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The day was April 21, 1918. It occurred during World War I.  Baron Manfred von Richthofen led his flight of triplanes to search for British observation aircraft. An engagement ensued between a flight of Sopwith Camels led by Canadian Royal Air Force pilot Captain Arthur Roy Brown. Brown's friend Lt. Wilfred May was a rookie on his first offensive patrol. May had been ordered to keep out of combat, but he couldn't resist. He jammed his guns and, defenseless, headed away from the battle. Richthofen spotted the lone plane and chose it for kill number 81. Brown observed the scene below him and dove to help his fellow airman, knowing that May was no match for Richthofen.

Read what happens next: "It was then, with Brown closing from behind, that Richthofen, usually a meticulous and disciplined fighter pilot, made a mistake and broke one of his own rules by following May too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory.

Two miles behind the Allied lines, as Brown caught up with Richthofen and fired, the chase passed over the machinegun nests of Australian Field Artillery." The debate continues over who fired the fatal shot that passed through Richthofen's torso. Ultimately it doesn't matter—whether hit from the air or the ground, the Red Baron was mortally wounded.

Richthofen was good. Probably overconfident. But he "broke one of his own rules." Maybe in his mind he was just stretching the rule a bit. Or he was distracted by something that appeared too good to be true. Whatever the case, he compromised his own standards, which led to his demise. For the Red Baron, the temptation of number 81 was too much.

The temptation always exists for you and for me to focus on the wrong things. It is easy to be distracted by "the numbed" or something else. Then we find ourselves flying too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory, into the bondage of sin, and ultimately to our own destruction (Romans 6:23; Matthew 7:13-14).

The right thing to do is to set our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and follow Him, for He will lead us to eternal life in heaven.

 —David A. Sargent
Glad Tidings of Good Things is published thirty-five times a year and is sent FREE upon request.
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Glad Tidings of Good Things, Vol. 14, May 1, 2008, page 1