Have a Holly Jolly Espionage

What is Christmas without a gift, games, and fa la la la? How about some espionage to deepen the mystery of the holiday? It was a forlorn and homesick time of the year for the POWs in Europe in 1944, during World War II. The easiest way to make another day go quickly in a war zone was to play games.

The Geneva Conference conceived a brilliant idea. They concentrated their efforts on relieving the tensions between the countries. Still, meanwhile, the U.S. Army designed a way to reveal escape routes for the prisoners. Together, with the US Playing Card Company, Bicycle, they invented a deck of cards called a “map deck.” Maps of top-secret escape routes were placed between two layers of playing cards. When soaked in water, they peeled apart to show the POWs the best way to safety. How ingenious was this idea!

The next problem was how they could get these cards into the prisoner’s hands. Allied POWs were given the right to receive mail and packages from the Red Cross, especially at Christmas. What a perfect opportunity to smuggle these playing cards with maps!

The Red Cross delivered their Christmas gifts, and it didn’t take long before the prisoners figured out their presents. Bicycle cards and Monopoly games all contained hidden maps, escape routes, directions, and tips to reach friendly borders.

Image permission granted by US Playing Card Company

The Monopoly games had authentic German currency hidden within the game’s paper money, a metal file placed inside the board itself, and maps of the prison and its locality inside the hotel pieces. Section Nine of the British Directorate of Military Intelligence in the War Office printed the documents in the game.

Because of these espionage tactics, the “map deck” cards helped 35,000 POWs escape from Colditz Castle in Germany, and 316 attempts were made to scramble away from the prison. The Monopoly game was responsible for a third of the 35,000 prisoners fleeing their location.

It is unknown how many of the original decks exist today, but two of them serve as an exhibit in the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. The US Playing Card Company was kind and granted us permission to use the image of these cards shown above. This top-secret plan was not made known to the public for many years. In commemoration of the legendary deck, a reproduction of the cards is now available for purchase in stores, today, by the US Playing Card Company. Though the cards do not need soaked, you will find the map printed on the outside of the deck. What a holly jolly Christmas surprise for our POWs!! God bless Bicycle!

Please join us Wednesday for another “Everything Christmas Blog!”


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Faith will make you fine

Be bold my beloved;
That is imperative;
Be courageous;
Be confident;
Don’t be intimidated
By anyone;
Many people fall short
Of their potential,
Because they allow others
To intimidate them;
Why should you do that?
Dont you believe in God?
Isn’t your faith strong?
Faith gives courage;
And confidence;
It makes you bold;
Therefore, get faith;
That will make you fine.
Depend on God;
That is what I do.

How do you know God loves you?

Does God love you?
Many people say
God loves them;
If you say so also,
How do you know
God loves you?
For me, God loves me;
I know this because
He preferred me
To thousands of others
When I was conceived
In my mother’s womb;
Many people wanted my place,
And fought fiercely for it;
But it was to me
God gave victory;
And because he made me win,
I came into the world;
And since then,
He has called home millions;
But here I am.
God loves me.
He became man,
And died on the cross
For me;
He really loves me.

Is God first or last?

If the first person
I talk to
When I get up
In the morning
Is not you O God,
Then I have missed
The point.
If the last person
I talk to
Before I turn in
For the day
Is not you,
Equally, I have missed
The point.
You should come first;
You should come last
In my life.
In everything I do,
Whether I am starting
Or I am ending,
You should be there.
I will start with you,
And end with you.
That is my pledge;
For you are my alpha
And my omega.
Nothing short of this
Shall be my aspiration.

Praying without ceasing

Whatever your religion,
There are many things
You must dispel completely
From your life;
Those things that stand
On your way to God.
If you cannot think of any,
I do think of many;
Topping the list is doubt;
When doubt takes hold,
Your faith must suffer;
You must get rid of doubt
And believe.
God is real and almighty.
This, I believe, wholly.
And prayer is the engine
Of my life.
I will pray without ceasing.

Autumn in October

A silence resonates from heaven as Christ fills the voids deep inside my soul. I see the troubled storm clouds approaching, and they make not a sound. A busy world persists, running in circles, but I keep an eye on the sky, for only my God do I wait.

Standing at the edge of a great canyon where extinction begins, and life ever after looks like a desert floor, I harbor the love Christ sends me. Within His peace, windows open with new opportunities. The canyon is far and wide, and in times of adventure, it seems an impossible crossing. For some, it’s a quest, but for others, it’s a stepping stone to enter eternity and be with Him.

I bundle my love and faith and wear it as a code of honor. It’s autumn in October… seasons change, and life emerges with new horizons. The sun salutes the night watchman, and I bid farewell to another night. God, in his miraculous way, restrains the spiritually encountering distance. His quiet voice calls, and I must be patient. It’s autumn in October, and the hour grows nearer.

Seeking my own passage, I step lightly on the ledge of fate. The rocks are jagged and sharp, and death is just a slip away. But God watches over me with a promissory note I pledged to Him. The canyons divulge how minute I am as I step out where courage calls.

In the autumn of life, the Lord’s love is upon me. He gathers His herd of humanity for a voyage to explore the canyon walls of life. The fiery nights beacon October, and it quenches our thirst and hearts. Please, Father, turn the desert floor into meandering waters. The quests are over – some I failed, but some I conquered by Your blessings.

It’s autumn in October, and a new child is born. Goodbyes of another life are hard. Still, a new life is always on the horizon, for as one door closes, another is born again.

Another adventure, another voyage as the pride of time, sets my course upon another mission. Only God will bridge the heavens as I wait at the ledge of the canyon walls. I built my caves… now it’s time to surrender. The slope is deep, but it is in God’s hands to bestow the faith as He calls me home.

Love is filled with memories, in yet another autumn in October. The mystical canyon mourns, and the life which once prospered refrains in the setting sun. The shadows long for God’s calling… come home with Me when you’re ready.


Our blogs will resume next Sunday, November 10, when we celebrate Christmas with the “Everything Christmas Blogs.” Please be sure to join us!

The Fact Remains

This world still evolves in the past tense. I quoted a proverb in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and I’ll be darned if it isn’t true. Solomon wrote this statement, 500 years before Jesus’ birth, to emphasize the cyclic nature of human life on earth and the emptiness of living only for the “rat race.” It’s a life separated from God. But, our gracious God continues to rain down His love on us… even amidst the turmoil.

I’m not a great biblical scholar, but it’s obvious we, as God’s children have not learned a thing. It’s clear the hardships of Jesus are repeating themselves in the modern-day. How odd to read the trials of Jesus and then observe Christianity today.

The Pharisees and Jews took it upon themselves to discredit the Son of man. Jesus came to save the world and to give us salvation, but we’ve still not learned our lesson. He was a man so brutally beat, chastised and ridiculed because no one believed him. It was easier to side with the laws of the land, then to be uprooted to another religion.

But, a few knew the truth about Him in biblical days. They did not fear the religious upheaval, but embraced the faith, which led them to Him. In all His splendor and integrity, Jesus ultimately proved His identity when He died for our sins.

Today, our system finds it easier to ruin and destroy His direction than to believe in our Savior, who came to deliver us, two thousand years ago. The evil brews to the point of boiling, for unbelievers are monumentally winning over the world. The fact remains, if not for the faith of believers who held on to their principles, the rampant corruption would go wild. This is a prophecy in the Bible that our world is quickly fulfilling today.

My Dad, God love him, always said it’s easy to find fault in a person. I believe goodness lies beneath hatred when the truth slowly emerges from the layers. I can’t help but think back when Jesus walked on this earth. His ministry was short, for evildoers who had little faith and didn’t believe in His integrity blemished it. Doesn’t this sound familiar today as many allow the media’s march to undermine the truth of God’s word? I cannot imagine the inner turmoil of those who do not have faith in anything for they relish in hatred.

I energize my faith in the name of God’s glory, for the great master and overseer of all evil, brings to light the doers of animosity. Just as in biblical times, the proof takes a while to expose, but eventually, the truth will be revealed for it is God’s will!

Pray for those who live in doubt and fear faith because they find it easier to condemn than to compliment. The fact remains, God’s love will intervene in their destructive behavior.

My dad’s words ring out once more!

Proverbs 26:24-26

“A hateful person disguises himself with his speech and harbors deceit within. When he speaks graciously, don’t believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart. Though his hatred is concealed by deception, his evil will be revealed in the assembly.”


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Low Octane

Certain formulas just make sense, as in the Hi-Performance engines of my younger days. We raced muscle cars every Friday or Saturday night if the weather cooperated on those days. Low octane fuel was for little less-powered engines. But, if we wanted great strength and power, high octane gave us a much better performance. Our health and well-being run on the same performance factors, and it’s equated to the relationship we have with God.

I’m sure some of us have observed people who sat in the back of a church and appeared as though they slept in their clothes. Some believers come to take up space and really don’t take part in the songs of praise. But in the front pews of God’s church, sat the brilliant Christians, praising the Lord, and magnified by God’s glow. Those beautifully dressed believers in the front rows, with their hands held high to receive God’s word… need I say more? They are full of high octane. Then, I examined those of ill-faded color, dull complexions, blemished, and disheveled, and it was apparent their spirituality may be (or was) filled with low octane. Their engine’s performance could be directly related to the quality of octane they put into their bodies.

“If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:17

Though a remarkable difference in the congregation is clear, there appears to be a more profound correlation not so noticeable. My theory is purely hypothetical, so I did some research to discover the accuracy of my prognosis.

“You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you.” Exodus 23:25

Jesus proved in His healing work that it is God’s will we have good health. Many examples in scriptures reveal the miracles of Jesus healing those with ailments. Our health is the inevitable result of knowing God and living a life filled with His love and direction. Let’s look at a few of these examples.

My wife’s mother was a devout, God-fearing Christian who lived her life by God’s commandments. When she passed away at ninety-five years old, she barely had a wrinkle on her face. She glowed in God’s spirit, and He took her from us peacefully, without pain and struggle. I have a high school friend who has not had a natural heartbeat since 1995. Pacemakers have been the source of her existence, but she praises the Lord for her health and life. Looking at her today, she is the epitome of health – glowing skin, smiling ear-to-ear, and shiny, beautiful hair. She runs on high octane and lives every day to the fullest. God bless her heart!

On a more notable scale, the evangelist, Billy Graham, was ninety-nine years old when he quietly passed away. He struggled with cancer and eventually died of pneumonia, but until the day he died, he looked healthy. He had God’s glow of high octane. The late Bishop Eddie Long, head of one of the largest mega-churches in the U.S., is another example of one who passed away from cancer. He maintained his youthful appearance and high octane looks until the day he left us.

Our health is a gift to all of God’s children. We can overcome disease and sickness, in some sense, by living a faithful life to Christ. Now do not misinterpret my words to mean we will never get sick or recover from terminal conditions if we live on high octane. God doesn’t promise us life with no pain or sickness. But one has to wonder… why are those with spiritually low octane, appear not so healthy, yet those who run on high octane rarely show any illnesses? Pay close attention to those around you who are suffering ailments and tell me if my observation isn’t correct.

The principles of well-being are not only our mental health but the condition of our physical health too. It’s simple – God is the highest octane you can receive for your body. Where can you get it? We obtain it through prayer and living a godly life. The more the Lord resonates in your life, the better you will look and feel. Let the love of God be Your octane bust!


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The 8 Most Powerful Women in the Bible: Part Three

What makes a woman powerful? Is it money, fame, a political position, or is it an Oscar-winning actress? Any of these attributes may be true in today’s society, but not in biblical days. Many excellent examples of strong, influential women grace the pages of the Bible. Now two thousand years later, everyone may find much wisdom in the biblical females. Use them as a guiding tool in your personal lives and to develop a relationship with God.


Did you miss the first two parts of this series? Click HERE for Part One. Click HERE for Part Two.


Joanna the Apostle (also known as Junia)

Joanna does not have a specific story as some other women in this series. In fact, her life is pieced together by many scriptures throughout the Bible, but what an influential person! She was an upper-class Jewish woman in 1st century Palestine. Her grandfather was Theophilus, the High Priest in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem.

The earliest mention of Joanna was in Luke 8:3, where she is referred to as the wife of Chuza, a steward to Herod Antipas. They were married when she was very young, and they both maintained jobs in Herod’s royal household. I’m sure this placed Joanna in a very unpopular category with ordinary Jews. One of her husband’s duties was to make sure everyone paid their taxes to Herod.

Like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, too, had demons in her body. She was often curious about Jesus and His miracles. Would He cleanse her as well? On the days she traveled away from the royal household, she would sit as a bystander and listen to His sermons of parables. One day, Jesus directed his attention to her and spoke with conviction. As the healing miracles of Jesus’ power tell, He knew she was possessed, too, with infirmities…and so He healed her.

Joanna gave a lot of money to Jesus and His disciples. She was wealthy, well-connected, and influential, so she was able to protect Him in subtle ways. She became instrumental in the success of His mission. In this biblical age, it was scandalous for a woman to be financially supportive of a man, much less a female who came from King Herod’s house. But, she took the risk, even though she witnessed her employer, King Herod, behead John the Baptist.

Ruins of King Herod’s palace

At some point in Joanna’s marriage, she becomes single again. One can only imagine the reasons why this happened – perhaps Chuza divorced her, or was he murdered for his position in the royal home? The Bible does not state a specific cause. But, Joanna was in the ranks of the Galilean poor with no social standing or financial security, but she held her head high, turning her life to serve Jesus.

She memorized the Lord’s parables and joined Jesus in storytelling among the poor villages along with a few other women. Many of their listeners were rejected for their conversion to Christianity, so Joanna could sympathize with their feelings. Indeed she was inspired by Jesus’ teachings. She traveled as far as Rome, being a witness to the Lord. She was eventually named an Apostle.

It is spoken in scripture Joanna and Mary Magdalene prepared the cloths to wrap Jesus’ body after His crucifixion. She was also a witness to the empty tomb after His resurrection. Her love for Jesus was deep, and she served Him faithfully until the end of His life.


What made Joanna a powerful woman?

Joanna was brave and proud. She faced public condemnation by becoming single and leaving a royal household, but she held her head high amidst the turmoil and confusion. I’m sure her conversion to Christianity was a radical change too.

When she lived among the elite and wealthy, she gave her money to Jesus and the disciples. She was generous to a fault. Her high values didn’t place wealth on personal belongings, but rather to God.

Joanna was inspiring because she transitioned from an aristocratic woman to a humble servant during her life. She didn’t mourn the loss of possessions but became a witness to the strength of the Lord. Money was a means-to-an-end to serve others.

Jesus healed her ailments because he recognized the self-power she had inside her to change.

Her stewardship to Jesus and the Gospel was uncompromising, and in return, He blessed her with grace.

After Jesus’ death, Joanna became a traveling missionary. It is implied that if she died outside the Holy Land, they brought her body back to Jerusalem. In the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, they adorned Joanna a saint.


EVE

Imagine if suddenly your body just appeared as an adult. You are facing another human who looks different, and his name is Man. Everything around is magically beautiful. Objects called trees stand taller than yourself, and the ground is green with grass and shrubs.

God spoke to them saying they could eat from any fruit of the trees except for the tree of good and evil in the middle of the garden. God warned them if they ate from the tree, they would die. This scenario is precisely the one Eve faced on her creation day. I wonder what her thoughts were at this exact moment?

As she walked through the shrubbery, she saw a slithering serpent who spoke to her. (Genesis 3:1-6, NIV)

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

Eve responded, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”

“You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” the serpent retorted.

The fruit on the tree looked delicious, so she picked it off the stem and took a nibble. Then she handed it to the Man who also took a bite of the irresistible fruit. Their eyes opened wide when they realized they were naked. Ashamed and embarrassed, Adam and Eve pulled fig leaves off of the trees, sewed them together, and covered the most intimate parts of their body.

Suddenly, they heard footsteps walking in the garden, so they hid, in fear, among the trees. The Lord God approached them and asked why they were hiding. Adam spoke first… “I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Adam and Eve hung their heads down.

Adam answered, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then Eve responded to God, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13 NIV)

God sternly faced Eve and said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 NIV)

Then the Lord God said to Adam, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)

The Lord made garments of skin for them to wear and moved Adam to the east side of the Garden of Eden, where he would work the land for food. Adam and Eve procreated, and a son, named Cain, was born. Later, another son, Abel, was born. As they grew older, their children learned to struggle, working in the fields.

Eve realized the curse God placed upon them, for life was a battle. Childbirth was unbearable, and then she endured the death of her son, Abel. The Lord punished Cain for killing Abel and placed him in the land of Nod, east of Eden, to become a wanderer. We must do what is right before God or reap the consequences.


Many misunderstandings about Eve swirl throughout the generations and since the beginning of mankind. She is held responsible for the sin of humanity by eating the forbidden fruit. Some believe she ‘enticed’ Adam to eat it, too. However, there isn’t biblical truth to this statement. The fact is, Adam did not have to take the fruit and eat it, but he did, knowingly aware of the consequences.

Eve is mislabeled with names such as “the devil’s gateway,” “temptress,“ and “wicked persuasion.” My response to any of those unwarranted titles come from this standpoint – Eve did not know of evil, nor Satan and his lies. How can she be singly be held accountable for the fall of mankind?


What made Eve a powerful woman?

Eve was the first woman, no other before her.

She is “the mother of all living,” for she is the beginning of humanity. Eve represents the maternal potential of adult women. She proclaimed the sons she gave childbirth to were created by man and God.

Eve was created with a pure heart, and her only knowledge of life came from Adam and God.

Created in God’s image, Eve carries the feminine qualities of the character of God. Her power of being a woman teaches us mankind cannot exist without ‘womankind.’


Eve’s powerful story wasn’t so much about her good qualities, but what she taught us about life and a relationship with God:

Disobedience to God leads us to follow our own will, thus unfortunate consequences. She believed Satan rather than God. How many of us, today, act on impulse versus praying to God for the correct answer to problems?

When we compromise God’s Word by blocking out or changing the parts we refuse to hear, it becomes a means to continue sinning.

If we do not resist sin when it presents itself, we will eventually give in to the temptation.


Next Sunday will be the final two women in this series. Be sure to join us!


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