SpaceShipTwo

Sadly, SpaceShipTwo exploded during a test flight on Friday, October 31, 2014. There was one fatality and one serious injury. Spaceflight is hard. Spaceflightnow.com reports the following:

Virgin Galactic, part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, was aiming to complete qualification of the rocket-powered plane in time to begin space tourist flights to the edge of space next year.

“We’ve always known that the road to space is extremely difficult — and that every new transportation system has to deal with bad days early in their history,” Branson said in a statement. “Space is hard — but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together.”

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

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Near Earth Asteroid Mission

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration.

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Antares

Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Although an Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, there were four previous launches of the rocket that worked without any problem. Rocket science is hard and accidents are inevitable. The engineers will determine what went wrong and will make fixes to try to prevent it from happening again.

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There’s No Need for Tears

Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

“They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.

Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

Jesus said, “Mary.”

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’ ”

Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her. (John 20:11–18)

The angels asked Mary a question: “why do you weep?” From Mary’s perspective, it seemed obvious: Jesus was dead, someone had moved his body, and now she couldn’t even mourn properly. An already bad situation had gotten even worse.

Moments later, someone else asked her the same question, “why do you weep?” She was distraught, she had tears in her eyes. Jesus was supposed to be dead. So she didn’t recognize it was Jesus himself asking the question that time.

Jesus asked her the question for the same reason that the angels had. Of course they understood she was sad, and of course they understood why. Neither the angels nor Jesus were asking for enlightenment. They were asking to make Mary reexamine her situation. She didn’t have a reason to weep anymore. Couldn’t she see that?

When Jesus spoke her name, she suddenly could see that. Her tears probably didn’t vanish in that instant, but they certainly took on an entirely different character: they became tears of joy.

Mary realized her circumstances were radically different than what she had imagined. The storms and trials of life can buffet us so severely sometimes that we lose sight of the fullness of our own circumstances. Although our suffering is no less real, no less painful, if we can keep our eyes on Jesus, the storms of life will not buffet us quite as hard.

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Surprise, Surprise

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. (Luke 24:1–12)

When the women came to the tomb that Sunday morning they were very sad; it was the third day since Jesus had been crucified, and they wanted to properly prepare his body that had been buried hurriedly before the Sabbath began. Now, with the Sabbath over, they could do the job right.

The women did not suspect, did not imagine, had not conceived of even the possibility that Jesus’ body would not be in that tomb. Their primary concern was wondering exactly how they’d get into it to do the final tasks that they thought they owed him, given that the stone blocking the tomb entrance was large and heavy.

The angels that met the women at the tomb wondered why they were looking in a tomb, of all places, for Jesus. Then they quoted Jesus’ prediction of his resurrection. Even then, confronted with the reality of the empty tomb, they had trouble understanding Jesus’ words.

God often surprises us, not so much because he hasn’t told us ahead of time what to expect, but mostly because we simply didn’t understand what he told us. Thankfully, he isn’t dependent upon our understanding in order for him to act on our behalf.

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Party!

“The older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’ ” (Luke 15:25–32)

The good son who always did what he was told, who had never disobeyed his father, became upset over the fuss being made over his wayward sibling. After living a disreputable life, after wasting all his part of the inheritance, he came home to a party. The good son just could not make sense of what he was seeing. He couldn’t see the justice of the situation.

The parable of the prodigal son was told in response to Pharisaical criticism of the time Jesus spent with “tax collectors and sinners.” It followed the parables about a lost sheep and a lost coin. Jesus argued that fairness has nothing to do with how God related with us. It was not about settling accounts, or getting what we deserve. Instead, it was all about God’s great mercy. The good son—like the Pharisees he represented—appeared unmerciful, self-absorbed, and unkind. All he cared about was himself and his desires: he failed to love his brother. And he failed to love his father.

Our relationships with most people are not all about settling scores and balancing accounts. Rather than focusing on what’s best for us, or what we perceive of as fair, we instead simply want to know how we can help those around us. It’s not about whether we think they deserve our help or not. We didn’t earn God’s mercy, and we can’t expect anyone else to earn ours.

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Prosperity

Peter began to tell him, “Look, we have left everything and followed You.”

“I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel, who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. They were astonished, but those who followed Him were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, He began to tell them the things that would happen to Him.

“Listen! We are going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn Him to death. Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles, and they will mock Him, spit on Him, flog Him, and kill Him, and He will rise after three days.” (Mark 10:28–34)

Jesus once again spoke in paradox. After the incident with the rich young man unwilling to sell everything and follow Jesus, Peter told Jesus that he and the other disciples had left everything. Peter’s words were a hunt for reassurance.

So Jesus reassured Peter that those who had left much would receive eternal life, even as they still had parents and fields in abundance—with all the persecution those things would bring. But Jesus was not suggesting that if we give up everything, we get more physical stuff back in return. What had Jesus elsewhere said about mothers, brothers, sisters? That those who do the will of God are his mothers, brothers and sisters (Mark 3:33-35). Likewise, Jesus said the fields being white unto harvest and to pray for harvesters to go out into them (John 4:34-38). Jesus was not promising wealth and prosperity for those who sacrificed for him. Instead, he was promising what we would gain from spending ourselves for God. We gain the harvest of righteousness and the harvest of more souls for the kingdom. And inevitably, our proclamation of the Good News can bring persecution sooner or later.

Though in this world we may seem to have lost everything because of our devotion to Jesus, come the kingdom, we will be rich indeed. Where our hearts are, that’s where our treasure is.

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Accepting Reality Can Be Hard

Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”

“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”

Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” (Matthew 26:59–67)

Why was Jesus’ acknowledgement of being the Messiah and his announcement that he would be seated in a place of power said to be “blasphemy?” Because the religious establishment did not believe he was the Messiah: they believed he was claiming a false status and a false relationship to God. They thought Jesus was from Satan, using Satan’s power to accomplish his miracles. By claiming an alliance with God, he was, in their minds, claiming Satan had allied with God. Their belief that Jesus was a false Messiah—an antichrist—is what led them to condemn him.

The religious establishment looked at Jesus, what he had said, what he had done, and interpreted him in ways that were at odds with reality. It is easy to misinterpret circumstances and words. It is easy to assume the opposite of how things really are. Just as human beings for thousands of years misunderstood the nature of the solar system, imagining that it was the sun in motion rather than the earth rotating. So we must be careful not to misunderstand the words of Jesus, the power of Jesus, and the nature of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

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Battle

“Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”

Peter said, “Master, I’m ready for anything with you. I’d go to jail for you. I’d die for you!”

Jesus said, “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Peter, but before the rooster crows you will have three times denied that you know me.”

Then Jesus said, “When I sent you out and told you to travel light, to take only the bare necessities, did you get along all right?”

“Certainly,” they said, “we got along just fine.”

He said, “This is different. Get ready for trouble. Look to what you’ll need; there are difficult times ahead. Pawn your coat and get a sword. What was written in Scripture, ‘He was lumped in with the criminals,’ gets its final meaning in me. Everything written about me is now coming to a conclusion.” (Luke 22:31–37)

Most Jewish people believed that the Messiah would raise an army against the Roman occupation. So Jesus’ words about buying a sword would have initially been understood by the disciples in that context. But when Peter told Jesus that they had two swords already, Jesus told him “that’s enough.” Hardly the call to arms that the disciples anticipated.

The interpretation that Jesus literally meant that his disciples should go out and arm themselves with swords stands at odds with everything else that Jesus ever said. When an interpretation creates contradictions or absurdity, that is our first indication that an interpretation is wrong.

Jesus command to his disciples to procure a sword is best understood in a metaphorical sense. Jesus was indicating the need for his disciples to be spiritually armed and prepared for spiritual battle. Consider Paul’s words that “the weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world” (2 Corinthians 10:4 NIV). Also, consider that Paul said “the sword of the Spirit” is “the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17 NIV).

We do not fight God’s enemies with physical weapons. Instead, we do battle “in the Spirit.” That is, we are called to challenge those who are enemies of God by bringing them the Good News that Jesus died for their sins. We attack the gates of Hell, not with physical swords, but with the Gospel message.

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Encouragement

Write this to Philadelphia, to the Angel of the church. The Holy, the True—David’s key in his hand, opening doors no one can lock, locking doors no one can open—speaks:

“I see what you’ve done. Now see what I’ve done. I’ve opened a door before you that no one can slam shut. You don’t have much strength, I know that; you used what you had to keep my Word. You didn’t deny me when times were rough.

“And watch as I take those who call themselves true believers but are nothing of the kind, pretenders whose true membership is in the club of Satan—watch as I strip off their pretensions and they’re forced to acknowledge it’s you that I’ve loved.

“Because you kept my Word in passionate patience, I’ll keep you safe in the time of testing that will be here soon, and all over the earth, every man, woman, and child put to the test.
“I’m on my way; I’ll be there soon. Keep a tight grip on what you have so no one distracts you and steals your crown.

“I’ll make each conqueror a pillar in the sanctuary of my God, a permanent position of honor. Then I’ll write names on you, the pillars: the Name of my God, the Name of God’s City—the new Jerusalem coming down out of Heaven—and my new Name.

“Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches.” (Revelation 3:7–13)

Jesus’ words to the church in Philadelphia were words of encouragement for the trouble they were facing. Jesus promised that he would keep them “safe” during the “time of testing.” That is, they would remain with Jesus regardless of what happened; he would never leave them or forsake them, even in the darkest of times. The open door probably refers to the opportunity for evangelism that they had.

That God would “write on them” and that they would be “pillars” may be an allusion to the Maccabean Revolt. The great accomplishments of Simon Maccabeus during the revolt against the Greek ruler Antiochus Epiphanes were inscribed on tablets of brass that were attached to a conspicuous place in the Temple. For the people of Philadelphia their glory, their victory, was not in mighty deeds, but in bearing the name of God as citizens of the new Jerusalem, God’s eternal kingdom.

Life can be very difficult. But through everything, God never leaves us as grants us opportunities to share the Good News about the kingdom. And our names are forever written in his Book of Life.

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