A Warrior’s Diary: Part 3 – 9/1/2017

This concludes a fictional serial, first posted as my blog of July 1, 2017 and continued in Part 2 on August 1, 2017.  I encourage you to read Parts 1 and 2 first, to provide context.  As I have before, I’ll mention that many of the events in this serial are based on some of my actual experiences.

Steve was encouraged this morning to receive a phone call from a fellow who found one of his tracts in a beer carton after returning from the grocery store.  The tract provoked some conviction, so Steve reiterated the Gospel message over the phone and asked Larry if he could drop by and visit with him . . . and Larry’s live-in girlfriend and their one-year-old baby.

Worry darkens the old fellow’s face once he looks up the address, a large apartment complex in one of the city’s housing projects . . . a crime-ridden neighborhood.  Steve finally sighs and offers a prayer for protection.  My call for assistance generates an eager response from Crispin and Philo, who join me as Steve drives into the parking lot behind Larry’s building.

a Chicago housing project

a Chicago housing project

“Hail, Janus!  Expecting some trouble today?”

“You seem a bit too hopeful, Crispin.  Not busy enough?”

His partner, Philo, answered first:  “Not busy at all!  Our assigned saints seem oh-so-content just drifting through their days, piling up lucre, watching ‘the show’ on Sunday, filling their precious moments with entertainment and . . . trivialities!  And Crispin and I each have ten of them to guard!”

Crispin interjected, “Guard?  Hah!  They are no threat to the Adversary, so his troops pay them no attention!”

I replied, “Well then, perhaps you can assist me more often.  Steve, here, seems to enjoy poking a stick in the enemy’s eye every day!  But to answer your question, no, I don’t expect any trouble in particular, but this neighborhood has a concentration of enemy forces, and they are not likely to ignore us while the evangelist works to reach this young couple.  Here’s what I need you to do first . . .”

My brothers in arms raced ahead to secure the apartment, arriving just moments before several enemy warriors sought entry.  Their scouts had long since discovered our approach, but were unable to deduce our specific destination, and which human souls were at the crisis point.  And so Crispin and Philo quickly forced them away from the dwelling before they could stir up trouble between Larry and Janet.

Blog 114 - image Warrior Part 3 angel with sword 2I escorted Steve to their door, my sword flashing to deter any direct attacks on the old evangelist.  The young couple invited Steve inside and the three of us secured the perimeter.  The enemy departed, but only temporarily.

 

. . . . . It never gets old, listening to the glorious message of redemption.  Steve opened his heart to Larry and Janet, challenging them, instructing them, pleading with them to repent and trust the Savior.  About halfway through the hour of discussion, we were joined by another warrior.

“Aegeus, what brings you here?”
“Greetings Janus!  And Crispin and Philo!  I just received orders to guard these three souls.  The Spirit brings conviction to their hearts even now.  They will require protection in the days ahead.  On my way over, though, I observed our enemy recruiting a gang of thugs, who congregate even now in the parking lot below.  When the evangelist departs, I will join you if trouble develops around him.”

Philo did fine work in quieting the infant, distracting her with toys, finally inducing her to take a nap – voluntarily – right there on the living room floor!  Great job, Philo!  Larry and Janet are clearly under conviction.  They accepted additional tracts from Steve, along with the gift of a well-marked Bible.  I am confident we will be returning here in the days to come.

Steve walked down the stairs with a spring in his step, knowing he had done well.  I can hear his prayers for the three precious souls, prayers for their protection and for Elohim to ‘stay on their trail,’ to bring the conviction that leads to repentance and saving faith.

We four warriors leaped ahead of the old man, knowing what awaited below.  We were outnumbered six to four, but our steel rang against theirs, driving them off, but only after dispatching two of them to the pit, the damnable shrieks of their demise stabbing fear into the four survivors.  But they had, indeed, stirred up trouble before our arrival.

Steve opened the stairwell door, shielding his eyes against the early afternoon sun, to discover seven strapping youths leaning against his car, laughing derisively, all eyes focused on the old fellow.  He made his mind up instantly, and stepped boldly toward the gang members.

handing out tracts - anyone can do it

handing out tracts – anyone can do it

“Hey, guys, how’s it going?  I was hoping I’d get a chance to talk to some young folks today!  First, I’ve got some gifts for you all.  Something to stimulate your mind.”

The arrogance on the young faces dissolved into confusion as Steve dug a stack of Chick tracts out of his pocket and pressed them into the hands of the young men, one of them asking, “What’s this?”

“These are really good stories, about the big issues in life, you know, life, death, Heaven, Hell.  Nothing more important than what’s going to happen to you when you die.  And none of you, or me, know whether today is your last day on Earth.  So what do you think?  If you died today, where would you be . . . Heaven or Hell?”

One of the fellows looked Steve right in the eye and declared, “Hell . . . for sure.”

Steve:  “I appreciate your honesty.  Because of sin, right?  You know how many sins it takes to go to Hell?”

By this point most of the fellows showed real discomfort at the unexpected turn of events.  Five of them drifted away, while Steve pressed the law, the coming Judgment, and the Gospel into the hearts and consciences of the fellow who engaged with him, along with his younger brother.

Philo took his leave, returning to the apartment upstairs.  We three stood guard over the evangelistic encounter and were quickly joined by an old friend and comrade, Petros, assigned just moments ago to the two brothers, who listened so intently now to the truths the evangelist shared with them.  It seems that our company of warriors is growing more quickly.

. . . . . a couple of days later . . . . .

Steve’s occasional partner, Jack, called last night, concern in his voice:  “What do you think, Steve?  Tomorrow is the only day I can get off work this week, but the forecast – it’s horrible!  Storms all day, all over the metro area.”

thunderstorm over Chicago

thunderstorm over Chicago

Steve:  “I’ve been praying about that.  I’m convinced we should go anyway.  Bring your rain gear.  Who knows?  Even if we just catch a few people on the sidewalks, maybe the Lord has someone special He’s working on.”

Jack:  “OK, OK, I’m glad you said that.  I do want to go.  We’ll just trust the Lord whatever the weather is like.”

Thunderstorms erupted over the Chicago area, indeed over the entire region for hundreds of miles, but the two determined evangelists fought through the wind and the rain to board the train.  Jack’s guardian, Leto, and I saw no evidence of the enemy.  We came to understand that many of the Adversary’s troops had redeployed to other cities for the day.

Just as the train slowed down in its approach to the terminal, Steve exclaimed, “Whoa!  Look at that!”

Jack:  “It’s clearing up!  There’s some blue sky there, right over downtown!”

Steve:  “I think . . . God just gave us a weather miracle, buddy.”

Jack:  “Praise the Lord!”

Leto and I scanned the horizons . . . high winds and torrential rains everywhere, except downtown Chicago.  The streets were still slick with the morning rain, but not for long as the sun shone brightly through the rapidly disappearing clouds.

What a wonderful day this is for Elohim’s work!  The two laborers discovered a crowd of at least a thousand high school students, waiting outside an event center.  Once they succeeded in getting the first few teenagers to accept tracts, it was easy to get the rest of the crowd to do the same.  Leto and I kept whispering in the ears words like, “I wonder what everyone’s getting.  I’d better make sure I get one, too.”

Steve:  “Wow, that was great.  You know, I was tempted to bring a lighter load of tracts today because of the rain.  I’m glad I filled our bags.  I wish I’d thought of bringing even more.  We’re going to use up these 4,000 with hours to spare.”

Jack:  “I guess that means we should concentrate even more on 121s.”

Steve:  “I agree.  Let’s really focus on getting people to talk today.”

The two wore themselves out through the rest of the day.  Steve’s last one-to-one, as the sun set and darkness fell across the city, was with a 30 year-old suit, taking a smoke break outside his office tower.  The fellow opened up as Steve shared the glorious old story of redemption, eventually admitting . . .

“You know, I’ve been playing along with you, just for fun, but . . . I mean I already know everything you’ve been saying, but now . . .”

“Something’s going on in your life, isn’t it?”

“(Sigh) . . . My dad is a Baptist preacher.  He and my mom . . . they’ve been praying for me my whole life.  I haven’t talked to them in years.  I know what you’re telling me is true, the Bible, Heaven, Hell . . . everything.  I just haven’t cared.  Uh . . . meeting you today is like someone is trying to . . .”

“To get your attention?  That’s exactly what this is.  God is giving you one more chance.  Look, you don’t know if today is your last day on Earth.  If you know you’re a sinner and you’re accountable to God and that He demands that you repent . . . you’d be crazy, absolutely insane to do anything else . . .  today, right now, in fact.”

They talked a few minutes more.  Steve left the young man with tracts and a final exhortation to trust Christ, and that he should call his parents without delay to encourage them when he does.  As Steve and Jack headed toward the train station, we greeted a fellow warrior, just arrived to watch guard over the young lawyer, as he tossed the rest of his pack of cigarettes into a trash can and then, with a determined look on his face, re-entered his office tower.

The two evangelists rejoiced much, although completely exhaused, on the train ride home.  Remarkably, just as they entered the train terminal, lightning cracked high above and rain began to pour down, thunderstorms long held at bay finally breaching the unseen barriers around the city center.

Blog 114 - image Warrior Part 3 diner and waitressSteve and Jack found a diner after debarking the train, enjoying the fellowship of the day’s labor.  They left a good tip along with a tract for the waitress, as customary.  Leto and I simultaneously received guidance, which we acted upon, but to no avail.  The Spirit moved on the two men, but they were unduly focused on getting home and getting to bed.  But we continued to work as Steve drove away from the diner to take Jack home.  About a mile down the road . . .

Steve:  “There’s something wrong.  I can feel it.”

Jack:  “Uh, you too?”

Steve:  “We should have talked to that waitress.  Leaving a tract wasn’t good enough.”

Jack:  “I felt that, too.  But I figured . . .”

Steve:  “Yeah, that we’d already done plenty today.  OK, let’s go back and see if we can catch her by herself.”

As soon as the car was turned, Steve sighed . . . “Yeah, this is right.  The Lord must be working on her and we’re the ones to bring the message.”

Jack:  “Yeah, and I’ve got a strong conviction that it’s me.  Let me take this one, OK?”

Upon their return to the diner, they were relieved to find the waitress momentarily free from her duties.

Theresa:  “Did you boys forget something?”

Jack:  “Yes, we forgot to be an encouragement to you.  That Gospel tract we left for you – did you happen to read it yet?”

Theresa:  “Um, funny you should mention that.  Yeah, it was interesting.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about God, like what I should teach my two little girls.  I just don’t know where to start.”

Jack:  “The first thing about knowing God is that you’ve got to be part of His family, born again into God’s family.”

Theresa:  “What does that mean, anyway, ‘born again’?”

With compassion and fervor Jack went on to explain the Gospel to the young woman, just as two other warriors arrived, promptly reassigned from their tedious duty overseeing a handful of megachurch saints.  Their enthusiasm is palpable, anticipating the battle, hopeful for new victories.

Twenty minutes later the two men drove away once again, but with fresh joy.  We were able to keep other potential customers away from the diner until they finished their encounter, finally praying with the young mother, praying that she would open her heart, repent from her sins, and trust her Savior, and then lead her two little girls to do the same.  I wish they could see the privilege that we had, the reassignment of our brothers-in-arms indicative of the Spirit’s foreknowledge of her new birth in the hours to come.  The hopeful rejoicing of the old man and the young man in the car was just a shadow of the certain rejoicing about to commence in Heaven above.

…..…………… a few years later ………………….

A large crowd already filled much of the Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.  Steve’s eyes scanned anxiously, hoping that his older brother had already secured seats.  The drive around the Beltway was far more stressful than the old man had anticipated.  But we’d finally made it.  There he is, standing and waving, overwatched by his warrior.  Jeff is clearly a lot more excited to see Steve than is the rest of his party.  Northern Virginia, where Jeff lives, is also home for his wife’s sizable clan, a dozen of them also deciding to attend the annual ceremony on Memorial Day.

Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

Arlington National Cemetery Amphitheater

Steve waves back and moves quickly through the milling crowd.  He had been delayed several times on this trip to spend time with his brother, with one startling evangelism opportunity after another.  Steve senses what I and my comrades also sense, that the Spirit is moving profoundly.  With Steve arriving behind schedule, the brothers determined to meet at Arlington.

Jeff’s health is failing, a variety of ailments traceable to his service in the Vietnam War, where Steve also fought many years ago.  As Steve draws near, I can hear Cindy’s whispered admonitions to her husband.

Cindy:  “I hope you’ve told him not to ram his religion down everyone’s throats again.”

Jeff:  “That was years ago.  Besides, you know that I’m a Christian just like he is.”

Cindy:  “Don’t remind me.  But at least you’ve made peace with my family by not talking about it anymore.”

Jeff:  “It’s just that I care – not only for them, but for you.  This is probably the last time Steve and I will get to spend time together . . . until Heaven.  Cindy, I wish you . . .”

Cindy:  “Don’t even start!  You can believe that stuff if you want to, just leave me out of it!”

The brothers’ reunion  is sweet.  Tears flow as they hug tightly.  Steve finally recovers enough to whisper, “Wouldn’t it be great if it were today?”

Jeff:  “Yes, yes indeed . . . except for . . .”

Steve:  “No progress, huh?”

The in-laws and their relatives are polite enough, but show no warmth in response to Steve’s greetings.  Cindy’s father points out that the program is about to start, so further conversation should be deferred.

………………..

The old ceremony is heart-stirring, as always, the speeches given honorably, the music quite soul-stirring.  The brothers find it all the more joyous because they have an assured hope, a firm expectation of a better country, a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Afterward, Steve and Jeff led their group to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, determined to wait for the next changing of the guard.  Jeff cautioned their grandchildren on expected decorum – especially silence.

Steve:  “I’d like to say something, too, before we get there, especially for the young ones.  This tomb holds the remains of several soldiers, who gave their lives to defend this country.  Nobody down here knows their names, but there is one who does know, and that’s the Lord Jesus Christ.  In fact, those soldiers aren’t anywhere near here.  Their remains are, but who they are, their souls, their spirits, their persons, do live somewhere today, either Heaven or Hell.

“The very existence of graves is about hope.  Pagan religions often burn their bodies, but we bury ours because God has promised to raise up the dead again, those who are His children, to everlasting life, and those who have rebelled against Him will have their own place, called ‘The Lake of Fire.’  If my brother here, Jeff, your granddad, dies before the Lord returns, he will live again in a brand new body that never gets sick, that will never die.  He wants you . . . and I want you . . . and everyone here, to know the Lord Jesus as Savior, so we all can have joy and fellowship on the New Earth and the New Jerusalem, forever, all part of a family that will never see sorrow again, no more goodbyes, no more tears.

“Hey, everyone, I can see that you don’t appreciate me going on like this, but KNOW THIS:  Jeff and I love you all, yes Cindy, you too.  We don’t want to lose you.  But you’ve got to choose . . . My dear wife . . . I miss her so . . . but I’ll see her again . . . OK, that’s all I’ve got.  Let’s go watch the soldiers do their thing.”

Steve wiped tears from his eyes as the group arrived at the Tomb, a few minutes before the changing of the guard.  The current guard’s routine was solemn and impressive.  I could see the children move their lips, silently counting as the soldier marched, 21 steps back and forth, the loud click of his heels punctuating his turns, the M14 gleaming in the Virginia sunshine.

The oncoming guard approached with the relief commander.  I was pleased to see the young man accompanied by a brother-in-arms, Hadrian, who greeted me pleasantly.  His assignment, Sergeant Frank Hutchins, had worked hard through the difficult screening process to earn his post, hoping against hope that he might enjoy a unique privilege, something which he had never breathed to another living soul.  (Note:  Within the American military the only posting more difficult to obtain is Astronaut.)  What Frank prayed for is that he would be on duty, in Arlington Cemetery, right at the moment that . . .

The relief commander shouts out, “Pass on your orders.”  The on-duty guard replied, directing his message to Sergeant Hutchins, “Post and orders, remain as directed.”  To which Frank replied, “Orders acknowledged.”  Frank stepped forward to take the watch . . .

What’s this . . . An alert! . . . No, THE ALERT!!! . . . Hadrian’s eyes lock to mine, just a moment before . . .

Hundreds of spectators shriek in fear as the ground shakes and rumbles thunderously throughout Arlington.  A moment later, thousands of simultaneous explosions deafen human ears as beams of light streak vertically from as many gravesites, including the Tomb before us, rent asunder in a heartbeat.  The relief commander crumples to the cracked pavement, like so many in the stunned crowd.

One Tomb guard drops his rifle, but Sergeant Frank Hutchins lets his M14 down softly . . . a smile overtakes his face as he looks toward the sky.

Cindy’s expression isn’t one of terror, rather of horror.  She grabs her husband by the shoulders, screams at him, “NO, JEFF, NOOOOO!!! . . . IT CAN’T BE!!!”

Jeff’s gaze, like Frank’s, is skyward, along with Steve’s.  In a twinkling of an eye, Cindy’s scream is cut short.  Her hands grip tightly onto . . . air.  More streaks of bright light . . . just a few this time.  I and my brothers-in-arms streak skyward, too.

………………………

The reunion of the Lamb with his Bride in Earth’s upper atmosphere . . . it’s not for me to write of that.  Afterward, on the quick transit to the ‘sides of the North,’ where the New Jerusalem awaited its new inhabitants, Steve notices my presence at his side.

Steve:  “I should know you, shouldn’t I, sir.”

Janus:  “Call me Janus.  I am a fellow servant, along with all those who keep the sayings of the Word.  I know you well enough.  It’s been a privilege.”

Steve:  “I’ve sensed help, protection, a watchguard . . . so many times.”

Janus:  “The battle has raged fiercely, although you’ve just seen its shadows.  I have the privilege now of showing you around, introduce you to others who have served with you and with your brothers and sisters.  But look . . . we arrive at the Gate.  A crowd of the redeemed await.  Perhaps you recognize one . . .”

Blog 114 - image Warrior Part 3 New JerusalemMy voice is drowned out by the old . . . no, old no more . . . by this vibrant saint’s shouts of joy as he rushes into the embrace of the dear wife of his youth, her face, like his, now awash with tears.  I whispered to both of them . . .

“Take your time.  There’s time now for every good thing.”

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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