Friday, August 26, 2016

"Apollo 13" (1995)

There are few movies about real events that are more inspiring than “Apollo 13.” For one thing, unlike a lot of other “true Stories” it seems to stick pretty closely to the actual events. And those events include a lot of amazing feats of teamwork. It is like an inspirational poster of a movie.

As the problem begins, and no one knows exactly what is going on, 100s of specialists scramble to speculate and guess what could be wrong based on their narrow areas of expertise. Gene Kranz, the flight director, stops everyone in their tracks. “Let’s work the problem people.”

And of course everyone remembers the famous scene where they need to design a way to connect two incompatible filters to each other, using only what is available up in space. Such a great reminder for strategists who forget that their strategy needs to function within the limitations of their reality.

But my favorite scene has to be the story Jim Lovell tells about the time he was flying a night mission during the war and couldn’t find his carrier that was running without lights. Everything kept going wrong right up to the point where every one of his own lights shorted out and he was left in the pitch dark unable to see anything inside his cabin as well as out. It is only then that he is able to see the faint, natural, phosphorescence that would guide him home.

In a similar way, everything had to go “right” for the Apollo 13 flight to make it home. People had to do their jobs, the astronauts had to perform in incredibly narrow margins of error, and the intangibles and uncontrollables had to work out just right.

And it’s not like these people were better or more deserving than the other men and women before and after who were not as fortunate in space flights. But that is often the nature of blessing. Who can fathom the reasons why God intervenes in some events and not others? By comparison the intricacies of a space mission are far simpler than everything that goes into running the universe according to plan.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

3 Teens Is Scary, But Not the Way I Expected...

There is a sometimes horrific aspect to the passage of time.

It seems like just yesterday I was coming to the realization that I would experience this, but it seemed so far off. We were going to have three teen-agers in the house. (And way off down the road, for nearly two months in 2018, we will have four!) Now it is hear and where did the time go?

Sometimes I get a little panicky when I realize that in another mere blink of an eye I will start sending kids out into the world. My ever so brief phase of parenting will be gone. This is the adulthood that I looked forward to as a kid. I always wanted to be a dad. And I am sure being a father to adults will have its moments, but it won’t compare. Especially when I face the likelihood that my kids will live half a world away.

So I am ever more aware that the next few short years are so very limited and must be experienced with full consciousness and participation, taking advantage of every moment.

And even that won’t be enough.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Judgement on Man (Genesis 3:17-19)

[17] And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; [18] thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. [19] By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man’s consequences—much like the woman’s—hit him at his essential purpose. He was created to guard and tend God’s creation. Now that role is broken and will always constitute a painful struggle. God tells man that he will eat in pain. This does not mean that the act of eating will hurt, but rather that the toil that he will undertake to be able to eat will be painful.

Work itself here is not the curse. Work is good. We were created for work. But now work has been broken and we can no longer find true fulfillment in our work. We are not doing what we have been created to do. All our efforts are a long, hard process of putting off the inevitable: death.

Death is another resulting consequence of sin of course, but not in the way that it was expected perhaps. Man did not instantly die when he sinned. Or did he? Death is never specifically mentioned here in 3:17-19. And it does not come for years and years. However, man is about to be cast out of the garden, the home that was designed for him. And, life outside of the garden is not really life. Our whole existence in this broken world outside of the garden is nearer to death than the life we were created to live. The Bible does teach that mankind outside of a relationship with God is “spiritually” dead, but this life we live apart from God and His perfect plan for us is also a sort of death awaiting death.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Gumballs and Immigration

There is an old video making the internet rounds again that proves most people can be swayed be any argument if it: (a) uses colorful props, (b) reduces the amount of actual thinking the audience has to do, and (c) comes to a conclusion that makes the audience feel better about themselves.

In the video in question, Roy Beck tries to make the case that all LEGAL immigration should be ended by the United States. The way he presents his case is:

-He uses gumballs to help people wrap their minds around the huge numbers involved, (and to mask the immensity of the numbers at the same time.)

-He claims that the point of immigration policy is to end world poverty, and declares that to be an impossible task, so we should stop trying.

-He tries to make the case that immigration is actually hurting the poor in the rest of the world, by removing people that should be making a difference where they are.

Let’s begin with his flashy, colorful, gumball slight of hand that has everyone declaring him to be the most insightful man on immigration. Sure, visual aides are always a good idea when you tackle huge numbers. He lets us see the sheer immensity of the problem that poverty is in the world. It is astounding to think that one out of every three people in the world have to live on less than 2 dollars a day. That is a lot of people.

The problem is that his demonstration also diminishes the numbers being helped. He casually mentions (and uses a single gumball to represent) that one million people a year enter the US legally. If that is accurate, then since 1990, around 26 million people have been able to escape their circumstances in hope of better prospects. That is no small number.

An equivalent argument would be to claim that, compared to the sheer number of orphans in the world, a single life changed isn’t worth it so no one should ever adopt a child. This is the ridiculous reasoning of someone trying to justify a desire to not make an effort.

He also presents the whole complex issue of immigration as a straw man: “Some people say that mass immigration into the United States can help reduce world poverty.” Who? Has anyone ever claimed that we could solve world poverty by having all the poor people move to the US? That is a silly claim that is easily countered, but it doesn’t matter because it is a false argument.

Today a lot of people who are trying to escape to the US (and other western countries) are escaping war, genocide, and religious persecution. The United States is in no position to tell people they shouldn’t try to escape such circumstances. We were founded by people seeking religious freedom. And, our recent history offers no grounds for a holier than thou attitude. We similarly rejected millions of Jews trying to escape Europe in the 30s and 40s. What we are considering today may be just as shameful.

Finally, Mr. Beck gives his audience a reason to feel just fine if they give into fear, hatred and racism. It turns out, he claims, that we are doing all those poor people in the world a favor by rejecting refugee requests. The people who want to come to the US are clearly the “best of the best” so they will make their home countries a better place by staying there. Where is the data to back up such claims? Don’t think about that! Just look at these gumballs I am spilling on the ground dramatically!

And all of this from a guy who is making the argument that we should stop letting a mere one million people into the country every year. If the US were a town of 1,000 people, that would be the equivalent of 3 people moving into town every year. Meanwhile, that town would have 13 births and 7 deaths every year. So, actually, the town/country needs a large immigration rate if they want to see a healthy work-force growth.

Chew on that.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Love: The Command 3 (John 15:9-17)

Love and Friendship vv12-15, 17

Our love is not just residing in Christ, but to be exercised towards one another. We are commanded to love one another. A clear area of obedience. Just as Jesus’ love for us meant He was prepared to die for us, so are we to have a sacrificial love for one another. We place each other before ourselves.

However, Jesus also expands on teaching us about our relationship to Him. We are not just obedient disciples, we are friends. Once again, the obedience here is not a condition of our relationship, but evidence of it. We know that we are not just servants, but friends, because Jesus has revealed His and His Father’s plans to us. We are in on the mission. We have a role to play and an understanding of the goals that our role is intended to accomplish. A huge part of our purpose in life is to relate to others in love. We are to place others first.

Love was the defining quality of the early church. People simplistically try to claim that the church was an example of a communist culture. It wasn’t. Where capitalism says, “What is mine is mine and you can buy it,” and communism says, “What you have belongs to the community, and you can use it if we let you,” Christianity says “What is mine is given to me by God and is mine to use, and if you need it, you can have it.” We trust God to provide for our needs, and we see our role in that provision for others, trusting God to care for us.

This is where the life of discipleship in the church is so much more than attending a service hoping to obtain little bits of help for our life and our goals. We share life. The church should not be a place nor an event. It is a community of people who interact every day.

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