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WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin Discusses "Reading the Signs"

WRF Board Chairman Rick Perrin Discusses "Reading the Signs"

Interpreting The Signs – Both in the Present and in the Future

by WRF Board Chairman, Dr. Rick Perrin 

It happened more than two generations now.  But we must remember as if it were tomorrow.

On the last day of August, 1939 Adolf Hitler issued a final ultimatum to Poland.  It was a sham.  Before the Poles could even reply, in the wee hours of the morning of September 1, German dive bombers swept the Polish skies, their guns blazing, their torpedoes blasting.  A million and a half mechanized German troops rolled across the border.  They were met by a brave Polish defense, much of it still dependent on horse drawn contrivances.  The Poles were no match.

On September 3, the British honored their defensive pact with Poland and half-heartedly declared war against Germany.  That afternoon the French did the same.  No bands played, no grand displays of flying flags lined the streets of London or of Paris.  Those countries were led by men tainted by the poison of appeasement.  Government ministers and military men alike were deadly weary of war and its slaughter, the losses of just twenty-one years prior still burned fresh in their hearts.

Across the United Kingdom, the citizens too were unenthusiastic.  They might have gotten up some spirit to defend Spain back in 1936, but Bolshevism was not a popular ally.  They might have been roused to defend the Czechs in 1938, but Prime Minister Chamberlain had handed Prague to the Nazis without protest.  The Poles were not sympathetic victims in 1939.  Not much of an excuse to shed British blood.  And in France, another go at Germany after a successful German invasion in each of the two previous generations had left them weary and leery of renewed conflict.

Yet, wanted or not, war was upon them.  On September 17, The Soviet Union, alarmed at the German advances, moved to cut it short.  Stalin declared war on Poland and invaded that unhappy land from the east.   Then came the winter of 1939-40.  As icy winds slashed across the conquered Polish plains, nothing much seemed to happen.  The press began calling it “the Phony War.”  Much happier to believe it had not really happened at all.

Across the Atlantic, America hardly noticed.  The United States had rescued Europe in 1918 and we were not interested in doing it again.  The 1940 model cars were being breathlessly introduced by the Detroit automakers.  The whiff of the longed-for economic recovery was in the air following the double dip depression of 1937.  Those few who understood the Nazi threat railed against the wind.  The American public didn’t really care, consumed as they were with life as usual.  For fifteen months America barely stirred as German troops goose-stepped through the streets of Paris and Britain hung on for its life through the blitz. 

But it was coming.  It is amazing how difficult it is to foresee what in retrospect seems so inevitable.  Who could envision a time in which virtually every young American male would dress in olive-drab khaki, and every industry in the country would shift to a war footing?  No one imagined that automobiles would be put up on blocks for want of rubber tires or gasoline to run them.  Or that sugar would be rationed.  Or that tens of thousands of American boys would die in Africa and Europe and in the jungles of the Pacific.  Seventy-five years ago all of that remained hidden from view .

This should not surprise us.  The Bible says, “Man does not know his time: like fish caught in a treacherous net, and birds trapped in a snare, so the sons of men are ensnared at an evil time when it suddenly falls on them.” (Ecclesiastes 9:12)  Perhaps it is a good thing that we cannot know the future as God does.  Our hearts might well melt from fear.

The “if onlys”  are hard to spot looking forward.  What might be prevented in the future is only seen by looking backward.  We might conjecture of what could be prevented if we cared now to act against the Muslim threat or the Russian resurgence.    Or if we rigorously demanded truth instead of the easy lies that emanate from our leaders.  But we can only deal with the present as it comes.  However, as our days pass it is wise to seek the high wisdom that comes to us from the One who sees the future as clearly as we see the past. 

His word says, “This is the way.  Walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Dr. Rick Perrin is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and Chairman of the Board of World Reformed Fellowship..  He writes a weekly blog called ReTHINK which may be accessed at He may be contacted directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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