The dictionary defines an intoxicant as “that which produces feelings of pleasure or happiness in a person.” America is becoming a land of intoxicants. The enormous success of science and technology has given our culture a comfortable lifestyle and a sense of security. The illusion of self-sufficiency is constantly reinforced by Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and even many churches.
In the meantime, our culture is rejecting the words of Ephesians 5:15-18 despite the evidence that they are true: “Look carefully how you walk. Do not act thoughtlessly, but like sensible men. Make the most of your time, despite all the difficulties of these days. You can not afford to be reckless but understand what the will of the Lord is. Don’t get your stimulus from wine but let the Spirit stimulate your souls.”
America is becoming a land of intoxicants lagging behind other countries in recognizing the destructive nature of substance abuse. The American entertainment industry pushes alcohol. Even country music, which used to emphasize the negative effects of alcohol, is now saturated with promoting it as a way to pleasure and happiness. The destructive nature of alcohol is astounding. Biotech Investor’s Journal for September 2021 published a research report on the harm caused by alcohol compared to 20 other recreational drugs. Alcohol ranks # 1 in harmful effects, far beyond LSD, Meth, Crack Cocaine, and Heroin.
Some countries have recognized the serious consequences of alcohol and have passed laws to control it. For example, Scotland and Sweden have passed stringent laws to mitigate the use of alcohol. In America, the maximum blood alcohol content allowed for a motorist is 80 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or .08%. In Scotland, the limit is .05%, with penalties of the automatic loss of license, fines up to $7000, a criminal record, and possibly a prison sentence. In Sweden, the limit is .02%.
For some who claim to be Christians, their religious experience may be an intoxicant. The desire to find an intoxicant in Church has led to the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God will supply wealth (materialism) to His children. Other intoxicants for some religious people are emotional experiences of speaking in tongues or even out-of-the-body experiences.
The Bible’s description of successful Christian living involves recognizing that Satan controls activities on Earth (1 John 5:19). If we are looking for heaven on Earth, we are in for disappointment and pain. The Bible indicates that the influence of Satan is all around us. (See 1 Corinthians 15:33; James 1:27, 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4, 2:20; 1 John 2:15-17.)
As America is becoming a land of intoxicants, people learn that using intoxication to find pleasure and happiness doesn’t work. However, being a light in a dark world (Matthew 5:14; Philippians 2:14-15) brings contentment and satisfaction that not only leads to a meaningful existence on the Earth but ultimately to eternal joy and happiness with our Lord.
Human rights advocates frequently demand social changes without understanding the consequences of the choices they promote. An example of that is the current transgender craze among teenagers. It’s relatively easy for teenagers to change their names, but the medical treatment of transgender people has become a significant challenge for all concerned. Unfortunately, politicians have advanced transgender legislation without understanding the implications. There are many areas of gender change problems.
Having surgery and taking hormones is a whole different issue compared to participation in sports or sharing bathrooms. But even beyond the physical gender change problems, the mental and psychological issues are also highly complex. Transgender youth are three to four times as likely as their peers to have depression or anxiety. Among 13,600 transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed in 2020, 52% had considered suicide in the previous year, and 21 % had attempted it.
Puberty blockers are a standard treatment of transgender young people. Those drugs suppress the natural release of estrogen and testosterone. Puberty blockers can limit the development of physical features such as breasts, and they delay bone development which can lead to weaker bones in adulthood. Since 80% of people who identify as transgender in early childhood do not continue to do so when they grow up, puberty blockers can have long-term consequences.
Taking estrogen causes transgender teenagers to have decreased muscle mass and changes in fat redistribution. It also causes the softening of the skin, the growth of breasts, and reduced growth of body hair. At the same time, it can cause a higher risk of breast cancer and seems to increase the risk of blood clots. In addition, transgender people taking testosterone experience suppressed menstruation, body fat redistribution, voice deepening, increased muscle mass, and facial and body hair growth. There also seems to be a greater risk of high cholesterol.
The causes of transgenderism are still being debated, and they seem to be very complex. Gender change problems are an issue that is not going away. We would suggest that the move away from nuclear families and the increased use of drugs are involved. When we discard God’s plan and design, the issues become very complicated. Playing God with human sexuality has always produced unfortunate results.
Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Recently Dianne Neal Matthews wrote in Guidepost’sMornings with Jesus about an experience with the birth of her grandchild. She traveled to the daughter’s home for the birth of her fourth child.
After the little girl was born, each family member got to hold her. As the newborn passed between the parents and each sibling, Mrs. Matthews was amazed at how calm, alert, and content she was. The baby had just left a warm and cozy environment inside her mother, and now she was experiencing a cool world with bright lights and new sensations on her skin. Yet, each time the baby was put into the arms of a family member who talked to the baby, she calmly responded, quietly moving her arms.
When Mrs. Matthews was able to hold her, the baby was not calm and settled. However, when returned to her mother, she became quiet and peaceful. Mrs. Matthews realized that the baby had been hearing familiar voices of the family for months, which made her feel safe. Because Mrs. Matthews lived far away, the baby had no experience with her unfamiliar voice.
Years ago, McCall’s magazine reported a story where a baby was subjected to a physical push from one direction outside the mother’s body each time a specific song was played. After three “pushes,” when the song was played again, the baby moved away from the direction of the push, clearly avoiding it. Issac Stern, the famous violinist, once told the story of playing a certain melody when his mother was present. She stopped him and asked where he got that melody. He was dumbfounded and had no idea. Then she told him, “I wrote that melody and played it a number of times when I was pregnant with you.”
A baby inside its mother’s womb is a baby – not an extension of the mother’s body. Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Unfortunately, our nation has now decided that killing a baby is acceptable if that baby is an inconvenience for the mother. This amounts to infanticide, similar to the ancient Roman practice of throwing unwanted babies into the street. That disregard for life was a part of what destroyed the Roman empire. One has to wonder how long God will tolerate infanticide by our nation.
Some religious people have claimed that taking the COVID vaccine is a response to fear. They have posted that idea online and in publications, saying that you won’t get sick from the virus if you have faith in God. This is a sad commentary on human ignorance of medical facts, the Bible, and how God works. It also shows a lack of understanding that the Church’s task is to help people. We need to follow 1 John 4:1: “…do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they come from God.”
The history of “Christians” and vaccines is not good. They have sometimes been responsible for opposition to vaccines for smallpox, measles, and polio. This ignorance is destructive because vaccines have saved many lives. As Christians, we must do whatever we can to minister to the lost. One way to do that is to make sure we do nothing that harms people. My son died because a man who claimed to be a Christian didn’t care enough about him to get a vaccine or wear a mask so he wouldn’t carry the virus to him.
In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who labor … and you shall find rest…” The Church is people, not a building (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Church’s task is to help people, not harm them. When Jesus was on Earth, He acted when humans could not. In Luke 5:4-9, when Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus told him to let down his net again. When he did, his catch was amazing.
Miracles in both the Old and New Testaments challenged humans to apply what God gave them. When the prophet Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, he resisted that silly requirement. But when Naaman did it, his leprosy (the COVID of that day) was cured (2 Kings 5). God has given humans the ability to stop the virus, but we must use what He has given us.
The Bible makes it clear that God does not use force to accomplish His will. Even salvation is not forced on humans. In Acts 2:38-40, Peter says, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” The Church’s task is to help people by sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus. Read Colossians 2:13-3:2 and ask yourself if you want to be a part of the world driven by fear and selfishness, even in the name of religion? Christians must care enough about others and about “the temple of the Holy Spirit” to make sure we do no harm to either.
People have a fascination with wood, and we admire the beauty of wooden tables and furniture. Our love for wood is not just aesthetic because wood is also very practical for many uses. However, some people were concerned about bacteria on wooden toys and especially food contamination by bacteria on wooden cutting boards. For that reason, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended using plastic cutting boards rather than wooden ones.
The USDA said that it seemed to be common sense that non-porous surfaces like plastic would be less likely to hold bacteria and would be easier to keep clean and germ-free. For years, they advised against wooden cutting boards. However, they had to admit that they had no scientific studies to support that recommendation. It was just common sense.
Microbiologists at the University of Wisconsin in Madison tried to find decontamination techniques to make wood as safe as plastic. They found that if they inoculated wooden boards with either salmonella, listeria, or E.coli (all food poisoning agents), 99% of the bacteria were gone after 12 hours at room temperature. However, when they treated a plastic surface in the same way, the bacteria count increased after 12 hours. The bottom line is that, when left overnight, the bacteria on plastic multiplied, but the bacteria on wooden cutting boards died.
The researchers concluded that “wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be.” They proved that wood has anti-bacterial properties that plastic polymers don’t have. The researchers tested maple, birch, beech, black cherry, basswood, butternut, and American black walnut with the same results. Also, they found that bacteria on wooden cutting boards died whether the wood was new or old.
There are two things we can learn from this experiment. First, the USDA officials said they based their recommendation of acrylic or other non-porous materials on common sense and not scientific data. They had not done any research. When the scientific data came in, it showed that common sense was wrong. This is an excellent example of why we should “follow the science.” Secondly, for thousands of years, people had cut meat and prepared foods on surfaces made of the natural wood that God gave us. This experiment shows that the Designer of wood knew what He was doing.
One of the challenges we face in 21st century America is the growing rate of mental illness cases. Every day the media informs us of a tragedy caused by someone who is mentally ill. Closer to home, many of us have had a loved one afflicted with some form of mental illness. Is there a connection between mental health and faith?
Mental illness has many causes. A small percentage of mental illnesses result from a medical condition. For example, my son’s schizophrenia resulted from a congenital condition. Because he was adopted, we don’t know all of the factors leading to his multiple illnesses, but his birth mother had German measles during pregnancy. Brain injuries and drug abuse can also result in mental illness.
A far more common cause of mental problems involves life experiences. Some of us were forced to witness the horror of war, and many others have suffered abuse. Those things have caused a variety of mental issues. We frequently hear atheists claim that religion causes mental illness by heaping guilt on people over something they have done in their lives. Indeed, some preachers have used guilt to motivate people to change behavior or convert to a doctrinal view.
The reality is that there is a connection between mental health and faith. Christianity is a guilt-removing belief system. The Christian message is designed to free people from guilt and promote a healthy and mentally stable lifestyle. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7 gives guidelines to a healthy mental attitude. There you will find these keys to mental health: loving others, not exacting revenge or retaliating, caring for others (even your enemies), not being religious for show, and not being obsessed with material things.
We all fail in life, but the Christian system brings forgiveness. When Peter asked Christ how often he had to forgive, Christ’s answer indicated forgiveness should be infinite (Matthew 18:21). Carrying a grudge can cause enormous mental pain, which John compares to walking in darkness, but loving others brings us into the light (1 John 1:7-11). James gives insight into how we can endure hardships and help one another gain a positive perspective on life (James 5:10-16).
As Americans turn away from the teachings of Christ and rely on pop psychology and drugs to achieve sound mental health, the result has been the opposite. Pill popping and drug use have skyrocketed, and so has the number of people in desperate mental stress. Living the Christian life brings stability and fulfillment and the knowledge that there is a place of peace and love when this life is over. Mental health and faith in Christ go together.
Those of us who work in science have been amazed at the public’s fear of the COVID vaccine. We shouldn’t be. When the polio vaccine came out, the same thing happened. Before that, there were similar public reservations about the smallpox vaccine. Now we may have a new vaccine for people to worry about – a poison ivy vaccine.
Every year up to 50 million Americans struggle with poison ivy infections. Ten percent of lost-time injuries among U.S. Forest Service workers are due to poison ivy. Here in Michigan, birds immune to poison ivy spread it by eating the berries and dispersing the seeds. As the saying goes, “One man’s (or bird’s) meat is another man’s poison.
Studies at Duke University indicated that the amount of carbon dioxide in the air controls how much urushiol the poison ivy plant produces. Urushiol causes the rash that so many of us experience when we contact the poison ivy plant. So the increase of carbon dioxide in the air causes climate change and makes poison ivy worse.
Research is now on the verge of producing a poison ivy vaccine. The compound called PDC-APB injected as a vaccine every year or two could prevent poison ivy misery. The University of Mississippi developed the vaccine, and Hapten Sciences has licensed it. The compound has passed initial safety tests in humans and will be undergoing controlled effectiveness trials.
The painful rash from poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac may become a thing of the past. God has put into the creation materials that can help humans avoid poison ivy problems and given humans the intelligence to discover them. You can be sure that some people will circulate misinformation about the poison ivy vaccine. However, as one who has been hospitalized three times with poison ivy experiences, I will be in line for the vaccine when it is available.
Every day, the mail brings letters from organizations asking for money for feeding starving people around the world and in the United States. Most of these organizations are directly or indirectly connected to the teachings of Christ. I don’t get letters from atheists who feed hundreds of people who don’t have enough to eat. When Jesus gives a picture of the judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46, the first thing He says is that His followers will provide food and drink to the needy.
As the population of planet Earth grows, the need for food will only increase. God has provided the means to feed our population. More than that, we could double our population and still have enough for everyone to eat. Hunger results from waste, mismanagement, greed, selfishness, and failure to live as God has called us to live.
Science has learned some superfoods are untapped or poorly managed. One example is the lowly chickpea. Chickpeas provide more than twice as much protein as corn and more than four times as much fiber as brown rice. In addition to providing nutrition for people, chickpeas enrich the soil with nitrogen so that farmers can use less fertilizer. Botanists have developed new varieties of chickpeas to grow in harsh conditions and even fight off blights. These new varieties allow farmers in Africa and Asia to double their yields.
John the Baptist ate locusts and honey according to Matthew 3:4. Worldwide, people eat more than a thousand species of insects. Insect farming is in its infancy, but grasshoppers, rhino beetles, and termites are the three most common insect food sources. Not only do insects provide all the nutrition that a human needs, but the cost of raising bugs is microscopic compared to cattle, sheep, chickens, and pigs.
Potatoes are an essential crop for feeding people, and the top potato producer is China, with an annual harvest exceeding 150 million tons. No matter what climate changes we see in the coming years, chickpeas, insects, and potatoes can withstand the extremes. God has provided the resources for feeding starving people to make desperate hunger a thing of the past. Humans just need to learn to get along and use all the resources God has given us.
“Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own healthy cells, tissues, and other body normal constituents. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an “autoimmune disease.” –Wikipedia As many as 4.5% of the world’s population may be affected by any of about 80 autoimmune diseases. Some such as psoriasis are cosmetic, and others such as multiple sclerosis are life-threatening. So when the human body attacks itself, should we assume that it is because the body’s design is flawed? The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown, but as more and more data becomes available, it is clear that this is not a flaw in the design of the immune system.
First of all, the number of autoimmune disorders that affect large populations is minimal. Psoriasis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease, Graves disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are the most common, affecting one person out of every 100. Type 1 diabetes, vitiligo, and rheumatic fever can affect one person out of every 1000 or so. Most autoimmune diseases are infrequent, with some affecting fewer than 1 in a million people.
Secondly, we now know that some bacteria or viruses entering the human body from animals may confuse the immune system and lead to disorders. COVID and AIDS have shown us that animals are a source of viruses that can cause disease in humans.
Thirdly, chemicals can trigger changes in cells that the immune system is not designed to handle. Pesticides, herbicides, recreational drugs, industrial waste, and medical waste have caused all kinds of problems for humans. Immune disorders may not be because of bad design of the immune system but the result of human ignorance, carelessness, and greed.
Fourth, a new study has suggested that stress may lead to some autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. There is a higher incidence of autoimmune diseases among people who were previously diagnosed with stress-related disorders.
God’s design of the human immune system is amazing. As the Psalmist said. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14). The immune system that allows most of us to live for many years with good health is one of the best demonstrations of the truth of that statement.
— John N. Clayton
See the September 2021 issue of Scientific American (pages 26-51) for much more information about autoimmune diseases, their causes, and potential cures. Pages 32 and 33 display a fascinating chart with data on 76 autoimmune disorders.
Deaths due to drug overdoses have skyrocketed. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that in 1970 there were fewer than 7,000 deaths in the United States due to drug overdoses. In 2019 there were 72,000, and in 2020 there were 93,000. Whether or not there is a problem is not the issue, but people question why overdose deaths are increasing?
Some suggest that it is because of the availability of painkillers, especially opioids. When I graduated from high school in 1955, many drugs were available, and I knew people who had died from overdoses. Even in those days, we learned how to get whatever drugs we wanted. There were those available on the street and others we could make ourselves. For example, I remember a cough syrup named “Hadacall” that we used to get high because it contained a higher alcohol content than the booze we could get. Harder stuff was available if you looked for it.
We suggest the fundamental reason why overdose deaths are increasing is the removal of Christian values from our culture. If you do not see a purpose for your life and things go wrong, what is the natural response? For the Christian, there is the promise of Romans 8:28 – “All things work together for good to those that love God and who are called according to His purpose.” Christians know that whatever happens to them has some kind of purpose or connection to a purpose. There is also the ultimate hope which is beyond this life. When you discard that, what is left? We don’t always understand what good can come from tragedy in our lives. But, as Christians, we know that if we hang on, we may eventually see a purpose or at least some ultimate good in our loss. Opioids and drugs provide an escape for unbelievers from whatever bad things have happened in their lives. Therefore, overdose deaths are increasing because they feel that life without purpose or hope is not worth living.