War in a Bottle

During the Rhodesian war two Viscount airliners were shot down by elements of Joshua Nkomo's ZIPRA. In total 117 holiday makers (men women and children) and crew were murdered. Of the the first aircraft s brought down on 2 September 1978 there were 18 survivors, 10 of whom were brutally murdered by terrorists.  On 2 September 2012 the memorial shown to the left was unveiled at a special dedication ceremony in Pretoria, South Africa. Such are the horrors of war.

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  London, England 1991

Sixteen years have passed and I am in the Imperial War Museum in London.  I am fascinated by everything, particularly the World War I exhibit.  The museum staff have gone to great lengths to give authenticity to their trench scene. Not only is there the sound of continual artillery, but somehow they have tried to create the smell of war. The period of course is long before my time.  Our Rhodesian bush war from a combatants' perspective, at least for those who survived, was a picnic by comparison. But I am reminded of the particular smell of war.  It is not just the burned cordite; the smell of blood.  These contribute, but there is something else in the aroma; the bitter-sweet smell of fear.  People say that animals can smell fear in humans.  We can too.

I move through the museum and, to my astonishment, I find an entire room devoted to the conflict in Rhodesia.  Centre stage hanging from the roof is a Hawker Hunter fighter jet (pictured below), the terrorists’ scourge because they would fly at treetop level and astonishingly, the screaming noise of their engines would only become audible seconds before they unleashed their deadly cargo. But there, on one side, is a Rhodesian leopard; identical in every respect to the one whose steering wheel cracked a bone in my hand sixteen years earlier, just before that gruesome encounter in the Wenlock Tribal Trust Land. My mouth is hanging open in astonishment.  Here are exhibits not from some long-past conflict but from our very own war; my war. But the feelings that it invokes are not good ones.  There is little time for nostalgia because I am remembering the real scent of war and two charred corpses; hideous in death.  And I realise that this whole building with all its exhibits from old rifles to an ICBM designed to kill millions in a single blast is a gruesome memorial to the dark pernicious under-countenance of our species.  The one that in the name of achieving military ends justify any means of doing it.

War's Chilling Perspective

There are a million stories that vividly paint the picture of the horrors of war. The carnage in Syria with the appalling death of women and children bears eloquent testimony to this.  I have shared just two of numerous incidents that happened in my life with you because they were mine and I saw them first hand. I can tell you that whenever someone says that the Devil is not real; that Satan is a fiction dreamed up by so-called religious freaks to frighten others into submission, they are wrong. The bastard’s real.  And that’s just the way he works.  He tries to con us into believing that he’s not and so often he succeeds. But once you begin to understand that ‘behaviourism’ is the real fiction; that for whatever reason Adam and Eve fell into the same trap when Satan told them:

“eat the fruit, for God is not telling you the truth when he said that you shall surely die if you do. He just doesn’t want you to know what he knows”,

Our species is not inherently good.  We are just the opposite.  Look at history.  It’s staring us in the face.  In the course of the twentieth century we massacred more than a hundred million of our own kind. How would you explain that to visitor from space if ever you met one?  Could you advance any other reason than pure inherent evil for that fact? Just as behaviourism falls flat as an explanation for the massacre of two innocents in Wenlock TTL in 1976, the same explanation falls flat for every other hideous conflict that our species has embarked on.

How can we seriously think that we humans on our own can find salvation? There’s not a shred of evidence that we are capable of change, of finding “innate” solidarity, a global purity of purpose.  Each day the news stories are filled with fearful things. But we do not have to surrender to fear; we don’t have to accept defeat because God, in His wisdom made a plan to save us. 

In John 6:16-21 we read the following account: 

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed for three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; don't be afraid." Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. (NIV)

Even though Jesus was not with the disciples, He knew exactly where they were and had the power to come to them. Although they were afraid, they obeyed the command from Jesus to stop being fearful: He had arrived to take charge! We need to learn the same lesson.  We may think that we have the capacity to do things on our own but the reality is that only Jesus has the ultimate solution. When we are weary, Jesus brings rest; when we are afraid, He commands us to reject our fear and welcome Him so that He can take charge. All we have to do is believe and trust in Him.  He knew that we could never do this on our own.  From the time that we rebelled He planned out salvation.  He sent His son to die for us. Jesus, the only man who never sinned, accepted all the sin and horror as an atonement that those who follow Him will never die but have everlasting life.  But the choice is ours.  We should make it wisely.

Go in through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it. (Matt 7:13 GNV)

The narrow gate is open and you may enter in
Though the path that leads you there is exceptionally thin
The other gate is broader and the highway very wide
Friend, the choice is yours you can take either in your stride

But of these paths in life you can choose but one
At the end of each a portal where a new journey’s begun
One of these will take you to a place of burnished light
The other address is darker, for its everlasting night

Choose therefore wisely that you may not regret
For what you see so clearly is not always what you get
The road that seems so easy, so tempting thus to take
Could be your greatest error, the very worst mistake.


Titus 3:5b-7  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (NIV)

As Nicholas Kimulu so eloquently says[1]:

Salvation is not a business deal where the profit is gained by buying at the lowest cost and selling at the highest price. It is true that we have been redeemed; bought back from the power of Satan: but that was the most expensive purchase in history. The life of the Son of God was exchanged for sinful people who could add no value to His kingdom. Salvation is a supreme act of grace on God's part, paying the highest price for the lowest value. Yet to us who are saved, the benefit is overwhelmingly large.
To become a Christian is not like joining a club or having a cultural experience: it is to be radically transformed. To be saved is to be washed clean; to be made pure and totally free from the filth of the world. To be saved is to be born again, having a new Father, a new identity and a new family. To be saved is to be made new on the inside with a new set of appetites and desires because the Holy Spirit of God has agreed to come to us and fill our personal space. To be saved is to receive the extravagant generosity of God. To be saved is to have all our sins taken away by Jesus so that we are declared 'not guilty' in the court of heaven. To be saved is to become an inheritor of heaven itself. So to be saved is to live with a confidence that all God has started in us will be completed when Jesus comes again.
So why does fear confuse our hearts, or the lust for fading pleasures promote foolish ambitions? It is because we have forgotten the greatness of our salvation. We have presumed upon our privileges as children of God but have forgotten the cost to Him and the value to us. It is time for God's people to wake up to the enormous value which God has placed upon us, and how much He has done for us. When we start to appreciate all that we have been given through Christ's sacrifice, we will learn to worship with our whole lives. Then we will witness gladly with our whole hearts and serve with everything we have. There will not be an 'ordinary day at the office' or 'routine in the factory' or 'crisis with the accounts' or 'confusion of purpose' ... instead we will see ourselves as children of a loving Father, servants of the King, ambassadors of the Kingdom and inheritors of heaven. All this is because we have been washed, reborn, renewed and justified! How great is the salvation we have received! Let us honour the One who has saved us as we live today.

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[1] http://biblefeeds.blogspot.com/2012/05/washed-reborn-renewed-justified-and.html