Curse of Sin – What Is It?

The Garden and the Curse of SinMany Christians don’t have a clear understanding of the curses described in Genesis 3. God told Eve in verse 16, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” To Adam He said, “…cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” What exactly is the curse of sin?

We struggle with this account because of our assumptions about what life was like in the Garden of Eden and how it changed. Some have assumed that the environment changed and that humans were no longer gatherers, but that they had to develop agriculture to survive. Some have suggested that Eve underwent a physiological change so that the pelvic opening was reduced, causing increased pain in the birthing process. Some have felt that the Garden of Eden was essentially heaven, with no pain and no problems or work of any kind. That is not only a poor understanding of what heaven is about; it also raises more questions than it answers.

The Garden of Eden was a physical existence. Genesis 2:10-14 identifies a physical location with known rivers. Being physical means that the laws of physics and biology were in place. Adam and Eve were not in heaven, and they had work to do. In Genesis 2:15, God told Adam to take care of the Garden. The fact that thorns and thistles are mentioned in the curse tells us that they were in existence. The law of entropy was in existence, so things did age and die. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 that God created every creature “to be received with thanksgiving … for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Pitcher plants ate bugs, and bats and lions were not vegetarians.

The message of the curse of sin is not primarily physical. Thorns, thistles, and sweat are more than just a complication to those involved in agriculture. They are symbols of pain and the difficulty of life away from God. It has been said that the least amount of pain a woman has is the birth process. The struggle and pain of raising a child to adulthood can far exceed the pains of labor and birthing. Eating the forbidden fruit was not just a physical action but disobedience to God. The separation that it produced between humans and God also caused separation in human relationships. Cain killing Abel was a part of the curse of sin. The adage known as Murphy’s Law, “if something can go wrong, it will,” applies to far more than the failure of mechanical things.

Revelation 22:3 gives some pictures of our heavenly existence. Notice the simple statement, “No longer will there be any curse.” In 2 Peter 3:11-13, we read that the physical world with its thorns, thistles, pain, and sweat will be dissolved. There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth. We will be free from the curse of sin and enjoy the blessings of being back in the presence of our Creator. That existence will truly be Heaven.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Marriage Versus Cohabitation

Marriage Versus CohabitationA U.S. Census Bureau report released September 25, 2019, says that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past two decades. The report says that the number went from 6 million in 1996 to 19.1 million in 2018. There are all kinds of editorials about this data, with some writers referring to it as “increasing normalization.” The report comments that people who cohabitate are “older, better educated, more likely to earn higher wages and more racially diverse.” The report also says that cohabitation is “an alternative to marriage for low-income and less educated people.” What is the truth about marriage versus cohabitation?

Why government reports find it necessary to attempt to explain data escapes me. Interpreting the data in an atheistic way is not only illogical but raises more questions than it answers. What was the population from which the data was taken?  How many of the people cohabitating have children, and what effect is the cohabitation having on the children? How does cohabitation provide a viable alternative for low-income people? My wife and I were eligible for public assistance when we got married. We had no money, and I was a public school teacher making $4300 a year. Working as a team, we lifted ourselves out of that poverty and provided a stable home for our three children. On my own, none of that would have been possible.

Another vital aspect the report doesn’t mention is the role of sex in marriage and cohabitation. First Corinthians 7:1-6 describes the concern married Christians should have for the sexual needs of their mates. Every expert from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists has shown that a committed relationship provides the best in sexual satisfaction and the most fulfilling relationship for both men and women. Cohabitation may satisfy the immediate sexual gratification of some, especially males. It does not meet the real needs of both men and women in the long term.

It is no wonder that many young people are embracing alternative living arrangements. They have been lied to by their culture and often influenced by the bad examples set by their parents. Also, they have had no instruction or education in God’s teaching on the divine plan for sex and marriage. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and with increased learning disabilities. The result to fill the void they feel is the increasing use of drugs and a radical increase in suicide. When it comes to marriage versus cohabitation, God’s plan works. The alternatives do not.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Promise and Hope of Christianity

Promise and Hope of ChristianityWe can’t win with the atheist press, because atheists attack us for anything we do or anything we don’t do. If Christians are not involved in the latest natural disaster relief effort, atheists criticize that non-involvement. They ignore the fact that virtually no atheist organization has ever consistently engaged in disaster relief. When Christians are involved, critics question their motives and challenge their financial involvement. The atheist critics are overlooking the promise and hope of Christianity.

Our small congregation here in Michigan has a food pantry that serves around 100 people in our area. We and are constantly reminded by the state that we cannot allow our name to be on anything we give people because that is considered to be self-serving.

An atheist spokesman recently told me that he would never become a Christian because he wanted to enjoy life and be happy. He said he wanted no part of being poor and miserable by giving everything away. He was very familiar with Matthew 25:31-36 where Jesus says that service to others is a measurement by which we will be judged. The Bible urges Christians to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), to do good to all (Galatians 6:10), and to be helpful to the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16).

What atheists and many believers alike are forgetting is the promise and hope of Christianity. Jesus came “that (we) might have life, and that (we) might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Bible teaches that we should take care of our bodies. Ephesians 5:29 tells us, “No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it…” The body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and God’s Spirit lives within us ( 2 Corinthians 5:5). Acts 2:40 finds Peter telling the crowd at Pentecost, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

The Bible is concerned about more than our physical well being. A more significant threat to an enjoyable life and happiness is our mental condition. Jesus cured extreme mental illness in the wonderful story of Luke 8:26-40. Psalms 139 and Psalms 23 provide the viewpoint of a child of God who is mentally stable, satisfied with life, and confident about the future. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 -7 provides ways of living at peace with good mental health. Romans 8:28 gives a level of confidence no atheist can comprehend. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul expresses a view all Christians can have. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, to be content. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I have lived as a vocal, campaigning atheist, and I have been with loved ones who lived and died as atheists. Atheism is not a happy philosophy or religion, and it makes no promises about the future but eternal blackness at best. If I found there is no God, I would still want to live as a Christian, because the promise and hope of Christianity now and in the future is priceless. The peace that the Holy Spirit brings assures me that God is real.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Would E.T. Live by the Bible?

Would E.T. Live by the Bible?The movie E.T. has been getting a revival of interest because of a renewed interest in UFOs and claims of alien visitation. The media has given much attention to exoplanets – planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. With all this attention to life in space, it is no wonder we get the question of whether they would follow the teachings of Christ. “Would E.T. live by the Bible?” is mostly idle speculation, but there is a point to be made.

We have made the argument that the teachings of Jesus show wisdom and design beyond that of mere humans. You can’t take the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 and not see that if all humans lived by those standards the Earth would be at peace and most of our problems would be gone. Even from a purely intellectual standpoint, it seems that an advanced civilization would have come to the point of realizing that war, fighting, selfishness, and greed are destructive and should be weeded out of the culture. Would E.T. live by the Bible? He would if he is smart.

I am reminded of a radio debate I had many years ago in Washington D.C., moderated by Larry King. The atheist representative was advocating humanism, but he and I were finding a lot to agree on. The show came to a halt when a listener called in and asked the atheist, “What would you do if a little green man landed in the Whitehouse lawn in a flying saucer, got out with a Bible in his hand and said ‘Has Jesus Christ been here yet?’” My atheist friend responded, “Punt.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

That’s Not Fair

Thats Not Fair“That’s not fair!” We hear that not only from adults but even from young children. It seems that the concept of fairness is something that we don’t have to learn. It’s built into us. We see injustice in the world or in our personal space, and we cry out, “That’s not fair.”

Where do we get that concept of fairness and justice? Could it be that our Creator placed it within us? In the DOES GOD EXIST? ministry, we talk about evidence for the existence of God. We see design in the universe, in living things, and in our own bodies. Is it possible that we can also see evidence of God’s existence in our desire for justice? Could it be that the God who is just and loving has placed the passion for justice within us? After all, He created us in His image. One of the great frustrations we face is our inability to rid the world of injustice. But more than that it seems that we can’t even rid ourselves of injustice. We often act in our own self-interest even when it causes undesirable consequences for others. It’s easy for us to see injustice in other people but difficult to see it in ourselves.

Christians have often been champions of justice in the abolishing slavery, in the struggle against human trafficking, and in helping the poor and oppressed around the world. When we demonstrate a passion for justice, we are emulating the life of Jesus. He was concerned about the poor and oppressed, the suffering, the neglected, and the outcast. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus as He could see the pain and injustice that sin had brought into the world. The Bible records Jesus weeping again as He approached Jerusalem for the last time. He wept because He pondered the fact that the people had not learned His message of love and justice. They were seeking someone to forcefully overthrow their evil Roman occupiers without realizing that Satan occupied their hearts.

The suffering of Jesus on the cross was the greatest injustice in the history of the world, but He did not say, “That’s not fair.” He demonstrated the greatest act of love by crying out, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus overcame injustice with love as He prayed for those who crucified him. If those of us who claim to be Christ-followers can learn to show love and seek justice for others, we will be the greatest possible witness for God’s existence. “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?You have probably heard the statistic that “ten percent of people are gay” or even “ten percent of people are BORN gay.” The truth is that nobody is “born gay.” There is a condition called “intersex” in which a child is born with some characteristics of both sexes. Those cases are very rare and varied. The different variations of intersex can occur anywhere from one birth in thousands to one in hundreds of thousands. But that does not mean the child is “gay.”

Research and observation seem to indicate that same-sex activity is increasing. Some experts have suggested that the apparent increase in “gayness” in our society is due to environmental pollution. There has been a lot of research into finding a “gay gene” or any environmental factor that makes a person “gay.” So far, there are no reliable answers.

The “ten percent of people are gay” statistic was falsely derived from the 1940’s Kinsey research. Alfred Kinsey, a zoologist at Indiana State University, interviewed people in prisons and the “gay underworld” using methods that would not hold up to modern statistical sampling techniques. He compiled the statistics in his reports on “Human Sexual Behavior” that shocked America. In the 1970s, Bruce Voeller, who founded the National Gay Task Force, used Kinsey’s research to say that ten percent of people are “gay.” That number has become one of the myths of modern culture. (Similar to the myth that we use only ten percent of our brains.) After all, ten percent is a nice round number even if it has no basis in fact.

So what is the truth about the apparent increase in same-sex activity? Reliable research indicates that the percentage of people in the overall population who consider themselves to be gay/lesbian/bisexual is between one and two percent. However, the percentage is much higher among young people. How much of this is a factor of family breakdown, media and celebrity influence, or society’s acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” is difficult to determine.

It is interesting to consider the consequences if “ten percent of people are born gay,” and the concept of human evolution and “survival of the fittest” is correct. In that case, “gayness” should have evolved out of the human population since same-sex relationships can’t produce children to pass on their traits. At the very least, it should be decreasing rather than increasing. After the flood, God told the few survivors to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). That is one of the few commands of God that humans have kept. Satan tempted the first couple to disobey the first command God gave them to not eat fruit from one of the trees. Perhaps through abortion and same-sex relationships, Satan is trying to get people to disobey the only remaining command of God that humans have thus-far kept.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?“If I die now, will I go to heaven?” That is a personal question and one you need to answer for yourself and no one else. What we can do is to see what the Bible says about this. Here are some points for your consideration:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED AND GO TO HEAVEN. This is clearly stated in the Bible. It is stated clearly and plainly in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Titus 1:2 indicates that before the creation, God intended that people would end up in heaven.

GOD WILL NOT FORCE ANYONE TO GO TO HEAVEN WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO. Joshua 24:15 states personal choice clearly saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Judas made a choice. Thomas and Peter made a choice. (See Matthew 26:69-75 and John 20:24-29.) As long as we are alive, we have that choice available, and both Thomas and Peter changed their minds. Judas could have, but he chose not to.

THERE ARE PASSAGES THAT WARN ABOUT FALLING AWAY FROM GOD AS JUDAS DID. See 1 Corinthians 10:12, 2 Peter 1:10, Hebrews 3:12 and 4:11. All of these passages in context show that those they were written to people whose hearts were so attracted to evil that they deliberately chose to reject God. None of these passages say that God rejected people who were trying to live as God called them to live.

THE BIBLE TELLS US TO BE SURE OF HEAVEN. Read 1 John 5:13, Romans 4:8, Romans 8:1 (and include Romans 7:14-24 in your reading), 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:5-7, and Romans 10:9-15. None of these passages say we earn heaven, and all of them indicate that even though we as Christians sin, God provides for our continuous cleansing through the blood of Christ. (“Purifies” in 1 John 1:5-7 is an active verb.)

THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SALVATION IS A GIFT. Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:6 state it outright. We don’t earn heaven. It is a gift given to us by the grace of God. Any gift has to be accepted. God’s gift is described in Romans 6:3-23. We receive the gift by submitting to God’s workmanship as Ephesians describes it. Baptism is a gift of God, washing away our sins and allowing us to walk in the light living a new life. When we reject baptism, we reject God’s gift, and all that comes with it.

Heaven is not a goal to be reached by what we do. What we do is a result of the gift of God working in us. We urge you to obey God and thus choose to accept His gift and answer “yes” to the question, “If I die now, will I go to heaven?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

End Of Life and God

End Of Life and GodOne of the most difficult personal issues of today is what a person should do when they are very near the end of life, and their quality of life is zero. Medical science has progressed to the point where a person can continue to be alive even though they are in enormous pain and connected to machines with no hope of ever being free of wires and tubes. Most of us do not want to ever be in that situation, but the fact is that many of us will be.

I have a Buddhist friend who maintains that having a difficult time in life at any stage is payment for sin, and we should not do anything to minimize that payment. There are many Christians who maintain that God and God alone should determine the time of our death and that extending or reducing the time of death is wrong.

We are not talking about suicide in the sense of wanting to leave this life because of relationship problems or failures in life. We are talking about cases like a woman named Brittany, who had an aggressive brain tumor. After an eight-hour surgery, doctors told her that they could not get it all and that within six months, she would die. Doctors told her that “her symptoms were going to get much worse with brutal headaches, seizures, a loss of motor and cognitive abilities, a change in her personality, and ultimately she would die.” She did die on her 30th birthday in Oregon where she and her family had moved because physician help in dying is available there.

This case has been publicized by an organization called “Compassion and Choices.” They are pushing for nation-wide acceptance of “physician-assisted compassionate death.” They are using Brittany Diaz as their poster child. There are all kinds of issues involved in a case like Brittany’s. The medical profession has been lax in dealing with pain, and the current opioid crisis has made the situation worse. The potential for abuse in end of life cases is enormous. The expense of keeping a terminal patient alive can bankrupt a family. On the other hand, end of life situations frequently provide for healing among those left behind and also allow a person a final opportunity to be obedient to God. How should Christians deal with this issue?

The first point we need to understand is that death from a biblical standpoint is when the soul returns to God. It is not when the heart stops beating or when the person stops breathing. A person can be dead, and yet their body can continue to do biological functions. The Bible tells us that the body is the “temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). This same principle is involved in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, where Paul condemns prostitution by again referring to the body as “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” He ends by saying, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

We are not talking about “pulling the plug” in this discussion. Christians can work with their physicians when death is near to stop the pain and yet allow the person to continue to manage their affairs. Giving enough relief from pain to cause a person to be unable to manage their affairs is rarely the situation, and it is not actively killing the person. Even giving morphine can accelerate the death of an individual by suppressing breathing, but pain killers should be available for every individual.

Each case is different, and each person should make clear what they want to be done when the end of life is near. When God has more work for a person to do, and they are able to do it, physician-assisted suicide should not be forced upon them.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: CompassionAndChoices.org.

Solar Cell Christians

Solar Cell Christians Depend on the SonAren’t solar cells wonderful? We have lights along our sidewalk that allow visitors to reach our front door without stepping on a toad or disturbing our resident garter snake. Those lights are powered by solar cells, and as long as we have a few hours of sunlight, they function beautifully. Unlike regular batteries, these solar cells have an essentially endless life. The design of the solar cell allows rejuvenation as long as it stays in touch with the Sun on a regular basis. This brings to mind the idea of solar cell Christians.

I would suggest that God’s plan for His children is not for us to try to exist on our own. In Genesis 3:8-10, we see Adam hearing “the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden.” How does a voice walk? In verse 10, Adam says he heard God’s voice and in verse 17 he listened to the voice of his wife. In John 1:1, we are told, “In the beginning was the Word” (Greek logos). In verse 14, the “logos” was made flesh and dwelt among us. In Acts 2:38-39, all Christians are promised that they will receive “the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This whole concept is not that mysterious if we reflect on the solar cell. How do we find the strength to live the kind of life that God calls us to live? How do we give to others and support people in trying times? Like the solar cell, if we try to do it without continuing reconnection to the ultimate source of energy and power, we will become dim and eventually lifeless. Jesus calls Christians to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Without the rejuvenation of God’s Son within us, we can start to look more and more like the darkness of the world that surrounds us.

Our worship, our Bible study, our fellowship with other Christians, and our prayers are all a part of our spiritual recharging. The voice of God walks within us as we use God’s Word. We dare not depend on our own wisdom to remain the light of the world as we face enormous challenges. A solar cell needs constant contact with the Sun, and we need continuous contact with the Son. The analogy of solar cell Christians reminds us that God’s Spirit gives us the power to be far more than we could be on our own.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Am I Here?

Why Am I Here? The editor of the October 2019 issue of Astronomy magazine begins the issue by reviewing the elements that make up our physical bodies and the current theory of how those elements are created in stars. He then asks the question, “Why am I here?” That is a question Astronomy magazine cannot answer and which the discipline of astronomy does not try to deal with.

What the science of astronomy does is give us a factual basis to know how the elements in our bodies were formulated. The editor points out that we have seven-octillion atoms in our body. (That is 10 to the 27th power or 7 billion billion billion atoms.) He reminds us that there are 60 different chemical elements in our body and he then says that that Big Bang nucleosynthesis produced those elements. So what is his answer to “Why am I here?” His answer is, “You’re here because atoms created in the Big Bang and in the bellies of stars have recombined in a way to make you billions of years after their creation – with a big thank you to your parents as well.”

What is interesting about this is that the editor doesn’t even try to answer the question he has posed. What he does is to give the current theory about HOW the materials that make up your body might have been formed. He does not answer the question, “WHY am I here?” The tragedy of modern thinking is that we have bought into substituting HOW for WHY. We see this in the media, in high school and college textbooks, and in magazines like Astronomy. The result is that humans are reduced to a product of physical change, and not a very attractive product at that. My atheist father wanted his physical remains to be returned to the earth from which it came “as quickly as possible.” His only hope for his life being significant was that his academic achievements would be remembered.

A good percentage of the Bible is dedicated to telling us why we are here. Numerous passages talk about Christians being “the light of the world.” The struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness, and between destructive forces and constructive forces is spelled out over and over again. (See Ephesians 3:10-11, 5:8-14 and 6:12-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-11; John 3:19-21 for examples.)

The result of finding the real answer to “Why am I here?” makes our lives full of purpose and value. It also causes us to regard every human being as having intrinsic, inherent worth. Knowing why I am here shapes my worldview and gives me purpose and meaning for existing. It’s a question worth finding the answer to.
— John N. Clayton © 2019