What Christianity Is Not

What Christianity Is Not and What It Is

It is interesting to read atheist websites and realize the basis for their atheism. In many cases, atheists say the reasons they don’t believe in God are the same reasons I had when I was an atheist. If those reasons were valid, I would still be an atheist today. Let’s consider what Christianity is not:

JUDAIZED CHRISTIANITY: Many of us do not care for ritual or ceremony. We also have little or no use for those who claim their position in life makes them of greater importance than others. The biblical concept of Christianity also rejects those things. In Acts 15:5, some wanted to force religious rituals on the gentile Christians. Verse 10 tells us the leaders rejected that idea. In Matthew 15:1-9, Christ soundly rejected human caste systems and traditions. In 1 Corinthians 7:17-24, we read that God takes us wherever we are in life. Galatians 3:26-28 makes it clear that in authentic Christianity, everyone is equal no matter what their race, sex, or ethnicity.

LEGALIZED CHRISTIANITY: As an atheist, I saw Christianity as a long list of “don’ts.” Everything I wanted to do was a “no no,” and if you engaged in it, you had massive piles of guilt heaped upon you. It took me a long time to understand that you don’t earn salvation in the Christian system. It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). In 1 Corinthians 13, we find that there are three things a Christian should have – “faith, hope, and love but the greatest of these is love.” Legalism is what Christianity is not.

LAWLESS CHRISTIANITY: Closely related to legalized Christianity is “lawless Christianity,” in which a person or a group of persons spell out what is okay and what is not okay. There is no written authority in lawless Christianity. Instead, the rules are laid down and interpreted by a religious leader. The “clergy/laity” system is not logical or biblical. Humans are not only selfish and ignorant, but they are prone to power struggles. In many cases, lawless Christianity has turned the Christian system into an entertainment business. I can get better entertainment in the secular world than any human or group of humans can produce in a church building.

Don’t reject God because of what Christianity is not. Read James 1:27, Matthew 25:31-40 ,and Acts 2:38-47. There you will see that Christianity changes people, makes the world a better place to live, and fulfills one of the most important needs we all have. That is the need for a reliable and functional spiritual experience, because we are created in the spiritual image of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Billie Eilish and Pornography

Billie Eilish and Pornography
Billie Eilish

Every time we mention the damaging effects of pornography, we get a few nasty emails suggesting that we are just control freaks who want to deny a harmless activity. The Bible makes it clear that God would have us “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). A recent news report about Billie Eilish and pornography shows it is not harmless.

Young people today have easy access to porn because it is readily available online. Billie Eilish, a Grammy-winning singer, stated that the porn she began watching online at age eleven “really warped her mind” about healthy sex and relationships. Porn composes a third of all internet downloads in the United States and is a pandemic among young people.

In The Daily Telegraph, Judith Woods wrote that online porn is “suffused with hatred for women.” She goes on to say that the sex depicted on porn sites is “terrifying, dominant, and violent… There is choking and spitting and angry misogyny… Women are degraded, used” and “discarded.”

Anyone who thinks this activity is not damaging to young minds is simply ignorant about how young people learn. Furthermore, the whole purpose of sex is lost in a culture that denigrates marriage and uses sex as a weapon or a recreational activity.

Sex in marriage creates a sacred, unique, and pure relationship between a man and a woman. Therefore, Christians must teach children what sex is about at an early age before the world exposes them to pornography. In the case of Billie Eilish and pornography, that was age eleven.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Week, December 31, 2021/January 7, 2022 page 19.

The Biblical Message of Newness

The Biblical Message of Newness

As we start a new year, let’s consider the biblical message of newness. Human religions call people to focus on maintaining the traditions and practices of the past. Some Christian denominations have done the same, but the Bible calls for newness.

Kainos,” the Greek word for “new,” is used extensively in the New Testament. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words says this about “kainos”:

…denotes new, of that which is unaccustomed or unused, not new in time, recent, but new in form or quality, of different nature from what is contrasted as old … new covenant, new commandment … new character … new name … new life of the quickened spirit of the believer … impossible to dissociate this from the operation of the Holy Spirit by whose power the service is rendered.”

The biblical message of newness carries throughout the New Testament. In Luke 5:36, Jesus says, “No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have a torn garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.” Likewise, you can’t take old lifestyles and patch them into being a Christian. Colossians 3:10 tells us to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.” Hebrews 10:19-20 talks about a “new and living way” opened to us by the blood of Christ. Galatians 6:15 calls Christians “a new creation.”

Ephesians 4:22-24 talks about “being made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17-18, we read, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come. All of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
The biblical message of newness continues to the end of the New Testament.
Revelation 21:1-4 describes a new heaven and new earth where God says, “I am making everything new.”

We don’t change by our own power, and New Year’s Resolutions don’t work because they depend on us. However, becoming a Christian and opening yourself to God does work. God isn’t going to force people to accept Jesus Christ, but for those who do, He offers newness. If you haven’t opened yourself to being made “kainos,” isn’t it time to do so?

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Lost Loved Ones at Christmas

Lost Loved Ones at Christmas

Christmas should be a time of joy, love, celebration, and family. Unfortunately, for many of us, the glitz and color of Christmas are dimmed by the loss of a loved one during the previous year. The family traditions of the holiday season are painful reminders of lost loved ones at Christmas.

For me personally, this Christmas has an empty feeling. Christmas was my son Tim’s favorite time of year. He couldn’t see the decorations because of his blindness, but he enjoyed remembering the trees we had when he was a child and could see. He was in his fifties but still wanted to have his large stocking full of the usual Christmas foods and small toys like a squeeze ball or a bottle of perfume. He loved Christmas music and could sing all of the familiar songs. His sisters frequently sent him singing cards which he played until the batteries wore out.

I share that with you because I know that many of our “regulars” have had a tough year and are missing their lost loved ones at Christmas. Christmas will bring some pain for them, knowing that the usual things we did together can no longer happen. Someone who shared this experience was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote the words to a great Christmas song in 1863. Longfellow’s first wife died in childbirth in 1859. In 1861 his second wide died from burns. In 1863 his son joined the Union army and was very severely wounded and near death.

As Christmas approached in 1863, Longfellow composed the poem that is one of our Christmas standards:

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day. Their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on Earth, good will to men. And I thought how, as the day had come, the belfries of all Christendom, had rolled along the unbroken song of peace on earth good will to men. Still ringing, singing on its way, the world revolved from night to day, a voice, a chime, a chant sublime of peace on earth, good will to men. And in despair I bowed my head, there is no peace on earth I said; for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men. Then peeled the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail with peace on earth good will to men.”

If you, like me, are staring at an empty stocking this Christmas, stem the tears by remembering that the story of the baby in the manger ended with an empty tomb. So too will we one day be reunited with the lost loved ones at Christmas we miss so terribly now. With that in mind, have a great Christmas holiday.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Christmas Trivia and Customs

Christmas Trivia and Customs

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2021 had some Christmas trivia listing the origins of some customs of Christmas. Here are a few of them:

XMAS – The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The Greek letter for “C” is “Chi,” written like our letter “X” and pronounced “kye.” The equivalent of our letter “R” was written like our lower case “p.” The Greeks represented the name Christ (Christos) using the first two letters, “X” and “p” superimposed. Many have assumed that writing Christmas as “X-mas” is a nod to universalism – that all faiths are equal. Actually, it was just the opposite.

CHRISTMAS TREES – Plants that stayed green all year had a special significance for people who lived in cold winter climates of northern Europe. They put evergreen boughs over windows and doors, believing that living plants would repel illness and evil. The Romans decorated evergreen trees with trinkets and topped the tree with an image of their sun god at the festival of Saturnalia. About 400 years ago, people in Germany used the evergreen as a sign of everlasting life with God.

GIFTS – Some cultures celebrated the winter solstice around December 21, which has the shortest daylight hours. Winter can be a depressing time, and the Romans brightened the worst of winter by giving each other gifts on what they called “calends,” the first day of January. Some early Christians began giving gifts to copy the actions of the “magi” (a Greek word referring to the “wise men” of the Bible).

In Europe, every country had traditions of gift-giving, usually involving children during December. For example, people thought of Santa Claus or Father Christmas on Saint Nicholas Day, December 6. In the Netherlands, children left clogs or shoes out on December 5 (Saint Nicholas Eve) to be filled with presents. In Germany, people thought an angel called the Christkind came on Christmas Eve. In Italy, it was an old witch named Befana who brought gifts. In Spain, children celebrated “Three Kings Day” on January 6.

Since America was a melting pot of various cultures
, these practices and many others came together. As we consider this Christmas trivia in today’s world of conflict, we need a time of peace and harmony to enjoy our friends and neighbors and share God’s love with them. Have a joyous holiday, however you celebrate it.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Life Issues from Beginning to End

Life Issues from Beginning to End

The media have recently reported on several life issues from beginning to end. Here are some examples:

The German Euthanasia Association has announced that those seeking euthanasia must produce proof of COVID vaccination
to legally end their lives. This is apparently to protect healthcare workers.

In Poland, the government has passed a law requiring doctors to report all pregnancies and miscarriages to a government database. The apparent reason for this is to make sure that all pregnancies end with a birth. Unfortunately, Poland has a shortage of workers, and this seems to be the government’s solution to the issue.

Research has shown that women who use marijuana during pregnancy are more than twice as likely to have aggressive, hyperactive children with heart rate and immunity issues.

Babies have a fragrance that comes from an organic compound called hexadecanal. It is found in human skin but is abundant in a baby’s scalp. Research shows that females exposed to the fragrance become more aggressive and strong defenders of their babies. On the other hand, men exposed to it become more gentle and speak with softer voices. Evolutionists claim that this is an evolutionary survival mechanism. We would suggest this is part of God’s design of the human reproductive system.

Research on adopted children shows that some traits are common to adopted children that do not commonly appear in children who are not adopted. In the nine months of pregnancy, there is a “primal bonding that happens by biological design.” Those of us with adopted children can attest to some behavior issues that may be related to the adoption process.

God gave us the ideal arrangement for family–one man and one woman in love with each other produce children they love and care for. Unfortunately, that arrangement is not always possible. Understanding the stress and feelings involved can go a long way toward making adoption a good experience.

As we examine life issues from beginning to end, we know that every child needs a loving family, and every senior adult needs someone who loves them.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The above information is from a series of articles in The Week for December 10 and 17, 2021.

Why Zebras Wear Stripes

Why Zebras Wear Stripes

A child said that a zebra is a horse in striped pajamas. Of course, zebras are not horses, and they don’t wear pajamas. But have you ever wondered why zebras wear stripes? And I have another question—are they white animals with black stripes or black animals with white stripes?

There are at least five possible answers to why zebras wear stripes. Probably the best known is so they can hide in the tall grass. But not all zebras live in areas with tall grass. Also, their main predators (lions and hyenas) are not good at seeing far away. They are more likely to smell zebras before they see them.

Another possibility is that the stripes help to repel flies. In a study published in 2020, researchers put rugs on horses to test that theory. They draped solid-color rugs on some horses and striped or checked rugs on others. They found that fewer flies landed on the horses with striped or checked rugs, and those biting African horseflies carry diseases that can be fatal for zebras.

Still, another idea is that stripes help zebras stay cool. The black and white areas create differences in heat exchange patterns causing air to move over the zebra’s body. So we think the stripes make the zebras look “cool” too.

Every zebra has a different stripe pattern, like how every person has a different fingerprint. So maybe this allows the zebras to identify each other. We don’t have to look at people’s fingers to tell who they are. Instead, we look at their faces. However, zebra faces look pretty much the same except for those different stripe patterns.

Maybe those stripes work in another way to evade predators. Perhaps they fool predators by what is called “motion dazzle.” A bunch of striped zebras moving around might confuse a predator in the way a person can become confused or dizzy watching striped objects in motion. So it makes sense that it would be hard to pick out one animal in a herd of moving zebras.

So if we wonder why zebras wear stripes, the answer is–we don’t know for sure. As far as the other question, zebras have black skin, and their default hair color is black. However, some hair follicles have turned off the melanocytes that produce the melanin that gives the hair its color. So those hairs are white. So, therefore, you could say that zebras are black with white stripes.

But that brings up the question of why are those melanin-free hair follicles so nicely arranged in beautiful stripes instead of randomly, resulting in a dull gray appearance. People appreciate beauty, and since we are created in God’s image, He must also be a fan of beauty. I want to suggest that God just likes to add a little extra flair to His creations. He has certainly created many beautiful things, and zebras are just one of many examples. Perhaps that’s why zebras wear stripes.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

Reference: livescience.com/zebras-black-and-white

Inconsistent Fetal Laws

Inconsistent Fetal Laws

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments on a Mississippi law prohibiting most abortions after 15 weeks. Protestors on both sides of the abortion issue were active outside of the Supreme Court building. Many abortion advocates, including politicians, have threatened violence if the court strikes Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers as people argue about women’s rights and unborn babies’ rights. While research continues to show the humanity of the unborn child, we see inconsistent fetal laws. 

More than 38 states in America have “fetal assault laws” on the books. In the past 15 years, about 1200 American women were criminally charged for taking illegal recreational drugs resulting in a miscarriage. If someone assaults a pregnant woman, killing the baby, that person is guilty of murder in most states. This was true in Old Testament times as well (See Exodus 21:22-23). 

Researchers at the University of Oxford had the rare opportunity to study gastrulation of a human embryo from an abortion16 to 19 days after fertilization. Lead researcher Shankar Srinivas, an expert in developmental biology, explained that gastrulation is a process that begins about 14 days after fertilization. At that time, different cells emerge and arrange themselves to form various organs in the human body. The new research into gastrulation has the potential to open ways to prevent congenital abnormalities. 

The research by Dr. Srinivas gives a glimpse into early human development. When fertilization occurs, we are dealing with a human, not a blob of chance cellular accumulation. The complexity of this system speaks of God’s design and is precious and unique. A news report quoted Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, the director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University, saying that this research shows “recognition of the humanness of the embryo.” 

It is within our grasp to prevent conception and avoid the destructive actions of an abortion that can also cause physical and mental harm to a woman. It starts with understanding that sex is not a meaningless physical act but a joining of two people in a deeply personal relationship. That was God’s plan from the beginning. We understand more and more about how this design works, and a consistent approach to the facts can lead us toward an end to inconsistent fetal laws.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: South Bend Tribune 11/20/21, page 4C and The Week 11/26/21. Here is a link to an APNews article, and you can find the research article at Nature.com.

Women Had to Wear a Head Covering

Women Had to Wear a Head Covering

We recently heard from a female skeptic who said that no woman could accept the biblical teaching that women had to wear a head covering or a veil that hid their face. She was referring to 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 where Paul writes, “Every woman that prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame on her head, for that is to make herself like one of the shameless women who shave their heads. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair, but since to cut her hair short, or shave it off, marks her as one of the shameless women let her be covered.”

This is an excellent example of what any reader of ancient documents needs to understand. You must look at who wrote the document, to whom they wrote it, why they wrote it, and how the people to whom it was written would have understood it. For example, the Greek culture of that day demanded that women had to wear a head covering when out of their home. Otherwise, she was advertising that she was a prostitute.

Paul wrote the Corinthian letters to a particular group in a specific culture. Even today, when we visit a culture that attaches a particular understanding to what a person wears, Christians need to be sensitive to what their clothing conveys. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul also cautions Christian women to avoid “pearls or costly dresses.” He says he would not eat food that would offend someone if doing so would cause a person to be misled by his example (1 Corinthians 8:8-13).

In those same verses, he points out that Christians have the freedom to eat anything. However, being concerned about how our dress and actions affect others must have a higher priority than expressing our freedom. That is a lesson the American culture needs to learn today.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Choose Wisely – It Matters

Choose Wisely – It Matters

Every parent knows that it is tough to release our children into the world, to allow them to do things and make their own decisions. We don’t want them to make bad choices, and we are afraid they will fail or get hurt. Every parent has to realize that there is a point where we have to let go of our children, but we just want them to choose wisely.

If we didn’t love them, it wouldn’t be so hard. But, we know that for our children to be truly human, they have to make choices, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. But, we ache for them when they choose wrongly.

Sometimes we let go too soon and sometimes too late. That’s because we are choosing when to let go, and sometimes our choices are wrong. We can all look at our lives and realize that we are guilty of sometimes making bad choices.

Imagine how God must feel. He created humans and let them go by giving them free will. He knew they would make bad choices, but the alternative would be to make them robots, not humans. Robots can’t love, and since God is love (1 John 4:8), He wants us to love Him.

God had no choice but to allow us to have free will because He created us to be persons who would freely choose to love Him. Therefore, it’s up to us to choose wisely.

— Roland Earnst © 2021