By Mark Ellis
The following is excerpted from a sermon delivered November 27, 2011 at Church by the Sea in Laguna Beach. The assigned passage is Ecclesiastes 9:13-18.
The Book of Ecclesiastes contains a very important message: Life is ultimately meaningless without God. When you place God at the center of your life, you find meaning and purpose you never knew before.
Before I became a Christian I had no purpose other than to live for me, myself and I – the unholy trinity. I would never have guessed in my twenties or even my thirties that I would become a pastor and that my life’s great purpose today would be to advance Christian missions around the world.
And I’m sure that many of you have found a whole new purpose in life since you began to follow Jesus.
Col. George Russell Barber, 1914-2004
By Mark Ellis
He was the only man on his landing craft to come ashore at Omaha Beach with no “visible” weapons to protect himself. But that didn’t stop this chaplain from being the first man out of his boat.
Col. Russell Barber
“I had the sword of the Spirit,” said Lt. Col. George Russell Barber, USAF (Ret.), who started his career with the horse cavalry along the Mexican border before World War II. “We were all afraid,” said Col. Barber, as the men came ashore June 6, 1944, amidst a hail of bullets and fiery explosions. “If a man says he’s not afraid, he’s lying—but we had our faith.”
My last visit with Colonel Barber was six months before his passing. He wanted to attend the dedication of the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. on May 29, 2004, but health concerns kept him away. Although the strength in his legs was failing, his mind was sharp and his grip still strong.
He served his country in four wars, and one of his most powerful memories was the D-Day invasion on Omaha Beach. “On the Sunday before D-Day I held services on 11 different ships in Weymouth Harbor for thousands and thousands of soldiers,” he said. “I gave away a lot of pocket Gideon’s Bibles–there are no atheists in foxholes.”
On the fateful morning of the invasion, he went over the side of his ship on a rope ladder into a flat-bottomed landing craft that held 30 soldiers.