Monday, November 26, 2007

Brian the M.P.

I met a couple of dear friends for lunch, today. Together, we waited for our guest--Brian.

Brian is 19-years-old. (I have two children his age.) He works with one of my friends--that is, when he is not serving our country in Iraq. Brian is an M.P. with the Army Reserves. He is home for the Thanksgiving holiday, after serving four months in Iraq. He returns to Iraq on Wednesday.

Once Brian has completed his tour of duty (July of 2008) he wants to begin a career in law enforcement. One of my friends told Brian that I am a retired deputy--now chaplain for the Sheriff's Department. He wanted to meet me to talk about a career in law enforcement. Of course, I agreed but that wouldn't be the only thing we talk about. :-)

Brian arrived and we ordered lunch. I answered his questions about the Sheriff's Department, as well as questions regarding the pros and cons of serving with the largest Sheriff's Department in the world. The conversation soon moved to his experiences in Iraq. One in particular stood out.

Brian and his partner were on patrol when they noticed a flock of birds suddenly fly from a bell tower. Their first thought (and the right one) was that someone was in the tower. They quickly made their way to their armored vehicle and alerted units to a possible sniper in the tower. Just as Brian climbed into the vehicle and started to close the door, a shot rang out and ricocheted off the ground, at his feet. He alerted his gunner that they were taking rounds. The gunner lit up the bell tower with heavy machine gun fire and, as Brian said, "Whoever was in the tower was dead."

After about 30-45 minutes of "talking shop," I asked Brian the following question. "Once the dust settled and the situation was 'Code-4,' what was the first thought that came to your mind?"

Brian thought about it for a few moments.

"I understand that you can't 'what if' while you are on patrol." I continued. "I know that if you hesitate, you're dead. You've got to keep your head clear and your mind focused on your mission." Brian nodded his head. "But, when all was said and done, did you stop to thinking about what happens after this life?"

"A little." He answered.

"So, what do you think happens when a person dies?

"I think a person goes to heaven or hell."

"And how is that determined?"

"I guess if you do the right thing in this life--not all the time, because no one is perfect--but if you don't intentionally do anything to hurt anyone else and you're an honest person, you will probably go to heaven. If you don't, well then I guess you go to hell."

"So, Brian, would you consider yourself to be a good person?"

"Yes, I would say so."

"How would you like to take a test to see if that's true?"


I took Brian through the Law. He admitted to being a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterous, murderer at heart. He readily agreed that God would find him guilty of breaking His Law. And he just as readily admitted that the just punishment for breaking God's Law would be eternity in hell.

"Does that concern you?"

Brian's eyes appeared moist. "Yes it does."

"Do you know what God has done so that you may not have to face eternal punishment in hell?"

"No, I don't."

"You've never heard what God did?"

"Would it be all right if I told you? Would you like to know?"

Brian sat up straight, rested his arms on the table, leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and uttered three words that are beautiful music to an evangelist's ears. "Yes. Tell me."

I took Brian into the courtroom--but not a civilian courtroom. I took Brian into a court martial. He had been found guilty of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, with the appropriate sentence for his crime being the death penalty. As the Military Judge is about to pass sentence, another soldier walks into the courtroom and asks the Military Judge to allow him to take Brian's place. The Military Judge, having the authority to do so, accepts the soldier's sacrificial offer and tells Brian that on the basis of the other soldier's willingness to take upon himself the punishment Brian deserves, Brian was free to go.

"Brian, would that be good news?"


"And what would you think of the soldier that took your place--that was executed for the crime you committed?"

"I would be grateful."

"Well, Brian, that's what God did....." I shared the gospel with Brian.

"What are you thinking right now?"

"I've never thought of it that way before. I never thought about what God should do with me for breaking His Law."

"Brian, do you believe that I am telling you the truth?"


"Is there any reason, then, why you wouldn't get right with God? Is there any reason why you wouldn't turn from your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?"


"Brian, I'm guessing you've seen people die in Iraq."

"Yes, I have."

"Brian, what if that sniper had been a better shot? What if his aim had been better and the windage had been just right? If that round had found its mark and you fell to the ground, would there have been anything you could have done to bring yourself back to life?"


"That's right. Unless a medic rushed to your aid, began CPR, and stopped your bleeding, you would have no hope of survival. Right?"


"And the same is true for you, spiritually. Brian, you are dead in your trespasses and sins. There is nothing you can do to save yourself.

"You are a young man of honor and courage. You volunteered to pick up a rifle and defend our country--to defend our freedom to have this conversation in a public place. I respect you for that and I thank you for your willingness to sacrificially serve our country and my family. But there are a lot of brave and noble men and women who have gone before you and who made the ultimate sacrifice. You want to join the law enforcement family, someday. Every 57 hours one of my brothers or sisters behind the badge are killed in the line of duty.

"But, Brian, no one goes to heaven because they are brave soldiers. In fact, there are many brave men and women who are now in hell, because they never turned from their sin and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Their bravery could not save them.

"Brian, my hope is that you will finish your tour of duty, return home, and that I will be able to help you start your career in law enforcement. But you know as well as I do that there are no guarantees in this life. You've seen that reality, first-hand. We're having this conversation because I care about you and I don't want you to go to hell."

Brian nodded his head. "I know."

"Then please consider very carefully what we've been talking about."

"I will."

"Have you ever read the Bible?"

"Not really."

"Do you have one?"

"Yes, I do."

"Then I want to encourage you to start reading it and start with the Gospel of John. It's the fourth book of the New Testament. And ask God to reveal His truth to you. You will see that what I've shared with you is true.

"Brian, would it be all right if I prayed for you?"


The four of us, as we sat in a booth of an In-n-Out Burger restaurant, bowed our heads to pray. I prayed for the young man--young enough to be my son. I asked God to protect him as he returned to the battlefield. I asked God to bring peace to his family, as they waited for Brian to return safely home. And I asked God to draw the brave young soldier to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ--extending to him the free gift of eternal life.

We walked out to my car. I gave Brian a copy of my book and Ray's book, "How To Live Forever Without Being Religious." Brian said he would send me his Iraq contact information and that he looked forward to staying in touch. We hugged as if we were brothers.

Lord, please save Brian!

Pray with me that God will do just that--all for His glory. In Jesus' name.

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