Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Faith & Reason Ministries

Writings From JPL's Christian Newsletter 1987 to 1989

by John D. Callahan, Copyright © 1998 by Faith & Reason Ministries.

The Horsehead Nebula

In 1981 John D. Callahan founded a "Christian Newsletter" at JPL. Throughout the decade, John wrote a number articles for the newsletter; the years 1987 to 1989 are given below.

GOD'S DESIGNED UNIVERSE (Jan 1987)

It is an obvious fact that God exists. The universe could not have created itself, and no intellect other than God's infinite one could have designed it. Consider this quote from Romans, "From the creation of the world His invisible qualities, such as His eternal power and divine nature, have been made visible and have been understood through His handiwork" (Romans 1:20). Many prominent scientists, who at one time had little interest in God, are being profoundly shaken by the truth expressed in Romans.

"When we consider the first seconds of the Big Bang that created the universe," writes Bernard Lovell, an astronomer, "it is an astonishing reflection that at this critical early moment in the history of the universe, all of the hydrogen would have turned into helium if the force of attraction between protons -- that is, the nuclei of the hydrogen atoms -- had been only a few percent stronger . . . No galaxies, no stars, no life would have emerged. It would have been a universe forever unknowable by living creatures. A remarkable and intimate relationship between man, the fundamental constants of nature and the initial moments of space and time seems to be an inescapable condition of our existence."

Fred Hoyle, another astronomer, writes, "Would you not say to yourself . . . 'Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule' [and therefore life would be impossible]? Of course you would . . . The carbon atom is a fix . . . A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with the physics . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."

"Somebody [God] had to tune [the universe] very precisely," concludes Marek Demianski, a Polish cosmologist. Stephen Hawking agrees: "The odds against a universe like ours coming out of something like the Big Bang are enormous. I think there are clearly religious implications." P.C.W. Davies, a physicist, writes, "Had this exceedingly delicate tuning of [physical] values [for the universe] been even slightly upset, the subsequent structure of the universe would have been totally different." "Extraordinary physical coincidences and apparently accidental cooperation . . . offer compelling evidence that something is 'going on.' . . . A hidden principle seems to be at work."

B.J. Carr and M.J. Rees, cosmologists, conclude, "Many interrelations between different scales that at first sight seem surprising are straightforward consequences of simple physical arguments. But several aspects of our Universe -- some of which seem to be prerequisites for the evolution of any form of life -- depend rather delicately on apparent 'coincidences' among the physical constants . . . The Universe must be as big and diffuse as it is to last long enough to give rise to life."

"The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God' " (Psalms 14:1).

WHAT WILL YOU VALUE WHEN YOU DIE? (Feb 1987)

When we all come to the end of our lives and look back, what will we value? The money we made? The property and other possessions we owned? The status and notoriety we obtained? No, not in themselves. Rather, we are going to value only the things we did for God, because these are the only things that have eternal value. Our life here on Earth will be ending, and there will be no need for the things we obtained here to please ourselves.

We will most likely value and see everything more the way God does all the time. We will value only the success we had in serving Him and becoming the person He wanted us to become. We will value our witness for Him, our prayers, our fellowship with other Christians, and the money, possessions and status we gained and then used according to His will, to further His Kingdom.

DON'T GET AHEAD OF GOD (April 1987)

With all the negative news about television evangelists we hear these days, it might be good to contemplate one major aspect of how we can "get in trouble" while serving God. This the problem of getting ahead of God.

When we are successful as Christians, we naturally want more success. However, our motives can sometimes get confused. The success feeds our ego, rather than our desire to serve God. We become excited and make plans without checking them out with God.

No matter how successful we may have been in the past, or how much education, money, or organization we have, are efforts are futile without God's help. Consider Jesus' words, "What gives life is God's Spirit; man's power is of no use at all" (John 6:63). "Remain united to me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me" (John 15:4).

How do we remain united to God in the midst of success? By taking the time to pray, seek Him, and obey Him -- even if it interferes with our plans. God will often call us to spend more time with Him and less time in our success, and He will even send trials, just to keep us close to Him. Again, from John 15 we read, " . . . and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit" (John 15:2).

Getting ahead of God is similar to an army outrunning its supply lines. In war, this is a classic mistake. What happens is that an army, in the midst of victory, will pursue the enemy without regard to logistical problems of supply. The advancing army can become disorganized, confused, and lack food, ammunition, and other supplies. The results are often disastrous, because the enemy regroups and attacks.

In the same way, we cannot possibly fight Satan without our indispensable supply line: a strong relationship with God, and guidance by His Spirit. "Whoever thinks he is standing firm had better be careful that he does not fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). It is noteworthy that some of the less prolific television evangelists are also the ones who have not had recent problems.

SMOKED OUT? (June 1987)

Do you ever feel "smoked out" by the Devil? That is to say, do you ever feel he throws up so much smoke that you are choking and it is hard to see the truth? By smoke, I mean that which is obviously misleading and the obvious wrong things of the world. "Everything that belongs to the world -- what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of -- none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world" (1 John 2:16).

This is not surprising because Jesus referred to the Devil as "the ruler of this world" (John 14:30). And the apostle John states, "We know that we belong to God even though the whole world is under the rule of the Evil One" (1 John 5:19). Paul calls the Devil "the evil god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Devil will try to throw every kind of lie and subtle distortion of the truth imaginable at us. He will appeal to our desires for the things of this world apart from God's approval or leading. We get bombarded constantly from the TV, radio, newspaper, and non-Christians. We get smoked out! The danger of being smoked out is that we will be less effective witnesses and our faith will be weakened.

Now that I've painted such a rosy picture, how do we avoid being smoked out!? Well, first we need to remember that God's power is infinite, while the Devil's is limited. The Devil can only go so far, and God will always see us through and protect us. "What my Father has given me is greater than everything, and no one can snatch them away from the Father's care" (John 10:29). However, we need to do our part in resisting temptation -- our part, for which God gives us more than ample strength.

Next, we need to avoid obviously "smoky" situations -- such as watching too much junk on TV, or putting ourselves in other bad situations which could easily be avoided. Why not do something more constructive like reading the Bible, or meditating on the things of God, or praying? To this end, and above all, we need to cling to what is true, and indeed bask in it:

"In conclusion, my brothers, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honorable. Put into practice what you learned and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:8-9).

"Continue on your way while you have the light, so that the darkness will not come upon you" (John 12:35).

THE MEANING OF THE MIRACULOUS (July 1987)

The New Testament, especially the Gospels, are filled with miracles. Jesus had power over sickness, disease, nature, the unseen spiritual world, and even death itself. The apostles also performed miracles, such as Paul's raising of Eutychus (Acts 20:9-12). And, miracles have occurred throughout the ages, in the Church, since the time Jesus walked on the Earth. No other religion, other than Christianity, is so laden with the miraculous, undeniable workings of God.

Many of us have been first hand witnesses of extraordinary miracles, either in our own lives, or in the lives of those around us. At the same time, we should not neglect the more subtle miracle of God's ever-present guiding light in our lives. How many times has His leading been clearly evident in the decisions we have made, or the way He has brought others to us at just the right time? He has given us power to overcome adversity, and knowledge about circumstances which we could not have obtained in any other way.

So, consider what happens when a miracle occurs: the natural laws which govern this existence are transcended, and the impossible occurs. Other than insignificant tricks of the Devil, miracles are the direct working of God, the infinite creator, intervening in the workings of His creation. It is not only proof for His existence, but it shows us His nature, power, and loving concern for us.

GOD OR MAMMON? THE NEED FOR DEDICATION (Aug 1987)

When we come to the Lord we repent of our sins and accept the presence of God in our life. We acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. From then on we seek to overcome sin and fulfill God's purposes for our lives. "In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:6).

We are all different, and God does not expect the same or as much from everyone. This is clear from the parable of the talents (Luke 19:11-27) and the parable of the sower (Matt. 13:18-23). However, all of us face the problem of dedicating our lives completely to the Lord so that we may reach our full potential.

So often we are distracted by the things of this world, such as money, position and fame, hobbies, etc. It is not that these things are bad in themselves. The Lord will give them to us in ample measure. The point is that God is now in charge of our lives, and we must seek Him first at the expense of all else (Luke 14:25-33). Often God values things which have no value to the world, and vice-versa. "Jesus said to them, 'You are the ones who make yourselves look right in men's sight, but God knows your hearts. For what men think is of great value is worth nothing in God's sight' " (Luke 16:15).

God will often, but not always, call us to pray instead of becoming better at our hobby. Or He could call us to read the Bible instead of making extra money. He may call us to fellowship instead of working overtime to advance on our job. "Worst of all", He may ask us to witness instead of watching the "big game"! But is this so surprising? Do we really expect to get good at anything and gain a reward if we do not dedicate ourselves to it? "Every athlete in training submits to strict discipline, in order to be crowned with a wreath that will not last; but we do it for one that will last forever" (1 Corinthians 9:25).

When we serve the world we gain temporal rewards. When we serve God we gain eternal rewards. Not only this, but God promises to reward and lift us up even in this world. "Humble yourselves, then, under God's mighty hand, so that He will lift you up in His own good time" (1 Peter 5:6). "Jesus said to them, 'and I tell you this: anyone who leaves home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the Kingdom of God will receive much more in this present age, and eternal life in the age to come' " (Luke 18:29-30).

GOD AND THE UNIVERSE (Fall 1987)

We know that God is infinite both in His knowledge and power. We know that He has always existed and created the universe. We humans, being limited, continually try to better understand God and the universe.

God has been working to redeem men from Satan for thousands of years. He chose the Jewish people to speak through and then sent His only son, Jesus Christ, who was Himself divine. Jesus revealed the true character of God and the nature of man's relation to Him. He explained the way of truth and of eternal life for all mankind.

However, at the time Jesus appeared, 2000 years ago, men knew very little about the universe. Although the Egyptian astronomer Eratoslhenes (276-195 B.C.) had correctly measured the circumference of the Earth, most men believed it was flat. The sun, moon, planets and stars, whatever they were, revolved around the Earth which was the center of the universe.

Since that time mankind has, of course, amassed a wealth of knowledge about the universe. We here at the Jet Propulsion Lab have been fortunate to be active participants in man's advancement.

Man is now in a much better position to understand what the word "infinite" really means, for we have found the universe to be truly staggering in its dimensions and complexity. Yet the power and simplicity of the Gospel is just as real, and probably more so, than it was 2000 years ago.

We live on a ball of dust approximately 8,000 miles in diameter. This is roughly ten million times the height of a man. The Earth revolves around a rather small star 93 million miles away and a thousand times bigger than the Earth. The nearest star, Alpha Centauri, is four light-years or 24 trillion miles away.

Our sun is only one star in the Milky Way Galaxy. The Milky Way consists of roughly 400 billion stars, or 100 stars for every person on Earth. The Milky Way is shaped like a pancake with a central bulge and is 100,000 light-years in diameter. In addition to the Milky Way, there are at least 10 billion other diverse galaxies in the known universe, the edge of which is 10 to 20 billion light-years away.

Many investigators believe our Earth is 4.5 billion years old, the Milky Way is 10 billion, and the universe 15-20 billion years old. There are complex laws which govern the operation of the universe, and within it we find many very bizarre objects, from black holes to quasars.

Jesus is irrefutably God, and His message remains the same. However, in the light of what we now know about the universe we must be careful never to limit God, who is infinite.

MY CHRISTMAS STORY (Winter 1987)

As many of you know, I was saved at Christmas time, 14 years ago (Christmas 1973). It was my freshman year of college, and I was living at home and attending a local Junior College, El Camino Junior College near Torrance. We lived near the beach in Torrance.

All during my high-school years, I had thought much about the meaning of life, and was very determined to find it. I was quite depressed and withdrawn, despite the fact that I had a very happy home, some good friends, and was successful in academics and sports.

As a child, I had grown up in a traditional Catholic Church, but I never really got the message. I believe this was due to problems in the Catholic Church (not to say that it is the only denomination with problems) and to my own stubborn desire to follow my own path.

At any rate, due to my search for truth in my teens, I began to realize (towards the end of high school) that Jesus just might indeed be God. However, I wanted to make my own determination of this, being as objective as possible. Therefore, as one of my Christmas presents, I asked for a historical work on Jesus.

One of my cousins (Marta Ruble) gave me a book called The Life of Christ, which she had purchased from a Catholic library. It was a rather lengthy (about 700 pages) and scholarly work written in 1941 by an Italian author, Giuseppe Ricciotti.

In late December, I remember laying on my bed and, after a cursory examination of the book, opening it up in the middle. I began to read the right-hand page about a third of the way down from the top. Jesus was walking along with crowds of people right beside Him. Suddenly He stops and asks, "Who touched Me?"

The narrative went on to describe Jesus' healing of the woman who touched His cloak, and the raising of Jairus' 12-year-old daughter from the dead. The author, Ricciotti, described several interesting Jewish and historical aspects surrounding the events. He also compared the different Gospel accounts.

However, more significant than this was the fact that God was also quickening my mind to several interesting aspects surrounding the events! My mind instantly went through a very simple, yet powerful, line of reasoning. First, this was a story about God, because even in this short story, Jesus' actions, mannerism, and words clearly revealed His divine nature.

Second, it could not have been made up, because if it had, the person who made it up would have to have known God and exactly how He would behave "in the flesh." And any human being who had such knowledge would not lie and make up such a story.

So I had found God! In addition, I realized that I had found Him, and the truth, before it was too late. There was still time to turn to Him, but how? What did He want? Well by "coincidence" I then turned many pages in the book to the story of Jesus and Nicodemus. In a matter of days I was a Christian.

SMALL GROUPS (Spring 1989)

One of the best ways we can mature as Christians and, at the same time, minister to others is to participate in small groups. A large church gathering does not afford the opportunity for us as individuals to share and develop our spiritual gifts. Yet this is vital.

We are told to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2), admonish one another (I Thessalonians 5:14), and encourage each other (Hebrews 10:25). Moreover, we are exhorted to confess our sins to and pray for each other (James 5:16), and to stimulate one another to good works (Hebrews 10:24). These things simply will not happen effectively unless we get to know a group of fellow Christians in a small group.

As we share with and minister to others we will gain a far greater understanding of our spiritual gifts. These gifts will be developed, and in every way we will mature as Christians. And mature, strong Christians will cause the Church to grow.

The greatest example of small groups is the example Jesus gave us. He did not just preach to large crowds and leave it at that. Rather, he became very intimate with a small group of disciples. These disciples eventually fanned to the ends of the Earth proclaiming the Gospel.

Another example is John Wesley's revival, in which small groups played an important role.

  • Return to Newsletter Summary Page

  • Return to Home Page