THE SMALLEST ACT OF KINDNESS

June 22, 2022

If you waste as much time as I do with internet daily news and social media you have heard or read complaints about how the Veterans Administration takes care of vets’ health needs, but you have never heard one from this vet’s obscure corner of the internet. Fifty years ago I completed a six-year hitch as a US Air Force aviator and for the last 15 years I’ve been getting a monthly check for grocery money from the VA because one of my old-age maladies might be related to my flying through some orange clouds over the jungle of Southeast Asia. In addition the VA has reserved a beautiful patch of grass in the National Cemetery just up the road under which I will await Jesus’ return, with a gravestone and all of the appropriate stuff engraved on it, all at no cost to my family. I also get hearing aids, batteries, glasses and annual physical exams grattis. Unlike my private practice doctors they are proactive and not in a hurry to usher me out the door. Local Veterans Services provides chauffeur service that picks me up at my front door and takes me to my medical appointments and brings me home, even though I can and regularly do drive myself around. It’s all pretty sweet deferred compensation. I’m one blessed vet.

For all of this and more if I needed it I am most grateful for my fellow taxpayers’ expression of gratitude to me. But no expression has touched my heart more than the smallest unexpected act of kindness that occurred recently. A new pair of bifocals from the VA showed up in the mail, complete with a revolutionary glass cleaning cloth. It had one of the most underused phrases in today’s English language printed all over it–THANK YOU.

You are welcome, USA. It was my honor to serve.

…AND THEN THERE ARE FATHERS….

June 19, 2022

Read this as an addendum to my previous post:

There are fathers and then there are fathers … This weekend while I was composing my Father’s Day lament for the lack thereof, an old fighter pilot friend was celebrating the weekend with his wife and mother of their grown children whose longtime dementia-ridden mind does not know him or where she is but he still cares for her at home … and an aging mentally disabled son out on a weekend pass from his institution. Richard is in a class of Dad’s all his own. This same old dedicated vet years ago took a hit in the front cockpit of his RF-4 Phantom over North Vietnam that left him unconscious. The book says the plane cannot be safely landed by the backseater of a Phantom but there were no other options. He revived on short final to take over the plane and landed it, went through months of rehab and flew again. His Father’s Day greeting to me was waiting on my phone when I awoke this morning.

“Happy Father’s Day, Richard,” seems woefully inadequate. And so does my undying admiration. Richard and I have had some long discussions over the internet and telephone text, and he knows we cannot earn our way to heaven, that we are saved by God’s grace, not works. It is impossible for one human heart to truly know another–we can’t even know our own–but Matthew 7:20 says ” you will recognize them by their fruits.” Richard will one day fly yet again, with the angels…forever.

THE MUSTANG MENACE

June 19, 2022

This may be the last year we’re allowed to say Happy Father’s Day, if, God forbid, the woke folks have their way. Happy Sperm Donor Day has a nauseating ring to it, but it does have the benefit of being truth. There are far more of the latter these days than there are of the former, and that explains the crumbling core of our culture–abdicated fatherhood. 85% of youth who are currently in prison grew up in a fatherless home. (Texas Department of Corrections) The Uvalde School shooter is the latest case in point:  “No father or father figure in his life, a mother who reportedly struggled with drug addiction, no church or community of any kind, no real friends except those he met through social media.” 24% of all American children grow up in fatherless homes. I  suspect the number of sperm donors who have abdicated fatherhood in place is an even greater percentage.

Pastor/blogger Andrew Isker says “this spiritually sick society of modern America is … an assembly line of geldings.” That metaphor works well to support his assertion that “the church is suffering hard times brought on by soft men.” But it seems to me, in this age of the triumphant “self,” that the assembly line is turning out an awful lot of mustangs, untamed beasts whose driving force is their baser instincts with no regard for consequences or obligations. This mustang menace has made a mess of God’s mandate for mankind. Aside from being the sires of our prison population, I would venture the vast majority of the millions of our aborted children were bred by American mustangs. Lord, have mercy.

This Father’s Day we came be thankful for God-fearing fathers, faithful stud horses persevering in the traces for their families. They are the work horses that built this great nation under God. We need more such horses. He who created the world from nothing and made the donkey talk (Numbers 22:28) could round up the mustangs, too, break them to harness and make them a part of our team and pull this sinking culture out of this daunting morass. Our Sovereign God, who regenerates the human heart and inclines the will to faith in the Risen Savior, can tame the most lecherous will.

It’s going to take that kind of miracle, lest our land suffer utter destruction. Lord, to that end we pray this Father’s Day. Amen.

And he [Elijah] will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” (Malachi 4:6).

See you in church.  

A TIME FOR TELEMACHUS

June 12, 2022

In 404 A.D. Rome was well into its cultural and moral demise and nearing its fall. The Coliseum was filled daily with its citizens entertained by gladiators fighting to the death. One day, as the gladiators were fighting, a scrawny monk named Telemachus came out of the stands into the arena, shouting over and over, “In the name of Christ, stop!” At first the crowd was amused, thinking it was part of the spectacle, but then began to jeer the pathetic sight. One gladiator ran Telemachus through with his sword. With his dying breath he cried out, “In the name of Christ, stop!” The crowd went silent. Then someone headed for the exit. Soon the entire Colosseum was empty. Emperor Honorius, so moved by Telemachus’s martyrdom, banned violent death as a  form of entertainment in the Roman Colosseum forever. (Details of the exact means of his death in the arena vary, but the Catholic Church has made him a saint.)

America, whose cultural decline is mirroring Rome’s in alarming ways, needs a Telemachus today … and a leader with the conscience and courage of Emperor Honorius. Our nation, founded on Biblical principles, has designated special days to celebrate Biblical and historical events and persons. In the year our Lord 2022, our government has designated the entire month of June to “celebrate” a Vanity Fair parading the sins of Romans 1.  Kevin DeYoung says the…”parade may not be a march to cultural suicide as much as it is a sign that we are already dead.” It’s a parade of tormented souls defying Our Maker and declaring they are their own creator–another sad milestone in a much larger parade as one nation under God marchs to apostasy. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls it “a rebellion …taking place at the expense of objective truth, the order of creation and the entire moral order of the universe.”

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). The very title given to this month of celebratory rebellion is what God hates: “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Proverbs 8:13b).

My head spins. Tears fall. I am a stranger and pilgrim in an alien land. God help us!

Romans 1 concludes its list of sins and perversions with this final note of condemnation that describes our Vanity Fair: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

John MacArthur says our nation is suffering under God’s judgement, as summarized in Romans 1:28–“…God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Evidence abounds.

America, God has shed his grace on you like no other nation in the world for two-and-a-half centuries, and yet…
–You have forgotten the God of the Bible while your government outlaws God’s Truth and legalizes sin.
— You kill your unborn children by the millions and fight tooth-and-nail to keep a legal cover that in itself is in defiance of God’s law.
— You have become a nation of idol worshippers, the biggest one by far being “self.”
— Countless pulpits across America that once proclaimed God’s Gospel Truth have gone silent or capitulated to the culture. If that flickering Gospel Light goes out in America, it will be worse than the sun being swallowed by a black hole.

In the name of Christ, stop this rebellious parade to perdition!

Christian, come to church and weep and pray and humbly seek his face this Lord’s Day and by grace we will persevere in his promise. Our God still reigns and heaven awaits his children.

PENTECOST: The Birth of the Church

June 5, 2022

Jerusalem was the city of David fallen from grace. It had a stiff-necked citizenry with a history of stoning prophets, and only recently it had crowned its rebellious reputation by brutally crucifying the Son of God. Yet where did our Sovereign God plan the first sermon offering the way of repentance and pardon to be preached? It was that very same den of iniquity where angry mockers raised their fists and demanded that the blood of God’s own Son be upon their heads and that of their children–Jerusalem.

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4).

Thus was the church born, not with a bang but with a mighty roar. It was like a jet swooped low over Jerusalem and firebombed, with zero collateral damage, a select gathering of people in an overcrowded town during a Jewish festival.  It was a unique firebomb. It rained tongues of fire upon the target group but did not consume, like the burning bush Moses confronted. It miraculously gave them the ability to speak in the foreign languages of those foreigners in town for the festival, telling them about the “mighty works of God.” It was a visible/audible manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work. It was the very Helper–The Holy Spirit–that Jesus had promised the disciples would come:

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me” (John 15:26).

Peter, the same cowardly fisherman who publicly thrice denied he even knew Jesus just 54 days earlier, boldly delivered the altar call of his life before a large, skeptical, even hostile audience. Three thousand listeners were cut to the heart, believed him and were baptized (Acts 2:5-41). The same Holy Spirit represented by the tongues of fire also melted the hearts of those 3000 listeners and inclined their minds to believe.

It takes the fire of the Holy Spirit to ignite the soul of depraved man to blaze for the things of God. There is miracle-working power in the fire, power to make men bold, power to make men speak a foreign language they never knew before, power to melt and remold hard hearts, power to give blind eyes sight, power to incline depraved hearts to repentance, the same omnipotent power that hovered over the void and created the world in seven days–the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God.

Those tongues of fire have not been seen since Pentecost, but the Holy Spirit has been at work setting hearts aflame for the Kingdom of God and growing his church and guaranteeing the salvation of his chosen ones–“everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39b). So do not give up praying for that friend or family member of yours who cannot comprehend what to you is as obvious as the nose on your face–the truth of the Gospel. Neither could the obstinate souls in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit enabled them at Pentecost. Likewise it is impossible for your unbelieving friend until the Holy Spirit’s fire melts his heart and regenerates it to beat as a child of God, and that happens on God’s timetable, not man’s. Your praying for the Holy Spirit to  act on your unbelieving friend is an integral part of his plan. Keep the fire kindled.

Two thousand years on, the gates of hell have not prevailed against God’s Church, nor will they ever. (Matthew 16:18).

Happy birthday, church. See you there.

A MEMORIAL DAY PRAYER FOR TOMORROW

May 30, 2022

Sovereign God of all creation, grant that the soul-stirring tributes, the gratitude expressed, and the patriotism passionately proclaimed this day carry over tomorrow to the gritty, frustrating, chaotic, increasingly desperate work of maintaining this fragile, failing republic for which our forebears and associates spilled all their blood to preserve. May it not have been in vain. There is no hope for a rebellious nation that is legislating, adjudicating, mandating and mocking You out of public life, but by your Amazing Grace. I beseech you, LORD of heaven and earth, with all the love that is within me, that I might fly to my eternal abode with assurance that my grandchildren will have a life in America as blessed as mine has been. In Christ, who spilled His blood while I was yet His enemy, that I might live with Him forever, I pray, Amen.

OUR CALLING IS UNDER ATTACK

May 28, 2022

I penned the words in the meme in a Wall Street Journal Memorial Day op-ed 26 years ago. In the hundreds of letters and phone calls I received in response (a feat I have never been able to duplicate) from every quadrant of the political spectrum across America, there was not one quarrel with the statement. That would not be the case this Memorial Day 2022. Such is the state of our culture that every part of that calling is under attack.

There has been no shortage of wars in my lifetime, nor is the future rosy in that regard in this fallen world. In the twilight of my years my country is now also engaged in a cultural civil war to expunge God from atop the honor roll of noble calling and radically redefine the rest. It’s the most consequential war of all and the enemy is making advances on all fronts. Ronald Reagan said, “If we ever forget that we’re one nation under God, then we will be one nation gone under.”

I pray with Lincoln at the Gettysburg Cemetery that the United States of America might this day rededicate itself to that cause for which 1.1 million Americans in all our wars have given their last full measure of devotion–“that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This Memorial Day, 2022, a million fallen patriots cry out from the grave, “Fight on, soldier. God, duty, honor and country are still the noblest calling.” Remember your priorities. Love your country, but love God more. The nations rage, the people plot in vain and rulers scheme against the Lord who sits in heaven, but he laughs and holds them in derision (Psalm 2). The battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

Come to church this Lord’s Day and get refueled and rearmed. See you there.

ODE TO A WINGMAN

May 28, 2022
We both were gung-ho, two young fighter jocks.
Our blight was psychotic—a love affair.
Belov’d was inert, ferocious and fast.
She looked mach one as she sat in the chocks.

The Super Sabre, but we called her “hun.”
A sweptwing killer and seraphic fly’r,
We fondled her switches and lit her fire
Then mated on takeoff—became as one.

My wingman and I liked night sorties best.
The trucks all southbound on Ho Chi Minh’s Trail
Made lovely explosions when we prevailed.
The dark made it hard, but we ace’d the test.

Once as we ravaged a truck motorcade,
Big triple-A guns tried to spoil our fun.
I pulled off the trucks and dove on a gun.
High noon at midnight—a bold (?) escapade.

The big guns went silent. Were they all dead?
Can’t know for sure on an inky dark night.
My wingman then asked where to take the fight.
“Just drop another round right on their head.”

For a lifetime now those words I regret.
More guns belched fire as he dove in the night.
Two huge explosions said both lost the fight.
MIA is the term—he and his jet.

The term haunts the soul so much more than “dead.”
The God who made both of us worked His plan,
And eons from now we’ll both understand:
His blessing was greater--he went ahead.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

MEMORIAL DAY 2022

May 27, 2022

In remembrance of Vince, Lance, Larry and Lynn. Friends. Fighter pilots. God willing, we will rendezvous again in CAVU skies and war will be no more.

THE MANSIONS OF THE LORD
https://youtu.be/jccNoxn1HoU

Special lyrics for Vince (my wingman), Larry (my Sqdn CO) et al, MIA:

For missing pilots, Lord, we pray--
Tho it's unknown jungle where they lay--
Let not their souls be MIA
In the Mansions of the Lord.

No more tracers,
Foes to fight,
No more terror in the night,
Just Divine embrace,
Eternal light,
In the Mansions of the Lord.

Where there are no wars
And no loved ones' tears,
Nor haunting wond'ring
Throughout endless years.
There God's love conquers all our fears--
The Mansions of the Lord.

TOP GUN REDUX

May 25, 2022

I caught an advance showing of Top Gun II last night. It was highly entertaining fantasy that challenged the limits of verisimilitude. The characters were caricatures of the highly gifted flesh and blood fighter pilots of my day, even more so than the original movie. As a squadron level Top Gun in the units in which I served in the Vietnam War era, it is embarrassing, even shameful to contemplate how I might now be viewed by friends who see the movie. Be it known that Hollywood has once again grossly distorted reality in the name of entertainment. Save your homage for America’s real heroes this weekend – Memorial Day.

That being said, the state of the art of cinematography puts you in the cockpit of a jet fighter in a very realistic way in Top Gun II. My seatmate told me I was grunting under the g-forces as I sat in my posh movie theater recliner. The flying scenes blew the lid off my memory cache and my mind has slipped the surly bonds. I’ll be dancing the wild blue with my tail on fire for a week.

Half-a-century after I  last flew an F-100, “Sinner Saved by Grace” is a far more important title to me than Top Gun. The prize that I pursue is “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That requires a major mindset change, from “we were the best and we knew it” to “I am the worst and I know it.” The truth is my landings equaled my takeoffs because a Sovereign God willed it. I survived and my wing man died because a Sovereign God willed it. I put more bullet holes in the target rag than my squadron mates because a Sovereign God willed it. That is where all the credit is due. My faith in God and all it entails is an undeserved gift from God. That is the very definition of God’s grace, so incomprehensible to an unconverted heart. 

When you come to my house today you may well not even notice the F-100 model sitting on a high shelf, but you cannot miss God’s Word writ large on the wall as you come in and go out of my front door. Joshua, the greatest Old Testament military leader and man of God, spoke these words in his last hours: “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). It’s my mission statement as long as I have breath. The thrill of victory that The Lord of Hosts promises will far exceed anything I ever experienced in life in the danger zone, and it will be endless. Our God reigns.

“But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b–14).


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