Syphilis Epidemic and Its Costs

Syphilis Epidemic and Its Costs

When people fail to follow God’s rules for sexual behavior, the result is always pain and suffering for themselves and collateral damage for innocent people. The clearest case in the United States is Nevada, which had a 44% jump in congenital syphilis from 2021 to 2022. The largest growth in adult syphilis cases has been in gay men having sex with men. This amounts to a syphilis epidemic.

In 2021, there were 77.9 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births. The problems documented in these cases included blindness, bone damage, and stillbirths. In many cases, the mother did not know she had syphilis until it showed up in her baby. Mississippi and Arizona had the nation’s highest rates of syphilis infections, with Arizona having the highest rate of birth defects – 232.3 cases per 100,000 live births.

The damage syphilis does to adults is less severe than infants, but we are all financially affected by this problem. The data on the financial cost in various states is astounding. The money came mainly from the federal government to combat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with Louisiana receiving 8.6 million dollars, Mississippi 9 million, and Houston slated to receive 10.7 million.

The real beauty and value of sex are lost when the sex industry takes over or when it becomes a recreational activity. The biblical concept of the sexual relationship is to form a unique bond between husband and wife, with each partner being concerned about the well-being of the other. Abandoning God’s plan leads to a syphilis epidemic as well as other STDs. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul writes:

“Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have sole authority over her own person, for she belongs to her husband, and likewise also the husband does not have power of his own body, but the wife. Do not withhold sexual intercourse from one another unless it is only temporary and by mutual consent so that your minds can be free for prayer, but afterward you should resume relations as before lest through your fleshly passions Satan should tempt you to sin.”

The pain of misusing sex is massive in our society today. As people drift further from God and the teaching of His Word, the syphilis epidemic will only get worse, and the cost in dollars and misery will increase.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: South Bend Tribune/Associated Press by Kenya Hunter, October 10, 2023.

Demonstrate Our Thankfulness

Demonstrate Our Thankfulness by feeding the hungry

Last week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day. I couldn’t help but think how blessed I am to live in the United States of America, where we have so much while people in many countries are born into poverty and turmoil. As Christians, we should demonstrate our thankfulness by our actions.

We spent the holiday in Texas with my daughters and our grandchildren. Living in Michigan and being able to travel to Texas impressed upon me the affluence that exists in some parts of our country compared to the circumstances in some other countries. One of my daughters lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where there are groups of people living in what we call poverty.

We went by one of the churches in that impoverished area, where they conduct a ministry to feed those who don’t have enough to eat. Laid out on eight-foot tables were trays of whole turkey meat, stuffing, yams, green beans, and pies. A sign above the tables read, “No questions asked; come and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal from your Christian friends.” The reason for “no questions asked” is that most of those living in the area are illegal immigrants who have come to America with nothing but what they have on their backs.

I am involved with several Christian organizations that provide food and water to needy people in African countries. They have pictures of emaciated children holding a leaf, which is all the food they will have for that day. The Carter Foundation, begun by Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, has been drilling wells and providing medical help to people suffering from dirty water and unsanitary food. The Carters make it clear that their work is because of their Christian faith.

Jesus answered the question of who has truth and who does not by telling His followers, “By their fruits you shall know them.” I don’t see atheist organizations or skeptical groups supplying food for needy people. I have seen these groups push for social rights, but the basic need of most people on planet Earth is food and water. Atheists and skeptics are concerned with racism and various human rights, as we all are, while doing nothing to address the fundamental needs of most people.

I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and that you are genuinely thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude is fundamental to being a Christian. Seeing and acting on the needs of the less fortunate is a way to demonstrate our thankfulness.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

The Feel-Good Hormones

The Feel-Good Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through our bloodstream. You can describe them as signaling molecules that work to set things in motion. The name comes from a Greek word meaning “setting in motion.” Hormones are produced in various areas of our bodies and are sent through the bloodstream to signal some action or response. Good health requires a balance of hormones, and proper diet, exercise, and rest help to keep them in balance. The feel-good hormones are four classes of hormones that, as you might guess, do things that make us feel good.

ENDORPHINS- Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers. The pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, synthesizes and stores them. Endorphins help to mask pain, reduce stress, and improve mood. When we push through a painful task or strenuous exercise, endorphins are there to help us. 

DOPAMINE- Two areas of the brain produce dopamine, and you can think of this hormone as the brain’s reward system. Exercise, eating a food we like, or accomplishing a task can cause the brain to release dopamine, giving us a pleasurable feeling. The use of some drugs and alcohol can release a flood of dopamine, giving us a sense of euphoria, a “high.” But coming down from that high can lead to depression and a desire for more of the drugs. Normal activities or exercise stimulate dopamine more slowly, and the effect of the hormone remains longer. Good stewardship of our bodies and health calls for avoiding harmful drugs and alcohol.

OXYTOCIN- Some people call this feel-good hormone the love hormone. Touching, hugging, or sexual activity can trigger the release of oxytocin. The brain’s hypothalamus produces it, and the pituitary gland releases it into the bloodstream. Oxytocin can help improve social interactions and give us a desire to develop stronger connections with others.

SEROTONIN- Serotonin is a natural mood booster, and depression can result from a low level of this hormone. Serotonin performs many functions and is produced by the central nervous system in various areas of the body. Serotonin improves memory and learning and promotes relaxation. Exercise, as well as exposure to sunshine and the outdoors, can increase the production of serotonin. Meditation and quietness in prayer can also reward us with this mood-boosting hormone.

The feel-good hormones are part of good health, and a healthy lifestyle boosts them. However, too much of a good thing too quickly is not healthy. Alcohol and drugs can give us a high but only lead to a letdown. A healthy lifestyle involves proper diet, exercise, rest, prayer, meditation, thankfulness, and balanced relationships with others. Incorporating those things into our lives is the best way to enjoy the blessings God has for us.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Thankfulness Separates Us from the Animals

Thankfulness Separates Us from the Animals

As we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in the United States, we are thankful to God for the blessings He gives us each day. Today, we want to share some links from the past that remind us of what Thanksgiving is all about:

Thankfulness separates us from the animals.

Thankfulness brings joy.

Gratitude is a Christian attitude.

Even in times of unrest, we have much to be thankful for. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War.

Thanksgiving syzygy encourages us to count our blessings.

We hope you will take time to thank God for His blessings as you express your love and gratitude to others who bless your life. We are thankful for our followers like you. Remember that thankfulness separates us from the animals and shows that we are created in God’s image.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia

Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association reported that between 2000 and 2019, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 145%. More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and the disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and in 2023, Alzheimer’s will cost the nation 345 billion dollars. Eleven million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. 

These numbers highlight what many of us already know, that Alzheimer’s and other dementia issues are a major problem in America today. By 2050, experts predict the cost will reach the trillion-dollar figure. Medical science is making great strides to find answers for this issue, but how to care for people with Alzheimer’s is a significant problem now. 

I recently read about a man whose wife was in an Alzheimer’s care unit in the advanced stage of that terrible disease. She didn’t know who she was or who he was or recognize any of her kids or friends. Despite that, this man arrived at the facility every morning to get his wife out of bed, wash her face, comb her hair, dress her, and ensure she ate breakfast. One of the nurses in the facility asked the man, “Why do you come every morning and do this? She doesn’t know who you are or understand what you have done for her. She doesn’t know that you are her husband.” The man responded, “No, she doesn’t know any of that, but I know she is my wife.”

This story is not unusual for a Christian who values marriage as a creation of God. However, I have visited Alzheimer’s care facilities where the person was deposited and rarely, if ever, visited. I know there are times when a caregiver is physically unable to meet the needs of a patient with Alzheimer’s and other dementia at home.

 Any disease of nerve cells has tremendous consequences for the victim. God did not create this disease, and medical science is still searching for the cause. Those who reject Christianity or promote a “survival of the fittest” belief system will side with Dr. Peter Singer, the Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, who claims that euthanasia is the only answer. 

Jesus said, “By their fruits, you will know them,” and we praise those who are caring for someone wrestling with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. God’s blessings will be upon you. Jesus also said, “Come you who are blessed … I was sick, and you looked after me …whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40). 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Alzheimer’s Association

The Story of Amazing Grace

The Story of Amazing Grace - John Newton
John Newton

Believers and nonbelievers know the haunting melody of the song Amazing Grace, written by John Newton. The story of Amazing Grace and its composer has a great message for us all. Newton was born in 1725. His mother died when he was eleven, and his father took the boy to sea with him. On a visit back home, the British Navy impounded and pressed him into service. 

Newton escaped, but the Navy again impounded him and turned him over to a slave trader. During his time in the slave business, he rose to the rank of captain but sank into disbelief and gross immorality. Eventually, he was imprisoned and then rescued by a friend of his father. 

In 1748, Newton boarded a slave ship named the Greyhound headed for home. The vessel encountered a severe storm and was lost at sea for 27 days before finally sighting land. The experience in the storm shook Newton back to the faith his mother had taught him as a child. Not only did he come back to the faith, but he also became a preacher. 

On a previous journey with a hold full of slaves, Newton had heard their African chant. That chant became the tune for Amazing Grace, and it can be played on the black keys of a modern piano. The story of Amazing Grace has special meaning when you understand the life of John Newton, the source of the beautiful melody, and the inspiration for the words attached to it. Newton lived for 82 years, but his song lives on to inspire people today.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: Songs of the Church pages 128, 129, Shaw and Spilman’s Columbian Harmony 1829, John Newton Collection of Sacred Ballads 1790, Praise for the Lord published by Praise Press © 1997. 

Fighting the Way to Peace

Fighting the Way to Peace

“We live in a world that is trying to hate its way to love, spend its way to prosperity, and fight its way to peace.” – Cecil May, Faulkner University.

Can you relate to the above statement? As the world has veered away from Christianity, it has embraced religions and naturalistic philosophies, and the use of war is the only option that is being considered. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does.”

Eugene Peterson writes about what the world tells us through media:
“…they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave Himself for us.”

Jesus Christ told all humans to love their enemies. The word for love used by Jesus was “agape,” meaning a love that considers all humans to have great worth. That means that no matter who the human is, we must cherish their nature as beings created in the image of God. The wanton killing of humans that fills our newspapers and TV screens is repulsive to any thinking person. Fighting the way to peace will not work. Any religion that advocates killing humans to advance its beliefs is an enemy of peace.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Power For Today for Thursday, November 7, “Pursuing Peace” by Bruce Green.

Is Moderate Drinking Good for You?

Is Moderate Drinking Good for You?

Have you seen media reports claiming that alcohol is good for you? It turns out that the studies that led to those headlines were severely distorted by poor sampling. Those studies linked all nondrinkers together and called them all “abstainers.” Some of them were recovered alcoholics who had quit drinking. Others were non-drinking substance abusers or those suffering from chronic illnesses. Meanwhile, the “moderate drinkers” in the study could include those who ate healthy and exercised. More balanced modern studies answer “Is moderate drinking good for you?” with a “NO!”

Based on more non-biased studies, by 2022, the World Heart Federation stated that alcohol did not protect people from cardiovascular diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now stated that any amount of alcohol is dangerous. U.S. and Canadian authorities have lowered their definitions of “moderate-risk drinking.” A growing body of research says that any amount of alcohol raises the chance of premature death from various causes. Here is what is now known:

Half of all cases of liver disease are attributed to drinking.

Alcohol is a potent carcinogen because it breaks down in the body to form a compound called acetaldehyde, which damages DNA.

Fifteen percent of breast cancers are linked to alcohol.

In Europe, 50% of all cancers linked to alcohol are caused by “light” or “moderate” consumption.

The distressing thing about this is that young people are bombarded with messages and music glamorizing drinking. Television shows encourage drinking by showing a glamorous picture of people drinking alcohol. The health damage and risks from alcohol consumption are not presented to young people in any educationally sound manner.

Biblical teaching tells us that the body is the temple of God’s Spirit and must be cared for and protected (1 Corinthians 3:16). The Church should lead in education, especially with teens and young adults. So far, that has not happened, and the whole basis for not drinking is frequently lost in discussions about “moderation.” Is moderate drinking good for you? No, and beyond that, “There is no safe amount that does not affect health” (WHO).

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Scientific American for October 2023

The Church Can Answer Loneliness

The Church Can Answer Loneliness

Statistical data from 2021 showed that 63% of men and 58% of women in America felt “lonely.” Our ministry receives phone calls from people who say, “I just need to talk to someone.” Because we invite questions and discussions in our printed material and online, we get communications from various lonely people. The Church can answer loneliness.

One of God’s answers to loneliness is marriage. In a Christian marriage, there is always someone to talk to, share with, and care about. I vividly remember sitting in my kitchen the night after my wife died and being overwhelmed with loneliness. In Genesis 2:18, God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone: I will make a suitable helper for him.”

I found that being with people was important to me, even though I am not a very social person. “Suitable helper” refers to filling in what man cannot do for himself. It does not imply servitude but an equal. Galatians 3:28 tells us that no matter who or what we are as Christians, “we are all one in Christ Jesus.” That is how the Church can answer loneliness.

The description of the first-century Church shows their cure for loneliness. Acts 2:42 says, “They continued steadfastly in..fellowship.” Verse 44 says, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common.” Verse 46 says, “Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart.” The Church can answer loneliness, but driving to a building, sitting by yourself, and watching a worship service once a week does not deal with the issue of loneliness.

We do a great deal of work in prisons and nursing homes. On those rare occasions when we are allowed to go into a prison to be with inmates, we often hear that the most significant pain they experience in incarceration is loneliness. Frequently, these men and women are in prison because their drug habit started when they were in the depths of loneliness.

One of the great tragedies of nursing homes is that many folks are placed there by family and are never visited again. Recently, a blind man in a nursing home we regularly visit told me that losing sight wasn’t as bad as losing time with people he loved.

Rejecting God and His people is an invitation to loneliness. Visiting a bar or a club is a band-aid approach to fighting loneliness. We need to spend time with others of like faith and be active in the joy of serving others. Matthew 25:31-40 describes Christian activities that nonbelievers cannot comprehend, but they another way the Church can answer loneliness.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Statistics reported by Mark Young in the December 16, 2023, issue of Power for Today.

AI Is a Huge Threat to Humanity – Or Not

AI Is a Huge Threat to Humanity – Or Not

The media thrives on exaggerations and misrepresentations involving doomsday scenarios. One of the biggest movies when I was a teenager was titled “When Worlds Collide.” It was a science fiction story of a rogue star and its planet hitting and destroying the Earth with only a select group of humans escaping. A recent popular movie was built around the scientists developing an atomic bomb while fearing it would destroy the Earth. Several media presentations have suggested that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will wipe out humanity. Media outlets like The Guardian, The New York Post, Entrepreneur, and the BBC have all indicated that AI is a huge threat to humanity.

Artificial Intelligence is the simulation of human intelligence processes by computer systems. Science fiction has long postulated that machines will replace humans and rule the world. Many science fiction stories revolve around non-human enemies of humanity or heroes such as R2-d2 and C-3po. What can computers do or not do? Is it true that AI is a huge threat to humanity?

AI can do some jobs faster and with greater accuracy than humans. Computers can build and run automation systems, causing the loss of human jobs. Computers can process languages more quickly than humans. They can also process numbers faster and more accurately, meaning that AI can predict economic change, develop weaponry, and invade human privacy quickly and efficiently. AI can create images, both authentic and false, and even produce videos known as deepfakes. AI can deliver fake news with video support that is so good humans can’t tell what is real and what is fake. 

As we consider whether AI Is a huge threat to humanity, we must understand that the dangers are philosophical and not inevitable. There is an adage about computers that says, “garbage equals garbage out.” Building computers capable of producing AI requires intelligence and design by humans. Like almost everything humans create, we can use AI to mislead and damage or to improve people’s lives. As in everything else, we desperately need people guided by the teachings of Jesus to make the decisions about how we will use AI.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: “Approximating Reality” in American Scientist magazine for July/August 2023