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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (II Timothy 2:3).”

Many think that the idea of embedding reporters with military combat units is a new development.  This method of news gathering was publicized heavily during the recent war in Iraq.

However, it’s  not a new thing.  Ernie Pyle was an embedded reporter in World War  II.  His experiences were documented in the 1945 film The Story of G.I. Joe, which received four Academy Award nominations.

In the movie, mostly based on Pyle’s true life, Ernie is shown volunteering to go to the front lines in North Africa. Later Pyle reported the grunt’s struggles in Italy.

Ernie became famous in America and among the troops for his folksy style and true-to-life journalism. The soldiers saw him as “one of the boys”.

Where the Story of G.I. Joe really catches your eye is in the depiction of Pyle’s life among the Army in Italy. His unit is pinned down in front of a religious landmark, an ancient  monastery on a hill called Monte Cassino.

Because of the historical and religious significance of the site, the American military leadership refuse to bomb the monastery in order to dislodge the Germans there.  As a result, the American soldiers have it tough.

The Story of G.I. Joe shows them in all their agony. They live in caves and mud.    Many of them, including green replacement soldiers are killed. One of the more experienced sergeants goes mad.

Sharing their suffering is Ernie Pyle. He could have been home in the comfortable States at Christmas, eating turkey with all the trimmings. Instead he is stuck in downpours and slime in Italy during a horrible war with smelly, unshaven men.

The toughest thing was watching men with whom you had developed friendships and respect die in front of you. The movie script combined a couple of quotes from Ernie’s reports about the plight of the lowly infantryman.

Pyle wrote that the common solider “live and die so miserably and they do it with such determined acceptance that your admiration for them blinds you to the rest of the war.” In comparison, Pyle said that airmen “died well-fed and clean-shaven, if that was any comfort.”

In the Christian life it seems their is the same dichotomy at work. Some Christians appear to have lives of wealth, comfort and ease. On the other hand, other believers suffer in poverty, disease and live in day-to-day hell.

I suppose you could say that we all are fighting in the same war against the devil. However, I think that is probably little comfort to the Christian who has the life of a foxhole private.

What is comforting is what the Scriptures say about this contradictory grouping of Christians into the well-to-do and the suffering. James writes this:

“Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.  And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.” (James 1:9-11).

Indeed, James tells suffering believers in the same passage:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Yes, in the Christian life, the reality is not as it seems circumstantially.  We not only can rejoice when we suffer because we know that God can clean up our messes. We can also be joyful because in some measure we are sharing in the same trials that Jesus endured in his time on Earth.

In sharing his suffering, we get to know Him better and become intimate with Him.  He not only knows what we are going through, but we can also grasp in our tough times what he experienced as well (Hebrews 4:15).

It almost makes all the suffering worth it, doesn’t it.  However, it doesn’t mean we have to like the pain.

Ernie Pyle went home from Europe exhausted.  He said,”I am leaving for just one reason . . . because I have just got to stop. I have had all I can take for a while.”

Yet, he went back to war, this time in the Pacific at Okinawa.”I’m going simply because there’s a war on and I’m part of it”, he wrote,”and I’ve known all the time I was going back. I’m going simply because I’ve got to–and I hate it.”

We’re not called to be masochists. Jesus didn’t have that attitude. In fact, He went to the cross “despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).

We can do our duty though by focusing our sights on Jesus, letting Him lead us in the battle, and keeping in mind the eternal joy that is coming when the final victory is won.

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“The ‘gods’ know nothing, they understand nothing.  They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High (Psalm 82:5,6).”  

Ignorance is bliss. What you don’t know can’t hurt you.

I think we all agree in this day and age that those proverbs are not true. Not knowing something may keep us from worry or discomfort, but the chickens do indeed come home to roost (an idea used by poets since the Middle Ages, beginning with Chaucer).

Everyone knows that our government didn’t connect the dots on the terrorist plot of September 11, 2001.  Just surfing the Internet with the phrase “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” will bring many examples of published material that seeks to disprove this notion:

* “The American”, the journal of the American Enterprise Institute, reports that the less education you have, the more back pain you will suffer later in life.

” Mercola.com, a health webzine, notes that aspartame, a common sweetener in soft drinks and other products, is the most dangerous food additive in the marketplace.

* Nat Hentoff of USA Today worries that the lack of civics teaching in the American classroom today is producing ignorance among young people that will endanger our liberties.

” The Australia Institute even has a paper that tells me that I may have not found the most suitable examples in my search!  The report explains that the monopoly power of search engines and their methods of prioritizing the results could kill off one of the biggest advantages of today’s Internet: diversity in knowledge and products.

The flip side of all of this is Francis Bacon’s statement that “knowledge is power”.  The Soviets knew this in World War II and implemented their understanding in a dastardly way.

Movie director Andrzej Wajda documents the murder of thousands and thousands of Polish officers in his movie Katyn, which was nominated for a “Best Foreign Film” Academy Award.  It is the story of the mass executions that took place in the Katyn forest in 1940.

Anne Applebaum explains the reason for this atrocity:

The justification for the murder was straightforward. These were Poland’s best-educated and most patriotic soldiers. Many were reservists who as civilians worked as doctors, lawyers, university lecturers, and merchants. They were the intellectual elite who could obstruct the Soviet Union’s plans to absorb and “Sovietize” Poland’s eastern territories. On the advice of his secret police chief, Lavrenty Beria, Stalin ordered them executed.

While unofficially most knew that the Soviets did the deed, the Russians themselved blamed the act on the Nazis. As Applebaum says, the episode has been the source of mistrust between Russia and Poland for decades.

In the last part of the last century, as the Soviet Union fell apart, the Russians admitted their role in the massacre. This had led to some healing between the two countries.

Applebaum explains Wajda’s reason for making the film now, in the new century:

Most of those who actually remembered the events of 1939 were now dead, he explained—Wajda himself is eighty-one—so the film could no longer be made for them. Instead, he said, he wanted to tell the story again for young people—but not just any young people. Wajda said he wanted to reach “those moviegoers for whom it matters that we are a society, and not just an accidental crowd.”

A couple of scoundrels in the Bible learned the hard way that ignorance is not bliss and that what you don’t know can hurt you in a big way.  Their names were Baanah and Rekab.

These two men served the son of Saul, Ish-Bosheth, who inherited the kingdom of Israel, save Judah, which was in the hands of Saul’s enemy David. Baanah and Rekab were leaders of some commandos who fought against Judah.

These commanders began to see the handwriting on the wall when Ish-Bosheth’s primary general was murdered in a diplomatic mission to Judah. It was only a matter of time before David became the king of a united Israel. After all, even God was on David’s side, and all the people knew it.

One day when Ish-Bosheth’s guard fell asleep on duty, Baanah and Rekab snuck into his house, where their king was also taking a nap, and murdered him. They cut off his head as a souvenir.

Taking the head to David, they expected to get rewarded.  Baanah and Rekab even invoked God’s work in the whole scheme.

They should have checked with David first. David, with the two men present, said:

“As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”

 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. (II Samuel 4:9-12).

Had Baanah and Rekab done a little research and intelligence gathering instead of going on in ignorance, things may have turned out differently for them. Instead, they acted without knowledge and paid for it with their lives. 

What troubles me most about the “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” falsehood is not that I in truth can be harmed by my ignorance. What bothers me is that my cluelessness can due major damage to my loved ones and others.

For example, if I do not know how to be a good husband or father, disaster is at hand. My wife and my children will suffer due to my lack of instruction and scholarship in the area of family.

The good news is that my awareness of my ignorance and it harmful effects is a positive development. It is the beginning of solving the problems I have created due to my  callowness.

It is time to ditch the hubris and become a little more sophisticated in some things.  It is time to begin the process of learning.

As Benjamin Disraeli, the great British prime minister of the 19th century said, “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge.

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“ ‘I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?’ (Jeremiah 32:27)”

It is a military maxim that generals always prepare for the last war (especially if they have won it).  In relation to the the Allied military leaders in World War II, this seems to have been the case.

First, the Belgians put their trust in a huge fortress near their border with the Netherlands and Germany. It was designed to fend off attacks from the east, mainly from the latter country.

Fort Eben-Emael was attacked on May 10, 1940 by the Germans. However, they did not use a  frontal assault of troops.

The Germans sent soldiers from the air by using gliders. They neutralized the fort in short order, paving the way for the German invasion of Belgium and France.

As the Belgian’s put their faith in Fort Eben-Emael to stop the Germans, the French depended greatly on the Maginot Line to do the same. This was a series of forts, tank obstacles, gun positions and other defensive posts along the French Border with Germany.

The French built it after World War I to prevent a repeat performance of the German attack then. However, the line of fortifications was useless.

The Germans simply bypassed the Maginot Line by attacking through the forest to the west. France was quicly defeated by the German blitzkrieg.

The greatest sea power of the time were the British, who trusted heavily in big battleships for the defense of their island and their empire.  They built their pride and joy, the Prince of Wales, which they commissioned in January, 1941.

She was sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers in the Pacific in 1942. Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister and heavily experienced naval minister, was accused of having an exaggerated belief in the power of the battleship.

Land-based and sea-bound fortresses are by definition thought to be impregnable. The Allied leaders of World War II found out the truth.

Through the creative ingenuity of their enemies, their strongholds were defeated. These opponents found innovative and modern ways to beat the heavily fortified citadels.

As a believer in Christ, I know that  I am faced with spiritual strongholds that need to be defeated. The Bible speaks of them outright, and exemplifies them through the stories of real people.

One person in the Bible with a stronghold in her life was Naomi. This woman of Israel had had a tough life.

First, she moved abroad with her husband during a famine. Then her husband died.

After ten years in a foreign land, her two sons also died. They left widows, women of the country to which she had moved.

When  Naomi learned the famine in Israel had finally abated, she moved home, accompanied by Ruth, one her daughter in-laws. The other daughter-in-law, Orpah,  stayed behind.

Naomi convinced Orpah that to follow her was a no-win proposition. She believed Naomi’s statement,”It is more bitter for me than for you, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me (Ruth 1:13b)!”

Naomi had developed a stronhold of bitterness based on a false concept of God.  This was made clear when she arrived in Israel and caused a stir among the women there:

So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them, and the women exclaimed, “Can this be Naomi?”

 “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.  I went away full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The LORD has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.” Ruth 1:19-21

Naomi had a new name for herself. It meant “bitter”.

The lady’s difficult experiences in life had caused her a lot of hurt and trauma.  As a result, Naomi’s wounded heart began to engage in a pattern of negative thinking and behavior against God. (See the web article “Cross Walk Life: Tearing Down Strongholds” for a detailed explanation of how this happens.)

Some time this summer it occured to me that I had several strongholds in my life. They ranged from anger to pride.

On the many early morning walks I took on a local trail, I began to attack these fortresses in my life. My prayer would take this form:

“Lord, I demolish the citadel of ________ in my life. I take it down in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. I crush it and plant your flag over it, Jesus. I ask for you to come in and create a new fortress of ___________ (the opposite of the old stronghold) in my life.”

I realized over time that I had to do this every day. I saw some results, but Satan has kept trying to rebuild the old strongholds brick by brick, so I have to stay with it.

David G. Evans notes in his book “Dare to Be a Man” that when we finally face God, we stand there naked. If we’re honest with him about our lives, we are pretty much what he calls a mound of ruins.

The good news according to Evans is that God can use those old ruins as the foundation for a new life in Christ. We learn from the old previously entrenched garbage and Jesus reconstructs us into what Ronald Reagan called “a shining city on a hill”.

All I know is that in my own experience what I have learned about living the Christian life hasn’t worked very well up to now. I have been fighting the last war in my spiritual life. 

This anachronisitic thinking and behavior has led to defeat for me. Surely, there has to be a better way.

If evil enemies like those who opposed the Allies in World War II can come up with creative ideas for demoloshing fortresses, surely through the all-knowing Spirit of God within me I can develop some imaginative plans of my own to beat my spiritual enemies.  After all, God has demonstrated over time that He is pretty good at tearing down enemy citadels.

 

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