Praying on the moon? It’s been done

Bill Federer recounts little-known religious observation during lunar landing

 

moon_astronaut

“One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind,” stated Astronaut Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969, as he became the first man to walk on the moon, almost 238,900 miles away from the Earth.

The second man on the moon was Colonel Buzz Aldrin. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent a total of 21 hours and 37 minutes on the moon’s surface before redocking their lunar module Eagle with the command ship Columbia, which was orbiting 57 miles above the moon’s surface.

Buzz Aldrin earned a Ph.D. from M.I.T. and helped develop the technology necessary for the mission, especially the complicated lunar module rendezvous with the command module.

Buzz Aldrin shared a story, “An Astronaut Tells of a little-known but Significant Event on the Moon,” printed in Guideposts Magazine, October 1970), and in his book, “Return to Earth,” published by Random House, 1973.

Before the two astronauts stepped out of the Lunar Module onto the moon’s surface, there was a planned time of rest. Buzz Aldrin asked for radio silence because NASA was fighting a lawsuit brought by an intolerant atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair. She objected to the previous Apollo 8 crew reading the first chapter of the Book of Genesis in their Christmas radio transmission in 1968.

During the radio silence, Buzz Aldrin then privately partook of communion, stating:

For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing. We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets. … Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.

“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine-common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.

One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today. I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe.

For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.

Webster Presbyterian Church is located at 201 W. NASA Road 1, Webster, Texas, and is known nationally as the Church of the Astronauts as John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin, Jerry Carr, Charlie Bassett and Roger Chaffee were active members during their time at NASA. The flag Buzz Aldrin left on the Moon was designed and built by a member of Webster Presbyterian Church, Jack Kinzler.

Buzz Aldrin continued:

I spoke with Dean about the idea as soon as I returned home, and he was enthusiastic. “I could carry the bread in a plastic packet, the way regular inflight food is wrapped. And the wine also-there will be just enough gravity on the moon for liquid to pour. I’ll be able to drink normally from a cup. Dean, I wonder if you could look around for a little chalice that I could take with me as coming from the church?”

The next week Dean showed me a graceful silver cup. I hefted it and was pleased to find that it was light enough to take along. Each astronaut is allowed a few personal items on a flight; the wine chalice would be in my personal-preference kit.

Dean made special plans for two special communion services at Webster Presbyterian Church. One would be held just prior to my leaving Houston for Cape Kennedy, when I would join the other members in a dedication service.

The second would take place two weeks later, Sunday, July 20, when Neil Armstrong and I were scheduled to be on the surface of the moon. On that Sunday the church back home would gather for communion, while I joined them as close as possible to the same hour, taking communion inside the lunar module, all of us meaning to represent in this small way not only our local church but the Church as a whole.

The Houston Chronicle and the Huffington Post have published articles about Buzz Aldrin’s communion on the moon.

Aldrin continued:

Right away question came up. Was it theologically correct for a layman to serve himself communion under these circumstances? Dean thought so, but to make sure he decided to write the stated clerk of the Presbyterian church’s General Assembly and got back a quick reply that this was permissible.

And how much should we talk about our plans? I am naturally rather reticent, but on the other hand I was becoming increasingly convinced that having religious convictions carried with it the responsibility of witnessing to them. Finally we decided we would say nothing about the communion service until after the moonshot. …

I had a question about which scriptural passage to use. Which reading would best capture what this enterprise meant to us? I thought long about this and came up at last with John 15:5.

It seemed to fit perfectly. I wrote the passage on a slip of paper to be carried aboard Eagle along with the communion elements. Dean would read the same passage at the full congregation service held back home that same day.

So at last we were set. And then trouble appeared. It was Saturday, just prior to the first of the two communion services. The next day, Neil Armstrong, Mike Collins and I were to depart Houston for Cape Kennedy. We were scheduled for a pre-mission press conference when the flight physician arrived and set up elaborate precautions against crew contamination. … We had to wear sterile masks and to talk to the reporters from within a special partition. The doctor was taking no chances. A cold germ, a flu virus, and the whole shot might have to be aborted.

I felt I had to tell him about the big church service scheduled for the next morning. When I did, he wasn’t at all happy. I called Dean with the news late Saturday night. “It doesn’t look real good, Dean.”

“What about a private service? Without the whole congregation?”

It was a possibility. I called the doctor about the smaller service and he agreed, provided there were only a handful of people present.

So the next day, Sunday, shortly after the end of the 11 o’clock service my wife, Joan and our oldest boy Mike (the only one of our three children who is as yet a communicant), went to the church. There we met Dean, his wife, Floy, and our close family friend Tom Manison, elder of the church and his wife.

The seven of us went in to the now-empty sanctuary. On the communion table were two loaves of bread, one for now, the other for two weeks from now. Beside the two loaves were two chalices, one of them the small cup the church was giving me for the service on the moon.

We took communion. At the end of the service Dean tore off a corner of the second loaf of bread and handed it to me along with the tiny chalice. Within a few hours I was on my way to Cape Kennedy. What happened there, of course, the whole world knows.

The Saturn 5 rocket gave us a rough ride at first, but the rest of the trip was smooth. On the day of the moon landing, we awoke at 5:30 a.m., Houston time. Neil and I separated from Mike Collins in the command module. Our powered descent was right on schedule, and perfect except for one unforeseeable difficulty. The automatic guidance system would have taken Eagle to an area with huge boulders. Neil had to steer Eagle to a more suitable terrain. With only seconds worth of fuel left, we touched down at 3:30 p.m.

Mission Control was nervous, as they were descending faster than anticipated and the guidance system computer was sending off an alarm.

It was later discovered that a switch was on causing the radar to also look up to locate the Columbia in case the landing had to be quickly aborted, and the computer was dithering between the upward and downward signals. Neil switched to manually land the craft, with Buzz relaying instrument readings, while the rockets were kicking up a cloud of blinding moon dust, obscuring vision of the boulders below.

At Mission Control in Houston, Charles Duke, who was later on Apollo 16, was NASA’s CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator). Acknowledging the successful landing, Duke replied: “Roger, Twank. … Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!”

Buzz Aldrin continued: “Now Neil and I were sitting inside Eagle, while Mike circled in lunar orbit unseen in the black sky above us.”

Mike Collins snapped the photo of the Eagle separating from the command module Columbia and drifting down toward the Moon. Collins was alone in the Columbia, circling the dark side of the Moon. He wrote that “not since Adam has any human known such solitude,” and that he was “sweating like a nervous as a bride” till the Eagle returned (The Guardian, July 18, 2009): “Collins’ deepest fear: that he would be the only survivor of an Apollo 11 disaster. … Despite their apparent calm … no one was more stressed than Collins. … (He) was obsessed with the reliability of the ascent engine of Armstrong and Aldrin’s lander, Eagle. It had never been fired on the Moon’s surface before. … Should the engine fail to ignite, Armstrong and Aldrin would be stranded on the Moon – where they would die when their oxygen ran out. Or if it failed to burn for at least seven minutes, then the two astronauts would either crash back on to the Moon or be stranded in low orbit around it, beyond the reach of Collins in his mothership, Columbia.”

On the moon’s surface, Buzz Aldrin recounted:

In a little while after our scheduled meal period, Neil would give the signal to step down the ladder onto the powdery surface of the moon. Now was the moment for communion. So I unstowed the elements in their flight packets. I put them and the scripture reading on the little table in front of the abort guidance system computer. … Then I called back to Houston. “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, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to invite each person listening, wherever and whomever he may be, to contemplate for a moment the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his own individual way.” …

 

Chalice used in lunar communion

Chalice used in lunar communion

On World Communion Sunday … many Christians through the world will unite in spirit as they – each in his own church, according to his own tradition – participate in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. … For me this meant taking communion. In the radio blackout I opened the little plastic packages which contained bread and wine.

I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon the wine curled slowly and gracefully up the side of the cup. It was interesting to think that the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the first food eaten there, were communion elements. And so, just before I partook of the elements, I read the words, which I had chosen to indicate our trust that as man probes into space we are in fact acting in Christ. … I sensed especially strongly my unity with our church back home, and with the Church everywhere.

I read: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me.”

Webster Presbyterian Church on NASA Parkway near Houston, Texas, keeps the chalice used on the moon and commemorates the event each year on the Sunday closest to July 20.

While Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were on the moon, Mike Collins orbited behind the moon, becoming the most distant solo human traveler, completely out of radio contact from Earth, nearly a quarter of a million miles away.

Isolated in space in the command module Columbia, Mike Collins wrote: “This venture has been structured for three men, and I consider my third to be as necessary as either of the other two. I don’t mean to deny a feeling of solitude. It is there, reinforced by the fact that radio contact with the Earth abruptly cuts off at the instant I disappear behind the moon, I am alone now, truly alone, and absolutely isolated from any known life. I am it. If a count were taken, the score would be three billion plus two over on the other side of the moon, and one plus God knows what on this side.”

A little known event in the USA-USSR Space Race was that two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin blasted off from the moon, an unmanned Russian lunar spacecraft, Luna 15, crashed-landed in the nearby Mare Crisium.

After their moon walk, Armstrong and Aldrin climbed back into the Eagle. Their large spacesuits, which included life support backpacks, made maneuvering difficult and the circuit breaker was broken which controlled ignition for the life-off rockets. This potentially serious accident was fixed with the tip of a felt pen. To reduce weight, they threw out unnecessary moon walk equipment, then re-compressed the Eagle. They lifted off, successfully re-docked with the Columbia, and headed back to earth.

Buzz Aldrin stated via television, July 23, 1969: “This has been far more than three men on a mission to the moon. … Personally, in reflecting on the events of the past several days, a verse from Psalms comes to mind. ‘When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the Moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man that Thou art mindful of him?’”

Armstrong added: “To all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.”

Buzz Aldrin’s popularity was the inspiration for the character “Buzz Lightyear” in Pixar’s animated movie Toy Story (1995).

Charles Duke later flew to the moon as an astronaut on the Apollo 16 mission. On April 21, 1972, Duke and John Young explored the moon’s rugged Descartes region. Years later, Charles Duke spoke at a prayer rally during the Texas State’s Republican Convention in San Antonio’s Lila Cockrell Theatre, June 22, 1996.

His remarks were printed in the book “Charles Duke: Moonwalker” (Rose Petal Press, 2nd edition, 2011, p. 256-261): “I have been before kings and prime ministers, junta leaders and dictators, businessmen and beggars, rich and poor, black and white. … One of the most touching times was in the office of one of the cabinet ministers in Israel. … After the introduction I was asked to share my walk on the moon with the Israeli minister. ‘Mr. Minister,’ I began, ‘I was able to look back at the earth from the moon and hold up my hand and underneath this hand was the earth. The thought occurred to me that underneath my hand were four billion people. I couldn’t see Europe, America, the Middle East. I couldn’t see blacks or whites, Jews or Orientals, just spaceship earth. I realized we needed to learn to love one another, and I believed that with that love and our technical expertise, we could solve all of mankind’s problems. …’ The promises of the Bible are true and, I believe, speak the truth in every area – whether it be in spiritual matters, nutrition, history, or even science …”

Charles Duke added: “In 1972 aboard Apollo 16, I saw with my own eyes what is written in the Scriptures. In Isaiah 40:22 it says ‘It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth.” And in Job 26:7, it is written ‘He hangeth the earth upon nothing.’ Who told Isaiah that the earth was a circle? … And how did the writer of Job know that the earth hung upon nothing? … This is the Lord I love and serve. This is the Lord who transformed by life. This is the Lord who transformed my marriage. I used to say I could live ten thousand years and never have an experience as thrilling as walking on the moon. But the excitement and satisfaction of that walk doesn’t begin to compare with my walk with Jesus, a walk that lasts forever. I thought Apollo 16 would be my crowning glory, but the crown that Jesus gives will not tarnish or fade away. His crown will last throughout all eternity. …”

Charles Duke concluded: “Not everyone has the opportunity to walk on the moon, but everybody has the opportunity to walk with the Son. It costs billions of dollars to send someone to the moon, but walking with Jesus is free, the Gift of God. ‘For by Grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.’ You don’t need to go to the moon to find God. I didn’t find God in space – I found him in the front seat of my car on Highway 46 in New Braunfels, Texas, when I opened my heart to Jesus. And my life hasn’t been the same since. Now I can truly look up at the moon and the stars and with the prophets of old exclaim, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.’”

Brought to you by AmericanMinute.com.

 

https://www.wnd.com/2019/07/praying-on-the-moon-its-been-done/

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For The Troubled Heart

The pressures and burdens of life don’t have to result in despair. It’s important to know where to go for comfort.

BY CHARLES F. STANLEY

 

The holiday season has always been one of the highlights of the year for me. As the chill of winter approaches, I look forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas—occasions to celebrate the blessings God has given, especially the birth of our Savior. But through my life and years of ministry, I’ve seen how these holidays can also be difficult—how despair often lurks close by, following us from errand to errand and event to event—threatening to weigh down our journey to the manger of Christ’s birth.

The sad reality is that our lives don’t always look like a picture-perfect Christmas card. Loss, loneliness, health concerns, relational conflicts, financial and other problems know no season. And sometimes they come when the rest of the world is celebrating. The stark contrast can leave us feeling even more defeated and discouraged.

 

WHERE CAN WE GO FOR HELP WHEN LIFE LOOKS HOPELESS?

When we see no way out of despair or trouble of some kind, most of us want the company of someone who’s gone through a similar situation and understands our struggle. Perhaps that’s why we so readily identify with biblical characters like David or the apostle Paul, who experienced the discouragement of afflictions.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul writes of one of the most difficult times in his life, “We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life.” This crushing experience was so overwhelming that he saw no way out and felt his life was soon to end: “Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Whether you feel slowly pressed into hopelessness by the accumulation of many everyday stresses or life has been upended by one overwhelmingly difficult and painful situation, what you need is encouragement. The Greek word translated as “comfort” or “encouragement” is paraklésis, which means “a calling to one’s aid.” And isn’t that what we need when we’re overwhelmed—someone who will stay with us, walk beside us through the dark valley and somehow lift us up when we grow weak?

 

THE TRIUNE GOD IS OUR SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT.

When Paul was at his lowest point, “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort” came alongside to encourage him in the midst of his affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3). Do you see the Lord as an encourager, or does He seem more like a condemning judge to you? Sometimes we develop a lopsided perspective of God, which doesn’t include encouragement as one of His attributes.

Sometimes we develop a lopsided perspective of God, which doesn’t include encouragement as one of His attributes.

God’s comforting nature is displayed by all three members of the Trinity, not simply by the Father of mercies. Paul said, “Just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:5). And in John 14:16, Jesus described the indwelling Holy Spirit as “another Helper,” which in the Greek language means a comforter or encourager of the same kind—in other words, equal to Jesus Himself.

All members of the Trinity are coequal with one another, and the entire Godhead is at work lifting us up, giving comfort and support in adversity. Upon salvation, we aren’t expected to fend for ourselves. God tenderly cares for us as His children, and He’s promised never to leave or forsake us. Even when we feel as if we’re all alone in our struggles, God is there, carrying us through when we have no more strength to continue.

If we never had troubles, we’d never know this comforting aspect of God or depend upon Him as we should. In fact, He sometimes allows us to go through suffering and hardships that are beyond our ability to bear “so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God” (2 Corinthians 1:9). He sovereignly rules over every situation we face, setting limitations on the intensity and determining the depth, length, and darkness of the valley we walk—all with the purpose of bringing us through, looking more like His beloved Son and having a closer relationship with Him.

 

HOW DOES GOD ENCOURAGE US?

With so many assurances of His comfort, why are there times when we can’t sense it? We’re struggling and sinking, and feel as if He’s left us on our own. Perhaps the problem is that we have not availed ourselves of His means of encouragement.

    • Prayer. Our first response to pain or trouble should be to go to the Lord in prayer, pouring out all of our questions and concerns to Him, our loving Father. God is always with us, wherever we go and whatever we’re doing. Our circumstances might make us feel otherwise, but if we find a moment to commune with God, we can be filled with His light, wisdom, love, and peace.

He sovereignly rules over every situation we face, setting limitations on the intensity and determining the depth, length, and darkness of the valley we walk.

  • The Scriptures. Secondly, in times of pain or trouble we can prayerfully go to God’s Word, asking the Holy Spirit to help us read and understand what’s in it. This is one of the primary ways that the Lord speaks to us and restores our hope. Psalm 119:49-50says, “Remember the word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.”If you don’t know where to begin, go to the book of Psalms. There you will find David calling out to God in despair while at the same time drawing near to Him for comfort. We can also derive encouragement from biblical accounts of people like Paul who have gone through suffering while trusting in the Lord.As the Holy Spirit implants God’s Word into our heart and mind, our perspective will change. We will realize the truth of Paul’s words—that compared to the eternal weight of glory awaiting us, our trials on earth are but momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17). Our circumstances may not change, but our attitude will. Instead of focusing on our difficulties and pain, our eyes will be fixed on the Lord and His Word, and our trust in Him will grow.
  • The church. God’s encouragement is also given to us through fellow believers. Christians are not supposed to live in isolation but as a community of believers who love and care for each other. When one person is struggling, the others come alongside to help. And as each of us draws near to God and receives His comfort, we are then enabled to encourage others with the same comfort we received (2 Corinthians 1:4).

 

HOW WE RESPOND TO DISCOURAGEMENT IS CRUCIAL.

One of Satan’s choice tactics is discouragement. If he can bring us to despair, our spiritual growth will be limited, our fruitfulness hampered, and our worship hindered. We’ll often begin to think that God has abandoned us or is angry, yet this is when we should remember that He’s the one who can bring hope and encouragement in our time of need.

So often we want God to do our bidding and rescue us immediately, but what He’s offering us is so much greater.

When the bottom drops out of your life and you are filled with anxiety, fear, or sorrow, are you going to withdraw into a shell of pain? Will you get angry or throw a pity party? None of these responses will bring relief, and they may actually lead to further suffering.

Perhaps you’ve called out to the Lord for help but have been disappointed that He didn’t change your situation. So often we want God to do our bidding and rescue us immediately, but what He’s offering us is so much greater—the comfort that comes from knowing Him. In those quiet moments alone with the Lord, He offers us strength and encouragement to persevere and grace to trust and delight in Him alone. There is nothing in the world to match the intimacy we find in His presence during times of need. I pray you’ll live confidently and love boldly—and that as you draw near to God and His people, you discover the grace of being fully His.

 

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https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/the-pulpit/for-the-troubled-heart

 

With Every Blessing

When the body has need, the Lord is faithful to provide

BY CHARLES F. STANLEY

Maybe you can picture it: Jesus Christ ascending into heaven. Perhaps you’ve imagined who was there and how they reacted. Though most Christians have heard the story numerous times, one part often gets overlooked: the Lord’s final words. Although the book of Matthew recounts the last thing Jesus said as being the Great Commission to go into all the world and make disciples, Luke’s gospel gives an additional detail: “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51).

 

Jesus’ last act before returning to His Father was to bless those first members of His church. In fact, everything about the church is the result of God’s grace. Sometimes we think of grace as simply the way we are saved, but it’s actually the means by which we exist as God’s people. The church was founded by grace, is kept by grace, and will reach its culmination by the grace of God. From beginning to end, the church has been showered with blessings and gifts from the Lord.

 

THE GIFT OF THE CROSS

The cross is the only means by which we can be saved and become a part of Christ’s church. When Jesus hung there with hands and feet pierced by nails, a divine exchange took place: “He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). His life for our life—the gift of a God who, in humility, chose to live as a human being and die at the hands of His creation, that we might no longer be estranged from Him.

He has set us free. As a result of that loving gift, forgive­ness of sins and the righteousness of Christ are given to everyone who repents and believes in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us. Of course, a person can refuse that gift. But all who do will one day be required to stand before Him and offer an account for why they turned away from His love. In that moment, they’ll receive God’s righteous judgment, the truth of their hearts revealed. The cross is the only hope of salvation—it is the only way to be united with Jesus and live with Him for all eternity.

The One who made us—and who has lovingly sustained us even as we have lived apart from Him—has opened heaven to us.

The cross of Christ also gives us victory over sin. For those of us who have been saved, there is another blessing that comes through the cross. When Jesus was crucified, we were so closely identified with Him that we died with Him: “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom. 6:6). The person we were before salvation—what the apostle Paul calls “our old self”—has died, and we have been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). This new life is actually Christ’s life lived in us through the Holy Spirit, who now indwells our physical bodies.

God didn’t save us and then leave us to struggle through life as best we could. We have His presence and power in us through His Spirit. Because of the cross, we never walk through trials and temptations alone but can overcome through Christ and live in triumph rather than in continual defeat.

 

THE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT

God’s gracious blessings to the church include spiritual gifts that ensure the body of Christ can grow and build itself up in love. Spiritual gifts are divine abilities that equip us to serve the Lord effectively. Although they’re given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church (1 Corinthians 12:7). As we work together according to each one’s unique giftedness, the church benefits and we experience the joy that comes from obediently serving the Lord.

Although spiritual gifts are given to each believer individually, they are for the common good of the church.

Therefore, we each need to discover our spiritual gifts and begin using them to accomplish what the Lord created us to do. Being a good steward of our gifts requires more than sitting in a church pew on Sundays. No matter how little we think we have to offer, God wants us to make ourselves available for service. Instead of using our difficult backgrounds, inadequacies, or past failures as excuses, we should do our best and trust the Lord to work through us.

 

THE GIFTS FOR THE CHURCH

God has also given other blessings to the church as His corporate body. We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from His supernatural enablement. Everything a church needs is provided by its head, Jesus Christ:

    • Gifted Leaders. After His ascension, Jesus gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to equip the saints to serve and grow in maturity (Eph. 4:11-13). The apostles and prophets recorded the divine revelation that we now have in the New Testament, and evangelists and pastor-teachers continue the work of building up the body of Christ.
    • God’s Word. Scripture says the church becomes “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). That’s why the preaching of the Word is a top priority for pastors. It’s also the reason that God’s people should strive to live Christ’s life at all times, with all love and humility, in their communities: so that the truth would be evident (Matt. 5:14-16).

We as His people can boast of nothing, nor can a church accomplish anything apart from God’s supernatural enablement.

  • Fellowship. Those in Christ have a connection with each other that transcends every societal barrier (Gal. 3:26-28). Our commonality is the Lord Himself, who binds us together in love.
  • Prayer. Before His crucifixion, Jesus promised the disciples that He would provide whatever they asked in His name (John 14:13-14).
  • Ordinances. Jesus left His church two ordinances as reminders. Baptism symbolizes our salvation, when we died to sin and were raised to life in Christ (Rom. 6:4), and the Lord’s Supper helps us recall His death and anticipate His return (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).

All these magnificent gifts should motivate us to worship our Lord, who has abundantly supplied His church with every spiritual blessing. Because of His goodness, we want for nothing. Therefore it’s our privilege to walk humbly with Him, serve Him joyfully, and freely share with the world the message of salvation in Christ.

 

REFLECT

The Cross: Scripture clearly teaches that we are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified, yet we still struggle with sin. And in the same way, we are declared righteous, but we know our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions are not always godly. Paul described this struggle in Romans 7:15-25.

We are so intimately connected to Christ through salvation that we have died with Him—our old self was crucified.

  • How do you identify with this scenario?
  • What particular sins seem to take over, even though you hate them?
  • How does knowing your position in Christ help you stand firm against sin?

Spiritual Gifts: The gifts of the Spirit are listed in Romans 12:6-81 Corinthians 12:8-11, and Ephesians 4:11-12.

  • Which of these gifts do you think you may have? How are you using it (or them)?
  • If these gifts are necessary for the common good, what do you think happens when some church members don’t use their gifts?
  • Imagine what your church would be like if all members were serving in their areas of giftedness.

Gifts for the Church: Review the list of gifts Christ gives to the church. What do these blessings reveal about His love and care for His body? What needs of yours are met by Christ through these wonderful gifts?

 

PRAY

Father, thank You that Your grace appeared at the cross of Christ, bringing me salvation. Now I ask that You continue Your gracious work in me by training me to deny ungodliness and worldly desire and to live righteously in this present age. Help me grow in love for Christ and His people, and may Your grace flow through me as I serve them by using my spiritual gift. I ask this in Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen.

 

MEDITATE

PRACTICE

If you feel as if you are losing the battle against sin despite the fact that the Bible says you have died to it, try praying scriptures like Ephesians 4:22-32 or Colossians 3:1-17, both of which affirm what God desires for you. Any time you offer prayers according to His will, you can be confident that He will answer (1 John 5:14-15).

Are you uncertain what your gifts are? If so, compare how you respond to situations or needs with the list in Romans 12:6-8. But also remember that gifts are discovered as you jump in and serve. Often, other people can help you discern your specific areas of giftedness.

 

Photograph by Ryan Hayslip

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/the-pulpit/with-every-blessing

 

Cultivating an appetite for the things of God

It’s 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday. And in one home among millions, a family with small children is arriving together after everything their weekday routine has taken them through: work, school, daycare, errands, play dates, traffic jams. The pots and pans simmer on the stove, giving off the aromas of belonging. But after a long day apart, this family reunion isn’t exactly a Norman Rockwell painting. One parent walks through the door straight into a barrage of tears and arguing, while the other, battle-worn and glad to no longer be the only adult, offers a weary greeting of “Hello, will you sort this out?” before retreating to the kitchen. The warning of Lego and TV sanctions brings momentary calm. The table is laid, and as the family gathers around it, the calm dissolves into a chorus of lament. “Look at this green stuff. Is that an onion?!” To the kids, the various—and as yet untasted—ingredients cannot possibly add up to the delicious aroma. Because, clearly, they are not macaroni with a side of cupcakes.

How often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead?

Double, double toil and trouble. Burner lit and stove pot bubble. This is the witching hour in America.

For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, the “witching hour” was repurposed by parenting bloggers who took its original meaning—the hour round about midnight, when people figured witches went out and did their witchery—and applied it to the hour before dinner when increasing fatigue meets growing hunger and everyone in the house turns half feral. That the trouble spills into dinner is an especially cruel twist. So much good can happen at the table, and it’s a real loss to sit down grumpy. It’s a time to talk, to log the face-to-face hours that knit people together. It’s also a time to eat. Our bodies get hungry, and food is a delightful act of grace that meets this need in an especially miraculous way. But try explaining to a hangry toddler the heavenly foretaste offered even in a dish that contains onions.

Of course, the devilish mixture of fatigue and hunger isn’t just a suppertime thing. I can speak from experience of a “witching hour” of the soul. A time when spiritual fatigue and a kind of hunger lead us to feel angry with our heavenly Father. The prophet Amos reminds us of this: “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11 NIV). I’ve felt that famine, and yet how often have I thought, I really should spend some time with the Scriptures, then turned the TV on instead? Like a kid recoiling at his supper and pining for junk food.

Funny enough, being a father and wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven. I’ve often caught myself crying out to God about some deferred desire or another, and in a flash I catch a glimpse of myself, exactly like my own sons crying out to me when they want exactly not what I’m offering them. Oh boy, are those glimpses ever humbling. But then I think about the times when my family has sat down and, with little interruption or disturbance, enjoyed our time seated together over a wholesome, delicious meal. Over the years, I’ve had moments like that with the Bible, too.

Wrangling with my kids over the dinner table has opened my eyes to the fact that I am so much like a child before our Father in heaven.

Not long ago, my church worked through the Gospel of John for a few weeks. The pastor was preaching on the passage where the Lord washes the disciples’ feet. In those words describing Jesus—God with us—stooped over filthy, stinking feet, with a towel around His waist and a basin of water, I felt anew that He has been here. Both in the literal sense that Jesus walked the earth, but also in the spiritual sense that He has been present in my own struggles, no less real than the man scrubbing Peter’s feet. Even scrubbing Judas’s. I drove to church that morning feeling the pang of the famine Amos prophesied. I returned home full because, by some supernatural means I may never fully understand, it’s possible to literally encounter Jesus in the Scriptures.

It’s here, in my wanting to want the Word, that the food wars with my kids actually give me a generous serving of hope.

For my wife and me, food is an especially valuable bit of culture that we really want to pass along to our boys. We love the range of cuisine available around our neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. We gravitate towards the international—and the spicier the better. Korean bibimbap loaded with vegetables and beef, sticky rice crisping against the sides of the hot stone bowl, all topped with the perfect sunny-side-up egg. A rich Indian chili dish, fiery enough to make you sweat, served over buttery basmati rice with a perfectly charred naan. In addition to the Asian influence, a meat place down the road is largely supplied with hogs the owner raises himself (he’s also married to the woman who runs the bakery on the next block). And that place serves a charcuterie of cured meats and cheeses that will steal your heart. Even the head cheese.

Food brings my wife and me together over and over in a kind of communion, and we imagine a shared love of adventurous food knitting us to our boys. But each time they reject what we offer, it feels like a little knife in the heart. Out of desperation, I’ve found myself haranguing my kids with some very familiar parental logic from my own childhood: “Look here, mister. There are starving children in the world who would be thankful to have anything, much less a meal this good.”

Kids are an amazing, confounding mixture—of tooth-grinding defiance, yes, but also of keen-eyed mimicry that just melts your heart. Try to make them do something, and it’s a war. But let them catch you doing something and enjoying it, and they’ll be tucked right up next to you like a shadow. No different from anybody else, they simply want to be happy. Joy and enjoyment are contagious: If you look happy, chances are they’ll give whatever you’re doing a try.

In fact, I realize that’s what I need, too: people who have a genuine love for the feast of the Word. It gives me hope just to know they exist—believers who have steeped themselves in the Scriptures and who talk about the Gospels, the Epistles, the Psalms the way I talk about restaurants. Even those thorny patches in the Old Testament, like Job or the story of Tamar. I want to be infected by others’ infectious joy over the banquet the Father spreads before us. At this stage in my life—raising young kids, DIY renovating a house, working and going to school—this hasn’t been easy. It takes effort just to find these blessed kinds of people, much less spend time with them. Yet the busier and more stressful life gets, the more I am convinced how necessary it is to chase after relationships with those who love Jesus and seek Him where He can be readily found. And so I pray for such friendships.

Aside from godly friends, I have found one other helpful practice to grow my appetite. Ironically, it has involved consuming less of the Word. There’s a lot in there, and it’s easy to get scattered and overwhelmed, so sometimes it helps to start small enough to stay consistent. That’s why I’ve spent most of the last year or so meditating on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. Having this regular meal has helped Scripture seem familiar again. It has whetted my appetite to go further, which I count as no small blessing.

As for the food wars in my house, glimmers of hope have begun to shine through. After years of watching my wife and me dig into the spiciest meals we can manage (sort of a competitive suffering), one son has taken to putting milder hot sauces on his own food. He has even, once or twice, tried some of the stronger stuff with a full glass of water close at hand. I think he’ll come around. And just the other morning he asked me to cook him an egg like mine (over easy)—and actually ate it. He hasn’t asked for another yet, but what a blessed breakfast that was.

Photograph by Yasu + Junko

https://www.intouch.org/read/magazine/features/hungry-to-the-feast

Pastor Platt, We Don’t Need to Apologize for Praying

By Shane Idleman – June 9, 2019

In light of Pastor Platts apology for praying for the President in the Washington Times, I’m re-releasing this op-ed with a few additions. I was shocked to see an apology from pastor David to his congregation. Granted, I don’t have all of the information, nor do I understand all of the dynamics that took place. But, in most cases, we do not need to apologize for praying for our leaders. Although he didnt use the word apology, he said:

“I know that some within our church, for a variety of valid reasons, are hurt that I made this decision.”

There are not valid reasons. It comes across as damage control to many people. We are commanded to do so, and we should answer our critics; read more here.

Over the last few decades, Americans have seen the destruction of the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, the removal of God’s Word in several areas, and the blatant murdering of millions of babies. This is an indictment against America and the pulpit is partially responsible—our silence, and our apologies, speak volumes.

The pulpit regulates the spiritual condition of God’s people which affects the nation. A lukewarm, sex-saturated culture simply reflects the lack of conviction in the pulpit as well as the pew. What type of Christian would be offended when their pastor prays for the President? It appears that party affiliation, and not genuine concern, is fueling the animosity.

Sadly, many pastors are exchanging truth for passivity, boldness for cowardliness, and conviction for comfort . . . most are not aflame with righteousness. We aim to be motivational speakers rather than preachers of righteousness. A paraphrase that is often attributed to Alexis De Tocqueville—a Frenchman who authored Democracy in America in the early 1800s, sums it up:

“It was not until I went to the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her success. America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Pastors (and Christian leaders alike) must take responsibility for the spiritual health of today’s church, and the nation. We don’t need more marketing plans, demographic studies, or giving campaigns; we need men filled with the Spirit of God.

Pastors, we are not just cheerleaders, we are game changers. We are called to stir and to convict so that change takes place. Granted, there are many wonderful pastors such as David—I appreciate his ministry, but, as a whole, the church has drifted off course. We often want to be politically correct rather than biblically correct. Here are four ways to offset this trend.

  1. Return to the prayer closet. Without prayer, “the church becomes a graveyard, not an embattled army. Praise and prayer are stifled; worship is dead. The preacher and the preaching encourage sin, not holiness…preaching which kills is prayerless preaching. Without prayer, the preacher creates death, and not life” (E.M. Bounds).

When God brings change, prayer has been the catalyst. Martin Luther prayed and the church was reformed. John Knox prayed and Scotland was revived. John Wesley prayed and America was restored. George Whitefield prayed and nations were changed. D.L. Moody prayed and America fell to her knees. Amy Carmichael prayed and India received the gospel. And so it goes…when you pray, you move the hand of God.

The dry, dead lethargic condition of the church simply reflects an impotent prayer life. While 5-minute devotionals and prayers are good, they aren’t going to cut it in these dire times. We need powerful times of prayer, devotion, and worship. “Without the heartbeat of prayer, the body of Christ will resemble a corpse. The church is dying on her feet because she is not living on her knees” (Al Whittinghill).

Sermons should not come from pop-psychology and the latest fad; they must come from the prayer closet where God prepares the messenger before we prepare the message. It takes broken men to break men. Unplug the tv, turn off Facebook, and get back into the Word of God, prayer, and worship.

  1. Return to a separated life. If a pastor fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher” (E.M. Bounds). Who he is all week is who he will be when he steps to the pulpit.
  2. Worship must be a priority. A pastor who does not worship is not prepared to preach. Many sing “about” God but they have never truly experienced Him—head knowledge without heart knowledge. Styles of worship range from the old, beloved hymns to contemporary. All worship should be God-centered, Christ exalted, and doctrinally sound.

Worship allows us to shift our focus and praise toward God. Whether you prefer hymnals and organs or contemporary bands, is really not the issue. The issue is: are you truly worshipping God in “spirit and in truth”? He is the Creator of heaven and earth. He is not a cosmic force, universal love, or a doting grandfather; He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. We must worship Him. He created, redeemed, and saved us. As one of the countless hymns declares so well, “O’ The Blood: washes me; shed for me…what a sacrifice that saved my life, yes the blood, it is my victory!”

  1. Preach the difficult truths – they set people free. The church cannot neglect, water-down, or avoid preaching sin, repentance, or the fear of the Lord in the hope of not offending or securing an audience. Difficult truths often offend, and rightly so, sin put Christ on the cross. The goal of preaching is faithfulness to God, not crowd appeal. The church, as a whole, may have forgotten the fear of the Lord, but it doesn’t follow that we should.

Let it not be said of us today: And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord because pastors failed to be preachers of righteousness. The burden of responsibility rests squarely upon our shoulders. It’s our choice—stand, or fall!

But there is hope:

“Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you…” (Zechariah 1:3).

That’s a life changing promise – return to Him and He will return to you.

 

Original here

VIDEO What happens when religion loses its influence?

Patrice Lewis ID’s left’s goal as ‘a single unified progressive groupthink society’

May 31, 2019

The world has been watching China’s social credit system with grim fascination, a real-life compulsory Orwellian horror in which citizens’ lives are determined by their social score. Daily activities are monitored and tracked, then distilled into a single number according to rules set by the government. Intended to be fully implanted by 2020, its goal is to “standardize the assessment of citizens’ and businesses’ economic and social reputation.”

Standardize. That word alone should send shivers down your spine. Let the meaning sink in: standardize. That means conformity is enshrined and individuality and innovation are attacked.

When criticized about its draconian social order, “Chinese Communist Party publications scoff that Westerners are simply too unsophisticated to understand the wonders of the new system,” according to the New York Post. Translation: If you criticize the government, ipso facto you’re dangerous. Communist Russia used this argument to incarcerate dissidents in psych wards, where they were experimented upon. China is already “reconditioning” high-profile individuals to behave only in accordance with communist principles, such as popular Chinese movie star Fan Bingbing.

This is all very interesting in a distant and other-side-of-the-world sort of way, right? Or … are we facing something similar here in America?

Think about it. The U.S. is in the grip of a progressive mobocracy trying to standardize everyone’s thoughts and actions. Leftists insist you support their side or they will find some way to hurt you – economically, politically, socially, educationally, or in your career.

Little by little, incrementally, the progressive dominance of politics, schools and the media means conservative thought is being suppressed (at best) or punished (at worst). Don’t believe me? Just consider the number of people afraid to admit their support for Trump lest they have their grades penalized or their job jeopardized or their cars keyed. If you’re caught wearing a MAGA hat in public, you’re practically taking your life in your hands.

Conservatives are heckled in the streets, harassed in restaurants and have their homes or businesses sabotaged. In school, children are bullied or expelled for expressing Christian opinions or objecting to “transgender” athletes dominating girls’ sports.

In an unregulated (and some might argue, unhinged) invasion into our privacy, the Google/Facebook/YouTube/Amazon/Microsoft/Apple cabal is listening and tracking everything: what we say, what we research, where we travel, what routes we take, what we buy and everything else about us. China does the same thing.

Leftists can “jokingly” put up Facebook posts or tweet about assassinating the president, killing cops, organizing harassment campaigns and other mayhem, but the social media giants turns a blind eye and instead disable accounts of conservatives on a whim.

The extreme left-wing and weirdly influential Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated so many conservative individuals and organizations as “hate groups” that some are suing the organization for “racketeering.”

Conservatives are being damaged economically. Thanks to the SPLC’s influence, PayPal is banning some groups from receiving online donations using their platform. Mastercard is calling for a vote at its upcoming June shareholder meeting to financially blacklist conservatives. The same activist group pushing Mastercard, SumOfUs, “is fighting against people and groups it deems hateful such by trying to get them financially blacklisted on social media and payment platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Patreon and PayPal. Their goal is to ‘choke off donations.’”

Some social media sites are even changing their own rules to justify banning free speech by conservatives. Not to be left out of the game, the federal government is trying to create legislation like the “Equality” Act, which promises to make Christianity (upon which this nation was founded, remember?) all but illegal in practice.

See? Incrementally, step by step, progressives are attempting to turn America into a dystopian state every bit as oppressive as China. One conservative noted, “Democrats want this country to be a place where the witch hunters call you guilty and force you to prove your innocence before the screaming mob.” The goal is a single unified progressive groupthink society.

But of course the one single thing keeping America from turning into China is the Second Amendment. Eliminating personal firearms ownership is possibly the biggest goal of the left. But progressives have discovered one important tactic on the road to banning guns: Don’t make it illegal, just make it impossible.

To this end, big banks are being pressured to stop lending to gun manufacturersSenate Bill S2857A in New York would force every gun owner in the state (who isn’t law enforcement or active military) to purchase and maintain a minimum $1 million liability insurance policy. Another bill was introduced that would require anyone who wants to buy a gun to turn over their internet search history and their social media passwords to determine “who is not suitable to hold and possess a firearm.”

In other words, unchecked, the progressive promises of utopia here in the U.S. bear an eerie similarity to what China is implementing now, in which people are being “standardized” in accordance to the progressive economic and social requirements.

The Chinese government claims this system is “restoring morality” to its nation. So let’s talk morality.

Jesse Lee Peterson wisely observed, “Democrats are about control, but they cannot control a moral people. Democrats have to make people angry and immoral in order to assume power over them.”

In a poignant video (below) by Harvard professor Clay Christensen, he relates a conversation with a Marxist economist from China finishing up a Fulbright Fellowship. The Chinese economist was stunned to learn “how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy.”

“The reason why democracy works,” said the Chinese economist, “is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does. But rather democracy works because most people, most of the time, voluntarily choose to obey the law. … Americans followed these rules because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society, they were accountable to God. … If you take away religion, you cannot hire enough police.

China came up with its answer to “not enough police” by implementing this social credit system. Take away Americans’ guns and faith, and this will be the next step here as well.

https://www.wnd.com/2019/05/chinas-social-credit-system-coming-to-america/

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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