How to Become More Spiritual

How to Become More SpiritualWe recently received a question that perhaps all of us need to consider. The questioner wanted to know how to become more spiritual. We don’t find the word “spiritual” in the Old Testament of the Bible or in the gospels. It doesn’t refer to someone walking around piously, or a person who is in constant verbal prayer to impress others. It is not a “goody two shoes” word, and in fact, it can refer to evil and Satan. Ephesians 6:12, for example, says: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against SPIRITUAL wickedness in high places.”

Vines Dictionary of Biblical Words says that the word “spiritual” refers to “Things that have their origin with God and which, therefore, are in harmony with His character.” Romans 7:14 tells us that the law is spiritual, but it could not make humans spiritual. James 2:10 points out that if you are guilty of breaking one part of the law, you are guilty of the whole law. If you get arrested for stealing, the fact that you didn’t murder anyone will not exonerate you. The only way we can become more spiritual is through the grace of God and the power of the blood of Christ. First John 1:6-10 how to become more spiritual by “walking in the light,” and having a unique relationship with God through Christ.

Much of the New Testament instruction is aimed at helping Christians become more spiritual. Galatians 6:1 talks about using whatever strength we have to help each other, and verse 2 talks about bearing each other’s burdens. We can grow in sympathy, understanding, compassion, and all that goes into being a more spiritual person. Music can help us grow spiritually. Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:13-17 talk about “spiritual songs.” Songs like “If I Have Wounded Any Soul Today” and “Trust and Obey” sung in our car as we drive or in our homes as we do our daily chores can help us. Praying to grow in spirituality is another excellent tool.

Learning and increasing in our knowledge of God and His Word can help us become stronger spiritually. Second Peter 3:18 states this directly, and 1 Peter 2:2 speaks of having a desire to grow. Ephesians 4:11-15 says that knowledge is a part of spiritual maturity, and Colossians 1:9-12 speaks of learning to know God. All of these Bible passages tell us how to become more spiritual.

Skeptics and atheists who follow “survival of the fittest” as the core foundation of their lives have no interest and no capability to be spiritual in a positive sense. “Spiritual wickedness in dark places” is well defined as “Things having their origin in Satan and which, therefore, are in harmony with his character.”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young Children

Presenting Alternative Lifestyles to Young ChildrenWe have frequently pointed out that the teachings of Jesus Christ make it clear that we must love and respect those with whom we disagree. Matthew 5:39-48 is hard to misunderstand. We must not attempt to harm anyone, including those who might be teaching things that oppose what the Bible says. There is no excuse for those who claim to be Christians to physically attack anyone because they are a part of the LGBT movement. At the same time, we have to be concerned and vocally oppose those who promote immoral behavior, especially when it involves presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.

Recently the popular children’s show “Arthur” on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) ran an episode entitled “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone.” It featured a wedding ceremony between Mr. Ratburn and a character named Patrick. This program is funded by tax dollars and is aimed at preschool children. Disney has placed LGBT characters in the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast and its television cartoon series Doc McStuffins. Drag Queen events have been held in Austin, Texas, and Portland, Oregon, in programs aimed at preschool children.

LGBT leaders claim that these promotions of their lifestyles are no different than a PBS program on Christmas music, or Christmas events held in public venues. It would seem that presenting material to preschoolers about drag queens and gay marriage is far more complicated than historical stories. Since tax dollars fund PBS, and religious programming is constantly refused by the same media, it seems that promotion of the LGBT lifestyle should also be prohibited.

The bottom line is that parents need to monitor what their children are exposed to. You can’t rely on PBS or Disney to offer only factual and moral material and avoid presenting alternative lifestyles to young children.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Family Research Council, October 2019 newsletter pages 1-4.

Most Difficult Issues of Life

Most Difficult Issues of LifeI believe that one of the most difficult issues of life is what to do when…
…you have been told you are going to die
…you are in enormous pain
…there seems to be no hope of recovery
…your care is using up the inheritance of your children
…and quality of life for you is absolutely zero with no hope it will ever get better.

I have seen friends and family in that situation and observed it in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. This issue is a growing problem because our population is aging. At my age, I find that when I read the obituaries in the South Bend Tribune, there is someone I know listed nearly every day. We are not talking about “pulling the plug,” where a mechanical device keeps a body technically alive. We are talking about physically doing something to a patient that will result in death.

In 2019, New Jersey, Maine, Oregon, Hawaii, and New York all passed laws that either allowed medical aid in dying or made it easier to get help to die. Hearings that will lead to medical assistance bills were conducted in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada. An organization called “Compassion and Choices” has spearheaded a national movement to promote physician assisted suicide, and they have enormous support from celebrities and academics.

The fact is that death remains one of the most difficult issues of life. The arguments against physician assisted suicide are especially emotional. By choosing that path, we are trusting human judgment about whether death is close at hand. There are cases where someone who was expected to die made an amazing recovery. Psychological and spiritual healing sometimes results when a person knows that they are about to die. Support as friends and family rally around a dying person can rebuild relationships and restore family unity that is rare in today’s world. Many believe that leaving the time of one’s death in the hands of God is a necessary spiritual responsibility.

There is no question that we need to make changes in the laws and practices concerning the most difficult issues of life and death. Dealing with Alzheimers and dementia is very different from dying of cancer. Huge medical strides are making judgment difficult in all of these cases. Making a person comfortable throughout the last stages of life should be a priority for geriatric medicine. Limiting the use of medications and devices to relieve pain for a dying person is not only cruel but unnecessary. We should be able to win life’s final war with pain without resorting to terminating life.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Objective Moral Values Are Impossible Without God

Objective Moral Values Are Impossible Without GodMany of my atheist friends will bristle at any suggestion that objective moral values are impossible without God. I want to make it clear that I am not saying that atheists are bad people. However, there are two things followers of the Bible have that those who reject God and the Bible do not have: a standard to go by and motivation to follow the standard.

The Bible gives a solid, clear, workable set of values. If a follower of Christ needs to know whether something is right or wrong, they can go to the Bible and find out. As we have pointed out before, the teachings of the Bible work. For a person who rejects the Bible, what standard do they use to make decisions on right and wrong? Any answer to that question is based on current human understanding. It may be the person’s feelings, the values of the peer group, the opinion of a particular philosopher or psychologist, the latest law, or the values of family or friends. Whatever the source, it is going to be a current human’s view. It’s going to be subjective, not objective.

Yesterday’s expert authority is today’s idiot. Charlatans exist in such enormous numbers that we can never be sure of the motivation for the advice they give. Following Ayn Rand’s advice as a college student destroyed the lives of many of my college friends and associates. The list of destructive leaders of the past is endless – O’Leary, Heffner, Russell, etc. All of these offered marvelous alternatives to biblical teachings that did not work. They failed because objective moral values are impossible without God.

It is not difficult to follow a moral standard that allows you to do anything and everything you want to do. Objective moral values are a far different matter. Many atheists would agree that promiscuous sex is not a good thing, but what motive would exist for not engaging in it if you think it will bring you great pleasure? Why would I find it a moral necessity to give food to a starving person when I might be faced with hunger?

As a Christian, my relationship with God and my faith in God provide me with motivation to do things and give things that might not be in my own self-interest. It is not that I am afraid God will send me to hell if I don’t do them. It is that the teachings of Jesus tell me that my life’s goals revolve around serving and bringing good things to others. I have learned to find joy in doing this and to trust God to make things work. One frustration I have with the media is that they will put the failure of a Christian on the front page while ignoring the work of churches in soup kitchens, relief efforts, alcohol recovery programs, and the care of children, senior citizens, and AIDS patients. No other religion or philosophy on Earth does as much good in all areas as the people who are expressing their love for Jesus Christ.

Faith in God and the Bible does make sense and gives humanity the only workable guide for life. Objective moral values are impossible without God, and faith in God gives us the motivational tools to follow them. Jesus has given us the standard to live by.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Winter Is Coming

Beautiful Fall but Winter Is ComingFall is a beautiful time of year. We all enjoy the changing colors of the trees, and there are changes in our lives that involve preparation for winter. Not all of us view these changes in a positive way. The fact is that whether we like it or not, change is coming. The sight of trees turning colors and the leaves falling to the ground reminds us that winter is coming.

Life is very similar to that. As we get older, signs are telling us that major change is coming in our lives. Our hair turns gray or falls out or both. There is pain in our movements that was not there before. The way we gain weight and our energy levels change, whether we like it or not. All of the medication in the world will not stop the physical changes coming in our lives. Mentally and emotionally, we must adjust to the fact that our faculties are not functioning as they did in the past, and we experience the loss of friends and family making us aware of our own mortality.

One of the things that belief in God does to us is that it allows us to approach the changes that come to our lives in the same way we do the colors of fall. We can scream and fight the fact that winter is coming, but it will still happen. We can buy cosmetics and vitamin pills, but the winter of life comes anyway. When I was an atheist, I had to look at life with all of its problems, pain, struggles, and the awful things that happen as the very best that I was ever going to have. Now, as a Christian, I can look at life with all of its beauty, wonder, and the fantastic things we all enjoy as the absolute worst I am ever going to have to endure.

How do you look at life? Is it the best you will ever have or the worst you will ever have to tolerate? Can you not see that this is the difference between the believer and the nonbeliever. It’s as different as night and day, black and white. If there were no other reason to believe in God but this one, it would be a compelling reason.

We can debate and fuss about things we do not understand. We can complain that we do not like the way God does things. But the fact is that all of those arguments have very little meaning when we are looking death in the face. The colors of change in the fall tell us winter is coming, and the colors of life tell us we will all soon stand before our Creator in judgment. Know why you believe what you believe, and intelligently trust in God to guide you to eternity.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Understanding the Human Mind

Understanding the Human MindFor those of us without a background in electronics and engineering, the inside of a computer looks impossibly complicated. Humans have created incredibly complex things. Those things have helped us understand everything from the microscopic world to outer space. The things we have created and the changes we have made can bring enormous good or tragic destruction. Therein lies the problem. Although we can understand much about the physical world, we still far from understanding the human mind.

In spite of our great progress in electronics, nuclear energy, and space, we still have no idea why people behave the way they do. What makes a person fall in love? Why do people feel guilty? What gives humans artistic ability and an appreciation of beauty? How can we have sympathy for one another or for an animal? These things involve understanding the human mind.

The difference between what a computer chip does and the things human minds do is the difference between the physical world and the spiritual world. In the physical world, all that happens is a product of forces and energies which are easily measured and controlled. Students in a basic physics course are quickly impressed by how easy it is to understand how physical things work and how accurately we can predict what physical forces will do. Just the opposite is true of the spiritual world. Why a person falls in love with someone of the opposite sex might be, to some extent, explained in terms of hormones. It’s another matter to explain why a person would love an idea to the extent that they will die for it. In that area, all biological explanations seem to fail at an elementary level.

Scientific attempts to explain and understand spiritual phenomena have failed because those phenomena are not physically derived. Our ability to understand them has to be on a spiritual level. One of the significant challenges for someone like your author in moving from atheism to Christianity is learning to think and comprehend the spiritual. The Bible even tells us that this will be the case:

The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

We are beings created in the image of God. That image has nothing to do with our physical makeup because God is not physical. It has to do with the fact that what makes humans unique is our spiritual component – our soul. Our bodies are not unique. Other animals possess hearts, lungs, eyes, and bones. Our true uniqueness, our soul, is beautifully displayed in our creativity, worship, and human feelings.

In one way, this concept is like Einstein’s theory of relativity. I would tell my students, “Einstein’s theory of relativity is incredibly easy to understand. It’s just really difficult to believe!” The idea that we are created in the image of God, and that our humanness is a reflection of that unique creation is so simple that people tend to reject it. Rejection of God’s simple answer to the human dilemma leads to the many problems ripping and tearing at people and our society today. Understanding the human mind requires realizing our spiritual dimension and the fact that we are created in the image of God.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Frightening Polarization and Violence

Frightening Polarization and ViolenceFor 51 years, we have presented public programs on scientific evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. During that time, we have seen a lot of violence, going beyond verbal threats. I have had a pie thrown at me during a lecture. Someone smashed the windows of my truck with a hammer. Personal property at my home was set on fire. In a few situations, I have been shoved, pushed, or hit with a stick. Those incidents have always involved disgruntled individuals with an ax to grind who felt that I was persecuting them. In each case, the damage was minimal. Receiving threats is common for anyone who takes a strong position on God or politics. The frightening polarization and violence is a whole different matter if those threats are physically carried out.

We regularly get reports of violence against believers in God who are public about their faith and why they believe. We recently heard of a threat against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos by Austin College professor Robert Rancho. He posted a statement that “.. I’d be ok if Betsy DeVos was sexually assaulted.” Nahweed Tahmas tells of being punched, kicked, and spat on for stating his patriotic beliefs because he is a conservative with a positive message about God. I want to emphasize that the problem is not that some people may not agree with the position of some public speakers. I don’t agree with some things these two people have presented. The problem is that we have reached the point in America today where it is acceptable to use violence when we disagree with a public speaker.

The frightening polarization and violence are being addressed by an organization called The Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia. Dealing primarily with incidents of campus violence, The Leadership Institute is organizing and recruiting people on all campuses to report abuses. While the Does God Exist? ministry does not have a political agenda, we do understand that we are all affected by the polarization of Americans that encourages militarism and physical retaliation for perceived injustices.

Years ago, I worked with a group in London, England, who were reaching the British people. They said they had arranged a public meeting for me, and they led me to platform in a city park. “Start telling your message,” they told me. As I spoke, a crowd gathered, and I wondered if I was physically safe. The group was polite, paid attention, asked good questions, and stated objections in a pleasant way.

I wonder if that could happen in America today? I suspect that in many places, it could not. A physical, political organization that encourages the use of force is not the answer. Jesus went up onto a hill, and people came to him (Matthew 5:1-2). When He had physical opposition in Nazareth, He simply passed through it and went on His way (Luke 4:16-30). We need to present our case as Jesus did, with patience, love, and consideration, not increasing the frightening polarization and violence in America today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

What Do You Do On Wednesday Night?

What Do You Do On Wednesday Night? As we said yesterday, we are all given 168 hours a week. One of the questions that we must deal with is how to use that time. Do we spend our time in activities that benefit us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? What do you do on Wednesday night?

I have atheist friends who devote a portion of their free time to transcendental meditation. I have other friends who devote a significant amount of their free time to physical strength training and exercise. Unfortunately, many of us spend whatever free time we have in front of the television.

The first-century Church devoted a significant amount of their time to spiritual activities. In Acts 2:41–47, we read that they had daily time together. They made it a point to eat together and were ”praising God and having favor with all the people.” Verse 45 indicates that a part of their time together was administering relief of a physical nature to those who needed it “parting to all men as every man had need.”

We can see an indication of the health of Christianity today in what Christians do with their spare time. Christianity Today magazine (November 2019) published an interesting report from Lifeway Research on the activities of various Christian denominations and groups. A survey of 1000 Protestant preachers found that 90% of them had some Church activity on Wednesday night. Adult bible study was carried on by 58% of all Protestants. The Church of Christ was the highest with 75%. Prayer meetings were carried on by 45% of all protestants. Baptist churches were the highest in that category, with 74%. A worship service was the mid-week activity of 33% of all Protestants. Pentecostals had the highest percentage, at 62%. Music practice was carried on by 30% of all Protestant groups. Methodists led with 49%.

Christian activity provides a constructive way for people to use their time, away from the TV, and with emphasis on spiritual growth. We see some congregations eliminating Wednesday night activity, and that decision removes an opportunity to grow spiritually.

Our personal experience is that attending Church activities mid-week strengthens our bond with fellow Christians. The Bible repeatedly warns us to be careful with whom we associate. Mid-week activities are one way to facilitate the right kinds of associates. What do you do on Wednesday night?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

How Do You Use Your Time?

John Clayton asks, "How Do You Use Your Time?"God has given you 168 hours of time every week that you live. The question that each one of us must answer is, “What to do with that 168 hours?” How do you use your time?

If you consider the average essentials, they might look like this:
Eight hours a day for sleeping is 56 hours a week.
Work might be 40 hours per week.
If you take an hour to eat each meal, that would add up to 21 hours a week.
Personal hygiene, including exercise, might be 20 hours a week.

That adds up to 137 hours a week, giving us 31 hours or more than 4 hours a day left. How do you use your time that is left? The chances are that the numbers quoted here not accurate with what you do. I never get eight hours of sleep in a day, but I work far more than 40 hours a week. Realize that these numbers are just a starting point for what we do with the time we have been given.

Suppose we took the Old Testament tithe of 10%. A tithe of 168 is 16.8 hours. Let’s round that down to 16 hours a week to give back to God. Assume you go to worship and Bible class every time the door is open at the Church meeting place. That would be four hours a week spent in worship and Bible study with other Christians. We still have 12 hours to give back to God every week. Let me point out that these numbers allow 14.2 hours a week for you to watch TV, go fishing, go to a movie, etc.

Sixty years ago, I decided that I was going to give God 12 hours a week, not counting “going to Church,” to equal 10% of what He had given me. I found it very hard to do. The way I did it included:
Visiting people in the hospital.
Writing and sending cards.
Setting up and conducting Bible studies in my home or in other people’s homes.
Getting involved in a prison ministry.
Working with disturbed teens.
Taking youth groups to rallies and workshops.
Shoveling widow’s sidewalks.
Preparing the Church bulletin.
I did those and other things and kept a record to get to 12 hours a week.

Do you know what happened? I found contentment and peace and strength that I had never known as an atheist. Life was full of joy and surprises. The hard knocks in my personal and professional life became less destructive to me personally. When the Bible said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” it wasn’t just talking about money. Imagine what would happen if every Christian gave back to God 16.8 hours of the time God has given them! How do you use your time?
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Genes and Addiction

Genes and Addiction Ozzy OsbourneSince the first sequencing of the human genome in 2003, there have been exhaustive studies of links between the human gene structure and addiction. Discover Magazine published a report on genes and addiction (November 2019 issue) with a summary of the current findings.

The magazine focuses on Ozzy Osbourne, the singer/songwriter and reality TV star who is sometimes called “The Godfather of Heavy Metal.” He is famous for going on binges of alcohol, Vicodin, cocaine, and other drugs that would kill most humans. He has survived to be 70 years old. The question is why Osbourne was able to survive all of this abuse for such a long time. One major factor seems to be a mutation in the ADH4 gene. The ADH4 makes a protein called alcohol dehydrogenase 4, which breaks down alcohol. The researchers have concluded that Osbourne is six times more likely to have an alcohol dependency than the average person because alcohol has a minimal effect on him.

The question arises of what are the links between genes and addiction to alcohol and other substances. The Food and Drug Administration says that one in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse or dependence. Americans spend $200 million a day on alcohol, and 100,000 people die each year from accidents linked to alcohol. People of East Asian descent have an increase in heart rate when consuming alcohol. That effect is called “Asian Flush” or “alcohol flush reaction.” Researches have also found genetic links to anandamide, which is a brain chemical that affects mood and anxiety. Marijuana doesn’t affect people with mutations that alter the amount of anandamide in the brain.

This newfound information tells us a lot about how mutations have shaped how we behave in our consumption of different chemicals. Obviously, if a person doesn’t consume the chemical, the mutations are not an issue. For some people, this information enables them to justify blaming God for their addiction. There are drugs like disulfiram, which cause people to have an unpleasant reaction to the consumption of alcohol. However, using a drug to counteract a destructive drug is a poor solution to the overall problem.

The mutations that have caused all of this are man-made. The mutations are linked to a variety of human enterprises, including the distillation of alcohol. In the distant past, addition was not much of an issue, because the chemical effect of undistilled alcohol is minimal. Alcohol is a drug, and it needs to be identified as such. God has not caused the mutations, and humans are responsible for virtually all of the drugs that are causing so much pain and destruction.

So there is a connection between genes and addiction, and science is looking for ways to change the human genome to exclude the mutations. The biblical solution is to form a relationship with God that leads us away from the destructive forces around us. At the same time, we need to reach out to those who are struggling with their addictions and help them find a way out of their lifestyle of abuse. Walking in the light (1 John 1) involves a conscious change that leads to a new life (Romans 6). God did not lead us to destructive lifestyles, but He will help us build a newness in our lives if we are willing to turn things over to Him.
— John N. Clayton © 2019