Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts

Christmas Traditions vs. Bible Facts
It is interesting to see how many Christmas traditions are not found in the Bible. A classic example is the song “We Three Kings” which we often hear at Christmas time. Tradition even identifies those “kings” by name, appearance, and which gift each brought. They are:

Melchoir – old – white hair – bringing gold – a gift for a king.
Gaspar – young – beardless – bringing frankincense – a fragrant gum – smoke from burning is said to symbolize the prayers of God’s people ascending.
Balthazar – black – heavy beard – bringing myrrh – a fragrant resin from Arabia used in embalming (John 19:39, Psalms 45:8, Proverbs 7:17).

The Bible does not mention how many there were. It just says that they came from the east to Jerusalem. The word translated “wise men” in Matthew 2:1 is also used in Acts 8:9,11 and Acts 13:8 in reference to a sorcerer. The biblical reference to them being kings is Psalms 72:10 – a Psalm written for Solomon which mentions three kings from Tarshish, Sheba, and Seba. Matthew 2:11 tells us the three gifts.

Who saw the “star?” The shepherds of Luke 2:8-20 did not see the star, but were told about the birth of Christ by an angel. Herod didn’t see the star even though the birth was not far from Jerusalem. Since the wise men were not Jews and apparently were from a sorcerer type of background, they came from their homes to Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. When they learned the baby was to be born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:5-6), they were guided by the “star” to the place where Jesus was. Christmas traditions often place that in the manger. Matthew 2:11 says the young child and his mother were in a house. The fact that Herod killed all the baby boys in the area that were two years old or younger indicates that the wise men come at a later date to the house where Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living.

So what was the “star.” It certainly was not a typical star. Normal stars don’t move and stand over a manger, and they would have been visible to Herod or anyone else in the region. Modern attempts to explain the star as a comet, a supernova, or an aurora simply don’t work. The conception of Christ was a miracle. You don’t explain it by parthenogenesis or any scientific method. You either accept it or reject it on faith. Similarly, the star the wise men saw was not a natural object, and they knew that. In the Old Testament, there was a pillar of fire that led Israel out Egypt and into the promised land. The ancient Jews called it the Shekinah glory (See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:48 and Ezekiel 1:28, 10:18-19, and 11:23).

Christmas traditions aside, the wise men from the east would be part of the ancient oriental world, and they would have carried the message to the Gentiles in that area. The shepherds represent the Jewish community of the area where they shared the news. The story is amazing, beautiful and pregnant with meaning. It doesn’t need the embellishments of modern Christmas traditions.

If you are interested in learning more about Christmas traditions vs. Bible facts, we recommend a book called Star of Jacob by Wayne Leeper. You can borrow it from this ministry or purchase it at THIS LINK.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Christianity Changed the World

Christianity Changed the World
We thought the following article titled “How Christianity Changed the World” was an excellent summary of what we have been saying. It was printed in Citizen Magazine, November 2018, page 30. We are sharing it here by permission:

Do you sometimes think our culture is at the crossroads, tipping toward the gates of Hell? If so, you’re not the first to wonder if the Church will make a difference in a pagan culture.

Jesus began building His Church in a dark and depraved world that devalued life and denigrated marriage. The Greco-Roman culture of that day was brutish and violent; mercy, pity, and compassion were viewed with contempt.

Into this environment, early believers brought a message of God’s deep love for people. Empowered and transformed by the Holy Spirit, they modeled a gospel of grace and compassion. Along the way, they transformed the world.

Be encouraged that what our generation faces today is not new. The Church has been here before, and it prevailed. Here are some key ways the Church made a difference:

Christianity taught and demonstrated the dignity and sanctity of human life. The gladiator “games” vividly depict the Romans’ callous disregard for human life. Crowds of bloodthirsty spectators watched as slaves, prisoners, and criminals fought to the death or were torn apart by wild animals. Christians were vocal in their opposition to these horrific spectacles and encouraged believers not to attend. After hundreds of years, as Christian influence grew, the games were finally shut down. Christians also displayed their value for life in positive ways, helping the sick and needy, eventually building hospitals, hospices, institutions for the blind and homes for the elderly.

The early church advocated for children. Abortion, infanticide and child abandonment were common in the ancient world. The early Church carried the biblical belief that children are made in God’s image and are a gift from Him. Jesus’ followers fought to protect life with their teaching and their actions. They practiced their faith by rescuing abandoned children, providing care and adopting them into families.

Christians proclaimed God’s good design for sexuality and marriage. In the folklore of the time, pagan gods and goddesses engaged in art kinds of sexual immorality. Not surprisingly, their worshipers followed their example. The Church rejected this decadent ethic and elevated the importance of sexuality and marriage. Scripture taught that God ordained marriage and that it was a picture of Christ’s relationship with His Bride, the Church. Men were called to sacrificially love their wives and wives were to respect their husbands.

Christianity also elevated the status of women. In a world where many wives were treated almost like slaves, the early Church included women in leadership. Women played a vital role in supporting the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. The Church grew as women were drawn to a faith where they were valued and respected.

The world is immeasurably different thanks to centuries of Christians living out their faith. Their example should be an inspiration to us today as we lift up the values of human life and God’s design for marriage.

As we end this year and look forward with hope to a new one, we want to thank Citizen Magazine for allowing us to share these thoughts about how Christianity changed the world. We would add to this essay the fact that skeptics like to point to the errors of organized religion in the past. Those errors occurred because humans did things the Bible didn’t endorse or command. The broader picture shows a hugely positive action in Christianity when Christians have followed God’s teaching and Christ’s example.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Design Is an Illusion – Not

Design Is an Illusion – Not
If you read our posts and publications regularly, you probably know that we are continually talking about design in the universe, on our planet, and especially in living things. We think that it is impossible to look at life and say that we see no design. However, some people can see the same things and say design is an illusion. They are willing to accept on faith that everything came into existence out of nothing and evolved by pure accident with no intelligence involved.

One person who refuses to see design in nature is a very well-known evolutionary biologist. Richard Dawkins has written several best-selling books that are supposed to be on the subject of biology. However, they are actually books on theology. The high point (or low point) of his books on theology is The God Delusion (Houghton Mifflin 2006). He travels the world giving lectures on theology, under the guise of biology.

Dawkins’ field of study is biology, not theology, so we take his pronouncements with a grain of salt. However, even Dawkins has to admit that his biological studies appear to show design. In his book The Blind Watchmaker he wrote, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” However, he then goes into theology by stating that design is an illusion and there is no designer. That means there is no ultimate purpose in life beyond day-to-day survival. In River Out of Eden Dawkins wrote, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good…”

No design, no purpose, no evil, and no good—that’s the way Dawkins describes the living things he has spent his life studying. Life, of course, includes human beings—you and I. If Dawkins is right, why should he study living things, or why should we? What is the purpose of using our purposeless lives to study purposeless things? Perhaps Dawkins has found his purpose in theology as he endeavors to convince everyone that there is no God.

As we think about this, we have to be amazed at how incredibly ironic the Dawkins delusion is. In the meantime, we will continue to admire the design we see in the world and pay homage to the Designer. Faced with the Dawkins challenge that design is an illusion, we choose to believe our eyes–and our common sense.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Justifying Animal Behavior in Humans

Bonobos - Justifying Animal Behavior in Humans
We have received several letters from people suggesting that sexual practices among animals show that humans are not unique in their moral choices but are merely acting out their animal heritage. Our supposed animal heritage can then be used for justifying animal behavior in humans.

We have read articles and news releases describing animal behavior including the pedophilia practices of bonobo apes, and recreational sex, rape, and homosexuality in monkeys. We have seen documentaries on the fact that many males in the animal kingdom kill the babies of their own species. The supposed reason for that is to push the mothers of those babies to become more quickly receptive to the sexual advances of the males.

It is a foolish argument to suggest that humans are just animals and that all human behavior is inherited and therefore we can’t condemn it. One PBS program recently said that the greatest threat to the babies of bears and lions was from the males of their own species. I am sure that very few atheists would maintain that human males should not be condemned for killing their offspring.

The other major point we would make is that sexual activity in animals is almost always a way of expressing dominance and control. The pedophilia practices of the bonobos produce extreme violence among the clan. Using sex to show dominance or to establish a pecking order among the group is a long way from the purpose of human homosexuality.

God created humans in His image. That means that dominance and control is not the only focus of our relationships. The “oneness” that God intended for sexual relationships (Genesis 2:24) is a long way from establishing who is going to control the group in which they live. The “agape” love which humans are capable of, goes far beyond sex. In John 17:24-26 Jesus spells out agape in terms of God’s love for His son. Animals are not capable of that kind of love.

When humans misuse sex or use sex only for physical pleasure, the result is always catastrophic. After Amnon raped Tamar (see 2 Samuel 13) he “hated her exceedingly.” That was the beginning of a long series of tragedies for the whole family. Justifying animal behavior in humans violates the uniqueness of humans and human relationships, just as it did for both Tamar and Amnon. Animal sexual activity does not produce what God intended in the marriage relationship.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

How Many Moons Are Enough?

How Many Moons Are Enough?
When it comes to moons, it seems that Earth got cheated. We have only one moon while Mars has two. Neptune has fourteen moons. Uranus has twenty-seven. Saturn not only has rings, but it also has sixty-two moons. Lucky Jupiter has sixty-seven! To add to the embarrassment, puny little Pluto, which is no longer considered a planet, has five times as many moons as Earth has! The only bragging point we have is that we can say we have more moons than Mercury and Venus. (They have none.) So how many moons are enough?

Actually, one works very nicely. Our single moon is critical to the existence of life on Earth. It’s because of the moon that Earth has a stable tilt on its axis of 23.5 degrees. That tilt prevents temperature extremes on this planet. With no inclination, the area of the Equator would be extremely hot and the poles extremely cold and dark all year. With a greater tilt, seasonal weather changes would be extreme all over the planet. Because of the angle of the inclination, we have proper seasons, and the air gets mixed to temper the weather extremes.

Our moon has the right mass at the right distance to keep Earth’s tilt stable. The moon plays several crucial roles in making our planet a great place to live, but stabilizing the tilt is one that’s extremely important. So how many moons are enough? I would say that one moon of the right size and at the right distance is just right.

Oh, and those other planets with more moons — none of them are habitable. Guess who has bragging rights now? Thank God that he gave us a just-right moon, and we don’t need any more. We see evidence of God’s design in every detail of our planet.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Galactic Coincidences?


On a clear, moonless night, you can look up and see the Milky Way. Actually, we are in the Milky Way, a spiral galaxy of 200 billion stars one of which is our Sun. We are located in a spiral arm of that galaxy 26,000 light-years from its center. Our location seems to indicate many galactic coincidences.

At the center of the Milky Way (and perhaps all galaxies), there’s a black hole sending out lethal radiation to a distance of 20,000 light-years. Farther out than 26,000 light-years from the center, heavy elements that are vital to our existence and survival are scarce. We are in what astronomers call the “galactic habitable zone.”

Spiral galaxies rotate, and we are near the co-rotation spot where our solar system moves at almost the same rate as the spiral arm we are in. If we were in precisely the co-rotation spot, we would experience gravitational “kicks” which could send us out of the habitable zone. If we were far away from the co-rotation spot, we would fall out of the arm and be subjected to deadly radiation.

In the vast majority of spiral galaxies, the habitable zone and co-rotation spot do not overlap. Most other spiral galaxies are not as stable as ours. Most galaxies are not spiral galaxies and would not have a stable location for advanced life.

Furthermore, galaxies exist in clusters, and our cluster called the “Local Group” has fewer, smaller, and more spread-out galaxies than nearly all other clusters. Most galaxies are in dense clusters with giant or supergiant galaxies which create deadly radiation and gravitational distortion making advanced life impossible.

These are only a few of the many factors that “just happen to be” true of the place where we live. Are these just galactic coincidences? Some say it’s all accidental. We say it’s a grand design by a Master Designer. The next time you look up at the Milky Way, thank God that we are precisely where we are.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Why We Need Christmas

Why We Need Christmas
Why do we need Christmas? That’s a question worth asking. Many people dislike Christmas for various reasons, and some are good. I have some reasons why we need Christmas.

First, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas comes at the time of the winter solstice when daylight seems much too short. Christmas serves to cheer us up and get us through those winter doldrums. That leads to a second reason–the decorations and especially the lights which bring beauty and cheer, even on those cold, dark days.

A third reason is the emphasis on family at Christmas. It seems that everyone wants to spend time with family and those we love as we carry on the Christmas traditions we enjoy. Related to that is the fourth reason, and that is giving. We enjoy giving to others. Jesus said there is more joy in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). We naturally tend to want others to give to us. But when we give to others, we learn the truth of what Jesus said.

Reason number five relates to giving. God’s love for us prompted Him to give the greatest gift of all. God became a flesh-and-blood person and lived among us (John 1:14). The greatest reason why we need Christmas is to remind us of the gift God gave to us. He came to show us how to live and to give himself for us. If we could all accept the gift Jesus offers and follow His teaching and example, the joy of Christmas would last all year long.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Giving Something of Value

Giving Something of Value
Giving something of value (such as money) to someone for an item of equal value is buying and selling.

Giving something of value to someone without requiring anything in return, while expecting that person to give something of similar value is creating an obligation.

Giving something of value to someone who has done something to deserve it is compensation.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, but who will appreciate it is love.

Giving something of value to someone who does not deserve it, and who will perhaps not appreciate it is “agape.”

Agape” is the Greek term used in the Bible to describe God’s kind of love. It’s the “I don’t care if you spit in my face, I will still love you” kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus demonstrated when, as he was being crucified, he openly forgave those who were doing it. The gift of Jesus coming to Earth to live among those who would eventually despise and kill him is true “agape.” The gifts we give are lame by comparison.

The story of Jesus from birth to death and resurrection is a story of giving. It is indeed the most amazing concept we can imagine, and a story nobody would dare to make up. The Creator of the universe takes the form of one of His creatures to bring them to Himself. I can see why many people refuse to believe it. It’s incredible, but I believe it’s true.

When we realize it is true, we must ask ourselves, “What can I give in return?” We should not hold back anything–but we do. God is the one who gives without holding back, but our giving has strings attached. We should say with the Jewish King David, “I will not offer to God that which costs me nothing.” In fact, we should offer to God that which costs us everything. That would still not match God’s gift to us.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

California Wildfires Follow Up

California Wildfires Follow Up
Our printed journal for the fourth quarter of 2018 contained an article titled “Lessons From the Fire.” In it, we pointed out that the California wildfires in 2018 were the result of human mismanagement of the forest, and not some “act of God” as the media has sometimes reported. In the article, we gave three biblically-based lessons that we should have learned from the fire. You can read it HERE.

We have received responses from people who live in the fire area. Here is a recent email comment:

“I drive past the ruins from this fire when going to the doctor and have observed that houses are being rebuilt in the same location using the same materials. Nothing has been learned from the past experience. Besides this, lawyers are having a field day getting clients to sue the local utility company. One of them has had a half page ad in the local paper every day since the fire. It’s true that the company power lines were responsible for some of the fires…but not all of them.”

The fact is that the start of the fires was not the issue. The real problem was the biomass that provided fuel for the flames once they started. There has been almost no discussion in the media about managing the other forests in California that are tinderboxes waiting for a spark to repeat what happened this fall.

God didn’t cause the California wildfires, and He will not prevent catastrophe from resulting from human stupidity, mismanagement, and greed. God told Adam, “take care of the garden of Eden, dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The basis of that command surely applies to us today. It is up to us to take care of what God has loaned to us.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Atheist and Satanic Seasonal Displays

Atheist and Satanic Seasonal Displays or Christmas Nativity
The apparent solution to all of the lawsuits and negative publicity about Christmas displays on public property is to allow atheist and Satanic seasonal displays. In South Bend, Indiana, where our ministry is located, the Northern Indiana Atheists have erected a display titled “Oh Come All Ye Faithless.” On the grounds of the Michigan Capitol a Satanic group called “The West Michigan Friends of the Satanic Temple” is attempting to repeat the “Snaketivity” display that was erected last year by the Satanic Temple’s Detroit chapter. It featured a red snake coiled around a black cross with a pentagram on it with a sign that read “The Greatest Gift is Knowledge.”

Our ministry agrees with the free speech of all of these displays, even though we disagree with their belief system. There is an adage that says “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it.” As a veteran, I firmly support that statement.

I agree with the Northern Indiana Atheists that there should be a separation of Church and State. It is interesting that this atheist group is a non-profit and thus takes advantage of the same rights that churches have. Jesus said to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. The government has no right to interfere with religious freedom or to persecute religions that are trying to serve and help others. Unfortunately, government restrictions and attempts to control religious belief are increasing in America as we have shown in our posts during the past year.

The view that knowledge is a great gift is not contestable. Calling it “the greatest gift” is an opinion that is poorly supported. However, Proverbs 8 talks about wisdom and Romans 1:18-32 extols the importance of knowledge. Atheist attacks on the Bible and the concept of God are demonstrations of bias, hatred, ignorance, and prejudice – all of which fly in the face of knowledge. This ministry is an educational program trying to present knowledge that can be helpful in addressing the problems in the world and individual lives. Atheist and satanic seasonal displays do nothing to solve those problems.

These displays remind us of Paul’s discourse to the intellectuals in Athens in Acts 17:21-33. He said, “I found an altar with this inscription ‘to the unknown god.’ Whom, therefore, you ignorantly worship, Him I declare to you.” More sharing and listening on the part of all of us will result in less conflict and more cooperation. We need to address the real problems humanity faces in today’s world, and Christianity does that.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from South Bend Tribune December 4, 2018, page A1 and December 8, 2018, page A-2.