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

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

Are We Doomed or Is there Hope?

I am amazed by the lack of understanding of our planet and how it works. It is astounding how the public refuses to take the cause and treatment of the current pandemic seriously. Politicians worldwide are promoting distrust of just about everything, making progress on any level almost impossible. The Bible is the one thing that we can trust, but since atheism and false religions have taken over the planet, people reject the Bible’s teachings and create chaos all around us. Are we doomed?

Proverbs 8:32-33 quotes wisdom as saying, “…hearken unto me…hear instruction and be wise and refuse it not.” Romans 1:17-32 tells us that we can know God by understanding the creation. The meaning of those passages is more evident today than ever before. We now have the means of seeing the vastness of the cosmos, and understanding how fragile Earth is. We see pictures of polluted skies, contaminated lakes and rivers, and plastic-filled oceans. When we see images of starving people around the world, that should motivate us to make changes. You can see evidence for global warming if you will look. There is no debate possible about pollution or water shortages. Look at the evidence and “hearken to wisdom.”

Scientific American (September 2020, pages 74-81) published an article by Peter Brannen titled “The Worst Times on Earth.” Brannen surveys the evidence of mass extinctions and the implications for the future. He offers logical solutions to likely future catastrophes. If we believe that God created the cosmos, we understand that wisdom and design went into every corner of the creation. We know that God told us to “take care of the garden” (Genesis 2:15). As Christians, we are told to serve others as if our salvation depended on it, because it does. (See Matthew 25:31-46.)

Are we doomed? We know that God will ultimately destroy the creation (2 Peter 3:10), but He will not allow humans to do it. We may make the planet uncomfortable to live on. We may pass on a contaminated, overheated Earth to future generations. Hopefully, we will heed the words of Proverbs 8 and Romans 1 and be wise in what we believe about the creation, how we use our money and energy to make this physical world better, and how we vote.

Are we doomed? As Christians, the answer is loud and clear. NO!! We have hope no matter what happens here in the physical world. We know that we have a spiritual existence beyond the grave that is totally free of all human ignorance, selfishness, greed, and stupidity. The God whom wisdom describes in Proverbs 8 has promised it to us.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Helping Prisoners Restore their Lives and Faith

Today we are doing something different, but we feel this is an area of apologetics that needs attention. In this day and time, Christians getting involved in prison work is an excellent evidence of the existence of God. Atheists are not going to spend time and money helping prisoners restore their lives.

We have over 4,000 students in our “Does God Exist?” correspondence course, and a vast percentage of them are in prison. They tell of losing their faith in God and immersing themselves in activities that landed them in prison. They take our courses in the hope that their faith can be rekindled, and they can rebuild what is left of their lives.

One of the programs that has assisted us is the Kings Crossings Prison Ministries in Corpus Christi, Texas, directed by Buck Griffith. They have a program called “NewLife Behavior Ministries” and a study called Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA). Substance abuse is a major issue in America today, and many of our students have had substance abuse problems.

Buck Griffith has written a manual titled Loosed and Forgiven which describes how to start and grow a jail ministry. The manual has 151 pages, and it is the best resource we have seen on the mechanics of prison work. Helping prisoners restore their lives, and faith is a great way to demonstrate the love of Christ.

If you are interested in prison work, I recommend that you purchase Buck’s book. The cost is $14.95 plus shipping. For more information, contact NewLife Behavior Ministries, PO Box 270720, Corpus Christi, Texas 78427-0720. Their phone number is 361-855-3372, and their email is nlbcasa@yahoo.com. You can find more information on their website www.nlbm.org.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

Early Christians Confronted Plagues with Faith and Courage

We hear a lot about the current virus struggle and references to the idea that this is a first-time event. That may be true for those of us living in America, but plagues have been the scourge of humankind throughout recorded history. We recently saw a writing by the early Christian historian Eusebius that tells us about how early Christians confronted plagues. He referred to a report from an elder in the Church named Dionysius around A.D. 260. Dionysius was writing about the plague in Alexandria. Here is a quote from part of his letter to Eusebius:

“Most of our brethren showed love and loyalty not sparing themselves while helping one another, tending to the sick with no thought of danger and gladly departing this life with them after becoming infected with their disease. Many who nursed others to health died themselves. The best of our own brothers lost their lives in this way – some elders, deacons and laymen – a form of death based on strong faith and piety that seems in every way equal to martyrdom.

“All things are filled with tears, all are mourning, and on account of the multitudes already dead and still dying, groans are heard throughout the city… There is not a house in which there is not one dead. Despite afflictions we Christians rejoiced in the peace of Christ which He gave to us alone… Most of our brethren by their exceeding great love and affection, not sparing themselves and adhering to one another, were constantly superintending the sick, ministering to their wants without fear and cessation, and healing them in Christ.”

This quote appeared in Action! magazine, May 2020, page 2. John Reese, the president of World Bible School which publishes Action! added a comment. He said that the existence of hospitals was an early Christian innovation to improve the ability to serve those struck down by the pandemic of their day. We can learn much from how early Christians confronted plagues.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

Decline in Practicing Christians in America

The Barna Research Group is a research agency that has been doing statistical analysis of religion since 1984. Their studies are widely recognized as academically valid. One useful part of Barna’s work is that they repeat studies to identify trends. Research this year indicates a decline in practicing Christians in America.

Barna defines a practicing Christian as: “Someone who identifies as a Christian, agrees strongly that faith is very important in their life, and has attended church within the past month.” In the year 2000, 45% of Americans surveyed identified themselves as Christians using that criterion. In February of 2020, that percentage had dropped to 25%. This research was based on interviews with 96,171 adults.

When you think about the numbers associated with the Barna definition, it is evident that the word “practicing” is the weasel word. Many people who claim to be Christians have not made a practice of attending Church services. At the same time, they would probably be upset to be called “non-practicing Christians.” However, the truth is that Barna used the same set of questions in 2000 and 2020. There can be no doubt that there has been a sharp decline in practicing Christians in America.

It may be that the coronavirus pandemic will pull some of us away from making a god out of our material possessions. But unless we replace our zeal for things with enthusiasm for the teachings of Jesus Christ, we will continue to be poorly equipped either for this life or for eternity.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

You can find previous posts about Barna Group research HERE and HERE.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Ten Years Later

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

On April 20 of 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began. By the time technicians could bring it under control, it had dumped 134,000,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days. Ten years after this disaster, we still see the effects in ways that no one would have expected. The entire issue of National Wildlife for February-March 2020 was devoted to new data on the long-range damage.

There is far more involved in this disaster than the removal of the obvious symptoms of the spill. Even on a commercial level, the damage is more than most people realize. Oyster production from Apalachicola to Galveston has collapsed. Louisiana has lost well over 50 million dollars in oyster harvest revenue. Scientists studying the oyster beds tell us that 8.3 billion oysters died as a result of the spill. A single oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. When explorers came to the Gulf of Mexico between 1600 and 1800, they described the oyster beds as “the Great Barrier Reef of the Americas,” nearly 100 miles long and several miles deep. Oyster shells are used to make mortar, build roadbeds, and to supplement chicken feed. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill has changed all of that.

The massive killing of wildlife has been well-publicized with pathetic pictures still showing up on the web. Does the killing of 30,000 loggerhead turtles, 17% of the Bryde’s whales, 800,000 coastal birds, a vast number of dolphins who are still having lung problems, and 20% of all corals in the area have any significance for those of us living far from the Gulf of Mexico? Most of us eat shrimp, crabs, lobsters, and fish. Much of the fishing industry in the Gulf has gone out of business, and those still existing are hard-pressed to find enough seafood to make a living. That results in higher prices and the risk of pollution effects on what we eat.

So why are we reminding our readers of the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? Skeptics criticize any notion of God creating the Earth by saying that if there is a God, He didn’t do a very good job. Humans are threatened with shortages of food and water. In my mail yesterday, I received 16 different requests from organizations wanting financial help in feeding and helping hungry children and starving families. (By the way, all of them were faith-based). Why are there shortages? Human greed, selfishness, ignorance, desire for power, and refusal to live as God told us to has resulted in destructive wars, mismanagement of resources, waste of incredible proportions, and foolish and irresponsible management of resources.

When God created the Earth, He provided for an abundance of food and water. God also told us how to live. Read Matthew 25:34-40 and see how Christ portrayed Christian living. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is just one human failure, but look at what it has done to innocent humans. We are just beginning to understand the biological damage and effects. We cannot blame God for what humans have done. God has given us all we need and the means of taking care of it. Christians must lead the way in the responsible use of God’s gifts.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Stop Blaming Christians for COVID-19

Atheists and the atheistic media are using the coronavirus to attack those who believe in God. They have taken the refusal of several extremist religious figures to practice social distancing and used it as a club against Christians. There is no justification for blaming Christians for COVID-19.

The New York Times and Salon.com cite Jerry Falwell Jr.’s reopening of Liberty University and the actions of Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne as “crippling our coronavirus response.” Numerous atheist journals and websites have repeated those claims. This smear technique is an old tool of those who wish to attack others. Blaming Christians for COVID-19 is like saying that because Hitler hates Jews, all Germans hate Jews.

What Falwell and Brown are doing is in contradiction to the Bible. Romans 13 finds Paul telling Christians, “Submit yourselves to the governing authorities…He who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted …” Paul goes on to say that God uses these rulers to help us. That is indeed happening in this pandemic. The fact is that Christians can worship anywhere, and Jesus made it clear that “where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them” (Matthew 18:20). It seems that Howard-Browne is either ignorant of Romans 13 or has his eye on something other than spiritual matters. We suggest that finances are involved in both cases.

Washington Examiner writer Timothy Carney said, “It was entirely predictable that the Left would blame Christians for spreading the virus. Nothing is more satisfying to secular liberals than to look down on believers as self-deluded anti-science rubes.” The fact is that the virus started in China, where Christians make up less than 3% of the population. It has gone wild in places like New Orleans and New York City, which are hardly places where Falwell and Howard-Browne’s followers dominate the population.

Those blaming Christians for COVID-19 need to stop bashing God and Christianity and do what many Christians are doing. The followers of Jesus are serving those who can’t get out by delivering food and medicine, making face masks, and providing transportation for those who need it.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Where Are the Christians?

Where Are the Christians?

We sometimes hear people say that America is a “Christian Nation.” That statement today is wrong in several ways. The facts show that only 9% of all people in the world who call themselves “Christians” live in North America (the U.S. and Canada). So, where are the Christians?

The home of 51% of the world’s Christians is in Africa and Latin America. Africa alone has 26%. The report shows that 23% live in Europe, 16% in Asia, and 1% in Oceania. Realize that these numbers only tell us people who claim the religious identity of “Christian.” That doesn’t mean a person attends any worship services.

When we correspond with our friends in Africa and South America, we find them talking about the stabilizing influence of Christ. They say that things are improving in their nations because of Christianity. As we look around in America, we see increasing violence and instability. Does anyone want to suggest a reason for that? Where are the Christians?

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Data from The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reported in Christianity Today, January/February 2020, page 25.

Operating on Faith

 Operating on Faith - Eratosthanes

Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) told the story of a king who refused to eat until he knew with certainty that his food had not been poisoned. The more he thought about how little he knew with certainty about his chef and his attendants, the more concerned he became. He finally starved to death. This story makes the point that everyone is operating on faith.

Atheists ridicule Christians for operating on faith not realizing that they depend on faith, and so does science. A classic example was a Greek scholar named Eratosthenes of Cyrene born in 276 BC. Eratosthenes noticed that on a specific day of the year, the Sun was positioned so that it illuminated the bottom of a well where he lived. From that fact, he had faith that the Earth was spherical.

On the day that the Sun shone to the bottom of the well in Syene (modern Aswan, Egypt), Eratosthenes placed a vertical rod in the ground at Alexandria and measured the angle of its shadow. Using the difference in angle of the Sun’s rays and the distance between the two locations, he calculated the circumference and diameter of the Earth with high accuracy. He even established the concept of latitude and longitude from his measurements. Scholars of Eratosthenes’ day ridiculed his idea because everyday experience suggested the Earth was flat and endless. They indicated that he was mistaken or his measurements were wrong. Their criticism did not sway the strong faith of Eratosthenes in what he believed.

A modern-day Eratosthenes would be Albert Einstein. His radical ideas were still not accepted by many in the scientific community some 40 years after he originally proposed them. The critics were silenced only when Einstein’s ideas could finally be tested and proven correct.

For many scientific discoveries in the past, that pattern has been repeated. A scientist operating on faith expressed a hypothesis based on his or her observations. The hypothesis could not be tested when the concept was proposed, but from that faith, something important was eventually discovered.

The definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1 fits this scientific concept of how discoveries are made: “Faith forms the solid ground of things hoped for, perceiving as real what is not revealed to the senses.” (Amplified Bible).

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Chinese Christianity is Ancient

Chinese Christianity is Ancient
Recently someone asked whether Christianity was just a European creation and never had worldwide distribution. What many people don’t realize is that Christianity came to China in A.D. 635. A limestone block called the Nestorian Stele was created in A.D. 781, and it records 150 years of early Chinese Christianity. The stele gives the story of the Christian mission work in both Chinese and Aramaic.

The missionaries established Christian congregations in China and Mongolia. They did not try to westernize the people they were teaching. They dressed and lived simply, learned Chinese, and respected the Confucian culture.

There was no state church in most of Asia, so unlike Europe, the early Christians in the East did not have protection by the state. However, when Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road to China in 1254-1324, he found that the gospel message had proceeded him.

Chinese Christianity continues to function today in the homes of people and in quiet, steady teaching by Christians. The state continues to try to suppress the Church, but it is alive and well. We have our “Does God Exist?” DVD series overdubbed in Mandarin Chinese and copies of the DVDs have been made in China. Benny Mullins has been a part of doing that work, and we continue to get emails, written questions, and requests from all over China.

Hostile governments cannot contain the good news about Jesus Christ and the freedom that Christians enjoy no matter the culture or geographic setting. Christianity is not an American or European or Middle Eastern phenomenon. It is an outreach by God to bring all people into a loving relationship with their Creator.
–John N. Clayton © 2017