John the Baptist on Gospel-Centered Discipleship

St_John_the_baptist_-_Leonardo_Da_VinciBy the actions of John the Baptist we have a view of what gospel-centered disciple-making is all about. I know it might be unwise to over-simplify but in the clamor of our times a little over-simplification is needed. Johns basic approach to discipleship was to first, introduce people to Jesus. Then his goal was to see them leave with Jesus. That’s it? That’s it.

“The next day John was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.”  John 1:35-37 (NIV)

Shortly after Jesus was introduced to them, Andrew and John stood along the Jordan river with John the Baptist.  When Jesus passed, John pointed out that there goes “the Lamb of God.” Andrew and John left the Baptist, following Jesus. I love how John is always pointing the saved and unsaved to Jesus.

The goal of our discipleship is simple. To lead people to Christ and see them leave with Jesus. Remember John’s personal declaration was that  “He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30 (NIV).  The mission of disciple makers must be to see people transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A disciple must be captured by his grace and abandon themselves so completely that they follow him wherever he leads.  There is much room to fill in the blanks for how this happens in an individuals life. Yet, it is important for disciple-makers to remember that the goal is to lead people to Jesus and see them leave with Jesus. Anything short of this tends to make them disciples of us.

This leaving may not mean they wonder far from us locationally and yet it may mean that they circumnavigate the globe taking disciple-making international.  The key is found in John’s core philosophy,  “He (Jesus) must become greater; I must become less.” Disciple making is not about my crowd, my followers, my group it is about leading people to fall in love with Jesus, and follow Jesus wherever he goes. I have to go now he’s calling.

Ed Litton

Spiritual Food Deserts

Antalope Canyone LightThe U.S. Department of Agriculture calls a community with little or no access to healthy fresh food a “food desert.” Scattered all over the country are urban and rural areas where people have limited access to fresh, cost effective foods that strengthen the body. They are limited to getting food from fast food outlets, gas stations and convenience stores.  This drives the spending power of their often limited resources down dramatically and impacts their overall health negatively. Our church has an amazing ministry of planting gardens in inner-city abandoned lots and open fields to help feed the poor in these deserts.  It is rewarding and exciting to see our people revive age old gardening skills in order to advance the gospel of God’s love.

This makes me think about the spiritual food in my community.  I am asking myself and my people: “If our church where a grocery store, what kind of store would we be?”  Are we a Big Box Store overflowing with plenty?  Or are we a corner market struggling to survive?  Are we a convenience store that sales gas and some pre-packaged foods but not much in the way of fresh healthy food? Are we a fast food outlet, providing quick, pre-prepared meals for fast living people? Where are we located? Are we out of reach to the spiritually poor of our community? Do people have access to the fresh and hopefully balanced spiritual food stuffs that God has provided to us and through us?

What kind of food store would your church be?

It is easy to assume that large churches bear resemblance to large spacious supermarkets that provide food as well as a host of other services from nail salons to banking. There is access to fresh fruit, vegetables and meat that makes a body whole and healthy but where you can also get your taxes done.  Being large does not automatically mean that people are using their limited resources to get what is best for themselves.  In many ways the large stores can be the ultimate convince store and an ultimate distraction of the resource of time.  A smaller corner market could have healthier food. Most people are after a quick fix spiritual experience. Your church regardless of size or location can be a healthy place for spiritually starving people to come.

How do we provide a healthy supply of spiritual food to people who have limited access to the gospel of grace?

We must create atmospheres or hothouses where biblical discipleship takes place.  The goal must be for people learn to feed themselves and others from their own “home-grown gardens.”  This includes but not exclusive to their own children.  How many families in church are watching their own children starve to death spiritually in the big box store, playing games and not eating the fruit, vegetables and meat of the gospel?

We must remember that it is God’s desire for His house to be full. Full of people who love God, walk in a discipleship relationship with Christ and others. There are so many things the church can be about but at the end of the day we must seek to plant the deserts of spiritual death in our community.

The other aspect of this metaphor is the reality that we have work to do in farming the spiritual deserts of our community and nation but that our part, while essential is limited.  In gardening, God has created a world that will bear fruit under the right conditions. It is the farmer who plows, plants, and nurtures by faith, the harvest.  It is God who created the soil to respond, the sun to shine and water to cause the growth. Our mission is to by faith plant the gospel seed and cooperate with God in the harvest.

An even bigger question.  Where are the food deserts in your community and nation?  Should you not be seeking to plant in those areas, churches or community groups that preach the gospel and multiply disciples who can live out the gospel?  I am convinced that there are food deserts in my deep-south neighborhood that God obviously expects me to do something about.  I am also responsible with others to plant gardens of grace in the vast spiritual deserts of this land and further into the world.

Food deserts are real and are a powerful way of thinking about the spiritual food people in America are consuming.  Our future is in the simple reality of our past.  Southern Baptist are historically a rural denomination now being forced into the cities and looking for ways to plant the gospel in those very different places.  As we learn the new skills of reaching our new found urban environs lets not forget the skills we learned in the country. It is all about the harvest. May we glorify God together in the harvest.

Ed Litton

Secondary Losses

lightstock_856_small_user_182216-1A secondary loss is a loss that happens after you loose someone you love. Secondary losses can come when death forces you to move, leave friends, join another church, change jobs or schools. These losses are secondary because they are consequences of our initial loss.  To say that they are secondary is misleading, sometimes they have a more profound impact than the loss itself. The accumulative effect can be overwhelming.  They always serve as an unwanted reminder of the greatness and magnitude of our grief.

Christmas is filled with secondary losses. Our first Christmas after the death of my wife and the mother of our children was profoundly sad and helpless because we wanted it to be something more.  Something Christmas once was but at that moment seems never to be again. The simple and always joyful act of putting up a Christmas tree seems promising except when grief hangs over a family.  On our first Christmas without Tammy, without mother, wife and friend it was as if grief hid in the boxes of Christmas ornaments waiting to remind us of our primary loss. Tammy was organized. So the boxes where neat and packed with care. Everything had its place. A torrent of tears came realizing that the last person to touch these ornaments was…her.

Secondary loss may not seem as significant at the loss itself but it does drive home how profound is your loss and it can deepen the sadness with a sense that you may never get over this. 

Getting over something implies that there is a quicker, easier way to avoid the thing that is so painful to face.  I know this could seem trite, but it is nonetheless true. You don’t get over it, you do get through it.  It is the getting through it, that transforms you, strengthens you and gives you a lasting hope.  King David in his immortal Twenty-Third Psalm makes it plain. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  The key word is “through.”  The presence of our Divine Shepherd makes all the difference.  He is the God who came near enough to experience the pain of life.  He walks us through, not around, not above the pain, sorrow, darkness and even the secondary losses of this life.  He insures that you will make it through.  I know.  This is now our sixth Christmas since Tammy’s death.  In that time I have found Him to be the near friend I needed most.  In reflection let me say that my demands, outburst of tears, and even anger did not offend him or make him the least bit hesitant to draw near to me. He led me and leads me through other dark valley’s because he is the faithful Shepherd.  

Whatever your secondary losses might be, remember the shepherd Lord Jesus this Christmas.  We celebrate the birth of a baby but it was the work of the man that insures our hope. Hope is born in the face of loss and your journey is not over yet.  Remember what Jesus did on the cross for us.  He died the way we all deserve to die so that we could have what none of us deserve to have, a relationship with the Lord, who is our shepherd.

Merry Christmas

Ed

The Home Phone Call

ImageTo say that this past week was challenging for me in ministry terms is an understatement.  I am not good at understatement.  I am better at hyperbole and drama.  It was an emotional, tactical challenge dealing with complex and delicate people problems.  Deep people problems with potential impact on many.  Enough said.  In a week like this, pastors can loose sight of something really important, like the Gospel.  I was getting ready to preach this past Sunday.  My heart and head are full of things and I am about to stand between heaven and earth with a Word from God. (Hows that for dramatic?)  I hear the phone ringing while I am in the shower.  My answering system takes the call.  It is the voice of a man, a father on the line.  “Pastor Litton, you don’t know me, my name is…” the voice began.  It was a father on the other end pouring out in few details that I immediately identified as a broken heart for his son.

His call was to remind me that his son, for whom he was seriously concerned, would be in our services today.  His father’s broken heart came through loud and clear.  I got it.  This was a God ordained reminder to me that there are always those in our lives who need the Lord at some level different from what we expect.  My job is to preach the Word of God.  God’s power in embedded in his Word and energized by his Spirit to do the heavy lifting.  That phone call was a reminder to me that God is always doing more than I can see and in more lives that I could possibly know.  I want to thank that father for giving me a heads up.  After a week like this past one, It is so tempting to go into my pulpit with guns blazing.  I want to blister some sheep but I must be ever so careful.  There are always others you do not see and have no idea that they even exist who need the Word of life.  I am not suggesting that there are not moments to let it fly but do so soberly and with great wisdom and greater perspective.  I can hear that father’s voice in a powerful pleading sort of way saying, “Pastor, please remember my son today.  He will be there in the crowd and he needs to see Jesus.”

Ed Litton

Insurance Policy Against Loss

Marilu Henner is the beautiful star of the 70’s situation comedy Taxi.  She has what experts call HSAM, Highly Superior Biographical Memory.  She remembers, in amazing detail, events in her life.  The first time Marilu saw the scene-selection part of a DVD she was stunned.  That is the way her memory works.  She can go to any song she hears and remember the time, date and location of where she first heard it as well as every subsequent time she gave it a listen.  An amazing and very rare ability.

Marilu says;  “I lost my parents when I was very young.  My memory gives me the ability to go back and see them, hear them and relive weeks from my childhood or really understand the lessons they where trying to teach me, it makes me feel like I carry them with me all the time.  It is an insurance policy against loss.”

An insurance policy against loss?  The rest of us without HSAM seem to struggle with desire to visit those we have lost in our memories but are unable to do so.  In the book, A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis states that he had no “good” pictures of Joy his wife.  In time, Lewis sensed how rightly remembering his wife pointed him to God. He began to think of her in more profound terms like a sword, because of her sharp mind.  At other times he compared her to a lush, nurturing garden. “Thus up from the garden to the Gardener, from the sword to the Smith. To the life-giving Life and the Beauty that makes beautiful”

Truthfully, there are no insurance policies against loss except the hope filled promise that one day, God will make all things new.  We can see loved ones again.  We can because of Christ death and resurrection hold to a promise He made and He keeps.  Eternity will be filled with HD memories and you can trust there will be grace and perspective for the most painful ones.  The problem with choosing not to remember the bad is that we also refuse to remember the good.  In it all, the mental exercise that concludes in faith is the richest and most rewarding.

A dear Christian woman lies in the hospital after surgery.  Her family lovingly helps her in her recovery.  The sign above her head for nurses to read simply says Alzheimers.  It does seem that much of her recognition of people is erased.  Closer observations reveal that Betty Hardy is the same godly, servant and prayer warrior that she has always been.  She praises the Lord continually.  She prays for her family and her church.  She cannot stop because it is in her DNA to be a woman of noble character.  As she has thought Miss Betty has become.

Memory is an amazing and mysterious commodity.  It serves us as we serve it and choose to feed it.  It is a tool to help shape who we are and affirm what we could yet become.  Choose well and feed it good things, often.  After years of practice it can change the DNA of your soul so that if your hard drive was erased the reality of who you have become is still with us.  This may be a genuine insurance policy against loss.

Ed Litton

Be Foundational

I have been facing some foundation problems in my house.  It seems over time, roots from big trees, water running in the wrong direction, poorly laid footers can all conspire to bring a house down.  Home ownership is work, vigilant work and sometimes expensive.  I first became aware of this problem with a door that began sticking.  Another would not lock without effort and then a crack in the garage floor and finally in a bedroom wall.  The remedy was to hire a foundation repair company who dug deep below the slab and poured new footers.  Fixed.

Today, Kathy and I have received yet another news flash about a young pastor who has been exposed.  His sexual sin has spilled over the banks and is flooding the lives of his family, his church and a much larger community of friends and admirers.  With pain and tears we heard the news.  We are dealing with this kind of revelation in our church also.  The erosion of good character which is the strength of family life appears to be everywhere we look.  Our hearts are breaking.  Neither of us is shocked in the sense that we cannot fathom it.  We have a well-formed doctrine of human depravity.  We are all sinners and every strand of our DNA is infected.

I have to believe that the problem is foundational.

There are many who will be tempted to think that this is a problem in which education is blamed and called upon to cure.  Frankly, that is stupid because it ignores my depravity.  Education brings something to the table but the problem is more foundational.

David asked a powerful question in the Eleventh Psalm. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  If there is no foundation then all our work to build a life, marriage, family, culture, and church will be doomed.  Without a foundation or an infrastructure, society cannot exist or make significant progress.  America must come to terms with an aging infrastructure in its highway system and bridge works, our buildings and even our form of government.  Nothing in this world will escape Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynics.  Everything moves to disorder not order.  Things do not survive without a solid foundation built and repaired from time to time.

I think that we are experiencing a tidal-wave of sexual ethical failure because the foundations are crumbling or have never been installed.  We may be witnessing the absence of a foundation in a generation that has been deprived of something they do not even realize is missing.  A foundation of truth.  Truth is a rock solid core to build your life upon.

I am not suggesting that we do not know that our sexual behavior is sinful but it has become so compulsive, so privatized and narcissistic  that we are willing to take gigantic risk to satisfy these urges.  The foundation of truth is missing or severely in decay.  In the absence of truth I am left with no other option but to declare myself the truth.  I live to please me and whatever impulse I may at any moment experience.

The greater American culture with its years of sexual revolution is the environmental pressure that speeds the process of decay.  Each technological advancement sets us up to new ways to hide or access our sinful pleasure.  Lets just be frank, the revolution is over and we lost.  We now live under a new order.  Biblical ideas of truth that guide sexual morals and behavior are gone and our churches cling to a nostalgic recollection of the old order instead of bold gospel foundation building.  This decaying foundation is causing many of the greater aspects of society, like family and marriage to fall under the pressures of life.  With family and marriage goes child health, safety, economic soundness, crime, poverty and a host of other serious problems that effect a great many.

Please tell me you have an answer?

In 1829 a young West Point graduate received his first engineering assignment.  There was nothing glamourous about going to Cockspur Island in the mouth of the Savanah River in Georgia and build a fort for the U.S. Army.  Yet the inexperienced lieutenant began the tedious work of preparation.  He surveyed, sized up the quality of dirt, measured, mapped and ordered men and materials.  Work continued through the hot and humid days of summer in the deep South.  Storms battered and threatened to undo all of the work accomplished.  On several occasions Washington threatened to kill the project, yet the young lieutenant kept at it.  The digging began in earnest and the foundation for the foundation was driven deep into the island.  The young lieutenant would soon be taken away for another assignment.

Before he left, the brick, mortar, labor and materials for the fort would arrive.  Everything now was done to make this fort sustainable.  The Army Corp of Engineers would need Lieutenant Robert E. Lee elsewhere but the foundation he laid for Fort Pulaski was a work of art.  If you visit Fort Pulaski today you can touch the brick walls, walk on the brick pavement.  You can march on the yard in the fort, stand on its parapets and lean on its canons.  It is a historic site of a battle of the Civil War.  One thing you will not find at Fort Pulaski is a crack in the wall.  Why?  Because the foundation is good.  If the foundation is good the righteous have great things they can do.

With every painful revelation of yet another Christian falling into sexual sin, another leader being exposed, the gospel suffers.  Our ability to defend truth is at greater risk.  Good walls that allow civil society to exist are broken down.  I do not know the answer to David’s question.  Maybe it is the kind of question that the lack of answer is the obvious point.  There is little to do when the foundations crumble.  One thing I know is that many suffer for the want of a solid foundation and many are blessed by a solid foundation and don’t even know it.  Another interpretation of David’s question suggest that it could read this way.  “When the foundations are destroyed, the righteous must do something!”

Be Foundational in both your private and public life.  As far as God is concerned they are always one and the same.  Roll up our sleeves and dig deep into the lives of one another and lay the foundation of Jesus Christ.

Ed Litton

Did You Know?   In 1736 John & Charles Wesley landed on Cockspur Island to begin their mission work in Georgia.

On The Road Again

Everyone is going somewhere.  We take roads, backroads, highways, we take to the skys, trail and well-worn paths.  Sometimes we know exactly where we are going while at other times, the trail seems to wind and turn as if taking us.  All of life is a journey.  Often we think we are going to a place and the destination seems important.  We are sure of the path we have taken or the destiny.  At other times we walk with great uncertainty because the path seems unfamiliar or strange to us.

Sometimes what takes place on the journey is more significant than the destination.  Life altering events or encounters take place and change more than our perspective it changes our lives.  There are two such encounters in scripture.  One is found in the story of Nathan the prophet confronting David the king.  The other after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

When Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up in which one of David’s most loyal friends, Urriah, who happened to be Bathsheba’s husband, was killed.  David appears in the pubic eye to be a magnanimous leader who steps into the life of a grieving widow and shows kindness.  In fact this event was treacherous deception.  Nathan goes before the king and confronts him with a story.  The story is my focus.  A traveler came to a rich man’s house.  The rich man had plenty of material goods to satisfy the ancient Eastern customs of hospitality.  However, he steals the only little lamb of his poorer neighbor and feeds the hungry traveler.

David is outraged and orders the man’s execution.  David’s rage seals his own fate.  The prophet confronts and reveals the sin and repentance ensues.  The question is, who was the hungry traveler?  Now, admittedly, most would think that this unnamed man is not the most important element of Nathan’s story, however, he matters because he represents a passing thought that we take into our hearts and entertain.  His though is of selfish desire.  He is the passing thought of lust that we invite in, feed, and nurture.  This stranger is devastating if we entertain him.  Amazingly, he comes, creates a disaster and then disappears into thin air.

Now fast forward to another journey.  In the tragic hours following the death of Jesus, some of his lesser known followers where making the seven mile journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  A stranger caught up with them.  They entertained him along the road.  The stranger is nosey and asked what they where discussing.  They stopped in their tracks amazed that a man walking the same direction, from the same place would not know what had just taken place in the city.  Jesus began with the prophets and held these two travelers spell-bound as he explained God’s redemption plan from the beginning.  Later at dinner he opened their eyes and they realized the identity of the stranger and then he disappeared.

On the road of this life, we need to think about the strangers with whom we meet.  We need to examine the passing thoughts that cross our minds because they can and do either destroy us or transform us.  Your thought life is critical to your spiritual development.  What are you entertaining in your thinking life?  What doubts and fears are you dwelling upon?  What thought amuses you, captivates you and tantalizes you?  Where will it take you if you keep feeding it?

Stop being lazy about the thought you let rest in your minds.  It is time for virile mental exercise.  Bring every thought into submission to Jesus.  I know that this may sound simplistic but it is true that what you choose to think about is a choice of your destiny.  Your thought companions determine not just where you go but the quality of the journey you are traveling.  Read books that stretch you to think greater thoughts.  Walk with people who challenge you to think.

We glorify God with our all our heart with all our strength and with all our mind.  Thoughts come and they disappear but what we do with them makes all the difference.

Ed LItton

Longing for Greatness

At the Last Supper, as recorded in Luke 22, the Disciples of Jesus are listening to their Lord describe how the gospel was transforming the Passover into the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus then tells them that he would be handed over to die and they speculated which of them would do such a thing.   That painful display of hubris break out into a bigger discussion about which of them would be the greatest.  This seems, at best, a pornographic display of human ego.  Yet, Jesus takes the time to address their misunderstandings concerning human greatness.  At the moment he could have used comfort, encouragement and the prayers of his friends he is having to re-instruct them about the meaning of true greatness.

What he says is fascinating.  He reminds them that in His kingdom the measure of greatness will be different.  Jesus contrasts little lords exercising authority over others and servants who serve others as if they are greater than themselves.  Jesus then says something surprising in verses twenty-nine and thirty:  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Jesus tells his disciples that one day they will rule and reign in his Kingdom.  It is abundantly clear that they will rule and reign like servants but make no mistake they will rule and reign.  This is a reminder that our desire for greatness is not at all wrong.  God made us for greatness.  It is however, often a matter of timing.  Our first duty is to be servants and learn the value system of our Lord.  No one hesitates to follow a servant king.

King David inspired men to follow him.  Second Samuel twenty three records the exploits not of David but of his mighty men.  It list three of the greatest and why they where considered great.  Then it list thirty who did great and mighty deeds out of love and devotion to their king.  They where not dishonored to be considered his servants.  Not one of the men listed would consider rising up against their king.  They where loyal and risked their lives for him.  Only one is mentioned to whom David was unfaithful, Uriah the Hittite.

The longing for greatness is real and Jesus does not condemn it.  He satisfies it.  Never in terms we arrange but by his terms and in his time.  Desire greatness humbly.  Be willing to fight the good fight.  Be willing to go to a dangerous place to draw water for your king.  He will not guzzle it in front of you but will pour it out to God in honor your faithfulness.  Jesus will never be unfaithful to you.  As a matter of fact, the Son of David is more faithful than David ever thought to be.  He would not send Uriah to the front line to cover up a shameful sin.  He ran to the front line to bear our shameful sins.  He was crushed for our iniquities and by his stripes we are healed.  Maybe the greatness you long for is to give yourself for the worthy king who first gave himself for you.

There are longings in this man’s heart that I often think will out live my living and I will never experience in this life.  Sadness will try to seize me at moments like this.  Then I remember the words of Clive Staples Lewis in Mere Christianity.  “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Indeed.  Until then, in our very real now, we have much serving, loving, fighting and winning to do for the King who gave it all for us.

Ed Litton

Nursing an Offense

When I was very young I remember living in Williamsburg, Virginia while my father was stationed nearby in the U.S. Navy.  We loved Williamsburg in those days.  We lived a few blocks from the restored area of the historic Williamsburg.  I have a memory of going grocery shopping with my mother and seeing a man walking with his pet on a leash.  He came into the store with his pet, which was odd enough.  The pet on the leash caused everyone to stop in their tracks and pay attention.  At first people just gawked, then some brave or childish soul like myself ran over to pet his pet.

The man’s pet was a lion cub.  He treated the cub like it was a kitty cat or a small dog or his own child.  He took him everywhere.  He went on long walks through the neighborhood.  He cuddled it, fed it, and protected it against anyone who would suggest he shouldn’t think he could domesticate something so wild and hardwired to kill.  Yet he was undaunted and rebuffed any suggestion of danger to himself or others.  He could often be heard defensively saying, “You do not understand, I know what I am doing.”

As you can imagine the lion cub became a full grown lion.  He did not take him out as often because people did not respond to it as when it was a cute cub.  His relationships with neighbors became strained out of their fears or common sense, which the man seemed to have abandoned long ago.  Then it happened, the lion, for the exact reasons, no one will ever know, turned on the man and attacked him.  The mauling was so severe it would ultimately cost the man his life.

When we get hurt or offended in the Christian life, and we do, some more often than others, we are all in danger of nursing our offense.  An offense is a wild beast that was never meant to be tamed.  It is one thing to see it in the wild but it is another to take it home and nurse it to health, take it on long walks, nurture it until it is full grown.  That offense which is so alluring as a cub will become a wild beast that will consume you.  It is not a matter of if but when.

Lets be completely honest.  We are all too easily offended.  Especially when we have unresolved offenses in the past that we refuse to confront.  Some of us have a pride of not so cute lions in our hearts.  We become a slave to their ravenous appetites.  This is not going to end well apart from the grace of God to confront our unforgiving hearts and seek grace to release the offender and the offense.  Let God’s word be a stern wake-up call to you today.  Hebrews 12:15 says: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. (NIV)

Ed Litton


Frank Viola has written two outstanding articles on being offended with God and others.

http://frankviola.org/2012/02/27/theforgottenbeatitude/

http://frankviola.org/2012/03/07/forgottenbeatitude2

America’s Secret Weapon

 If you live or grew up in or around the town of McKeesport Pennsylvania you probably did not pay much attention to an aging owner of a local air conditioning and plumbing business. He looked pretty much like other men of his generation. Working a lot, loving his family and attending the Lutheran church down the street. A pleasant man who talked little about his past. Like so many World War II veterans who do not consider themselves heros just lucky to have survived. Yet, Glenn Rojohn has a story and amazing story you need to hear.
Captain Glenn Rojohn flew a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber in the 8th Air Force’s 100th Bomb Group. On December 31, 1944 he was flying in formation to bomb targets in Hamburg, Germany. They braved heavy flak to reach their target and released their payload. They then turned 180 degrees to head out over the North Sea to their base in England. That is when they were attacked by a squad of German Messerschmitt’s. At 22,000 feet mayhem was the order of the day. The Germans were so close, Glenn could see the faces of the pilots. Suddenly the A B-17 ahead of him burst into flames and drooped off toward the earth. Rojohn gunned it to move into the position of the fallen plane. That is when he felt the impact. The entire plan shuttered as Rojohn realized that he had collided with another plane below him also moving to take the lead.
The other plane was piloted by Lt. William G. McNab. It slammed into
Rojohn’s A B-17 in such a way that neither planes wings or tail was
damaged. The strange part of the story was that the ball turret broke
through the fuselage of McNapp’s plane and his top turret was now
locked in the belly of Rojohn’s plane. They were stuck together
piggybacking across the sky. Glenn could feel the massive weight of
both planes begin to pull him out of the air. Three of McNapp’s
engines continued to run while all four of Rojohn’s engines continued
running although fire is now breaking out onboard both planes.

The the next few panic filled seconds men on board fought to free their friends stuck in the gun turrets. Pilots and copilots fought with their controls. Men who had just months before been farm-boys, soda jerks, students and lifeguards were not falling from 20,000 feet in the midst of explosions, confusion and certain death. Rojohn ordered his crew to jump. McNapps plane was already jumping out. As the two planes, mated together lumber toward the German countryside, Rojohn and his copilot stay at the controls. The earth is moving fast toward them. All of this does not escape the notice of people on the ground. One German manning an anti-aircraft gun stopped firing as he watched in amazement only to record the event in his report for the day. On the ground many wondered if this was a new American secret weapon.

The crew watched while floating to the earth as the two planes
separated just above the ground. Rojohn’s plane pushes slightly upward
and crash lands hitting a wooden structure. His cockpit breaks away
and amazingly he and his copilot survive with little injury. Bill Leek
was Glenn’s copilot. He unstraps his safely harness and steps out of
the broken plane, takes out a cigarette and starts to light up with a
shaky hand, when he saw a rather frustrated German soldier with a gun
pointed at him. The soldier was yelling at him to stop. Bill lifted
his hands with cigarette in one and lighter in the other. The excited
soldier motioned downward and Bill could see that he was standing in a pool of aviation fuel.

Amazingly only two of the six men who jumped from Rojohn’s plane did
not survive. Four men from the other plane did survive including the
turret gunners. They were all taken prisoners and interrogated at
length by the Germans until they were satisfied that they were not
flying a new American secret weapon. Glenn Rojohn did not talk much
about his Distinguished Flying Cross or his Purple Heart he received
for that day. Nor would he ever take credit for the amazing events of
that day. Instead like so many other veterans he credited his comrades
and the bravery of those who did not get to come home.

The Germans got it right, we had a secret weapon flying over the snowy
hillsides of Germany that day. It was not an eight engine double
hulled A B-17. It was the secret weapon of American men, forced into
service by a war not of their own making, toughened by a childhood of
want, strengthened by a terrible resolve and filled with a longing to
go home. Our secret weapon was and still is the heart of the American
soldier.

Captain Glenn Rojohn, AAF, died a few years ago. Let us give thanks
for men like this.

*Published earlier on my older blog.
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