Virtual Reality Church

Virtual Reality ChurchThis past Easter Sunday, some church members walked into Jesus’ tomb, peered at the rock that sealed the entrance, and toured a replica of the cross where Jesus was crucified. They did this by using an internet connection and a VR (Virtual Reality) headset. They are members of VR Church, a virtual reality church.

The VR Church claims to be one of the first fully computer-generated religious institutions. Having roughly 150 members at present, the church uses the social media platform Altspace VR and is the product of D.J. Sota. The VR Church not only conducts worship services but also has special events, including comedy nights and cyber open-mic nights.

Another virtual reality church is Churchhome Global run by Judah and Chelsea Smith. Members on their site can pray for fellow members by pressing their thumbs against prayer emojis. Small groups are also associated with the Churchhome Global site.

All of this is intended to attract unchurched people, which is a fast-growing percentage of the American population. We would suggest that using a virtual church enables people to stay uninvolved. Lauren Hunter, who is the founder of ChurchTechToday, said: “In parts of the country, people are expected to attend Wednesday, Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. That’s a lot of commitment.” That is exactly right. Personal contact with other believers, having communion, getting involved in the struggles of brothers and sisters is all a part of the Church that Jesus established. Many people don’t want that kind of commitment.

If you want to feel like you are “going to church” and not have to be involved in the Lord’s work, virtual reality church is a great idea. We would suggest that it misses the whole point of what the Church is supposed to be about and what the Church is. Technology can help us communicate and can facilitate teaching, but it cannot be a substitute for meeting together as a body as the first century Church did. Read Acts 2:41-47.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: USA Today, May 7, 2019, page B:1-2.

Properties of Light

Properties of LightWhen you open your eyes in the morning, take a minute to thank God that you can see. We should reflect upon how good it is to have light instead of the darkness of night. The properties of light make it unique and special.

I am keenly aware of my gift of sight because of a long association with Glynn Langston, who is blind and manages our outreach to the visually impaired. In my lectures, I frequently refer to Edwin Abbott’s book Flatland to help people understand dimensions and how the spiritual is different from the physical. Glynn was born blind, so he is unable to visualize the concept of a sphere crossing a plane and leaving the outline of a circle. He has been kind about it, but my wife once said to me, “How do you expect a blind man to visualize anything!” Even those of us who can see have trouble understanding the properties of light beyond what meets the eye. Radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and infra-red rays are all light!

The properties of light make it difficult to comprehend. The most general definition of light is that it is the energy released when a charge changes momentum. The bundle of energy released is called a photon, and the amount of change in momentum determines the energy of the released light. Even in the visible spectrum for humans, the different colors we see are determined by how much energy the light has. Violet has much more energy than red. Ultraviolet has more energy than violet. X-rays and gamma rays have even more energy, but they are still light. Infrared, and radio waves have lower energies than red. That is why infrared warms you and ultraviolet gives you a sunburn. It is also why radio waves can pass through the walls of your home without causing damage and gamma rays can also pass through things, but they will do significant damage.

In the creation process, there had to be special accommodations for the properties of light coming to Earth from the Sun and from outer space. The ozone layer had to be in place to absorb ultraviolet and avoid damage to life. The eyes of every living thing that uses some form of sight had to be designed to function in the part of the spectrum that fit its diet. Rattlesnakes, for example, have specialized sight organs to see in the infrared. Because they eat rodents whose bodies give off radiation in the infrared, a rattlesnake can see its prey on the darkest night. Nearly every insect sees some part of the spectrum other than the colors visible to humans. That is how a mosquito finds you and how insects navigate at night.

Not every star in the sky gives off the properties of light that are needed for life to exist. Some stars radiate in the X-ray part of the spectrum, and others radiate energies too low to be useful to life. Even our trees and shrubs require light in the green part of the visible spectrum to know when to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. In Job 38-41, God spoke to Job to show His wisdom and design and convince Job of his ignorance. Many of the designs God pointed to are connected to light. “Where is the way where light dwells, and where is the location of darkness?” (38:19) “By what process is light parted which scatters the east wind upon the earth?” (38:24) “How does the eagle seek the prey and see that which is afar off?” (39:29)

The Bible speaks of light that is not produced by the acceleration of an electric charge. The most important of these is described in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world … let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Let those of us who are Christians not only be amazed by God’s design of the properties of light and the world in which we live, but let us also strive to be the light Jesus calls us to be.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Joy of Motherhood

Joy of MotherhoodI would like to be a mother. I can’t imagine the joy of motherhood bringing a new life into the world, nurturing that child and watching her or him grow into a productive adult. I want to be a mother very badly, but I don’t have the equipment to do that.

Yesterday we talked about how atheists and feminists try to vilify Christ and Christianity by suggesting that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens. However, Christ and His apostles treated women as equals. (See John 4 and Galatians 3:26-29.) The passage the atheists point out is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. That passage tells us that women can be saved in childbirth. In other words that role is so important that being a mother can be an opportunity to fulfill an incredible role that God has made available. Women don’t have to accept that role, but it is available. No matter how badly I want to be a mother, it simply isn’t possible.

A woman can accept the role of being a mother, but men have no way to choose that role. In the spiritual realm, God has given men a role. Just like the baseball team, having the male lead the family spiritually doesn’t diminish the value of a woman any more than being a first baseman diminishes the value of a catcher. A woman’s worth is not diminished by allowing her husband to fulfill his role as a leader in worship.

Unfortunately, most men are not up to fulfilling the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. Frequently women have to step in and help when the male refuses or is unable to fill the role. A first baseman can fill in for a catcher, but that is certainly not the way the roles are assigned or work their best.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31, Acts 16:14-15, 40, Acts 21:8-9 and Acts 2:17-18. Look at Ephesians 5:25-28 and consider God’s plan for both men and women. Christianity has elevated women and provided a basis for gender equality. Equality does not mean sameness, and we should thank God for the special design He has built into men and women to allow them to have meaningful roles producing happy and fulfilling lives – including the joy of motherhood.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Women and Motherhood

Women and MotherhoodTomorrow is “Mother’s Day,” and we have some thoughts on women and motherhood.

We are seeing a new aggressiveness on the part of atheists and feminists to vilify Christ and Christianity. Feminists take passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to suggest that Christians make women second class citizens. Atheist speakers like Richard Dawkins attack the Bible saying it is one of the most misogynistic (hating women) books ever written. The truth is that Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles were centuries ahead of the secular world in treating and presenting women as equal to men in every way.

It is essential to look at the example that Jesus set in his interactions with women, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4. There was great animosity between the Jewish culture and the Samaritans. John 4:9 reminds us of this when Jesus speaks to the woman, and she responds, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” She is both a hated Samaritan and a woman who in that misogynistic culture was indeed a second class citizen. The passage even adds, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” When the disciples of Jesus show up in verse 27 “they marveled that He talked with the woman.” Jesus not only talks with her, but He stays in the Samaritan city for two days.

Jesus treated women as equals, and they worked with Him in His ministry. (See Luke 8:1-4.) The Apostles taught that men and women were equals. Galatians 3:26-29 tells the Christians of their day and ours, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 has to do with roles. We need to understand that equality does not mean sameness. As an example, is everyone on a baseball team equal? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “Yes, they are equal.” The catcher has a different role than the pitcher, and the first baseman is different from either of them. They are all essential and equal. They have different roles and even different equipment, but all of them are critical to the success of the team.

As we have said before, there are no second-class citizens in the Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. I will have more to say about women and motherhood tomorrow on Mother’s Day.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Democracy Without God Will Not Work

Democracy Without God Will Not WorkWe were sitting on a rock at the bottom of the Grand Canyon talking about how different the world looked in that setting than it does in the realm of politics and human affairs. My friend told of a statement he heard explaining why democracy without God will not work.

The statement was “democracy without moral underpinnings is simply mob rule.” He went on to say, “Suppose you had a society made up of three men and two women. One of the men proposes a new law which says it is acceptable for men to abuse women. The new law is put up to a vote, and the law passes 3 to 2. Is this a democracy? The answer is, ‘No, it is simply mob rule.'”

It is ironical that in the world today the whole human rights issue seems to be integrated with the idea that democracy is the answer to all political problems. While the United States is pushing for democracy overseas, the basis of making democracy work is being systematically removed in America. The only way a balanced, stable, functional political system can work is for everyone to agree on what is right and what is wrong. There was very little controversy about what was right and wrong 200 years ago because people accepted the Bible as a guide for moral conduct. The system was not perfect because people still did things they knew the Bible condemned both on a personal and a political level. But democracy without God will not work.

Today we can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. Much of our population considers all sexual behavior acceptable. People who murder or steal are excused based on bad childhood experiences or chemical problems. The majority of Americans are close to accepting the idea that it is okay to kill an unwanted baby or elderly person.

If you don’t believe in God and in the Bible as God’s plan for how we should live, then what do you use? The answer is mob rule whatever the majority is willing to tolerate. The majority already tolerates abortion, and a landslide of other behaviors are being forced upon us.

If democracy without God will not work, it becomes vital for us to convince our fellow citizens that God does exist. They need to know that they can logically and rationally believe in Him and His Word. It is also vital that we show our young people that the Bible system is not a negative wall of “do not’s” but a positive guide to happiness and successful living.

What is right and what is wrong cannot be left to the legislators and lawyers. It must come from the Biblea proven standard. We encourage you to join us in teaching and motivating others to adopt to a positive, active, productive belief system that enables democracy to exist.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Gallup Poll on Religious Belief

Gallup Poll on religious beliefe Associated Press reported on April 19, 2019, that the percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has dropped by 20% over the past two decades to a low of 50% in 2018. The latest Gallup Poll on religious belief shows a disturbing trend. The Associated Press reported on April 19, 2019, that the percentage of U.S. adults who belong to a church or other religious institution has dropped by 20% over the past two decades to a low of 50% in 2018. In their demographic listing, the most significant drops were among Hispanics and politically among Democrats.

Atheists will say that all of this is just a sign that as people become informed and involved in change, they turn away from God. We would suggest that the problem is with the way Gallup has posed the questions. Most Hispanics have come from cultures where Catholicism in its most conservative form has been forced upon people. Catholic teachings on birth control and the problems produced by church support of unpopular politicians have contributed to many Hispanics not continuing allegiance to the Catholic Church, especially when people immigrate to new cultures. In the same way, many Democrats have found themselves at odds with traditional religious practices and requirements.

This ministry has never supported any denomination or any religious leader other than Christ. We provide evidence for the existence of God and the inspiration of the Bible as His word. What the Gallup Poll on religious belief does not address is that many people who have stopped belonging to a particular church or religion are still firm believers in God.

While organized religion is in decline in America, many people still have a firm conviction about the Bible as God’s Word and Jesus Christ as the son of God. Our ministry does not support any organized religion. We encourage and educate people who are searching for evidence and understanding. Read Matthew chapters 5-7 and 25:31-46.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christ’s Resurrection Celebration

Christ's ResurrectionEach week as Christians meet we remember Christ’s resurrection and victory over death. Annually we remember that at the time of Passover Jesus became the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) But without the resurrection, the sacrifice would be meaningless. As Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Our faith is not worthless, because Christ’s resurrection conquered sin and death.

How do we know that is true? Some unbelievers argue that the resurrection is just a myth that arose many years later. The evidence against that idea is numerous and strong. The apostles carried the message of Christ’s resurrection to the ends of the Roman Empire for the rest of their lives. That was even though they had nothing to gain except a life of persecution ending in execution. If they had not seen the resurrected Christ, they would not have spent their lives proclaiming the message of the resurrection.

The argument that the gospels were written years later has often been used to “prove” that the resurrection was a myth that developed during those years. However, Paul wrote his first letter to the church in Corinth in A.D. 57, before any of the four gospels were written. In it, he included an oral tradition which gives a summary of the gospel message.

Today we have access to writing materials, books, and computers. We are accustomed to writing things down. In the first century, there were no computers or printed books or pamphlets. Even simple writing materials were scarce and precious. People memorized important things by summarizing them efficiently and then passing them on as oral traditions. The early Christians used that method. Here is the first part of an oral tradition that Paul wrote down in that first letter to the church in Corinth:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to…”

The oral tradition then goes on to list some resurrection appearances of Christ. Then Paul adds himself to the list of those who saw the resurrected Christ. (You can read it for yourself in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.) Of course, the “Scriptures” that Paul refers to are the Old Testament prophecies of Christ since the New Testament was not yet written.

When did Paul receive this tradition? He probably received it no later than A.D. 36 when he first visited Jerusalem. (See Galatians 1:15-18.) It is possible that he received it earlier than that in Damascus when, as Saul the persecutor, he encountered Ananias and received his sight. Ananias preached the gospel to him and “Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus.” Whether in Jerusalem or Damascus, Paul received the oral tradition of Christ’s resurrection no more than five years after the event. That tradition was not a myth that developed years later after the eyewitnesses had died.

As we celebrate Christ’s resurrection each week and especially at this time of year, we can trust the story is true. We have that oral tradition written down, but we would do well to memorize it as the early Christians did.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Easter and Passover

Easter and PassoverA major “Christian” celebration of the year is Easter which is a special day in the Christian denominational world. Easter and Passover are linked together not only by tradition but also by history.

“Easter” comes from a Germanic festival of the vernal equinox. The equinox is when the Sun is exactly over the equator, so day and night are equally divided. The vernal equinox is the start of spring. The barbarian tribes in Europe of the first centuries dressed up in their best clothes and had a festival celebration of spring. Modern Easter is not linked to the equinox, but to the Passover. The word “Easter” is found in the Bible only in Acts 12:4 and only in the King James version. The Greek word that was mistranslated “Easter” actually means “Passover.”

The Passover was “The Feast of Unleavened Bread” described in Exodus 23:15. This was one of the annual festivals God commanded, and it was held on the 14th day of the first month of the Jewish calendar. The Jews ate unleavened bread for seven days, and they made sacrifices on the first and last days of the festival (Numbers 28:16-25 and Deuteronomy 16:1-8). The night before Jesus was crucified, he was observing the Passover (Luke 22:1-7).

The Catholic Church connected Easter and Passover so Passover Sunday became Easter Sunday. This was a way for early Christians to celebrate the events of the death and resurrection of Christ without being conspicuous to the opponents and persecutors of Christianity.

So Resurrection Sunday is commonly called Easter, and it follows Passover. What we should remember is that every Sunday should be a celebration of the resurrection of Christ.
— John N. Clayton ○ 2019

Christian Moral Standards a Crime?

Are Christian Moral Standards a Crime for Chick-fil-A?

San Antonio, Texas, and Buffalo, New York have kicked Chick-fil-A out of their airports for “aiding and abetting Christian organizations.” What is especially ironic is that it’s the charity work of Chick-fil-A that those cities object to. Are Christian moral standards a crime?

Chick-fil-A is accused of “anti-equality giving.” They gave significant amounts of money to the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a home for troubled young men in Vidalia, Georgia. The main problem, according to those challenging Chick-fil-A is that these organizations promote a traditional Christian understanding of sex and marriage.

In 2012 Dan Cathy who was the CEO of Chick-fil-A made statements endorsing traditional marriage. This was his personal belief and not a statement of corporate policy. There has been no activity in this area by anyone connected with the company since that time. The fact that they close their restaurants on Sunday continues to cause attacks on them. The programs that Chick-fil-A contributed to were sports camps and school programs for inner city kids.

The Salvation Army has a budget of about two-billion dollars which it uses to provide aid for the homeless, anti-trafficking programs, disaster relief, etc., but not for policing LGBT civil rights. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes asks its leaders not to engage in homosexual or heterosexual acts outside of marriage as well as pledging not to use drugs, alcohol or tobacco. Once again, it isn’t carrying on an anti-LGBT campaign.

We have reached a point in America where anyone who has strong moral standards and Bible-based beliefs is being denied the opportunity to own a business? Are Christian moral standards a crime? We need to be informed about what is going on in America.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

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