In 1981 John D. Callahan founded a "Christian Newsletter" at JPL. Throughout the decade, John wrote a number articles for the newsletter; the years 1983 to 1985 are given below.
The life of Jesus is the most outstanding event in history. He has influenced the course of the world more than any single person. He clearly showed Himself to be divine by His words, miraculous deeds, and resurrection from the dead. Belief in Him brings eternal life, and the solution to man's dilemma upon the Earth.
However, we are unfortunately faced with the incredible fact that most people do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We ourselves are sometimes influenced by their disbelief and by the attacks of Satan.
Haven't we all heard such questions and statements as these: How do you know for sure? Jesus was just another great prophet from God, like Buddha, Socrates, or Mohammad. What about all the people before Christ? What about people who never heard about Jesus? How could a good God permit suffering? etc.
While these are important questions and we need to have good answers for them, the reality of Jesus and His words still shine brilliantly from human history. This is the basis for our faith -- not that we know everything or can answer every difficult question.
In support of the above, consider some of the Master's own comments: "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6). "Heaven and Earth will pass away; my words will never pass away" (Mark 13:31). "Go in through the narrow gate because the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to hell, and there are many who travel it. The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and few people find it" (Matt. 7:13-14).
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." "Good for you, Simon, son of John!" answered Jesus. "Because this truth did not come to you from any human being, but it was given to you directly by my Father in Heaven. And so I tell you: you are a rock, Peter, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, which not even death will ever be able to overcome" (Matt. 16:16-18).
Prayer and knowing and being able to do God's will go hand in hand. Through prayer we get to know God in a very special way. We learn what He is like as He reveals His character, plans, and purposes not only for our own lives but for the world around us as well.
This is because when we pray the Spirit of the Lord is there revealing what we should pray for. "In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak that we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us, in groans that words cannot express. And God, who sees into the hearts of men, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will" (Romans 8:26-27).
In addition to helping us know God's will, prayer also gives us the strength to accomplish it. We are in a spiritual war with the forces of evil. Battles are rarely waged effectively without proper prayer. "Keep watch, and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
Knowing that prayer is so important, what are some guidelines for us to follow in our prayer life? Well, Jesus taught us how to pray in Matt. 6:9-13. As far as time to be spent in prayer, we read in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to "pray without ceasing" and in Luke 21:36 Jesus tells us "Be on watch and pray always." Of course we cannot pray 24 hours a day, but we should always be ready to talk with God, even if our hands are busy. We know that Jesus often spent hours in prayer and on occasion would pray all night (Mark 1:35 and Luke 6:12).
Christ! The virgin-born Christ-child, our Saviour. The Babe of Bethlehem was the Son of God who in His grace was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born into this world as a man, yet One who never ceased to be God.
Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year and nearly everyone very actively celebrates it! Billions of dollars are spent on presents, Christmas trees and lights, food, parties, vacations, etc. We sing many hymns glorifying Christ, and flock to the churches on Christmas day. For many, going to church on Christmas day is their only visit during the year.
While nearly everyone celebrates Christmas, most do not understand its true significance. They are, in effect, worshipping what they do not understand, either by choice or ignorance. "You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:22-24).
Let us, as true believers, worship God this Christmas in spirit and correct understanding. Let us also have great hope for the unsaved, because Christmas provides a good opportunity to witness to our lost friends and family. Let us sway them to "spirit and truth."
The Devil is our principal adversary in this life. Understanding him and correctly dealing with him is one of the many important challenges to being a Christian. Two extremes are often seen within the church. One is to ignore the Devil completely, belittling his importance in an attempt to defeat him. The other extreme is to attribute every problem to the Devil or demon spirits. There is, however, a correct Biblical response to the Devil and his kingdom, which will be summarized below. An excellent book on the subject is Dealing With the Devil by C.S. Lovett.
As we are all aware, Lucifer was created in the beginning by God. He was an archangel and one of the most magnificent beings ever created by God in the entire universe. His greatness, however, "went to his head" and he spontaneously became proud. "Pride is the beginning of sin" (Eccles. 10:13). Lucifer claimed the right to rule the universe instead of God. He lead a rebellion in heaven in which many of the angels sided with him. Lucifer and his angles were cast from heaven to become the Devil and demons.
The fall happened early in the creation of the universe and brought evil into it for the first time. This is clear from Jesus' statement, "You are the children of your father, the Devil, and you want to follow your father's desires. From the very beginning he was a murderer. He has never been on the side of truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie he is only doing what is natural to him, because he is a liar and the father of all lies" (John 8:44). The exact power of the Devil's kingdom is hard to speculate on. However because of his initial greatness and the number of angels who sided with him, his power is doubtless great and we need to take it seriously. Remember, Jesus called the Devil "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31).
How then do we handle our great adversary? Well the greatest summary is probably given by James, "So then, submit yourselves to God. Resist the Devil, and he will run away from you (James 4:7). Note that there are two very important concepts in this statement: submit to God, and resist the Devil. The two go together and the order is important. Often Christians submit to God but fail to come against the Devil. Conversely, we often attack the Devil and are unsure of our relationship with God!
We cannot expect to fight the Devil without God's help and being in right relationship with Him. This does not mean we must be perfect. But we must not hide our sins or be afraid to come to Him. We must trust in His great mercy and patience with us and "come boldly before the throne of grace" (Hebrews 4:16). Paul tells us, "Finally, build up your strength in union with the Lord, and by means of His mighty power. Put on all the armor that God gives you, so that you will stand up against the Devil's evil tricks" (Ephesians 6:10-11). When Jesus taught us to pray in The Lord's Prayer, He ended it with the words, "keep us safe from the Evil One" (Matt. 6:13).
Next, and vitally important, we must actively resist the Devil. But how? Well, we know the great importance of what we say and believe. We also know the great importance of the scripture. It is no surprise then that Jesus, when tempted in the desert, resisted the Devil by speaking directly to him using scripture (Matt 4:1-11). Note that Jesus actively and directly came against the Devil. He did not just pray to the Father to help Him. Also, there are many instances where Jesus commands evil spirits to leave.
We then should resist the Devil by speaking directly to him using scripture and in power, having submitted to God. In addition we should use the name of Jesus, for Jesus said, "While I was with them I kept them safe by the power of your name, the name you gave me (John 17:12). Note Paul's words when he cast the spirit of divination out of a woman, "...he [Paul] turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I order you to come out of her!' The spirit went out of her that very moment" (Acts 16:18).
One final thought. Don't let the Devil tell you "it's just you". If you sense his presence and evil workings, go to God and then crush the Devil in power!
We all have great value as members of the body of Christ. As believers, the Spirit grants to each of us spiritual gifts. Not everyone is gifted in the same way, but all of us need to give our gifts and in turn be ministered to by other Christians. In doing this we fulfill the law of Christ, which is love.
Paul talks about spiritual gifts and love in 1 Corinthians 12 through 14. We read, "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to everyone for their service. The Spirit's presence is shown in some way in each one, for the good of all (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
After Paul's great message on love in 1 Corinthians 13, we read, "It is love, then, that you should strive for. Set your hearts on spiritual gifts, especially the gift of speaking God's message (1 Corinthians 14:1).
By coming together and sharing with one another as Paul instructs, we strengthen ourselves and give a powerful testimony to the world. As Jesus said, "If you have love for one another, then all will know that you are my disciples (John 13:35).
It is important that every individual participates and finds his place in the body. This is not always easy, though, because so often we are misunderstood and put-down by our fellow believers. The root of this problem is pride nurtured by Satan. We are, of course, in a great spiritual battle with him and his forces.
He knows the tremendous power we would have if we were all organized correctly under God and sharing our gifts. In war, numbers and correct organization are very important.
The term "born again" is often used by Christians to describe a right relationship with God. The term has been used quite extensively over the past several years, and it's meaning has been somewhat clouded. Many people believe they are Christians without being born again.
Actually, the words or terms used to describe a state of being right with God are not as important as the state itself (obviously!). Although most of us understand the basic principles involved and are sure of our salvation (another term), as we should be, it is still beneficial to study the issue for the following reasons: it will increase our faith and help us to say the right thing to the unsaved.
First of all, the term "born again" is an excellent one, because it comes from Jesus' own lips: "I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again" (John 3:3). Jesus was talking with Nicodemus, a sincere yet ignorant religious leader. I wonder if we would have had the wisdom to understand and counsel Nicodemus the way Jesus did.
Nicodemus says, "How can a grown man be born again? He certainly cannot enter his mother's womb and be born a second time!" Jesus replies, "No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. A person is born physically of human parents, but he is born spiritually of the Spirit. Do not be surprised because I tell you that you must all be born again. The wind blows wherever it wishes; you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it is going. It is like that with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
There are two key points in Jesus' statement. The first is that a man must be "born of water." This refers to the baptism of John the Baptist. The symbol of the water baptism was the confirmation of the act of repentance. John urged the people to repent, or turn, from their sins, and believe in God. Once this act is accomplished, then comes the rebirth of the person by the Spirit of God: "he is born spiritually of the Spirit." The presence of the Holy Spirit is the true mark of a Christian. It shows a dependance on God and willingness to allow Him to direct one's life.
Consider the parallel ideas expressed by John himself: "I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but the one who will come after me will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matt. 3:11).
Repentance and belief in God involves as its foundation belief in Jesus, who is God's only Son and Himself divine. He is our saviour. Therefore Jesus goes on to say, "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
God has a wonderful and important plan for your life! He is infinite and perfect in His goodness and cares not only for the world and nations but for you personally. Being a Christian means knowing God, through His only Son, Jesus, and seeking to serve Him. In addition to knowing God's plan through the Bible, He also has exciting and more specific plans for each of our lives, such as the occupation we choose, friends in our lives, who we marry, the church we attend, etc. "I have come in order that you might have life -- life in all its fullness" (John 10:10).
It is vital to have God's direction and goals in our lives, for without them, we can become depressed and discouraged. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hos. 4:6). So how do we know God's general requirements and special plans for our lives? Well, James says it well and simply: "Come near to God, and He will come near to you" (James 4:8). To come close to God, we need to obey the Spirit's leading as He guides us to study the Bible, pray, and attend church. Then His voice will become clearer, loader, and more specific.
As we seek God, we will learn His thoughts and our place in His kingdom. We know from the Bible that God is, of course, particularly interested in winning souls, and this is ultimately the primary job of His church on Earth: "I have been given all authority in heaven and on Earth. Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20).
Through the leading of His Spirit, God will show us our place in His mighty army, the church, to fulfill the great commission. Even though many of us may never lead a soul directly to Christ, there is still an enormous amount we can do by being members of His church and led by His Spirit. It is similar to war, where the troops behind the lines still play a crucial role. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. What a joy it is to participate in God's plans as He rescues others from the Devil, and He gives us a happy and fulfilled life.