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Dunkirk

In the summer of 1940, everything went wrong. The British Expeditionary Forces landed in France and began to take up fighting positions at the start of World War II. The French heavily relied on the Maginot Line. A line of armed fortifications built to prevent any kind of invasion along the Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg borders. German forces unexpectedly went through the “impenetrable Ardennes Forest” an area that was only lightly fortified. In five days, the Germans captured the city of Sedan and headed west. This flanking maneuver cut off the entire Allied Army. More than 350,000 soldiers were surrounded with their backs to the sea at a port town called Dunkirk.

German forces were now on their way and had the ability to wipe out the entire British Army.  When it seemed certain that the Allied forces at Dunkirk would be encircled and annihilated, a British naval officer only had time to send a quick cable.  He sent three words to London, “But if not.”

These poignant words were immediately recognized as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel. These men were given a choice:  they could worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 shares their response:  “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They bravely chose the furnace, rather than disobeying God. The message of these three words told in Daniel 3:18 were clear.  Even though the situation was desperate and the Army was trapped, they would not give in.

One Bible verse and three tiny words communicated a giant message. It also brought about the most unorthodox and successful rescue campaign known in the modern era. The British Navy ordered fishing vessels, yachts, and any civilian watercraft longer than 30 feet in length to report and join the naval rescue effort. The flotilla consisted of over 850 civilian and military vessels with owners and crews, ready to launch across the channel.

Just as the German General was ready to attack the surrounded city, Hitler ordered him to stop at the outskirts of Dunkirk. The German command wanted forces to continue south with their invasion of France, instead of pushing into Dunkirk. This coincidence and several days of cloudy weather gave the “Little ships of Dunkirk” and regular military boats 9 full days to rescue over 338,000 men.

Today, we call this naval rescue mission “The Miracle of Dunkirk” and it began with three simple words from Daniel 3:18.

 

GBA

It’s okay to say, “God bless America.” In Jeremiah 29:5-7 we find some interesting concepts.  God says to build houses and settle down. God also says to seek peace and prosperity of the city. In the last verse, we are told, “pray to the Lord, for if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

Here, we are encouraged to pray for the city. The governmental institution that controls and runs much of daily life. Even more interesting is the place of this suggestion, because the people were in captivity, i.e. Babylon. If Israel needed to pray for the cities, towns, and government while they were in bondage, perhaps we should pray for our nation in both good times and bad.

Nations need healing, just like people. Nations can offer forgiveness to both enemies and friends. Nations can receive our gratitude and thanks.

When we say, “God bless America” it is a prayer, not a boast.  May we continue to celebrate what is right with our Republic and pray for God’s power to make it even better.

God bless America!

Memorial Day 2017

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 7,000 American service members have died in combat since 2001. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make. They counted others greater than themselves. They stood up to fight for a cause. They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note. It is humbling. It is loving. It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

palm sunday

It is easy to get into a rut during Holy Week. While the music, pageants, processions, and lessons can easily feel the same consider where you are standing.

As we enter into Holy week, we should enter into the story. We should imagine ourselves watching and cheering as Jesus passes. But we shouldn’t just watch. We should go with him. We should join in the procession ourselves. We must follow along after Him and continue to shout and sing in the praises of our Messiah.

As Christians, we are not to remain spectators cheering from the sidelines. We are to fall in line. We are to join the procession. We are to become part of the parade itself. We are to follow Jesus, marching with him, moving wherever God’s voice is calling us to go.

Precious God, allow us to see Palm Sunday and Easter with new eyes.  Help us to see Jesus and follow after Him with our entire heart. Amen.

The Season of Lent

lent

Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter. On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.

I have to admit that observing Lent is new to me. It is more common among liturgical or “high church” faith groups. I was not raised in that tradition, but I have an appreciation for the concept of subtracting something in your life to grow closer to God. While many will give up meat, sweets, soda, chocolate, or doughnuts during Lent, I like the idea of adding a spiritual practice in your life to grow closer to God. These practices can include daily devotions, a focused prayer time, creating a spiritual journal, volunteering at a charity, or performing community service projects.

This year I added a practice to help me grow closer to God. I will read through the Book of Psalms. King David was a warrior and a proficient soldier. He experienced great joy and rejoiced with reckless abandon. He also experienced dark times of sorrow, loss, and isolation. Through all of life’s ups and downs, he pursued God. There is much I can learn from that example and relationship.

While this approach may not be for everyone, the key is to find spiritual practices that appeal to you and honor God. It is also helpful to find a practice that will test or stretch your faith. Don’t fall into a rut and do the same spiritual discipline year after year. That would deny you the growth and opportunity God wants from us.

As we get closer to Holy Week, may your spiritual practice draw you closer to God.  Whether you are subtracting or adding a practice continue the daily journey toward the cross of Christ. Discover the great love that took Him there. See and understand the sacrifice of Jesus. Allow the atoning and redeeming work of Jesus to transform your life.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

Adults on Vaction

protest

Protests, riots, general strikes, and shouting matches, oh my! Where did all the big boys and big girls go in America? Every time I watch the news or read a story, it seems that all the adults are on vacation.

Coastal elites are burning more American flags than the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Today’s coalition of discontent wants to make a lot of noise, set things on fire, and boycott their jobs. Everyone is entitled to shout and protest. But worse yet, no one seems willing to listen to each other.

We cannot plug our ears and runaway if we do not agree with the message. No matter which protest you attend, those protesting must be willing not only to shout, but also to listen. Folks should be civil and respectful.

When people behave in a purely secular manner, we will witness a purely secular response. The ultimate result is a place more destructive and bitter than what we have today. There is a better way.

In John 13, Jesus shares this with his followers, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Jesus teaches a meaningful and difficult lesson for people to learn in the first century and in 2017 – love those around you. Jesus was frequently criticized for the company that he kept. Jesus acquired a reputation for being a wild child. Jesus knew tax collectors, fishermen, zealots, and other rowdies. Jesus went to their homes and befriended them.

Jesus was a loving, laughing, Lord, someone who enjoyed a good time. He befriended the leper, the lame, the outcast, the downtrodden, the soldier, and the saint. It was done out of pure, perfect, and heavenly love. He showed the kind of affection that transforms lives and honors God.

When people are given that kind of respect and love, they are willing to listen to each other. The challenge is demonstrating the love that Christ commands. May God empower us to love one another, no matter what others say or how they express it.

4-chaplains

On the morning of February 3, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a converted cruise ship, was crowded to capacity with 903 service members, including four chaplains. The Dorchester, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland.  It was struck by a torpedo and began to rapidly sink. Panic and chaos had set in on the ship. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend to the wounded, and guide the disoriented toward safety. By this time, most of the men were topside, and the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. When there were no more life jackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.

As the ship went down, survivors on nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. All four voices were heard offering prayers until their last moments of life.

Today, a grateful nation remembers Chaplain George L. Fox, Chaplain Alexander D. Goode, Chaplain Clark V. Poling, and Chaplain John P. Washington for their heroic deeds as soldiers and spiritual leaders.

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