America is Becoming a Land of Intoxicants

America is Becoming a Land of Intoxicants

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%.

Alcohol’s impact on humans is well documented. Negative effects on reaction time, perception, and balance are outward products of alcohol use, as are inhibition and impaired decision-making. Now the accepted use of marijuana is adding more pain to the human experience.

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Gender Change Problems

Gender Change Problems

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data from Science News, August 28, 2021, pages 24 -28.

Unborn Babies Can Hear the World Around Them

Unborn Babies Can Hear the World Around Them

Unborn babies can hear the world around them. Recently Dianne Neal Matthews wrote in Guidepost’s Mornings 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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Church’s Task Is to Help People – Not Harm Them

The Church’s Task Is to Help People – Not Harm Them

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards

Bacteria on Wooden Cutting Boards and Toys

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.

— Roland Earnst © 2021

References: You can read more about the research HERE and HERE.

Difficult Genesis Issues – Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Difficult Genesis Issues - Where Did Cain Get His Wife? 

Several Genesis verses contain some issues that have bothered many people. For example, are we supposed to understand the ages of the people chronologically? If so, how did they live so long? Who was Cain afraid of, and where did those people come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Those are some of the difficult Genesis issues people have tried to resolve. 

The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is the product of scientists who believe in God and accept the Bible as His Word. They have advanced academic degrees, and their articles are very scholarly. Recent issues have carried some interesting discussions of difficult Genesis issues, including the account of Adam and Eve. The September issue contains an article by Dr. Roy Clouser. He contends that we have ignored the Jewish understanding of Genesis, causing credibility issues with the biblical account. Clouser maintains that the ages of biblical characters were not intended to be understood as chronological but symbolic of their character or accomplishments. For example, Methuselah living 969 years would indicate higher qualities than Adam’s 600 years. 

That is an interesting explanation. I am now 83 years old chronologically, and I cannot fathom living for 600 years. The physical weakness that comes from age seems to be built into humans as it is in the rest of the world. When Adam and Eve were in the Garden, they had access to the Tree of Life that would allow them to live forever. The traditional explanation that the human fall into sin brought physical death into the world for the first time has credibility issues with most people. 

Clouser makes an interesting comparison between Genesis 2:7, where God breathed into Adam the breath of life, and John 20:22, where Jesus breathed on His disciples. Genesis tells us that “God formed man of the dust of the ground,” clearly referring to man’s body. Then the verse says, “and man became a living soul.” Genesis 1:26-27 describes the man and woman as created in the image of God. That, of course, refers to the spiritual image because God is a Spirit and not a limited physical being. When humans sinned, God’s spirit departed from them. However, John 20:22 tells us that Jesus “breathed on them (His disciples) and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” 

Other difficult Genesis issues include when Cain says, “Everyone who finds me will try to kill me” (Genesis 4:14). Who are those who would try to kill Cain, and where did they come from? Where did Cain get his wife? Cain also builds a city, and that requires large numbers of humans. My response has always been that Adam and Eve had many children in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, all of humanity rebelled against God and were forced out of the Garden and lost a relationship with God. Clouser presents a different interpretation that warrants more study. 

The fact is that the biblical account is accurate and deals with salvation through Jesus Christ. However, understanding how we got to where we are is very complex and will always leave some questions for further study. It is our understanding of the difficult Genesis issues that is in question–not the accuracy of the biblical record

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

Racist Attitudes and the Facts

The history of modern civilization has been marred by human power struggles using racist attitudes to promote their agenda. European Enlightenment scholars decided that humans should be divided into discrete groups as some animal species are. They attached meaning to skin color using cultural stereotypes that included temperament, intelligence, and behavior. Slave owners used this concept to justify enslaving African people. Nazis in Germany sought to define a Germanic people based on racial exceptionalism.

Racist attitudes have even shown up in medicine. In 1793, a yellow fever epidemic struck Philadelphia. White physicians claimed that black people were immune to yellow fever even as it killed many blacks. In 2016, a study of 200 medical students at the University of Virginia found that half of them believed there were biological differences between blacks and whites. Those differences included the belief that black people have thicker skin and higher pain tolerance than whites. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some reports said that black people couldn’t catch the virus, and a few months later, more articles came out saying that blacks were more susceptible to it.

The biblical discussion about race is entirely different from the power struggle that has gone on for a very long time. Genesis 3:20 tells us that Adam called his wife Eve “because she was the mother of all living.” That means that all races go back to Eve, and we are thus all related. In Acts 17:26, Paul told the intellectuals in Athens that God “has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth…” These passages emphasize the oneness of all humans. 

In a National Geographic article, Angela Saini wrote that science has shown “that we are genetically more alike than any other primate species and that individual difference far outweighs any group difference.” Saini warns against the narrative that “searches the margins of our genomes for the tiny statistical differences between populations, consciously or unconsciously playing to those who seek to divide us in other ways.”

Racist attitudes are not justified by biology or the Bible. Racism is a cultural activity, and it opposes the Bible in loud and clear terms. Those who claim to be Christians and yet practice racial discrimination need to read their Bibles and not listen to Satan’s agents sowing hatred and division among the human family. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

References: “The Story of Human Difference” by Angela Saini in National Geographic , September 2021, pages 15-17 and American Journal of Public Health

Mental Health and Faith

Mental Health and Faith

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.

— John N. Clayton ©2021

Consequences of New Anti-discrimination Rules

Consequences of New Anti-discrimination Rules

Discrimination is a buzzword that has all kinds of implications. Of course, we don’t want to be accused of discriminating against someone based on race or gender. However, the federal government has gone far beyond those categories and has gotten into areas involving morality. So what are the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules?

In February of 2021, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a directive barring discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. For schools and colleges, this means that dorm rooms, locker rooms, shower spaces, and restrooms must be open to anyone, no matter their gender or sexual orientation. Schools not following the directive face fines and criminal penalties. 

We are already seeing the consequences of new anti-discrimination rules in high schools where boys are demanding to use girls’ locker rooms and participate in girls’ sports. A more complex situation is confronting Christian colleges because of moral concerns. They can be threatened with government action if they have a girls’ dorm or a boys’ dorm. 

The College of the Ozarks near Branson, Missouri, is involved in a court battle. This school, affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, was established in 1906. It has 1426 students and 30 academic majors. The college’s five-fold mission is to encourage academic, Christian, cultural, vocational, and patriotic growth in its students. With the help of Alliance Defending Freedom, the school is challenging the new government rules. 

The federal government has taken the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as the basis of its directive. That law was written to stop discrimination against African Americans, but they are reinterpreting it to accommodate LGBTQ activists. The consequences of new anti-discrimination rules for Christian colleges will be to open all dorms to everyone. An alternative would be to close the dorms and force students to find off-campus housing, which would be a financial hardship for the schools. Christian colleges across the nation are watching what happens in this court battle. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Faith and Justice magazine for August 2021, pages 10-17, and College of the Ozarks website. You can also read more about the case of College of the Ozarks v. Biden HERE.

Poison Ivy Vaccine On the Way?

Poison Ivy Vaccine On the Way?

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Scientific American, September 2021, page 24.