Is Life Worth Living?

Is Life Worth Living?

People sometimes ask, “Is life worth living?” I recently read a police report of a young man standing on the ledge of a very tall building threatening to jump. He finally said to the police officer who was trying to talk him down, “Can you convince me that life is worth living?” The officer hesitated, not knowing how to answer that question, and the young man jumped. An interesting fact about life on planet Earth is that only humans can commit suicide. (There is a false story that lemmings commit suicide, but we have dealt with that before.)

The year 2020 gave everyone reasons to question the value of life. Disease, loss of loved ones, abuse, political chaos, sexual issues, and various mental issues have combined to cause people to desire a life worth living. One argument for faith is that it provides a reason to live, even when life’s traumas make it difficult.

What does atheism offer to make life worth living when things turn bad? When I was a child, singer Peggy Lee had a song titled “Is That All There Is?” She sang about wanting something very badly, but the result was never as good as what she imagined. It is like buying an expensive new car you have wanted to own for a very long time. Then after having it for a while, wondering why you spent that much money. Everything in life is like that. Even marriage has the familiar half-life. In courtship and engagement, you have the belief that your potential mate is that person with whom you want to spend your life. But once the newness wears off, marriage becomes something that takes effort to keep it working.

What I have described so far applies to all of us. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon, a man with great wealth and power, expressed his struggle with what the world offers. As you read through the book, you see that he does it all and has it all, but he finds it is all meaningless. The Bible is full of stories about men who had opportunities to be very successful. Moses had it made as the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. Then Hebrews 11:24-27 tells us that he “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of Pharaoh to see Him who is invisible.” Paul was trained by Gamaliel, a well-known scholar, and was on his way to becoming a leader of Judaism (Acts 22:3). But, like Moses, he found something better.

So atheists and Christians face similar problems in keeping an active life worth living.
What makes Christianity different, and why does it lead to an optimistic, upbeat feeling about life, even when things go wrong? The answer is that Christians have a purpose for our lives. Solomon wrote as a conclusion to his discussion of life’s meaninglessness: “I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end. I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That every man may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil–this is the gift of God” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13).

Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8-11 that God had a purpose for his life and an eternal purpose which was accomplished in Christ. In Acts 9:10-19, God tells Ananias about Saul and says that “this man is my chosen instrument.” Having that purpose for his life drove Saul to become Paul and leave his leadership in Judaism to suffer abuse as a Christian.

We are all chosen instruments. Our skills and talents may not be as spectacular as Paul’s, but God created every one of us to do something unique. We must choose whether or not to accept the purpose for which God created us. But having a purpose and fulfilling that purpose makes life worth living, meaningful, and worthwhile. Not only do we find fulfillment in doing what God created us to do, but having purpose means being able to face the problems of life and use those things to accomplishing our purpose.

Being a Christian does not mean we will be immune to the problems that everyone faces. If that were the case, people would become Christians for the wrong reason to escape their problems. Instead, what Christians have is the promise of God that there will be a way of escape from those problems (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, the problems, including death, will be used as part of our service to God.

The heartbreak of having a child born with multiple handicaps and later losing my wife have given me unique opportunities and satisfaction in my efforts as a Christian. There is a life worth living when you have a purpose for existing, and you can see that the purpose extends beyond your existence on Earth.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Father’s Day 2021 and Real Fathers

Father’s Day 2021 and Real Fathers

Many related consequences result from the drift of western culture away from faith in God and away from biblical teaching. One of the significant changes is in the role of fathers. Several years ago, I had this vividly pointed out when a male student in my class was bragging about the number of children he had fathered. He had five women pregnant at the same time, and he called himself a “stud father.” I told him he could make whatever claim he wanted to about being a stud, but he could make no claim to be a father. Father’s Day 2021 should remind us of the essential role of real fathers.

In my 41 years of teaching, it was indeed a rare thing to have a father show up for a PTA meeting or a parent conference. When I was a student in elementary and high school, it was my father who was called in to participate in my discipline. I don’t recall my mother having a role in correcting my frequent bad behavior.

The New Testament concept of fathers is unique. Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21 give fathers instructions about managing the education and conduct of their children. In Luke 15:11-32, Jesus tells what we commonly call the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” However, the star of the story is not the son but the father. Christ’s story tells of a father who anguishes over the decisions his son has made. He watches anxiously for his son to abandon his foolishness and return to the values of the father’s home. With grace, he forgives the son for his bad behavior. The child’s mother is not in the story, and we know that the forgiving father represents God.

A child who grows up without the example, teaching, discipline, and love of a father is vulnerable to many problems. This is true behaviorally and sexually, and we see the consequences of weak father images in our world today. Some children do well despite not having a strong father image, but in those cases, there is often a grandfather or other male who provides the balance every child needs. In the case of Timothy in the New Testament, Paul refers to him as “my own son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2).

Being a father has nothing to do with impregnating a woman. Being a father to a child means assuming massive responsibility, devoting vast amounts of time, and striving to be the example the child needs to see. The child also needs to hear “I love you” from the same man who shows the child what is really important in life. In 1972, the United States established a day set aside as “Father’s Day.” On this Father’s Day 2021, our nation is suffering greatly because so few men have the strength, courage, and wisdom to be real fathers.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Alcohol and Marijuana Data

Alcohol and Marijuana Data

We see articles in the media about the benefits of using alcohol and marijuana, but the actual data does not support those claims. Here in Michigan, marijuana was approved for recreational use in January of 2020. The state has just released data for OWI (Operating While Impaired) cases since that time. The state records show a 73% increase in “cannabinoid-involved” crashes in 2020.

Another area of concern is the increased use of alcohol. There have been reports that drinking in moderation is beneficial to the body. A study by researchers from the University of Oxford seems to dispute that. The study of 25,000 people who reported alcohol intake shows disturbing effects of any amount of alcohol. The study focused on the effect of drinking on gray matter in the brain, involving regions that process information. The study showed that the more people drank, the lower their volume of gray matter. Gray matter decreases with age and dementia but adding the effect of alcohol speeds up the process.

The conclusion of the Oxford research was there is “no safe level of drinking.” The researchers say that damage to the brain is greater than damage from having a high BMI or smoking. Of course, there are other concerns, such as the effect on the heart and lungs, but drinking is a significant factor as far as brain damage is concerned.

Distilled alcohol and marijuana are recreational drugs that were unknown in the time of the Old Testament. Distillation has given alcohol greater potency, and the production of new sources of THC for recreational use is a more modern production of drugs used to escape the problems of life.

God’s solutions to human struggles have never involved anything destructive to humans. As our culture has become more atheistic, people have looked for substitutes for spiritual help and support. The use of alcohol and marijuana has resulted in an increase in mental problems of all kinds.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: USA Today Network for 6/7/21 and The Week for June 11, 2021 page 21.

Seaweed as a Natural Resource

Seaweed as a Natural Resource
Sea Grapes (Aulerpa lentillifera)

The summer issue of the Nature Conservancy magazine contains an interesting article about the value of seaweed. Overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification, and global warming combine to make life difficult for people living in coastal areas who depend on fishing. The use of seaweed is a solution to much of this, and researchers are making significant progress in advancing seaweed as a natural resource.

Growing food in the ocean is more efficient than raising it on the land. There is no need to worry about water or fertilizer because seawater has all the nutrients needed. There are collateral benefits as well since many marine species depend on seaweed to reproduce.

Companies extract carrageenan from seaweed and use it in the production of cosmetics, foods, and medicines. More than 25,000 people are employed in farming seaweed in Tanzania, and extensive training programs are teaching local farmers how to farm seaweed in their coastal waters. 

There is reason to be optimistic about the future. We are learning to use all that God has given us to radically increase our food production, and the work of farming the ocean is leading the way. Not only does seaweed provide food directly to humans, but it can be dried and used as food for cattle, sheep, and goats. Seaweed also helps the planet by reducing the carbon dioxide in the air and increasing the oxygen content. 

The diversity that God has built into the creation allows us to overcome the problem of feeding a growing population while finding ways to reduce pollution. Seaweed as a natural resource demonstrates once again that creation is not a cosmic accident but designed for advanced human life. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: nature.org

Assistance in Dying is a Difficult Issue

Assistance in Dying is a Difficult Issue

We have had several personal experiences with a person approaching death that brought up the issue of assistance in dying. One of the cases in our family involved a loved one dying in an Asian country. The belief in that country was that life is all there is, so a person should be kept alive at all costs, no matter what. Our loved one was in enormous pain and begging to die, but his Asian wife refused to allow him to receive any drug that might shorten his life. Drugs such as morphine can relieve pain, but they can also shorten life, so she did not allow those drugs.

There is also a medical treatment called palliative sedation, which renders a person unconscious until they die. In the United States, hospice offers palliative care but does not hasten death. Individuals can use VSED, which is “voluntary stopping of eating and drinking.” The decision is difficult, and when the person loses consciousness, family members can override it.

Ten states and the District of Columbia now allow medical assistance in dying. Doctors in those states can prescribe a lethal dose of a drug if requested by the patient or their power of attorney. The states are Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maine, and New Mexico.

Several of our church friends have faced the issue of assistance in dying. Our current issue is our son Tim who is mentally incapable of deciding for himself and is in a pathetic condition. COVID-19 has activated his cerebral palsy complications and especially his muscular dystrophy, so he is bedfast and barely able to communicate. He is making no visible progress, and because of blindness, he has very little quality of life. I read to him daily over the phone. He can only eat pureed food because he can’t chew and swallow hard foods. He is cut off from friends or family because it is virtually impossible to understand his speech.

What do you do in a case like my son Tim? He is a physically strong person, so he may remain in this state for a very long time. Having a doctor inject him with a lethal dose of drugs might seem to be the merciful thing to do, but that is pure euthanasia and assumes he will never make any recovery. Who has that kind of knowledge?

We share this with you to underline the issue of assistance in dying. As our population ages and as medical care advances, this issue will only get more complex. Join us in praying that God will lead us to know how to deal with this new problem facing humanity, which is especially difficult for believers in God.

John N. Clayton © 2021

For two different views on the assistance in dying issue, you can turn to the websites of Compassion and Choices and the National Right to Life Committee.

Planned Parenthood Data for 2020

Planned Parenthood Data for 2020

We saw the Planned Parenthood data for 2020, and it disturbs us. The organization performed 354,871 abortions, which is 9,199 more than the previous year. The government gave $618.1 million of federal tax money to Planned Parenthood in 2020. That does not include $80 million from the Cares Act, which was to help small businesses because of the pandemic. Other services which Planned Parenthood provides, including adoption, prenatal care, and help with miscarriages, declined by 40%.

Planned Parenthood also gave presentations in public schools, and in some cases, parents were not notified about the content. Because of the political situation in the United States, abortion pills may be made available through the mail.

As a Christian who works with various child-care organizations, I know of many couples in our area who want to adopt a child. As has always been true, there is a long wait time to get a child. Adopting requires laborious home studies and interviews. As the parent of three adopted children, I know the joy of having a child when you are biologically unable to conceive.

The Planned Parenthood data for 2020 is disturbing. It’s easy to oversimplify this issue, but the notion that abortion is a solution to birth control is medical nonsense. The psychological problems resulting from abortion are huge because aborting a child is infanticide. Americans are critical of other cultures that don’t protect children or even discard unwanted children, and yet our culture is doing the same thing. If you ever watch a video of an abortion, you will see that it is indeed the killing of an infant and not the removal of a blob of flesh that is simply part of the mother.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from the American Center for Law and Justice

My Brother Jim and Alcohol

My Brother Jim and Alcohol

We have frequently pointed out that a massive percentage of the pain and death people experience is directly related to their choices in life. If you don’t believe in God, what do you use for support when you hit the usual frustrations in life? My brother Jim bought into my parent’s atheistic beliefs. For much of his life, he lived as an atheist.

When my youngest brother grew frustrated with the everyday struggles of life, alcohol became his tool for coping. That caused him to be unable to help others or find meaningful companionship. When he struggled with his normal sexual drives, he did not believe that marriage was the only way those feelings could be satisfied. My brother’s marriage failed because of his alcohol use, and it also seriously affected his relationship with his two sons.

My brother Jim was fired from his first teaching job because his alcohol use affected how he dealt with his students. One of his sons and I pleaded with him to realize what alcohol was doing to him, and gradually he began to move away from his addiction. He eventually got involved in Alcoholics Anonymous, started studying the Bible, and carried on extensive conversations with me about the existence of God.

I finally convinced my brother Jim to go with me and a group of 50 Christians as we toured the Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, and the Canyonlands. In addition to showing evidence that the Bible accurately describes Earth’s history as revealed in these places, we all engaged in singing hymns, praying for one another, and studying God’s Word. At the end of the trip, my brother admitted that he could not be an atheist anymore and that he saw the validity of Christianity.

What do people in our culture do to relieve the pains that come in life? The use of drugs, including alcohol, has skyrocketed in my lifetime. Developing a relationship with God and working with those of like faith to establish a realistic approach to failure and frustration is not on the radar for much of our culture.

As people reject God, ridiculing the Bible,
and questioning its relevance to the struggles of life, the problems they experience have grown. The ultimate result of this is a massive increase in health issues related to drug use and an enormous rise in legal problems, including prison terms. More than half of the prisoners studying our correspondence courses are in prison because they abused drugs.

Unfortunately, the use of alcohol and the destructive nature of my brother’s early atheistic beliefs had consequences on his relationships and health. He had marginal relationships with family, had few friends, and never found the kind of joy that Christians have when they follow God’s Word. In addition, his health had been compromised by his use of alcohol. On May 28, he died from all the damage alcohol had done in the past. Living the Christian way of life is essential to give the hope of eternal life and to give us the very best things that this life can bring. My brother Jim is a case history that demonstrates that fact in vivid, realistic terms.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Problem of Hunger Unnecessary

Problem of Hunger Unnecessary

A strange situation that exists today is human mismanagement of what God has given us. I get 20 to 30 pieces of mail daily asking for donations to feed starving children. These children are not just in Africa or India, but also in Appalachia. When you donate to one organization, you get on everyone’s mailing list. I’m glad organizations are addressing the food needs of people all over the globe, but the problem of hunger is so unnecessary.

With political circumstances depriving common people of basic food needs and selfish politicians and rulers involved in power struggles, children are dying all over the planet. The pathetic pictures of starving children hit home in the United States as the statistics show how poorly we manage God’s gifts. USA Today (May 26, 2021) published a report from the Environmental Protection Agency showing that 42.8 million tons of uneaten, wasted food ends up in landfills or combustion facilities every year. The report goes on to say that people in the United States typically waste 25% of the food they buy, amounting to a cost of $2,275 a year per person.

The problem of wasted food is not getting better even though we have ways to prevent food spoiling. Buying canned goods, freezing leftovers, dehydrating fruits, and ordering more intelligently should reduce our waste. The problem of hunger is unnecessary, yet every city in the country is reporting issues with waste.

A society will practice selfishness when it rejects the notion that God has given us what we have and expects us to share it with others. The economically deprived are the ones who suffer. The collateral damage of selfish atheism is a testimony to the validity of faith in God, but Christians should be leaders in making full use of God’s blessings.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Time magazine May 24/31, 2021, page 23.

Who Owns Your Body When You Die?

Who Owns Your Body When You Die?

One of the medical issues of our day is the shortage of organs for transplant. Many people die while waiting for a heart, kidney, or liver, and the problem of finding organ donors is complicated. That leads to the question of who owns your body when you die?

In the United States, there are data banks for almost every organ in our bodies. If someone needs a kidney, their surgeon can go to the kidney bank and see how many people in the database have the blood type and traits to be a donor. Often kidneys are supplied by living donors, so the kidney is moved from one person to another, with both the donor and the one receiving the new organ in the same operating room. Of course, that is not possible for many organs such as hearts.

The government of Switzerland is considering a bill that would make the state the receptor of everyone when they die unless the person officially opts out. When a person dies, their organs will become a “public asset” so doctors could harvest them for transplant to alleviate the shortage. The Swiss medical establishment says that between 50 and 100 patients die in Switzerland every year because of the lack of organs for transplant.

This proposed law brings up all kinds of issues and gives a whole new dimension to the relationship between the state and the individual. Who owns your body when you die? Many times a dying person is in a coma or is pronounced brain dead. Taking their organs would certainly be a form of euthanasia. What about the person who is terminal with cancer but has organs that are unaffected by the disease?

The Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.” That same chapter tells us that we will all be changed (verse 52). The natural body is not sacred. It is the dwelling place of God’s Spirit when we are alive (1 Corinthians 3:16), and our soul is housed in it. But Genesis tells us that our body is “dust to dust.”

The body without the spirit is dead (James 2:26). I had that vividly pointed out to me as I stood beside my wife’s bed when she died. The body was lifeless, cold, and unresponsive. My wife Phyllis was gone and what was left was the house in which her spirit had lived.

The issue here is how much control the state should have over our being. Who owns your body when you die? In Switzerland, at least, the state may be considered the master of our existence, even in death.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, May 21, 2021 page 16.

COVID Aftereffects

COVID Aftereffects

The Department of Veterans Affairs released studies of 87,000 people up to six months after they tested positive for COVID compared with five million people in their database who didn’t have the virus. Those with a history of COVID had a 59% increased risk of dying prematurely within half a year after contracting the disease. People with disease problems such as heart issues, diabetes, and kidney disease are subject to COVID aftereffects.

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly. the head of the research and developmental service at the VA St. Louis Care system said, “We are starting to see a little bit beneath that iceberg, and it’s really alarming.” I have a personal interest in this because my son Tim remains in a nursing home after having a bout with COVID that left him with multiple problems from muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, which had both been under control before he contracted COVID. Now they are running wild and leaving him unable to stand, walk, or manage his own eating. Also, his speech is seriously compromised.

Those who maintain that COVID is an exaggerated problem are not looking at COVID aftereffects on people who have had existing conditions before contracting the virus. It would appear that, in time, other health issues will be found in the population. Anytime we allow animal viruses to get into humans, there is a high probability of severe health problems, and COVID has shown that in dramatic ways.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: The Week, May 14, 2021 page 21.