I’m off to the movies this week. The much awaited movie Dunkirk opens July 21 and is the action-packed retelling of the saving of close to 400,000 soldiers off the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940.
Maybe not your “cup o’ tea”?! You’re into romantic comedies. Okay.
“But if not.”
Let me tell you a story of Dunkirk that you won’t see in the movie.
When you read the phrase, “but if not”, what immediately comes to mind?
In late May of 1940, a British Naval officer called those three simple words to Head Quarters in London. He had witnessed the carnage on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. The British Expeditionary Force of 350,000 soldiers were trapped on the beaches with their backs to the sea. The German forces had the capacity to wipe out Britain’s army.
“But if not” was sent home and these words were instantly recognizable to the officers in HQ who spent the first 18 years of life in schools that hosted Bible reading in 30 minute chapel services every day. My dad (a Brit) remembers daily chapel. I imagine the naval officer who sent the quick cryptic message knew it would put a smile on Winston Churchill’s face. He knew his Bible.
British children were taught Bible stories to help mold their values and behavior. Biblical metaphors are scattered throughout English literature. Only a full understanding of the Bible and its imagery allows you to see the clues to understand some of the finest poems, prose and plays ever written in the English language. And when you are young and you have a “steel trap” for a mind, you remember the stories!
Just three words, but the full message was completely understood. The British officers’ serving in HQ knew the naval officer was referring to the story in the book of Daniel. The message harkened back to Daniel 3:17-18 in the King James Version:
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O King. But if not, let it be known unto thee, O King, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
Three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, stood before a fiery furnace and were resolved to obey God whether or not God chose to save them. They courageously chose to face the furnace rather than disobey God’s Commandments.
THREE LESSONS OF DUNKIRK
Three words — both the modest English folk in fishing ports with Sunday school lessons planted in their minds and British officers with proper English private school education alike knew the situation was dire. Their boys were suffering the chaos and carnage of the “fiery furnace” of battle on the beaches and it was desperate. The allied forces were trapped. It would take a miracle to save them. But they would not give up and give in to their enemy. Just three words communicated all of that.
Three words, three young men, and over 300,000 soldiers were saved. Three words launched Operation Dynamo. The Axis powers hesitated, and so between May 27 and June 4, 1940, British fishing boats left their ports in Southern England, evacuating 338,000 British soldiers off of the beaches of Dunkirk.
The British Expeditionary Force was saved for another day of battle.
The obvious question: if our military officers were to receive the same message TODAY — “but if not” — would they have any clue what it actually meant? Would Operation Dynamo ever have been launched? Would thousands of soldiers been rescued and brought to safety? I think not. Why?
FROM DUNKIRK TO BIBLE LITERACY
There is a Bible literacy crisis in Canada. The church is beginning to discover the full scope of the problem. In a recent survey of Christians completed by the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), they discovered that evangelicals are not reading their scriptures as often as we might think.
Last year I met with all of our Fellowship Regional Directors to discuss this issue. There are many things our churches and members could do to address this problem. One way we are seeking to bring this discipleship concern into the spotlight is to launch a Bible Engagement Project, #TheGreatestBook, in your Fellowship church.
#TheGreatestBook – The Fellowship’s Bible Engagement Project
You and your church are invited to join with all other Fellowship Baptist Churches, from November 5-19, 2017, to share in a two-week study of the Bible.
The project will span over three Sundays and will include three studies and 14 daily devotions. This brief Bible engagement study, called #TheGreatestBook is our way of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by rediscovering the wonder of God’s Word. We’ll start our study close to the 500th anniversary (November 5) and finish strong on our Fellowship Day of Prayer (November 19).
A #TheGreatestBook toolbox is available online for all churches to download (click HERE), including sermons and small group studies along with a two-week daily devotional.
As your church participates in the series, we encourage you to connect with us through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@FellowshipNatl) using: #TheGreatestBook to share how this series has impacted you and/or your congregation.
Please put it on your church calendar now… only four months before it begins!
Have a blessed week,