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

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

Social Media and Gun Violence

Social Media and Gun Violence

As an incredible number of people are being shot, we tend to blame everyone, from gun manufacturers to child abusers. We also seem to feel this is someone else’s problem until it affects our loved one and perhaps even takes their life. In July 2023, the United States Surgeon General issued a call to action about social media’s corrosive effects on children. The 25-page report warns of a “profound risk of harm” to young people who spend hours a day on their phones. Evidence shows a connection between social media and gun violence.

We must look at what our children are exposed to on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok. Children can be seen on those sites posting photos or videos of themselves with guns and stacks of cash. Sometimes, kids call out rivals, resulting in deadly violence in schoolyards and on street corners. Desmond Patton at the University of Pennsylvania has been studying the relationship between social media and gun violence and has posted his results, which are of interest to researchers, community leaders, and police across the country. 

In an August 25, 2023 post by Liz Szabo on Oona Tempest/KFF Health News, social workers have described social media “as a relentless driver of gun violence” in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. We urge parents, churches, and individuals working with young people to take an interest in what social media their kids are being exposed to, and how much time they spend on it.

The importance of following God’s instructions to parents cannot be over-emphasized. Being a parent or a youth worker can be exhaustive, but raising kids to be law-abiding followers of Jesus who care about others and want to improve the world is worth investing time and money. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: KFF Health News

Collateral Damage of Incarceration

Addressing the Collateral Damage of Incarceration

The Does God Exist?” ministry is heavily involved in prison work. Over 5600 incarcerated men and women across the United States are taking our free apologetics courses, and additional students are using our eight Bible study courses. Those of us who grade these courses are constantly learning of the collateral damage of incarceration.

Wives, husbands, and especially children are the innocent victims of a person’s incarceration for substance abuse, alcoholism, anger mismanagement, domestic violence, and other offenses. We frequently get letters from prisoners taking our courses asking us to contact family members to see if their needs are being met for food, shelter, personal hygiene items, clothing, and medical care.

Churches in our area have begun a program called “Backpack Buddies” to help meet some of those needs. Working with police and fire agencies, these churches have purchased backpacks and filled them with things a child would need. That includes items like hair brushes and combs, toothpaste and toothbrushes, lotion, soap, deodorant, and feminine hygiene products. Other items included may be blankets, washcloths, and towels.

The Christian system teaches us to care for those in need. Visiting those in prison doesn’t mean just saying “hi.” It also involves helping those who are suffering and those who are caused to suffer by the mistakes of others. Jesus had strong words against those who offend children (See Matthew 18:1-6). I have seen the trauma involved when a child watches their mother or father be handcuffed and dragged out of the home, leaving them alone or at the mercy of people who don’t love them. Family services and shelters do what they can, but the number of those in need frequently overwhelms those agencies.

We don’t justify the destructive actions of adults in our world, but we know that Jesus would have us address the collateral damage of incarceration. “Backpack Buddies” is a great way to attempt to do that.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

What Jesus Looked Like

What Jesus Looked Like

What did Jesus Christ look like? In my travels, I have seen pictures of Jesus with Asian features, caucasian features, Hispanic features, and features of people of color. We don’t know what Jesus looked like, and we really shouldn’t care. The fact that He could slip through a crowd unnoticed (Luke 4:28-30) and Judas had to use a kiss to identify him (Matthew 26:48-49) indicates that He must have looked pretty much like a typical Jewish man of His time.

The important thing about Jesus is not His appearance but His message. If you read Matthew 5, 6, and 7, you won’t see a picture of Jesus, but you will get a good look at the uniqueness and practical value of His teachings. Time magazine recently (August 24, 2023) reviewed the various cover images of Jesus they published over the years. They would have done better to publish what Jesus taught in those chapters of Matthew’s gospel. That is what our society needs today.

Read Acts 2:37-42 and notice how the people who listened to Peter’s message about Jesus responded to God’s invitation. They weren’t concerned about what Jesus looked like. They were changed by what Jesus taught and what He did. They were baptized, not as an emotional response to a speaker but to receive the gift God offered to them through Jesus.

Read Romans 6 and notice what baptism is about. It isn’t like joining a club and isn’t dependent on hearing a preacher. Baptism is a personal response to God and a change in one’s life. It is also the way to bring God’s Spirit into our feeble human existence so we can live a new life. Reading and acting on God’s Word can make an incredible difference in our lives and future.

— John N. Clayton © 2023