MERRY CHRISTMAS

December 25, 2020

Our Christmas tree is a family testimony of God’s covenant faithfulness over generations of Wetterlings—so many heartwarming stories represented by so many ornaments. Here’s one representative story: The small handmade delicate wooden ornaments (lower left, upper right) are from a salvaged scrap of 2X4 destined for the ash heap, born again on my scroll saw as a work of art to adorn our Christmas tree—a symbol of what a loving God has done in the life of a wayward wretch He plucked out of the burning. 

I’m sure your tree can tell similar stories. But they all fade in comparison with the glorious birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—the Son of God become Son of Man, that sons of men might become sons of God—born this day in the City of David. May the reality of that amazing act of Divine love dwell richly in the hearts of your family for all generations, till He splits the sky and comes again. Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:1)

THE SHEPHERD–A CANADIAN AND UK CHRISTMAS EVE CLASSIC

December 24, 2020

My friend, Dave O’Malley, a Canadian Graphics Designer and lover of all things airborne (and designer of the cover of my first book—Son of Thunder) tells of a Christmas Eve tradition at his house. Read his well-written story, then listen to the BBC radio recording of the classic Frederick Forsyth story—The Shepherd—a Canadian and UK Christmas Eve tradition.   

The Shepherd—a Canadian Christmas Classic > Vintage Wings of Canada

A RESCUE MISSION

December 20, 2020

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

It was a rescue mission like no other. In a dark world of fallen creatures spiritually dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1), where no one seeks God (Romans 3:11), the Son of God, in an amazing act of condescension, arrived as a helpless baby born in the meanest of conditions. God shined a bright light into the darkness, and the darkness has not/will not overcome it. It was the glorious inauguration of God’s plan of salvation for sinners—sinners so in bondage to sin they could not help themselves. The mission was planned in the throne room of God before the world began, to flip the destiny of some from hell to heaven. God’s perfect justice requires that sin must be punished. In His infinite love, God sent His only begotten Son to take that punishment, an atonement for sinners on the bloody torture rack of the cross, the earthly pinnacle of the wrath of God. In the greatest of all accounting entries in the Ledger of Life, Christ’s righteousness was credited to sinful men and their sins were debited to Christ. He took the punishment that sinful man deserved that man might receive the forgiveness he does not deserve. His last words were, “It is finished.” Mission accomplished! That baby wrapped in the warm glow of our cultural Christmas customs actually came to turn the tide on a raging battle “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness…” (Ephesians 6:12). He came to die in agony on a cross, and rise again and reign that the children of God might have eternal life with Him. What marvelous manner of love is this? My heart melts within me…

 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14)

See you in church.

AN UNWELCOME VISITOR

December 13, 2020

Covid came to our house this week. He probably thought he’d found a soft target—a 77 year-old heart that subsists on wire mesh and recycled cow parts puts me up near the pinnacle of the mortality curve for this malady. What he didn’t reckon with was recycled parts bequeathed by a brahma bull. So far I’ve had much worse colds. A nagging dry cough and some fatigue the second day have been the only symptoms. Karen then caught it from me and her only symptoms have been a slight headache for two days and a once-in-awhile-cough. She has no comorbidities. Our immunity boosting vegan diet is likely a major factor in the mildness of our cases. We think we’re on the mend, but sometimes Covid comes off the canvas to take another swing. I think he tried that once already but the brahma kicked him down again. Metaphorical musings aside, the foundational truth is the Lord heals all our diseases, for His own reasons, and we are thanking our Sovereign God this Lord’s Day.

We’ll see you in virtual church.

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5) 

HOLOCAUST SUNDAY

December 6, 2020

The Second Sunday in Advent, December 7, 1941, was Holocaust Sunday for the US Pacific Fleet and a day of infamy for America. At 7:53 a.m. over Pearl Harbor, Mitsuo Fuchida (who became a Christian after the war), in the lead plane of a 353-plane Japanese attack force, looked down on the most target-rich environment ever witnessed by a fighter pilot in the history of aerial warfare. Ninety-six utterly unsuspecting U.S. warships were docked or moored dead in the water within a 1.25-mile radius of Ford Island in the center of Pearl Harbor, all plump dozing ducks on a sunny Sunday morning in Hawaii.   

In the bottom bunk of a 10 by 10-foot officer’s stateroom of the heavy cruiser, USS San Francisco, below the deck and above the waterline, slept Ensign John E. “Jack” Bennett, just graduated from Annapolis the previous February. The sound of deep thuds woke Jack. His world was quaking. Bombs and torpedoes were exploding in the harbor. He leaped to the porthole and looked out to see a Japanese Val dive-bomber with a bright orange meatball painted on its fuselage just in front of its tail, strafing sailors running down the dock…

Two hours and two waves of attack after Fuchida radioed “Tora Tora Tora,” 18 ships were sunk or seriously damaged and 188 airplanes were destroyed and 159 damaged (all on the ground), 2,403 sailors and soldiers were dead and 1,178 wounded…

For the next three years and eight months Jack Bennett was in some the hottest battles of WW II in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal and 5 war patrols in the highly decorated submarine USS Queenfish. Fifty-five years [and numerous miracles] after Holocaust Sunday, after a distinguished career in nuclear subs and a hitch in Sacramento on Governor Ronald Reagan’s staff, Jack and I met and became best friends, and, with “no time to waste,” fought the greatest battle of all–the one for his soul.

Condensed excerpt from No Time to Waste. The book is free in Kindle format today and tomorrow—Dec 6-7. Merry Christmas.

See you in church.

BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY

November 29, 2020

A century ago J. Gresham Machen said of the rapid growth of Christian liberalism, (which he contended was not really Christianity), “The situation is desperate. It might discourage us. But not if we are truly Christians. Not if we are living in vital communion with the risen Lord.” His warning and encouragement equally apply to what the church faces today.

In spite of Machen’s eloquent effort in his classic book, Christianity and Liberalism, the latter has grown larger than the faith of our fathers. But today both wings of the American church are in a Babylonian captivity of sorts, confined by the perimeter concertina wire of open derision, discrimination, visceral hatred and even bloodshed in an age of unfettered sexual and socialist deviance, anti-biblical laws and governmental encroachment on religious liberty. Christians got here by remaining aloof, hoping these cultural anomalies would go away. Liberal Christians got here by abandoning “unseemly and unscientific” biblical doctrines in order to get invited to the cultural dance of post-Christian America. In both cases the church has been complicit in its own captivity, just as Israel was in its Babylonian captivity (circa 610-540 BC). “Though the patience of God be lasting, yet it is not everlasting.” (Wm. Secker) Yet God preserved a remnant of His faithful among the captives, encouraged by Ezekiel’s promises of God’s future restoration and mercy, all of which came true when the pagan king Cyrus authorized the return of the Jews to Jerusalem after 70 years. Six hundred years later, in that same city, Jesus promised Peter that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18), and it has not. The blood of martyrs has fed its continued global growth, even as its influence on a fallen world has waxed and waned.

In every age God has preserved His remnant. He will do so in the Babylonian captivity of His American church as well. Be in the remnant! Stay in vital communion with the risen Lord, unwaveringly wear the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and diligently, prayerfully bring up your covenant children in the discipline and instruction of our Sovereign God (Ephesians 6:4). And do not be discouraged! He has foreordained the glorious end which will never end—the paradise of God!

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away … ‘Behold, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:1, 5).    

See you in church.

A THANKSGIVING LAMENT

November 26, 2020

There’s a lot that is not right with America this Thanksgiving Day. Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are under attack and the enemy is winning. The recent election looked like something out of a third world country. The noble profession of journalism has become a political propaganda trade. Civility in political affairs is nonexistent. Truth on the soap box is a rare concept. A highly suspicious pandemic emerges from America’s greatest adversary and takes a quarter-million lives and spooks the country, destroying livelihoods, and gathered Thanksgiving at my church has been canceled due to governmental measures of unknown efficacy.

The nations rage…the people plot…but God…laughs. (Psalm 2) He laughs at a world of plotting rebellious sinners who ignore the very source and sustenance of their being. He foretold how they would act and why through the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-32, then  he gives them over to live out their lusts in 21st century America, and when they reap the whirlwind they have sown and bury themselves in a pit of their own making…and beg for mercy without repentance…will He not laugh again?

But God…  Those two words can overcome every situation life throws at me, and they appear often in the Bible. But God loves me so much that he sent His Son to die for me, and the Holy Spirit to open my eyes and change my heart of stone. Why me? But for his amazing grace I would be among the frolicking rebels of Romans 1. A God who died for me would not forget me in the midst of America’s dark times, or ever. It’s the blessing that exceeds all blessings.

Not least, there’s a sumptuous meal in the making (I salivate as I write the words) at our daughter’s house, and abundant love of God and family. My blessings far outweigh my lament. One day I will understand how the lamentable stuff was good for me (Romans 8:28), and I will laugh with God…forever. For all that I am thankful this Thanksgiving.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

THE NOBLEST CALLING

November 22, 2020

In his 1913 classic, “Christianity and Culture,” J. Gresham Machen, theologian and seminary professor, used the term “intellectual monasticism” to describe a tendency among some seminary students. For a Christian codger whose radius of activity is constricted by age and the empire’s edicts, but whose mental capacity is more or less holding its own, and whose view of cultural trends ranges from grim to alarming, the term has great appeal. I’ve logged a lot of edifying hours sequestered in my not-so-spare cell, comfortably reclined with my face in a Kindle or Surface Pro, feeding my hunger and thirst after the righteousness of the One who has dealt so bountifully with me, who loved me before I was, created me, died for me and controls the next beat of my heart. God has placed me in an age where I have the world’s largest library at my fingertips and I can search its archives in nanoseconds … and not think about the troubling world outside my door. If that approximates Machen’s definition of an intellectual monastic, well…it has a nicer ring to it than “aged recluse who reads a lot.” 

But, alas, Machen said it’s not an option for a child of God. We have an obligation to stay in the fight. We are called to engage the culture. “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). The Wall Street Journal once titled an op-ed piece of mine, “Still the Noblest Calling.” The editors created the title from a phrase in my piece referencing military service—“God, duty, honor, country will always remain the noblest calling.” I had simply borrowed three words General Douglas MacArthur made famous and preceded them with that all important three-letter word—a stealth evangelism application of Mark 16:15, so as to pass muster with big-time business editors.

As an aged recluse in this age I still have an avenue for pursuing the noblest calling, and I have abandoned stealth evangelism—time is of the essence. The same library at my fingertips also functions as a cultural soap box, and I intend to engage whatever small portion of the culture that wanders by, as long as I can string coherent sentences together.

Machen observed, “Modern culture is a tremendous force either subservient to the gospel or else the deadliest enemy of the gospel.” The latter case prevails today. The culture is desperately in need of that noblest calling:

 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

That “gospel in a nutshell” (Luther): “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).

See you in church.

“What is truth?”

November 15, 2020

Pontius Pilate speaks for me (just this once) as I try to discern the truth in all the contradictory news of what’s going on in the land of the free since the third of November. The prevarication pandemic has gotten so severe that a popular newscaster passionately demanded of his fellow newscasters and politicians, before 5 million+ viewers, “It’s time to stop lying and start telling the truth.”

A certain Middle Eastern religion advocates lying if it advances the cause of its deity. It appears that at least that aspect of the religion has caught on among politicians and now in what was once called journalism. The real problem in post-Christian America is this: man is a master of self-delusion—one man’s lies are another man’s irrefutable truth. Without the foundation of the transcendental truth of God, your truth doesn’t have to be my truth and yesterday’s truth is not necessarily tomorrow’s truth, as truth morphs aimlessly through an ethereal fantasy world until it inevitably comes head-on with the throne of absolute truth on judgement day, when “every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11).    

But praise God, unlike Pilate I know where to find transcendental truth. Jesus said, “I am … the truth.”  It can’t get any more straight-forward than that. By grace I have found it and it has set me free and I can take heart because He has overcome the world. This election stuff is just pesky details. The results must be dealt with, when known, but it’s not the ultimate issue.

The ultimate issue comes straight from the mouth of “…the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (1):

“I the Lord speak the truth; I declare what is right.” (2).

 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” (3)

“…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (4)

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth” (5)

See you in church.

1) John 1:14, 2) Isa. 45:19, 3) John 14:6, 4) John 8:32, 5) Psa. 86:11

A THANKFUL VETERAN OF A LOSING WAR

November 11, 2020

Although I can’t ask you all to hug a vet this Veterans Day, I sincerely appreciate the special day, the thanks, the free meals all over town, the free taxi service door-to-door for medical appointments, the monthly stipend for combat related maladies, and the free cemetery plot up the road in Dayton where I will one day await Jesus’ return with other vets from the Civil War on.  

I’m undeserving of all this. I joined the USAF not for altruistic reasons, not because I was a nobler patriot than you, but because I wanted to be a fighter pilot. I wanted to slip the surly bonds of earth and dance the sky on laughter-silvered wings, to reach out my hand and touch the face of God. It was all I dreamed it would be. But when I got to Vietnam and saw the faces of those poor harried peasants who wanted nothing more in life than to farm their little rice paddies and raise their families in peace and harmony, I understood why some things are worth fighting and dying for. Eight of my friends did.

Tragically, it was America’s only losing war—we abandoned an ally on the battlefield and went home. It was not for want of brave patriots who risked their all and came home to shame and ridicule, or 50,000+ in body bags, or not at all, like my wingman. Our political leadership horribly mismanaged a noble cause. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admitted a quarter of a century after the war, “We….were wrong, terribly wrong.” Those of us at the point of the spear knew it real-time. I recall an insubordinate radio call I made one night in the heat of battle, when I was given a choice as flight leader to attack a particularly hot target or not. I replied, “Some of us are still trying the win this war,” and proceeded to attack. That probably strikes some as foolhardy, but there is a special manifestation of God’s grace in combat, called adrenalin, which allows the body to react and function at a high level when the mind is paralyzed with fear. God is merciful to fools and patriots, and we as free Americans can be very grateful that He is. It is by His grace that the USA remains a nation of free people in spite of our best efforts to mess it up. And perhaps there’ll be a special place in the Mansions of the Lord for Vietnam vets, and our POW’s will have the penthouse.

“Whate’er my God ordains is right…” (Samuel Rodigast)


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