Embrace His Grace


Christian Martyrs


Simple, Direct, Encouraging and Inspiring! The people characterized here will offer a sincere, heartfelt reminder of the God-given inner devotion, not the outer decoration, that makes our lives a testimonial to His Power and Grace.



Shannon Spann

Shannon Spann says that she is "blessed" and "grateful."

Those words are not what the world might expect to hear from the young widow of Mike Spann, the first American killed by the enemy during the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. But in Mikeís honor and in Godís grace, Mrs. Spann has found hope.

"There are times," she says, "when I just lie on the floor and say, ĎGod, why did this have to be part of Your plan?í I miss my husband so much.

"I donít want to have to do it this way. But certainly, measure by measure, God is the One who gives me the strength and the ability to say, ĎItís not how I would have done it, but Iím so glad that You have a broader plan.í I know that Godís wisdom is much greater than mine.

"I also know that Mike would have been pleased to offer his life for one person to make the decision to spend eternity in heaven. So if even one person hears his story and makes that decision, then it truly is worth it."

The Spanns were a family so young that they had never sat for a family portrait. Mike spent only two months with their baby son, Jake, before leaving in October for Afghanistan. Mike, who formerly served with the U.S. Marine Corps, was part of an elite paramilitary team preparing the way for the U.S. military campaign.

The Spanns both worked for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and for two months after Mike was in Afghanistan, everything went smoothly.

Mike would call home periodically to check on Shannon and Jake, and on his daughters, Alison and Emily, from a previous marriage.

The last time that Mike talked with them was at Thanksgiving. He mentioned then the influx of prisoners coming into Mazar-e Sharif, the city where he was to interview the prisoners. That Saturday night, which in Afghanistan would have been Sunday morning, November 25, Shannon said that she prayed, "God, protect Mike from having to see too much craziness today."

In her journal she has marked that as an answered prayer. The hour that she prayed was approximately the hour that Mike was killed during a terrible prison revolt that erupted as he was questioning the captured and surrendered Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters.

"It gave me a little blessing," she said, "to know that perhaps God had honored my prayer in that Mike wasnít tortured. He didnít suffer. His death was quick. God preserved him, and perhaps in some way I participated in that through prayer."

With that faith and discernment, Shannon Spann wants to fulfill the mission that Mike had. Even with her doubled responsibility as a parent, she hopes to continue her career with the CIA. For her, the war on evil has now taken on a different dimension and a greater urgency.

"I donít think anything focuses your mind on eternity more than losing someone you love," she said. "Lately Iíve been reading a lot about heaven, and it has helped me focus on the reality of eternity. At the same time there is--equally real--an eternity separated from God and separated from loved ones. To consider there are people who will choose not to follow God and be separated from those they love, and be completely separated from the One who loves them most--itís just chilling to consider that reality."

So she counts it as a blessing that "God has had mercy on me to be put in a situation to help prevent someone from being separated from God for eternity."

Thatís why, in Gainesville, Florida, the North Central Florida Festival 2002 With Franklin Graham, Shannon Spann appealed to the crowd of nearly 10,000. She challenged those who wonder if God is real. "Stop wondering," she said. "Listen to the music. Listen to people who are here to tell you about Godís love."

Then addressing the believers, she said, "Can I ask a favor of those of you who are Christians? When I heard the news that Mike was missing, I prayed that somehow God would give me something each day that would be for eternal value. Will you join me in praying that prayer? Ask God to make our lives count for eternity."

She paused. "One last thing," she said. "This world is not our home. Since we are Ďfamilyí here, if you happen to go Home before I do, find my best friend and tell him that I love him."

©2002 Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Making Our Lives Count for Eternity
by Tom Layton




Audie Murphy
    He wanted to join the Marines, but he was too short. The paratroopers wouldn't have him either. Reluctantly, he settled on the infantry, enlisting to become nothing less than one of the most-decorated heroes of World War II. He was Audie Murphy, the baby-faced Texas farmboy who became an American Legend. Murphy grew up on a sharecropper's farm in Hunt County, Texas. Left at a very young age to help raise 10 brothers and sisters when his father deserted their mother, Audie was only 16 when his mother died. He watched as his brothers and sisters were doled out to an orphanage or to relatives.
    Seeking an escape from that life in 1942, he looked to the Marines. War had just been declared and, like so many other young men, Murphy lied about his age in his attempt to enlist. But it was not his age that kept him out of the Marines; it was his size. Not tall enough to meet the minimum requirements, he tried to enlist in the paratroopers, but again was denied entrance. Despondent, he chose the infantry.
    Following basic training Murphy was assigned to the 15th Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division in North Africa preparing to invade Sicily. It was there in 1943 that he first saw combat, proving himself to be a proficient marksman and highly skilled soldier, consistently his performance demonstrated how well he understood the techniques of small-unit action. He landed at Salerno to fight in the Voltuno river campaign and then at Anzio to be part of the Allied force that fought its way to Rome. Throughout these campaigns, Murphy's skills earned him advancements in rank, because many of his superior officers were being transferred, wounded or killed. After the capture of Rome, Murphy earned his first decoration for gallantry.
    Shortly thereafter his unit was withdrawn from Italy to train for Operation Anvil-Dragoon, the invasion of southern France. During seven weeks of fighting in that successful campaign, Murphy's division suffered 4,500 casualties, and he became one of the most decorated men in his company. But his biggest test was yet to come.
    On Jan. 26, 1945, near the village of Holtzwihr in eastern France, Lt. Murphy's forward positions came under fierce attack by the Germans. Against the onslaught of six Panzer tanks and 250 infantrymen, Murphy ordered his men to fall back to better their defenses. Alone, he mounted an abandoned burning tank destroyer and, with a single machine gun, contested the enemy's advance. Wounded in the leg during the heavy fire, Murphy remained there for nearly an hour, repelling the attack of German soldiers on three side and single-handedly killing 50 of them. His courageous performance stalled the German advance and allowed him to lead his men in the counterattack which ultimately drove the enemy from Holtzwihr. For this Murphy was awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for gallantry in action.
    By the war's end, Murphy had become the nation's most-decorated soldier, earning an unparalleled 28 medals, including three from France and one from Belgium. Murphy had been wounded three times during the war, yet, in May 1945, when victory was declared in Europe, he had still not reached his 21st birthday.
    Audie Murphy returned to a hero's welcome in the United States. His photograph appeared on the cover of Life magazine and he was persuaded by actor James Cagney to embark on an acting career. Still very shy and unassuming, Murphy arrived in Hollywood with only his good looks and ó by his own account ó "no talent." Nevertheless, he went on to make more than 40 films. His first part was just a small one in Beyond Glory in 1948. The following year he published his wartime memoirs, To Hell and Back, which received good reviews. Later he portrayed himself in the 1955 movie version of the book. Many film critics, however, believe his best performance was in Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane's Civil War epic.
    After nearly 20 years he retired from acting and started a career in private business. But the venture was unsuccessful, eventually forcing him into bankruptcy in 1968. Murphy, who once said that he could only sleep with a loaded pistol under his pillow, was haunted by nightmares of his wartime experiences throughout his adult life. In 1971, at the age of 46, he died in the crash of a private plane near Roanoke, Va.
    Audie Murphy is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, just across Memorial Drive from the Memorial Amphitheater. A special flagstone walkway has been constructed to accommodate the large number of people who stop to pay their respects to this hero. At the end of a row of graves, his tomb is marked by a simple, white, government-issue tombstone, which lists only a few of his many military decorations. The stone is, as he was, too small.





    Job knew nothing about Satan's challenge to God and had no idea that the enemy was using him as a reason for slandering the Lord. Neither did Job know that God would use his sufferings to defeat Satan. God's people are soldiers on the battlefield, but there are times when they are the battlefield!

    If you obey God only because He blesses you, the shallowness of your faith will show up in the testing time. Faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted.

    When Satan accuses you before God (or to yourself), remember that Jesus Christ is your defending Advocate in heaven; turn your case over to Him.


                             The Trials of Job

    If you feel your sufferings are beyond what anybody else has experienced, consider Job's trials. He lost all his possessions, all his animals, all his servants, and all 10 of his children were killed at once (1:13-19). He was shot at like an enemy (6:4; 16:12-13), hunted like a wild animal (10:16), covered by darkness (19:8), uprooted like a tree (19:10), and put into a furnace (23:10). His wife discouraged him, his three friends attacked him and the Lord seemed to abandon him. However, the greatest example of endurance in suffering is the Lord Jesus. He was forsaken even by The Father and suffered the shameful death of the cross. He was made sin for us, yet He was sinless. There was no cause of suffering or death in Him, yet He willingly yielded to the Father's will. He endured, He conquered, and we can conquer in and through Him. Job's suffering makes it clear that God is worthy of our obedience--no matter what 'profit' or 'loss' may come from obeying Him. God is not obligated to make the righteous healthy and rich or the wicked sick and poor. Our Lord's death and resurrection make it possible for God to transform our suffering into glory, not simply replace it with glory. Job's suffering was replaced with earthly glory, but the believer's suffering will be transformed into heavenly glory. Therefore, our sufferings are not in vain, for the Lord is working out His glorious purposes.



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