On Oct. 7, my wife and I took a two-week vacation and traveled to the Northeast to enjoy the fall colors of the New England states.
We first visited Niagara Falls, and then drove to Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where we spent five days enjoying the beauty of the Atlantic Ocean (and lots of fresh seafood). We spent months planning this trip! But the highlight of the vacation for me was going to be the visit to the Civil War battlefield in Gettysburg, Pa., on the way home.
To me, there’s something special about visiting a battlefield memorial. Those who have served in combat never forget the sounds of battle – the rifle fire, the machine-gun fire, the exploding rounds of artillery, the shouts coming from leaders and the screams of pain coming from the wounded. Time almost comes to a standstill, and a few minutes can seem like an eternity.
On the morning of July 3, 1863, more than 100 guns of Confederate artillery fired for more than one hour on the Union positions located on Cemetery Ridge, followed by a frontal assault by 12,500 Confederate Infantry, an attack that came to be known as “Pickett’s Charge,” named after the Confederate general who led it, George Pickett. The line of Confederate soldiers stretched for almost a mile, standing shoulder to shoulder. As the Confederate soldiers advanced, they were met by an equal number of Union artillery and an equal number of determined Union infantry under the command of Gen. Meade. It was a disaster for the Confederate forces. It later became known as the “high water mark” of the Civil War, marking the beginning of the end for the South.
In the aftermath, more than 7,000 soldiers lay dead or dying! Although the war would continue for two more years, the South would never recover from its losses in this battle. As I sat there early in the morning on Oct. 18, 2013, looking out over the battlefield at the location of “Pickett’s Charge,” I was struck by the peace and quiet. Its solitude was sobering. The cannons and the statues now stand in silence as a grim reminder of the carnage that took place there.
However, I almost did not get to see Gettysburg National Park! As you all know, our government was shut down, and that included Gettysburg. In fact, the government shutdown did not end until the day before we got there! But I came to the conclusion days earlier that I was going into that park regardless! And I was encouraged to do so after watching a group of 80- to 90-year-old World War II veterans go around the barricades at the WWII memorial in Washington, DC. Only a politician and our illustrious federal government would think a wooden barricade manned by a park ranger would keep those veterans out. Think about it! Some of those men had charged ashore at Normandy – facing German artillery and machine guns! Did the government really think that an “official” government barricade would stop these men?
Our nation is going to celebrate its veterans in just a couple of weeks. Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, all Americans should take time to remember our veterans – and follow their example. Especially Christians!
Many don’t realize it, but there is another great war currently being waged against Christianity. Christians around the world are being killed, churches are being burned, and even our own country is beginning to persecute us. But we were warned of this by Jesus!
Jesus was asked by his disciples about the end times. After he described some things that would take place, he told them: “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name.” (Luke 21:12)
Jesus also told them in John 15:20, “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
Persecution of Christians has happened, is happening and will continue to happen! It has occurred throughout the ages, and is only going to get worse! However, Jesus reassures us in Matthew 16:18 that he is going to build his church, and “the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” A gate is a defensive position; Christians are supposed to be attacking Satan! But many Christians have become too complacent – too comfortable sitting in their church buildings. In the “Great Commission,” Jesus commanded us, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
Onward, Christian soldier – attack the forces of Satan! We need to be taking the war to Satan, not just sitting comfortably in our warm building with padded pews! Fancy church buildings and gimmicky church programs will never replace the determined individual Christian soldier – in the trenches – taking the Gospel message to the lost!
We do not need to fear! Learn from the military veteran! Just as those WWII veterans did not allow a park ranger and a wooden barricade stop them, the “gates of Hades” should not stop us either!