Death and Taxes

Death and TaxesYou have heard it said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. There is no escaping death for everyone and everything.

The second law of thermodynamics tells us everything in the universe is becoming disordered. The disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself, not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you spend your life doing good and helping others, those you helped will also die, and the monuments you built will crumble. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God has entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How is it possible to live beyond death? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter, and energy. Those things do not limit Him because He created them. The second law of thermodynamics does not apply to God. He does not get old or die. The Bible tells us that because of God’s love and grace, you have the choice to believe and accept and live with God in a new creation. Yes, you can live beyond death and taxes. The choice is yours.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Joy of Motherhood

Joy of MotherhoodI would like to be a mother. I can’t imagine the joy of motherhood bringing a new life into the world, nurturing that child and watching her or him grow into a productive adult. I want to be a mother very badly, but I don’t have the equipment to do that.

Yesterday we talked about how atheists and feminists try to vilify Christ and Christianity by suggesting that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens. However, Christ and His apostles treated women as equals. (See John 4 and Galatians 3:26-29.) The passage the atheists point out is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. That passage tells us that women can be saved in childbirth. In other words that role is so important that being a mother can be an opportunity to fulfill an incredible role that God has made available. Women don’t have to accept that role, but it is available. No matter how badly I want to be a mother, it simply isn’t possible.

A woman can accept the role of being a mother, but men have no way to choose that role. In the spiritual realm, God has given men a role. Just like the baseball team, having the male lead the family spiritually doesn’t diminish the value of a woman any more than being a first baseman diminishes the value of a catcher. A woman’s worth is not diminished by allowing her husband to fulfill his role as a leader in worship.

Unfortunately, most men are not up to fulfilling the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. Frequently women have to step in and help when the male refuses or is unable to fill the role. A first baseman can fill in for a catcher, but that is certainly not the way the roles are assigned or work their best.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31, Acts 16:14-15, 40, Acts 21:8-9 and Acts 2:17-18. Look at Ephesians 5:25-28 and consider God’s plan for both men and women. Christianity has elevated women and provided a basis for gender equality. Equality does not mean sameness, and we should thank God for the special design He has built into men and women to allow them to have meaningful roles producing happy and fulfilling lives – including the joy of motherhood.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Women and Motherhood

Women and MotherhoodTomorrow is “Mother’s Day,” and we have some thoughts on women and motherhood.

We are seeing a new aggressiveness on the part of atheists and feminists to vilify Christ and Christianity. Feminists take passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to suggest that Christians make women second class citizens. Atheist speakers like Richard Dawkins attack the Bible saying it is one of the most misogynistic (hating women) books ever written. The truth is that Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles were centuries ahead of the secular world in treating and presenting women as equal to men in every way.

It is essential to look at the example that Jesus set in his interactions with women, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4. There was great animosity between the Jewish culture and the Samaritans. John 4:9 reminds us of this when Jesus speaks to the woman, and she responds, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” She is both a hated Samaritan and a woman who in that misogynistic culture was indeed a second class citizen. The passage even adds, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” When the disciples of Jesus show up in verse 27 “they marveled that He talked with the woman.” Jesus not only talks with her, but He stays in the Samaritan city for two days.

Jesus treated women as equals, and they worked with Him in His ministry. (See Luke 8:1-4.) The Apostles taught that men and women were equals. Galatians 3:26-29 tells the Christians of their day and ours, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 has to do with roles. We need to understand that equality does not mean sameness. As an example, is everyone on a baseball team equal? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “Yes, they are equal.” The catcher has a different role than the pitcher, and the first baseman is different from either of them. They are all essential and equal. They have different roles and even different equipment, but all of them are critical to the success of the team.

As we have said before, there are no second-class citizens in the Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. I will have more to say about women and motherhood tomorrow on Mother’s Day.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!

Religion Causes Wars – Or Not!Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.

Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?

Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.

I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.

The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”

Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.

So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.

What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?

The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Why We Need Christmas

Why We Need Christmas
Why do we need Christmas? That’s a question worth asking. Many people dislike Christmas for various reasons, and some are good. I have some reasons why we need Christmas.

First, for those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere, Christmas comes at the time of the winter solstice when daylight seems much too short. Christmas serves to cheer us up and get us through those winter doldrums. That leads to a second reason–the decorations and especially the lights which bring beauty and cheer, even on those cold, dark days.

A third reason is the emphasis on family at Christmas. It seems that everyone wants to spend time with family and those we love as we carry on the Christmas traditions we enjoy. Related to that is the fourth reason, and that is giving. We enjoy giving to others. Jesus said there is more joy in giving than in receiving (Acts 20:35). We naturally tend to want others to give to us. But when we give to others, we learn the truth of what Jesus said.

Reason number five relates to giving. God’s love for us prompted Him to give the greatest gift of all. God became a flesh-and-blood person and lived among us (John 1:14). The greatest reason why we need Christmas is to remind us of the gift God gave to us. He came to show us how to live and to give himself for us. If we could all accept the gift Jesus offers and follow His teaching and example, the joy of Christmas would last all year long.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Know the Meaning of Life

Know the Meaning of Life
It was a study using scientific methods to determine what category of people are the most content with life. The research involved compiling the results of five different psychological studies of more than 50,000 individuals completed between 1981 and 2017. The journal Social Psychological and Personality Science published a report of the final result in June 2018. The happiest group are those who know the meaning of life.

A team of psychologists from the University of Southern California conducted the study. They concentrated on the political views of the test subjects, looking to see whether they were liberal or conservative. The conservatives consistently were the happiest, and they more often claimed to know the meaning of life. The media reported this as a “happiness gap” between liberals and conservative.

This study concentrated on political viewpoints, but when the researchers adjusted their model to remove “religious attendance” from the equation, the conservatives were still happier and found more purpose in life than liberals did. However, they found that the people who were pro-life and did not support same-sex marriage (which would include most conservative Christians) were more likely to believe that life has meaning and purpose. (After all, why would someone who believes there is a purpose in life not be pro-life?)

The author of the new study, David Newman, said, “Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be and that there is a sense of order. If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful.”

Christians believe that there is order because God created an orderly universe. We believe that chaos is the result of sin. We also believe that God created us for a purpose and no matter what happens in this life, God loves us and has something better waiting for us. Our hope is in Christ, and nothing in this life can take away the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The scientists attempted to remove the God factor by taking “religious attendance” out of the equation. Perhaps they didn’t realize that attendance at some kind of religious gathering is not what makes a person a true Christian. The accurate measure of a Christian life is allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord. When Christ is at the center of our being, and we live by faith, we will have contentment, and we will know the meaning of life.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Oldest Living Person Is Muslim Woman

Oldest Living Person is a Muslim Woman
One thing you learn when you live past 80 years is that old age isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Week (June 1, 2018, page 10), reported that the oldest living person is Koku Istambulova. According to her passport, she is 129 years old. She is a Muslim woman living by strict Islamic codes in Chechnya.

Istambulova doesn’t view long life as a blessing. She says “I have not had a single happy day in my life. Long life is not at all God’s gift for me, but a punishment.” Istambulova saw Nazi tanks, Stalin’s deportation, and the death of all of her children. Her faith is one of strict rules and regulations with very legalistic guides for life. As a Muslim woman, the role she was forced into is very restrictive.

So the oldest living person says she has had a life of misery. It is important to note that the things that made Istambulova’s life miserable were the violent acts of humans and the legalism of man-made religion. Those factors contributed to her misery instead of addressing it and solving it.

In contrast to Istambulova’s situation, Christ came to eliminate the things that bring misery in life. Istambulova never knew the peace, love, family, and joy of being free from the legalistic human rules based on race or sex. Galatians 3:26-4:7 presents a contrast to legalism and the misery that human sin and legalistic religions bring. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Can Death Be Conquered?

Can Death Be Conquered?
Some people say that nothing is certain except death and taxes. The truth is that only one of those things is certain. Not only will every one of us die, but every government that collects taxes will also die. It’s a scientific fact that all things, even the universe itself, will come to an end. Can death be conquered?

There is no escaping physical death for everyone and everything. Since we are limited to the dimension of time, and since there is such a thing as the Second Law of Thermodynamics, disorder will eventually catch up with us and with everything else. Our vehicles wear out. Our clothing wears out. Our bodies wear out. Even the Sun and all of the other stars will wear out.

If you spend your life getting all you can for yourself not caring whom you hurt in the process, you will not take your riches with you. If you devote your life to studying science and adding to the database of human knowledge, that too will go away. If all things in the universe, including humans, are merely accidents of chance, we ultimately have no purpose, no value, and no hope.

If you have read this far, you may be feeling depressed, but I have good news. There is a God who created the universe, and you, for a purpose. Yes, your body will die, and even the universe will die. But by God’s grace, you can choose to live on. God entered the time dimension in human form and conquered death for us. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, though they die, yet shall they live.”

How can death be conquered? In the beginning, God created time and space, matter and energy. Since He created those things, God is not limited by them. God had no beginning, and He will have no end. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus demonstrated God’s love and grace and His power over death. Because of that, you have the choice to believe and accept and live on beyond the universe. “Death has been swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54).
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Names for God

Names for God
We have received a number of emails asking why we use various names for God and for Christ. Different translations of the Bible also vary in their use of names. I suspect God is more concerned about how we follow His instructions for living than which of the respectful names for God we use.

David Thurman wrote an excellent article on this subject in his column in Gospel Minutes for March 23, 2018:

“God said to Moses, ”I AM WHO I AM’; and he said, thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14). The name of God is “I Am.” The Jews used the letters YHWH to spell this name. In ancient Hebrew, there were no vowels, so when reading Hebrew in ancient times, the reader had to provide the vowels. Over time, the Jews would not pronounce the name of God, afraid that in doing so they would be taking His name in vain. So, they substituted another word, Adonai (meaning Lord) when they spoke Yhwh out loud. Most scholars today believe Yahweh is the closest we can come to “I AM” from the ancient texts. It was later, in the 6th century that scholars of that time inserted the vowels from Adonai into Yhwh. That resulted in an Aramaic version that was later translated into Latin and then English as “Jehovah.” To this day the original vowels are still unknown. All we know for certain is that God’s personal name was Yhwh. Some insert vowels to make it Yahweh, others, Jehovah, depending on which version of the Bible you use. Either is acceptable as long as we use it with honor and reverence to the Lord.”

“Yeshua” is simply the Hebrew word we translate into English as Joshua. It means “salvation is of the Lord.” The Greek (and English) form of this word is “Jesus.” That is why God told Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus received His name because He was Savior. If you use “Yeshua” to refer to Jesus, you are simply using the Hebrew form of His name. If you call Him “Jesus” you are simply using the Greek and English form of His name. Both are right and apply equally to Lord Jesus.

The Bible in its various translations used various names for God and for God in the flesh. The important thing is that we always use God’s name in a respectful way.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Donkeys and Horses

Donkey and Horse
There are many obvious physical similarities between donkeys and horses. In their actions, they are very different.

Horses were first domesticated about 4,000 B.C. A horse can carry a rider into or out of a battle with speed and grace. A horse and its rider form a partnership of mutual trust. With a trusted rider on its back, a horse will charge ahead into the danger of a rugged course or a heated battle. Horses have been used in warfare for thousands of years.

Donkeys were domesticated around 3,000 B.C. While a horse can be fearless, a donkey has a much stronger sense of self-preservation. The unwillingness of donkeys to go into dangerous situations has given them a probably undeserved reputation for being stubborn. Donkeys don’t connect with their human riders in the way that horses do. That lack of mutual connection is a major factor in the reason why warriors have never ridden into battle on donkeys. Riding into confrontation on a donkey would indicate surrender.The use of donkeys in warfare has been limited to carrying supplies and carrying the wounded away from the battle.

So donkeys and horses are physically similar, and studies have not indicated a strong difference in intelligence between these animals. The difference between them seems to be in the way they are programmed in their DNA. The Creator understood that and chose a donkey to ride into Jerusalem as Jesus became the sacrificial fulfillment of the Passover Lamb in Matthew 21:1-5. In the final battle when the power of evil is destroyed forever, Revelation 19:11-16 describes Him riding on a horse. It’s easy to see that the donkey is used by the Suffering Servant and the horse is used by the Conquering King.
–Roland Earnst © 2018