Set Free to Serve

Bible Reading: 1 Peter 1:22-25

1 Thessalonians 1:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

The Word of God is powerful to save and transform lives and is deserving of our continual devotion.  Consider how it worked such a miraculous change in the life of Jacob DeShazer…

Jacob DeShazer was born in Salem, Oregon to devout Christian parents of modest means.  He grew up in Madras.  Following graduation from high school, he spent several years in various farming type of jobs.  In 1940, as a part of a “peace-time conscription” he joined the Army and for a two-year period received training as an airplane mechanic and bombardier.

After Pearl Harbor, plans were undertaken to retaliate by bombing Japan.  General James Doolittle was put in charge of an incredible scheme.  Refitted B25 bombers were to fly off an Aircraft Carrier and make their way over Tokyo.  Jacob DeShazer was on board one of those planes.

After the successful bombing, he and his crewmates parachuted over China. He found his way to a village where he was confronted by soldiers. He didn’t know at first whether they were Chinese or Japanese. It turned out that they were Japanese. He was captured and then repeatedly beaten and tortured. The Japanese intended to put all the “Raiders” to death, but the emperor granted a reprieve, and only three of the “Raiders” were executed.

DeShazer spent 40 months in various Japanese prison camps. The conditions were deplorable. The men were underfed, over disciplined, and subject to extreme temperatures, solitary confinement, and various diseases. Not all of them survived that ordeal.

At one point in his captivity, he was given a Bible—but for only three weeks.  So, there he was, in his little prison cell, in Nanking, China, with nothing but a Bible to read.  The light was dim.  The print was small.  But he devoured the Scriptures.  He read the entire Bible several times.  Six times he read the Prophets. He spent many hours memorizing Scriptures.  Hour after hour, he read, and the Holy Spirit opened his heart. 

The date was June 8th, 1944.  He had been reading Romans 10:9, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”  He responded in faith to the truth.  He later wrote, “My heart was filled with joy.  I wouldn’t have traded places with anyone at that time.  Oh, what a great joy it was to know that I was saved, that God had forgiven me of my sins.”

God saved Jacob and God changed him, too.  He had read Jesus’ command to love, and the description of love given in 1 Corinthians chapter 13.  He knew he needed to obey Christ’s command, but how?  He began to treat the prison guards with kindness.  He would say “Good morning” to them.  He would ask about their families.  Jacob learned how to love his enemies.

His captivity continued for some time after that until the men began to see American planes flying overhead. They sensed that the end of the war was coming soon. DeShazer was Spirit-led to pray for peace on the day of Japan’s surrender. He was also determined, as he was being led by the Spirit, to return to Japan as a missionary once the war ended.

Ultimately, the war ended, and the captives were brought home. His loving regard for his former captives made the news. As one who harbored no bitterness, the account of his captivity was indeed newsworthy. He was triumphantly greeted by his mother and his sister at home. Many colleges were excited about the possibility of having him study for missions with them, but his sister worked at Seattle Pacific College and that is where he ultimately ended up.

He finished his education at Seattle Pacific in three years, instead of four, although he was constantly traveling about for speaking engagements. Many wanted to hear of his story and were blessed by his example and his determination to take the gospel to Japan. After a year at Seattle Pacific, he married his wife. Later, they had a son. And upon their graduation, they left for Japan, where they served in missions for many years.

From his biography: “More than a million tracts concerning the Dolittle raider who turned missionary were distributed throughout Japan. The tract in Japanese contained a blank to be signed by those who would accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Many thousands of these tracts were signed and returned. In view of this, the name DeShazer was known to many of the Japanese people. So it was that on December 28, 1948, when DeShazer and his little family arrived at the Yokohama docks, crowds were waiting to see them. Many were anxious to know the cause of the change of attitude of a man who had been held for so many months by the Japanese in a solitary cell. They could not understand how one’s heart, once filled with animosity, could now overflow with love for his persecutors.”


O what a wonderful, wonderful day
Day I will never forget
After I’d wandered in darkness away
Jesus my Savior I met
O what a tender compassionate friend
He met the need of my heart
Shadows dispelling with joy I am telling
He made all the darkness depart

Chorus: Heaven came down and glory filled my soul
When at the cross the Savior made me whole
My sins were washed away
And my night was turned to day
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul

Born of the Spirit with life from above
Into God’s fam’ly divine
Justified fully through Calvary’s love
O what a standing is mine
And the transaction so quickly was made
When as a sinner I came
Took of the offer of grace
He did proffer He saved me
O praise His dear name (Chorus)

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure
After the passing of time
I have a future in heaven for sure
There in those mansions sublime
And it’s because of that wonderful day
When at the cross I believed
Riches eternal and blessings supernal
From His precious hand I received (Chorus)

Author: looking2jesus13

Having served as pastor at Lewis and Clark Bible Church, in Astoria, Oregon, for almost three decades, my wife’s cancer diagnosis led to my retirement and subsequent move to Heppner to be near our two grandchildren. I divide my time between caring for Laura and working as a part time hospice chaplain and spending time with family and spoiling my chocolate lab.

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