There are many things about Christianity that are unique. One of the most important of these is the Christian concept of forgiveness. No other religious or philosophical system emphasizes the power to forgive that we see in Jesus.
As an atheist living in an atheist home, I saw the emphasis on survival and “getting even.” One of our favorite sayings was, “Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me.” In opposition to that view, Peter asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Thinking he was being generous, Peter asked, “Up to 7 times?” Jesus responded with, “…seventy times seven.” In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:12-15, Jesus taught that our forgiveness by God was dependent on our forgiving of others. The various forms of the word “forgive” occur 143 times in the Bible.
All of us have known people who carry a grudge for years and years. Long ago, I was working with two older men on a project in a basement. I had been told that these two men had not spoken to each other for 30 years because of a conflict they had with each other. One of them fell off a ladder and was hanging from a pipe. The other man was standing there looking at him when I got there and helped him down. The guy hanging wasn’t going to ask for help, and the other guy wasn’t going to help unless asked. When I asked them what had caused the problem neither of them could tell me. They hadn’t spoken to each other for 30 years, but neither of them knew why.
Grudges, bad memories, conflict, and unkind words and thoughts can eat you alive. Mental illness is sometimes rooted in problems with forgiveness. Sometimes it’s because we are unable to forgive ourselves. We need to understand that Christ died to give us the power to forgive. Even if we struggle to forgive ourselves, we need to realize that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us..” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
We sometimes read of a Christian forgiving a person who killed their loved one, and we think, “How could they do that?” Don’t underestimate what Jesus can do. Unlike other religious leaders, Jesus demonstrated the power to forgive, and He expects to do the same. Remember that as Jesus was being crucified, he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways turn out to be incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. Most of us don’t realize why we need tears and that we have three different kinds.
Basal tears lubricate our eyes. They are generated in the lacrimal gland, which sits just above the eye and just under the eyebrow. The word “lacrimal” comes from the Latin word for tear, which is “lacrima.”
Reflex tears form in response to irritants. You are most familiar with them when you cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt. These tears have a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes that are not present in basal tears.
Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, which is a natural pain killer released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better. Crying also may generate social support, depending on the situation.
Interestingly, babies don’t produce tears until they are seven or eight months old.The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year. It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves so many different purposes. It is easy to see why we need tears.
The more I learn about God’s design of my body, the more I appreciate the statement of David: “I will praise thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).
As our culture drifts farther from God, drugs become a substitute for spirituality. The drug receiving the most attention at the start of 2020 is marijuana. The compound in marijuana that causes users to get high is THC. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs does not fill the spiritual void.
The United States farm bill passed in 2018 mandated that plants containing less than .3% THC would be considered hemp. Those plants containing more than .3% would be regarded as marijuana, which remains, for the moment, an illegal, controlled substance. People now use cannabidiol (CBD) in a wide range of products, including pain medications, stress relievers, and sleep enhancers. THC is also found inadvertently in some products, and there is no way to tell the difference between THC in CBD oil and in recreational marijuana.
In random drug testing, THC may show up even if the subject only used a CBD oil. If the employer has a policy of firing anyone who tests positive for THC, that person would be dismissed. USA Today (January 21, 2020, Section B 1) carried a story about a school bus driver in Salt Lake City who was fired because she tested positive for THC. She had used CBD to help her sleep and to relieve stress.
Research may lead to some beneficial applications of THC, when used carefully and in a controlled way. The massive demand for cannabidiol products and the pressure to make recreational marijuana legal is an indication of the unhappiness and misery that people in our culture are experiencing. When we were traveling in Ireland several years ago, our guide commented on how unhappy people are there as alcohol has replaced faith in God. The same thing is happening in America today. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is no substitute for God, but massive numbers of people have turned to these faith substitutes. A brief “high” is no substitute for lasting, faithful joyfulness.
The Bible is full of references to the desire God has for us to experience joy and happiness. The Psalms encouraged followers of God to be joyful. (See Psalms 5:11, 63:5, and 149:5-6.) In Luke 10:17, when the disciples found they had the power to help people, they “returned with joy.” In John 16:20-24, Jesus talks about finding “joy that no man can take from you.” In Romans 15:13, Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Galatians 5:22 tells us that joy is one of the fruits of the Spirit.
People look for peace, joy, happiness, and satisfaction in all the wrong places. Seeking peace in THC, alcohol, and other drugs is not a long-term solution. The fact that I can be content, at peace, and able to find joy and beauty in spite of the massive problems I have experienced, builds my faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. No drug high of any kind gives the lasting contentment that I find in my relationship with Christ. I have looked in both places, and the evidence is clear.
As the parent of a special needs child, I have been a part of the Special Olympics for many years. Even though my child is too disabled to participate anymore, I sometimes attend just to watch the events. I especially like the races, and two of them stick out in my memory. They remind me of the race of life.
The first was a hurdles competition. Five runners had 100 yards of hurdles to navigate. The gun went off, and the racers all cleared the first four hurdles. They were pretty close together when one of them caught his foot on a hurdle and went down. He hit pretty hard, and immediately the other four racers stopped and ran back to him. They helped him up, hugged him, and then they all continued the race.
My other memory was a long-distance run with six runners who had quite varied abilities. One of the boys was much slower than the others, and they all lapped him. When they got to the finish line, they all “high-fived” one another. While they were doing that, the slow runner went by for his last lap. The other five runners moved toward the finish line, and as the slow boy came around the final curve, they began cheering. The crowd went nuts as he crossed the finish line.
The message in these two stories is so “Christian” in nature. Paul talked about “the race”` many times. In Hebrews 12:1, he said, “..let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, he uses the race as a picture of life. In 2 Timothy 4:7, he says, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race…”
Paul doesn’t say he won the race. He says he finished it. When I fall going over a hurdle of life, I need my brothers and sisters in the faith to help me get back on my feet so we can all finish the race. I do need to finish the race, and while I am not the strongest or the fastest, God has given me the ability to finish the race of life. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul wrote, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only but to all those who love his appearing.”
As we enter an election year, the issue of abortion once again rises to the attention of politicians, women’s rights activists, Christians, religious fundamentalists, and the medical establishment. The issue is complicated, but we must not overlook the alternatives to abortion.
We can understand the rhetoric that a woman should have control of her own body. But from a scientific standpoint, there is no question–a baby is NOT just an extension of the mother’s body. Morning sickness is the body’s reaction to an invasive foreign object that has entered the woman’s body. When the sperm meets the egg, a unique individual is produced. It is not a dog or a cat or something unknown–it is a human. Mountains of evidence exist that show the baby does human things long before birth. The preborn child hears, feels, reacts, and responds to outside influences on its environment.
Do we, as a culture, wish to sanction infanticide? Is a baby better off dead than born to a mother who doesn’t want it? Is infanticide a slippery slope to horrible misuse–harvesting organs or paying for organs from a baby not yet conceived? These questions are complicated, and in an election year, inflammatory literature abounds on all sides. Working together to provide alternatives to abortion can help to settle this issue. Here are three points to consider:
*Easy abortion as a method for birth control is foolish. Abortion does physiological and psychological damage to most women. Repeated abortions can lead to serious health problems even when the abortion is done in an ideal environment by competent doctors.
*Reproductive healthcare is needed for all women, and abortion is not the sum total of that care. This healthcare can and should include modern contraception methods, moral teaching about sexual relationships, prenatal care, family planning, and options about alternatives to abortion. Adoption is an option that is used far too infrequently. Abortion should not be the first or only choice given to women.
*World population growth is also an issue. Every day the world population grows by 225,000, adding up to 82 million per year. God has told us to “take care of the garden, dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). He also gave us the family as the proper vehicle to populate the Earth. Dumping unwanted children into the world without family, love, care, or the physical things they need to survive violates God’s commands (James 1:27). However, abortion (infanticide) is a poor alternative to education and moral teaching.
We need to join hands and work for alternatives to abortion and solutions to this issue on this 47th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme Court.
We get a lot of questions that contain the phrase, “what is wrong with?” The idea seems to be that there is a religious issue involved in the social practices of today, but many people don’t understand what it is. Parents have asked me to tell them how to explain to their child that tattoos are biblically wrong. Others have written that being overweight is a sin and that eating foods that are not healthy is biblically wrong. Another question involves whether the Bible condemns vaping. The use of alcohol has been an issue for a very long time.
The current mantra of our culture is, “What I do with my body is up to me. What is wrong with…?” The Apostle Paul wrote something about that:
“Do you not know that you are God’s sanctuary, and that God’s Spirit has his home in you? If anyone desecrates the temple of God, God will bring him to ruin. For the temple of God is sacred, and that is what you are.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
When we use the Bible to decide a moral or religious issue, it is essential to look at the context of the passage. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 3 to a congregation of people whom he says are carnal, not spiritual (Verses 1-3). Verse 9 finds Paul telling these carnal people that as Christians, they should be fellow-workers with God and that Christ must be their foundation (verse 11). What is wrong with the way they were acting? Paul’s chief complaint with the Christians in Corinth is that their carnal nature has produced a power struggle (verses 3-8).
The message here is spiritual, not physical. Paul is not saying that if you vape, God will send cancer to destroy you. God’s message and outreach to a lost world come through His workers here on Earth. In Acts 2:38, Peter promised God’s Spirit to Christians. Engaging in things that defeat God’s outreach to others can cause them to be lost. We need to take care of our bodies and do so in a way that enables us to be God’s workers to reach others.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8 that we sin against others when we do something or eat something that causes them to be lost. I can’t be the influence that God calls me to be if I am immersed in the excesses of the culture in which I live. How I dress, what I eat or drink, and what I do is essential to my witness. I implore Christians to avoid vaping or drinking alcohol or eating unwisely for that reason.
One of the most divisive issues facing all Americans, including churches, is the question of how to handle the issue of sexuality in a changing culture. The United Methodist Church has been the most public about the struggle going on within their denomination. In an article in Christianity Today for January/February 2020, Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, discussed the Methodist Church as an indicator of religion in America. Tooley says, “The Methodist Church has boasted of being America’s church, and whatever is going on in America is going on in the Methodist Church.” What can we learn from the Methodist division about the future of religion in America?
Atheists have used the LGBT issue effectively against belief in God. They insist that refusing to accept anyone based on sexual preference is a form of abuse and a violation of human rights. The United Methodist Church added a sentence to “The Book of Discipline” in the 1970s, saying that the Methodist Church “does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching.” In 2019 that stance was reinforced by a vote of 438 to 384. That vote indicated the depth of division on this issue. Now the Methodists are debating how to divide into two denominations to make everyone happy. Will the Methodist division make anyone happy? What effect will it have on the future of religion in America?
The Does God Exist? Ministry maintains that God’s Word is 100% true and is the only trustworthy guide to all decisions made in life. These facts support that view and are the only way Christians can consistently deal with the LGBT issue:
*Abusing anyone because of their choices in life violates the teachings of Jesus.
*Sexual feelings do not demand sexual expression. Premarital sex, adultery, and fornication of all kinds are not mandated by being human. Same-sex attraction does not have to be consummated in sexual acts any more than being a single sexual teenager with raging hormones does. Abstinence is biblical and logical.
*LGBT lifestyles are destructive. All data shows that STDs are more prevalent in LGBT practitioners. Sex-change operations create the need for medication for the remainder of life. Psychological issues are involved in most LGBT choices.
Sexual orientation is not always a conscious choice of those with LGBT issues. Environmental issues, genetics, abuse, and family and peer issues are always involved. The Christian response to people struggling with their sexuality must be compassionate caring, and loving-kindness, with sympathetic support.The Church must lead in doing all of this. The future of religion in America must require that we NOT change the Bible to fit the current beliefs of the culture.
Those who maintain that all life is a product of chance have a new opponent on their hands. He is Dr. David Gelernter, professor of computer science at Yale University, chief scientist at Mirror Worlds Technologies, and a member of the National Council of the Arts. He says that we are not a product of chance.
One of Dr. Gelernter’s main arguments is the difficulty of producing a stable and functional protein by blind, mechanical chance. Proteins are the work-horses of life. Proteins called enzymes catalyze all sorts of reactions and drive cellular metabolism. Other proteins, such as collagen, give cells shape and structure. Proteins drive nerve function, muscle function, and photosynthesis. The question is whether mindless, random changes in molecules can create all the different proteins necessary for life to exist.
The argument starts with amino acids, which we know can be formed by natural processes in specific environments. Statisticians calculate that the odds of amino acids forming a stable protein are 1 in 1074. As Gelernter writes, “To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is not different, in practice, from saying that they are zero.” For comparison, science tells us there are only 1080 atoms in the universe. Gelernter says, “The odds bury you. It can’t be done.”
It is essential to understand that we are not talking about the formation of life here. Gelernter is talking about making chance mutations in existing DNA that result in a useful new protein that could play a role in evolution. Macroevolution, or the creation of new species, would require new genes that could create a meaningful new protein. This is simply one small step in producing the materials necessary for life.
We are not a product of chance. There is growing evidence of the design and planning that has gone into the making of life and us. Dr. Gelernter says he has been attacked by some atheistic scientists, because, as he says, “I am attacking their religion.”
The more we learn about the human body, the more we see the complexity that defies any notion of mindless creation. The latest count of microscopic species that live in or on our bodies is over 10,000. The total number of single-cell microbes is over one-hundred trillion. These are not just hitchhikers that have come along for the ride. They are essential to the proper functioning of our bodies. Scientists have well studied most of these microbes, but the scientific literature continues to report on new roles for microbes that scientists previously thought to have no function. We marvel at the amazing complexity of being you.
This complexity is minor compared to DNA. The project to sequence the human genome formally began in 1990 and was completed in 2003. If you wonder why it took so long, consider the enormous size of the DNA molecule. Packed into every cell of your body is a DNA strand that, if you unwound it and stretched it out, would be about three meters long. Considering the number of cells in the human body, if you took the stretched-out DNA molecules from every cell and laid them end-to-end, they would reach from here to the Sun and back almost 70 times. A few years ago, the popular literature told us that 98% of our DNA was junk with no functional use. Since that time, science has learned that over 80% of human DNA has a function, and you don’t hear about “junk DNA” anymore.
The point of all these numbers is to show the amazing complexity of being you. The human body is an incredibly complicated machine with a blueprint that scientists are still not able to read. As we do read parts of that blueprint, we find that our assumptions about our bodies have led to unfortunate medical decisions. As a child, I can remember the polio epidemic and the pain and misery that it brought to some of my friends. It is incredible that I never contracted this virus because when I was very young, I had a lot of throat problems, and the doctor decided to remove my tonsils. We now know that the tonsils are the only area of the body that can synthesize antibodies to fight poliomyelitis. If you don’t have tonsils, your chances of developing polio increase significantly.
We hear promoters of the theory of human evolution glibly talk about the chance mutations of life that would lead to what humans are today. Assuming that the incredible complexity of the human body can come about by chance alone is to accept a faith that defies reason. The simple biblical statement that “God formed man of the dust of the Earth” ignores the intelligence and design that is required. The Psalmist had a glimpse of the amazing complexity of being you when he wrote, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalms 139:14-15). Today we know far more about our creation than David did, and we can add our voice to that praise.
Is design in nature an illusion? That is an important question to consider. Atheists continue to parrot the claim of Richard Dawkins in his book “The Blind Watchmaker” (page 1). Dawkins wrote that “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” is actually an illusion.
Dr. Marcos Eberlin summarized that view in this way: “We are supposed to believe that all we see is an illusion, and that, in reality, a process unguided by anything except the laws and constants of nature formed all we know – the universe, the stars, the ocean, the sky and clouds, RNA and DNA, ribosomes, bacteria, fish, birds, chimpanzees and us.”
Illusions are not science. Illusions cannot be tested or falsified in any way, and that makes them attractive as an explanation to avoid admitting God’s existence. The problem for atheists is that the processes we see in the natural world are interdependent. The body’s immune system, for example, requires the existence of a dozen other systems to function. Numerous chemical and biochemical processes have to be in place. The clotting mechanism of the body has to be working. Sensory systems have to be functional. All of that has to be present before life comes into existence or disease, and infection would destroy the organism as quickly as it was formed. Biochemistry and biology have gone through incredible increases in understanding in recent years. The interdependence of systems is becoming more and more evident as new discoveries are made.
In 2016, the Royal Society of London held a conference to discuss “calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, recognizing that the issues involved remain hotly contested.” Materialistic philosophical views have constrained science and narrowed our horizons, according to Dr. Eberlin. The illusion theory is not supported by statistics applied to the probability of changes in the history of the formation of planet Earth or of life on earth.
Is design in nature an illusion? No, complexity can not be discarded by simply applying the label of “illusion” to it. Life and the creation are real.