Psalms 22 – Inspiration or Coincidence?

Psalms 22 and the Crucifixion

One of the convincing arguments for the inspiration of the Bible is the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus that were fulfilled hundreds of years later. We see that evidenced in parallels between statements in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Psalms 22 is an example of this. Consider these statements:

STATEMENT FROM THE CROSS-

Psalms 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”

ATTITUDES AND WORDS OF THOSE WHO WITNESSED THE CRUCIFIXION-

Psalms 22:7, “All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads.”

Luke 23:10-39 describes those who mocked Christ: the religious leaders, the soldiers, and one of the criminals. Matthew 27:39-40 tells about the crowd mocking him.

Psalms 22:8, “He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

Matthew 27:43, “He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him.”

DESCRIPTIONS OF THE CRUCIFIXION-

Psalms 22:16, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.”

John 19:15-18 describes the crucifixion in the same way, and we know that in crucifixion, the Roman soldiers drove nails through the wrists and feet of the victim.

Psalms 22:17, “I can count my bones; people stare and gloat over me.

John 19:31-33 describes how the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to have Jesus’ legs broken to ensure his death. They didn’t do it because he was already dead, and they pierced his side to prove it. Zechariah 12:10 and Isaiah 53:5 predict the piercing of Jesus.

Psalms 22:18, “They divide my garments among them casting lots for my clothing.”

Matthew 27:35, “When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

No one contests the date of Psalms 22. It was not written after Jesus died. Some of these things, such as the actions of the Roman soldiers, were certainly not controlled by the early Christians or by Christ. How did the Psalmist get the facts right a thousand years before Christ? This is an apologetic for the validity of the Bible as God-given and not the work of humans.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

What Is Wrong With…?

What Is Wrong With...?

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.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Methodist Division and the Future of Religion in America

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 fundamental question is whether the culture of the day should decide the stance of the Church on moral issues. It seems that all of us who claim to be Christians should be guided by the teachings of Jesus Christ and the message of God, as expressed in the Bible. We cannot let the media, the entertainment business, and the commercial industry make moral decisions for us. The Methodists talk about traditionalists and progressives in their struggles with the LGBT issue. By traditionalists, they refer to the statement made in the 1970s, and by progressives, they mean “what is going on 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.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The picture is from babylonbee.com, a Christian satirical website. Their slogan is, “Fake News You Can Trust.” To read their satirical post about the Methodist division, click HERE.

Whom or What Do You Worship?

Whom or What Do You Worship?

Whom or What Do You Worship? For many people, the immediate reaction is to say something like, “I don’t worship anything. I am a self-made person.” A more degrading answer might be, “Worship is for sissies, and I don’t need that junk.” Webster’s dictionary defines worship as “rendering of homage to something or someone” or “rendering religious reverence to something or someone.” Worship is not confined to an activity done in a church building. Some people worship nature, some worship an experience, others worship celestial objects or animals, or even their job or their mate. God doesn’t need our worship. Worship is for our benefit, not God’s.

From a biblical perspective, there is an easy answer to why we do these things. God created us in His image, and God is a Spirit (Genesis 1:26-27 and John 4:24). We all have a spiritual component which is a part of our makeup. Romans 8:16 tells us, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Atheists have this spiritual makeup, and they express it in their obsessions in life. I have known atheists who worshipped sex or their material possessions or an activity like fishing. They would render homage to the object of their worship that would shame any preacher.

What is unique about Christian worship is that it can be controlled and directed to productive uses. Jesus warned his followers to avoid worshiping “the traditions of the elders” (See Mark 7:1-8). Paul reflected on the same idea in Colossians 2:8 warning about making philosophy the object of one’s worship. He goes on in verses 16-23 about making religious rules an object of worship. In Romans 1:25, Paul talks about “worshipping the things made instead of the maker.” Thus we must ask, “Whom or what do you worship?”

How we express the spiritual drive that is built into all of us is essential and within our control. To establish meaningful worship, 1 Timothy 4:12-13 and Hebrews 10:24-25 encourage reading and learning. James 1:27 points out that pure religion and worship comes in meeting the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. Our worship as Christians is not just a Sunday morning thing. Worship is a continual activity. Hebrews 13:15-16 talks about worship through voices. James 5:13 talks about personal prayer, and in Matthew 6:5-15, Jesus talks about private prayer worship as a part of daily life. Even giving is an act of worship, expressed in Hebrews 13:16, 2 Corinthians 9:7, and Acts 20:35.

Worship with the wrong attitude can be destructive, even for Churches. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-22, Paul says the worship of that congregation did more harm than good. Those with no relationship to God are likely to find whatever they worship is disappointing and unfulfilling. Learning to look to a higher power is widely recognized as a technique to help us find satisfaction and overcome problems in life. Ephesians 2:18 tells us that Christians have access to the Father. Worship in private and in corporate service can be a tool to bring us great satisfaction and solutions to the major problems of life.

Whom or what do you worship? Other worship alternatives don’t benefit the worshipper or anyone else in such profound ways as when we worship God.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christmas Card Picture

Christmas Card Picture

We have just finished the Christmas and New Year holiday, and Christmas cards are piled up on my desk. It isn’t that I have so many people who send me Christmas cards. Most of the cards are from organizations wanting a donation. They send a “gift” of a bunch of cards and hope it will shame me into giving to their cause. What is interesting to me is the Christmas card picture of baby Jesus in the manger.

I have Muslim and Buddhist friends who laugh at that Christmas card picture. Muhammad was an upper-class, wealthy military man who married into money and lived in comfortable conditions. Buddha was a Hindu prince who was not even allowed to see a diseased or suffering human. Sometime after the age of 29, he left the palace behind and became a wandering ascetic.

In contrast to these founders of major faiths, Jesus Christ was born in a town in which He was an alien. He grew up in Nazareth, a low-class village in the occupied territory of Galilee. (See John 1:46.) When you read passages like Matthew 5:41, you realize how much Rome controlled everything. John 19:10 points out that the Romans knew they had control. Christ had no political power and no army. He was born an “illegitimate child” to a mother who left town when she realized she was pregnant. (See Luke 1:38-39.) People wondered why Jesus spent His time with the poor, despised, and downtrodden. (See Matthew 9:11-13.) Unlike Mohammed or Buddha, Jesus came into a world of misery, war, prejudice, pain, strife, and violence and did not associate with political leaders or the social elite.

Because of the birth and upbringing of Jesus, people were amazed at His teaching. (See Matthew 7:28-29.) It is also because of the background of His life that we cannot have a problem that Jesus doesn’t understand. He had no money – only his cloak. He was “born on the wrong side of the tracks.” He was born an “illegitimate child.” Unlike followers of all other faiths on Earth, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are – yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

I have seen mangers. They are dirty with mouth slime from cattle plus insects and worms and unprotected from the elements. The sterile, clean, neat, ordered Christmas card picture is not reality. However, but it can remind us of how God in His wisdom provides for us and understands our needs. The birth and upbringing of Christ provide an apologetic for the validity of Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Jesus Christ an Agent of Change

Jesus Christ an Agent of Change for the New Year 2020

We are about to begin the third decade of the 21st century, and we can sum up the message of the century with the word “change.” We tend to fight change. I have an older friend who says that he has seen a lot of changes in America and he’s been opposed to every one of them. He is also an atheist. When I pointed out to him that Jesus Christ was an agent of change and Christianity is a religion of change, he asked me to explain that. Let me point out five reasons.

#1) The Bible we use is the NEW Testament. Jesus used that term repeatedly using the Greek word “kaimos” meaning new, fresh, recent. (See Matthew 26:28, Mark 14:24 and Luke 22:20).

#2) Newness means giving up old ways that either didn’t work or have quit working. Jesus Christ was an agent of change as He consistently gave new and better answers to old ways. In Mark 10:4, some Pharisees asked Jesus about the law of Moses, which allowed a man to divorce his wife for virtually any reason. This made women the property of their husbands. Jesus gave a new perspective on this whole issue by saying, “A man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two of them shall become one, so then they are not two but one. What, therefore, God has joined together, let no man tear asunder.” This is not a sexual reference, and it made women partners, not property, and radically changed the view of women to a new and critical role. (See Genesis 2:24.)

#3) Newness in Christianity knocked down old prejudices and racial issues, making the walls that divide people non-existent. Galatians 3:28 expresses this new concept beautifully, saying, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” All of this newness was very hard for the religious and political establishment of Jesus’ day to accept, and it is still hard for many today.

#4) Newness involves changing. Christianity is not legalistic and is not run by a bunch of laws. Paul says it well in 2 Corinthians 3:6: “Christ has made us ministers of the New Testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.” Hebrews 10:20 talks about Christianity being a new a living way and Hebrews 8:8-12 puts to rest animal sacrifice and other ineffective practices of the past.

#5) Jesus Christ is an agent of change because He has given us a new commandment that replaces the old ways. John tells about it in 2 John 5. Over and over, Jesus talked about love in a way peculiar to Christ, using the Greek word “agapao to describe how the new way of life should function. All of Matthew 5 – 7 emphasizes this new way of living.

People rejected the newness that Jesus brought then, and people fight it now. The fact remains that Jesus Christ is an agent of change, and in Him, all things are made new. (See 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:24.) As you celebrate the start of a new year, let us urge you to become a new person. Be born again and live in the newness that “looks for new heavens and a new earth” ( 2 Peter 3:13). Ultimately we look forward to the joy of having the best new existence that we can imagine. (See Revelation 21:4-5.) HAPPY NEW YEAR !!

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Confusing Bible and Traditions at Christmas

Confusing Bible and Traditions at Christmas

Every year around Christmas and Easter, various secular publications and websites carry articles that are critical of Jesus and the Bible. This year LiveScience.com published a page questioning, “How Much of the Nativity Story is True?” Often articles like this make the mistake of confusing Bible and traditions. This one is no exception.

The article begins by quoting Brent Landau, whom they refer to as “a religious studies scholar at the University of Texas at Austin.” Landau says, “My overall take on this, which would be the opinion of most other biblical scholars as well, is that there is very little in the Christmas story of the Gospels that is historically reliable.” Mr. Landau is not only stating that the “Gospels” are historically unreliable, but he is going farther by asserting that “most other biblical scholars” agree with that! His statement is inaccurate on both counts.

We have many times before dealt with the historical accuracy of the Gospels and the Bible as a whole in our publications, videos, and websites. Most biblical scholars would NOT agree that there is “very little in the Christmas story of the Gospels that is historically unreliable.” Actually, there is very little of the “Christmas story” in the Gospels. The story has been embellished by traditions resulting in people confusing Bible and traditions. Only Matthew and Luke say anything about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, and their accounts are brief. Most of the gospel narratives tell of the ministry and teaching of Jesus leading up to His sacrifice and resurrection, which is much more important than details of His birth.

To provide some balance, the article also quotes Ben Witherington III, a well-known New Testament scholar who teaches at Asbury Theological Seminary. Witherington is author of more than 30 books and is a strong advocate for the accuracy of the Scriptures. He points out that we should apply the same principles of historical investigation to the Bible as we do to the records of other ancient historical events such as Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. As we have pointed out before, the historical evidence for the biblical events is better supported by documentary evidence than any other event of ancient history.

However, as we said, secular writers often make the mistake of confusing Bible and traditions. The article talks about December 25 not being Christ’s birthday. Of course, it isn’t. The Bible doesn’t give a date for His birth, but it was most likely in the spring. The article also says, “Most scholars agree that Jesus wasn’t born in A.D. 1.” That is true also, but that doesn’t mean the Bible is wrong. No year of His birth can be found in the Bible, but the Scripture does connect it with the reign of Herod the Great. In fact, shouldn’t Jesus have been born in 0 A.D? The A.D. And B.C. designations were assigned years later after people came to understand the importance of His birth.

When Jesus was born in a stable in Bethlehem to a humble couple from the backwater town of Nazareth, only a few shepherds recognized the significance. Herod was the powerful ruler building monuments to himself. Today, Herod’s structures are in ruins, and nobody bases their calendar on his birthday. By contrast, our calendars remind us of the (approximate) date of Jesus’ birth, and the Church that He established is a monument to His love and sacrifice. The Gospel accounts meet the standards of historical integrity when we avoid confusing Bible and traditions.

— Roland Earnst © 2019

Christmas Traditions and the Bible

Christmas Traditions and the Bible

When I was an atheist, this time of year used to drive me nuts. There was so much about the story of the birth of Jesus that didn’t make sense. I viewed Christmas as a classic demonstration of the foolishness of Christians who would believe any myth that came along. I was confusing Christmas traditions and the Bible.

Then I started actually studying the Bible with the stated intent to prove it wrong. I soon discovered that what I objected to was human traditions and not mistakes in the Bible. Studying Matthew 1:18-2:23 and Luke 2:1-20 told a whole different story than what I saw on TV shows and Christmas cards. Here are some of my confusions that the Bible resolved:

How could a star stand over the place where the baby was? The closest star to Earth is 4.3 light-years away and shines on the whole planet, not a single place. The Bible does not indicate a celestial star. Herod couldn’t see the star and charged the “wise men” to tell him where the baby was. The biblical concept of this kind of celestial object was what is called the Shekinah glory. It is used frequently in the Bible, especially during the Israelite journey in the wilderness. See Exodus 13:21, 24:17, 40:38 and Ezekiel 1:28, 10:18, 11:23, 43:2.

No “Three Kings” would make such a journey to honor anything. Here again, there is a difference between Christmas traditions and the Bible. Matthew indicates they came from the east, and the word used to describe them is “magos,” from which we get our word “magician.” Luke uses the same word to describe a sorcerer in Acts 13:6-8. They were astrologers from Persia or Arabia, and the Bible doesn’t tell us how many there were. It only mentions three gifts. These three individuals arrived first in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. The Bible doesn’t tell us when they arrived at the location of the child Jesus.

The Bible also doesn’t name the magi, but their traditional names and descriptions are highly symbolic. Tradition describes Melchoir as old, white-haired, and he brought gold – a gift usually reserved for kings. Gaspar, who was young and beardless, brought frankincense – a fragrant gum resin which was often burned to give a balsam odor which symbolized God’s people ascending to heaven. Balthazar, who was black, had a heavy beard and brought myrrh. Myrrh was a fragrant resin from Arabia, frequently used as an embalming material. (See John 19:39.) None of these names and descriptions are in the Bible – it is all tradition.

The “Christmas story” stated in the Bible is credibly simple. The traditions are not, but they are just traditions invented by humans. It took me many years to realize the difference between Christmas traditions and the Bible. Many times there is a vast difference between what the Bible says and what humans say it says.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Power of Faith and Love

Power of Faith and Love

In my atheist days, I ridiculed religious people for believing something that has no power. I didn’t realize the power of faith and love.

“What good does being a Christian do you that I can’t get at my local bar or club?” That was my challenge. I said that I could have fellowship and share love and material blessings without going to church. I pointed out with some validity that going to church is similar to being a member of a country club. I pay my dues and enjoy certain privileges to be a member of the club. For many church attenders, their contribution is their dues, and they get to go to social events and have some name recognition.

This distorted view of Christianity misses the point at many levels. The Church is not a social club, but a service organization. People in the Church serve the community. They provide relief, take care of the sick, educate children, and support good causes.

Even more important is the power of faith that comes by having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus states things in Matthew 5-7 which are ludicrous to an atheist. How can a rational person love those who hate them (Matthew 5:44)? What is the logic of turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)? How can anyone be willing to go the second mile (Matthew 5:41)?

To answer the atheist challenge, just ask what is causing the problems for most people living in 21st century America. Why do we have such a high suicide rate? Why is drug usage high and growing? What causes so many people to struggle with depression? It isn’t physical needs that are the most significant problem. It is emotional and spiritual ills that push people into behaviors that sometimes take their lives.

Paul describes the power of faith expressed in love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-5. People of faith understand the love which surpasses physical needs. “Love is patient and kind: love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing or keep a record of wrongs but rejoices in the truth… Love never ends.”

There is even a particular Greek word “agapao” to describe that kind of love. It’s a love that fulfills the emotional and spiritual needs that we all have, and God’s Spirit brings that love to life in us. The power of faith is available to anyone who will seek it.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Christians and Politics

Christians and Politics

We live in a difficult time for the United States. Not only is the country divided, but the political leaders on all sides embrace moral decisions that fly in the face of how Christ taught us to live. We are concerned about issues regarding Christians and politics.

It is not a new thing for political leaders to clash with good morals. In Luke 3:18-20, we read that Herod the tetrarch imprisoned John the Baptist when he spoke out about Herod’s evil actions with his brother’s wife. (See Luke 3:18-20.) The enemies of Christ tried to get him in trouble by saying the He was opposed to Caesar and the Roman authorities. Today it is likely that someone speaking against the immoral practices of politicians may suffer consequences. Our courts now endorse immoral practices.

In spite of John’s imprisonment and execution by a Roman leader, Jesus told his followers to pay taxes. He said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Today, some religious leaders have gotten involved in politics to the extent of telling their followers how to vote. What is the proper relationship between Christians and politics?

Paul addresses that question in Romans 13. In verses 1 and 2 he tells us that God has instituted governing authorities and that Christians should be subject to them. In verses 3-5, he wrote that rulers are servants of God. The next two verses tell Christians to pay taxes and give respect and give honor to authorities. Paul wrote this to people living in a pagan, violent, immoral political system. Starting with verse 8, Paul talks about what Christians should be doing that was in contrast to the political system of his day.

God instituted civil law to provide order in the human community. Even the most corrupt politician does not want the culture he rules to be dominated by murder, violence, and anarchy. The Ten Commandments provide the structure we need for order in society. As humans have strayed from God, they still need order and structure. Even when the agents of this order and structure are corrupt, they still provide a framework in which people can live. As far as Christians and politics, we are not called to make a political agenda our number-one priority. Romans 13 ends with Paul saying, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Whatever you do politically, let your Christian values guide it. The wall of separation we need to be concerned about is the wall between walking in the light and walking in darkness. (See 1 John 1.)

— John N. Clayton © 2019