Holding “Church” Services in a Pandemic

Holding “Church” Services in a Pandemic

Ignorance can kill. That statement is so true that it doesn’t need any examples. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, some feel that their church is exempt from the medical facts. The “50 States” section of USA Today (Thursday, April 2) carried a report of Pastor Tony Spell of the Life Tabernacle Church in Louisiana. He is holding “church” services despite government orders not to. Spell maintains that continuing to conduct services is “not any different from keeping the doors of Walmart or a hospital open.”

The first point we need to make is that the Church is not the building where Spell preaches. The Church is people, not a location. Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.” In Colossians 4:15, Paul sends a greeting to “Nymphas and the church that is in his house.” The first-century Church did not have a building or a single person who was dominant over everyone else.

The second point is that comparing the Church to Walmart or a hospital is a very ignorant thing to say. While all three are essential to human existence, two of them relate only to a part of our physical needs. You need Walmart or other stores only to get food or other physical essentials. You need a hospital only if you are physically very ill. You need the Church 24/7 for your emotional, psychological, spiritual, and social well-being.

In going to Walmart or the hospital, you rely on humans who are prone to make mistakes. When you “go to church” you are relying on God and His Word, which are always available, and are infallible. Once again, the Church is not a building and not dependent on a single human. The Church is people praying, singing, studying God’s Word, and serving others (See Acts 2:44-47). Holding “church” services by meeting together in one place is very good. But, when necessary, we can still do all of those things without physical closeness.

The third point is that bringing people into a dangerous situation contradicts God’s nature and His teaching. In Acts 12, we read about an angel releasing Peter from prison. The Christians were not exposing themselves to arrest but were secretly gathered in a home praying. Jesus frequently passed out of a situation that was dangerous to Him and others. He never exposed people to a dangerous situation, and His teaching was to avoid evil not to flaunt His power over it. When He rescued a woman from being stoned to death, He told her, “Go and sin no more.” (See John 8:11).

I would not impugn Spell’s motivation for putting his congregation in harm’s way, but that is not what the Christian community is called to do. Holding “church” services is not as important as being the Church.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Army Chaplains from Overseas

Army Chaplains from Overseas

A recent article in Christianity Today (April 2020, page 19-20) said that roughly 1/5th of today’s Army Chaplains were born outside of the United States. One example is Army chaplain Sebastian Kim who was born to Korean parents in Argentina and then moved to Brazil at the age of 7. This makes us ask why such a high percentage of Army chaplains were not born in the United States?

Raja Kandanada, who was born in India, now works at the Pentagon as a family-life chaplain. He says that although he was born in India, he was born again in the United States. Although he experienced discrimination in India because of the caste system there, he has come to understand the meaning of God’s love in America and the debt he owes to his adopted country.

As America veers away from belief in God, those who have lived elsewhere see the effect of faith in this country, and they want to be a part of it. Today’s military is not made up of people who were drafted. Today’s soldiers are people who see the value of being Americans and want to serve others and serve God. Cornelius Muasa, an Army chaplain from Kenya, says, “My job as a chaplain is to empower those who fight evil.”

These Army chaplains stand out and fit the description in Philippians 2:14-16, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world holding forth the word of life…”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Water World – Genesis 1:2 Evidence?

Water World - Genesis 1:2 Evidence?

“AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD MOVED UPON THE FACE OF THE WATERS.” – Genesis 1:2
The second verse of Genesis describes a water world, and science indicates the accuracy of the biblical account.

As we have pointed out previously, the first two verses of Genesis 1 describe God’s activity before the creation week begins. These verses are historical and are not a summary of what is to follow. Verse 1 describes the creation of time, space, matter/energy, and the cosmos. Verse 2 describes changes on the Earth that God is making through His Spirit. These verses are undated and untimed, but they are not stated as a summary. As we read about the creation week, we see the creation of land plants and animals that were familiar to the people of Moses’ day. By that time, we have a functional Earth that has all that is necessary to support life.

So what was the Spirit of God doing in verse 2? Science is telling us more about this water world. Recent scientific studies of the marine sediment in the Western Australian outback suggest that biological life was created in a water environment before any landforms came into existence. The studies use oxygen 18 and 16 isotopes to determine the availability of life-supporting oxygen. Land sediments from the early Earth don’t show available oxygen while these marine sediments do.

Dr. Benjamin Johnson of Iowa State University says the data shows that “the Earth was a water world for the first quarter or so of its history.” That agrees well with the suggestion of Genesis 1:2 and is just one more hint of the accuracy of the Genesis account.

For more on this please read “God’s Revelation in His Rocks and His Word” available (free) on doesgodexist.org at THIS LINK. You can also purchase printed copies HERE.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Joshua Bote’s column in USA Today 3/20.

Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Fake Dead Sea Scroll Fragments at the Museum of the Bible
Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

One of the more trusted sources of science and history is the National Geographic Society. Their popular magazine, books, and TV programs have been used to promote particular viewpoints, and sometimes they have been deceived. Many of our older readers will remember a cover story in the magazine about a Chinese fossil that the magazine ran as proof of a particular evolutionary theory. It later turned out to have been constructed by local people as a means of selling claimed fossils. Now there is an issue with fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The Museum of the Bible collection of Dead Sea Scroll fragments, which the National Geographic has used extensively, are fakes. They consist of 16 fragments claimed to be from authentic Dead Sea Scrolls. The forgers used old pieces of leather, and after writing on them, they treated the documents, so they looked ancient. The museum released a report by Colette Loll on March 13, 2020, explaining that microscopic analysis of the fragments showed cracks in the leather filled with pools of the ink. That means the leather had cracked after a long period of time, and the ink ran into the cracks in modern times. Other evidence also showed that these were fake Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The message for all of us is to realize that any scientific claim based on historical objects needs careful study. Claims of antiquity should be read with a skeptical eye to the evidence. There is a lot of money involved in ancient artifacts, documents, and writings. Since National Geographic has such acceptance and worldwide circulation, they are particularly vulnerable to forgery attempts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Source: Biblical Archeology Society 3/16/20.

Christian Response to a Crisis

Christian Response to a Crisis

One of the great evidences for the validity of the Christian way of living as taught by Jesus Christ is the effect it has on the way people treat other people. In Acts 4:31-37, we see the first century Church sharing their possessions and looking after one another. When there was a famine in Jerusalem, churches in other parts of the Roman empire raised funds to feed the Jerusalem Christians. Christianity, when practiced, stood out as a positive force, continually meeting the needs of others. That is the Christian response to a crisis such as COVID-19 or Y2K.

During the Y2K scare
, “experts” said that the financial systems of the world might collapse. The response was that people stockpiled food and essential commodities. Many people not only locked away supplies, but they set up military-like defenses to keep others out. The government maintained that there was no cause for alarm, but people didn’t trust the government, and they enlisted other ways of protecting their money and property.

Now we have a similar crisis, except this one is a biological problem. How have people reacted? We not only see people stockpiling things they consider important for their survival, but also using the crisis to make money. We have seen people buying massive amounts of toilet paper or hand sanitizer and then trying to sell them for vastly inflated prices. People have made substantial amounts of money by selling “cures” that don’t work and even testing kits, masks, and ventilators that were unreliable. Gun stores have seen a rush on guns and ammunition. Survival of the fittest has been the message of the COVID-19 catastrophe.

Those are the worst-case situations. At the same time, some people have made sacrifices to help others survive. Many individuals and Christians have operated food banks and cared for the ill. Most of them did so as islands of Christian compassion in a world of selfishness and greed. The Christian response to a crisis is entirely different from the selfish response.

Watching these emergencies argues strongly for the need to see God working in the lives of people today. The statement of Jesus, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few,” has 21st-century relevance. (See Matthew 9:37.)

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Cancer and Sexual Promiscuity

Cancer and Sexual Promiscuity

The Bible is very clear in teaching that the best way to conduct oneself sexually is to have one partner for life. As people have veered away from God’s teaching and instruction, sex has lost its meaning, and people with multiple partners do not find the joy and satisfaction in sex that God intended. We are now learning that the consequences of multiple sexual partners are more than just a lack of satisfaction and joy in sex. There is also a strong connection between cancer and sexual promiscuity.

USNews.com carried a study of 5722 men and women with an average age of 64. It showed that women who had ten or more sexual partners were 91% more likely to have cancer than those who had either one or zero partners. Men who had multiple partners had a 64% higher risk of cancer. The sample size is too large to just blow off this data. However, some researchers suggest that those with multiple sex partners also had habits that elevate cancer risks, including drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes. But the research shows a strong connection between cancer and sexual promiscuity.

We would suggest that God gave us moral laws for our good. The Creator who designed us knows what behaviors will benefit us and which will not. In Matthew 19, some Pharisees asked Jesus why Moses allowed men to have more than one wife. His response was, “Because of the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to put away your wives: but from the beginning, it was not so” (Verse 8). When we violate God’s plan, the consequences are not just emotional and mental, but there are physical health issues as well.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Week, March 6, 2020, page 21.

Living Honorably Day at West Point

Living Honorably Day at West Point

“In no way does Living Honorably Day enhance the readiness of our military. This is about destroying men because they are the foundations of the family … Men are so important, and they are walking out of their families today all over America” — U.S. Army Lt. General (Ret.) William G. Boykin

General Boykin made those comments on Family Research Council’s Washington Watch radio show. He was referring to a program called Living Honorably Day at the U.S. Military Academy. On January 14, 2020, the Academy at West Point canceled all cadet classes and required all cadets to view a screening of Miss Representation. This is a documentary produced by Girls’ Club Entertainment and featuring Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Rachel Maddow. The feminist leaders label previous military teaching on discipline and accountability as “toxic masculinity.” The phrase “be a man” is no longer allowed in military training.

The feminists running the program at West Point use the term “hypermasculinity” to describe the biblical teaching that men are to be the leaders in the family. It is difficult to read Ephesians 5:21-6:4 and not see the wisdom of God’s plan for the family. Women have some guaranteed roles, and motherhood is one of them. No matter how badly I, as a man, might want to be a mother, it is not possible. The notion that nobody has guaranteed roles is a response to the abuses that have been heaped on women in some areas of our culture. Men need to have a role in life, and feminists like those in the West Point incident demonstrate selfishness and a lack of concern for men while trying to correct abuses women have received.

General Boykin and others in the military see a weakening of our ability to defend ourselves as a nation, and Living Honorably Day is just a symptom of that. We need to consider the reflections of Boykin and others on what is happening to society in general. Christian men and women can correct the weaknesses and abuses that occur in our culture without generating abuses on another part of our culture.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from Family Research Council letter of March 2020.

Dinosaurs in Genesis 1

Dinosaurs in Genesis 1

I find it interesting how various denominational creationists handle the existence of dinosaurs and how they fit into the Genesis 1 account. We still see some who deny that dinosaurs ever existed even though we have many specimens, including dehydrated ones. Others maintain that dinosaurs were innocent plant-eating friends of Adam and Eve. That is even though paleontologists have found fossils of smaller dinosaurs in the stomachs of more massive dinosaurs. Still, others ignore the literal meaning of the animals listed in Genesis 1, and they include dinosaurs in the “beasts of the earth” category. Some maintain that dinosaurs were the ancestors of birds, and so they are in verse 20. So can we find dinosaurs in Genesis 1?

Recent studies of dinosaur eggs have introduced new data for those who study dinosaurs and the Bible to consider. Detailed studies of Hypacrosaurus eggs have shown that there are growth lines in the shells of the eggs. We don’t see those growth lines in bird eggs, which hatch in a relatively short time. Some of the eggs studied by researchers have growth lines indicating very long incubation periods – in some cases, up to 12 months.

We see growth lines in modern reptiles that bury their eggs and let them incubate for months. Changes in temperature and other environmental factors mean the eggs go through periods of dormancy when the growth lines appear. This lengthy process is especially true of large eggs. Researchers have found some dinosaur eggs the size of footballs, which would require a very long incubation period. All of this would suggest that the large dinosaurs, at least, were not birds. The more data we get on the dinosaurs, the more evidence shows that they were not directly related to any modern animal. They were a group of their own.

We would suggest that this conclusion is very much in agreement with the biblical teachings. Dinosaurs were created by God to help prepare the Earth for humans. Dinosaurs were the gardeners of prehistoric times, pruning the plants and allowing massive vegetation to be preserved in the form of coal and other fossil fuels. We don’t see dinosaurs in Genesis 1 because they were not part of the “creation week.” The Hebrew words used in Genesis were all animals that Moses knew.

Just as God did not tell us about viruses, bacteria, and unique animals like the platypus, He didn’t tell us about dinosaurs in Genesis 1. They were part of the preparation of the Earth for humans. When we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” we are reading an undated historical account that simply says God did it – not how or how long it took. The week of Genesis 1:3-31 hadn’t started yet. When it began, the animals described were those familiar to Moses and his readers.

For more on this, we encourage you to go to doesgodexist.org and read the free booklet “God’s Revelation In His Rocks and His Word.” You can also purchase printed copies at THIS LINK.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Pandemic Fear and Faith

Pandemic Fear and Faith

We are all going through changes as the virus that causes COVID-19 spreads, and many people seem to have pandemic fear.

In my lifetime, I have seen several disease epidemics. I find it interesting how differently people are responding to this than they did when I was a child, and polio was running wild. Polio was a much more serious issue than COVID-19 ever thought of being. If you got polio in 1952, you were either going to die, be paralyzed, or be in an iron lung for the rest of your life. For those who are younger, an iron lung was a huge tin can that breathed for you, because polio could stop you from breathing on your own. If you were put in an iron lung to preserve your life, the chances are that you would be in that large tin can until you did die. It was awful, but we did not have the pandemic fear.

Even though polio was much worse than the current virus, my classmates were not absorbed with fear and extreme measures to avoid getting polio. We were told that flies carried polio. I remember my mother stringing flypaper all over the place, and going bonkers if she saw a fly in our garage. I was not allowed to go to outdoor events for fear of polio. Still, there was no panic from the media and no cancellations of anything. That is a huge contrast with what has happened in 2020 as we face this virus. That is even though most people who get the virus do not die or have any long-lasting effects. What is the difference?

In my childhood years, being an atheist was unique. I was the only openly atheistic person in my high school class. Our family went to Brown County State Park every Sunday to swim in the park swimming pool. We had the pool to ourselves because everyone else was in church. I had friends who did contract polio. Outside of a sign which said “quarantine” being placed on their front door, not much else happened.

The panic that has gripped our culture today is amazing. According to the CDC ordinary, run of the mill flu killed 61,000 Americans last year and over 12,000 this year so far. But the pandemic fear of COVID-19 far exceeds the fear that has been with us before.

I would suggest to you that as our culture has drifted away from God, the fear of the unknown has grown exponentially. At least part of the pandemic fear is our lack of faith as a society about life and death and who or what is in control.

One fundamental message of Jesus Christ is that Christians should not be driven by panic and fear of the unknown. In Mark 4:36-41, we read the wonderful story of Jesus and the disciples being caught in a storm in a small boat. Jesus is asleep, and they wake him up. Christ quiets the storm and says to the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (verse 40).

From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible calls believers not to be driven by fear. Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid. Psalms 23:4 talks about walking through the darkest valley. Psalms 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?” Deuteronomy 31:6 says, “…the Lord your God will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5-8 tells us that the Lord is our helper, so we should not be afraid. Jesus tells us in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

If you believe that this life is all you will ever have, then you will fear anything that threatens this life. If you believe that there is something better coming, then nothing that happens in this life is of great consequence. However, I have an instinct to survive and knowing that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), I will do what I can to avoid premature death. I am washing my hands, avoiding crowds, and following the other guidelines. Still, I can relate to Paul’s discourse in Philippians 1:21-24, where he says, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am in a struggle between having a desire to leave and be with Christ, but I know I should abide in the flesh, which is more needful for you…”

We want the life God gave us to be fruitful and meaningful. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Let our love of God cause us to relax and avoid pandemic fear. This can be our living message to a lost, dying, and fearful world.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Vernal Equinox Arrives Today

Vernal Equinox Arrives Today

The orbit of the Earth around the Sun produces variations in the seasons with four orbital positions having particular significance. Today, March 19, 2020, the Sun will pass directly overhead at the equator. The exact time will be 11:49 p.m. EDT (0349 GMT March 20, 2020). We can rejoice that the vernal equinox arrives today!

This is the earliest equinox in the United States in 124 years! As you can see in the diagram, the usual date for the vernal equinox is March 20 or 21, depending on where you live on the Earth. The reason it arrives on the 19th this year in North America is somewhat complicated, but it has to do with leap years and daylight saving time. We won’t get into that, but I thought we should explain why the diagram differs from this year’s dates.

There is wonderful history of how the Greek scholar Eratosthenes of Alexandria used the equinox to measure the circumference of the Earth. He knew that on the equinox, a pole stuck vertically in the ground left little or no shadow at noon, depending on location. He compared the length of the shadow of a pole in Syene, a town in southern Egypt, with one in Alexandria in northern Egypt. Using the difference in the shadow lengths, he calculated the circumference of the Earth. His calculation was very close to the known circumference today, and it proved the Earth was round. He did that in 245 BC, long before Columbus sailed.

The four polar positions roughly predict the seasons that have been used by every culture to control planting, harvesting, and preparing the soil. In Genesis 1:14, God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of space to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” God not only instituted day and night, but He also positioned the Sun and Moon so they could be used to mark the seasons we would need to live on this planet.

As the vernal equinox arrives today, we wish you a happy equinox!! Enjoy the season and the official end of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. We will have more on the spring equinox tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2020