Shoes

It was, however, the shoes left behind the spoke their message so quietly that it was deafening

We have heard the analogies perhaps dozens of times growing up. We should never think of judging anyone until we have walked a mile in their shoes. An ‘Americanized’ version of that is from what is known as ‘an American Indian proverb.’ Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. I imagine it is the use of the moccasins that makes it an American Indian proverb. Still, the thought is there.
The Bible also placed some tradition upon shoes. It was customary in a Jewish home and perhaps, too, in homes of Arabs of similar times in history; that a guest in the home was to have his shoes removed so that his feet could be washed by the host or the host’s designee. It was not a light issue but one of great importance. To fail to treat someone in this way was to show them disrespect. Jesus instructed His disciples that when they came to a town and were well received, they were to allow their blessing to remain on that town. But, if they were mistreated, they were to remove their sandals and shake the dust off of their feet, symbolizing the removal of blessing. Jesus said it was better for Sodom and Gomorrah than it will be for that town’s people upon the Day of Judgment. Paul and Barnabas, when the irreverent people of the Antioch stirred up the populace against them, took leave of the city. Following the direction Christ gave to his apostles during His earthly ministry, they stopped at the city gate to shake the dust from their feet and then they continued then on their way.
Shoes, in many cultures may define their wearer. My own propensity is to almost always wear a western style “cowboy” boot even when donning a tuxedo for some special occasion. My boots have defined me to some folks. The business man or the sports enthusiast each may be defined by their shoes; as too, the child who cannot get a new pair of shoes before school starts because mother and father are simply too poor. All of these things help to define the wearer. There are, too, the ‘baby’s first shoes.’ Shoes that are bronzed and kept often with a photo of the baby who first toddled about in those clumsily formed shoes that looked like they were more of a prison for those tiny feet than a comforting wrap against the elements.
Twice, I had the inner-peace shattering occasion to view such baby shoes, not bronzed, but still immortalized in a macabre fashion that cried out against the evil that had stolen that small life from this world. Perhaps nothing can speak such a message about a person more than shoes that they have worn in a time or in a way that tells such a horrifying tale. A pitiful message across the years. It is a message that is given to those who happen upon those shoes, either by chance or choice; but in either way, the recipient, not being prepared for the impact those shoes would have upon them will most certainly be taken aback for some time to come.
The first encounter that I had with such shoes was in a stark building, darkened by dust encrusted windows and the absence of any produced light made it even darker. It was darker, still, in the evil that enveloped the building. The long center of the main room was roped off and within it, was a pile of shoes ten feet high at the crest of the pile and more than thirty feet long at this farthest edges. The building was in Stuthof Camp. It was one of the few buildings left in this, the first Nazi ‘relocation’ camp for Jews during WWII built on Polish soil, just about 21 miles NE of Gdansk Poland and less than 2 miles from the Baltic coast. Stuthof had as few as 250 prisoners and grew to a maximum of 52,000 with over 1,000 SS guards by January of 1945. It began not just for Jews but for the undesirable Polish elements. It was, however the shoes left behind that spoke their message so quietly that it was deafening.
Poland Stuthof Shoes

An early photo before the building was used to memorialize the shoes left behind

As difficult as this site was to view, particularly the small children’s and infants’ shoes, it did not prepare me for my next encounter with another such site; shoes whose souls are still speaking their silent message across the miles, the years and into the hearts of all who will stop long enough to listen.
The City of Budapest is one of the most beautiful in all of Central and Eastern Europe; perhaps even further. From Hero’s Square to the Opera House, to the casual promenade along the banks of the Danube River all the way to the base of the Chain Bridge which is known for its majestic lions and massive expanse across the river the cities of Buda and Pest have joined to make an amazing cultural venue. There is one site, though, along the shores of the Danube in the shadow of those majestic lions that bespeaks a horror so intense it will take away one’s breath. I found that it left me spell-bound in the mystery of what the last words, the last thoughts and the last looks between loved ones might have been as they were lined upon the bank of the river and murdered. Their bodies – from the smallest of children in their mothers’ arms to the old and infirm stood, awaiting the sting of the bullets that would dispatch them to their certain death and a watery grave marked only on this earth by the shoes the left behind. Immortalized by the townspeople of Budapest as a defiant call to never allow such a horror to happen again – the shoes are lined up along the banks as if their owner’s next steps would be into eternity.

Budapest WWII Memorial to those murdered on the banks of the Danube River 1944-1945 by ArrowCross Militia
Budapest WWII Memorial to those murdered on the banks of the Danube River 1944-1945 by the   Arrow Cross Militia

On the night of January 8, 1945, an Arrow Cross execution brigade forced all of the inhabitants of the building on Vadasz Street to the banks of the Danube. Arrow Cross was an extremist socialist party holding power in Hungary’s government in collusion with the Nazis. At midnight, Karoly Szabo and 20 policemen with drawn bayonets broke into the Arrow Cross house and rescued everyone there. Among those saved were Lars Ernster, who fled to Sweden and became a member of the board of the Nobel Foundation from 1977 to 1988, and Jacob Steiner, who fled to Israel and became a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Steiner’s father had been shot dead by Arrow Cross militiamen on December 25, 1944, falling into the Danube. His father had been an officer in World War I and spent four years as a prisoner of war in Russia. The Arrow Cross had usurped the symbol from the ancient Magyar for themselves and was then used it to symbolize their fascist movement known later as Hungarists. They oversaw between ten and fifteen thousand people murdered outright and another 80,000 deported to Auschwitz.

Hungarist flag
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Dr. Erwin K. Koranyi, a psychiatrist in Ottawa, wrote about the night of January 8, 1945 in his Dreams and Tears: Chronicle of a Life (2006), “in our group, I saw Lajos Stoeckler” and “The police holding their guns at the Arrowcross cutthroats. One of the high-ranking police officers was Pal Szalai, with whom Raoul Wallenberg used to deal. Another police officer in his leather coat was Karoly Szabo.
The memorial along the Danube almost always has flowers or candles laid within the shoes. No one particular pair is identified with an individual victim, rather the sixty pairs that are made from iron are fashioned and welded in place as a lifetime remembrance of the evil which can overtake mankind when he fails to stand for the laws which protect humanity and to stand for the biblical principles that demand one brother look after another regardless of nationality or genetics. Such evil happens when people forget that under the depth of skin lies a heart that beats every single beat only by the permission of God the Creator. The shoes serve as a reminder not only of the brave heroics of the policemen that night who took a stand for what is right and what is fair; for justice and for humanity as a whole but also as a call to all future generations to not allow this to happen again. By Christmas of 1944 when Jacob Steiner’s father was murdered on the banks of the Danube, millions had already died at the hand of demonic forces masquerading as military officers and enlisted soldiers, as well as government officials and ordinary people who simply did nothing.
This short monograph, Shoes was not meant to be light-hearted or lightly up-lifting. However, it is, if the reader allows it to be, a source of encouragement. Our world again faces demonic extremists that have only one desire: to rule and reign by terror and violence, murder and mayhem at the edge of a sword, inflicting the name of Allah upon those they call infidels, as well as, on those who might consider themselves of the faithful.
The encouragement lies within a simple maxim: The darker the room the more luminescent even the feeblest light. The brightness of that light is proportional to the depth of the darkness within which it burns. When the light is that which burns within a believer in Jesus Christ, even though the strength of that believer’s faith may provide only a modicum of power for the light to glow, the darkness that envelopes it enables that light to have an effect far beyond its means. Scientists tell us that under ideal conditions our unaided vision can detect a light as dim as a candle flame or a lit match 30 miles away on a dark clear night. You can perhaps imagine the strength of the light which has the full power of Jesus. In Him there is no darkness. God is truth, life and light. In these darkest of times, may the power of the light of Christ light your life, embolden your witness and may it never be said of this generation of Christians that we stood by while others collected shoes.

NEVER RETREAT!

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there is only a minute for ministry

8 June 2012     www.docriggs.com

 

The story is told of a general arriving on a battlefield only to see his troops beating a hasty retreat. From astride his horse he stopped a young soldier who was quickly retreating and demanded to know why his men were running from the battle. The young soldier looked up into the eyes of the quite irate general and said, “Sir we are not retreating! We are rapidly advancing to the rear!” Sometimes we can think of ourselves as advancing in the work we are striving to do for the Lord but we could be advancing in the wrong direction!

Early this morning I was reading my devotions using a book I have just acquired titled: Streams in the Desert from L. B. Cowman, edited by Jim Reimann. As I write Daniel, our son who is with the U.S. Army, I include some devotional thoughts or an insight on something I have read. Just this morning, I came across a quote by Marshal Ferdinand Foch that captured my attention. The Marshal was quite the war hero of the French during the First World War.[i] His quote that I sent to Daniel is:

When you have faith, you need never retreat. You can stop the Enemy wherever you encounter him.”[ii]   

WWI was dubbed the ‘war to end all wars’ and obviously that was a serious misnomer! WWI was also trench warfare where the armies each dug in deep long trenches and this was, for the most part, where the front lines would be. Sometimes with a short advance, the opposing forces could over run a trench and occupy it for a time until the troops could reclaim it. Venturing out of the trench, though, for any reason was nearly always a death sentence. Everywhere you needed to go you could do so in the trench except for one direction, forward. The key to battlefield victory was stopping the enemy’s advance movement.  It was not necessary to neither annihilate the enemy nor even just overpower them. Once forward movement was halted, without any resurgence of momentum, all hope was lost; and defeat is imminent.

Satan uses a very similar attack on Christians and he has many ways he tries to stop any advancement of the gospel. Perhaps the most effective way to stop a Christian ministry’s forward advance is to keep them busy in their trenches. Lots of activity can take place along a trench line. Once well dug in, a trench can provide a safe place to do everything a Christian ministry is expected to do in society, perhaps even obtain a grant or two as long as the ministry does not attempt to advance the gospel of Christ. Someone once defined a trench as ‘a grave with the ends kicked out.’ No better picture of a ministry without the advancement of the gospel is a church sitting in the middle of a graveyard and such  ministry is a  death sentence to the unsaved that might have been reached.

Aerial view trench lines British on left; German lines right and bottom July 1917

The question that stirred in my mind was: “Am I, as a minister, reaching souls for Christ or busily working away in the safety of my trench?”

Allied lines trench “50 yards from German lines”

The second part of Marshal Foch’s statement is that the enemy can be stopped wherever he is found. Immediately, we know that it is the Lord God that stops Satan and not us; but, we can be God’s tools that He uses in ways He chooses. The Lord has given orders to us, however, that are clear. We are not to allow Satan to have a foothold. He is to have no opportunity in our lives to sow seeds of discord. We are to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. ‘An Army of One’ used to be a slogan for the U.S Army Recruiting forces. I did not care for that concept when it was part of the Army’s advertising campaign. One of the key foci of basic training is to tear down the individual and build up the team. So to have team building as a goal and proclaim, at the same time, that you are an Army of One is self-defeating. Churches, however, do it all the time. They meet together on Sunday for the big build up so that on Monday everyone goes their separate ways, often not even speaking with one another, even by phone, until the next Sunday.  Christ said that we are all members of one body and His analogy makes it clear, one part cannot function without the others.

Are you busy inside your trench or are you advancing the gospel? Do you prefer to be safe in the trench or out there where Satan is attacking; building up your fellow soldiers, out there where you can hear someone holler, “Medic!”?


[ii] Cowman, L.B. Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI:1997                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

A Battle for the Soul of America

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D. Min.   www.docriggs.com

Maintain the peace, settle disputes between nations in a ‘civilized way’ and prevent war from ever happening again, on such broad a scale and so horrifically – these were clear cut directives for an  organization that was to have broad sweeping powers to make it happen. There was only one small problem – they had a little tribunal and no one came. Just like the old adage, ‘locks are only good for keeping out honest people’; the same was true for stopping war… the only ones that want to play by the rules were going to play by the rules even without this new organization. Those who were not so inclined to play by the rest of the world’s standards didn’t.

This new instrument of peace could call offending nations into their headquarters and tell them to make nice. If that did not work, there could be economic sanctions, which would require the member nations to agree to not send money, food, etc. to pressure the citizens to oust their unrepentant leaders. Failing that, military force could be used, except there was no military. The two nations that might be able to send military to police the sanctions had neither the money nor the manpower to do it.

Perhaps the saddest of all was the founder and president of this new body designed to respectfully work out the problems of the world lead the only major country in the world that refused to join. I refer, of course, to the League of Nations founded by none other than American President Woodrow Wilson who held a little conference and his own countrymen said, “No.” Western Europe and the Communist regimes that came to power in the first decades of the 20th century on the tails of violent and bloody WWI and revolutions were to grow stronger and more ruthless as time went on and America became more an isolationist. America’s farm boys had come home and that is where their families wanted them to stay. They were hoping to leave the rest of the world, (at least that on the far side of the globe­), to their own machinations.

With such a shabby foundation from which to grow, it is no wonder that today’s United Nations is anything other than what is. Now we have sanctions against human atrocities handed out by a Human Rights Commission headed by the worst offenders, most demonically influenced in the world. They continually seek the sanctioning, isolation and the eventual destruction of Israel and Jerusalem. At a time when the world needs leadership that knows what is right, adheres to the prescripts of fundamental Christian theology, utilizes the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice; instead, America has perhaps the single worst president in two full centuries not excepting Woodrow Wilson.

It is no longer an issue of Democrat versus Republican philosophies. It has become Marxist Socialism versus the entire American way of life. Failure to stop the current path America is on with this next election is certainly to draw the U.S. to the precipice of the Fall of the American Empire. What it took patriotic Americans over two hundred years to build by the grace of God and with His blessing; this atheistic socialism is at the heart of a movement that is lead by a calculating group of people who could dismantle America in less than a quarter century, turning her back on God.

The League of Nations was an experiment in finding ways for civilized society to discuss their issues without resorting to full scale war. That particular experiment failed, though many who guided its institution were eager to do good for humanity. The U.N. on the other hand, however, has always been a tool of the power hungry to grab more power, to eliminate any who stand in their way and under the guise of food to the poor and policing the world’s war zones, has turned to feeding the armies of their oppressive regimes and attempting the wholesale obliteration of groups of people who stand in their way. (Bosnia Herzegovina mid-1990’s)

If America and the world ever needed godly men to step into positions of leadership it is now. If America ever needed to be humble before the God of creation, it is now. If individual families ever needed God-fearing fathers and mothers, it is now. If America ever needed to stand with Israel, it is now.

Just these last two weeks have seen movement by the newly, ‘re-elected’ (probably Czar for Life), Vladimir Putin begin to put additional pressure on the nation of Israel and show Russia’s support for Iran and its involvement in Syria. Putin will be traveling to Tel Aviv to most likely send a message of, ‘don’t you dare strike Iran’ while at the same time telling Syria to get its house in order. Already he has hosted Ahmadinejad in Moscow. He is up to something sinister and as the enemies of Israel begin to circle like vultures, just as in the days of Habakkuk, Christians can rest assured that God is on His throne and He will do something in our day that we would not believe it, even if it were told to us!

I propose, as I believe the biblical principles would support the following:                                      

We must be aware of all that is going on around us.

As Americans we should consider what good would become of us removing a seat of Satan from our land as it even now, I believe, sits in Manhattan. I believe that God would honor us evicting the U.N. from our shores.

We must resist the dealings of our current Secretary of State to seek the disarming of U.S. citizens of even basic firearms as assured us in our Constitution by her use of U.N. legislation to outlaw and supersede our own Bill of Rights.

We must be wary of case law in places like Michigan federal courts that are allowing Sharia law to be considered in the adjudication of cases, subverting our own Constitution’s ban on other sources of law being utilized against American citizens.

We must be alert to legislation as recently considered in Indiana that would allow a homeowner to shoot a police officer the homeowner ‘believes’ is breaking the law by entering his home. Current law already provides remedies for the unauthorized use of search and seizure authority. A false scare about ‘rogue cops’ is a false front used to cover another agenda behind this legislation.

We, as Americans, must stand with Israel.

We must stand in support of our military and not permit un-American agendas and unwise decisions to pull our troops out of current military actions because it is politically expedient; knowing it could cause both future casualties to increase and cause those who have fallen to have fallen in vain.

As Christians and Americans, we must call our families back to the altar of worship of the One True God.

Fathers, as Christians and Americans, we must lead our families as Christ would have us do.

Mothers, as Christians and Americans, we must teach our children what it means to be both.

Students, as Christians and Americans, we must seek to be the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world to bring our economy back to where it can be, for today and tomorrow.

As churches, we must follow biblical principles to care for the true widows and orphans; to seek to employ men and women of the household of faith; to care for one another, giving preference to one another, for this is of God and in so doing we can end the welfare state in the United States.

As Christians and Americans, we must speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. We must stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves. We must put an end to abortion and begin to call on all Americans to honor God by caring for His children from conception to old age.

There rages around us a battle for the soul of America. As Christians and Americans we must exercise our vote.

There rages around us a battle for the souls of our families, we must put on the full armor of God and be prepared for spiritual warfare.

Americans who are Christians and Christians who happen to be Americans, the time for sleep and slumber is over, it is time to rise up and be heard, be counted. Now and forever may His Name be always on our lips in prayer and in praise.

May we bless God and humbly beseech Him that He might again, bless America.                              

Rev. Ross L. Riggs