In World War I, German intelligence was able to steal American plans at will. Tapping enemy lines was extremely easy, especially at night. Faced with such a dilemma, a regiment full of Choctaw Indians thought of a potential solution. The commander inquired into how many Choctaws knew their mother tongue. The men hesitated. The first English word some of them had learned was “soap.” In basic training, they were threatened with having their mouths washed out if caught speaking their native language. Now, their regimental leaders wanted them to speak it. The Choctaws were dispersed among the various divisions and attached to communications. From that point to the end of the war, all important orders were passed along in Choctaw. The Germans were stymied and finally caught off guard by the Americans’ war plans (from PBS’ American Experience: The Great War, Episode 3).
Today, our society does not want to hear us speak the message of Christ. Many find it offensive and restricting. They may even put great pressure on us to keep quiet. But, we cannot. These have been taken captive by the devil to do his will (2 Tim. 2:26). Especially when someone sees the spiritual crisis in his or her life, there will be a desperate desire for an answer. Where will they turn? If they have heard us speak of Christ and His way, they may need us to communicate the most important message ever spoken. Don’t keep quiet about Jesus, especially given the dire danger in this spiritual warfare (2 Cor. 10:3-5). God is counting on us to speak for Him, and so is a lost and dying world! Keep sharing Him.
War historians have given notice to it. It is a tragic subplot to a war tragic beyond most all comparison. World War I was a senseless, repeated exercise in the mass killing of young men from around the globe. This went on from August, 1914, up to the cease fire ordered for the eleventh month, the eleventh day, and the eleventh hour of 1918. Offensives on especially the western front meant men from several nations either were ordered to attack or were put in the position to defend against them. Men from many nations woke up on 11/11/18, but as casualties of war never saw the end of that day. People were celebrating the end of the war in Paris, Berlin, London, Washington, and elsewhere while men, most having heard the rumor about the armistice, fought on and died. George Edwin Allison died at 9:30 AM, the last official British casualty. Augustin Trebuchon, a message runner, was killed by a single shot at 10:50 AM, the last French casualty. George Lawrence Price was the last official Canadian casualty, dying at 10:58 AM. The last American to die was Henry Gunter, who if he understood German would have heard the machine gunners of that nation plead for his division to stop their offensive. His time of death was 10:59, and divisional records indicate, “Almost as he (Gunter) fell, the gunfire fell away and an appalling silence prevailed.” If possible, one story is even more tragic. While historians cannot be absolutely certain, they believe the last casualty of this tragic war was a German officer named Tomas. Allegedly, he told Americans approaching a house that he and his men occupied that they could have the house since the war was over. No one had told the Americans who, not trusting the officer, shot him as he walked toward them right after 11:00 AM. Official records indicate over 10,000 dead, wounded, and missing men on the last day of World War I. Historians have found letters, interviewed fellow soldiers of these unfortunate men, and through such correspondence give chilling insights. These men were optimistic. Many felt charmed to have cheated death, some of them veterans whose service had spanned the entire length of a war that exacted staggering, daily death tolls. Others had a strong sense of foreboding, a fatalistic resignation that somehow, despite the cheerful optimism of comrades, they would not survive the day (much historical information gleaned from www.historylearningsite.co.uk).
It is extremely difficult to read this legacy from World War I of men doing their duty to the end, to come so close to escaping the clutches of death, only to be felled in the final hours. Armistice Day and the ending of World War I are the roots of one of our greatest National Holidays and observances, Veterans Day. We honor those living and dead who fought to keep us free from tyranny and evil. Even in that first world war, where war prosecution is much questioned and debated, mothers, fathers, family and friends are beholden to the men and women who risked everything to defend our beloved country.
With that in mind, please allow me to draw this spiritual parallel. How tragic for a child of God to follow for so much of the way only to fall away later in life (2 Peter 2:20-22). How tragic for one to come so close to the cross of Calvary and salvation, only to die short of that goal (cf. Mark 10:22). Jesus spoke of one not far from the Kingdom (Mark 12:34). Agrippa was “almost persuaded” (Acts 26:28). Only eternity and the Judgment Day will reveal the stories of those battling with themselves on the battlefield of Ephesians six, maybe close to obedience, who died outside of Christ. What a tragedy for anyone to die lost. Especially tragic are the examples of those who knew the truth, were convicted about it, but who died without having resolved the greatest problem known to man.
We honor the soldiers who fought and died, even in the “11th hour.” We pray for the souls who are living but will die, who have yet to come to the Captain of the Lord of hosts.
He died on February 27, 2011, having reached the age of 110 years and 26 days old. As author Richard Rubin set the perspective, if you go back 110 years from the day of his birth it was the year the United States ratified the Constitution (Last of the Doughboys, 439)! Video interviews abound for Mr. Buckles. As you watch them, you will be impressed with a dignified, articulate, meek, and thoughtful man. Though that generation is often a forgotten one and that war is often a forgotten one, they and their world really were the bridge from pre-industrial times to the modern world we enjoy today. It was the age of inventors, innovation, and intelligence. Memoirs, letters, and other correspondence from that war reveal highly literate, well-rounded men who could use their hands and their minds. The four million Americans, along with tens of millions of others from around the world who went to war, responded to the call to serve driven by valor, duty, and patriotism. It is a fact that Veterans Day is observed on November 11, a holiday that began to commemorate the armistice that went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, signaling a cease fire for the Great War.
On August 14, 1917, here in Denver at Fort Logan army camp, Buckles was sworn into the U.S. Army. He was an ambulance driver. He went to France on the U.S.S. Carpethia, a ship sent to rescue the Titanic. Some of the officers and men who participated in that rescue were on the ship with Buckles, and they spoke freely with him about those events. He had a personal conversation with General John J. Pershing (via oral interview with Cadet Spilman Humphrey, VMI Archives Digital Collections). Here is a man, an eager volunteer who had to repeatedly try to get accepted into the service (he was 15 years old when he began his quest and it took a year before he succeeded) in order to do his part.
We are intrigued, I think, by links to the past. They tell us a lot about who we are today. A fascinating aspect of history is that it is a living, ever-moving, and ever-changing thing. We are making history each day, a collective part of what will be tomorrow. When I think about the Lord’s church, I cannot help but think in those terms. I’ve listened to preachers who knew preachers who knew the likes of McGarvey, Lipscomb, Harding, and Lard. Those men would have been exposed to the work and even the lives of men like John Smith, Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, and others like them, committed to returning to the worship and doctrine of the First-Century church.
When we look at the church itself, congregations now serving the Lord from coast to coast and in nations around the world often owe their establishment to those now long gone but whose sacrifice and service led to the opportunities we now enjoy. In another sense, by studying and seeking to follow the New Testament, we are linked more purely to the work of apostles, prophets, and disciples who walked with Jesus, knew Him, and were influenced by Him. As we try to follow the pattern of teaching on those pages, we become a living link to sacred history.
Perhaps you still feel pretty spry and young, but in pursuing the ideal of restoring New Testament Christianity, you are linked to the valiant work of those whose dress, appearance, modes of transportation, means of communication, and language are very different from your own but whose desire is just like yours: Doing the Lord’s will the Lord’s way! In the way that matters the most, we resemble and reflect them. Let’s keep that link alive!
My brother and fellow preacher, Brent Pollard, finds the most interesting historical facts—an ability which makes his preaching illustrations most interesting. He sent me an article about the Oise-Aigne Cemetery in northern France. Though I have actually visited that cemetery, I had no idea about the existence of an auxiliary burial plot known as “Plot E.” While the 6012 military personnel buried in the four main burial plots lost their lives in World War I, the 94 interred in Plot E are infamous, disgraced soldiers who died for their crimes during or after World War II. These men either murdered fellow soldiers or raped and/or murdered 71 people in England, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and Algeria. “No US flag is permitted to fly over the section, and the numbered graves literally lie with their backs turned to the main cemetery on the other side of the road” (warhistoryonline.com).
These men were supposed to be fighting for the freedoms and rights of American citizens, but instead they were most dramatically undermining the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness of the unfortunate ones who crossed their paths. For their crimes, they not only paid the ultimate penalty but were buried in disgrace and immortalized with infamy. They are remembered as “the dishonorable dead.”
The book of Revelation refers to the “book of life” (20:12), implying that it is possible for one’s name to be blotted out of it (3:5). However, those whose names are not found in that book will be “cast into the lake of fire” (20:15). Those who take away from the words of this revelation—and by application any other (cf. Gal. 1:6-9)—“God shall take away his part of out of the book of life” (22:19). More specifically, John says, “And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (21:27). For the ungodly and disobedient, John lays out in apocalyptic terms how unthinkably horrible it will be to die unfaithful to Christ. He says, “He also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night…” (14:10-11a).
Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). The faithful will receive glory and honor and reward (Mat. 25:34-40). The unrighteous, however, will go away into everlasting punishment (Mat. 25:46). No one will deserve heaven, but will go there thanks to God’s amazing grace and his or her conscious effort to walk in the light (1 John 1:7-10). Those who know not and obey not the gospel will endure something eternally worse than a firing squad, a hangman’s noose, or blameworthy burial (2 Th. 1:8-9). Though the world may believe less and less in the reality of hell, the Bible’s position on the matter has not changed. Knowing the terror of the Lord, may we persuade others and, ourselves, be persuaded (2 Cor. 5:11).
He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.” There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest. Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame. But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts. He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats. Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball. Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).
How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam? They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/). Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).
It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history. Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together. Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much. Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest. Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.
As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church. When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia. She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.
Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church? This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?
On Christmas Day in World War I, British and German soldiers called a ceasefire and shared food and other comforts. They were definitely still enemies, but were able to tolerate each other long enough to celebrate a holiday.
In keeping with the prominent theme of “walking” in the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Always be humble and gentle, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (4:2). This word “tolerance” literally means “to endure something unpleasant or difficult” or “to permit the presence of something.”
I don’t like all of my Christian family. I love them all, but there are personality differences and thought processes and it’s hard to get along with them all. I like most of them! Talk to any member of the family of Christ, and they will agree, no one gets along with everyone.
According to Ephesians 4:2, we are required to put up with those who bother us or don’t get along with us or do things the way we do. We aren’t told to be their best friend, but we are going to be held accountable for how we treat those in the family of God.
Let’s be determined this week to be civil and deferential to everyone in the family of God and not think about our differences with them. Let’s remember that this is all done for the purpose of unity, which is vital to the health of the church (4:3,4). It will require effort – no one said it would be easy! But if it will help the church be healthy, it’s totally worth it.
In March, 2006, I spent nearly an hour walking in Belleau Wood, a 200 acre tract behind the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery about 50 miles east of Paris, France, accompanied by Kathy as well as the preacher for the Eglise du Christ in Paris, Roland Mohsen. Seeing the World War I cemetery, chapel, and memorial was exciting for me, given not just my love for history but my special interest in “The Great War.” It was in those woods that the U.S. Marines made their first big impression on the whole world. At a 1923 ceremony for an American battle monument there at Belleau Wood, the Army General who led the Marines in the decisive battle against the Germans, James G. Harbord, said this: “”Now and then, a veteran … will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Here will be raised the altars of patriotism; here will be renewed the vows of sacrifice and consecration to country. Hither will come our countrymen in hours of depression, and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds” (Kozaryn, Linda. “Marines’ First Crucible: Belleau Wood.” 6/18/98. Armed Forces Press Service).
The Marines won a hard-fought victory, at great price requiring such persistence. The memorial erected on that ground has been an inspiration for countless soldiers as well as those from many nations who have stood at that spot. Now, almost 100 years after the battle, memories have faded and fewer go to that spot for inspiration despite the predictions of General Harbond.
For the last several days, I’ve been mentally devouring the sermonic masterpieces of men like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Bobby Duncan, Wendell Winkler, and others at a great audio site called preachersvault.com. Most of the men on that site have transitioned from time to eternity. My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding and motivational value found in listening. I recall the incredible blessing of attending the 1988 Faulkner University Lectureship, where brother Winkler invited men who at that time were 65 years old and older. Only 18 years old, I sat with my dad, who was also in attendance, to hear Camp, Black, Hugo McCord, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., Bob Hare, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Basil Overton, and many others. Over a quarter-century later, I still revel in the memories of those lessons.
Military memorials may begin to fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passage of time. There is great reward in taking the time to sit at the feet of seasoned students of Scripture, drawing from their deep wells of knowledge. These opportunities are not just relegated to days gone by and various media selections. Try prepared, studied Bible class teachers, guest speakers, and local preachers. Those of us in those positions need to be challenged to go deeper and make truth live more powerfully. Those of us who hear need to value this treasure in earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7). Won’t you reserve a few spots in your heart for heroes whose weapon is the sword of the Spirit?
Ernest Pusey was the third-oldest person in the world the day he died at age 111 on November 19, 2006. Nine days before, the man who had worked 32 years for General Motors and drawn retirement for 48 years entertained a visit from Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush was delivering something a bit overdue to Pusey-the Victory Medal he had earned from fighting in World War I from 1917-1919. He was a sailor in the Navy, charged with patrolling the seas around the British Isles. He went to church each Sunday and was able to walk from a friend’s car into his trailer (he preferred living there to nursing homes). A man extraordinary for longevity and survival, “Ernie” was a true hero remembered by his country on Veteran’s Day if a bit overdue.
Repeatedly, Bible writers speak of our Christian service in military terms. We are like soldiers, not serving at our own expense (1 Cor. 9:7). Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25) and Archippus (Phile. 2) are referred to as Paul’s “fellow soldiers.” Paul urges young Timothy to behave properly as a soldier of Christ, telling him to endure hardness and avoid entanglement in the affairs of daily life (2 Tim. 2:3-4). Our Christian soldiering is implied through the imagery of the “whole armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-17. But, when do we receive our “honor” and reward? We may want the world to appreciate and acknowledge our faithful service in our battle for souls, but that will not happen. We may suffer and struggle on the battlefield, stuck in the anonymity and anxiety of the trenches without fanfare or commendation. We will have to wait what seems like a long time before receiving “official recognition” for our tour of duty. Yet, our reward will be imperishable (1 Cor. 9:25) and eternal (1 Thes. 4:17)! Don’t lose heart. God will not forget your service for Him (Heb. 6:10).