Living the Christian Life

Living the Christian Life

One of the struggles that we all have is living the Christian life completely. Both atheists and believers often misunderstand what it means to be a Christian. Those of us who claim to be Christians do not claim to be perfect or better than anyone else. My favorite analogy is that I am called as a Christian to be faithful to my wife. That is within my power. It is not within my ability to be perfect to my wife.

Over the years, there have been situations where I could have been unfaithful to my wife and probably gotten away with it. As a speaker on college and university campuses for 53 years, people opposed to my ministry have made deliberate attempts to trap me by giving me opportunities to be unfaithful. With God’s help, I have been able to avoid those traps.

By the same token, my relationship with my wife has been far from perfect. I have failed in so many ways that I could write a book about how husbands fail in their marriages. Those failures are of things I should have done and didn’t. I am ashamed to say that there were things I did that could be called abusive.

The same is true of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I have tried to be consistent in living the Christian life, but I have been a long way from perfect in my life and ministry. I have not always “turned the other cheek.” I have not always “loved my enemy.” Even more important, I have left undone things that I should have done. Does this mean I am rejected by God and doomed to the same end as the atheists with whom I have debated? Certainly not!

My greatest encouragement in this matter is the writings of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-23. Paul tells us, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….For the good that I want to do, I do not do, and I practice the same evil that I do not want to be a part of…I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind…” So the atheist will say, “How does your being a Christian change anything? You are just like me.” That is true. We all have the same battle, but living the Christian life, I have two things the atheist doesn’t have.

(1) I have guidance in my life that works. I know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have help in not actively engaging in sin after sin after sin. The Holy Spirit has given me solutions that help me avoid sin. I still make mistakes, and I am sure that my carelessness and stupidity make Jesus weep sometimes, just as at times it makes my wife weep. But as a Christian, I am programmed to do things that are against human selfish desires.

(2) I know that I am forgiven by Jesus. After describing his struggles, Paul ends by saying, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He answers that by telling us, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” I am no better than anyone else, but I am forgiven, and I avoid the destruction of a bad conscience and a guilt-ridden life. Living the Christian life, I also have the motivation to avoid repeating the damage produced by a selfish life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Fossil Apes and Human Evolution

Fossil Apes and Human Evolution

Most of the media versions of human evolution are fictitious and inconsistent with the evidence. That is the finding of a study conducted by scholars from the American Museum of Natural History released in the journal Science for May 7, 2021, titled “Fossil Apes and Human Evolution.”

“When you look at the narrative for hominin origins [referring to bipedal apes and modern humans], it’s just a big mess – there’s no consensus whatsoever.” That’s a quote from Sergio Almecija, the lead author and a senior research scientist at the American Museum of Natural History’s Division of Anthropology. He went on to say, “People are working under completely different paradigms, and that’s something that I don’t see happening in other fields of science.” 

According to the study of fossil apes and human evolution, science has a wealth of fossils, but “many of these fossils show … combinations of features that do not match expectations for ancient representatives of the modern ape and human lineages.” We hasten to add that the museum’s article does not deny human evolution but clearly shows that the story given to the general public is a false impression that our history is a cut and dried factual record on which all scientists agree.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. There will be many articles and a few TV specials on fossil apes and human evolution in which certain well-known anthropologists will sell their view of human physical history. Careful students who know how much evidence is available will see the contradictions, but the general public will not. 

The biblical explanation of human creation is not a detailed physical explanation of how humans were created. Genesis 2:7 tells us, “God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Bible does not detail what processes God used to do that creating or what the finished product looked like (skin color, etc.). 

The Bible does tell us the essential factor that human beings were created in the image of God. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He them, male and female created He them” (Genesis 1:27). Whether you view God as merely commanding and man miraculously appearing, or if you think of Him as a potter molding and shaping man’s body, that does not diminish the unique nature of humans. The Bible has an economy of language. We would like to have the details, but that is not the purpose of God’s Word. 

It’s a destructive message to tell humans they are just animals with no unique qualities and no real purpose in existing. Letting people know that they are special, created with a unique spiritual makeup means that all humans are equal in God’s sight and have a spiritual purpose for existing. Like Job, we are key players in the war between good and evil. Relegating humans to someone’s guess as to how we evolved and cherry-picking fossils to do that is not only unfortunate but has the potential to destroy our culture.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: Here is a link to the study in the journal Science.

This is the American Museum of Natural History’s report on the study.

This is Breakpoint’s summary of the study’s findings.

Seaweed as a Natural Resource

Seaweed as a Natural Resource
Sea Grapes (Aulerpa lentillifera)

The summer issue of the Nature Conservancy magazine contains an interesting article about the value of seaweed. Overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification, and global warming combine to make life difficult for people living in coastal areas who depend on fishing. The use of seaweed is a solution to much of this, and researchers are making significant progress in advancing seaweed as a natural resource.

Growing food in the ocean is more efficient than raising it on the land. There is no need to worry about water or fertilizer because seawater has all the nutrients needed. There are collateral benefits as well since many marine species depend on seaweed to reproduce.

Companies extract carrageenan from seaweed and use it in the production of cosmetics, foods, and medicines. More than 25,000 people are employed in farming seaweed in Tanzania, and extensive training programs are teaching local farmers how to farm seaweed in their coastal waters. 

There is reason to be optimistic about the future. We are learning to use all that God has given us to radically increase our food production, and the work of farming the ocean is leading the way. Not only does seaweed provide food directly to humans, but it can be dried and used as food for cattle, sheep, and goats. Seaweed also helps the planet by reducing the carbon dioxide in the air and increasing the oxygen content. 

The diversity that God has built into the creation allows us to overcome the problem of feeding a growing population while finding ways to reduce pollution. Seaweed as a natural resource demonstrates once again that creation is not a cosmic accident but designed for advanced human life. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: nature.org

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

First Solar Eclipse of 2021

On the morning of June 10, 2021, the Sun will rise as a crescent in areas of the far northern United States and southern Canada. That will include the upper peninsula of Michigan, northern New York State, New England, and southern Quebec and Ontario. It’s the beginning of the first solar eclipse of 2021.

Solar eclipses happen when the Moon passes between the Sun and the Earth. This will not be a total eclipse because the Moon will not completely cover the Sun. It’s called an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse. Total solar eclipses happen when the Moon completely blocks the Sun from view, as we saw in 2017. Because the Moon’s orbit is elliptical, it is not always the same distance from Earth. This time, it’s too far away for its shadow to cover the Sun.

When the eclipse reaches its peak, there will be a ring of light from the Sun visible all the way around the Moon’s shadow. Unfortunately, that ring of fire will not be visible anywhere in the United States. The full annular eclipse will only be visible in a narrow path across northern Canada, parts of Greenland, and northeastern Russia. A partial eclipse will be visible from a much wider area, including much of North America, Asia, and Europe. If you are attempting to view any solar eclipse, do not look directly at the Sun without special eye protection similar to welding glass. Ordinary sunglasses will not do. Some websites give instructions for building a simple pinhole viewer.

If you miss the first solar eclipse of 2021, you might be interested to know you will probably miss the next one. It will be a total eclipse on December 4, visible in Antarctica. Don’t despair. There will be more in the coming years. You can also safely watch the eclipse live on the websites listed below. We can accurately predict solar and lunar eclipses years in advance because of the excellent engineering design God has put into our solar system.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

You can view the eclipse live on the Date and Time website and the Virtual Telescope Project.

Assistance in Dying is a Difficult Issue

Assistance in Dying is a Difficult Issue

We have had several personal experiences with a person approaching death that brought up the issue of assistance in dying. One of the cases in our family involved a loved one dying in an Asian country. The belief in that country was that life is all there is, so a person should be kept alive at all costs, no matter what. Our loved one was in enormous pain and begging to die, but his Asian wife refused to allow him to receive any drug that might shorten his life. Drugs such as morphine can relieve pain, but they can also shorten life, so she did not allow those drugs.

There is also a medical treatment called palliative sedation, which renders a person unconscious until they die. In the United States, hospice offers palliative care but does not hasten death. Individuals can use VSED, which is “voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.” The decision is difficult, and when the person loses consciousness, family members can override it.

Ten states and the District of Columbia now allow medical assistance in dying. Doctors in those states can prescribe a lethal dose of a drug if requested by the patient or their power of attorney. The states are Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico.

Several of our church friends have faced the issue of assistance in dying. Our current issue is our son Tim who is mentally incapable of deciding for himself and is in a pathetic condition. COVID-19 has activated his cerebral palsy complications and especially his muscular dystrophy, so he is bedfast and barely able to communicate. He is making no visible progress, and because of blindness, he has very little quality of life. I read to him daily over the phone. He can only eat pureed food because he can’t chew and swallow hard foods. He is cut off from friends or family because it is virtually impossible to understand his speech.

What do you do in a case like my son Tim? He is a physically strong person, so he may remain in this state for a very long time. Having a doctor inject him with a lethal dose of drugs might seem to be the merciful thing to do, but that is pure euthanasia and assumes he will never make any recovery. Who has that kind of knowledge?

We share this with you to underline the issue of assistance in dying. As our population ages and as medical care advances, this issue will only get more complex. Join us in praying that God will lead us to know how to deal with this new problem facing humanity, which is especially difficult for believers in God.

John N. Clayton © 2021

For two different views on the assistance in dying issue, you can turn to the websites of Compassion and Choices and the National Right to Life Committee.

Planned Parenthood Data for 2020

Planned Parenthood Data for 2020

We saw the Planned Parenthood data for 2020, and it disturbs us. The organization performed 354,871 abortions, which is 9,199 more than the previous year. The government gave $618.1 million of federal tax money to Planned Parenthood in 2020. That does not include $80 million from the Cares Act, which was to help small businesses because of the pandemic. Other services which Planned Parenthood provides, including adoption, prenatal care, and help with miscarriages, declined by 40%.

Planned Parenthood also gave presentations in public schools, and in some cases, parents were not notified about the content. Because of the political situation in the United States, abortion pills may be made available through the mail.

As a Christian who works with various child-care organizations, I know of many couples in our area who want to adopt a child. As has always been true, there is a long wait time to get a child. Adopting requires laborious home studies and interviews. As the parent of three adopted children, I know the joy of having a child when you are biologically unable to conceive.

The Planned Parenthood data for 2020 is disturbing. It’s easy to oversimplify this issue, but the notion that abortion is a solution to birth control is medical nonsense. The psychological problems resulting from abortion are huge because aborting a child is infanticide. Americans are critical of other cultures that don’t protect children or even discard unwanted children, and yet our culture is doing the same thing. If you ever watch a video of an abortion, you will see that it is indeed the killing of an infant and not the removal of a blob of flesh that is simply part of the mother.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from the American Center for Law and Justice

Everyone Has Faith – But In What?

Everyone Has Faith - But In What?

I recently had a discussion with an atheist who said, “I have no faith.” I pointed out that his statement was simply not true because things in his life radiated a faith. He has faith in America, even though there are things going on in this country that might try to destroy that faith. He has faith in gravity. He doesn’t walk around worrying that gravity will fail, and he will float off into space. He has faith in the political party that he supports and even faith in a professional sports team. Everyone has faith. The question is not whether we have faith but what we have faith in.

What does your faith do for you, and is your faith growing or dying? Everyone has faith, but is your faith in any way dependent on another human being? If so, you are setting yourself up to be disappointed in that faith. People die. Politicians lie. Sports figures lose their ability. Philosophical beliefs radiate the inability of humans to think rationally.

I am an old man, and sometimes I make contact with atheistic people I knew years ago when I was an atheist. If they are still atheists, they cannot give me any evidence to support their atheistic faith. They are opposed to belief in God, but their atheism has not blessed them. They are getting ready to die with nothing but frustration, anger, disappointment, and disillusionment.

My atheist friend admitted that being an atheist had not improved his life. He then challenged me to show him how my faith had improved my life. That was easy. My faith led me to a wife who was a blessing to me. There was never any evidence in our 49 years of marriage that she even thought about being unfaithful. When death took her from me, my faith sustained me and led me to a second wonderful woman who has blessed my life. My faith has caused me to have an excellent relationship with my children. It has helped me find joy in a son who has sustained multiple birth defects.

My faith has also given me friends I can trust. I know they would never let me down, and I can rely on them for help in all circumstances. My faith led me to a career in teaching instead of the one my father picked out for me, which primarily involved making money. My teaching experience was rewarding and full of joy. My faith took me into a ministry that makes my life pregnant with purpose and full of value.

My faith causes me not to fear death. My faith is in Jesus Christ and His word, not in humans. I have received hatred and abuse from people who claimed to be Christians, but my faith in Christ has sustained me. I have not listened to the humans who have their own set of problems and refuse to follow the love and compassion that Jesus taught.

Everyone has faith, but in what? I want to share my faith with others because I want the world to be saturated with a belief based on love, service, and peace. God has given us all kinds of evidence for faith in Him. Life teaches us that not having faith in God and His Word brings misery and frustration. When Thomas had a faith problem, Jesus gave him evidence (John 20:24-29). Today we have more evidence than ever to believe and live by faith in God.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

God In the Flesh

God In the Flesh - The Rational God

Several years ago, I spoke at Ohio State University when a leading atheist maintained that God was an old Chinese woman. I pointed out that he should at the very least attack God on the level that God claims to be and not some straw horse god he had just described. He responded by quoting my old atheist friend Madalyn Murray O’Hair who said, “No God ever gave anything to man nor appeared in any way to man nor ever will.” Then I pointed out that God did precisely what Madalyn said He would not do when He came to Earth in the form of a human. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.

Put yourself in the role of God for a moment. You have created humans, and you desire to lead them to a better way of living. How would you do it? You could make a violent entry to Earth, displaying all of your power and strength. What would that do? It might create a power struggle among humans to be your right-hand person.

That power struggle actually happened in the life of Christ. Matthew 20:20-23 tells about a mother bringing her two sons to Jesus and asking Him to make them His assistants in His kingdom. Another negative to this approach is that people would give service and obedience to God out of fear, not love. There have been those world rulers who tried to rule by power and force. People knuckled down to the ruler, but they hated him, and they rebelled at the first opportunity.

You can enslave a people for a short time, but ultimately they will revolt. The power struggle that always results brings out the worst in humanity. We see that happening in many places on Earth today. The kind of service that will last is one based on love, not enslavement. Jesus Christ, as God in the flesh, brought that kind of love.

It is also a fact that when a ruler lives a radically different lifestyle from that of his subjects, he has no way to relate to them. In today’s world, people try to imagine what it would be like to live the wealthy and opulent Hollywood lifestyle. Movies such as Camelot have had a theme that revolved around royalty trying to comprehend what it is like to live as “common” folk.

In Jesus, we see God in the flesh avoiding the show of force and the opulence. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that in Christ, we do not see one who lived a lavish lifestyle, but rather one who could “be touched with our infirmities, but was in all points tempted as we are.” Psalms 22:1 describes God in the flesh crying out at the frustrations of life, as we do. Christ repeated those words in Matthew 27:46. Isaiah 53:3-6 describes the suffering of Christ for us. God coming to Earth makes perfect sense if you understand that God wants a relationship with His creation. The Bible makes this clear in passages like John 1:1-3,14 and Philippians 2:6-8.

The tragedy is that people today have gotten so far away from understanding real love that they think of God as they would a dictator, a slave owner, or a military general. The kind of love that the Bible speaks of has a special name – “agape.” It is so far removed from the mindset of our culture that John 3:16 is a cliché without meaning to most people.

Even religious people have trouble with the concept of grace because they can’t comprehend that God is love. In the verses following John 3:16, we read the observation that men love darkness and reject God. God gave us a choice because He wants us to believe in Him and love Him as a Father, not an abusive dictator.

We have a book titled The Rational God that explores this subject in greater detail. It’s available from us for purchase or on loan. You will find our catalog of materials at doesgodexist.org. You can also purchase the book from the powervine.store.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

My Brother Jim and Alcohol

My Brother Jim and Alcohol

We have frequently pointed out that a massive percentage of the pain and death people experience is directly related to their choices in life. If you don’t believe in God, what do you use for support when you hit the usual frustrations in life? My brother Jim bought into my parent’s atheistic beliefs. For much of his life, he lived as an atheist.

When my youngest brother grew frustrated with the everyday struggles of life, alcohol became his tool for coping. That caused him to be unable to help others or find meaningful companionship. When he struggled with his normal sexual drives, he did not believe that marriage was the only way those feelings could be satisfied. My brother’s marriage failed because of his alcohol use, and it also seriously affected his relationship with his two sons.

My brother Jim was fired from his first teaching job because his alcohol use affected how he dealt with his students. One of his sons and I pleaded with him to realize what alcohol was doing to him, and gradually he began to move away from his addiction. He eventually got involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, started studying the Bible, and carried on extensive conversations with me about the existence of God.

I finally convinced my brother Jim to go with me and a group of 50 Christians as we toured the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Canyonlands. In addition to showing evidence that the Bible accurately describes Earth’s history as revealed in these places, we all engaged in singing hymns, praying for one another, and studying God’s Word. At the end of the trip, my brother admitted that he could not be an atheist anymore and that he saw the validity of Christianity.

What do people in our culture do to relieve the pains that come in life? The use of drugs, including alcohol, has skyrocketed in my lifetime. Developing a relationship with God and working with those of like faith to establish a realistic approach to failure and frustration is not on the radar for much of our culture.

As people reject God, ridiculing the Bible,
and questioning its relevance to the struggles of life, the problems they experience have grown. The ultimate result of this is a massive increase in health issues related to drug use and an enormous rise in legal problems, including prison terms. More than half of the prisoners studying our correspondence courses are in prison because they abused drugs.

Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and the destructive nature of my brother’s early atheistic beliefs had consequences on his relationships and health. He had marginal relationships with family, had few friends, and never found the kind of joy that Christians have when they follow God’s Word. In addition, his health had been compromised by his use of alcohol. On May 28, he died from all the damage alcohol had done in the past. Living the Christian way of life is essential to give the hope of eternal life and to give us the very best things that this life can bring. My brother Jim is a case history that demonstrates that fact in vivid, realistic terms.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Problem of Hunger Unnecessary

Problem of Hunger Unnecessary

A strange situation that exists today is human mismanagement of what God has given us. I get 20 to 30 pieces of mail daily asking for donations to feed starving children. These children are not just in Africa or India, but also in Appalachia. When you donate to one organization, you get on everyone’s mailing list. I’m glad organizations are addressing the food needs of people all over the globe, but the problem of hunger is so unnecessary.

With political circumstances depriving common people of basic food needs and selfish politicians and rulers involved in power struggles, children are dying all over the planet. The pathetic pictures of starving children hit home in the United States as the statistics show how poorly we manage God’s gifts. USA Today (May 26, 2021) published a report from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that 42.8 million tons of uneaten, wasted food ends up in landfills or combustion facilities every year. The report goes on to say that people in the United States typically waste 25% of the food they buy, amounting to a cost of $2,275 a year per person.

The problem of wasted food is not getting better even though we have ways to prevent food spoiling. Buying canned goods, freezing leftovers, dehydrating fruits, and ordering more intelligently should reduce our waste. The problem of hunger is unnecessary, yet every city in the country is reporting issues with waste.

A society will practice selfishness when it rejects the notion that God has given us what we have and expects us to share it with others. The economically deprived are the ones who suffer. The collateral damage of selfish atheism is a testimony to the validity of faith in God, but Christians should be leaders in making full use of God’s blessings.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Time magazine May 24/31, 2021, page 23.