off an urgent impulse to bolt from the room so as not to be caught in the frag pattern when God struck him dead with a lightning bolt. I have not heard anyone talk like that before or since, and I have not led a sheltered life.

I have memories of many intense moments in my life, but none that come to mind more often. I think it is because in the world today I see so many souls as tragically lost as he was … still is. My natural inclination is to take it personally, to think if only I were a better communicator, a more winsome witness….

Scripture makes it clear why otherwise intelligent folks cannot see the truth of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). Even the most self-sufficient pagan knows he had no control over his physical birth. Likewise he has no control over the spiritual rebirth that Jesus revealed to Nicodemus. Until a Sovereign God opens one’s eyes he cannot see the kingdom of God, even imagine it. So talk to God about the man before you talk to the man about God. And after. He’s the Prime Mover. You may not be able to get through to your unsaved loved one’s hard heart, but you can always get through to the Sovereign God who controls the next beat of it. Pray that God would give him a new heart and eyes to see his truth (Ezekiel 36:26). Persevere. Childless Hannah prayed to God for a son for the better part of her adult life. Monica prayed for her wayward son Augustine’s new heart for over 30 years. God answered both in his own perfect timing. Prayer is the best weapon a witness has and I will employ it on behalf of my friend as long as either of us has breath.

I have a mind, “for company’s sake,” to take as many souls to heaven with me as God allows.  Jesus’ last marching orders, as he ascended into heaven, were to “go therefore and make disciples….” If, God forbid, I show up at heaven’s gate and my after-action report claims none, nevertheless it will still show the battle scars and the covering blood of Christ that prompted my efforts, and that is the real entry fee. It’s paid by grace, not works—the latter, however imperfect, are the fruit of the former.   

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

See you in church.

A MIDWEEK MEME: A Morning Prayer

January 18, 2023


January 15, 2023

I have an old friend, a retired very senior ranking military officer who spent the latter part of his career in the Pentagon planning division, assessing risks to America’s freedom and designing contingency war plans for dealing with them. It’s a critical job—there are more risks to America’s freedom than you have ever imagined. We stay in touch at a minimum around Christmas time and in this year’s conversation he said, “JD, we are living in radically uncertain times.” It certainly confirmed my feelings, and in jolting fashion. “Radical uncertainty” is Department of Defense talk for “unknown unknowns”—unknowns in our future that we don’t even know that we don’t know, the most dangerous kind. 9/11 was an unknown unknown until tragedy struck. Coming from a man more in the know about the dangers in this smoldering planet than anyone of my acquaintance, it has provoked considerable sober reflection on my part.

The unchanging bottom line of my reflection is that there is no uncertainty of any kind in the mind of our Sovereign God, who foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, but he has not endowed his creatures with foreknowledge. He can see the future, which he ordained before the world began, but we cannot. Life is uncertain to us. The antidote for those in Christ is the gift of faith that we reside securely in the palm of his hand (John 10:28) throughout this brief uncertain (to us) life. The life to come is wonderful beyond comprehension and everlasting, in the presence of the One who suffered and died for us that we might live in his presence forever.

Life was radically uncertain when a world of rampant evil felt the first ever drops of rain, but Noah had faith.  It was radically uncertain when Moses and all Israel stood on the bank of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army bearing down on them, but Moses had faith. Panic and radical uncertainty consumed the young man with Elisha when they were surrounded by the enemy, until the Lord opened his eyes and he saw “… the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Jesus said he “…is coming [again, as Judge] at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42). In the last chapter of his Word he said, “I am coming soon.” Jesus’ promise is a certainty, the timing he declared to be uncertain to us, but it’s a “known unknown.” Each passing day brings us one day closer, each beat of the heart, each breath. On that promised day Jesus will abolish all uncertainty, radical and otherwise: Sheep on his right, goats on his left. (Matthew 35:33)

Until then we live by faith in the certainty of God’s known promises:

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). “Be anxious for nothing … the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). “I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” (Psalm 23:4).

See you in church.


January 7, 2023

A passionate young preacher at our church had this to say last Sunday: “I am Presbyterian to my bones. We are called the Frozen Chosen. It’s much more about the frozen than the chosen. I’ll say that.”

It was not so much a theological statement as an astute observation of the state of Presbyterians who sit frozen in the pews while our “apostate Christian culture” gains momentum in its downhill slide. It actually applies on a national, even global scale. To borrow a political acronym, there are too many CINO’s—Christians in name only. And there are too many Christians huddled in Benedict Option enclaves just trying to survive with their faith intact as godlessness runs rampant through the culture.

Rod Dreher’s best seller with that title a few years ago was absolutely prophetic in hindsight. A key aspect of Benedict’s survival method in the dark ages was monks who were out among society during the day, returning to the refuge of the monastery at the end of the day for rest, refreshment mutual support and corporate worship. A gospel-preaching church today can provide a semblance of the refuge, but the modern dilemma is a God-mocking working culture that increasingly demands accommodation, whose hatred of Christians is merely stoked by a “winsome witness.” Such can cost you a job, and God’s Word quoted in the public square can be adjudicated hate speech. Two days before Christmas a pro-life activist was arrested for silently praying outside a UK abortion clinic—a “thought crime.”

In my working years I had a large picture of an F-15 going straight up framed on my office wall and at the bottom were the words “they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” It meant nothing to anyone who did not know the rest of that powerful truth. If a client fixed his gaze on it for more than two seconds, he heard the rest of it from me: “…  but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31). That could get me fired today. Nonetheless it’s eternal truth.

Nonetheless the Light of the World shined in extraordinary fashion in the midst of catastrophe this past week, as sportscaster Dan Orlovsky laid a seven-figure salary on the line and extemporaneously, passionately prayed to God for the life of a football player, whose heart stopped twice on the field, before millions of TV viewers. God put some beautiful words on his lips. Thus far he has kept his job and been widely praised for his courage, a role model for all beleaguered Christians. Three days later the stricken player, Damar Hamlin, posted from ICU on social media, “The love has been overwhelming … keep praying for me.” Our Sovereign God reigns!

Jesus’ last words on this planet were “Go ye therefore …,” (Matthew 18:19) not “hunker down and weather the storm.” The disciples and the Apostle Paul took Jesus at his word in tougher times than we have known, and to world changing success, but at great, even ultimate cost, the first of a long line of Christian martyrs. This year of our Lord 2023 will be a year to try men’s souls. Jesus said, “ … whoever denies me, I also will deny before my father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33). Would you deny Christ and forfeit eternal life to keep your job? To avoid incarceration? Would you stand with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:16-18) or opt for the deferred fiery pit forever? Are you prepared to be a martyr for Christ? Do you dare NOT? 

Keep praying, put on the whole armor of God and stand, Christian. Victory looms. Eternal glory with our Lord and Savior is guaranteed.

“I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year with thee, O Father, as my harbor, thee O Son, at my helm, thee O Holy Spirit, filling my sails. Guide me to heaven with my loins girt, my lamp burning, my ear open to thy calls, my heart full of love, my soul free.” (Puritan prayer from the Valley of Vision)

See you in church.

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