Eighteen-year-old Oliver Daemen will become the youngest person ever to fly into space when he joins Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark Bezos for their eleven-minute flight on July 20. Here’s where the story gets even stranger: the person who had originally won the seat by putting up $28 million now has what Bezos’ company called “scheduling conflicts.” Daeman, whose father purchased a seat for him on the second flight, was then moved up to the first flight.
But none of this is the real story to me. Jeff Bezos chose for the fourth member of his crew an eighty-two-year-old woman named Mary Wallace “Wally” Funk. Wally began training to become an astronaut in 1961 as part of the Mercury 13 Women in Space Program. She was at the top of her class when the project was cancelled; none of the thirteen women flew with NASA.
Undeterred, she has logged 19,600 flight hours as an aviator and taught some three thousand people to fly. She served as the first female air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board and was the first woman to be an inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration.
If all goes well next Tuesday, she will become the oldest person ever to go into space.
John F. Kennedy Jr. died on this day
Another aviator is making headlines today but for a tragic reason. John F. Kennedy Jr. died on this day in 1999 when the private airplane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. He, his wife, and his wife’s sister all perished.
For all her personal accomplishments, Wally Funk may be most remembered for her space flight at the age of eighty-two. For all his personal accomplishments, John F. Kennedy Jr. is most remembered by many people for his fatal flight at the age of thirty-eight.
We cannot always choose the circumstances for which others remember us. Joseph didn’t choose to be enslaved and then promoted in Egypt; Moses didn’t choose to be exiled in the desert and then to confront Pharaoh on behalf of his people; David didn’t choose to be king of Israel; Paul didn’t choose to meet Jesus on the Damascus Road; John didn’t choose to be exiled on Patmos.
But we can choose the character with which we confront our circumstances. If we seek to be godly, God can use us in ways that change our circumstances and impact our culture for eternity.
Ben Zobrist alleges pastor slept with his wife
This is why our spiritual enemy is attacking Christian leaders at the point of personal morality so fiercely. As we have discussed this week, he is trying to remove any vestige of Christian influence from the secular culture. He wants Christians to avoid persecution and seek popularity by compromising the moral truth of Scripture.
When Christians make such compromises personally, our sins can be even more damaging to the cause of Christ.
A youth minister was arrested recently for child pornography; another was arrested on solicitation of a minor. Former Major League Baseball player Ben Zobrist is alleging that his former pastor had a sexual affair with his wife and that he defrauded Zobrist’s charity.
Of all we can do to undermine and demean the Christian movement in our anti-Christian culture, personal moral failures are especially damaging. The clergy abuse scandals of recent years have dominated headlines and caused many church members to consider leaving the church. We cannot know how many nonbelievers have rejected the gospel because of the failings of those who preach and represent it.
The perilous sin of Achan
Joshua 7 tells the story of Israel’s defeat in the first battle of Ai. This was an enemy far less powerful than the fortified city of Jericho they had just conquered. Nonetheless, the Jewish troops were routed and “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” (v. 5).
Joshua and the elders of Israel complained to God for allowing their defeat (vv. 6–9). But the Lord replied, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them” (vv. 10–11). God identified a man named Achan whose greed led him to keep objects God had forbidden (vv. 20–21). When this sin was confessed and purged, the nation was able to defeat Ai and continue its conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua 8:1–29).
If we are defeated by Ai, perhaps it’s because we are harboring the sin of Achan.
This fact does not mean that godliness guarantees health, wealth, and success. From Job to Jesus, the Bible is filled with stories of innocent suffering. But it does mean that we must seek personal integrity if we would make a public impact for the gospel. If we are one person in private and another in public, the private will inevitably become public.
My purpose is not to laden any of us with guilt or call us to an impossible standard. Rather, it is to close this week’s discussion of biblical morality by inviting us to seek to be what we wish others to see.
If you and I will ask the Holy Spirit each day to show us what we need to confess, he will answer our prayers. If we will then confess what comes to our minds, our Father will forgive us and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). If we will spend time with God in his word and worship, we will position ourselves to be molded by God’s Spirit into the character of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).
If we will settle for nothing less than godliness, we will manifest godliness. And when the world writes our legacy, it will honor our Lord.
“The kind of man the mirror likes to see”
I was in a restaurant the other day when a song by Chris Young came over the speaker. Its lyrics arrested my attention as he prayed:
I wanna be a good man
A “do like I should” man
I wanna be the kind of man the mirror likes to see
I wanna be a strong man
And admit that I was wrong, man
God I’m asking you to come change me
To the man I wanna be.
Will you make his prayer yours today?