The Thymus and Adult Health

The Thymus and Adult Health

New research shows a connection between the thymus and adult health. When I was a child in the early 1940s, doctors performed surgeries on children to remove a gland or organ because they thought it was vestigial and no longer needed. By the time I was in high school, my tonsils, adenoids, and appendix had all been removed. When my daughter Wendy became a teenager, she had repeated throat issues and infections. Her doctor refused to remove her tonsils or adenoids even though they were infected and hurting her repeatedly.

We know now that the tonsils and adenoids are an important part of the lymphatic system, keeping our bodies healthy by trapping harmful bacteria and viruses. As we have come to understand the immune system in humans, we have found that surgically removing the tonsils and adenoids can open us to infections. New research indicates the same is true of the thymus.

The thymus is a gland in the chest between the lungs, in front of and above the heart. It produces immune cells called T cells that protect against foreign invaders that could cause illness. In children, the thymus is very active, but after puberty, it shrinks. By then, the body has memory T cells specialized in attacking intruders the body has fought before. Since the thymus gradually becomes smaller, it is frequently removed in heart operations because it gets in the way.

Oncologist David Scadden and colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston researched the thymus and adult health. They examined the health outcomes of 1,146 patients who had their thymus removed at the hospital between 1993 and 2020. They compared those with an equal number of patients who had the same surgeries but did not have their thymus removed. The death rate for those whose thymus was removed was three times higher than those who did not. Thymus removal was also associated with two times the risk of cancer within five years.

The thymus serves a purpose in childhood but may play a different role in adulthood. The researchers don’t know the cause of these striking numbers, but they show a strong connection between the thymus and adult health. We now know that the appendix, tonsils, and adenoids contribute to the body’s immune system to help keep us healthy. It appears that we should add the thymus to that list.

Psalms 139:14 says, “I will praise you, God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works..” We don’t have to look far to see God’s wisdom and design in creation. Just look in the mirror.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Science News for August 26, 2023, and New England Journal of Medicine

God’s Temple Is Sacred

God’s Temple Is Sacred - God's Temple Is You

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that God’s Spirit has His home in you? If anybody desecrates the temple of God, God will bring them to ruin, for God’s temple is sacred to Him, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16 -17).

If you take the Bible seriously, you must understand that taking care of your body is essential to how you live. In this ministry, we have discouraged using alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and all recreational drugs because Jesus and Bible passages like this one teach us that God’s temple is sacred.

How does God “bring to ruin” those who do not take care of their bodies? Like most actions of God, it is not by God playing Zeus and throwing a lightning bolt at an offender. God simply removes His protective hand from those who insist on desecrating His temple. When God removes His protective hand, what happens? Look at the evidence in the latest numbers from the Center for Disease Control.

In 2022, the CDC says that 109,680 Americans died of overdoses, over 60% from synthetic opioids. Marijuana use and vaping have climbed to the highest levels ever seen. In the past year, 44% of young adults used marijuana, up from 28% a decade ago. Over 10% of young adults use cannabis every day. Binge drinking for middle-aged adults hit 29% in 2022. As of 2021, 61.2 million Americans age 12 and older have used illicit drugs.

We can see the result of this abuse in the increase in emergency room visits, the rate of accidents, broken homes, and the collateral damage to families. The numbers from the National Center for Drug Abuse are staggering. It is difficult for those of us working with young people and people with mental issues to do any quantitative analysis. Suffice it to say that the number of cases coming to us is much higher than at any previous time.

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but are really greedy wolves. By their fruits, you will know them…” Matthew 7:15-16. The message of the Bible as to how we should live gives beauty and purpose to life and provides the best measure of good health. God’s temple is sacred, but even people who reject the teachings of Christ can’t deny the destructive consequences of following the teachings of modern secular prophets.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If Pain Did Not Exist

If Pain Did Not Exist

Atheists and skeptics maintain that pain and suffering are the most significant proof that there is no God and the Bible is not true. They claim that a good and loving God would not allow pain and suffering. Is there an inconsistency between the descriptions of God in passages like 1 John 4:7-8 and the history of Israel? Unfortunately, skeptics and atheists fail to consider the alternative if pain did not exist.

The ability to exist in a physical world requires being able to feel pain. How could we survive if we could not know that a stove is hot when we put our hand on it? The ability to feel pain lets us know if something is sharp, or dangerously hot or cold.

Pain occurs on more than a physical level. What kind of a person would it be who could not feel guilt, compassion, empathy, and sympathy? These characteristics are unique to humans. We may condition an animal to display a response we interpret as one of those emotions, but humans uniquely can experience mental anguish over the circumstance of another human. People who bury this capacity, such as Hitler, Mao, and Putin, have created enormous problems for the whole human race.

The Bible clearly tells us that God can perform miracles. However, a careful study of the biblical miracles shows there was a reason beyond just curing a disease or infirmity. If people could escape life’s problems by becoming Christians, many would come to Christ to escape even minor physical problems. The Apostle Paul struggled with suffering, which he called his “thorn in the flesh.” He would not have learned an important lesson if pain did not exist. He wrote, “Three times I prayed to the Lord to relieve me of it.” God responded, “My grace is all you need; power comes to full strength in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:7 -9).

None of us like to have any kind of pain, but this life is only temporary. If pain did not exist here, there would be negative consequences. Christians have peace in knowing that the future holds an existence that will be free of pain. My suffering has given me a purpose in living and the strength not to fear dying. Denying God’s existence adds another level of denial and uncertainty to life.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Hunger and Malnutrition in the World

Hunger and Malnutrition in the World

It is hard to believe that in 2023 hunger and malnutrition are still major issues causing pain and suffering worldwide. As the world population grows, this situation is going to get worse. Those of us who have donated some money to organizations addressing hunger find ourselves on mailing lists that fill our mailboxes with requests for more money with pathetic pictures of starving children. Strangely enough, the primary issue isn’t food shortage but food waste.

Scientific American magazine published a study showing food loss and waste by country. Nigeria had the most significant waste in 2017, with over 3500 million tons of food lost. Nigeria is the source of many of the pictures of starving children and impoverished families, yet it leads the world in the waste and loss of food.

The United States in 2017 had about half as much food wasted or lost as Nigeria did. However, seeing what American restaurants, airlines, and food banks discard is appalling. India is the second-highest country in wasted or lost food, with just under 2500 million tons.

Hunger and malnutrition should not exist because God has given us all the resources we need to feed every man, woman, and child on the planet. Humans have allowed war, greed, selfishness, and mismanagement to cause the suffering we see.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Waste Not” in the July/August 2023 issue of Scientific American (page 14)

God Designed Singing

God Designed Singing

One of the things God has designed uniquely into humans is the ability to sing. Animals don’t sing as humans do. The song of a bird or a whale is a means of communication, but for humans, singing is a spiritual activity. God designed singing to elevate, encourage, and teach. In worship, it creates a direct connection to fellow worshipers and to God.

Singing came early in human history, with the first Bible reference to music being about Jubal in Genesis 4:21. Some 25 Hebrew words refer to different aspects of singing. Some books of the Old Testament, such as Genesis 1, the Psalms, and much of Isaiah, are songs. Isaiah 52:8-9 is a song of joy at God’s blessings. Other songs are praises to God, such as Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8. We see Paul and Silas singing at midnight in a Roman prison in Acts 16:25. That must have impressed the other prisoners who listened.

Ephesians 5:19-20 tells Christians
, “Be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything.” Colossians 3:16-17 adds, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God…”

God designed singing for use in worship. Christian worship singing is not a spectator sport, but human institutions have not always supported congregational singing. Five hundred years ago, the Catholic Church decided who could sing and who couldn’t. The effect was to move worship of God away from the common people. The Reformation changed the use of music in worship.

I remember several years ago watching a broadcast of a USO show on an aircraft carrier featuring Lee Greenwood. It was during the Persian Gulf War, and soldiers were very apprehensive about where they found themselves. Greenwood sang, “I’m Proud to Be an American.” As he sang it, the soldiers were standing politely and listening. Greenwood stopped the song and asked the soldiers to sing it with him. The effect was electrifying, with tears flowing and hands joining together as they lifted their voices together in the common cause to which they were called.

When did you last join a crowd singing the National Anthem? What effect can that have on the people at an athletic event compared to when a professional sings it? Music is a great gift, but like all of God’s blessings, we can misuse it. God designed singing to unite, teach, encourage, and elevate us in worship. It can bring us closer to each other and to God if we use it as God intended.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Loneliness Contributes to Bad Health

Loneliness Contributes to Bad Health

Medical science has now shown that loneliness contributes to bad health. One of the benefits of being a Christian is what the Bible calls “koinonia.” That Greek word can be translated “fellowship” or “communion.” In Acts 2:42, the first-century Church met in constant fellowship, and Hebrews 10:25 urged Christians not to forsake gathering together. We see in the scriptures that Christ’s disciples were together constantly. Today, fellowship with people who share your values and beliefs is a significant contributor to good health. 

A study of 18,000 diabetic adults in the United Kingdom showed that “loneliness may be a bigger risk for heart disease in diabetes patients than a bad diet, smoking or a lack of exercise or depression.” Researchers found that over ten years, the chance of developing cardiovascular disease was up to 26% higher in patients with high loneliness scores. Dr. Lu Qi, a professor at Tulane University, said, “We should not downplay the importance of loneliness on physical and emotional health. I encourage my patients with diabetes who feel lonely to join a group or class and try to make friends with people who have shared interests.” 

God’s statement that “it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18) should not be restricted to the marriage relationship. Loneliness contributes to bad health, and God knows what humans need for good health. I have observed that men who lose their wives and live alone have a reduced life expectancy, but the Church provides a remedy for that loneliness. On a personal note, I remember vividly the negative effect my wife’s death had on my health. My relationship with other Christians in the months following her death has contributed to my living to see my 85th birthday. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Insider Report” from Yahoo News for June 2023. 

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence

Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence - Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan in 1987

It’s known as the Sagan standard and abbreviated ECREE. Carl Sagan, an American scientist, and agnostic, hosted the PBS program Cosmos in the 1980s. He said in the series, “I believe that the extraordinary should be pursued. But extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” He was talking about claims that aliens from space had visited Earth. But we can apply the principle to more than alien visitations.

The truth is that Sagan did not originate the ECREE concept. He just popularized it on television. The idea had been previously expressed many times by others. Even Thomas Jefferson described it in a letter he wrote in 1808 about the existence of meteorites, but he was much more wordy. (He used about three dozen words instead of Sagan’s five.)

What does the Sagan ECREE standard mean? It tells us that when we make an extraordinary claim, we must back it up with extraordinary evidence. How about the extraordinary secularist claim that everything we see came from nothing by means of nothing? If matter, energy, time, and space all originated at the “big bang,” and nothing existed before that, where is the extraordinary evidence to back up that claim? Could an eternal God existing outside of time and space be a better explanation for the universe?

If one claims that life originated from non-living chemicals without intelligent guidance, what is the extraordinary evidence for that? Even if science succeeds in creating life from non-living chemicals in the laboratory (and they are far from doing that), it would merely prove that intelligence can create life from non-life. That is what the Bible has said for thousands of years.

Once life got its start, what is the evidence that it evolved from species to species until it reached homo sapiens? We don’t see any extraordinary experimental or fossil record evidence of that either. To prove that natural selection acting on random mutations could accomplish a task that defies the second law of thermodynamics requires extraordinary evidence, which we don’t have.

We agree with the Sagan standard that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (ECREE). The question is, does all that we see in the universe and on our planet give extraordinary evidence of unguided random chance or design by an intelligent Creator?

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: Wikipedia

The Process of Dying

The Process of Dying

Today’s advances in medicine have made the process of dying much more complicated. Proverbs 31:6-7 told the people of ancient times, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing … let them drink and remember .. their misery no more.” Death is a natural part of life, and for most of us, it is the pain associated with dying that we fear, not so much death itself. Ten million adults age 75 and older visit emergency rooms yearly, and 50% of older adults will be there in the last month of their lives. Adults 65 and older have the highest ER utilization of any age group. The real issue for most of us is quality of life.

Many of us have had a loved one suffering with no hope of ever having a quality of life again and just wanting to go and be with Jesus and not have any more pain. Your author has had to deal with a child in that situation. My son Tim was a victim of COVID. Medical practice was to give him treatment that would keep him alive – including a respirator and a drug package. He survived COVID, but it left horrendous residual damage. Tim could not sit up, take care of his toilet needs, feed himself, walk, or even push a call button when he needed help. I could understand about half of what he said, but no one else could.

Because of Tim’s blindness and mental challenges, he lost the few things he could enjoy. He spent his last months in a nursing home that could meet his basic needs, and gradually his body weakened to the point that he finally passed away. What is wrong with this picture which is repeated over and over in America today? The nursing home Tim was in had some 50 people in similar situations, and the nurses told me I was the only family that visited regularly. People were left in the process of dying, abandoned by loved ones who couldn’t emotionally deal with the situation.

When Tim was admitted to the hospital with COVID, I asked the doctors to allow him to die pain-free and nothing more. They told me they were obligated to do as much as possible to keep him alive and reprimanded me for suggesting they should do nothing but make him comfortable. A national movement called “Assistance in Dying” is working to allow doctors to provide palliative care while allowing a person to die if they choose.

God designed the human body to end its existence without endless suffering, but those who reject faith in God want life to continue at all costs, financially and psychologically. We need to allow God’s will to determine the process of dying and how life ends.

— John N. Clayton © 2023


Teenage Mental Health Challenges

Teenage Mental Health Challenges

A government report for March of 2023 gave data showing that teenage mental health challenges have increased dramatically from 2011 to 2021. The data shows a massive increase for boys, but the numbers are not as severe as for girls. In 2021, 57% of teenage girls surveyed persistently felt sad or hopeless, up from 36% in 2011. Teenage boys with the same feelings increased from 17% to 29%. One-third of the girls in the CDC study seriously considered attempting suicide, a 60% increase from 2011.

The government solution for teenage mental health challenges is school prevention programs. Debra Houry, the chief medical officer for the CDC, says, “These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive.” However, all the programs and school efforts cannot substitute for stable home situations. This is one more evidence for the wisdom of God’s plan for the family.

As a public high school teacher, I saw what modern teens have to deal with. Many of my students got up and fixed their own breakfast, went to school alone, spent the day at school with other kids from dysfunctional families, and came home to an empty house. Mother was there but absorbed in her own world, and father was nonexistent. There was no spiritual leadership in the home.

I used to have after-school tutoring sessions in my classroom for students who needed help with their homework. Many times the kids just wanted to talk. I still receive calls from former students who remember our talks. Now teachers are not allowed to have that kind of interaction with their students, and school programs are run by people who don’t understand kids’ emotional needs.

It is no mystery why teenage mental health challenges are increasing. This situation will worsen as our society moves deeper into secularism and psychological principles based on animal behavior. The Church needs to offer what the world cannot. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The word translated “love” is the Greek word “agape,” which means to consider of incredible wealth and value. Kids need to hear that message, and for many of them, the Church is the only place they can hear it.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: NEA Today magazine for June 2023, page 15.

Sexual Identity and God’s Creation

Sexual Identity and God's Creation

Sexual identity has become a major issue in American society. Increasing numbers of young people are pushing to have their gender changed while guidance counselors attempt to use gender change to solve emotional problems. Meanwhile, doctors are encouraged to prescribe hormones and irreversible surgeries to facilitate changing a young person’s gender.

Like many issues today, many people attack Christians and use the gender issue to denigrate God. Genesis 1:27 indicates that God created male and female as separate entities. Genesis 3:16-20 spells out the roles of males and females, suggesting that their biology defines their roles in life. It is essential to understand that the scientific evidence supports this point.

Sexual identity goes beyond gametes and sexual organs. Numerous biological differences between males and females are not just arbitrary or psychological. Males have more hair on their faces than females. Females have larger breasts than males. Males generally have more upper body strength than females. Men are, on average, about six inches taller than women. The mean height for American women is 5 feet three inches, and for men, it is 5 feet nine inches.

Studies show that men tend to have greater ability in physical areas involving speed and spatial relations tasks, while women have greater ability in verbal matters and social cognition. Men score higher on tests involving assertiveness, which is seen in boy babies, not just adults. Women tend to be more extroverted, trusting, and nurturing. Biological factors give women greater flexibility in gymnastics and ability in small-bore rifle competitions, while men do better in most competitive sports.

There is solid factual scientific evidence that being male or female is not just a choice but a biological fact. We empathize with those who, for reasons still not understood, feel trapped in the wrong body, but forcing change on that body by chemicals and surgery is destructive in the long run. We must provide help and solutions for individuals dealing with sexual identity problems or other mental and emotional struggles. However, making major changes in God’s design will eventually produce more problems for the individuals and for society.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Skeptic Magazine Volume 28 # 1 2023, pages 69-73.