Spiritual highlights during Apollo 11’s moon landing

Chuck Norris relates little-known religious observations during historic event

I read a fairly wide array of books and periodicals. One of the latter I really enjoy is the American Family Journal.

In the July 2019 issue, Associate Editor Rusty Benson interviewed Stephen McDowell, historian, prolific author and founder of Providence Foundation. It is a phenomenal interview on the founding of our nation.

Last week, I wrote my column titled, “In God We Must Trust.” Humbly speaking, it’s a must read, especially for those who might have missed it because of the holiday weekend. I believe patriot articles should be read all summer long and not just bottled up on July 4, especially since the Declaration of Independence was ratified in July and the engrossed copy signed on Aug. 2 (at least by the remaining delegates). We also celebrate our Constitutional birth on Sept. 17 – its 232nd anniversary this year.

Stephen McDowell’s interview almost reads as a sequel to my last column. I addressed the power of the role of God and religion in our republic. McDowell narrows the subject to discuss the role of Christianity and the Bible. Let me give you a few highlights.

In McDowell’s article, “Christianity and the Constitution,” he quotes a prestigious literary journal of 1867: “The American government and Constitution is the most precious possession which the world holds, or which the future can inherit. This is true – true because the American system is the political expression of Christian ideas.”

That is why McDowell explained in his interview: “The power and form of the Declaration and the Constitution are biblical. Power being the underlying ideas that are reflected, and form, the structure of how our government was set up and flows out of those ideas.”

The Declaration begins by saying “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

“Now that statement is full of biblical ideas. First, the founders recognized that absolute truth exists. Right and wrong, moral and immoral, legal and illegal – these emanated from a Creator,” McDowell said.

He added, “…the rulers, as well as the people, are subject to the laws. No man [or woman] is above the law. We are a self-governing republic in which power emanates from the people, who themselves are under the Creator.”

McDowell elaborated, “We live in God’s world, not in a made-up world of Karl Marx or Darwin or any other political philosopher. God created it to function based upon a set of physical and moral laws. If we violate His laws, we suffer the consequence. The Bible teaches that, and history confirms it.”

By quoting extensively from the founders, McDowell builds a case that we must return to our founders’ faith, civility and morality. They weren’t perfect, but they built our republic upon the bedrock of Christianity.

As our second president John Adams wrote to our third president Thomas Jefferson on June 28: “The general principles, on which the fathers achieved Independence, were the only principles in which, that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united: and the general principles of English and American liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence.”

Speak of great men of old and amazing patriots who had some pivotal sacred moments, I bet few students today learn that the crew of Apollo 11, whose moon landing we commemorate this week on its 50th anniversary (July 20), had themselves some profound Christian moments when they were up in space and particularly on the moon.

Some have religiously categorized astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin as the deist (Armstrong), the Christian (Aldrin) and the atheist (Collins) who went to the moon. But that’s an oversimplification.

The truth is, Armstrong was a Christian (not a Muslim, as some falsely reported), Collins was a nominal Episcopalian and Aldrin was an elder at his Presbyterian Church back in Houston.

Perhaps the most under-reported story about Armstrong’s faith concerned his visit to Israel following his historic trip to the moon, which is conveyed in Thomas Friedman’s award-winning book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem” (winner of the National Book Award).

The story goes that Armstrong was taken on a tour of the old city of Jerusalem by Israeli archeologist Meir Ben-Dov. When they arrived at the Hulda Gate, which is at the top of the stairs leading to the Temple Mount, Armstrong asked Ben-Dov whether Jesus had stepped anywhere around there.

“These are the steps that lead to the temple,” Ben-Dov told him, “so He must have walked here many times.”

Armstrong then asked Ben-Dov if those were the original stairs and Ben-Dov confirmed that they were indeed.

“So Jesus stepped right here,” Armstrong asked. “That’s right,” answered Ben-Dov.

To which Armstrong replied with this monumental statement: “I have to tell you, I am more excited stepping on these stones than when I was stepping on the moon.” Wow!

Speaking of stepping on the moon, before Armstrong and Aldrin actually did, they made another historic step. While Collins stayed back in the lunar module, Armstrong looked on respectfully as fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin performed a communion ceremony before the two set foot on the moon.

 

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion. (Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

The communion bag and chalice used by Buzz Aldrin during his lunar communion.
(Credit: David Frohman, President of Peachstate Historical Consulting, Inc.)

Former White House Special Counsel Charles Colson, who served under President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1970, once wrote a column about it, the details of which Armstrong confirmed.

Colson wrote, “What you may not know, however is that for many of the early astronaut heroes, the ‘right stuff’ included deep religious faith. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are best known as the first astronauts to land on the moon and take that ‘giant leap for mankind.’ But you probably don’t know that before they emerged from the spaceship, Aldrin pulled out a Bible, a silver chalice, and sacramental bread and wine. There on the moon, his first act was to celebrate communion.”

Buzz made the following announcement to Mission Control during that spiritual moment: “Houston, this is Eagle. This is the LM pilot speaking. I would like to request a few moments of silence. I would like to invite each person listening in, whoever or wherever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the last few hours, and to give thanks in his own individual way.”

Aldrin reported later: “In the radio blackout, I opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup. Then I read the Scripture [Jesus’ words in John 15]: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit.’”

(That scripture reminded me of something I read earlier in Stephen McDowell’s interview: “Christianity has brought great blessing to mankind. … But if we remove the Christian faith and its principles, then we’re going to get worse and worse fruit. That’s what’s been happening the past century.”)

It is especially fitting and poignant that Aldrin also read Psalm 8:3-4 on the moon: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; ‘What are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?’”

Aldrin later wrote in Guideposts magazine: “The very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.”

St. Peter’s Episcopal Church reported that: “Each year since 1969, Aldrin’s church, Webster Presbyterian, holds a Lunar Communion service to commemorate Buzz Aldrin’s celebration on the Moon.”

 

A handwritten card containing a Bible verse that Buzz Aldrin planned to broadcast back to Earth during a lunar Holy Communion service, featured in a space-related auction in Dallas, Texas, 2007. (Credit: LM Otero/AP Photo)

A handwritten card containing a Bible verse that Buzz Aldrin planned to broadcast back to Earth during a lunar Holy Communion service, featured in a space-related auction in Dallas, Texas, 2007. (Credit: LM Otero/AP Photo)

Speaking of sacred scripture, I just have to include what else I read on the website of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church about NASA, the Bible and the moon:

The Apollo Prayer League was a group of NASA engineers, scientists, administrators and astronauts. The League was headed by Rev. John Stout, a NASA Information Scientist and chaplain who worked closely with the astronauts and NASA personnel.

The Apollo Prayer League created a microfilm Bible and 300 microfilm copies were carried to the lunar surface. The microfilm is about 1.5 inches square, and yet contains all 1,245 pages of the King James Bible. These pages so small that they must be read under a microscope. This Lunar Bible is the only complete copy of the Bible to have flown to the surface of the Moon.

The microfilm Lunar Bible was flown on three Apollo missions. It was packed onboard Apollo 12 spacecraft, but was mistakenly left on the Command Module. It was then placed onboard Apollo 13, and was with the astronauts during their perilous return to Earth after the explosion of the Service Module. The Lunar Bible copies were finally carried to the Moon in the pocket of astronaut Edgar Mitchell on Apollo 14.

I’d bet my Texas ranch that your child or grandchild wouldn’t learn the above sacred and historical facts today about the Apollo missions in any public school. How sad. So it’s going to take us patriots to get the word out. Please share this column with everyone you know during this 50th anniversary week of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/spiritual-highlights-during-apollo-11s-moon-landing/

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Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

Or, why aren’t we doing what Jesus told us to do?
MARK GALLI| JULY 10, 2019

Whatever Happened to Communion & Baptism?

There is no greater signal that evangelicals have long forgotten their roots than the disrepair into which the sacraments have fallen in our day. By way of reminder, we should note that the Second Great Awakening began as a Communion retreat. Churches from all over gathered at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, in August 1801 to prepare themselves for and then partake in Communion. As I wrote in an article on this revival:

Communions (annual three-to-five-day meetings climaxed with the Lord’s Supper) gathered people in the dozens, maybe the hundreds. At this Cane Ridge Communion, though, sometimes 20,000 people swirled about the grounds—watching, praying, preaching, weeping, groaning, falling. Though some stood at the edges and mocked, most left marveling at the wondrous hand of God.

The Cane Ridge Communion quickly became one of the best-reported events in American history, and according to Vanderbilt historian Paul Conkin, “arguably … the most important religious gathering in all of American history.” It ignited the explosion of evangelical religion, which soon reached into nearly every corner of American life. For decades the prayer of camp meetings and revivals across the land was “Lord, make it like Cane Ridge.”

As such Communions, people gathered on Friday and spent that evening and Saturday praying, reading Scripture, and listening to sermons as they prepared themselves for worship and Communion on Sunday. At Cane Ridge, Saturday was not so quiet:

The Saturday morning services had been quiet—the proverbial lull before a storm. But by afternoon, the preaching was continual, from both the meetinghouse and the tent. … Excitement mounted, and amid smoke and sweat, the camp erupted in noise: the cries and shouts of the penitent, the crying of babies, the shrieking of children, and the neighing of horses.

Then the tumultuous bodily “exercises” began. Along with the shouting and crying, some began falling. Some experienced only weakened knees or a light head (including Governor James Garrard). Others fell but remained conscious or talkative; a few fell into a deep coma, displaying the symptoms of a grand mal seizure or a type of hysteria. Though only a minority fell, some parts of the grounds were strewn like a battlefield.

Some were attended to where they fell; others were carried to a convenient place, where people would gather around them to pray and sing hymns. “If they [the fallen] speak,” one reported, “what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting—many are struck under such exhortations.”

Early Sunday morning, relative calm reigned, though some had been up most of the night. The central purpose of the gathering—the Communion—took place as scheduled in the meetinghouse. The minister of a nearby congregation preached the traditional sermon outside, and then those with Communion tokens went inside for the sacrament. The tables, set up in the shape of a cross in the aisles, could probably accommodate 100 at a time. Over the ensuing hours, hundreds were served. Lyle wrote that he had “clearer views of divine things than … before” as he partook, and that he felt “uncommonly tender” as he spoke.

The point of rehearsing this history is not to suggest that we should try to create emotionally extravagant Communion services like this. Clearly, that was a unique moment in American church history. What impresses me is the reverence and seriousness with which these believers approached Communion.

Stumbling Over the Sacraments

I believe the sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Let clarify my use of the term sacrament. Some evangelical churches call the Lord’s Supper and baptism ordinances, to suggest they are actions Jesus commands us to participate in, and that they signal our faith in and obedience to Christ. The term sacrament includes these two ideas and another crucial one: that they are means of grace. By “means of grace” I’m not proposing any specific theology—whether trans- or consubstantiation, whether real or symbolic presence. But for all believers, Communion and baptism are practices in which one’s faith is deepened and strengthened, and that sort of thing only happens by God’s grace. This is what I mean by “means of grace” in this article, and why I will use the word sacrament to talk about them.

As I said, I believe these sacraments are in a profoundly low state in many areas of evangelical church life.

Take baptism. Even among churches that believe Matthew 28:19 is the church’s rallying cry—“Go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them ….”—the sacrament is no longer central to their mission. It would be difficult to come by statistics that suggest the problem, but one anecdote suggests it’s a serious one. I belong to an Anglican church in Wheaton, Illinois, which meets not far from Wheaton College. The charismatic singing and Bible-centered preaching attract many Wheaton College students to attend worship and to become members. However, to partake in Communion, as well as to become a member, one must have been baptized. The pastors are continually surprised at the number of Wheaton College students—no doubt some of the most earnest, devout, and intelligent young believers in the evangelical world—who have yet to be baptized. One would have thought that their churches would have attended to this matter long before they left home for college.

Another sign of the problem is the deep fear some evangelicals have of baptism. I attended an independent church in Dallas, Texas, on a Sunday on which they were having a mass baptism for some 400 people. This speaks well of the effectiveness of their outreach and their desire to obey the commands of their Lord. As part of the service, four or five people came on stage and were interviewed by the pastor to help them give their testimony. At the end of each testimony, the last question the pastor asked each was this: “But you don’t believe that baptism saves you, right?” It wasn’t just the question, but the leading way in which it was asked time and again that suggested to me that the pastor was deeply afraid of the power of the sacrament. And the fact that he also asked this right before each person was baptized went a long way into ensuring that the sacrament did not become a means by which God broke in and blessed the recipient but became all about the horizontal: an act of the person’s faith.

The state of the Lord’s Supper is in a worse state. I’ve lost track of the number of startup evangelical churches—again, who are sincerely seeking to reach the world for Christ—whose practice of Communion is frankly a sacrilege. One has to give them credit for, yes, seeking out the lost and taking down unnecessary cultural/religious barriers. And one has to also praise them for at least offering Communion. But in many churches, it is something that is presented during the offering, at a small table holding crackers and juice on the side aisles for those who feel so led to partake. Sometimes this is accompanied by the words of institution, but sometimes it is not.

The idea of Communion—of the body of Christ participating with one another in an ordinance of their Lord—is completely lost. Not to mention the loss of any concerted effort by worship leaders to highlight why the sacrament is a central feature of Christian life.

In contrast to the evangelical churches of the late 1700s/early 1800s, it almost goes without saying that few if any evangelical congregations today would dedicate a whole weekend to preparing and then participating in Communion. It would not only be perceived as a turnoff to unbelievers but a meaningless rite to members. And yet it was at Communions that thousands upon thousands came to know Christ intimately for the first time.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord.

To be sure, today one can find evangelical churches, high church and low, Anglican and Baptist, who take the Lord’s Supper with utmost seriousness. They—no matter their theology of the sacrament—will say it remains a means by which they are drawn out of themselves to remember the One outside of themselves, who didn’t just come to give them affirming spiritual feelings but to die on a Cross for their sins and to rise again for the dead for their salvation.

We do well to recall the emphasis that our Baptist brothers and sisters insist on: that these are practices ordained by our Lord: “Go … baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and “Do this in remembrance of me.” I do not believe evangelicalism will recover from its spiritual stupor, its fascination with the horizontal, until it once again practices regularly and respectfully, with earnestness and devotion, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Until, that is, it obeys the clear commands of its Lord.

As for the way forward—well, a lot depends on a particular church’s theology of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But let me hazard some suggestions.

First, I don’t think any sophisticated theology of Communion would make it an individualistic act as it has become in some churches. Simply refusing to offer Communion unless it is a part of the service in which every member or believer is invited—that’s a start.

Against all odds, a church might very well offer a weekend retreat in which the focus is Communion—with teaching and times of prayer to prepare oneself—and the climax being the receiving of the bread and cup.

As for baptism: Let’s insist that as soon as possible, as infants or after conversion (whatever your theology), that we obey the plain command of our Lord to baptize. And then when we do baptize, let’s not get in the way of the act by explaining it away, that is, saying what it is not. We might just say what we believe it is, and do so simply. There is a time and place to teach a church’s theology of baptism, but during the baptism, we should let the visual power of the sacrament, and a few well-chosen words, to the work. You can believe that baptism as such has no ultimate efficacy and still recognize that it is a powerful symbol, and as a powerful symbol, it speaks volumes.

In the context of this series, one reason I advocate the regular and reverential participation in the sacraments is because, as noted above, they require us to look at what is happening at the altar/Communion table or in the waters of baptism. We are required to look outside ourselves, to the physical means by which Christ blesses his people. Rather than encouraging us to ponder the feelings that are going on inside us, the sacraments require us, however briefly, to focus on God and what he has done for us in Jesus Christ.

Next week: How our preaching has gone awry.

Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today. If you want to be alerted to these essays as they appear, subscribe to The Galli Report.

https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/july-web-only/whatever-happened-to-communion-baptism.html

A Virginia pastor prayed for Trump — Here’s what the backlash tells us about the church

June 7, 2019 By Daniel Ritchie

By now, many of us have seen and heard about what played out during the 1 p.m. worship service at McLean Bible Church in Washington, D.C. last Sunday.

For those who may be unfamiliar, here’s the short of it: President Trump played a round of golf at Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, VA. After finishing his golf outing, the president decided to stop by Mclean Bible Church — one of the largest evangelical churches in the D.C. Metro area — to visit with Pastor David Platt and to pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach.

CHRISTIANS ACROSS THE COUNTRY CALL ON FAITH LEADERS TO PRAY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP

McLean Bible Church and Platt had little notice of the visit. In fact, Platt had just finished his sermon and had stepped backstage for a few moments to prepare for the church to take the Lord’s Supper.

It was in those quiet few moments that he found out that the president of the United States was just minutes away from being at the church.

Dr. Platt was faced with a tough decision. He in no way wanted to endorse the president, his party or his policies as a man who is responsible to shepherd God’s church. Yet, he also did not want to bypass an opportunity to pray for one of the most prominent men on the planet.

In those moments of internal wrestling, a passage from 2 Timothy 1 came to his mind:

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”

As he reflected on this text, Platt knew the best thing to do was to pray for the president, which is exactly what he did. He clearly presented the Gospel to the president both backstage and in the prayer.

He prayed that God would give Mr. Trump wisdom, grace, and mercy. He prayed that the president would know of God’s promised love for him. He prayed that President Trump would lead and make decisions with justice and equity for all in mind.

With that, the prayer ended and Mr. Trump stepped off the stage without making any public remarks.

And with that, the backlash began.

Many people were hurt because he brought a public official into the pulpit of his church. The criticism was strong enough that he penned a letter to his church in which he explained the Gospel-centered “why” behind his decision to bring the President on stage.

There were others, like Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who criticized Platt for writing that letter; Falwell deemed it as a cowardly apology and attacked Platt’s male fortitude.

The backlash has left one apparent truth in its wake: there’s a worldview problem in the church.

Scripture describes that when someone trusts Jesus as Lord, they are a new person. They begin to have new tastes, new affections and a new way to see the world. They do not view things as they always have; they now view everything that they take in on a daily basis through the lens of Scripture. Through the lens of God’s grace-giving Gospel.

There are some, plainly evidenced in this situation, that view Gospel truths through a political lens first. But that is not how the church needs to view the world. We have to view every situation through a Gospel lens.

As we begin to process realities like Platt’s prayer or the pro-life debate or even voting itself through a political lens first and foremost, then we lack a true biblical worldview.

If our first response to political deliberation and conversation is, “How would my political party perceive this?” then we have a functional political idol.

For the Christian, politics as the fundamental way to view the world is destined for failure and strife. The Gospel and Scripture ought to be the funnel that we pour everything through. The things we learn, what we talk about, how we vote and even how we parent are meant to be seen through the lens of the Gospel. We see everything through a Scripture-shaped lens first and that is what a Christian worldview looks like.

As we view the world through a Gospel lens, we begin to see where our allegiance needs to be: God first in all things. Much as was the heart of Platt’s prayer that we would: “aim for God’s glory, align with God’s purpose, and yield to God’s sovereignty.”

In every thought. In every conversation. In every debate. Let that be the way we see the world.

 

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