God Spoke It Into Existence

God Spoke It Into Existence- The Bat Nebula
The Bat Nebula NGC 6995

One of the wonderful things that technology gives us is the ability to see how God created the Earth and life on it. The Webb telescope is adding to our understanding of the universe. Advances in astronomy and optical telescopes continue to give us more pictures and data, helping us understand what God has done and the methods He employed. When dealing with the creation, preachers, and even some Bible paraphrases, are fond of saying, “God spoke it into existence.” That is an oversimplification because, obviously, it was not God’s voice that created time, space, and matter-energy.

The NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day (apod.nasa.gov) for September 20, 2022, has a beautiful picture of the “Statue of Liberty Nebula.” (See the link below.) The data from this area of space shows the presence and creation of complex carbon molecules known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Biologists tell us that these are building blocks of life.

In addition to chemical compounds like PAHs, we can also see hydrogen being forged into the heavier elements that make up the creation around us. Hydrogen is a non-renewable resource, and as we watch stars turning it into heavier elements, we know that the process had a start. The existence of hydrogen throughout space tells us there was a beginning to the creation. As hydrogen is forged into heavier elements, the amount of hydrogen in the cosmos decreases. If space, time, and matter-energy were eternal, all of the hydrogen would be gone.

Proverbs 8 tells us that wisdom was a partner in creation. Psalms 148 praises God for the creation, and verse 5 says, “He commanded, and they were created.” That is not the same as saying, “God spoke it into existence.” As we study God’s WORD, we learn of His wisdom and love. As we study God’s WORK, modern technology allows us to know some of His methods more clearly than ever before.

The Bible gives a simple statement of creation that every human can understand: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Science shows us the wisdom, power, and design of what God has done.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: apod.nasa.gov for September 20, 2022.

The Bible is Easy to Understand

The Bible is Easy to Understand

One of the common challenges to Christianity is that the Bible is hard to understand. Coupled with that are claims that the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions. However, the fact is that the Bible is easy to understand if we apply a few common sense practices.

Skeptics “cherry-pick” the Bible to try to make it look confusing. They take a small section of the Bible and lift it out of context, ignoring its purpose, writing style, or the original language’s meaning. For example, they quote Luke 14:26 as saying that the followers of Christ must hate their whole family. The passage is talking about priorities and simply saying your faith has to come first in your life for it to have meaning. We see in 1 Timothy 5:8 that if Christians don’t care for their families, they are worse than an infidel. 

There are a few simple rules that will help an honest reader know that the Bible is easy to understand:

Divide the Old Testament from the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:15). Galatians 3:24-25 tells us the purpose of the Old Testament and that we are no longer under the Old Law. (Read Colossians 2:8-17.)

Understand the purpose of each book. The gospels tell the story of the life of Christ. The letters address Church matters after Jesus ascended to heaven. Revelation addresses the struggles of the early Church, not the politics of modern times.

Avoid what Peter calls “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16, 20). Much of what you hear about the book of Revelation is the embellishment of a book written to those who were oppressed and needed to know the good news about “things that must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1).

Understand that humans broke their relationship with God, and the Bible is God telling us how to restore it. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 does that, and the people who heard that message responded with, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Verse 38 tells us what to do, assuring us that restoration is available from God.

All alternatives to the biblical message about how to live your life are destined to fail. Read the biblical message and act upon it. Read 2 Peter 1:4-8, Galatians 5:19-23, Matthew 5:21-48, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Then do what those verses say.

If you are interested in the history of the human relationship with God, read the Old Testament. If you want to know how to restore your relationship with God, read the book of Acts. If you want to know how to live the Christian life in a secular world, read the letters of Paul. The Bible is easy to understand, and you don’t need a theology degree. Don’t let anyone tell you what the Bible says. Please read it for yourself and act upon what it says. It is the Word of God. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

God Created Two Books

God Created Two Books

How have you arrived at the belief system that governs your life? God created two books we are called to use as the basis for our lives, morals, and religious practice. Since these two books have one author, they must be complimentary and cannot conflict. It is strange that many people read one book and refuse to look at the other. That is true of both atheists and religionists.

One of the books is the Bible, and it calls us to use it as a guide for life. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states it very clearly: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for training, for guiding and for moral discipline so that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work.” Atheists reject this book because it involves denying one of a few physical pleasures and gives a purpose in living other than survival. Living selfishly has its rewards, and that is attractive.

God created two books, and the second book is the creation itself. The Bible is full of admonitions to use the things God has created as a means of knowing truth and learning how to live a productive and rewarding life. The Old Testament calls us to use what we see in the world around us as a guide to life. The entire book of Job carries that message. Numerous Psalms call us to see God’s wisdom and design and shape our beliefs in them. (See Psalms 8:3-9; 19:1; 53:1-4; 139:14-16.) Proverbs is full of admonitions to learn from the creation. (See Proverbs 6:6; 8:1-7 and 22-36.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the created world as the basis of much of His teaching. (See Matthew 6:26-30; 7:16-20.) Romans 1:18 – 23 says of humans, “That which can be known of God lies plain before their eyes for God himself has made it clear to them. For those things of God which the eye can not see, ever since the creation of the world, are clearly perceived through the things that are made, and are clear to the eye of reason, even his eternal power and divine character so that men have no excuse.”

So God created two books, and it is clear why atheists do not wish to read and apply the Bible to guide their moral and spiritual lives. It is hard to understand why people who claim to believe in God refuse to look at the creation as a source of instruction and guidance. Some are too lazy to read the Bible and study its message, and others are too lazy to read the creation and learn its message. We need to read and study both books so that we can do what 1 Peter 3:15 tells us: “Revere Christ as Lord in your hearts and always be ready with your defense whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, yet argue gently and cautiously with meekness and respect.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments Missing

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments
Dead Sea Scroll Fragments on Display

The first Dead Sea Scrolls were accidentally discovered seventy-five years ago. Ever since that time, archeologists, biblical scholars, and politicians have struggled for control of the scrolls. The Dead Sea Scrolls disprove claims made by many atheists and skeptics who deny the accuracy and authenticity of the Bible. Unfortunately, however, there are a substantial number of missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

The fall 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review reported that missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments include a large fragment from a Samuel scroll and three fragments from a Daniel scroll. There are more than 1,000 others. They have either been stolen, destroyed, misplaced, or possessed by someone who does not want them to be available to scholars and the public. Fortunately, scholars photographed some of the missing fragments before they disappeared.

Thirty years ago, Hershel Shanks, a well-known author and publisher, campaigned to get the people controlling the scrolls to make them available to scholars and the public. Tens of thousands of scroll fragments have been discovered, and most scholars have still not gained access to the ones known to be in repositories, not to mention the missing Dead Sea Scroll fragments.

This situation reflects negatively on the state of archaeology in the world today. Competition among archaeologists and biblical scholars has morphed into an attempt to control who has access to these artifacts. This conflict involves national interests, professional reputations, and grants. The religious beliefs of some archaeologists are also a factor.

Hopefully, the missing fragments will eventually be found, and all of them will be made available to everyone who should have access to them. These scrolls verify much of the biblical record and answer many of the challenges of those who oppose Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Missing: Have You Seen These Scrolls?” by Arstein Justnes and Signe M. Haegeland in the fall 2022 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review

Struck Blind – How to Keep Things in Perspective

Struck Blind - How to Keep Things in Perspective
John 9:1-41

I have learned in my long life that every experience, good or bad, can teach you a lesson if you allow it to. I think this is why Paul gave Timothy qualifications for congregational leadership that a young man simply couldn’t have had time to experience. They included having children in subjection, not being a novice, and having a good reputation in the community (1 Timothy 3:4-7). I know that the death of my two younger brothers, my wife, and my son in a short period of time taught me a lot about life. It taught me how to keep things in perspective and help those facing the death of a loved one.

Now I have been taught about another struggle that humans have–blindness. In the Bible, we see the loss of sight as a major affliction that altered the lives of biblical characters. In some cases, like Samson, enemies used blindness to retaliate and punish (Judges 16:21). In John 9, Jesus restored a blind man’s sight to teach and confound His critics. Several miracles of Christ were centered around restoring sight to someone who was blind.

I recently got a taste of what it would be like to lose my sight. I awoke on August 25th, unable to see out of my right eye and with only limited vision in my left eye. No amount of rubbing or washing affected my loss of sight. It is hard to describe the panic I felt, and you can imagine what my prayer life was focused on at that point. With what little sight I had left, I painfully struggled to grade the day’s correspondence courses and managed with great difficulty to prepare two classes and one sermon I was scheduled to give in four days. In addition, trying to read a large number of emails was difficult, and I kept asking myself, “What will I do if this gets worse?”

I now understand Paul’s reaction as he suddenly was struck blind and had to be led by the hand. I can imagine how for three days, he tried to make sense of what had happened to him. I didn’t want to eat, which Paul also experienced, as dread, anger, and confusion swallowed up my appetite. But, like Paul, I was led to a restoration of my sight. Like Paul, it has changed my view of life and my mission on Earth. Once again, it has shown me how to keep things in perspective.

My medical diagnosis is that I have a very rare kind of cataract that can grow in a matter of days. Thankfully, surgery can correct it. However, living with virtually no vision for several days has taught me a great deal. I now understand why my son Tim who was blind from congenital cataracts, mentally challenged, and rendered physically challenged by COVID, could only talk about soon being able to see. He would soon see his mother, who had passed away years before. He understood that he was about to die, but that paled in the face of regaining his sight.

I better understand why my dear friend Glynn Langston, who has been blind from birth, struggles with my very visual presentations. He tells me that my verbal descriptions don’t help much. I can understand why Samson after his enemies blinded him, had the courage to tear down their building ending his own life.

What has happened in your life that may have been a tragedy to you but can open a door of empathy and give you a unique opportunity to serve others? What has helped you learn how to keep things in perspective? God is constantly molding our character, and life’s experiences are the tools He often uses.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

David and Goliath – Fact or Myth

David and Goliath – Fact or Myth - Sling with 5 Smooth Stones

Skeptics frequently take a historical biblical story and attempt to show that it is impossible. Some religious folks have answered these challenges by saying the event is a miracle of God and thus is not open for discussion. The Bible certainly describes miracles of God that can’t be explained by natural causes and are therefore not available for investigation. For example, we can’t prove that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead by scientific evidence because we were not there and can’t go back in time. If a person doesn’t believe in God, then a biblical record will certainly not convince them and may encourage them to reject the Bible as a bunch of fairy tales. In the case of David and Goliath, however, the evidence is strong that the account is credible.

Several years ago, I had an American Field Service student from South America in my physics class at Riley High School. When our class was studying centrifugal force and circular motion, he offered to show us what he called a “shepherd sling.” This was a pouch with a long cord attached at each end made from some non-stretchable material. One of the cords had a loop at the end of it, and the other cord was straight.

My student put a golf ball in the pouch and swirled the pouch and ball around his head, holding the two cords in his hand, the one with the loop wrapped around his finger. He got the ball/pouch going at a very high speed and then released the straight end of the cord, sending the golf ball flying at an incredible speed. Taking this outside, he could knock a tin can off a post at 100 feet. The force of the strike was so strong that the can flew a considerable distance. From 100 feet, this student could put a rock through a thick board.

Biblical Archaeology Review
published an article examining the statistics for the encounter of David and Goliath
. Archaeologists have discovered reliefs in the mortuary temple of Ramesses III showing Egyptian slingers defending a ship. An Assyrian relief from Nineveh celebrating Sennacherib’s military victories shows Assyrian slingers in 701 B.C. whirling stones toward Judahite defenders atop the walls at Lachish. Archaeologists have found the remains of slings and the stones used in them.

These ancient slings had military uses up to 400 yards, and Roman slingers used them at distances of 200 yards. Arabian slingers hunt game at 30 to 50 yards today, and a moderately skilled slinger can achieve up to 113 miles per hour. Goliath had a javelin that he could throw 20 to 30 yards, meaning that David’s sling was vastly superior with about twice the range.

God certainly facilitated the actions of David, but the story of David and Goliath has historical validity, indicating that it was not miraculous and not a myth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Taking a Sling” by Boyd Seevers and Victoria Parrott in Biblical Archaeology Review fall 2022, pages 50 -54

Nadir Asteroid Impact Crater

Chicxulub and Nadir Asteroid Impact

One of the challenges to evolutionary theory is the principle of uniformitarianism–the assumption that no process has ever functioned on Earth that is not going on today. We are not talking about common disasters but events in Earth’s history that would have altered the course of evolution or stopped it entirely. For many years, scientists have known about the Chicxulub asteroid that struck the area that is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, probably causing the extinction of the dinosaurs. Such an event would have changed life’s future direction. Now, there is news of a Nadir asteroid impact crater.

BBC news reported that geologists discovered a possible asteroid crater off the coast of Guinea in west Africa. They call it the Nadir crater because it is at the Nadir (opposite lowest point) of the Chicxulub crater. This new crater is 8,500 meters wide and over 300 meters lower than the seabed. It is about the same age as Chicxulub but much smaller. The Chicxulub crater, caused by a larger asteroid, is 12,000 meters wide.

Both of these asteroid collisions would have violated uniformitarianism, dramatically affecting life on Earth. The Chicxulub asteroid impact would have caused major earthquakes, tsunamis, and a global firestorm. The result would have thrown enough dust into the atmosphere to plunge Earth into a deep freeze that dinosaurs could not have survived.

Since the Nadir asteroid impact crater is in an ocean environment, it would have caused a tsunami with a wall of water over 1000 meters high. The Nadir collision would have produced about 1,000 times more energy than Tonga’s recent (January 2022) volcano eruption. However, the energy from the Chicxulub impact would have been about 10 million times greater.

The textbook model of evolution is greatly simplified. We don’t fully understand how an asteroid collision would have affected life on Earth. It seems unlikely that most life forms could have survived the one-two punch of Chicxulub and Nadir asteroid impacts.

Genesis 1:1-3 indicates that there was a change in the Earth. An accurate translation of verse 2 is that Earth “became empty and wasted.” That is precisely what the asteroid collisions would have caused. This may have been God’s methodology of a final step to make Earth fit for human life. This new evidence supports the biblical account in ways we are only beginning to understand.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

References: BBC news August 19, 2022, and Science Advances

Labor Day in the United States

Labor Day in the United States

Today is Labor Day in the United States. Looking back, we can learn from the COVID infestation and the consequences of the isolation it brought to most of us. Those who keep records of such things tell us that in two years of the pandemic, there was a massive increase in divorce, pornography use, drug use and overdoses, and a 39% increase in alcoholism. In my experience, people who retire from their job to the idleness of a rocking chair don’t live very long. When my wife died, I was able to survive the loss by spending 90% of my time in work connected with this ministry.

To students of the Bible, all of this is no surprise. In Genesis 3:19, God told Adam, “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat your food.” The law of Moses was centered around labor – “Six days you shall labor and do all your work” (Exodus 20:9). The inspired Bible writers talked about the fact that work is good for humans physically, mentally, and spiritually. Consider these verses:

Ecclesiastes 5:12 “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of the rich man will not allow him to sleep.”
Proverbs 6:6 “Go to the ant, you sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.”
Proverbs 14:23 “All hard work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty.”
Proverbs 21:25 “The lazy man’s craving will be the death of him because his hands refuse to work.”
2 Thessalonians 3:10 “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Jesus set the example for His followers. He was active and involved in all that was around Him, right up to the time of His death. That was even though His disciples fell asleep because they could not keep up with Him. In the parable of the talents, the man who buried his talent instead of investing it was condemned (Matthew 25:14 – 30).

In that same chapter, Jesus talks about rewards and condemnations for how people use their time and their talents (verses 31-40). Feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, visiting prisoners, taking in the homeless, and ministering to the sick are all activities that involve work.

The pandemic has shown what happens when humans don’t do what God has called them to do. Labor Day in the United States reminds us of the relationship between humans and labor. For Christians, it’s a reminder of what we must do with our time and talent.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Christian Concept of God

The Christian Concept of God from the Bible

We have been examining the Christian concept of God for the past several days. The Bible tells us that God is beyond time, space, and matter/energy because He created them. As science goes deeper into understanding the structure of matter/energy, it becomes increasingly evident that there are forces beyond our familiar physical laws. Quantum mechanics and studies of the nature of matter show that creation has not been merely a physical process.

Heaven and hell are not physical places with physical rewards or punishment. When we die, our soul, that part of us created in God’s image, will no longer be limited by time. All the bad things that time brings will be gone, “…there will be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

We struggle to understand metaphors in the Bible that use physical pictures of things that are not physical. The result is that when we approach them with a physical understanding alone, we become confused. If we understand the biblical Christian concept of God, these metaphors become much clearer, and our freedom as Christians is greatly enhanced. Christ’s promise of life after our physical life is over gives us joy and comfort beyond physical understanding. We can rejoice in knowing that the things that afflict us in this life will be gone, and our future will be secure and filled with joy in spiritual union with our Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

An Earthly Kingdom

An Earthly Kingdom in Jerusalem?
Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

For the past few days, we have been looking for the biblical Christan concept of God. We have observed that atheists, and even people who call themselves Christians, fail to understand what God is. We are familiar with the physical world, so we look for God to bring a physical earthly kingdom.

The New Testament calls for us to understand that Christians serve a God who is not a man—or woman. Galatians 3:28 tells us that “there is neither male nor female” in Christ’s kingdom, the Church. This same message appears in Romans 10:11-13 and Colossians 3:11. In John 18:36-39, Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world,” making it clear that He was not bringing in a physical earthly kingdom. Yet, even today, some Christian groups interpret Christ as a military leader who will defeat all other belief systems and establish a physical kingdom in Jerusalem.

This struggle to understand God goes back to Genesis 1:1, describing the creation of time, space, and matter/energy. When Peter describes the end of the world in 2 Peter 3:3:10-12, he says that time will end and the physical cosmos will “dissolve in fervent heat” (verse 12). God is in a higher dimension than time or the material cosmos. He created the human soul in His image–not our physical bodies.

In 1 Corinthians 15:35-55, Paul conveys the concept of a kingdom not of this world. People in that day didn’t understand it, and still today, many Christians don’t understand it. The fact that Christ’s kingdom is not an earthly kingdom makes it, unlike any human system. That brings us back to the biblical Christian concept of God, and that is where we will conclude tomorrow.

— John N. Clayton © 2022