Some Questions Mortals Cannot Answer

Some Questions Mortals Cannot Answer

In a group discussion recently, a person asked why God instructs babies to be baptized. That led to a series of questions from the group about things such as why God has angels and whether or not angels can sin. Many questions like these are based on misunderstandings. The Bible gives us guidelines and some help in understanding, but we are not God and don’t speak for God. There are some questions mortals cannot answer.

However, the question about infant baptism is a failure to understand the purpose of baptism. No Bible passage tells anyone to baptize babies. Acts 2:38-41 says that the purpose of baptism is “for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” According to tradition, the purpose of infant baptism is to forgive “original sin.” The Bible does not tell us that we inherit the sin of Adam and Eve or our relatives. Acts 2:40 tells us that baptism is to “save yourselves.” It is not to free ourselves from previous sins by someone else.

Our concept of angels is often rooted in traditional artistic pictures. According to the Bible, angels are God’s messengers and workers. They are not physical beings but can temporarily appear in the physical world to accomplish God’s purposes. For example, in the Old Testament, they announce to Abraham that Sarah will bear a son (Genesis 18), visit Lot in Sodom (Genesis 19), wrestle with Jacob (Genesis 32:24-29), and speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:28-33).

Angels are outside of our time dimension, so they cannot die or repent because those things depend on time. They also do not act in a way that deprives humans of the capacity to make their own choices. When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would be the mother of the Son of God, she willingly replied, “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Turning angels into human-like vehicles that take away the free moral choices of humans is a misunderstanding and distortion of God’s Word. There are some questions mortals cannot answer, but even though we may not have all the answers to why God does things, we know that God is God, and He has a purpose in all He does.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Syphilis Epidemic and Its Costs

Syphilis Epidemic and Its Costs

When people fail to follow God’s rules for sexual behavior, the result is always pain and suffering for themselves and collateral damage for innocent people. The clearest case in the United States is Nevada, which had a 44% jump in congenital syphilis from 2021 to 2022. The largest growth in adult syphilis cases has been in gay men having sex with men. This amounts to a syphilis epidemic.

In 2021, there were 77.9 cases of congenital syphilis per 100,000 live births. The problems documented in these cases included blindness, bone damage, and stillbirths. In many cases, the mother did not know she had syphilis until it showed up in her baby. Mississippi and Arizona had the nation’s highest rates of syphilis infections, with Arizona having the highest rate of birth defects – 232.3 cases per 100,000 live births.

The damage syphilis does to adults is less severe than infants, but we are all financially affected by this problem. The data on the financial cost in various states is astounding. The money came mainly from the federal government to combat sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), with Louisiana receiving 8.6 million dollars, Mississippi 9 million, and Houston slated to receive 10.7 million.

The real beauty and value of sex are lost when the sex industry takes over or when it becomes a recreational activity. The biblical concept of the sexual relationship is to form a unique bond between husband and wife, with each partner being concerned about the well-being of the other. Abandoning God’s plan leads to a syphilis epidemic as well as other STDs. In 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 Paul writes:

“Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have sole authority over her own person, for she belongs to her husband, and likewise also the husband does not have power of his own body, but the wife. Do not withhold sexual intercourse from one another unless it is only temporary and by mutual consent so that your minds can be free for prayer, but afterward you should resume relations as before lest through your fleshly passions Satan should tempt you to sin.”

The pain of misusing sex is massive in our society today. As people drift further from God and the teaching of His Word, the syphilis epidemic will only get worse, and the cost in dollars and misery will increase.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: South Bend Tribune/Associated Press by Kenya Hunter, October 10, 2023.

Demonstrate Our Thankfulness

Demonstrate Our Thankfulness by feeding the hungry

Last week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving Day. I couldn’t help but think how blessed I am to live in the United States of America, where we have so much while people in many countries are born into poverty and turmoil. As Christians, we should demonstrate our thankfulness by our actions.

We spent the holiday in Texas with my daughters and our grandchildren. Living in Michigan and being able to travel to Texas impressed upon me the affluence that exists in some parts of our country compared to the circumstances in some other countries. One of my daughters lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, where there are groups of people living in what we call poverty.

We went by one of the churches in that impoverished area, where they conduct a ministry to feed those who don’t have enough to eat. Laid out on eight-foot tables were trays of whole turkey meat, stuffing, yams, green beans, and pies. A sign above the tables read, “No questions asked; come and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal from your Christian friends.” The reason for “no questions asked” is that most of those living in the area are illegal immigrants who have come to America with nothing but what they have on their backs.

I am involved with several Christian organizations that provide food and water to needy people in African countries. They have pictures of emaciated children holding a leaf, which is all the food they will have for that day. The Carter Foundation, begun by Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, has been drilling wells and providing medical help to people suffering from dirty water and unsanitary food. The Carters make it clear that their work is because of their Christian faith.

Jesus answered the question of who has truth and who does not by telling His followers, “By their fruits you shall know them.” I don’t see atheist organizations or skeptical groups supplying food for needy people. I have seen these groups push for social rights, but the basic need of most people on planet Earth is food and water. Atheists and skeptics are concerned with racism and various human rights, as we all are, while doing nothing to address the fundamental needs of most people.

I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and that you are genuinely thankful. Having an attitude of gratitude is fundamental to being a Christian. Seeing and acting on the needs of the less fortunate is a way to demonstrate our thankfulness.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Thankfulness Separates Us from the Animals

Thankfulness Separates Us from the Animals

As we celebrate a day of Thanksgiving in the United States, we are thankful to God for the blessings He gives us each day. Today, we want to share some links from the past that remind us of what Thanksgiving is all about:

Thankfulness separates us from the animals.

Thankfulness brings joy.

Gratitude is a Christian attitude.

Even in times of unrest, we have much to be thankful for. Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of Thanksgiving during the Civil War.

Thanksgiving syzygy encourages us to count our blessings.

We hope you will take time to thank God for His blessings as you express your love and gratitude to others who bless your life. We are thankful for our followers like you. Remember that thankfulness separates us from the animals and shows that we are created in God’s image.

— Roland Earnst © 2023

The Purpose for the Cosmos

The Purpose for the Cosmos

Scientists and philosophers speculate on the question, “Why Is There Something Instead of Nothing?” The question is why our solar system exists and why there should be countless galaxies other than our Milky Way. Part of this question no one can answer, at least not at the present time. What is the purpose for the cosmos?

Is there intelligent life in any of the other solar systems? We can’t answer that question yet. However, if God’s purpose in creating the physical world in which we live is to advance the battle between good and evil, would He also do that in other places? Isaiah 55:8-9 challenges us to understand that God is not limited to our capacity to think and understand. In that passage, God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways … For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Science fiction writers have created a whole industry on the assumption that the war between good and evil is ongoing and not limited to the planet on which we live.

A theologian may object to the possibility of other planets with intelligent life, saying, “So you think that Jesus died more than once and experienced more than one resurrection?” The answer to that is “no.” The biblical account is limited to planet Earth. However, many years ago, on a Larry King talk show with an atheist, a caller asked the atheist, “What would you do if a spaceship landed on the White House lawn and a little green man jumped out with a Bible in his hand and said, ‘Has Jesus been here yet?'” My atheist opponent smiled and said, “Punt.”

God may provide a different means for the battle between good and evil than what we see on planet Earth. The point is that there is a purpose for our existence and a purpose for the cosmos. God may use other places and methods to carry out that battle. On a cosmic level, the atheist has no purpose for existing.

Another point we must consider about why the universe exists is that all we see in the cosmos may simply be the result of the creation of time, space, and energy in the beginning. We now understand that the “big bang” singularity was not just a physical process. God created time and space, and matter-energy was engrained in the fabric of space. For us humans, limited to our five senses and able only to comprehend the changes in our physical world, the purpose for the cosmos is beyond our current understanding.

Recent advances in quantum mechanics have shown that time did have a beginning and that the fabric of space contains all the residual matter produced by the creation process. God was not just concerned about the scientifically ignorant population of the days of Moses and Christ. God knew that humans would eventually come to understand the creation process to such an extent that we could see evidence of God’s hand in the cosmos. As God’s ultimate creation, it makes sense that humans would seek to know the purpose for the cosmos.

We suggest that what makes humans unique and special is our spiritual makeup, being created in the image of God. Our physical qualities are of secondary importance. The whole message of the cosmos is that God is a God of incredible power, wisdom, and purpose. The universe radiates that, and the more we see of the creation, the more we understand of its Creator.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia

Alzheimer’s and Other Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association reported that between 2000 and 2019, deaths from Alzheimer’s disease increased by 145%. More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and the disease kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, and in 2023, Alzheimer’s will cost the nation 345 billion dollars. Eleven million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. 

These numbers highlight what many of us already know, that Alzheimer’s and other dementia issues are a major problem in America today. By 2050, experts predict the cost will reach the trillion-dollar figure. Medical science is making great strides to find answers for this issue, but how to care for people with Alzheimer’s is a significant problem now. 

I recently read about a man whose wife was in an Alzheimer’s care unit in the advanced stage of that terrible disease. She didn’t know who she was or who he was or recognize any of her kids or friends. Despite that, this man arrived at the facility every morning to get his wife out of bed, wash her face, comb her hair, dress her, and ensure she ate breakfast. One of the nurses in the facility asked the man, “Why do you come every morning and do this? She doesn’t know who you are or understand what you have done for her. She doesn’t know that you are her husband.” The man responded, “No, she doesn’t know any of that, but I know she is my wife.”

This story is not unusual for a Christian who values marriage as a creation of God. However, I have visited Alzheimer’s care facilities where the person was deposited and rarely, if ever, visited. I know there are times when a caregiver is physically unable to meet the needs of a patient with Alzheimer’s and other dementia at home.

 Any disease of nerve cells has tremendous consequences for the victim. God did not create this disease, and medical science is still searching for the cause. Those who reject Christianity or promote a “survival of the fittest” belief system will side with Dr. Peter Singer, the Decamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, who claims that euthanasia is the only answer. 

Jesus said, “By their fruits, you will know them,” and we praise those who are caring for someone wrestling with Alzheimer’s or any form of dementia. God’s blessings will be upon you. Jesus also said, “Come you who are blessed … I was sick, and you looked after me …whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:34-40). 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Alzheimer’s Association

Tragedies Do Not Disprove God

Tragedies Do Not Disprove God - Megan Rapinoe
Megan Rapinoe

On Saturday, November 11, U. S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe had a career-ending injury. Only six minutes into the National Women’s Soccer League Championship, Rapinoe tore her Achilles tendon, putting her out of the game. She used the occasion to express her lack of belief in God. The truth is that tragedies do not disprove God.

In the post-match press conference, Rapinoe said, “I’m not a religious person or anything, and if there was a god, like, this is proof that there isn’t.” She then went on to express her feelings in profanity. Rapinoe admitted that she was not a believer before the accident. But I would ask, what does this accident have to do with God’s existence? Tragedies do not disprove God.

When we read the book of Job, we see the tendency of people to think that when something terrible happens, it means that person has done something bad and God is punishing them. The opposite of that is believing that if something good happens to us, we must have done something good to deserve it. Both concepts are false, contrary to Biblical teaching, and illogical.

Jesus clearly said that His followers would suffer for doing good. Paul suffered for presenting the gospel message of love and hope to a world that needed to hear it. James said, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

When things go wrong, people often blame God. Some turn away from God, and others turn to God. Turning away from God is turning away from hope. Seeking God in times of trouble brings hope and, as James tells us, develops patience. Tragedies do not disprove God. They have nothing to do with God’s existence, and rejecting God because of disasters provides no hope. Placing our faith in God in difficult times gives us a source of hope and comfort.

Rapinoe expressed her confused perspective when she went on to say, “Thank God I have a (expletive deleted) deep well of a sense of humor.” I believe it takes more than a sense of humor to survive the trials of life. It also takes hope. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).”

— Roland Earnst © 2023

Reference: Fox News

Answering Today’s Challenges

Answering Today’s Challenges

The Church struggles to stay informed and relevant on the issues and answering today’s challenges. In October 2023, the Survey Center on American Life and the Associated Press/NORC released new data revealing the attitudes and beliefs of our friends and neighbors. If the Church is going to lead people to faith in God, we need to know what they believe. Jesus knew the teachings of Judaism and the beliefs of the Romans, and we must follow His example. 

Here are some results of the recent surveys:

1) 44% of Americans have “hardly any confidence” in organized religion.

2) 29% of Americans believe evolution is the best explanation for the origin of life on Earth.

3) 38% believe humans and other living things have evolved over time due to processes guided by God or a higher power.

4) 31% believe humans and other living things have evolved over time, and God or a higher power had no role in this process.

5) 12% believe humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. 

6) 49% believe scientists generally believe the universe was created in a single, violent event, often called the “Big Bang.”

The problem with surveys is that words like “evolution” are not defined. If “Naturalism” were used instead of “evolution,” the numbers would be different. Confusing “evolution” and “creation” is another source of problems with surveys. Evolution deals with the changes in things already created. It does not attempt to explain the creation of space, time, matter/energy, or anything spiritual. 

It is interesting to see surveys like these and compare them to similar ones from past years. You don’t wear a hockey uniform to play baseball, and you can’t reach people today based on what people believed in the 20th century. God’s Word does not change and is a rock-solid guide for life, but young people today are radically different from last century. Answering today’s challenges requires meeting people where they are and not depending on methods that worked in the past. 

— John N. Clayton © 2023

References: The American Perspectives Survey was conducted between May 16 and 24, 2023. The AP/NORC data was in The Week for October 20, 2023, on page 17. 

Fighting the Way to Peace

Fighting the Way to Peace

“We live in a world that is trying to hate its way to love, spend its way to prosperity, and fight its way to peace.” – Cecil May, Faulkner University.

Can you relate to the above statement? As the world has veered away from Christianity, it has embraced religions and naturalistic philosophies, and the use of war is the only option that is being considered. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give it to you as the world does.”

Eugene Peterson writes about what the world tells us through media:
“…they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave Himself for us.”

Jesus Christ told all humans to love their enemies. The word for love used by Jesus was “agape,” meaning a love that considers all humans to have great worth. That means that no matter who the human is, we must cherish their nature as beings created in the image of God. The wanton killing of humans that fills our newspapers and TV screens is repulsive to any thinking person. Fighting the way to peace will not work. Any religion that advocates killing humans to advance its beliefs is an enemy of peace.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Power For Today for Thursday, November 7, “Pursuing Peace” by Bruce Green.

Attitude Toward Money

Attitude Toward Money

“Come all of you who are thirsty, come to the waters, and you who have no money – come and buy and eat; yes, come and buy wine and milk without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen to me and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” – Isaiah 55:1-2

One of the great mistakes of both atheists and religionists is their attitude toward money. Money is the number one cause of divorce in America. There are well-oiled machines designed to extract money from you and me. Some religious groups feel they must beg and coerce for money to do their work. Some secularists think that being rich is the only way to happiness. The fact is that the financially wealthiest people among us have not been the happiest. Here are a few biblical warnings about money.

1) MONEY CAN’T BUY EVERYTHING. The passage from Isaiah refers to what brings real happiness and satisfaction. Having a purpose in life and knowing you are fulfilling that purpose brings incredible joy. Regardless of your attitude toward money, and no matter how much you have, all the money in the world will not help when death comes.

2) MONEY CAN BE USED FOR GOOD. Luke 16:9-13 finds Jesus telling His followers that through the proper use of money, they can make friends by improving their future, helping others find their purpose in life, and building up the Church (not a human institution) to be an agent of good. Matthew 25:34-40 shows explicitly how Christians can use money. Not only does feeding the hungry, providing water for the thirsty, clothing those who are cold, taking care of the sick, taking in those who need shelter, and helping those in prison meet the needs of hurting people, but it also brings true satisfaction to those who provide it.

3) MONEY MAKES A GOOD SERVANT BUT A BAD MASTER. First Timothy 6:10 says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many arrows.” Notice it is not money that is evil, but the love of money. Our attitude toward money can lead us astray. Second Corinthians 9:6-8 talks about sowing generously and tells us God loves those who give cheerfully. A casino is near our meeting place, and people have come to us in tears because they lost what money they had there. We must ask, “Who or what is your master?”

It has always been a practice of the “Does God Exist?” ministry to not ask anyone for money. If God wants this work to be successful, He will fund it, and He does that through people who love Him and cheerfully wish to use the money God has provided them to support causes that make a difference.

— John N. Clayton © 2023