How Faith Works in Our Lives

How Faith Works in Our Lives

In the past two days, we have looked at a basic understanding of what faith is and how faith works in our lives. We saw that the Bible defines faith as the foundation on which we build our lives. We pointed out that faith is involved in science. I have been very personal in discussing my family and the destructive faith that has destructively influenced all of us. My faith is very different, and it came about differently.

One facet of faith is that we frequently share it within families. When a family member rejects the faith of the rest of the family, that creates conflict. My parents strongly emphasized education as the foundation on which to build your life. They viewed religion as irrational nonsense that enslaved and restricted humans. At every opportunity, my parents ridiculed religious faith. Hypocrisy, racism, violence, war, and waste provided a constant barrage of good reasons for them to reject faith in God. By the time I was eight years old, I regurgitated my parent’s faith and took a lead role in atheism. That is how faith works in our lives.

In junior high, I had a science teacher named Wayne Gross, who made it clear that he believed that there was academic evidence that God exists, and the Bible is true. In high school, I had a great interest and some aptitude in science. In addition to that, I became infatuated with an attractive young lady who was one of the top students in my high school class.

I did not have any moral values because my parents taught me that educated people realize that life is “survival of the fittest.” The moral guidance I received was to make sure you come out number one. I found that this attractive young lady was morally uncompromising, and she based her morality on the Bible. To get her to compromise her morality, I wanted to show her that faith in God and the Bible was educationally absurd.

I set out to prove to this girl, and to Mr. Gross, that educated people who read the Bible would not believe anything in it. Mr. Gross encouraged me to start with Genesis 1. I had stolen a Bible from a motel (there were no Bibles in my parent’s library), and I started reading it and researching the words in the original manuscripts to prove it wrong.

As I read the Bible and understood its message, looking at the scientific evidence, I started rejecting everything my parents, my peers, and the religious experts of the day told me. In doing that, I began to understand that everything I had ever been told about God and the Bible was wrong. Education was leading me to a new faith, and my parents did not handle my efforts well. They denigrated the faith of Mr. Gross, my girlfriend, and myself.

How faith works in our lives determines the direction we take. Several years later, I was faced with what to do with a child who was born blind, mentally challenged, and with both cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy. This polarized my faith and my parent’s faith. My father used a parallel example of buying a car and finding it was defective. “What do you do?” he asked. “You take it back and demand a refund.”

How we handle evidence, and what we do with it becomes the foundation that impacts our lives. Tomorrow we’ll look at that a little deeper.

–John N. Clayton © 2020

To see John’s testimony of why he left atheism go to DoesGodExist.TV and watch programs 31 and 32 in the video series.

Could There Be Life on Other Planets

Could there be life on other planets?

A subject that keeps drawing attention is the question of whether we are alone in the universe or could there be life on other planets. Many people seem to feel that this is a religious issue. They assume if science discovers life on another planet, it will discredit the Bible in some way. This has led some religious writers to try to prove that life exists nowhere but on the Earth.

Discover magazine devotes much of the December issue to the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” The cover picture shows the parabolic reflector of a large radio telescope with the heading “Are We Alone?

It is essential to understand that this is NOT a religious issue, and the search for life in space has no biblical implications. The Genesis account describes Earth’s history and gives no discussion of any other planets in the cosmos. A careful scientific study of the requirements for life to emerge from non-life shows complexity beyond the reach of any chance process. If there is life elsewhere, God created it.

Why would God do that? Why do all of the other stars and their planets and galaxies exist? God has not limited humans to where we can travel. It may be that in the distant future, humans will live somewhere else in space. It may be that natural resources on Earth will eventually run out, and we will need to secure those resources in space. The biblical message is intended for this planet (Mark 16:15), but the language does not exclude a relationship between God and any creature. For example, Hebrews 4:13 says, “There is not a creature that exists that is hidden from him.”

This discussion reminds me of a radio debate I had in Washington, D.C., with Larry King as the moderator. My opponent was a leader of the atheist group in Washington, and people could call in questions for the two of us to answer. A caller asked, “What would you do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn, an alien got out with a Bible in his hand and said ‘Has Jesus been here yet?’” My atheist friend said, “Punt.” In reality, that proposal would raise many other questions, but the point is that life in space is not a biblical issue.

The Discover article runs through many familiar suggestions. One popular proposal says that we don’t see alien-inhabited planets because they have built a sphere around their solar system, trapping all energy and making it impossible to see them. Called a Dyson sphere, it demands a level of sophistication that is hard to imagine. Another popular suggestion is that aliens camouflage their space ships to look like asteroids. We saw that idea suggested recently when an asteroid called Oumuamua came through our solar system from outer space.

Aliens capable of building such technological wonders would not need to camouflage since they would have better ways to protect themselves. There are some newer and wilder proposals, but the question, “Could there be life on other planets?” is not a biblical issue. If life is out there, it is so far away that it is unlikely to be a threat to our planet in the near future.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Does It Matter What People Believe?

Does It Matter What People Believe about Coronavirus?

For some of us, the tragedy of COVID-19 has really hit home. As I write this, my son is in the local hospital, fighting what may be a losing battle with the disease. As we have struggled to get Tim the help he needs, we have run into people who deny there is a pandemic. Many Americans believe that scams, lies, and conspiracies are behind claims that we are in a pandemic. Does it matter what people believe?

The University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public Policy Center published the results of studies of what Americans believe about the pandemic in the journal Social Science and Medicine. According to their research, over 17% of all Americans believe that the pharmaceutical industry created the virus to boost drug and vaccine sales. Also, 24% believe that the government exaggerated the virus’s danger to damage Donald Trump politically.

There is no evidence to support those beliefs, and those of us who have family members dying from the virus certainly don’t endorse those claims. The Bible describes what happens when people change “the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator.” The result is a culture in which people “do not retain God in their knowledge.” Instead, they are filled with “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, …” (Romans 1:24-32)

Does it matter what people believe? Read those verses and then read the newspaper or watch the evening news. As faith in God and belief in the Bible have decreased, the use of lying and deceit has grown. We live in a society where lies and deception are a way of life. This ministry exists to change that by convincing people there is a God and that the Bible is a reliable guide to how we should live. Does it matter what people believe? Yes, it does matter.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Primary Message of Genesis 1

Primary Message of Genesis 1

The Genesis account continues to cause faith problems for many people. Christians often attack other Christians who differ from their understanding. We see labels like “Young Earth Creationists” (YEC), “Old Earth Creationist” (OEC), “Theistic Evolutionists,” “Progressive Evolutionists,” and others. Our plea is for all sides to look at the primary message of Genesis 1:1 and the literal meaning of the key words in the Genesis account.

The primary message of Genesis 1 is that God created everything and that He created humans in His own image. A careful study of the Hebrew words and their context in the first verse removes most of the room for argument. Genesis 1:1 says, “Reshith Elohim bara shamayim Erets.” Each of these words is loaded with meaning to simplify the understanding of Genesis:

RESHITH The word is used to describe a beginning, Matter is not eternal, and there was a beginning to space, time, and matter/energy.

ELOHIM There are many Hebrew words to refer to God, such as Yahweh, Adonai, and El, but those refer to specific activities of God in human affairs. Elohim is used to refer to the power and creative strength of God.

BARA This word is uniquely applied to something only God can do. There are other words, such as “asah,” that describe making something from existing materials. The term “bara” is expressly understood to refer to God’s creation of something new. It is not used again until verse 27, where the reference is to man’s soul, which God created in His image.

SHAMAYIM This is a clear reference to everything “up there.” From our standpoint on Earth, that is galactic space and everything in it – not just the air we breathe.

ERETS This refers to planet Earth and not any other celestial body.

It is essential to understand the primary message of Genesis 1:1. We must also realize what Genesis 1:1 does not say. Genesis 1:1 doesn’t say what method God used to create heaven and earth. Denominational preachers are fond of saying, “He spoke it into existence.” The Bible doesn’t say anything like that until verse 3. God’s voice is not the creative device.

Genesis 1:1 contains no reference to time. The words do not tell us how long it took God to do what the verse describes. God created as a being outside of space and time. To make a dogmatic statement about when this happened or how long it took is to add a human opinion and complicate the verse. People usually do that to defend a denominational creed, but that is not the primary message of Genesis 1:1. As human understanding of quantum mechanics has grown, we are beginning to glimpse how creation from a higher dimension is possible.

So the primary message of Genesis 1:1 is that God created everything that exists. One more thing that the first chapter of Genesis does not say is that Earth is the only place where God created life. God may have created life elsewhere, but we know that God is the creator of all we see and that our own existence is a special and unique creation of Elohim. Adding to what the Bible says brings confusion and division.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Biblical Role Models We Can Follow

Biblical Role Models We Can Follow

All of us have known or read about people we can take as role models. For some, it’s a fictional superhero, and for others, it is a historical figure like Abraham Lincoln or Madam Curie. Christians tend to hold up biblical characters like Moses or Esther or Peter or Mary, the mother of Jesus. Holding on to any of those is a ticket to discouragement. That’s because most of us don’t have the tools or opportunity to be an Abraham, Paul, or Peter. However, in the New Testament, we can find biblical role models for us ordinary people to emulate. Here are some examples:

MARY MAGDALENE. This woman had been cured of her disease by Jesus (Luke 8:2), and her association with Christ completely changed her life. Luke 8:1-3 tells us that she and several other women handled the logistics of Christ and the disciples. They funded the group as they traveled, spreading the message. We can enable the spread of the message of Christ through our giving and logistical support.

BARNABAS. We meet Barnabas in Acts 4:36-37, where he sells some property to help needy people. In Acts 9:27, it is Barnabas who brings Paul to the congregation in Jerusalem. Barnabas had to convince the church that Paul had been converted, and they should not be afraid of him. Barnabas was a helper to Paul in his missionary journeys (Acts 11-15). We can be encouragers and help support missionary efforts.

ANDREW. Peter’s brother Andrew brought Peter to Christ (John 1:41-42). When some Greeks sought to see Jesus, it was Andrew who brought them to Him (John 12:20-22). Andrew brought the boy with five barley loaves and two fish to Christ so that He could feed the five thousand. We can bring people to Christ by sharing what He has done for us.

Most of us cannot preach, teach, or be the mother of the Savior. But all of us can do what these “behind the scenes” biblical role models did. We can introduce others to Christ, and we can fund mission works. We can do what Jesus described in Matthew 25:34-40:

“I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a wandering stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me.”

Paul wrote in Galatians 6:10, “As much as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” This is real Christianity, it is something we can all do, and we have biblical role models to follow.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Two Human Components of Spirit and Body

Two Human Components of Spirit and Body

Bible passages such as 1 Thessalonians 5:23 indicate that humans are both physical and spiritual. We consist of a physical nature (our bodies) and a spiritual nature (our spirit). The physical body makes sense, but how can we understand the spiritual? How can we have two human components of spirit and body?

In quantum mechanics, things like photons (light), electrons, protons, and neutrons are governed by principles that are very different from the familiar physical world. In some experiments, these subatomic particles behave like particles, but they act like waves in other experiments.

In 1924, French physicist Louis de Broglie introduced wave-particle duality. That is the idea that any matter, whatever its size, has an associated wavelength. Photons can knock electrons out of a material in the photoelectric effect used to generate electricity from light energy. That process requires light to have physical properties because only particles can move other particles. In a different experiment, photons show diffraction properties explainable only if photons are waves. Electrons produce the same effects as light, yet we can measure their mass. How can they be both particles and waves?

There is also a principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics. It tells us that the result of an observation is dependent on the focus of the observer. In other words, in experiments when our attention focuses on one variable, this precludes the simultaneous observation of its complement. Wave and particle-related properties are complementary variables. We can’t observe both at the same time.

The Bible presents the notion that body, soul, and spirit are not separate entities, but they are distinct dimensions of a person. Although we are one person, we understand that we have two human components of spirit and body. The presence of these dimensions means that we are capable of dual behavior.

Understanding quantum mechanics allows us to understand this duality. Ranjit Thuraisingham, a research scientist, describes it this way: “The science of quantum objects teaches us why we fail to discern this spiritual dimension in ourselves. In quantum objects, focusing only on one variable precludes the observation of the complementary variable. Thus, the absence of observing the spiritual is related to our focus solely on the material.”

In other words, we struggle with our spiritual nature because of our fixation with the material world in which we live. In Galatians 5:16-26, Paul distinguishes between the actions of the spirit and the flesh (body). The actions of the spirit include love, joy, and patience. The actions of the flesh are immorality, hatred, and envy. As in quantum mechanics, we can’t focus on one without losing sight of the other. When we understand the two human components of spirit and body, it becomes clear why our actions are not what they should be.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: “On the Duality of Human Nature and the Behavior of Quantum Particles” by Ranjit A. Thuraisingham

Ghosts Are Not Real

Ghosts Are Not Real

As we approach Halloween in America, some people ask, “Are ghosts real?” No, ghosts are not real, and there are natural explanations for the stories about ghosts.

The fall 2020 issue of Popular Science (pages 78-87) carried an article by Jake Bittle titled, “Why Do We See Ghosts?” The article explains some famous encounters with Ghosts throughout history starting in 1500 B.C. and including the Amityville haunting in the 1970s. Bittle points out that some people WANT to believe in ghosts and will interpret anything they don’t understand as the action of a ghost.

Those of us who have spent many nights sleeping on the ground have had the experience of hearing sounds in the dark that we cannot identify. When I was in the army, I spent much of my sleep time awake wondering whether the sound I heard came from a human or a natural object or animal–or my imagination. In ancient times, it could be essential to identify a sound you didn’t recognize so that you could avoid being eaten.

Several years ago, I attended a meeting of paranormal experts on the Queen Mary, a ship that some say is haunted. Our guide repeatedly saw ghosts and tried to convince us that they were real. In every case, there were natural explanations for what our guide saw or heard. Nobody in our group saw anything that could be called a ghost.

As technology has advanced, there have been many new ways to produce effects that people could interpret as ghosts. There also have been studies relating ghost sightings to drug use or mental illness. I have friends who had all kinds of ghost experiences when they were using LSD. In those cases, ghosts are not real, even though they seem real.

There is no biblical support for ghosts. Saul’s experience with the witch of Endor was a miraculous act of God that terrorized the witch ( See 1 Samuel 28:5-19). When people reject God, as Saul did, they are desperate to find spiritual guidance of some kind, and they often seek help from ghosts

There is no support for the existence of ghosts or their interaction with humans. In Mark 6:49, when Jesus came walking on the water, the disciples “SUPPOSED it had been a spirit,” but that is the only reference to ghosts in the New Testament.

God has promised us that we “will not be tempted above that which you are able to bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). The Bible tells us that we can find truth in God’s word and by looking at the world God has made (Romans 1:19– 20). We need to avoid wild stories and things like Ouija boards when making life decisions because they are products of human fantasy. Ghosts are not real.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

How We Use Our Money

How We Use Our Money - $32-million To buy a T. rex fossil?

One of the interesting things going on in the world today is how we use our money. The sale of a T. rex fossil is one example. The skeleton of a massive dinosaur can bring huge profits to the owner. Recently a 13-foot tall Tyrannosaurus rex fossil known as “Stan” was sold at Christie’s Auction House for $32,000,000. Most of us would wonder why anyone would spend that kind of money on a fossil? Sarah Rose Sharp gave a possible answer in Hyperallergic.com:

“And honestly, can we find a more contemporary symbol than a tyrant king who stomps on all other living things with no regard for propriety, before witnessing the extinction of his species based on natural science beyond his control?”

Daily we see reports of leaders in politics, media, and technology raking in vast amounts of money no matter who gets hurt in the process. Jesus dealt with this mindset in His day. The parable Jesus told in Luke 12:16-21 is a picture of what is happening today. We should heed His follow-up teaching in verses 22-34. The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:19-21 tell us what we should hold as important. Luke 18:10-14 demonstrates the attitude we should have.

The sale of a dinosaur fossil for massive amounts of money is just one more illustration of how we use our money and where we place our priorities.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Purple Dye and the Bible

Purple Dye and the Bible

The November/December 2020, issue of Archaeology, the journal of the Archaeological Institute of America, carried an interesting article titled “The Price of Purple.” It tells about an archaeological site known as Tel Shikmonan in northern Israel, where there is a very long history of securing purple dye for coloring textiles.

Textiles colored with purple dye were listed along with precious metals in trade and tax records indicating prestige and royal status. In Jesus’ time, Roman high officials wore distinctive purple togas. In Mark 15:17, Jesus was clothed in purple when the Romans wanted to portray Him as king of the Jews. In Luke 16:19, the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus was clothed in purple to indicate his status.

In the New Testament, we read the story of Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40). Paul had arrived in Philippi, which was a “chief city” of that part of Macedonia. There he met Lydia, who came from Thyatira, which was a city near Philippi. Lydia was a “seller of purple” (verse 14). Verse 15 tells us that she owned a house and other people lived in the house with her. Selling purple dye was a high scale business. A woman owning a home and having a household indicated wealth and prestige in the Roman culture. Verse 40 tells us that the Church was meeting in Lydia’s house.

Skeptics have attempted to deny this account, but excavation at Tel Shikmona has strongly supported the Bible. Tel Shikmona is located on the coast at the foot of Mount Carmel near the present-day port city of Haifa, Israel. The ocean is shallow and rocky at Tel Shikmona, and there are large populations of murex snails in those waters. Liquid extracted from the hypobranchial glands of murex sea snails formed the purple dye when treated with light or oxygen. The sea snails at Tel Shikmona can produce large quantities of the purple dye that stains textiles like no other known dye. People had ground up lapis lazuli, which we rock hounds know is a blue color, but it fades and was not as unique as the murex purple.

Joseph Elgavish excavated Tel Shikmona in the 1960s and found thousands of artifacts. Later excavations convinced archaeologists that this was an industrial site focused on the purple dye industry. Roman rulers starting with Julius Caesar (46-44 BC) and continuing through Nero (AD 54 – 68) had laws to fine anyone wearing murex purple without permission. So Lydia was indeed a special woman with connections and clout with people at the top of the social structure. These facts strongly support her ability to use her status to help Paul in his work at Philippi.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Benefits of Honey and the Bible

Benefits of Honey and the Bible

The Bible refers to the benefits of honey. In the Old Testament, the ideal place to live was “the land of milk and honey.” Proverbs 24:13 finds Solomon telling his son, “You should eat honey because it is good.” John the Baptist’s diet consisted of locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:4). It is important to note we are talking about natural, wild honey, not the processed honey with nutrients removed that you might find in your grocery store.

Skeptics will complain that honey is just sugar. Although it does have high sugar content in its 64 calories per tablespoon, wild honey is packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. The nutrients in the honey depend on where the bees gathered the nectar. The darker the color, the greater the antioxidant punch and benefits of honey. Dark honey has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-fungal properties.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for the fall and winter of 2020 has the following facts about the uses of dark, wild honey:

  1. A spoonful of honey will ease a nighttime cough and is an excellent antihistamine.
  2. A spoonful of honey at bedtime will cause a rise in insulin, which triggers a release of serotonin, which is converted to melatonin, a chemical that regulates sleep.
  3. A 2001 study published by the European Journal of Medical Research revealed that a honey solution in warm water applied to itchy areas of the scalp will reduce itching and scaling. It can also reduce skin lesions and hair loss.
  4. A dressing of honey with hydrogen peroxide applied to burns, scrapes, and wounds speeds up healing.

One word of caution–the American Academy of Pediatrics warns parents of children under the age of 12 months not to use honey on the child. Before their first birthday, their underdeveloped immune system cannot handle impurities that can get into the honey. 

The fact that ancient biblical characters ate honey, and even locusts, as a staple in their diet, is not a foolish error. We now know that eating some insects and honey can provide a very nutritious line of food. Only recently has modern science come to understand why the Bible references to the benefits of honey make sense.

— John N. Clayton © 2020