Preparing for Winter – How Do They Know?

Preparing for Winter – How Do Living Things Know?

The ability of plants and animals to achieve maximum survival success in changing seasons is quite interesting. Here in Michigan, our winters can arrive suddenly and forcefully. It may be 75 degrees one day and below freezing the next. It was quite warm in early September, but many trees were already preparing for winter. The leaves of our sumac trees became brilliant red and started falling off the branches. As we approach the end of September, some species of maple trees are changing colors and dropping their leaves.

Several species of birds have left Michigan, heading south for the winter. We live on a river where we see a massive increase in fish activity. There is also a significant increase in the activity of insects, with some butterflies, such as monarchs, heading south in groups. The number of cocoons in our bushes and in our house has accelerated, and some species of bees and wasps have become more aggressive.

The big question is how living things seem to know it’s time to start preparing for winter, even when there is no significant temperature change. There have also been no clues from other weather factors like humidity, rainfall, wind velocity, and direction. The scientific evidence shows that living things pick up on less obvious signals that say, “Winter is coming, and you need to prepare.”

Some living things sense the length of daylight, telling them to prepare for winter. Another factor is the angle of the Sun’s rays, which controls what kind of light reaches Earth’s surface. The Sun’s light contains a variety of wavelengths. The higher energy wavelengths are refracted and scattered more than the longer, lower energy forms. The sky is blue because blue light has higher energy than the rest of the visible spectrum and thus is scattered and refracted more. The next highest energy wavelength is green. Plants are green because they reflect that color, protecting them from the next highest energy of light that reaches Earth’s surface.

As the Sun gets lower in the sky, wavelengths we can’t even see, such as ultraviolet, are refracted and scattered away from the surface. Living things detect that change and start preparation for winter. Explaining how this system of life came into existence is a real challenge for those who deny God’s creation of our planet and the life on it. It’s a joy to see the things God has made testifying about His intelligence and design as they start preparing for winter (Romans 1:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Colonizing Space – Does it Make Sense?

Colonizing Space – Does it Make Sense?
Imaginary Lunar Colony Base

“Why We’ll Never Live In Space” by Sarah Scoles is the lead article in the October 2023 issue of Scientific American. This question is relevant with NASA proposing plans to establish colonies on the Moon and Elon Musk claiming that SpaceX will colonize Mars. Scoles points out that Biosphere 2, where people entered to live for two years, revealed that an encapsulated environment didn’t produce enough oxygen, water, or food for the inhabitants. Later experiments ran into psychological and personal conflicts for those involved. There are similar experiments planned in the United States, Kenya, Israel, and Oman. Does colonizing space make sense?

The problems of trying to survive in space are enormous. Scoles points out that studies of astronauts after spending some time in space show significant physiological damage. Immune systems falter, muscles shrink, and bone loss is so great that it outpaces bone growth. Eye damage, called neuro-ocular syndrome, is associated with space flight.

Radiation from various sources is the biggest problem of being in space. The Sun sends out a variety of radiations, all of which damage human tissue. The radiation of galactic cosmic rays is very difficult to stop. Followup reports on Biosphere 2 show many human problems in a self-contained environment. Those problems are not only physical issues of providing essentials for life but also psychological, social, and even re-entry issues. Medical studies of astronauts in the space station show significant physical and genetic damage. However, these studies involve fewer problems than would be faced in outer space. Biosphere 2 was on Earth, and the International Space Station is in low Earth orbit, where there is still some radiation protection.

When God created Earth, He gave us a more unique place than most of us realize. Science fiction ignores many issues involved in colonizing space. Even if we could overcome all of the obstacles, doesn’t spending tax money to address the challenges on this planet make more sense than sending a few people to Mars? We still have much to learn about life on Earth, and we need to work together to improve the lives of people on this planet. The teachings of Christ give us tools that enable us to do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Scientific American

Attacks on People of Faith

Attacks on People of Faith

If you read news reports other than the mainstream media, you have to be disturbed by recent stories about government attacks on people of faith.

One article told the story of an August 11, 2023, police raid on a private newspaper in Marion, Kansas. This small-town newspaper had written stories about government abuse of religious freedom and the immoral actions of public officials. The justification for the police raid was that they were seeking the names of sources of information leaked to the newspaper.

A group called “Reporters Without Borders” has written several reports of violence or intimidation of news reporters who wrote articles on government actions that violated the rights of private citizens. One such story was the case of Joe Kennedy, a coach in Bremerton, Washington, who knelt at the 50-yard line and prayed silently for 10 seconds after a high school football game. Kennedy was fired because the school system had banned any prayer on school property.

Joe Kennedy did not encourage his players to participate in the prayer, and he prayed after the game was over. He sued the school system. His case went to the Supreme Court in 2022, and the court agreed with Kennedy. The fact that the school system tried to stop prayer of any kind indicates where America is headed.

Students of American democracy and the intent of the founding fathers will recognize the abuse of government attacks on people of faith. Such attacks are not limited to the government. We have had phone calls from people threatening us for what we publish on this website. Freedom of the press and religion are enshrined in the First Amendment, and as America turns away from God and freedom, Christians face attacks on their faith.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Elizabeth Colton in articles in the South Bend Tribune for August 27, 2023, page 12A, and Jeff Graham writing on September 3, 2023.

Social Media and Gun Violence

Social Media and Gun Violence

As an incredible number of people are being shot, we tend to blame everyone, from gun manufacturers to child abusers. We also seem to feel this is someone else’s problem until it affects our loved one and perhaps even takes their life. In July 2023, the United States Surgeon General issued a call to action about social media’s corrosive effects on children. The 25-page report warns of a “profound risk of harm” to young people who spend hours a day on their phones. Evidence shows a connection between social media and gun violence.

We must look at what our children are exposed to on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok. Children can be seen on those sites posting photos or videos of themselves with guns and stacks of cash. Sometimes, kids call out rivals, resulting in deadly violence in schoolyards and on street corners. Desmond Patton at the University of Pennsylvania has been studying the relationship between social media and gun violence and has posted his results, which are of interest to researchers, community leaders, and police across the country. 

In an August 25, 2023 post by Liz Szabo on Oona Tempest/KFF Health News, social workers have described social media “as a relentless driver of gun violence” in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. We urge parents, churches, and individuals working with young people to take an interest in what social media their kids are being exposed to, and how much time they spend on it.

The importance of following God’s instructions to parents cannot be over-emphasized. Being a parent or a youth worker can be exhaustive, but raising kids to be law-abiding followers of Jesus who care about others and want to improve the world is worth investing time and money. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: KFF Health News

Honey Buzzard Migration

Honey Buzzard
Honey Buzzard Migration
European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus)

The more we learn about bird and insect migrations, the more we are astounded by how they do what they do. Chance explanations fail when the migrations become complex. The honey buzzard migration is another example of an incredible migration that defies chance explanation.

Researchers using a satellite tracking system in Finland released data on a bird known as the European honey buzzard. This bird actually does eat honey and will search out the nest of bees and hornets to find its food. Scientists knew that this bird spends its austral summer around the town of Reitz in Free State, South Africa, where bee nests are abundant. They tracked the honey buzzard migration as it left Africa on April 20th and arrived in Finland on June 2nd at the time when, once again, its favorite food was available. This bird enjoys summer twice by its migration, securing food and avoiding winter, but its route is very complicated.

You might think the honey buzzard would just head north, but that would involve going over dangerous landforms and climate irregularities. Instead, the bird makes a 90-degree turn at the source of the Nile River and follows it. When the bird reaches the end of the Nile, it returns to the same longitude line where it started, avoiding the Mediterranean and the Sudan to eventually reach its destination in Finland.

Honey buzzards cover 10,000 kilometers in 42 days, averaging 230 kilometers daily. If you want to see honey buzzards attacking a bee nest, do a word search on the web, but don’t expect an explanation of its migratory route. The honey buzzard migration is programmed into the bird’s DNA, and how the program got there is another example of design by intelligence. Instinctive drives defy chance explanations because they involve a changing Earth with landforms and climate factors that happen too fast for gradual accommodation. We suggest that honey buzzard migration is another evidence of God’s design for all life forms in the creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Collateral Damage of Incarceration

Addressing the Collateral Damage of Incarceration

The Does God Exist?” ministry is heavily involved in prison work. Over 5600 incarcerated men and women across the United States are taking our free apologetics courses, and additional students are using our eight Bible study courses. Those of us who grade these courses are constantly learning of the collateral damage of incarceration.

Wives, husbands, and especially children are the innocent victims of a person’s incarceration for substance abuse, alcoholism, anger mismanagement, domestic violence, and other offenses. We frequently get letters from prisoners taking our courses asking us to contact family members to see if their needs are being met for food, shelter, personal hygiene items, clothing, and medical care.

Churches in our area have begun a program called “Backpack Buddies” to help meet some of those needs. Working with police and fire agencies, these churches have purchased backpacks and filled them with things a child would need. That includes items like hair brushes and combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, soap, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products. Other items included may be blankets, washcloths, and towels.

The Christian system teaches us to care for those in need. Visiting those in prison doesn’t mean just saying “hi.” It also involves helping those who are suffering and those who are caused to suffer by the mistakes of others. Jesus had strong words against those who offend children (See Matthew 18:1-6). I have seen the trauma involved when a child watches their mother or father be handcuffed and dragged out of the home, leaving them alone or at the mercy of people who don’t love them. Family services and shelters do what they can, but the number of those in need frequently overwhelms those agencies.

We don’t justify the destructive actions of adults in our world, but we know that Jesus would have us address the collateral damage of incarceration. “Backpack Buddies” is a great way to attempt to do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Prodigal Son and Carob Pods

The Prodigal Son and Carob Pods
Carob Tree Ceratonia siliqua

When reading ancient literature, there is always a danger for us to “Americanize” the meaning. An example is the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-24. Verse 16 in the King James Version says, “…he would have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat…” Some critics of the Bible have said that eating husks would not have allowed anyone to survive, not even the pigs.

This criticism is a case of assuming that the “husks” were the husks of what we call “corn” in America and which is known as “maize” in other parts of the world. First, they did not have that type of corn in Jesus’ day. When the King James Bible uses the term “corn,” it is wheat or barley. What we know as corn in America was domesticated from a wild plant in southern Mexico. However, the term “corn” is not even used in this parable.

The Greek word used in Luke 15 iskeration,” which refers to something horn-shaped. Newer translations use the term “pods.” The carob tree, native to the Middle East and the Mediterranean, develops edible seed pods shaped like horns. People use carob pods as energy-rich fodder for livestock, including pigs. Humans also eat them in dried and powdered form, sometimes as a substitute for chocolate in recipes because of their color and taste. You may find this ingredient listed as “locust bean gum” in some prepared foods. The poor also use carob pods as a food source.

The prodigal son was reduced to surviving on a poor man’s diet. The people listening to Jesus would have understood these words to demonstrate the level to which the prodigal son had fallen. His life was at rock bottom. The Father’s forgiveness and his statement “…my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” should resonate with thinking people. The Father represents God, and His forgiveness is amazing.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Ferrells’ Travel Blog and Wikipedia.

What Jesus Was and Is

What Jesus Was and Is

A former top official of the Southern Baptist Convention, Russell Moore, told NPR that members of that denomination object to following the instructions of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. The complaint is that saying “love your enemies” is a “liberal talking point that doesn’t work anymore.” This attitude demonstrates more than misunderstanding who Jesus was and is, it reduces Jesus to the status of a prophet or politician, as Islam and Baha’ullah suggest.

If Jesus Christ had not been WHAT He claimed to be, He could not fulfill the purpose for which He came to Earth. He accomplished that purpose because He was God in the flesh. The Bible shows Jesus to be God in passages such as John 1:1-14. Colossians 1:16-17 leaves no doubt when it says, “For by Him were all things created that are in heaven and on earth … and in Him all things consist.” Hebrews begins by telling us that God “has in these last days spoken to us by His Son whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Even Genesis 1:1 hints at Christ’s involvement in the creation process by using “Elohim,” the plural word for God.

In Matthew 5:43-44, when Jesus told His listeners to love their enemies, the Greek word is “agape.” That word means to consider the person to be of incredible worth and value. Jesus tells His followers to consider every human life precious because of its very nature. This flies in the face of atheists who promote “survival of the fittest” and of the Koran, which advocates war and killing as a means to convert people to the Islamic religion.

As long as people fail to understand what Jesus was and is, viewing Him as no more than a prophet or human teacher, we will continue to have war and killing – some of it in the name of religion. Only Jesus Christ offers an end to war and conflict as well as redemption because He is God.

— John N. Clayton © 2023


ASA Journal 75th Anniversary

ASA Journal 75th Anniversary

On January 7, 1949, the first issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation was released. It was a bulletin written by scientists who believed in God and who wanted to make an academic response to the skepticism creeping into America’s secular education. The ASA is not an effort by preachers but a product of the thinking and faith of scientists who believe in God. The ASA Journal is active today, and they released volume 75 # 2 of their journal Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith in September 2023.

The 75th-anniversary issue of the ASA Journal contains twenty-five ASA fellows and editors who tell of their work in conveying academic support for faith through science. Every issue of the ASA journal contains book reviews, but this issue has 20 reviews of books dealing with various apologetics issues.

Anyone can read the ASA Journal, but members of the American Scientific Affiliation must “have attained a bachelor’s or higher degree in a science-related discipline, or they must be philosophers, historians, Bible scholars, theologians or other professionals whose vocational activity contributes to the intersection of faith and science.” They must also give assent to the “statement of faith” (you can see this statement on of Faith.)

It is essential to understand that this group consists of people from all denominations and belief systems who believe science supports faith in God. The scholars debate and sometimes express views that others, including your author, may disagree with. However, the organization has made a robust academic response to the growing tide of skepticism, naturalism, agnosticism, and atheism in America today.

You can get more information at or 978-887-8833. Their mailing address is American Scientific Affiliation, 218 Boston St., Ste 208, Topsfield, MA 01983-2210.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Struggles of American Public Schools

Struggles of American Public Schools

As a retired public school science teacher with a family involved in public education, I have been interested in the struggles of American public schools. The recent issue of the “Nation’s Report Card” shows reading scores at their lowest point in 50 years. The same report shows math scores among 13-year-olds at the lowest average level since 1990.

The public school concept was advanced in 1635 with the Boston Latin School. The first tax-supported public school in America was the Mather School, which opened in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1639. These schools taught the rudiments of literacy and arithmetic with the purpose that all men could read the Scriptures. In 1642, “proper education” was made compulsory.

Here we are in 2023, with one in four children growing up without learning to read. Students in our prison courses struggle because many Bible study students cannot read above a 4th-grade level. Statistics show that two out of three students who can’t read properly by the 4th grade end up on welfare or in jail. In 2013, 66% of the average 4th-grade children in the United States could not read proficiently, according to the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Because of my experience in public school teaching, I don’t have any problem understanding the struggles of American public schools. During my teaching years, I saw two significant influences that inhibited learning. First, I was not given enough class time with the kids to teach them what I knew they needed to understand. I taught math and science and had the kids an hour a day for 186 days. I couldn’t cover everything I wanted the kids to know in 186 hours.

The second problem was attendance. I had an earth science class with 32 students. Most days, I would have about 20 kids present, but it was never the same 20. Kids would show up three times a week, but then they were often taken out of my class for fire drills, storm drills, pep assemblies, counselor sessions, testing, parent conferences, etc. Nobody ever explained how I could teach a kid I didn’t see.

Those problems were present 50 years ago and are much more true today. In addition, today, public school teachers are asked to teach and deal with social issues during class time. They have to worry about pronouns while teaching about racial issues, LGBTQ tolerance, sexual orientation, and political matters. Special interest groups and modern psychological theories dictate most of these topics. At the same time, the teacher has to avoid any reference to morality or biblical teaching about good and evil. No wonder we have a teacher shortage and low student educational levels.

When you throw out God and the Bible, how can you expect kids to understand today’s issues when even adults have no consensus on them? What do you expect to happen when kids cannot read and think for themselves? The struggles of American public schools only add to our society’s ignorance and misery. Meanwhile, the government persecutes Christian schools that try to offer an alternative to the defunct public education system. Christians can promote change, and it begins at the ballot box. What we need is thinking politicians who aren’t just promoting themselves.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Nation’s Report Card and Wikipedia