I was in Hawaii last week. Hawaiian Island Ministries (HIM) graciously hosted us for several meetings and I enjoyed learning more about their outreach. HIM has been serving and showing the love of Jesus to people in the area for nearly 30 years. The Lord has clearly blessed their work and I’m proud to call them my friends.
Given where we are culturally and with the election looming just weeks away, I was struck by a few thoughts the other day. A colleague and I decided to go visit the USS Missouri. The decommissioned battleship is now a museum and rests quietly on Battleship Row in Pearl Harbor. It fascinates me to visit historic places. It renews my appreciation for the many giants of our history on whose shoulders we stand.
History is not just dry dates nor is it simply a series of stories sometimes punctuated by high drama and adventure. History is among the greatest of teachers, if only we take the time to study it, think about it and prayerfully discern its many lessons.
I’ve always found it interesting that war came to America in one of the most idyllic places on earth. You don’t immediately think of war and bloodshed when you see blue water, white sandy beaches and towering palm trees.
At least Americans didn’t think of such horrors in such a beautiful setting prior to 1941.
That peace was shattered in the so-called paradise of Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, came as a shock, but that bad things happen in beautiful places doesn’t surprise. War is a reminder that evil is no respecter of geography. Sin shattered paradise.
Americans are most familiar with the U.S.S. Missouri because it was on this very ship that the Empire of Japan formally surrendered and signed the peace treaty that ended World War II. The date was September 2, 1945 and the ship was anchored in Tokyo Bay. Representing the Allies that day was United States General Douglas MacArthur. After Japanese Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu signed the documents, General MacArthur concluded the ceremony with the following prayer:
“Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world,” he declared, “and that God will preserve it always.”
My colleague and I stood on the exact spot where those words were spoken, where peace was declared and where a grateful world watched and prayed that General MacArthur’s heartfelt prayer would be answered.
To walk this grand ship’s storied decks was to step back in time, to a critical period in American history when the fate of the free world quite literally hung in the balance. Prior to the peace treaty signing, the Missouri was in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Following World War II the ship saw action during the Korean War and the first Gulf War in 1991. She was decommissioned in 1992.
The Missouri was among the fiercest of fighting ships in America’s naval arsenal, and it wielded tremendous power during its time on the high seas. Yet, all throughout its tenure, and not just on September 2, 1945, it was simultaneously being utilized as an instrument of peace. It was a tool of the liberators and a symbol of freedom and liberty.
Looking out over its bow I was thinking that it’s time to renew General MacArthur’s prayer.
It is time to ask the Lord to once again restore freedom, peace and liberty to the oppressed throughout the world. War rages in several international theaters, but do not think for a moment that our freedoms are not also at risk here in the United States.
The most innocent among us continue to be aborted at a rate of nearly one million per year. Our citizens are being ordered to pay for healthcare services that violate our most deeply held religious convictions. Adoption and foster-care agencies are being forced to close because they refuse to place children with openly homosexual parents. Faith-based organizations are being prohibited from meeting in public school facilities after school hours. The list goes on.
Our religious liberties are our first freedoms, and they are under grave and direct assault.
Standing on the top deck of the U.S.S. Missouri in the warm Hawaiian sunshine, it was clear to me that as Christians, we must not be lulled into a spirit of complacency. The breeze that blows is ominous and dangerous. We must strongly defend against the encroachment of our freedoms, but we must also see ourselves, just as we now see this retired ship, as a strong instrument of peace.
One last thing.
Albert L. Kaiss was the last captain of the U.S.S. Missouri. In the ship’s final Plan of the Day entry, Captain Kaiss wrote, “To you who have made the painful journey of putting this great lady to sleep, I thank you. For you have had the toughest job. To put away a ship that has become as much a part of you as you are to her is a sad ending to a great tour.”
Fortunately, for the Christian, we can take solace that our time on earth can be expressed in the exact opposite of terms.
That’s because, in the words of Martin Luther, “The body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still.”
Our “tour” on earth is guaranteed to be full of trouble and strife, but in our ending we will find our beginning.
That gives me ultimate hope – and I pray that it gives it to you as well.