Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Higher Than the Moon

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” –Heb. 11:3 This week marks fifty years since Apollo 11 took American astronauts to the moon, the first humans to set foot on it’s surface. I do remember it. I was 12 years old in 1969 and having grown up on Air Force bases, aeronautics and spacecraft were a part of our culture. The tension of the space race with the Soviet Union, our own need for a national distraction and the challenge “to go to the moon” by President Kennedy created a national preoccupation with the lunar surface. Without the brilliance of a man named Verner Von Braun, the mission would have never taken place. But his biggest feat would take him much farther than the moon. It’s said that Von Braun grew up with a focus and brilliance about space. He was fully focused on science and, as he grew into a man, his focus would be on military aeronautics. His position in Hitler’s Germany would focus his brilliance on ways to stop the Allied advance. As a passive member of the Nazi party, he developed Germany’s rocket program, which was said to be years ahead of Allied development. In the first half of his life, von Braun was a “nonpracticing” Lutheran, whose affiliation was nominal and not taken seriously. He was fully focused on science and as his career developed, his focus would be on German military superiority in the skies. It’s said that if the Allies hadn’t won the war in 1945, some of the brilliant German rocketry might have changed the course of the war. Von Braun married, had kids and devoted himself to the service of his country. Some said he was arrogant and focused only on his success in developing rockets and weapons. As described by Ernst Stuhlinger and Frederick I. Ordway III: "Throughout his younger years, von Braun did not show signs of any religious devotion, or even an interest in things related to the church or to biblical teachings. In fact, he was known to his friends as a 'merry heathen' (fröhlicher Heide)." Nevertheless, in 1945 he explained his decision to surrender to the Western Allies, rather than Russians, as being influenced by a desire to share rocket technology with “people who followed the Bible.” In 1946, he attended church in El Paso, Texas, and underwent a religious conversion to evangelical Christianity. In an unnamed religious magazine he stated: “One day in Fort Bliss, a neighbor called and asked if I would like to go to church with him. I accepted, because I wanted to see if the American church was just a country club as I'd been led to expect. Instead, I found a small, white frame building ... in the hot Texas sun on a browned-grass lot ... together, these people make a live, vibrant community. This was the first time I really understood that religion was not a cathedral inherited from the past, or a quick prayer at the last minute. To be effective, a religion has to be backed up by discipline and effort.” On the motives behind this conversion, Michael J. Neufeld is of the opinion that he turned to religion "to pacify his own conscience,” whereas University of Southampton scholar Kendrick Oliver said that von Braun was presumably moved "by a desire to find a new direction for his life after the moral chaos of his service for the Third Reich". Having "concluded one bad bargain with the Devil, perhaps now he felt a need to have God securely at his side." Regardless of the inner workings, Von Braun came to know Jesus as His personal Savior. One who had been focused on creation came to know the Creator. Later in life, he joined an Episcopal congregation, and became increasingly devoted to God. He publicly spoke and wrote about the complementarity of science and religion, the afterlife of the soul, and his belief in God. He stated, "Through science man strives to learn more of the mysteries of creation. Through religion he seeks to know the Creator." He was interviewed by the Assemblies of God pastor C. M. Ward, as stating, "The farther we probe into space, the greater my faith." In addition, he met privately with evangelist Billy Graham and with the pacifist leader Martin Luther King Jr.. Von Braun died of cancer in 1977. His gravestone in Alexandria Virginia quotes Psalm 19:1: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.". So, this week we celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the U.S. Space program. But, if Verner Von Braun could speak to us today, he’d tell us to celebrate the amazing heavens that God created, but realize God’s most amazing creation is His Son Jesus and a personal relationship with Christ. Von Braun is living in that beautiful expanse called heaven today, in all of its glory. May we all live in the freedom of Christ here on planet earth… …and in the heavens above. By Eric Joseph Staples © www.lifeaid101.com