So You Have Cancer: Now What?

So You Have Cancer: Now What?

Typically we review books that deal with apologetics. However, sometimes a book comes to our attention that we believe meets a need even though it does not primarily involve evidence for God and the Bible. We want to share one such book with you here— So You Have Cancer: Now What? By Glen Goree.

I have read many books on cancer and books that deal with grieving when you lose a loved one to cancer. This book was written by a man who has terminal cancer of the liver and a short time to live. I did a lectureship with a congregation in Texas many years ago, where Glenn was the preacher for ten years. He has also been a missionary in Africa and has had a long career as a counselor. Glenn has had a large share of illnesses, including two heart attacks, hepatitis C, diabetes, including having five toes removed, and neuropathy.

The purpose of this book is to help Christians who know their life is about to end. Glenn is candid, outspoken, honest, and fair in what he says. He talks about being angry with God and being outraged. He deals with fear and depression. He discusses God’s grace, forgiveness (including forgiving God), and mercy. He does this by describing his own feelings and then going to the Bible to get help when knowing you are about to die.

Every reader will profit by reading this book since every one of us is terminal. Goree’s approach to grace and God’s mercy alone makes it worth reading.

The book is available from Amazon or Glenn Goree’s website www.glenngoree.com.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Challenge of Feeding the Hungry

Challenge of Feeding the Hungry

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many hardships for people of all economic levels, but children have been hit especially hard with child hunger becoming a national problem. Last year in Michigan, over 67,000 children faced hunger. In 2020, that number has increased to almost 118,000. Right now, one in six families in Michigan is struggling to have enough food. The challenge of feeding the hungry is being met, and there is a lesson in who is meeting it.

Feeding America is an organization that gathers and distributes food to relieve hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. They do this by donations of money and food from various companies and relying on volunteer labor.

The Does God Exist? ministry is dedicated to showing evidence that there is a God and that the Bible is His Word. Although the evidence for God’s existence is vast, perhaps more convincing is Christianity’s effect on people’s lives. Recently, the Feeding America truck came to our small congregation, where we unloaded food and distributed it to 103 families that don’t have enough to eat in our area. Our small operation reflected what is happening all over America. In 2019, Feeding America distributed almost 28-million pounds of food.

Our point here is who is meeting the challenge of feeding the hungry? Are atheist and skeptic groups involved? In 2019, volunteers turned three-and-a-half-million pounds of food into almost three-million meals for people in Western Michigan. Who were the volunteers making this possible? Four of the five groups were churches, and the other one was a Kiwanis Club. Feeding America lists agency partners for Michigan, and of the 20 partners listed, 13 were churches.

When churches feud or a minister is involved in a scandal, it frequently becomes front-page news. Atheist magazines like The Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic publish stories in nearly every issue about a church or religious leader involved in some scam or mismanagement of money. Not making the headlines are the people of faith who meet the challenge of feeding the hungry. They are the ones who manage the food pantries and are the primary workers in programs like Feeding America.

Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them,” and the good being done by churches and people of faith speaks volumes about the effect of Christianity. There is an old saying, “I would rather see a sermon than hear one,” and that is happening all over America in this time of need.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

America and the World in Turmoil

America and the World in Turmoil

No matter what political party you support, you have to admit that it is a difficult time in America and the world. The issues today are complicated and dangerous. Dealing with racial differences has been a weak spot in American history. COVID-19 has taxed our medical establishment. Abuse of the Earth has to be a concern to all of us as our air, water, and oceans become polluted.

Is there any hope for our country and our world? We need to look at the belief system on which America is based. There were differences among political leaders in the past, but they had a common foundation from which they operated. What is happening now is that “survival of the fittest” and looking out for their own interests are our politicians’ primary goals. We think that those are not the beliefs and operational methods that most Americans believe in.

You can take” In God we Trust” off our currency, but you cannot take it out of our hearts. Extremists can bad-mouth the Bible and abuse the teachings of Jesus Christ, but periodically Christian actions surface in the common people. The food banks, homeless shelters, and medical establishments built and maintained by common people show us that Christ’s teachings are still alive and well in America.

When Jesus taught how to recognize His followers, He never referred to political figures or governments. He talked about those who served others. Passages like Matthew 25:31-46 and the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5-7 make it clear. Rather than marching or doing physical or financial harm to anyone, we need to express our allegiance to Christ by our service and devotion to others. In doing that, we will ultimately save America and the world.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Medicine in Bible Times and Beyond

Medicine in Bible Times and Beyond

Here are some facts you should know about medicine in Bible times:

*The Old Testament does not contain a single reference to a doctor or medicine used to heal the sick.

*There are references in the Talmud and Mishnah. The Talmud and Mishnah are two sets of writings about Jewish civil and ceremonial law. The Mishnah was oral tradition and makes up the first part of the Talmud. These writings are not part of the Bible, and they were written by Jewish scholars as late as the 5th century AD. The Talmud and Mishnah references are not complementary to doctors calling physicians “the trades of robbers.” This reminds us of Mark 5:25-26, which describes a woman with a blood disorder who had “suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all she had, and was nothing bettered but grew worse.” Another statement in the Talmud says that physicians are destined for Gehenna, a place of torment, or hell.

*Rabbis counted 248 “limbs” in the human body and 365 “sinews.” This corresponds to the 248 positive commandments in the Old Testament and the 365 negative ones.

*Egypt had an extensive medical system with dentists, doctors of the eyes, doctors of the abdomen, and doctors of the anus. They had no brain doctors and referred to the brain as “stuffing for the head.”

*In the New Testament, Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14. Luke was not Jewish, and he did not use medical vocabulary in his gospel or the book of Acts.

*In New Testament times, people used frankincense and myrrh as medicines.

*Laodicea was famous for eye ointments and prominent eye doctors.
In Revelation 3:18, Jesus counsels the Laodicean church to get “salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” referring to their spiritual blindness.

*Christians became noted for supporting medicine by 200 AD as physicians were listed among the Church’s most famous martyrs. By the late 300s AD, hospitals were being created by Christian leaders.

These facts about medicine in Bible times came from The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Real Men and the Tough-Guy Image

Real Men and the Tough-Guy Image

“Real men don’t play it safe” so many males, including world leaders, don’t accept wearing a mask and social distancing. That is the basic idea of an article by Peter Glick in the August issue of Scientific American. He says that many male leaders are more concerned about projecting a tough-guy image than protecting the common good. He mentions Brazilain leader Jair Bolsonaro, U.K. leader Boris Johnson, and Donald Trump and Mike Pence. When Captain Brett Cozier of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt didn’t radiate the tough-guy image, he was relieved of his command. Meanwhile, female leaders in Germany and New Zealand have had better success in the pandemic than their male counterparts.

This is one more example of how “survival of the fittest” produces competition, promotion of self, and struggles for dominance rather than compassion, empathy, and promoting the common good. It is also why women appear to tend to be more capable promoters of Christianity. As women start competing with males, they tend to demonstrate a great many of the same weaknesses.

Any weakling can turn their back on the needs of the “weak and unfit.” Our experience as the parents of a multiply-handicapped child is dominated by compassionate women who had great empathy and a servant mentality. The number of males who were able to give of themselves to promote disabled adults was pathetically small. As society has rejected the teachings of Christ and embraced a value system based on evolutionary theory, our cliches show our values: “show no weakness,” “I can fix it,” “dog eat dog,” “watch your back.”

It takes incredible strength to be a committed, active Christian. When you read Matthew 25:34-40, you see Jesus commending people not because they were the strongest or the most attractive or successful. He commended them for doing things that an evolutionist would reject, such as giving food and drink rather than using it as a control device. Christ commends them for taking in a stranger, visiting the sick, and clothing the naked. The whole notion of turning the other cheek, going the second mile, and loving your enemies (Matthew 5:38-48) opposes “survival of the fittest” mentality. Are we strong enough to be Christians, or are we trying to earn the title of “real men?”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The article “Masks and Emasculation” is on page 10 of the August 2020 issue of Scientific American or you can read it online HERE.

Memorial to Help Us Remember

Memorial to Help Us Remember

By definition, we establish a memorial to help us remember certain essential things. Memorials are very much a part of Christianity and of the history of Israel. Members of different denominations have instituted all kinds of special days and given them spiritual significance. In reality, those days are not found in the Bible, and there is no biblical command to observe them. Perhaps God knew that humans would corrupt special days and forget their significance and message. Christmas is an example of that.

In Exodus 3:15, God told Moses that the exodus from Egypt would be a “memorial to all generations.” Jesus spoke in Mathew 26:13 of a memorial for the woman who anointed him for burial. In Luke 22:19-20, Jesus gave His followers the one special memorial to observe. Early Christians met on the first day of every week to remember Christ’s body “which is given for you” as they ate the bread and drank the fruit of the vine–“the new testament in my blood which is shed for you.” Even though Jesus gave us this memorial to help us remember, it was very quickly corrupted. In 1 Corinthians 11:20-34, we read that it had become a drunken feast in the Corinthian church. The memorial’s purpose was lost because they were “not discerning the Lord’s body” (verse 29). Paul goes on in this description to say, “this is why many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep” (verse 30).

Today in the United States, we celebrate Memorial Day. The last Monday in May was made a national holiday in 1971 to honor the memory of those who died to defend America from those who would try to destroy us. It seems that each year there is more emphasis on this day being the “unofficial first day of summer” with little emphasis on its intended meaning. Like the words of 1 Corinthians 11, this day has become a drunken feast for many, and our population is weak and sickly as a result. Many of us are more concerned with Memorial Day sales and, in 2020, how to celebrate without getting the virus than with pausing to give thanks for America and for those who died to preserve it.

As Christians, we have one special memorial to help us remember the sacrifice Jesus made. Even as we stop every week to remember what Jesus did for us, we must develop an attitude of gratitude. As we thank God who sent His Son to die for our salvation, we should also remember those who died to keep us free to worship in this country.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

Existence of Evil Challenges Atheism

One of the challenges atheists frequently raise to belief in God is the question of evil. The argument is that if God exists and if God is good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? If there is evil, according to the atheist view, then that God does not exist. The truth is that the existence of evil challenges atheism.

The presence of evil is a bigger problem for atheists than it is for Christians. From a Christian perspective, evil is a product of the rejection of God. The Bible portrays human existence is as a battleground between good and evil, between God and the forces of Satan. The book of Job is the clearest example, but the Bible covers this theme again and again.

The existence of evil challenges atheism as the famous philosopher Alan Plantinga describes:

“Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness if there were no God and we just evolved? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live… A secular way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort … and thus no way there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness and not just an illusion of some sort, then you have a powerful argument for the reality of God.” (From Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God pages 26-27)

Atheism has no way of giving a purpose for human existence. That leads atheists like Richard Dawkins to maintain that there is no such thing as good or evil (see Dawkin’s book River Out of Eden, page 133). If an atheist rationally believes that evil does not exist, they negate their challenge to belief in God. Therefore, the existence of evil challenges atheism.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

Hitler and Richard Dawkins

We see a similarity between the writings of Hitler and Richard Dawkins. In 1941 Adolph Hitler, in his book Table Talk wrote:

“Today war is nothing but a struggle for the riches of nature. By virtue of an inherent law, these riches belong to him who conquers them. That’s in accordance with the laws of nature. By means of the struggle, the elites are continually renewed. The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.”

Richard Dawkins has written:

“This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous-indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”

Both Hitler and Dawkins have attacked Christianity based on morality. If there is no such thing as good or evil, as Dawkins has written elsewhere, and if natural selection is the law we all live by, then survival depends on who is fit and who is not. In that case, there is no way to justify Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount or the content of Matthew 25. It means that we are all doomed to violence, suffering, and war. Dawkins would suggest that we should be indifferent to the atrocities of humans destroying other humans. It isn’t easy to see how Hitler and Richard Dawkins would disagree philosophically.

Atheism is both a philosophy and a religion. It is hard to believe that after a person looks at the history of atheism, they would deny God’s existence. The atheist, however, would point to religious wars as a demonstration that religion doesn’t do any better than Hitler’s beliefs. That is why this ministry does not defend any religion that can be defined as “human attempts to reach God.” This ministry only claims that there is evidence for God’s existence and that applying the teachings of Jesus Christ would bring peace and well-being to all of humanity.

Adolph Hitler and Richard Dawkins share the same perspective. Hitler claimed that Christianity cultivated human failure. Atheism claims life is purposeless, and by Dawkins’ admission, life cultivates violence and war. That is the fulfillment of what Hitler called “the law of selection.” The contrast between Christianity and atheism is crystal clear when we read the writings of Hitler and examine the history of his application of atheistic beliefs.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

The quotations above are in Reflections on the Existence of God by Richard Simmons, Union Hill Publishing © 2019, pages 24-25, ISBN 975-1-939358-22-6.

God Will Provide a Way Out

God Will Provide a Way Out

We hear it all the time, statements like “I can’t take much more.” “I can’t handle this!” “This is too much!” and “I can’t stand it!!” We all have expressions of frustration and exasperation, and in the middle of this current pandemic like all previous major problems, we hear some wild ones. “I’m going to blow my top,” “I’m going to pull my hair,” “I’m going to the lake and make a hole in it.” There is a theological issue involved here. If God exists, why does He allow things to happen that push us beyond what we can stand? Or does He provide a way out? I maintain that 1 Corinthians 10:13 is true.

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” -1 Corinthians 10:13.

Before going further, please do not interpret this discussion to trivialize anyone’s crisis. I just watched my daughter nurse her husband, the father of her three children, through six months of terminal cancer. She is now not only left with no husband and three boys to raise and also with no financial resources and her own health issues. My students in our correspondence courses who are in prison frequently say, “You can not imagine what it is like to be locked up in this hell hole.”

This Corinthian passage was written to Christians and offers unique help. One of the miseries that atheism produces is that it provides no hope of any kind when problems like this pandemic happen. When I was young and fit, I maintained that God was a crutch that I didn’t need. Very quickly, things happened to me that made me not so young or so fit. It wasn’t that I looked for a crutch because I continued to be a vocal atheist. But I was miserable in not always dominating others and getting my way. I was not able to overpower circumstances in life because I simply wasn’t fit.

First Corinthians 10:13 and similar passages don’t tell us that God will shield us from bad things. They don’t tell us that Christians will not face tragedy and frustration and even death. The passage says that God will “provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” That way out is rarely a miraculous zapping of whatever is afflicting us. It is usually God using Christians, His workers on Earth, to help us through it.

Read Matthew 25:31-40, and what do you see Jesus saying to His workers at the end of time? They were those who provided a way out for those in misery. The very nature of Christianity is to relieve the afflicted, and Jesus did that and taught His followers to do it. That is why Christians do the prison ministries, the correspondence course programs, our seniors outreaches, our food banks, our water well diggings, our hospitals, our schools, and many other things.

There are those times when the way out is death. I have lost a wife, a son-in-law, a brother, and dozens of dear friends who were in such pain that death was a blessing. I can only say that with confidence about those who died as Christians. The way out for me is coming, and it will be a blessing, not a curse.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

Christian Witness During the Pandemic

We are all aware of the destructive nature of the pandemic we are enduring. There is no question about how the virus is impacting families and the economy of the country. At the same time, some positive things are happening because of Christian witness during the pandemic.

There is a story circulated by SAT-7, an interdenominational Christian television center in the Middle East, which demonstrates how the coronavirus is being beneficial. A man in Iran called the television station and said that the people talking on the station were not like the ones that dominated his country. He said he couldn’t believe that they weren’t violent but had a joy and peace about them which he found attractive. He didn’t have a clue as to who Jesus is. However, he knew that what Jesus was saying was better than the violence, terror, and killing that were a part of the religion that dominates his part of the world. He wanted to know where Jesus lived so he could visit Him.

A week later, this man called again, but this time he had 25 young men crammed into a tiny apartment, and all of them wanted to hear about Jesus. Secret house churches are blossoming all over the Middle East. The coronavirus allows Christians to show compassion and bring help and necessary medications to people who are suffering. Similar stories are coming from Afghanistan.

In America, the coronavirus is showing the huge contrast between atheist beliefs and what Christianity offers. Survival of the fittest as a guide to life doesn’t work well with a pandemic. Isolation and competing for medicine and medical care are not attractive lifestyles for most people. Christians who are first responders talk about the dominance of believers in their efforts. The idea of serving others and saving lives even at personal risk to themselves is the exact opposite of atheistic belief systems.

The coronavirus is not God’s retribution for human sin, but, “All things work to the good of those who love the Lord” (Romans 8:28). Christian witness during the pandemic brings a shining light in a culture that suddenly finds itself unable to manage. In this crisis, atheism offers no hope except perhaps personally, selfishly surviving the plague in whatever way possible. True atheism has no thought of helping others or being confident about the future, even if this life comes to an end. The contrast is a great apologetic for Christianity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020