Friday, September 22, 2006

Where'd They Move Our Craters?

I write a column for the local monthly here. Here's the October column, just sent in:


With Glenn Layne

It is essential to understand the times we live in. In Acts 13:36 Paul speaks about what a blessing it is to serve God’s purpose in his own time. There Paul speaks about King David, 1,000 years in his past, and says:

"For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed.”

What a great thing! David knew that God’s unfolding plan was to unite and establish the kingdom of Israel, and he did it. He knew that his purpose was not that of Adam or Noah or Abraham or Moses or Samuel—all who had gone before him. And looking back, we can see that what God had planned for those who followed David would be completely different: for Solomon, or Elijah, or Isaiah, or John the Paul or the apostle Peter.

Consider this:

…men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do… (1 Chronicles 12:32)

The examples of David and the example of the “men of Issachar” are reminders that we are called to be people of discernment. We are called to be wise. We are called to think carefully. God does not change. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. God’s word does not change. It’s the fully inspired, infallible word of God. God’s truth does not change. God’s standards of right and wrong do not change. But the times change. God’s plan for our moment in time is different that it was for 1906, or 1946, or even 1996.

I’m a real fan of the space program. When Armstrong and Aldrin landed Apollo 11 in July 1969, I was a few weeks short of my 12th birthday. At the time it seemed simple. Walter Cronkite and all the news media were slow to let us know just how close they came to crashing that day.

For months, the astronauts practiced their descent in a simulator. Armstrong was the best qualified Lunar Module pilot; he’d even been involved in the design of the simulator used to practice the actual landing. Two were built. One is still on display up at Edwards Air Force Base. The other was destroyed during training when it malfunctioned—and Armstrong was at the controls. He ejected with about a second to spare.
He had no way of knowing then how the real Lunar Module would try once again to kill him.

For a long part of their descent, the Lunar Module had to fly “on its back” with the astronauts looking up away from the moon. At the right time, they would pitch forward and then they would sight the landmarks they knew as the headed to “Tranquility Base”, the name for their landing spot—a very smooth section of soil that would make for an easy landing.

As Armstrong and Aldrin pitched forward, just 7,500 feet about the lunar soil, they were shocked to find that none of the landmarks they’d become familiar with in training were in sight. They were off target. Later analysis revealed that their “burn”, the firing of their descent engine, was mistimed by a critical few seconds, sending them off course. Instead of a smooth surface, the area before them was rugged and full of boulders and craters. Aldrin later wrote that his first thought was, “Where’s our craters? Who moved our craters?” Armstrong had to take over from the computer and manually land the Lunar Module. They pushed ahead, and Armstrong’s experience at Edwards AFB paid off. He maneuvered it like a helicopter. They spotted an area that looked good, only to find that it was a dark crater. Again, Armstrong hopped forward to a new spot. This time the spot was good. They came down straight the last 100 feet; it was important not to drift so as not to damage the legs. But it continued to drift; first forward, which they corrected, then to left. Armstrong tapped the right thruster and finally down, down, with lunar soil turning the landing site into a fog. He landed with only 19 seconds of fuel to spare.

Ever find yourself saying, “Where’s our craters? Who moved our craters? Where’s our community? Where are our friends? How come things changed so much? Who moved everything?” No matter how much the terrain has changed, I am convinced that God’s with us as we come in for a landing, and He’s provided us with all the fuel we need. We live in changing times. The task is to be wise like the men of Issachar, and to serve God’s purpose in our generation like David.

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