Winter Is Coming

Beautiful Fall but Winter Is ComingFall is a beautiful time of year. We all enjoy the changing colors of the trees, and there are changes in our lives that involve preparation for winter. Not all of us view these changes in a positive way. The fact is that whether we like it or not, change is coming. The sight of trees turning colors and the leaves falling to the ground reminds us that winter is coming.

Life is very similar to that. As we get older, signs are telling us that major change is coming in our lives. Our hair turns gray or falls out or both. There is pain in our movements that was not there before. The way we gain weight and our energy levels change, whether we like it or not. All of the medication in the world will not stop the physical changes coming in our lives. Mentally and emotionally, we must adjust to the fact that our faculties are not functioning as they did in the past, and we experience the loss of friends and family making us aware of our own mortality.

One of the things that belief in God does to us is that it allows us to approach the changes that come to our lives in the same way we do the colors of fall. We can scream and fight the fact that winter is coming, but it will still happen. We can buy cosmetics and vitamin pills, but the winter of life comes anyway. When I was an atheist, I had to look at life with all of its problems, pain, struggles, and the awful things that happen as the very best that I was ever going to have. Now, as a Christian, I can look at life with all of its beauty, wonder, and the fantastic things we all enjoy as the absolute worst I am ever going to have to endure.

How do you look at life? Is it the best you will ever have or the worst you will ever have to tolerate? Can you not see that this is the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever. It’s as different as night and day, black and white. If there were no other reason to believe in God but this one, it would be a compelling reason.

We can debate and fuss about things we do not understand. We can complain that we do not like the way God does things. But the fact is that all of those arguments have very little meaning when we are looking death in the face. The colors of change in the fall tell us winter is coming, and the colors of life tell us we will all soon stand before our Creator in judgment. Know why you believe what you believe, and intelligently trust in God to guide you to eternity.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Understanding the Human Mind

Understanding the Human MindFor those of us without a background in electronics and engineering, the inside of a computer looks impossibly complicated. Humans have created incredibly complex things. Those things have helped us understand everything from the microscopic world to outer space. The things we have created and the changes we have made can bring enormous good or tragic destruction. Therein lies the problem. Although we can understand much about the physical world, we still far from understanding the human mind.

In spite of our great progress in electronics, nuclear energy, and space, we still have no idea why people behave the way they do. What makes a person fall in love? Why do people feel guilty? What gives humans artistic ability and an appreciation of beauty? How can we have sympathy for one another or for an animal? These things involve understanding the human mind.

The difference between what a computer chip does and the things human minds do is the difference between the physical world and the spiritual world. In the physical world, all that happens is a product of forces and energies which are easily measured and controlled. Students in a basic physics course are quickly impressed by how easy it is to understand how physical things work and how accurately we can predict what physical forces will do. Just the opposite is true of the spiritual world. Why a person falls in love with someone of the opposite sex might be, to some extent, explained in terms of hormones. It’s another matter to explain why a person would love an idea to the extent that they will die for it. In that area, all biological explanations seem to fail at an elementary level.

Scientific attempts to explain and understand spiritual phenomena have failed because those phenomena are not physically derived. Our ability to understand them has to be on a spiritual level. One of the significant challenges for someone like your author in moving from atheism to Christianity is learning to think and comprehend the spiritual. The Bible even tells us that this will be the case:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We are beings created in the image of God. That image has nothing to do with our physical makeup because God is not physical. It has to do with the fact that what makes humans unique is our spiritual component – our soul. Our bodies are not unique. Other animals possess hearts, lungs, eyes, and bones. Our true uniqueness, our soul, is beautifully displayed in our creativity, worship, and human feelings.

In one way, this concept is like Einstein’s theory of relativity. I would tell my students, “Einstein’s theory of relativity is incredibly easy to understand. It’s just really difficult to believe!” The idea that we are created in the image of God, and that our humanness is a reflection of that unique creation is so simple that people tend to reject it. Rejection of God’s simple answer to the human dilemma leads to the many problems ripping and tearing at people and our society today. Understanding the human mind requires realizing our spiritual dimension and the fact that we are created in the image of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Frightening Polarization and Violence

Frightening Polarization and ViolenceFor 51 years, we have presented public programs on scientific evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. During that time, we have seen a lot of violence, going beyond verbal threats. I have had a pie thrown at me during a lecture. Someone smashed the windows of my truck with a hammer. Personal property at my home was set on fire. In a few situations, I have been shoved, pushed, or hit with a stick. Those incidents have always involved disgruntled individuals with an ax to grind who felt that I was persecuting them. In each case, the damage was minimal. Receiving threats is common for anyone who takes a strong position on God or politics. The frightening polarization and violence is a whole different matter if those threats are physically carried out.

We regularly get reports of violence against believers in God who are public about their faith and why they believe. We recently heard of a threat against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by Austin College professor Robert Rancho. He posted a statement that “.. I’d be ok if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted.” Nahweed Tahmas tells of being punched, kicked, and spat on for stating his patriotic beliefs because he is a conservative with a positive message about God. I want to emphasize that the problem is not that some people may not agree with the position of some public speakers. I don’t agree with some things these two people have presented. The problem is that we have reached the point in America today where it is acceptable to use violence when we disagree with a public speaker.

The frightening polarization and violence are being addressed by an organization called The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Dealing primarily with incidents of campus violence, The Leadership Institute is organizing and recruiting people on all campuses to report abuses. While the Does God Exist? ministry does not have a political agenda, we do understand that we are all affected by the polarization of Americans that encourages militarism and physical retaliation for perceived injustices.

Years ago, I worked with a group in London, England, who were reaching the British people. They said they had arranged a public meeting for me, and they led me to platform in a city park. “Start telling your message,” they told me. As I spoke, a crowd gathered, and I wondered if I was physically safe. The group was polite, paid attention, asked good questions, and stated objections in a pleasant way.

I wonder if that could happen in America today? I suspect that in many places, it could not. A physical, political organization that encourages the use of force is not the answer. Jesus went up onto a hill, and people came to him (Matthew 5:1-2). When He had physical opposition in Nazareth, He simply passed through it and went on His way (Luke 4:16-30). We need to present our case as Jesus did, with patience, love, and consideration, not increasing the frightening polarization and violence in America today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Do You Do On Wednesday Night?

What Do You Do On Wednesday Night? As we said yesterday, we are all given 168 hours a week. One of the questions that we must deal with is how to use that time. Do we spend our time in activities that benefit us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? What do you do on Wednesday night?

I have atheist friends who devote a portion of their free time to transcendental meditation. I have other friends who devote a significant amount of their free time to physical strength training and exercise. Unfortunately, many of us spend whatever free time we have in front of the television.

The first-century Church devoted a significant amount of their time to spiritual activities. In Acts 2:41–47, we read that they had daily time together. They made it a point to eat together and were ”praising God and having favor with all the people.” Verse 45 indicates that a part of their time together was administering relief of a physical nature to those who needed it “parting to all men as every man had need.”

We can see an indication of the health of Christianity today in what Christians do with their spare time. Christianity Today magazine (November 2019) published an interesting report from Lifeway Research on the activities of various Christian denominations and groups. A survey of 1000 Protestant preachers found that 90% of them had some Church activity on Wednesday night. Adult bible study was carried on by 58% of all Protestants. The Church of Christ was the highest with 75%. Prayer meetings were carried on by 45% of all protestants. Baptist churches were the highest in that category, with 74%. A worship service was the mid-week activity of 33% of all Protestants. Pentecostals had the highest percentage, at 62%. Music practice was carried on by 30% of all Protestant groups. Methodists led with 49%.

Christian activity provides a constructive way for people to use their time, away from the TV, and with emphasis on spiritual growth. We see some congregations eliminating Wednesday night activity, and that decision removes an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Our personal experience is that attending Church activities mid-week strengthens our bond with fellow Christians. The Bible repeatedly warns us to be careful with whom we associate. Mid-week activities are one way to facilitate the right kinds of associates. What do you do on Wednesday night?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How Do You Use Your Time?

John Clayton asks, "How Do You Use Your Time?"God has given you 168 hours of time every week that you live. The question that each one of us must answer is, “What to do with that 168 hours?” How do you use your time?

If you consider the average essentials, they might look like this:
Eight hours a day for sleeping is 56 hours a week.
Work might be 40 hours per week.
If you take an hour to eat each meal, that would add up to 21 hours a week.
Personal hygiene, including exercise, might be 20 hours a week.

That adds up to 137 hours a week, giving us 31 hours or more than 4 hours a day left. How do you use your time that is left? The chances are that the numbers quoted here not accurate with what you do. I never get eight hours of sleep in a day, but I work far more than 40 hours a week. Realize that these numbers are just a starting point for what we do with the time we have been given.

Suppose we took the Old Testament tithe of 10%. A tithe of 168 is 16.8 hours. Let’s round that down to 16 hours a week to give back to God. Assume you go to worship and Bible class every time the door is open at the Church meeting place. That would be four hours a week spent in worship and Bible study with other Christians. We still have 12 hours to give back to God every week. Let me point out that these numbers allow 14.2 hours a week for you to watch TV, go fishing, go to a movie, etc.

Sixty years ago, I decided that I was going to give God 12 hours a week, not counting “going to Church,” to equal 10% of what He had given me. I found it very hard to do. The way I did it included:
Visiting people in the hospital.
Writing and sending cards.
Setting up and conducting Bible studies in my home or in other people’s homes.
Getting involved in a prison ministry.
Working with disturbed teens.
Taking youth groups to rallies and workshops.
Shoveling widow’s sidewalks.
Preparing the Church bulletin.
I did those and other things and kept a record to get to 12 hours a week.

Do you know what happened? I found contentment and peace and strength that I had never known as an atheist. Life was full of joy and surprises. The hard knocks in my personal and professional life became less destructive to me personally. When the Bible said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” it wasn’t just talking about money. Imagine what would happen if every Christian gave back to God 16.8 hours of the time God has given them! How do you use your time?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Genes and Addiction

Genes and Addiction Ozzy OsbourneSince the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there have been exhaustive studies of links between the human gene structure and addiction. Discover Magazine published a report on genes and addiction (November 2019 issue) with a summary of the current findings.

The magazine focuses on Ozzy Osbourne, the singer/songwriter and reality TV star who is sometimes called “The Godfather of Heavy Metal.” He is famous for going on binges of alcohol, Vicodin, cocaine, and other drugs that would kill most humans. He has survived to be 70 years old. The question is why Osbourne was able to survive all of this abuse for such a long time. One major factor seems to be a mutation in the ADH4 gene. The ADH4 makes a protein called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, which breaks down alcohol. The researchers have concluded that Osbourne is six times more likely to have an alcohol dependency than the average person because alcohol has a minimal effect on him.

The question arises of what are the links between genes and addiction to alcohol and other substances. The Food and Drug Administration says that one in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Americans spend $200 million a day on alcohol, and 100,000 people die each year from accidents linked to alcohol. People of East Asian descent have an increase in heart rate when consuming alcohol. That effect is called “Asian Flush” or “alcohol flush reaction.” Researches have also found genetic links to anandamide, which is a brain chemical that affects mood and anxiety. Marijuana doesn’t affect people with mutations that alter the amount of anandamide in the brain.

This newfound information tells us a lot about how mutations have shaped how we behave in our consumption of different chemicals. Obviously, if a person doesn’t consume the chemical, the mutations are not an issue. For some people, this information enables them to justify blaming God for their addiction. There are drugs like disulfiram, which cause people to have an unpleasant reaction to the consumption of alcohol. However, using a drug to counteract a destructive drug is a poor solution to the overall problem.

The mutations that have caused all of this are man-made. The mutations are linked to a variety of human enterprises, including the distillation of alcohol. In the distant past, addition was not much of an issue, because the chemical effect of undistilled alcohol is minimal. Alcohol is a drug, and it needs to be identified as such. God has not caused the mutations, and humans are responsible for virtually all of the drugs that are causing so much pain and destruction.

So there is a connection between genes and addiction, and science is looking for ways to change the human genome to exclude the mutations. The biblical solution is to form a relationship with God that leads us away from the destructive forces around us. At the same time, we need to reach out to those who are struggling with their addictions and help them find a way out of their lifestyle of abuse. Walking in the light (1 John 1) involves a conscious change that leads to a new life (Romans 6). God did not lead us to destructive lifestyles, but He will help us build a newness in our lives if we are willing to turn things over to Him.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

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