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O death, where is thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?
1 Corinthians 15
A hearty Semper Fi greeting to each of you in the beginning of the year 2006! May it be a year full of spiritual blessings and may you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the amazing ways of our sovereign Lord.
Looking back on the year 2005, I have several deep impressions. One of the most vivid is the number of comrades and good friends who have passed into eternity.
In my daily schedule and business notebook I keep a list of friends who have died. I began keeping the list in 1993 and to date have a total of 107 names. Last year, 2005, there are 24 names, averaging two per month who took the journey of no return.
These comrades and friends join notables like Rosa Parks, John Paul II, Johnny Carson, William Rehnquist, Eddie Albert, Peter Drucker, Richard Pryor, Max Schmeling, Terri Schiavo, Simon Wisenthal, William Westmoreland and many, many other whose names were called.
Leatherneck Magazine always has an In Memorium section that lists active Marines and Marine veterans who have died. I usually go through it name by name to see if there is anyone I know. My heart is always moved by the young Marines and Navy Corpsmen who have paid the full price for our freedom in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
All of the above departures from earth serve to remind us that this life is truly transitory. Compared with eternity, Psalm 90 tells us that the length of this life is like a night's sleep and then we awaken, or like grass that grows, is cut and soon withers away, or like a story that is told and soon forgotten.
The great God of heaven and earth is faithful to remind us of our mortality-that we will not be here for very long. Whenever and however His wakeup call comes to us, we should respond to Him with a grateful heart of prayer. We should thank Him daily for His mercies which are new every morning and last through the day into the night.
Every single day I am motivated by my own fragile mortality. This began for me in the First Marine Division in Australia in 1943. I was a lowly teenage replacement after the battle of Guadalcanal. I was also a very foolish young Marine with very little spiritual knowledge and knee-deep in my own sins and wrongdoing.
As I read the story in the New Testament of my mortality and God's wonderful gift of His Son Jesus Christ to deliver me from sin and rebellion against Him, a new light dawned. As I believed in my heart, He forgave my sinful waywardness and brought restoration. As Chaplain of the splendid First Marine Division Association, I have received many letters, most of them positive and supportive, and I deeply appreciate them. A few have been critical, especially of my upholding and exalting the deity and name of the Lord Jesus Christ and asking why I am not more inclusive.
Several letters were so vitriolic that I have struggled with forgiveness, but through Jesus Christ's example and His supply of compassion, I have been able to forgive them in my heart.
After Australia I participated with the First Division in three campaigns. Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa. Before Okinawa we were stationed on Pavuvu. Our First Tank Battalion had the Fuzzy Wuzzy natives construct a coconut log and frond open-sided Battalion chapel.
Nearly every night after lights were out in our eight-man tents, I would make my way several hundred yards through the huge thousands of acres of coconut grove to the chapel to pray. As I kneeled at the altar on the kneeling log, Jesus Christ was so real that I would reach out to touch the hem of His garment.
Those were times when the unforgettable presence of Jesus Christ was preparing me for the horrendous battle of Okinawa in which over 12,500 Americans would die.
On Peleliu the enemy came in like a flood and vividly reminded us of our mortality. Again on Okinawa, I was left for dead at Kunishi Ridge. Jesus Christ rescued me through His mercy and mighty power.
Is it possible for a Marine to remain silent about a close comrade who helped save his life in battle? Impossible! So it is impossible to not speak about the Savior Jesus Christ who will save us from our fragile mortality and from the jaws of death if we trust Him. In contrast to our mortality He is the true Immortal One.
SCRIPTURE: But thanks be to God which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Corinthians 15