Christian Messages on Face Masks

Christian Messages on Face Masks

As people wear masks during the pandemic, many people place messages on them. There certainly is no problem with that, as long as the message is not vulgar or abusive. We have seen many “Black Lives Matter” mask messages and messages about defunding police, supporting police, supporting political candidates, and women’s rights. It seems that almost any cause can be advertised, except for Christian messages on face masks.

In Mississippi, a 3rd grader named Lydia Booth wore a mask to school that said, “Jesus Loves Me.” She not only was forced to remove the mask, but the school threatened with suspension for wearing it. We have heard from students at the college level who have been disciplined for similar public expressions of faith. If other messages are permitted, Christian messages on face masks should also be.

The founders never intended the First Amendment to curtail public expressions of faith. This third-grader had no financial interest in wearing a mask to express her faith. This reminds us of an incident recorded in Acts 4. The religious leaders commanded Peter and John “not to speak at all nor to teach in the name of Jesus” (verse 18). They responded by saying, “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (verses 19-20).

God expects our priorities to be clear, with our faith at the top of the list. That is not only the message of the Bible but also the message of those who wrote the Constitution.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Practical Value of Christ’s Teaching on forgiveness

Practical Value of Christ's Teaching on forgiveness

Many teachings of Christianity offer solutions to the problems we face in the 21st century. Skeptics claim that the Bible is an ancient book of myths with no relevance to life in the modern era. That is not true! The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness speaks to divine inspiration and validates the Christian life.

One area that relates to depression and mental illness is how we forgive people who have wronged us. The evolutionary explanation tells us to live by the survival of the fittest, and getting even is a key to survival. In reality, that doesn’t work, but Christ’s teaching on forgiveness does.

Trying to demonstrate your superiority by getting even contaminates all human relationships. I have seen unbelieving friends and family members spend much of their lives trying to get even with someone who wronged them. People are often estranged from siblings, parents, or children because they follow an unchristian approach to perceived wrongs.

Christ taught a different approach. In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus told his followers, “If you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you, but if you do not forgive those who sin against you, neither will your Father forgive you your trespasses.” This is in such contrast to human nature that in Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Christ how many times he must forgive a brother. Peter thought he was generous by suggesting a limit of seven times. Jesus responded by saying seventy times seven. He didn’t mean 490 times. He was saying that forgiveness of a brother, friend, or even an enemy is unlimited.

The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness is proven by the fact that failing to forgive will eat you alive, mentally and emotionally. Most of us have no problem forgiving the mistakes of a small child an unlimited number of times. We need to have that same spirit in dealing with family members and others. If you are a Christian and someone has wronged you, don’t carry a grudge and build a wall between you and that person.

Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Our capacity to forgive is one of the most critical demonstrators of that love. If you are not a Christian, I suggest that there is help from God in feeling forgiveness, leading to better mental health and freedom from depression. The practical value of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness demonstrates that it is not based on human wisdom.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Anniversary of a Star Explosion – SN 1987A

Today is the thirty-fourth anniversary of a significant astronomical event. It’s the anniversary of a star explosion. On February 23, 1987, astronomers and other observers on Earth witnessed the explosion of a star with a mass about twenty times that of our Sun. They called it supernova SN 1987A.

The explosion was bright enough to see with the naked eye. While Earth observers saw it in 1987, the explosion happened long before that. Since the star was located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy 160,000 light-years from Earth, we witnessed an event that occurred 160,000 years in the past.

There have been other supernovas, but SN 1987A was the brightest supernova observed since the telescope’s invention. It was also the brightest since Chinese astronomers observed a star exploding in A.D. 1054. For the past thirty-four years, astronomers have studied the ring of fire as it expands outward from that explosion. The picture showing the remnant of the explosion is a composite image from 2014. It combines visible light from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and x-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

What do we learn from our study of the stars, supernovas, nebulae, and everything else we can see in the universe? We learn the processes God used to create the universe, our galaxy, and our planet. As we examine supernovas, we understand that God used them to forge the heavier elements that make up our planet and our bodies.

Studying the creation process also shows us the incredible precision required to make the universe possible and create life on this planet. On this thirty-fourth anniversary of a star explosion, we are reminded of the words of an ancient psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1).

— Roland Earnst © 2021

On Valentine’s Day

On Valentine's Day

People in many countries observe various customs on Valentine’s Day, February 14, although, in a few areas, it’s celebrated in July. Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday in any country, but it is certainly a cultural holiday.

Saint Valentine’s Day originated as a Christian observance in honor of a saint (or saints) named Valentinus in the third century. It may have been an effort of early Christians to purify a pagan Roman holiday called Lupercalia, which celebrated fertility and occurred around February 14.

In the fourteenth century, Valentine’s Day came to be associated with romantic love. Today it has become highly commercialized due to merchants taking advantage of the giving of gifts to loved ones. Many legends about this day have come down concerning its origin and reason and, many countries have their own customs on Valentine’s Day.

One thing is sure—we need more love in the world.
I am not talking about romantic love, but the kind of love that is meant by the ancient Greek word “agape.” The Apostle Paul used that Greek word in his letter to the church in Corinth in the first century. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Whether on Valentines’s Day or any other day, we can never get too much of that kind of love.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Counting Birds for Science

Counting Birds for Science

How many bird species can you identify? There are over 10,000 known species of birds in the world, and I am sure you could not identify them all. But God can. More than that, He sees each one individually (Matthew 10:29). That staggers my mind. Sometimes I can’t keep up with counting birds at my backyard bird feeders.

We often feature birds in our daily Facebook postings, and many times we have talked about birds on this website. (For example, HERE, HERE, and HERE.) Birds are fascinating, beautiful, and intelligent creatures. Birds, like mammals, can be trained to do things and respond to humans in various ways. We see that as a purposeful design by our Creator to allow us to bond with these animals.

Watching birds fly through the air and listening to their beautiful songs are fascinating and enjoyable activities. Since the beginning, humans have longed for the ability to fly and see the world from our feathered friends’ perspective. Sometimes, people have been careless in causing harm or even extinction to bird species. When we see the many ways birds benefit life on Earth, we must recognize that we should be good stewards of what God has given us.

An annual worldwide event known as The Great Backyard Bird Count is now in progress. It’s a science project that you can get involved in no matter who you are or where you live. This year, from February 12-15 people worldwide will be counting birds in their vicinity. By doing that, they are helping to compile a database of birds. All you have to do is take at least one period of 15 minutes or more and make a list of all the birds you see in your backyard, in a local park, outside your apartment window, or anywhere else that’s convenient. Just record your location, start and end times, and the number and types of birds you see.

Of course, you can spend more than 15 minutes, or you can do it on each of the four days, or even multiple times per day. As in past years, the statistics from bird watchers worldwide will be tabulated by scientists to get a better picture of the world bird population and health. To help you identify birds, you can consult websites such as and, which are free to use.

Counting birds is a science project that anyone can do. To learn the details of how you can get involved in this worldwide project, sign up for free at We think that learning more about God’s creation helps us see our Creator’s wisdom and love. (Matthew 6:26)

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

Financial Management and Debt in the Bible

There are many teachings of Christianity that offer solutions to the problems we all face in the 21st century. The claims of skeptics that the Bible is an ancient book of myths that have no relevance to life in the modern era is false. The practical value of Christ’s teaching speak to its inspiration by God and validate the Christian life. No area of life shows this more clearly than financial management and debt.

In the days of Christ, many people had difficulty managing their money. The common people would get themselves in debt to a money lender–sometimes just to buy the necessities of life. Many of Christ’s parables address the issues of getting into debt and settling debts. One option for debtors in those days was to sell themselves into slavery to the person who loaned them the money. The Old Testament law said that the maximum length of servitude was seven years. There were even special times when all debts were forgiven.

People still have trouble with financial management and debt. In today’s world, instead of a person lending the money it is a credit card company. Many people become slaves to them. One option today is to declare bankruptcy. It is interesting that bad credit can be resolved in the same time period as the old Jewish law–seven years.

The teachings of Christ and the early Church revolved around avoiding servitude. The key phrase in the teachings of Christianity is “being content.” In Luke 3:14, Christ told soldiers to “be content with your wages.” Hebrews 13:5-6 tells Christians “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said ‘Never will I leave you, nor will I forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid of what man can do to me.” Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, stated this principle clearly in Matthew 6:19-34. That passage warns against “laying up treasures on Earth.” It points out that we can’t always change our station in life, but that Christ’s followers should trust God for our needs.

In 1 Timothy 6:8-9, Paul tells Christians to be content if they have food and clothing and that “foolish and harmful desires …plunge men into ruin and destruction.” How much grief, mental anguish, and frustration has credit card debt brought on people today? Later in that passage Paul talks about the uncertainty of wealth (verses 17-21). In Philippians 4:11-13 Paul says, “I have learned to be content.” For Christians, the Church is the security blanket to provide basic support, and Matthew 25:34-46 tells Christians how to find what really brings contentment.

The Bible’s wisdom is a great testimony to its divine origin, and gives practical lessons for financial management and debt. Wealthy Christians are told not to be arrogant or to put their hope in wealth. The Bible tells all Christians to put their hope in God, whether they are rich or poor so they can “take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).

— John N. Clayton © 2021

What Color Is Your River?

What Color Is Your River?

In my lifetime I have spent a lot of time on rivers. Living in Canada, I became acquainted with beautiful blue water with a clarity that allowed you to see the river’s bottom even at 20 feet. When my family moved to Bloomington, Indiana, I became involved with the White River, which was anything but white or blue. What color is your river?

In our 12 trips down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, I saw changes in the water from time to time. The river was sometimes brown and other times crystal blue depending on how much upstream water was being released from the Glen Canyon Dam. I now live on the Saint Joseph River in southern Michigan. I have read the notes of the first explorers who came through this area in which they tell of being able to see the bottom of the river through 20 feet of water. Now you can only see about a foot down. There has been a massive change in Americas’ rivers through the years.

In 1984, Satellites started taking pictures of rivers in the United States. Over 230,000 images have been taken and analyzed by the University of Pittsburgh, the University of North Carolina, and Duke University. The data shows that only five percent of Americas’ rivers are still blue. Twenty-eight percent are green, which in most cases is caused by algae. The remainder are yellow, with 11,629 miles of rivers having become distinctly greener since 1984.

As rivers change from blue to yellow to green, what can live in the rivers also changes. In the Saint Joseph River, where we live in Michigan, the kind of fish that live in the river today are far different from the native trout seen by the early settlers of this area. Today the river has large numbers of suckers and carp. There are some bass and panfish, and we do have salmon from Lake Michigan migrating up the river to spawn. Transplanted fish like walleye are popular, but the whole ecological makeup has changed.

What color is your river? More important is the question of what is causing the rivers to change color? The causes, according to the studies, are farm fertilizer runoff, dams, sewage, and global warming, which has raised the temperature so that cold-water fish cannot live in the river. This is more than the loss of recreational use of waterways. Numerous diseases, including cancer, are related to what is in the water we drink, bathe in, and provide to our animals.

The question of what color is your river leads to asking what you can do about it. Christians need to be vocal in encouraging our culture to initiate significant efforts to turn our waterways blue again. It is interesting that in Revelation 22:1-2, when the inspired writer wanted to portray some of the properties of heaven to mortal humans, he describes “a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal.” In ancient times, when people wanted to worship and get away from the hassle of human activity, they went to a river. (See Acts 16:13.) Today most of our rivers are not that attractive.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Associated Press article by Seth Borenstein, January 9, 2021.

What Do You Worship?

What Do You Worship?

What do you worship? Notice that I didn’t ask “if” but “what.” Webster defines worship as “homage paid to something bigger than you are.” The word “homage” means reverence. 

We live on a river, and every Sunday morning, we see boats going by containing people paying homage. The worship of salmon, pike, and perch is as far as some people go in paying homage. On our way to the church building, we see multiple cars and trucks pulling boats, most of which are headed for Lake Michigan. At the lake itself, we can see people who worship the lake by spending massive amounts of money on elaborate yachts.

For those of us who aren’t blessed with massive amounts of money to spend on material luxuries, there is still a need to be careful about what we worship. There are eight different Greek words in the New Testament used to describe worship in a negative framework. 

Doxa – Luke 14:10 – Worship to gain honor from human beings

Eusebeo – Acts 17:23 – Objects made by humans to show a person is pious.

Therapeuo – Acts 17:25 – To fulfill an ego need of God, not for our benefit.

Threskeia – Colossians 2:18 – Ceremonial use of angels, spirits, visions, etc.

Latreuo – Acts 7:42 – Astrology – Worshiping celestial objects.

Proskuneo – Matthew 2:2, 4:9, 8:2, 28:17, etc. (59 times) – “To kiss the hand forward.” Worship of the physical Jesus here on Earth.

Sebazomai – Romans 1:25 – Worship of nature or animals.

Sebomai – Matthew 15:8-9, Acts 19:27 – Preacher worship, reverence for a spiritual teacher. (See also Acts 8:9-11.)

James 1:27 and Matthew 25:31-40 describe what God wants. Worship is for our benefit, not God’s. What do you worship? The materialist is continually struggling for more until either their resources run out or death comes no matter how much they spend. Acts 2:42-27 describes the activities of the ordinary people in worship. They devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, unity, prayer, and communion. They met daily for spiritual growth and addressed the needs of others. 

Worship brings the joy of sharing and giving and knowing that we have nothing to fear at death because a better existence awaits us. Worship is not for show or because God needs us. It is a personal time with just us and God – not angels or objects. It is a daily activity seen in what we do, not what is done to us. It is a way of life that blesses those with whom we come in contact. 

What do you worship? Worship God today and here and now. God will open doors for you to give and to bless, and life will be full of contentment. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Earth Rock Found on the Moon

Earth Rock Found on the Moon
Lunar Sample 14321 NASA

Frequently, science clarifies biblical statements, but no scientific facts have ever contradicted the biblical account. Contradiction would be impossible since the God who created and made Earth also gave us the Bible. A recent example of their agreement is demonstrated by an Earth rock found on the moon.

The Bible uses an economy of language because an exhaustive explanation would have confused people reading it 500 years ago. The simple clarity of the Genesis account contrasts with literally thousands of scientific papers and books giving details of the biblical statement, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Another interesting passage in Genesis is the second verse, which indicates a change in the Earth. The most accurate translation of verse two is, “And the earth became without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s daily blog announced the results of an internal X-ray scan of lunar sample 14321. Alan Shepard picked up the 14321 sample during the Apollo 14 lunar mission. It shows chemistry identical to Earth’s material and completely different from lunar material. NASA says that the sample is older than Earth’s surface materials and indicates a dramatic event.

Various things could have caused this change in Earth’s surface. A massive volcanic event like the one that produced Mount Mazama (now called Crater Lake in Oregon) could blow material into space. Such volcanic eruptions produced lava, which enriched the soils allowing plant growth to be prolific in the ancient Earth. Another possibility is that a celestial object like an asteroid or comet hit our planet and blasted material into space, with some of it landing on the moon. Either way, an Earth rock found on the moon fits the biblical narrative.

The scientific information simply demonstrates the accuracy of the brief biblical account. When religious leaders challenged Galileo’s science, he wrote in a letter, “The Bible shows the way to go to heaven, not the way the heavens go.” Science and the Bible are symbiotic – each beneficial to the other and in agreement with each other. However, they explain different aspects of human concern.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: for February 3, 2021.

The Greatest Love Is Agape

The Greatest Love Is Agape

Perhaps the most abused word in the English language is the word “love.” We hear that word used in every kind of situation. “I love that song” certainly is different from “making love.” In English, you have to look at the entire context of a statement about love before you know what the person who said it is talking about. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greeks had multiple words that we translate with our one word, “love.” In today’s world, the greatest love is agape.

In the Greek language, sexual love was the subject of the word “eros.” “Thelo” was used when the love was a desire or wish. “I love that kind of perfume” would be an example of that use. The prefix “phileo” indicating an emotional or material kind of love and had multiple uses. “Philargurix” was the love of money. “Philanthropia” was human love. “Phildelphos” was the love of brethren and is familiar to us today in the name of the city Philadelphia. “Philedonos” was the love of pleasure.

The New Testament presents a unique concept of love. The Greek word is “agape,” a noun, or “agapao,” a verb. These words were used 114 times in the New Testament and especially by Jesus Christ. In John 21:15-17, Jesus repeatedly asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Jesus used the word “agape,” but Peter kept responding with “phileo.” The greatest love is agape, but Peter did not understand that yet.

Many people struggle with the teachings of Christ because they don’t understand Jesus’ concept of love. How can I love my enemy (Matthew 5:43-44)? How can we love one another (John 15:12) when many of us are not lovable? Ephesians 5:25 tells husbands to love their wives as Jesus loved the Church. This is not a sexual reference any more than is Jesus’ discussion with Peter. A marriage based solely on sex is doomed.

The familiar passage in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love” is another reference to the unique form of love that God calls us to. Christians have help in their capacity to love as 1 Corinthians 2:11-16 tells us that an unbeliever: “…cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The passage goes on to say that Christians “have the mind of Christ.” So do I have the capacity to love my enemy? Not in a physical sense or a sexual sense, but I have grown to love in a spiritual sense. This is a growth process, and I am closer to it now than I was 50 years ago.

Read Matthew 5-7 and pay attention to the fact that Jesus is talking about loving the spiritual nature of all humans. When you read 1 John 4:12-13, you see a great picture of what Christian love is all about: “No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us. We know we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” Read the rest of the chapter and especially verse 20: “If a man says that he loves God and then hates his brother, he is a liar, because he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.”

Christian love is the hope of the world, and it is the only hope for peace and understanding that we all desire. The greatest love is agape.

— John N. Clayton © 2021