Monday, December 22, 2008

Santa Claus: An Engineer’s Perspective

I thought you could use something a little lighter...
I. There are approximately two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa does not visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist religions, this reduces the workload for Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 378 million (according to the Population Reference Bureau).

At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per house hold, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming that there is at least one good child in each.

II. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 967.7 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has around 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get on to the next house.

Assuming that each of these 108 million stops is evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second --- 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 miles per hour.

III. The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized Lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer could pull ten times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them--- Santa would need 360,000 of them. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch).

IV. 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance --- this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake.

The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 m.p.s. in .001 seconds, would be subjected to centrifugal forces of 17,500 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo.

Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

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The Fulfillment of Prophecy

Bible prophecy is often pooh-poohed. I hear it from secularists, Muslims, Emergents, and even liberal Christians.

An example is from a book I recently read by a Muslim convert. He used to be a United Methodist deacon, had seminary training back in the 70’s (at Harvard, no less), and had become disillusioned with Christianity when he was exposed to higher biblical criticism. In his book, he devotes significant space to debunking the “fulfillment passages” in Matthew. He points out things like how the Hebrew word ‘alma’ found in Isaiah 7:14 could mean ‘young woman’ rather than ‘virgin’. That means that when Matthew asserts, “This took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ – which means, ‘God with us’”, he is obviously mistaken.

Another example is how liberal Bible scholars will give both Old Testament and New Testament prophecies later dates based upon little more that the idea that ‘they could not be predictive, since the supernatural is not possible’. This forces them, for example, to date the gospel of Luke between 88 and 93 A.D., since Luke 19:41-45 has a detailed prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70 A.D. Never mind that a more objective dating, based on internal end external evidence, renders a date of between 61 and 63 A.D. And never mind that Jesus actually said the words in something like 29 A.D. That will not even be considered.

So is Bible prophecy reliable at all? All those fulfillments that are cited in the Christmas story – are they for real? Are they even possible?

I decided to look at some prophecy that would be a little more difficult to dismiss. It needed to be something that is certifiably stated before the event. It needed to be verifiable that it was or is being fulfilled. But where to find such a prophecy?

(Actually, to be honest, it wasn’t so much that I set out to find such a prophecy as it found me. I was studying for a message on evangelism and stumbled across this delightful discovery)

How convenient that Matthew turned out to be the place!

In Mt. 24:14, in the middle of the ‘Olivet Discourse’ where Jesus is prophesying about the end of the age, He makes this remarkable statement: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Whole world?

All nations?

This was a relatively obscure itinerant preacher speaking privately to 12 men on a hill, in an obscure corner of the Roman Empire some 2000 years ago. Lots of messianic-type leaders have come and gone, both before then and since. Lots of religious movements have been on the scene. Empires have fallen and risen. Even if this was made up by Jesus’ followers decades later, it was still a prediction that no one could have caused to happen.

But it did happen. Or perhaps I should say, it IS happening.

The gospel of the kingdom started in Palestine, spread to some key Roman colonies, eventually took over the Roman Empire, had some trouble for a few centuries during the Dark Ages but pushed on nonetheless. It got stuck in Europe for awhile, but on the front end of the Enlightenment, began to be carried across the globe by missionaries. Consider this chart:

Consider the ever-increasing reach of linguistics and translation work:

- Of the world’s 6900 languages, almost 4700 (68%) have some gospel witness potentially available to them (Bible portions, etc). The speakers of these languages total 6.2 billion, or 95% of the world’s population. (Source: Scripture Language Report)

- In the year 1700 (17 centuries after Jesus gave the Great Commission) Christianity was limited primarily to Europe, America and Australia. 300 years later it has circled the globe and over 60% of the people groups of the world have a gospel witness

In other words, what Jesus said almost 2000 years ago is in fact happening, and it’s happening before our very eyes. The gospel is circling the globe, and we’re closing in on the remaining languages and people groups who still have no gospel witness.

Is this just a lucky coincidence? Don’t bet on it.

For Christmas or for Missions, I’m putting my money on Matthew!

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What is Generosity?

An interesting piece written by self-professed liberal Nicholas Kristof in the Saturday New York Times makes the remarkable accusation that liberals are 'tightwads'. At least when it comes to spending their own money. Several studies cited show that conservatives tend to give significantly more of their personal income to charitable organizations than liberals do.

Seems that the political Left is very generous when it comes to spending someone else's money (mine), and it frequently gives the appearance of compassion because of its insistence on taxpayer funded programs for the poor.

To be fair, one place I break from Republicans and political conservatives is in my belief that as a society we have a responsibility to the needy among us.

But what I'm getting at here is the hypocrisy of the Left in casting their ideological opponents as uncaring and greedy scrooges when in fact it is they who are cheapskates in their personal lives.

I think Christmas is a good time for all of us to reassess where our money goes.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Intersection of Theology and Experience

I was recently chided for using my personal testimony to help make a theological point: "Here you go, using personal experience to define truth."

Now I'm the last person who wants to do that. One could have had a great experience with divorce or cohabitation or some dream that came true and use that to build a theological argument on. Very dangerous. Lots of trouble has been started that way!

But what if you have, say, this ongoing and amazingly transformational experience as a consequence of trusting in Jesus to save you? And what if you find out only later that that is what the Bible says happens to people who are born again and become new creations by faith in Jesus (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:17)?

Then experience corroborates good theology. In other words, if some Holy Book says we can fly, but we aren't able to, then that might indicate a problem with either the Holy Book or one's understanding of it, which is part and parcel to theology. But if the Holy Book says we can fly and I jump off the roof and fly, then my experience is confirming what the book says. That alone perhaps is not enough to certify the theology as sound, but it's a good start.

I read a piece by Al Mohler relating to pastors and the theology they should be preaching that helps with the understanding of this intersection:

"Of course, the experiential nature of the pastor's confession does not imply that the authority for theology is in personal experience. To the contrary, the authority must always remain the Word of God. The experiential character of the pastor's theological calling underlines the fact that the preacher is speaking from within the circle of faith as a believer, not from a position of detachment as a mere teacher."

In other words, this thing I say I believe has actually impacted me and is a reality in my life.

Truth spoken from the platform of a life lived with integrity to professed belief is much more likely to be heard.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Good Quote on Parenting

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Real Face of Communism

This story below is from one of our missionary partners, Paul Hagelgans, who is evangelizing in the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. His father recently died and he sent us a snippet from his dad's life.

The reminder is this: It is too easy to forget what a travesty Communism was and is. Too many people today, young people who never experienced the Cold War, are casting Communism as “not that bad”, and people like Ronald Reagan who fought it as possibly the actual bad guys. Let this personal testimony serve as a witness that Communism is not a friend to the Gospel nor to civilized humanity.

Here's the e-mail I received:

Dear partner in ministry,

I just want to pass this personal note on to you to let you know our field director of the FSU [Paul Hagelgans] got news while he was traveling with me in the USA that his dad had graduated to heaven. Yesterday I put him on the plane to join his family back in Germany, and I want to ask you to remember him and his family these next few days. I have included a note from him as well, but I wanted to share with you one of the stories he told me about his dad as we traveled these last few days:

Paul's father was 81 years old [when he died]. When he was nine years old, his father and 5 brothers where taken out and shot by the KGB for being believers, missionaries, and pastors. The parting comment of the KGB officer to his mom was "We will make it so that your last son will not even remember who Jesus is." With that his mom, standing tall at 4' 2", addressed the officer with her finger in his face "Who are you? You are not God". Of course, she could have been killed on the spot, but God spared her and she went on to raise her son and died when she was 87. Her 9 year old son, Friedrich, died last Friday at 81 years, 27 days. He will go and see his dad and mom and brothers in Heaven since he did know about Jesus and walked with him as well. He leaves behind a believing wife and 15 children (all but one are believers) Their families-even the family of the unbeliever--all know Jesus, and number just over 120 people. The question that begs to be asked is where is communism and this KGB officer? We know where Friedrich is. Please pray for this family as they celebrate the life of a faithful father.

Mark A. Reimschisel

Executive Director,
Bible Mission International, Inc.


My dear Friends,

This is to inform you that on November 28, at the age of 81, my father went to be with the Lord Whom he was serving his whole life long.

For me personally and my family, this was not unexpected, we knew it was to happen soon, he had done the ministry the Lord had given to him, and he had kept living faithfully until the last minute of his life. Now he is even more alive than all of us who live here on the earth.On Friday, December 5, as the Word of the Lord tells us, we will give his body to the earth. It will not be a day of sorrow for us, but a day of victory. According to the words of the Apostle Paul in I Thes. 4:13-18, we will not separate from him, but we will be waiting to meet him again.

My father's life has not been easy; he was a faithful servant to God, to his family and to the people. Not all of it can be described in this letter. I will send you more about his life a little later. His example will be kept forever in the hearts not only of his family, but also of hundreds of people who were around him.

We thank the Lord for our father, and for all He did through him. I thank you for your prayers and support.

Yours in Him,
Paul Hagelgans
Field Director

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Brave New World

This is amazing. What are the implications for us?

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