Musings on the Moon Landing — July 20,1969

Musings on the Moon Landing -- July 20,1969

In July of 1969 Americans everywhere had the sense that what was happening Musings on the Moon Landing -- July 20,1969was of historic importance. Our astronauts had landed their spacecraft on the moon! Connie and I, in our first year of marriage,  were working that summer in upstate New York. I purchased a copy of the New York Times to commemorate the event. I have kept that newspaper all these years. (I have learned that millions of other collectors saved that issue of the Times as well.)

This week, remembering that historic event has the nation pondering the space program and what it represents. We have been admiring the fortitude of those first brave men who risked their lives in the great pioneering experiment of space exploration. They relied on their equipment, their training, their preparation, and raw courage.

There have always been those who questioned the value of sending men and women to outer space. They have said that the billions of dollars spent on space exploration could have been put to better use combating social ills like poverty, hunger, war, and racism.

Advocates of space research respond by pointing to beneficial results to society. The space program has increased the sum of human scientific knowledge. This has pushed the boundaries of understanding of our planet, our solar system, and the universe.

They speak of technological advancements such as the rapid development of computer technology, miniaturization, satellite communication, robotics, materials science, weather science, and countless industrial innovations and consumer products. Every scientific advance multiplied applications in many directions.

At the time of the moon landing, our nation was engaged in a “space race” with the Soviet Union. This was intense competition for the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world. Which system of government was superior? Totalitarian communism or a free and open society based on democratic values? The moon landing enhanced America’s prestige and international standing.

It is also important to remember the national security implications. The space program spurred the rapid development of advanced missile technology, delivery systems for nuclear warheads, tactical and strategic. Many believe that winning the race to the moon contributed to America’s winning the Cold War.

There is a wonder and an intense curiosity about outer space. The impulse to explore ever deeper into the universe can lead one to admire the majesty and wisdom of the Creator. It is a way of looking at his creation from a different perspective than that of earth. Contemplation of the heavens inspires worship.

Perhaps that is why the astronauts who first flew around the moon on the Apollo 8 mission, on Christmas Eve, 1968, read from the Bible, Genesis chapter one: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” They said later that they were aware as they did that, they were speaking to more people all over the world at one time, than ever before in history. And they read the Bible.

Some complained that this was an unwarranted intrusion of religion into a government enterprise. Others said that this was not a religious expression at all, but merely an attempt to find words of poetic grandeur to match the occasion.

Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the mission, when asked about it, said, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us — that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”

John Glenn, the first American to circumnavigate the globe in outer space, later said, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me, impossible.” James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971, often described the lunar mission as a revelation. “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before. I heard astronaut Charles Duke say something similar in a speech he gave here in Oklahoma City a few years ago.

The late Charles Colson wrote that the exploration of space sparks an innate religious sense. He quoted philosopher Immanuel Kant who famously said there are two things that “fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

Colson commented: “Reflections about these things…lead our minds to contemplate God himself — the moral law, revealing his goodness, the heavens revealing his power.”

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, let’s agree that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring


Reading the Book of Nature

Reading the Book of Nature

Imagine a person who grows up without access to the Bible. He has never heard of Jesus. He knows nothing about the church. What does he know?

He knows he exists. He can look into a mirror and say, “I exist, and I did not bring myself into existence.”

If he thinks deeply he will realize that he lives in a world uniquely suited to sustain life. Is it a coincidence that our earth, our solar system, our galaxy, our universe are put together with ingenious purpose? That purpose appears to be the sustenance of human life with the biodiversity to support it.

The Bible agrees and says these facts are pointers to the existence of a Creator. “What may be known about God is plain. … God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

Whether or not he has read the Bible, the thinking person knows that right and wrong exist as immutable moral laws. These moral standards are universal and are found in all philosophies and religious systems. This awareness of good and evil is written on every human heart (Romans 2:14-15). Natural law is God-given and is the foundation for justice.

Furthermore, the person who has not yet received formal teaching about God may still contemplate with awe the beauty of creation, and he may create beautiful things himself. His appreciation of a glorious sunset, the majesty of the heavens at night, a beautiful garden, the birth of a child, may provoke a worshipful response. Who is he to worship? Aesthetics is not the product of blind chaos. Beauty itself is a pointer to the beauty of God.

Our thinking person is reading the book of nature and it tells him that God exists. But nature by itself cannot lead him to know the Creator in a personal way.

The Creator is also a communicator. He has chosen to reveal himself through the written words of the holy scriptures. The Bible tells how God has revealed himself in his son Jesus Christ. It is through faith in Jesus that our thinking friend may be brought into a personal relationship with God. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This is the essence of the church’s concern for people who do not yet know God. This is the reason missionaries cross cultural and geographic boundaries to go to those who have never heard the message of Jesus. When they go, they often discover that there are people whose hearts the Lord has opened as they have thought about the purpose for existence, the quest for justice, and the gift of beauty.

These are reasons to worship God and to give careful attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are reasons to seek him.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner




Give Your Life Away

Give Your Life Away

In his new book, The Second Mountainpolitical columnist David Brooks tells about finding personal fulfillment in his involvement with people who are turning around communities through volunteer service. His Aspen Institute program, Weave: The Social Fabric Project, connects him with folks around the country who are “restoring social capital and healing lives.”

He writes: “They don’t have to ask themselves if they are doing anything valuable with their lives. They know.” These are people whose commitments to others give them identity and purpose. “They find joy in the light they bring  others, and they know why they have been put on this earth.”

He tells stories about people he has met all over America (“we are a nation of healers”) who are literally giving their lives away for others. These people have a light in their eyes when they talk about what they are doing. They have renewed enthusiasm for living, a reason to get up in the morning.

This aligns with the teaching of Jesus who said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). This saying of Jesus is so important it is repeated in all four of the gospels. The Lord is telling us that we find life, real life when we give our lives away. It eludes us when we selfishly hoard the life God has entrusted to us.

Last May, the administrators of Whiz Kids, a local non-profit, honored volunteers, and my friend Laura Love and I were recognized for having completed twenty years’ service. This faith-based ministry is more than a “program.” It is built on relationships, connecting tutors from all over the city with children in inner-city schools for help in reading.

Sure I was busy. As a pastor of a large church, I had plenty to do. But I kept at this because the Lord has been good to me in life and I want to give back to a boy who needs help. I love to read and I want to help him discover the pleasures of reading. This may seem old fashioned in an age of digital short cuts and addictive technologies. But I really believe this is important and I am willing to give a chunk of my life for it.

I want my Whiz Kid to learn to read well so he can improve in his other academic subjects. I want him to read well so he can learn how to be a life-long learner. I want him to learn to read well so he can focus and maintain the concentration necessary to do good work. I want him to learn to read well so he can read the Bible for himself and discover God’s love in Jesus Christ.

David Brooks is right when he says, “Our commitments give us a sense of purpose.” He tells the following story.

In 2007, the Gallup organization asked people around the world whether they felt they were leading meaningful lives. It turns out that Liberia was the country where most people felt a sense of meaning and purpose, while the Netherlands was the place where the lowest percentage of the people did. This is not because life was necessarily sweeter in Liberia. On the contrary. But Liberians possessed what Paul Froese calls “existential urgency.” In the turmoil of their lives, they were compelled to make fierce commitments to one another merely to survive. And these fierce commitments gave their lives a sense of meaning.

I don’t know if it is “existential urgency” that motivates me to be a Whiz Kids tutor. And my life is not in turmoil. But I do believe in making “fierce commitments” to doing what Jesus wants me to do. I guess I am addicted to the joy that follows. I invite you to make this same discovery. Give your life away.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner



In case you’re interested in Whiz Kids 2019-20

  • July 28 — Sign up at Metropolitan Baptist Church
  • August 27 — Tutor training
  • Call for information: Karen Mickle (405-818-1361); Laura Love (405-740-4694)

Christian Ethics and the Crisis at the Border

Christian Ethics and the Crisis at the Border

The immigration crisis at our Southern border is perceived as a security crisis. Perhaps it is. But it is also a political crisis. It points up the need for a comprehensive, humane and workable immigration policy, suited to our national interest.

It is a diplomatic crisis raising questions about U.S. policy toward neighboring countries in Latin America. In some of these countries, gang violence, human trafficking, dismal living conditions, and sometimes authoritarian governments, exploit the people. These factors prompt thousands of them to become desperate migrants, risking their lives and their children’s lives on a journey to the north.

No person of compassion can fail to be moved by the plight of these refugees. If we still believe that human rights are a foundation of our American national character, then we will see this crisis as a humanitarian crisis.

Thomas Jefferson, in the Declaration of Independence, dated July 4, 1776, wrote the “self-evident” truth that all people are “created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” especially the right to life and freedom. This is a reason we speak of American exceptionalism and greatness.

This understanding of human dignity is rooted in the teachings of the Bible. It says God created mankind in his own image. Human rights are derived from the fact that human beings bear the image of God. This is what it means to be human. Human rights, dignity, and equality are bestowed by our Maker, not by any government.

If we believe and live by the Bible, this truth will influence our opinions about foreign policy, criminal justice, the rights of the unborn, economic policy, and the platforms of presidential candidates. These same biblical values should, I believe, also guide our thinking about immigration and the refugee crisis.

Jesus quoted the Hebrew scriptures when he taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Leviticus 19:18 is just one of many teachings given to Israel that are carried forward into Christian teaching (Galatians 5:14). Justice and compassion for foreigners were priorities of the laws given through Moses.

For example, the words of Deuteronomy 10:18-19 are restated in different ways throughout the Bible: “He (God) defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you. … And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”

Jesus teaches his followers that it is he whom they are serving when they show hospitality to strangers (Matthew 25:35). If this Christian ethic governs our lives as individuals, then it makes sense to me that this same value system should influence our national policy. After all, we are a government “of the people,” and it is the beliefs of the people that inform our response to issues like border control and immigration.

So the wisdom of the Bible provides us with a way of thinking about immigrants and refugees. Of course, we should be concerned about border security and the rule of law. This too is a moral issue. But obsessive fear, ethnic bigotry, and inflammatory rhetoric are contrary to the Christian way of living.

Those who are willing to be guided by the teachings of the Bible will recognize that immigrants have the same God-given human rights and dignity as those who were born here. Whatever conclusions “we the people” come to about immigration policy and the humanitarian crisis at our Southern border, should be influenced by these truths.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner




A Prayer For Our Nation

A Prayer For Our Nation

This hymn was written in 1838 by English pastor and hymn writer John H. Gurney (1802-1862). It is an appropriate prayer for our nation on this Independence Day.

Great King of nations, hear our prayer, while at your feet we fall and humbly, with united cry, to you for mercy call.

The guilt is ours, but grace is yours, O turn us not away; but hear us from your lofty throne, and help us when we pray.

Our fathers’ sins were manifold, and ours no less we own, yet wondrously from age to age, your goodness has been shown.

When dangers, like a stormy sea, beset our country round, to you we looked, to you we cried, and help in you was found.

With one consent we meekly bow beneath your chastening hand, and, pouring forth confession meet, mourn with our mourning land.

With pitying eye behold our need, as thus we lift our prayer; correct us with your judgments, Lord, then let your mercy spare.


    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner