The Devil’s Most Powerful Weapons pt II

Every Father’s Day my thoughts wander back to my dad who died when he was only 42 and I was 12 years old. Think about that! That’s a younger age than Victoria, Zac and Michael’s Poppa’s are. I remember him as being a soft spoken, tall slim man who was well read. I loved it whenever he invited me to crawl into his bed where he told me about cool books that boy’s my age would enjoy. Stories such as: “Moby Dick;” “The Call of the Wild;” “Treasure Island;” and the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” I never was able to spend much time with him though because he worked all night throughout my life. But on those rare occasions when we did it was always a treat. My dad had an inquisitive mind and he loved gathering information about all kinds of stuff that he was passionately interested in. The universe in particular fascinated him and so was our own planet. Whenever he got news of a new discovery in outer space or of a lost tribe of pigmy’s deep in the jungle somewhere who never had any contact with the rest of the world he would tell me about it the next time we got together. But I was more interested in knowing about God. For instance, the Second World War was raging and I had a lot of questions such as why didn’t God stop all the horrible things the Nazi’s and Jap’s were doing to millions of people including Americans. Even though God has assigned that role to fathers I had to rely on my mom for answers to that kind of a question. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful she was there for me. However, at the time Catholic’s weren’t allowed to read the Bible, so she didn’t know very much. Oh how I wished my dad had a passion for learning about God and sharing that kind of knowledge with me. I probably would have been able to avoid some very painful experiences. For instance, I wish my dad had told me about David, the second King of Israel.

When David was a kid, he took out ‘Goliath the Giant’ with a few well placed stones flung from his sling-shot. When he grew up God made David the King of Israel. David was doing a great job of ruling the nation the way God wanted him to until a certain night he will never forget. He couldn’t sleep so he went for a walk on top of the walls of his palace. That’s when he spotted her and his lust got the best of him. The moonlit sky revealed a beautiful woman named Bathsheba. She was accompanied by her attendants and was taking a bath. The sinful nature David and every human being have inherited from their parents ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator in the Garden of Eden got the best of David just as our sinful nature does you and me every time we disobey God and break His commands. King David ordered his soldiers to bring Bathsheba to him so she could be another one of his wives. David knew it was wrong and that in God’s eyes it was an evil that His holiness compels Him to punish. Well before you know it Bathsheba became pregnant with David’s child. No big deal, right? Wrong! It turns out that Bathsheba was already married to one of David’s senior officers in his army. The guy had been deployed and was out with his men defending the nation of Israel. A good thought, or so David thought, suddenly popped into his mind. He ordered Bathsheba’s husband and his solders to come back home for some well deserved R. & R. figuring that he and Bathsheba would get together in their home. Then she would tell him she was pregnant and he would think the baby was his. As it turned out though the man didn’t think it was fair that he should receive such special treatment while his men had to sleep out in the open in a field, and so he never entered his home and got together with Bathsheba. Now David had a really big problem because all the Jews knew that adultery was a big time sin that God hates with a passion. David knew he would be disgraced and his subjects would no longer have any respect for him. Then out of the blue, another thought popped into David’s mind. He ordered Bathsheba’s husband and his gallant men to the front lines where the fiercest battle was raging. They were sure to be killed. And they were.

As I mentioned earlier, God hates sin and He has to teach us to knock it off and get with His program. So what did God do? He allowed the baby to get sick and die and David was devastated over the loss of his child. Later another one of David’s sons developed an intense hatred for his father. He put an army together and was hell-bent on killing David so he could become the King of Israel. David knew all along that he had been sinning with Bathsheba. Big time! The Devil had successfully persuaded David to con himself into believing that he could get away with it. God allowed David to suffer greatly for many years until he finally learned and knocked it off. David finally did and started to become the kind of person God created him to be- a God-centered, humble, loving, compassionate, patient man. Listen to what David prayed to God after he finally learned what God was teaching him through all those painful years full of hard times. Before I went through all these hard times I went the wrong way, but now I struggle hard to obey Your commands. It was good for me that I had I suffered greatly because now my hope is in Your rules. I have stored them up in my heart and I think about them constantly. I want to become Holy just as You are.

I wish my dad had been interested in learning everything he could about God like he did other things. He could have taught me this kind of stuff about people like David when I was a young boy growing up during the Second World War. There’s a good chance I would not have had to learn so many things the hard way as King David did. God loves us so much that He disciplines us for our own good. He causes us to experience all kinds of frustration, disappointment, losses, and other painful stuff to draw us near to His Son Jesus pleading for forgiveness for having disobeyed Him and ask Him to help us get back on the only path that leads into God’s Heaven. We will eventually ask God to help us to become more and more like Jesus instead of continuing to live our lives as proud self-centered creatures. God humbles His proud self-centered children who are despising all this Fatherly discipline by not sincerely trying to become holy like He is. And He will keep it up until the man or woman, boy or girl finally learns that life isn’t all about them and their interests but about Jesus and His.

In the June 20th edition of The Weekly Standard there was an excellent book review about the kind of things I have been speaking about. It mentioned a man named Louie Zamperini, an American runner who had been one of the stars of the 1936 Olympics. He was a member of the crew of an American bomber, a B-24 Liberator Green Hornet which was shot down in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Palmyra Atoll. Louie and one other man survived and found themselves adrift in the ocean miles from any kind of island. They had two rafts, no water, no form of shelter, and almost no food. They were destined to experience two years and 10 months of inhuman torture at the hands of both nature and man. For 47 days the two men would drift for thousands of miles, driven nearly insane by thirst and starvation, burned by the sun, chilled by the night, eaten by insects, poured on by storms, and forced to fight off, with sticks and fists, schools of sharks that surrounded them, circled them, and sometimes launched themselves into the raft. Now and then Japanese planes would pass overhead and strafe them with bullets. When American search planes had failed to locate them, the Army Air Corps assumed they were dead.

They lived on rain water collected in canvas pump covers (that Louie sucked up and would spit into bottles) small fish that they managed to snare from the ocean, and birds, who now and then would touch down on the raft near them whose necks they would wring and eat raw. Under this regimen flesh melted from them, and they turned into skeletons, their muscles wasted, their skin baked and parched. The men’s bodies were pocked with salt sores, and their lips were so swollen that they pressed into their nostrils and chins. They spent their days with their eyes fixed on the sky, singing ‘White Christmas,’ and muttering about food. On the 40th day Louie was dozing in a state of half consciousness when he thought he heard singing. He abruptly sat up and, floating in a bright cloud above him, saw 21 human figures singing exquisitely beautiful songs. (Later, in a Japanese prison camp, he would repeatedly hear the same music.) Seven days later they were picked up by Japanese sailors. And then their real torment began.

The horrors of the prison camps in Asia included the same as what came out of the death camps in Europe, but the sufferings endured in them were just as intense. “Japan murdered thousands of POW’s on death marches, and worked thousands of others to death in slavery. Thousands of other POWS’s were beaten, burned, stabbed, or clubbed to death, shot, beheaded, killed during medical experiments, or eaten alive. All lived in the constant fear of being beheaded or shot on the whim of their keepers. For Louie the worse was a guy nicknamed “the Bird.” The Bird would beat POW’s daily, breaking their windpipes and teeth. He brought men into his office to show them letters from home, and then burned the letters. The Bird ordered men to violate camp policies and then attacked them for breaking the rules. Sometimes in his ecstasy he wailed and howled while he was doing these horrible things.

Singly and together, the prisoners made ferocious attempts to hang on to their dignity, sabotaging whatever they could: “At the railyards and docks, they switched mailing labels, rewrote delivery addresses and changed the labeling on boxcars, sending tons of goods to the wrong destinations. They threw fistfuls of dirt into gas tanks, and broke anything mechanical that passed through their hands, and built things designed not to work or to break easily. They “accidently” dropped fragile items; shredded cloths; drenched them in mud; packed them again into boxes with notes signed “Winston Churchill,” and they drank gallons of ice tea and then “peed profusely,” into the bags of rice they loaded. Louie was a born rebel, a near delinquent before he found his real outlet in running, he found being powerless and degradation unendurable, which was both his weakness and strength. His pride aroused further rage in The Bird, which increased Louie’s will to defy him still further. Ever since he was a little boy, Louie regarded every limitation placed on him as a challenge to his wits, his resourcefulness, and his determination to rebel. The result had been a mutinous youth… now as he was cast into extremity, despair and death became the focus of his defiance. The same attributes that had made him a boy terror were keeping him going in the greatest struggle of his life. Louie was finally liberated and was shipped back home. But he still had mega problems. He was plagued by flashbacks of what he suffered at the hands of The Bird. Louie had dreams of him killing The Bird. He hated that evil man with a passion. He was drinking heavily which led to blackouts and outbursts of violence. In his fantasy, he killed the Bird slowly, making him feel all the pain he once had experienced. One night he awoke and discovered he was trying to strangle his pregnant wife. She was making plans to divorce Louie but first begged him to go with her to hear Billy Graham, the much talked about young preacher. He was tense and angry and everything he heard there made him more anxious. Then Graham talked about people adrift in the ocean, a drowning man, a drowning boy… out lost in the sea of life and Louie felt a nameless uneasiness… a memory he must not see. God is interested in me,” Graham said, and Louie recalled a day when he and the other POW in the raft had drifted into a scene of rare stillness and beauty, that looked like the first day on earth. “God works miracles one after the other,” said Graham: If you suffer God will give you the grace to go forward. Louie found himself remembering miracles: he had been trapped in the hull of the Green Hornet and the wires that held him had vanished. His raft floated out of his reach and he grasped by mere inches the cord to retrieve it… Japanese bombers had strafed them repeatedly and not a bullet had hit them. They had gone six days without water, and Louie prayed for salvation: The next day by divine intervention, the sky broke open and rain poured down. Then he had the last flashback he would ever experience: he was a body on a raft, dying of thirst. He remembered whispering words from his swollen lips… a promise thrown at Heaven… a promise he had allowed himself to forget until just this instant: “If You will save me, I will serve You forever. He felt the rain fall and the rage and the furies were over. His last war was over. He had finally won. As he had promised, Louie Zamperini has been spending the rest of his life serving God. Now, 94, he is active and vigorous. In 1954 he opened the Victory Boys Camp for boys as ungovernable as he had once been himself, channeling their defiance and energy into acceptable outlets, as the sport of running had once channeled his. Otherwise, he was happily walking the world telling his story to schoolchildren and to crowds in packed stadiums. He worked at a senior center in a neighborhood church. He carried the Olympic Torch in five different Olympics, the last time in 1998 at the winter games in Nagano when he was four days short of his 81st birthday, where he had once been a prisoner. All he could see, in every direction, were smiling Japanese faces…. Louie ran through the place where cages had once held him…. but the cages were long gone and so was “The Bird.”

In closing this Fathers Day message I would like to share excerpts from a daily devotional I receive from Joni and Friends. Joni has been a quadriplegic since an accident when she was seventeen. She also was beginning to travel on the wrong road away from God. But like King David and Louie, and even though she is now in her late sixties God is still blessing people through Joni. She had been ministering to a young couple who had a tough decision to make: should they place their severely handicapped son, Brad in a residential facility? Should they bring him home? Did the family have enough support? Finally they made their decision. Brad was home again. Nancy, the mother sent Joni a letter expressing her appreciation for Joni’s encouragement: “Joni,” she wrote “incredible fruit has resulted in our lives from that decision. God used Brad to change my husband and me, helping us see the Lord in a way we never could have had Brad not lived in our midst.” Nancy also enclosed a beautiful three page tribute to her husband, written from Brad’s point of view. Every paragraph was a powerful testimony to a father’s flexibility, integrity, love, and devotion to his disabled child. Little Brad wrote: Dad, I can’t give anything back to you except my smiles when I hear your voice or my giggles when your whistle. I can’t even say I love you’ ….” But (Nancy continued, I think the best part of the tribute is the close: “Maybe I can’t read the Bible, but I can ‘say’ Jesus loves me, this I know for my daddy showed me so.”

Children having a Christian father who has been assigned by God to be the spiritual leader in his family’s home, a good man who passionately wants to acquire knowledge about a lot of things to share with his son or daughter, but for the most part is indifferent to learning everything he possibly can about God is one of the Devil’s most powerful weapons against individual followers of Christ and His entire Church. But, it isn’t the most devastating. Lord willing, in a couple of weeks….

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June 19, 2011 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized No comments yet

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