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James von Moltke came from a long line of German warriors and soldiers. For two centuries the name Moltke resounded proudly in the history of the Prussians and Germans. But James would serve a different fate. He was just as brave and just as devoted but his devotions were to Jesus Christ and His Word and it would put him at odds with the Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler.

The gathering political storm clouds of the 1930s confronted the best Germans with a painful decision--to flee or to stay. Many like scientist Albert Einstein, novelist Thomas Mann, and architect van der Rohe took refuge abroad. Others stayed and wondered how much tyranny they would accept and how much they would resist. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, James von Moltke, who was twenty-six when Hitler came to power, could easily have gone abroad. He nearly did but when the war broke out in 1939, he decided to stay. His name and character made him a natural rallying point for resisters to the regime.

Trained in international law, Moltke was drafted into the German military intelligence; little realizing that it was to be the center of anti-Nazi resistance. He used his job overtly to try and curb the Nazis with the restraint of international law. But covertly was where he had his greatest powers. He dedicated himself to countering the deportation and murder of Jews and the execution of captured soldiers. One of his greatest accomplishments took place in 1943 when he helped to save the lives of thousands of Jews in Denmark.

He ended up getting caught and going to a secret trial in January 1945 in the notorious "People's Court" presided over by the vicious prosecutor Roland Freisler. It was a travesty of a trial and he along with seven others was condemned to die.

In a final letter to his wife some of the words that were written are particularly moving:

"Now there is still a hard bit of the road ahead for me...For what a mighty task your husband was chosen: all the trouble the Lord took with him, the infinite detours, the intricate zigzag curves, all suddenly find their explanation in one hour..."

Just a few months later, before the end of the war, he was executed.

More often than not, it is the desperate places that seem to bring out the best in men...It also has the great potential to pull the greatest out of God's saints if we will allow it to be.

(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, Desperate Places, 8/6/2010)

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