Memorial to Help Us Remember

Memorial to Help Us Remember

By definition, we establish a memorial to help us remember certain essential things. Memorials are very much a part of Christianity and of the history of Israel. Members of different denominations have instituted all kinds of special days and given them spiritual significance. In reality, those days are not found in the Bible, and there is no biblical command to observe them. Perhaps God knew that humans would corrupt special days and forget their significance and message. Christmas is an example of that.

In Exodus 3:15, God told Moses that the exodus from Egypt would be a “memorial to all generations.” Jesus spoke in Mathew 26:13 of a memorial for the woman who anointed him for burial. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus gave His followers the one special memorial to observe. Early Christians met on the first day of every week to remember Christ’s body “which is given for you” as they ate the bread and drank the fruit of the vine–“the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Even though Jesus gave us this memorial to help us remember, it was very quickly corrupted. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that it had become a drunken feast in the Corinthian church. The memorial’s purpose was lost because they were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (verse 29). Paul goes on in this description to say, “this is why many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30).

Today in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. The last Monday in May was made a national holiday in 1971 to honor the memory of those who died to defend America from those who would try to destroy us. It seems that each year there is more emphasis on this day being the “unofficial first day of summer” with little emphasis on its intended meaning. Like the words of 1 Corinthians 11, this day has become a drunken feast for many, and our population is weak and sickly as a result. Many of us are more concerned with Memorial Day sales and, in 2020, how to celebrate without getting the virus than with pausing to give thanks for America and for those who died to preserve it.

As Christians, we have one special memorial to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made. Even as we stop every week to remember what Jesus did for us, we must develop an attitude of gratitude. As we thank God who sent His Son to die for our salvation, we should also remember those who died to keep us free to worship in this country.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Perspective on Life and COVID-19

Perspective on Life and COVID-19

Our friend Owen Olbricht sent us the following article titled “Perspective.” We want to share it with you during this time when we are facing the pandemic of COVID-19.

Imagine you were born in 1900.

*On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday. 22 million people perish in that war.

*Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. 50 million people die from it in those two years.

*On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%.

*That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy.

*When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren’t even over the hill yet. And don’t try to catch your breath.

*On your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII.

*Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war.

*At 50, the Korean War starts. 5 million perish.

*At 55 the Vietnam War begins and doesn’t end for 20 years. 4 million people perish in that conflict.

*On your 62nd birthday, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could have ended.

*When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends.

Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? When you were a kid in 1985, you didn’t think your 85-year-old grandparents understood how hard school was or how mean that kid in your class was. Yet, they survived through everything listed above.

Perspective is an amazing art, refined as time goes on, and enlightening like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s try to keep things in perspective.

God Will Provide a Way Out

God Will Provide a Way Out

We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.

Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”

This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.

First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.

Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.

There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

No Substitute for Mothers

No Substitute for Mothers

There is no substitute for mothers. At least that’s how it now stands under British law, and that’s the way God intended. Even a biological woman who identifies as a transgender man is still a “mother” and not a “father.”

Freddy McConnell is the current name of a British transgender journalist who was born as a female. She had a mastectomy and testosterone treatments and now identifies as a man. Freddy became pregnant by sperm donation, gave birth to a baby, and wanted to be listed as the “father” on the birth certificate. The High Court of Justice in London said, “No.” Freddy took the case to the Court of Appeal, and at the end of April 2020, the justices agreed with the High Court.

The British Children Act of 1989 requires that a mother be listed on the birth certificate. The justices said that according to the law, “a mother has automatic parental responsibility for a child from the moment of birth.” Further, they stated: “No-one else has that automatic parental responsibility…The fact of giving birth to a child has that effect as a matter of operation of law…From the moment of birth, someone must have parental responsibility for a newly born child…” In other words, there is no substitute for mothers.

Judge McFarlane of the High Court of Justice said: “It is now medically and legally possible for an individual, whose gender is recognized in law as male, to become pregnant and give birth to their child. Whilst that person’s gender is ‘male,’ their parental status, which derives from their biological role in giving birth, is that of ‘mother.’”

There is great confusion in society today concerning sexual orientation, genders, and gender roles. Recently I was required to complete a form that listed seven different options for “gender.”

I thank God that there are biological women who are willing to fill the role of being mothers. Women were designed for that role, and there is no substitute for mothers. For various reasons, many women today are single moms, and here are single fathers who must serve as “Mr. Mom.” The truth is that women can do many jobs as well as men, but no man can fill the full role as a mother. Today we want to thank and honor our mothers, especially Christian mothers, for filling that essential role.

— Roland Earnst © 2020

Christian Concept of Hope

Christian Concept of Hope

We read in 1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now abides faith, hope, love, these three. But the greatest of these is love.” How can hope be listed as a foundation of being a Christian? The answer is that the Christian concept of hope does not mean “wish.”

The lexicon tells me that the word translated hope literally means to expect, to look for, to await. It is not to wish for something to happen. In Romans 4:16-22, Paul speaks of Abraham being the father of many nations, and he says Abraham “believed in hope”? Does that mean Abraham hoped that God did not lie to him about his future? That is absurd. Verse 19 tells us that Abraham believed and was not weak in faith. Abraham’s hope was looking for what was about to happen.

The Christian concept of hope does not depend on what we possess, what we can do for ourselves, nor what any other human may do for us. We don’t hope (wish) that we will go to heaven. We look forward to it. Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8 and see if you think Paul expresses the WISH that heaven awaits him. He looked forward to heaven.

Over and over, we see this Christian concept of hope in the Bible. In 2 Corinthians 1:10, Paul wrote, “On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us.” He did not say we wish He could or would. Colossians 1:27 speaks of the “hope of glory.” Not that we wish it was, but that we are waiting for it. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Paul refers to Christians and repeats the message of our key passage in 1 Corinthians 13:13. He wrote, “Let us be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for the helmet the HOPE of salvation.” Notice that this is a covering for the head, the most sensitive part of our bodies. Notice it is not the “wish of salvation.” It is “the hope of salvation.” It is the expectancy, the things we are waiting for.

In Hebrews 6:17-20, we see this stated again. Read the passage. Notice that there are two unchangeable things. One is that God cannot lie. The other is that our HOPE is an anchor for us. That is our promise of salvation. In Romans 15:13, we see God referred to as the “God of HOPE.” The God of promise. The God we can look forward to. Not the God of “maybe” or “possibly” or “could be.” Things like the current pandemic can be approached fearlessly by Christians because we have the assurance that something better is coming – guaranteed!!

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

We hear a lot about the current virus struggle and references to the idea that this is a first-time event. That may be true for those of us living in America, but plagues have been the scourge of humankind throughout recorded history. We recently saw a writing by the early Christian historian Eusebius that tells us about how early Christians confronted plagues. He referred to a report from an elder in the Church named Dionysius around A.D. 260. Dionysius was writing about the plague in Alexandria. Here is a quote from part of his letter to Eusebius:

“Most of our brethren showed love and loyalty not sparing themselves while helping one another, tending to the sick with no thought of danger and gladly departing this life with them after becoming infected with their disease. Many who nursed others to health died themselves. The best of our own brothers lost their lives in this way – some elders, deacons and laymen – a form of death based on strong faith and piety that seems in every way equal to martyrdom.

“All things are filled with tears, all are mourning, and on account of the multitudes already dead and still dying, groans are heard throughout the city… There is not a house in which there is not one dead. Despite afflictions we Christians rejoiced in the peace of Christ which He gave to us alone… Most of our brethren by their exceeding great love and affection, not sparing themselves and adhering to one another, were constantly superintending the sick, ministering to their wants without fear and cessation, and healing them in Christ.”

This quote appeared in Action! magazine, May 2020, page 2. John Reese, the president of World Bible School which publishes Action! added a comment. He said that the existence of hospitals was an early Christian innovation to improve the ability to serve those struck down by the pandemic of their day. We can learn much from how early Christians confronted plagues.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Disney Removes LGBT Content – for Russia

Disney Removes LGBT Content

To remain politically correct in the United States, Disney has gone to great lengths to include LGBT content in their productions, including those designed for children. However, Disney removes LGBT content in the Russian version of children’s movies to meet the government’s demands. They have also done the same for Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, where a very brief lesbian kiss was edited out of “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.”

The new children’s film “Onward” contains a scene where a female cyclops police officer named Specter says, “My girlfriend’s daughter got me pulling my hair out.” In the Russian version” girlfriend” was changed to “partner.” Russia also required editing out LGBT content in” Rocketman” and “Avengers: Endgame.”

Interestingly, Disney removes LGBT content for Russia and Muslim countries. They have the legal right to adapt their material to different cultures. Still, it seems strange that family values are emphasized by the entertainment industry for children in other countries and ignored in the United States.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: www.texanonline.net

Medical Miracle Cure Claims

Medical Miracle Cure Claims

It was bound to happen. With the legalization of medical marijuana and substances made from marijuana, people are making claims about what cannabis can cure. It goes beyond arthritis to include every ailment that is common to man. We must beware of medical miracle cure claims. Entrepreneurs are going beyond legitimate testimonies of over-the-counter supplements, with advertisements like this one:

“Washington, D.C.) – After suffering for years from arthritis, Christie Brinkley set out to find the safest, most potent form of legal medicinal cannabis oil for treating a wide range of diseases, mental disorders, and conditions like she suffers from, arthritis. After treating her arthritis with CBD, Christie Brinkley had a mission to make this miracle oil available to the masses. The supermodel, actress, and entrepreneur teamed up with longtime friend, Doctor Oz, who has been dealing with back pain for years and says CBD oil is the only thing that has improved his condition. Together, the power duo was determined to create something that would not only work effectively but would also be affordable for everyday Americans.”

This very public duo is being trumped by religious figures who are claiming that miracle oils have come from God, and that they have special powers to cure things that the medical establishment deems hopeless. In our January 12 post, we talked about witches and the problems with the translation of biblical words. What your translation of the Bible may call witches or witchcraft were actually people who claimed to have magic miraculous cures for every ailment possible. In Acts 8:9-11, we read about a man named Simon, who had quite a business going with this type of activity, and there are examples in the Old Testament.

It is a wonderful thing if some natural substance or diet can help a person with their ailments. There is certainly no problem with people making a business out of selling these products, but beware of medical miracle cure claims for “a wide range of diseases, mental disorders and conditions.”

As I write this, I have a family member who is dying of cancer. Hospice is caring for him, and he has only a few more days to live. What started as prostate cancer has gone to bone cancer and a massive brain tumor. When the bone cancer was detected, the family member was taken to a marijuana clinic where he was placed on a treatment of marijuana compounds and a strict diet endorsed by some religious leaders. This treatment went on for many weeks.

Standard medical treatment did not have a cure for the bone cancer, but it could be controlled, and the life expectancy would be for many years. My family member was told that marijuana treatment could eradicate the bone cancer. There were even a few “testimonies” given by people who claimed they had been cured. Eventually, it became evident that the cancer was growing, not shrinking, and by the time they stopped the marijuana treatment, a baseball-sized tumor had developed in the brain. Because the marijuana treatments had replaced standard medical procedures, there was nothing that could be done.

We should examine medical miracle cure claims of any kind with skepticism. We are not talking about cosmetic issues or supplements for simple aches and pains. We are talking about major issues like cancer, mental disorders, and diabetes. God warned ancient Israel about miraculous enchantments and potions, and we must heed that warning today (Galatians 5:20).

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

The Barna Research Group is a research agency that has been doing statistical analysis of religion since 1984. Their studies are widely recognized as academically valid. One useful part of Barna’s work is that they repeat studies to identify trends. Research this year indicates a decline in practicing Christians in America.

Barna defines a practicing Christian as: “Someone who identifies as a Christian, agrees strongly that faith is very important in their life, and has attended church within the past month.” In the year 2000, 45% of Americans surveyed identified themselves as Christians using that criterion. In February of 2020, that percentage had dropped to 25%. This research was based on interviews with 96,171 adults.

When you think about the numbers associated with the Barna definition, it is evident that the word “practicing” is the weasel word. Many people who claim to be Christians have not made a practice of attending Church services. At the same time, they would probably be upset to be called “non-practicing Christians.” However, the truth is that Barna used the same set of questions in 2000 and 2020. There can be no doubt that there has been a sharp decline in practicing Christians in America.

It may be that the coronavirus pandemic will pull some of us away from making a god out of our material possessions. But unless we replace our zeal for things with enthusiasm for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we will continue to be poorly equipped either for this life or for eternity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can find previous posts about Barna Group research HERE and HERE.

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

We are all aware of the destructive nature of the pandemic we are enduring. There is no question about how the virus is impacting families and the economy of the country. At the same time, some positive things are happening because of Christian witness during the pandemic.

There is a story circulated by SAT-7, an interdenominational Christian television center in the Middle East, which demonstrates how the coronavirus is being beneficial. A man in Iran called the television station and said that the people talking on the station were not like the ones that dominated his country. He said he couldn’t believe that they weren’t violent but had a joy and peace about them which he found attractive. He didn’t have a clue as to who Jesus is. However, he knew that what Jesus was saying was better than the violence, terror, and killing that were a part of the religion that dominates his part of the world. He wanted to know where Jesus lived so he could visit Him.

A week later, this man called again, but this time he had 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, and all of them wanted to hear about Jesus. Secret house churches are blossoming all over the Middle East. The coronavirus allows Christians to show compassion and bring help and necessary medications to people who are suffering. Similar stories are coming from Afghanistan.

In America, the coronavirus is showing the huge contrast between atheist beliefs and what Christianity offers. Survival of the fittest as a guide to life doesn’t work well with a pandemic. Isolation and competing for medicine and medical care are not attractive lifestyles for most people. Christians who are first responders talk about the dominance of believers in their efforts. The idea of serving others and saving lives even at personal risk to themselves is the exact opposite of atheistic belief systems.

The coronavirus is not God’s retribution for human sin, but, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). Christian witness during the pandemic brings a shining light in a culture that suddenly finds itself unable to manage. In this crisis, atheism offers no hope except perhaps personally, selfishly surviving the plague in whatever way possible. True atheism has no thought of helping others or being confident about the future, even if this life comes to an end. The contrast is a great apologetic for Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020