America’s Christian heritage is being forgotten. It is a brutal truth that if you visit a foreign country today, you will be expected to observe their holidays and respect their heritage. When you are in Japan, for example, you are expected to wear a particular robe and remove your shoes when you visit a temple or meet with a Japanese political figure.
When I visited a Native American leader in Arizona many years ago, I was expected to allow my hand to be cut and my blood mixed with his to bring oneness. So doesn’t it seem a bit strange that you can be arrested for publicly maintaining biblical standards in the United States today? Consider the following facts about the heritage of this nation:
1) The Declaration of Independence declares God as Creator and Supreme Judge, and the signers pledged their reliance on divine providence. 2) Of the 50 state constitutions, 45 of them refer to God. 3) In God We Trust, the national motto is printed on all money and engraved above the Speaker’s rostrum in the House Chamber. 4) The Supreme Court declared the U.S. a Christian nation in 1892 and reaffirmed it in 1931. 5) The words of Leviticus 25:10 are inscribed on the Liberty Bell. 6) References to God, the Bible, and Christianity abound on the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and Washington Monument.
If I visit Japan, I would not loudly condemn their culture and history because I don’t share their belief system. So why is it that in America today, remembering America’s Christian heritage and expressing the faith of our forefathers can result in being fined or put in prison?
The Tokyo Olympic Games are in progress, and the dress code for the women’s beach volleyball reminds us of a recent incident with the Norwegian beach handball team. The Norwegian team was playing in the Euro 2021 tournament in July when they protested the required bikini bottoms in sanctioned matches. The team was fined $1700 for refusing to wear the mandated dress for competition. Instead, they wore thigh-length elastic shorts. The women on the Norwegian team were not comfortable with the mandatory immodesty, which the Norwegian Handball Federation president called “embarrassing.”
The mandatory immodesty requirement has nothing to do with the performance of the team or with handball per se. The male players are allowed to wear tank tops and shorts four inches above the knee. The decisions by the young ladies were not religiously based. Instead, it indicates that the world will adopt a particular dress code and discipline anyone who does not conform to it, whatever their reasons might be.
I can remember when girls in my high school were required to wear skirts that covered the knees, and the bottom hem had to be a certain distance from the floor. The stated reason for showing less leg was to promote modesty. It had virtually nothing to do with education. Unfortunately, it appears the world has now swung in the opposite direction requiring mandatory immodesty in girls’ clothing.
Christian women face a difficult situation in this subject area. In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul encourages women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel … not with …costly array.” Unfortunately, that is becoming a significant challenge in our godless culture today.
For the past two days, we have looked at one of the struggles everyone faces– trusting God in difficult times. Of course, the atheist will claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer terrible disasters in their lives. However, most of us have had a “why me?” experience where a problem afflicts us that we feel is unfair and which we beg God to remove – and frequently, He doesn’t.
Life often presents situations that require trusting God in difficult times. I am not suggesting that I know all the answers, but I see three reasons why we sometimes fail to trust God. First, we looked at how faulty thinking and reasoning can erode our trust in God. Secondly, we saw that not having a reason to live and thus seeing no value in the problems we face contributes to our lack of trust in God. We want to look at a third reason today:
REASON # 3 – We fail to trust God because we think that everything must have an answer that we can understand. Someone said, “If I can understand the thinking of God, then God isn’t God.” My experience in dealing with people who are immersed in a problem indicates that they don’t want a theological or philosophical answer to their problem. What they want is to be free of the problem. After many years of dealing with this issue, I have learned that the best thing I can say is, “I don’t know the reason, but I care.”
Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God..” In the book of Job, God never reveals to Job the answer to why his problems exist. It is evident that there is a war going on between good and evil in this world. I don’t understand all that is involved, but just looking around, we can see the struggle. I can give theological answers to questions about this war, but you don’t care about theology or philosophy if you are hurting. You want to have a solution to your pain.
After God speaks, Job concludes, “I have heard of you by the hearing of my ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5). Job came to realize that he is not smart enough or powerful enough to understand it all. Neither are we.
Trusting God in difficult times is our choice to make or not. However, learning to trust God fills our lives with purpose and direction. The promise of Acts 2:38 and John 14:26-27 is enough to make my life worth living, even with its pain and frustrations.
Yesterday we looked at a struggle that everyone faces— trusting God when things go wrong. We said that faulty thinking and reasoning can erode our trust in God. For example, atheists claim that a loving, caring, just God would not allow innocent people to suffer disasters in their lives. We looked at why that may be faulty reasoning.
Life tends to present situations that cause us not to trust God. The book of Job raises the question of why a “perfect and upright man who feared God and eschewed evil” should suffer massive loss and pain. I admitted that I had faced a problem in trusting God, and I am not suggesting that I have the question solved. In my early days of cynicism and ignorance, I actually said that I had given up on praying because what I prayed for didn’t happen the way I had asked.
So here is another reason for trusting God when things go wrong:
REASON # 2. We tend to think that there is no value in problems. To the atheist, a significant problem can lead to suicide. If things go badly for me and I see no hope that they will ever get better, why should I continue to struggle? If you have no purpose in life other than self-gratification, why go on with pain and problems constantly taking away any reason to live?
For the Christian, the answer to problems is radically different. The Bible is full of statements about problems and suffering leading to good things and joy in life. Examples are Proverbs 3:11-12; Psalms 119:71; James 1:2-3; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4. In my own life, having a child born who was blind, mentally challenged, afflicted with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and schizophrenia has filled my life with purpose and direction. As my son dealt with those issues, including COVID-19, he radiated joy and purpose to the end of his life.
For the Christian, problems and pain can give purpose and direction in life. But, more than that, they bless those who believe with direct help from God promised in Romans 8:28, John 14:1-3, and 26. In addition, there is the hope and promise that ultimately things will be better, with no pain or tears or death (Revelation 21:4).
A purposeless life is a miserable existence. Trusting God when things go wrong can give us a purpose and a reason to live. Because those problems have strengthened my faith, I can provide help and support to others whose faith is faltering as they face similar issues. Tomorrow we will look at a third point that should help us trust God.
On July 27, 2021, at 12:25 p.m., John Clayton’s son Tim Clayton, who had been blind all of his life, became able to see. He also got to be with his mother, Phyllis Clayton, who died in 2008. Tim passed away from complications of COVID-19. Tim Clayton has gained his sight.
Tim had 57 years of life when the medical profession predicted he would pass away before age 12. Tim’s life was full of challenges, including blindness, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, schizophrenia, and being mentally challenged. Despite that, he never complained and his faith was a witness to many people. He was always intrigued by other countries and the teachings of various religions and denominations.
Tim was a Christian, and his life demonstrated that no matter what your handicaps and troubles might be, every Christian life has a purpose. He shared his faith with every doctor, nurse, caregiver, teacher, and health worker he met. We wrote a book titled “Timothy – My Son and My Teacher” to share his life story. The book tells how his life impacted and taught lessons to people around him. That book became Tim’s tool to share his faith with others. He gave copies of the book to everyone he could. It has blessed other parents of children with congenital disabilities and severe health problems.
We share Tim’s death with those of you who know the Claytons or are aware of Tim’s story. There will be no funeral, and no special condolences are needed. Instead, this is a time of joy and praise to God for Tim’s family and friends, that his journey through life is finally over. Tim Clayton has gained his sight.
Human sexuality has been a concern of people throughout time, and the Bible deals with the subject extensively. When I was in college, I worked under the direction of Mrs. Wardell Pomeroy. Her husband was a co-worker with Alfred Kinsey, founder of the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University. At that time, I was an atheist, as was Kinsey, so I considered him a hero. One of Mrs. Pomeroy’s sons became a Christian minister, and that precipitated numerous discussions.
Kinsey had no place for God in his research. His view was that since humans are just mammals, we should be able to enjoy sex with any other mammal of our choosing. The Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky said it well: “If there is no God, all things are permissible.” As belief in God has decreased in western culture, Kinsey’s view of human sexuality has become widely accepted.
The New Testament teaches that the healthiest, most meaningful, most satisfying, and most pleasurable sexual experience is with a single marriage partner. Furthermore, the marriage should be a covenant of love, loyalty, care, and faithfulness. In Matthew 19:5, Jesus said, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The Greek word translated “cleave” in the King James Version is “proskollao,” which means to “glue to” or “adhere to.” It is absolute and total unity, not just a physical union. God created human sexuality as a cleaving apparatus.
So what does the evidence show as working in human sexuality? Does the atheist view expressed by Kinsey and Pomeroy work? Every study on this subject has demonstrated that sexual activity outside of the biblical concept of marriage does not work. Here are some examples:
The National Survey of Counseling Directors – A study of 6500 sexually active adolescent girls found that they are three times more likely to be depressed. As a result, they are nearly three times as likely to attempt suicide as peers who are not sexually active.
The National Health and Social Life Council – Their most recent survey found that sexually active singles have the most sexual problems and get the least pleasure from sex. It also showed that couples in long-term marriages were the most satisfied demographic group.
The prominent scholar J.D. Unwin studied 86 civilizations and found that all 86 demonstrated that sexual fidelity was the most important predictor of a society’s ascendancy and strength. Unwin was not a believer and expressed amazement at his own findings.
Atheists are forced to conclude that sex is an evolutionary product and that human sexuality functions the same as that of any other mammal. The biblical view is that sex in humans is not just to produce offspring. Additionally, Human sexuality is a designed tool to assist and promote human relationships and provide stability in civilization. A great deal of the unrest and conflict in America today is rooted in society’s acceptance of the atheist view of sexuality.
One of the major arguments against naturalistic evolution is the philosophical question of where does your belief system takes you in life? What we really believe affects every facet of how we live. “Survival of the fittest” is a statement of naturalistic evolution. While it has applications in the biological world, for humans, it is a philosophical belief system in which we base every life decision on what will make me more “fit.” That is a TAKER mentality.
A person with a TAKER mentality might do something good for someone else only if they can visualize how the act might ultimately benefit them. Narcissism is a natural product of this kind of thinking. Hoarding, abuse, control, and deception are all a product of a TAKER mentality. People even use religion to promote TAKER value systems. In the Bible, we read of numerous cases where the goal of an individual was self-promotion. For example, in Acts 8:18-24, we see a man named Simon who attempted to use his religion for his personal gain.
The Christian system as taught by Jesus Christ offers a diametrically opposite view of life. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). He lived that belief system even to the point of dying for it. In today’s world, we see the fruit of rejecting the teachings of Christ and living a “survival of the fittest” belief system. The misery index and suicide rate of our culture are at an all-time high. Sexual satisfaction is at an all-time low, with abuse of all kinds at astronomical levels. Racism and hatred are destroying the fabric of our society.
So how do I become a GIVER instead of a TAKER? May I suggest three things you can do that will change your whole outlook on life? As a result, you can become more blessed, happier, and more satisfied with life. These are biblical teachings, and they work:
BUILD FAITH IN GOD by studying the evidence that God is an abundant giver. Spend some time looking at the creation. Go to apod.nasa.gov and see the wonderful pictures each day showing the cosmos that God created. On a clear night, look up at the sky and reflect on what God has created for us to exist. The Psalms and Proverbs are full of admonitions to do this. For example, read Psalms 8:3-9, 19:1-3, and Proverbs chapter 8. Then read Psalms 139:1-14. and consider John 3:16
FOCUS ON HOW YOUR LIFE CAN BLESS OTHERS rather than on what your activity brings to you. Matthew 6:1-4 states this well. The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 demonstrates the wrong motives some people have when they seek glory for themselves rather than being faithful GIVERS. Realize that TAKERS view sex as something that brings pleasure to them, rather than giving pleasure and satisfaction to someone else. As a result, TAKERS are left with an empty feeling of frustration.
LET GOD’S SPIRIT WORK IN YOUR LIFE. The Holy Spirit working in us can help us to become joyful GIVERS. In 2 Corinthians 8:3-7, we see that the ability to give is a “grace” that God wants to give to us. Luke 6:38 tells us that givers will receive back in proportion to their giving.
As long as we live, we have 168 hours every week to use either as a GIVER or a TAKER. Give a tithe of your time – 10% of 168. Include time spent in worship, in class, in prayer, and in meditation. Be sure also to spend part of that 16.8 hours in action. Matthew 25:31-40 gives various areas to choose from where we can give as Jesus calls us to. When we see God work through us, it will motivate us to do more, and God will open doors we never thought possible. We will come to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
One of the challenging situations in America today is what to do about the rights of Christian colleges and universities and LGBTQ people. On June 8. 2021, the U.S. Justice Department filed a court statement to defend the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges from the federal civil rights law. This means that the Justice Department intends to continue allowing Christian colleges who believe that homosexuality is wrong to exclude LGBTQ students from their schools.
Involved in all of this is the fact that the Education Department provides billions of dollars of federal money for scholarships and grants to students attending Christian colleges and universities. The two opposing organizations involved are the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) and the Religious Exemption Accountability Project (REAP). CCCU says they are afraid the Biden administration “may be openly hostile” to their cause. They say they have a First Amendment right to promote traditional religious beliefs about sexuality and gender. REAP maintains that this is anti-LGBTQ hate and causes severe harm to LGBTQ students.
Presently 40 LGBTQ students at conservative religious colleges and universities are suing the Department of Education for its role in the LGBTQ exemption for religious colleges. The case is Hunter versus the U.S. Department of Education, and the outcome will have substantial implications for Christian schools and colleges in the United States. While this dispute is between the LGBTQ community and Christian colleges, the issues will affect other Christian organizations.
This is another case of rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s (Matthew 22:21). When a college or other institution accepts money from the government for anything, directly or indirectly, they are obligated to accept government control and restrictions.
Many years ago, Ohio Valley Christian College used grant money to construct an auditorium. However, when it was completed, they were not allowed to have chapel services in the facility because of the use of federal funds. The school eventually bought out the grants so that they could pray in the building.
In this day of racial issues, it is essential to understand that there should never be a conflict over race in authentic Christianity. That is because the New Testament concept of priesthood is very different from what many people understand.
In the Mosaic period, priests came from the tribe of Levi. They served as teachers, judges, medical experts, and mediators. To be a priest, you had to be a member of the Levitical tribe and of the family of Aaron ( Numbers 17-18, Deuteronomy 10:8 and 18:1-8, Leviticus 8 and 9.) This was a flawed system because not all Levites were good people.
Jesus Christ abolished that system. Hebrews 7:18-19 says, “For the law that went before is annulled because it was weak and ineffective, for the law perfected nothing, but there has come in its place a better hope enabling us to come close to God.” In Matthew 27:51, we read that at Christ’s crucifixion, the curtain separating common people from the “Holy of Holies” was torn open, making access to God available to all humans.
Galatians 3:26-28 clearly states, “You are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Thus, the Bible calls Christians a “royal priesthood” or a “kingdom of priests.” (See 1 Peter 2:4-9, Revelation 1:5-6, and 5:9-10.) That is the New Testament concept of priesthood.
People have tried to continue the Mosaic concept of priests into the Christian era, but that is not what the New Testament teaches. In biblical Christianity, there is no room for placing any person above anyone else. That means there is no room for prejudice. All are equal, and all lives matter. People who justify racial discrimination do so based on human traditions and dogma, not on biblical teaching.
When I was a teenager, it was common to take your date to a movie. Of course, you knew that there would be a happy moral ending to the film, and it would not contain anything offensive or violent. How the entertainment industry has changed!
As children, we devoted much of our free time to such things as “Capture the Flag.” It was a neighborhood game where each side had a flag, and the other side tried to grab it. It was outside and mainly involved running. If you got “tagged” while trying to get the other side’s flag, you were a captive until one of your teammates could free you. There were rules that everyone obeyed, and no one got hurt. A twisted ankle would halt the game, and both sides would focus on the injured person.
Today children walk around with their faces in their smartphones, watching people getting ripped to shreds by dragons. There are “fake” wars where superheroes kill many people, and violence occupies most of the presentation. Adults watch movies with a great deal of killing, violence, adultery, nudity, and pain. “It is not real” is the answer given to those who question all of this. But, the bigger question is what message the entertainment industry is giving to those who immerse themselves in things the Bible refers to as sin.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:14-23, we see the inspired writer talking to Christians about life. “Now we exhort you brethren to admonish the disorderly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak and be patient with all. Take care that none of you ever pays back wrong for wrong but always follow the kindest course one toward another and toward all. … Bring everything to the test and cling to that which is good. Reject everything that has a look of evil about it, and may the God of peace consecrate you through and through. I pray to God that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless at the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is time for Christians to stop supporting an entertainment system that makes killing, suffering, violence, and abuse “entertainment.” I know this is an uphill battle because the entertainment industry is so embedded in our culture. However, one has to hearken back to the words Jesus Christ spoke to those who aspire to be his disciples: “It is you who are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men that they may see the beauty of your life and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).