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Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are 1st Thessalonians 5:2-11 where St. Paul writes,

For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.


Morale soared that day. It was a day of failure, but it was a day when those who were rotting in one of the worst prisons in Vietnam suddenly realized that they had not been forgotten. They were indeed on the hearts and minds of those in power and their “band of brothers” in arms were dedicated to come and get them. The mission was called “Operation Ivory Coast,” and it was launched on November 21, 1970.

It was one of the most dangerous—and revered—missions of the Vietnam War, attempting to rescue 65 American POWs held at North Vietnam’s notorious SonTay prison. A 116 plane air unit, composed of fighters, gunships and helicopters, flew hundreds of miles over mountainous territory at treetop level to the prison camp—just 23 miles from Hanoi, then one of the most heavily defended areas in North Vietnam. As the assault force attacked the camp during a hard fought battle—killing more than 100 North Vietnamese guards in the process—the raiders discovered that the prisoners had been moved, and they were forced to return empty-handed. Yet when the POWS learned of the attempt, morale soared. According to one report, the POWs no longer felt abandoned or forgotten.[1]

It must have been virtually impossible to maintain hope in places like Son Tay or the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp. The prisoners were underfed, they were brutalized, and the propaganda told them they had been abandoned. It’s amazing the kind of hope that was instilled on the day of the raid, and for days thereafter, just because people had tried to rescue them. The Apostle Paul reminds us today, especially if we are struggling with what’s happening in our lives or what’s going on here in this world, to take a lesson from the engendered hopefulness of those prisoners from Son Tay. While they were not rescued (they had been moved two miles away because of Son Tay’s flooding due to torrential rain earlier that week), they knew that their “brothers in arms” would come again.  Later, they named the camp to which they were moved “Camp Faith” because they knew those Green Berets would not leave them behind.

If we are tempted to believe that God has somehow abandoned us, we need to remember that our hopefulness is built on something much more solid than the bravest efforts of even our best “special forces.” As the hymn writer Edward Mote put it, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” Our hope is built on the efforts of a Savior who journeyed into the abyss of hell itself so that we might be rescued from eternal death and granted eternal life.

Elections do have consequences and we are living amidst those consequences at this moment. But we need to be reminded that whatever we face in this world, the ultimate “election” has already taken place. Those who put their faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ have hope that is rooted not just in the rescue attempts of fellow warriors, but in the assured victory of our eternal rescue by the cross and resurrection of our Savior. In today’s reading, Paul reminds the believers of Thessalonica, as he reminds all those in Christ, that God has destined us “to obtain salvation.” And even though Jesus’ return will come upon us like a “thief in the night,” it will be a day of great joy for those who are energetically waiting for His return. Comfort each other with these words!

PRAYER – Dear Lord Jesus, we sometimes get caught up in the so-called realities of this world and act as if they matter most, as if they will last. Give us, instead, hopeful hearts in Your sure return, as well as active hands for the work to be done in Your name while we wait. AMEN.



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