The Bible is Easy to Understand

The Bible is Easy to Understand

One of the common challenges to Christianity is that the Bible is hard to understand. Coupled with that are claims that the Bible is full of mistakes and contradictions. However, the fact is that the Bible is easy to understand if we apply a few common sense practices.

Skeptics “cherry-pick” the Bible to try to make it look confusing. They take a small section of the Bible and lift it out of context, ignoring its purpose, writing style, or the original language’s meaning. For example, they quote Luke 14:26 as saying that the followers of Christ must hate their whole family. The passage is talking about priorities and simply saying your faith has to come first in your life for it to have meaning. We see in 1 Timothy 5:8 that if Christians don’t care for their families, they are worse than an infidel. 

There are a few simple rules that will help an honest reader know that the Bible is easy to understand:

Divide the Old Testament from the New Testament (2 Timothy 2:15). Galatians 3:24-25 tells us the purpose of the Old Testament and that we are no longer under the Old Law. (Read Colossians 2:8-17.)

Understand the purpose of each book. The gospels tell the story of the life of Christ. The letters address Church matters after Jesus ascended to heaven. Revelation addresses the struggles of the early Church, not the politics of modern times.

Avoid what Peter calls “cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16, 20). Much of what you hear about the book of Revelation is the embellishment of a book written to those who were oppressed and needed to know the good news about “things that must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1).

Understand that humans broke their relationship with God, and the Bible is God telling us how to restore it. Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 does that, and the people who heard that message responded with, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Verse 38 tells us what to do, assuring us that restoration is available from God.

All alternatives to the biblical message about how to live your life are destined to fail. Read the biblical message and act upon it. Read 2 Peter 1:4-8, Galatians 5:19-23, Matthew 5:21-48, and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Then do what those verses say.

If you are interested in the history of the human relationship with God, read the Old Testament. If you want to know how to restore your relationship with God, read the book of Acts. If you want to know how to live the Christian life in a secular world, read the letters of Paul. The Bible is easy to understand, and you don’t need a theology degree. Don’t let anyone tell you what the Bible says. Please read it for yourself and act upon what it says. It is the Word of God. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Rapidly Increasing Drug Use Data from NIH

Rapidly Increasing Drug Use Data from NIH

One of the consequences of our culture’s rejection of God and Christian teachings is that people are looking for other ways to deal with life’s stresses. The National Institutes of Health’s annual survey shows rapidly increasing drug use in the United States.

In 2011, 29% of those ages 19 to 30 used marijuana 20 or more times in the preceding year, and 6% said they were daily users. In 2021, 43% had used marijuana 20 or more times in the past year, and 11% indicated they were daily users. In 2011, 3% said they used psychedelics such as magic mushrooms or LSD, and that number is now 8%. Data also shows a significant increase in vaping and alcoholic drinks mixed with THC.

The increasing legalization of marijuana is part of the cause for rapidly increasing drug use. In that case, these numbers should quickly grow in the next year as marijuana legalization continues to expand. This is a complex issue because we don’t know the long-term consequences of using marijuana and the chemicals derived from it.

The Christian concept of the body as the dwelling place of the Spirit of God means that Christians should take care of the body. Recreational drugs have no value for the well-being of the physical body but can have value in particular situations. Proverbs 31 states the wisdom of leaders not drinking but suggests using strong drink to help at the time of death. “Give strong drink to him who is ready to perish and wine to those that be of heavy hearts. Let them drink and forget their poverty and misery” (Proverbs 31:4-7). In 1 Timothy 5:23, Paul tells Timothy not to drink the contaminated water prevalent in that day but use a little wine to avoid illnesses from the water.

James 5 encourages Christians to rely on each other and on God to handle life’s challenges. Using drugs as a social lubricant or an antidepressant will have long-term negative consequences. We are only beginning to see the collateral damage of rapidly increasing drug use in the world around us.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: National Institutes of Health

Clandestine Actions of Major Corporations

Clandestine Actions of Major Corporations

The dictionary defines clandestine actions as things done in secret or executed with secrecy or concealment, especially for purposes of subversion or deception. For example, one of the issues facing us today is corporations and the government promoting ideas and values opposed to Christian principles. That is especially true of moral issues promoted in schools, the entertainment industry, and even the military.

The Family Research Council revealed the political activities of several corporations that most of us are unaware of because they are clandestine actions.

STATE FARM has joined efforts with GenderCool, which recruits children to be part of the transgender movement. In addition, state Farm has recruited employees to flood local libraries and schools with transgender books aimed at children as young as five.

PIZZA HUT has a program called “Book It,” which features a book about a young boy dressing in drag.

DICKS SPORTING GOODS has announced they will provide employees up to $4,000 to access abortion. AMAZON, BANK OF AMERICA, COMCAST, MACY’S, and PAY PAL are just a few of the companies offering abortion stipends and travel reimbursement.

THE CURRENT POLITICAL ESTABLISHMENT is displaying rainbow flags over U.S. embassies.

MILITARY members can get transgender surgeries paid for by taxpayers. The U.S. Navy has produced a training video on how to use “inclusive language” and the proper use of pronouns. A similar program has begun in the Air Force Academy.

The Family Research Council says that their surveys show that 57% of all Americans want companies to stay out of cultural and social issues. America is becoming an atheist state where the government dictates what is morally acceptable or unacceptable. At the same time, major corporations use clandestine actions to promote immorality. History tells us that nations collapse when they leave God and embrace immorality. Will we learn from history or repeat it?

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Family Research Council August 2022 information letter

Animal Environmentalists – Pygmy Marmosets

Animal Environmentalists – Pygmy Marmosets

People have only recently begun to realize that we must manage the environment in a way that doesn’t destroy the resources we need for survival. However, we see many examples of animals using conservation measures to preserve a vital resource. A classic example of animal environmentalists is the pygmy marmoset in the western Amazon of South America. 

Pygmy marmosets are the world’s smallest monkeys. The heaviest they get is about four ounces, and their largest size is nine inches. Because of their “cuteness,” people have captured and sold them as pets since they don’t bite, are quiet, and are easy to feed. People feed them sugar syrup along with a few supplements. In the wild, one of their main foods is high-sugar-content tree sap. Pygmy marmosets drill holes into a tree and lap up the flowing sap, and they can keep the hole open as long as needed. 

The interesting thing is how pygmy marmosets manage this resource. Drilling holes in multiple trees gives them enough nutrients to sustain a large population. However, making many holes in a tree and keeping them open would eventually kill the tree. So how do these animal environmentalists avoid killing off their food supply?

The PBS program Nature told of researchers who spent a month studying the pygmy marmoset lifestyle in an extremely remote part of the western Amazon away from human interference. The answer is that the monkeys let the holes heal over and switch locations to avoid extracting too much sap from one tree. In this way, they don’t damage the trees and have a constant food source. The question is, how do they know to do this? The human way of doing things might be to pull out everything from one tree and then go to the next until none were left. 

God has built a system of checks and balances into the natural world, allowing it to function indefinitely. It is only when humans upset the balance that trouble ensues. Animal environmentalists such as pygmy marmosets display the wisdom of God’s creation.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Source: The PBS program Nature, which initially aired on October 9, 2019

What Good Is a Mouse?

What Good Is a Mouse?

Most of us have an aversion to the mice that invade our homes and businesses. I saw my wife jump onto a chair when a mouse ran through our kitchen. When I asked her why she was so afraid of a two-inch-long rodent, I promptly got a lecture about the diseases mice carry. That was followed by a challenge to God about why He created such a varmint. What good is a mouse?

The fact is that mice are essential to Earth’s design. Mice provide food for a wide variety of other forms of life and serve as God’s tools for various important environmental uses. For example, beach mice help to maintain our ocean shorelines. In this day of rising sea levels, we need tools to prevent shore erosion that allows flooding and storm damage to cause massive damage and kill people. Humans have removed mangroves and stripped barrier islands of the vegetation that ordinarily would keep the water in check. That results in catastrophic damage from storm surges. 

A segment in the PBS Nature television series in September showed how scientists have found that beach mice are correcting this problem. They dig underground tunnels where they can escape from predators. In those chambers, the mice store large quantities of seeds from sea oat plants. Sea oats grow rapidly and send out root structures that lock the sand grains together.

When a mouse is captured by a predator or moves to another location, it leaves the sea oat seeds behind. The seeds sprout and proliferate, thanks to fertilizer that came from the mice. The result is that in a short time, a barrier island or dune will have a jungle of sea oats growing on it to break up waves, dissipate energy, and stop flooding from storm surges. 

All animals can indeed bring viruses and germs to humans if we allow them to be close to us. However, animals do many good things for us, and even the mouse is an example. God created everything for a purpose, and beach mice provide good ecological benefits through their lifestyle. So what good is a mouse? Looking closely, we can see the purpose of mice and all other living things that share our planet. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

God Created Two Books

God Created Two Books

How have you arrived at the belief system that governs your life? God created two books we are called to use as the basis for our lives, morals, and religious practice. Since these two books have one author, they must be complimentary and cannot conflict. It is strange that many people read one book and refuse to look at the other. That is true of both atheists and religionists.

One of the books is the Bible, and it calls us to use it as a guide for life. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states it very clearly: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for teaching, for training, for guiding and for moral discipline so that the man of God may be complete and adequately equipped for all good work.” Atheists reject this book because it involves denying one of a few physical pleasures and gives a purpose in living other than survival. Living selfishly has its rewards, and that is attractive.

God created two books, and the second book is the creation itself. The Bible is full of admonitions to use the things God has created as a means of knowing truth and learning how to live a productive and rewarding life. The Old Testament calls us to use what we see in the world around us as a guide to life. The entire book of Job carries that message. Numerous Psalms call us to see God’s wisdom and design and shape our beliefs in them. (See Psalms 8:3-9; 19:1; 53:1-4; 139:14-16.) Proverbs is full of admonitions to learn from the creation. (See Proverbs 6:6; 8:1-7 and 22-36.)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the created world as the basis of much of His teaching. (See Matthew 6:26-30; 7:16-20.) Romans 1:18 – 23 says of humans, “That which can be known of God lies plain before their eyes for God himself has made it clear to them. For those things of God which the eye can not see, ever since the creation of the world, are clearly perceived through the things that are made, and are clear to the eye of reason, even his eternal power and divine character so that men have no excuse.”

So God created two books, and it is clear why atheists do not wish to read and apply the Bible to guide their moral and spiritual lives. It is hard to understand why people who claim to believe in God refuse to look at the creation as a source of instruction and guidance. Some are too lazy to read the Bible and study its message, and others are too lazy to read the creation and learn its message. We need to read and study both books so that we can do what 1 Peter 3:15 tells us: “Revere Christ as Lord in your hearts and always be ready with your defense whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, yet argue gently and cautiously with meekness and respect.”

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used

The Hippocratic Oath No Longer Used
Bust of Hippocrates

In the past, the Hippocratic Oath was a sworn agreement made by medical students when they became doctors. It includes a promise “to share knowledge, to help the ill and not cause harm, and to never give a deadly drug or help another to use one.” Hippocrates (460 to 370 B.C.), a Greek physician known as the “father of medicine,” was concerned with the methods and ethics of medical treatment.

Hippocrates lived at the same time as Socrates, who extolled the doctor. He was in a clan known as the Asklepiads, devotees of Asklepios, a Greek god of health. They swore to the gods to keep themselves “pure and holy,” help the sick, and avoid “wrongdoing and harm to patients.” They vowed not to breach patient confidentiality, perform surgery for which they had not been trained, cause an abortion, poison, euthanize, or sexually abuse a patient.”

The Hippocratic Oath appeared in a collection of some 70 texts called the Hippocratic Corpus. By the 10th century, Christians had replaced Greek divinities in the Hippocratic Oath with the God of the Bible, and medical schools used that version until modern times. By the early 20th century, that began to change. In 1928 only 14 of 79 medical schools required their students to swear the Hippocratic Oath. No medical school in America requires it today.

In recent years, the ethics of medicine has become a major issue. Special interest groups like “Compassion and Choices” advocate for physician-assisted suicide. Laws in several states now allow doctors to prescribe lethal amounts of drugs for use in suicide.

Is the morality of a doctor important when you or a loved one are in declining health? What is the difference between a doctor who believes the body is the “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and one who believes in survival of the fittest? This is a significant issue for all of us dealing with end-of-life issues, as all eventually will.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Bring Back Hippocrates” by Dr. Lydia S. Dugdale, a physician and ethicist at Columbia University in New York, in the Autumn issue of Plough Quarterly.

Lightning Dynamics and St. Elmo’s Fire

Lightning Dynamics

As an old physics teacher, I am interested in lightning dynamics. Most of us have seen the effects of lightning and have been impressed with its power and destructive potential.

The question is, what produces lightning and its incredible power? On Earth, lightning is caused by water. If you have a steady stream of water from a faucet and bring a charged glass or plastic rod near it, the water stream will move toward the rod. The water molecule is polarized, meaning it has a positive and negative end. The charged rod attracts the oppositely charged end of the water molecule.

When warm moist air rises to form a thunderhead, it can reach velocities of 100 mph. The air cools and forms ice crystals that can become positively charged by collisions with other ice crystals. That means the lower parts of the storm cloud will acquire a negative charge. Conversely, the very bottom of the cloud will generate a positive charge as a result of the negative sections of the cloud. When this charge imbalance becomes great enough, an inch-wide stream of electrons travels between the negative and positive areas. This can be between the two layers of the cloud, the negative midsection and positive bottom of the cloud, or the ground and the positive lower parts of the cloud. This stream of electrons typically moves at 200,000 mph.

Lightning dynamics can heat the air around the stream of electrons to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, turning oxygen into ozone and sending out a shock wave which we hear as thunder. A tall object like a tree, a church steeple, or a lightning rod will accumulate a charge because it is closest to the charged cloud. Sometimes charges around the tall object will cause the air to glow in what is called “St. Elmo’s Fire.” That name is credited to a monk who first recorded seeing it at the top of his church and thought he was having a vision.

Lightning dynamics are very complicated and not a threat to humans unless we are careless. However, lightning has various benefits, such as producing nitrogen fixation so that plants can grow and resupplying the ozone layer, protecting us from some of the dangers coming to Earth from outer space.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: “Seconds count when lightning is spotted” in The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Indiana, August 13, 2022, page C3.

Wormholes, Black Holes, and the Beginning

Wormholes, Black Holes, and the Beginning
Wormhole Illustration

One of the strongest arguments for God’s existence is the fact that all evidence indicates that there was a beginning to the creation. Space and time are not eternal. If the creation began, there had to be a cause for space/time. The only way to avoid that is to show that space/time is eternal. The classic atheist argument is that if God has always existed, it is just as valid to claim that space/time has always existed. One way to support the view that space/time is eternal is to suggest that tunnels called wormholes exist between black holes in the cosmos.

The idea is that wormholes would allow matter/energy to fall into a black hole in one area of space and re-emerge in another part of space. By falling into a black hole, the conservation laws of science and the laws of thermodynamics would be invalidated. Physical laws, entropy, and all other boundaries would start over when the matter/energy emerged at the wormhole’s other end. All matter/energy in the cosmos would experience these changes through an infinite number of wormholes, and since the laws of science would be re-established, this could go on forever. In essence, this is a new version of last century’s oscillating universe theory.

Science fiction writers have used this idea as a way for aliens to quickly travel anywhere in the cosmos. The distances between galaxies are in the millions of light years, so traveling even at the speed of light would take millions of years. If wormholes connected the galaxies, you could take a shortcut traveling instantly from one galaxy to another. This is an imaginative proposal, but the evidence doesn’t support it.

If every galaxy is connected to other galaxies by wormholes, we should be able to see matter/energy emerging from every galaxy we observe. If the wormhole were in empty space, you would see white holes where this would be happening. We don’t see any such objects anywhere. Instead, we see black holes and even have photographic evidence of their existence. However, the nature of a black hole is that matter/energy falls into it and is compressed smaller and smaller to an infinitely small point. Nothing comes out of a black hole by any process.

Scientists speculate that ultimately, all the matter/energy in the cosmos will fall into one supermassive black hole and be destroyed. That reminds us of the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:10-12, “The elements will be dissolved.” There was a beginning, and it was caused by God, an entity outside of space/time, and there will be an end.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

Endothermic or Ectothermic – What’s the Difference?

You are an endothermic mammal. That means your body’s metabolic rate controls your internal body temperature. We describe that condition by saying you are “warm-blooded.” Many life forms on our planet are “cold-blooded” (ectothermic) because the environment controls their internal body temperature. The limitation of being cold-blooded is that it requires warm environmental temperatures. Ectothermic life forms can’t survive in polar areas. Endothermic life can survive almost anywhere.

During the time of the dinosaurs, the planet was very hot. That means biological systems, including plants, grew quickly. Those conditions were part of God’s preparation of resources that humans would need, including oil, coal, topsoil, and oxygen. However, the geologic record shows a point in Earth’s history when the climate radically changed. 

As the entire planet cooled, areas at or near the poles became too cold for cold-blooded life to exist. Studies of bone growth rates and oxygen isotopes in ancient bones indicate a rapid change. This change would not be a problem for warm-blooded animals but would reduce the number, size, and activity of cold-blooded life forms.

The challenge would be to design living creatures that can translate food into enough internal heat to survive in a cold environment. Science News reported on studies of the inner ears of reptiles and mammals. In warm-blooded animals, the inner ear fluid is less viscous, requiring that the ear canals become smaller. As a result, fossils show a sharp change in inner ear morphology at the time when Earth’s climate became colder. 

Many other changes were required for life to go from ectothermic to endothermic. However, the inner ear structure is preserved in the fossils, making it useful for scientists to study the history of life on Earth. The complexity of endothermy reminds us again of the words of Psalms 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works.” In our time of changing climate, the design of life continues to show the wisdom involved in life’s creation. 

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: Science News August 27, 2022, page 9, and Nature.com