Take the High Road

Take the High RoadSeveral years ago, I was giving a lecture on the existence of God in a university science auditorium in downtown Chicago. I had shown the strong evidence that the cosmos was not the product of chance. At the beginning of the question/answer session, an atheist jumped to his feet, ran to a window on the edge of the auditorium, drew open the curtain, and pointed to the ghetto that surrounded the university. “If there was a God,” the atheist shouted, “He would never let a mess like this exist!” He then went into details about the pain, disease, loneliness, and poverty that was so dominant in inner-city neighborhoods. A huge sign left over from an inner-city high school career day hung in the auditorium where we were meeting. The sign said, “Take the High Road out of the Neighborhood-Get an Education.”

I asked the atheist about the meaning of the sign. He responded that it meant that the university offered programs that would help young people develop their talents so they could get a job and work their way out of poverty. “Does it take any effort or involvement on the part of the young people themselves?” I asked. “Of course,” he said. I replied, “God has never done for us what we could do for ourselves. If you want to take the high road out poverty, drugs, abuse, prostitution, or any other destructive behavior, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you.”

The road to destruction is a road of inactivity. It’s a road where we expect God or other people to solve our problems with no activity on our part. If we follow the low road, it won’t solve the problems. It will lead to a lack of appreciation, lack of satisfaction, lack of identity, lack of commitment, and poor self-esteem. There are many applications of this to welfare, foreign aid, and other problems of our government.

When people look at the problems of society today and ask why God doesn’t solve them, two fundamental principles apply. The first is that God is not the source of our problems. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that there is a spiritual battle going on between good and evil. Galatians 6:7-8 also tells us that a large percentage of what happens to us is our own doing. The purpose of our existence requires us to have the choice between good and evil, but with that choice comes negative consequences when we choose evil.

The second principle is that God expects us to be involved in overcoming the destructive forces in our lives. I firmly believe that my journey out of atheism and my ability to cope with a severely damaged child did not happen because of my own strength. But God did not step in and force a solution on me in either of those situations. I had to make an effort and do what I could. Once I had done all I could and gone as far as I could go, God did the rest. You will not see a single case in the Bible where God forced a person to take the high road.

A large percentage of the good things that are happening in the ghettos and substance abuse clinics is because the people doing them have tapped into God and believe that He will make things happen when they do all that they can. Deciding to take the high road to the solutions to human problems involves work and allowing God to supply what you cannot do yourself. If you have not sincerely tried it, please do not knock it, because it works.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

LGBTQ Lifestyles and God

LGBTQ Lifestyles and GodIn yesterday’s post, we said that homosexuality is perhaps the most inflammatory issue of our day. We emphasized that even though Bible passages such as Romans 1:24-28 condemn homosexual behavior, Christians must have love and compassion for everyone, including those with LGBTQ lifestyles. We concluded by saying that there are probably many causes of homosexuality, but God is not one of them. What are some possible causes and consequences?

Ellen DeGeneres is a well-known gay celebrity and advocate for LGBTQ lifestyles. She recently shared her early life publicly and told of horrible abuse by her stepfather. Many times victims are abused in infancy. Environmental issues may also be involved, and especially drugs and drug disposal. It appears that in many cases a person’s sexual orientation was not a conscious choice. The fact that fish in the Potomac River have had their sexual orientation changed because of hormone disposal by a drug company underlines how easy it is for human abuse of the environment to upset the reproductive systems of living things.

LGBTQ lifestyles are generally not healthy lifestyles. Government statistics on the life expectancy of various lifestyle choices show a dramatic shortening of life by sexual orientation. The incidence rate of HIV infection in male homosexuals cannot be denied. It is true that transgender individuals must follow a drug regime to maintain their chosen sexual identity for their entire lives, and that has adverse side effects.

Sexual activity in humans IS a choice, but feelings may not be. We reviewed Guy Hammond’s book Caring Beyond the Margins in which he explains that while he is attracted to men, he has chosen not to express that attraction in physical activity. (He is married, has children and a ministry). We are not robots. We can choose to be celibate. We can delay sexual activity until marriage. Sex outside of marriage is wrong, and rape is a travesty of sex.

God created sex as a beautiful thing that two people can treasure and share. We need to treat one another with care, compassion, concern, and support of healthy choices physically and emotionally. When we abuse those choices, there are consequences that sometimes hurt others. Pray for those who are struggling with the complex and emotional issues of LGBTQ lifestyles.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Life Expectancy and Despair

Life Expectancy and Despair
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released its latest annual report on American life expectancy. The report shows that for the third year life expectancy in the United States has not grown and has declined. The last time that this happened was in World War I when a flu pandemic killed 675,000 people.

The report says that drugs and suicide are the main culprits now with the overdose rate up 356% since 1999. The 2017 death toll is 70,237 far outstripping the total American fatalities in Vietnam.

It is interesting that everyone studying this life expectancy issue seems to agree on what the cause is, and what the solution is. The NationalReview.com says that “we are facing not so much a drug problem as a heartbreak problem.” An AARP study found that one-third of Americans report chronic loneliness and conclude that isolation is a state “about as deadly as smoking.” David Brooks writing in the New York Times says “It’s not jobs, jobs, jobs or better welfare programs that will save us from this ongoing social catastrophe; it’s human relationships and a society that cares about people more than money.”

We suggest that people need to read and follow the example in Acts 2:41-47. People had a common faith in God, and they took care of each other. They “CONTINUED DAILY WITH ONE ACCORD” and spent time together focusing on meaningful relationships. The result was that “they had favor with all the people.”

This reminds me of a comment I heard Carl Sandburg make when someone asked him what he thought about Christianity. His response was “I don’t know, I have never seen it tried.” Christianity is not a legalistic way of restricting human behavior. It is a way of life that blesses everyone who is a part of it and everyone around those who live it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Reference: The Week, December 14, 2018, page 17

Sex Addiction – Medical or Moral?

Sex AddictionThe World Health Organization has just released its new International Classification of Diseases. The new classification of sex addiction presents a question. Is it a medical issue or a moral issue?

The WHO identifies compulsive sexual health disorder as “a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior.” The lead “expert” on this change is Robert Weiss who says that classifying sexual addiction as a medical issue and not a moral issue “takes it out of religion.”

Weiss and his supporters make comparisons between sexual addiction and gambling, drug, and alcohol addictions. They hope that therapy sessions will solve sexual addiction. Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey are undergoing treatment at a facility for the sexually addicted. It would seem that this change in classification will create a whole new industry.

We would suggest that these comparisons are invalid and that this new system will be used to excuse the sexual abuse that we see on the front page of our newspapers. Sexual abuse involves how we view members of the opposite sex. It has been known for a long time that rape has very little to do with sexual satisfaction. We do not find the most satisfying sexual relationships in abusive sex, premarital sex, or any other sexual conduct outside of marriage to one committed partner. The media and the “experts” are missing the purpose of sex and the beautiful relationship it nurtures between two individuals.

The New Testament trumpets the heart as the central player in relationships, personal conduct, and values. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:21. “..those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart: and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts… fornications..” Matthew 15:18-19. Sexual conduct IS a moral choice. We are not robots or puppets. Alcohol and drugs can alter the mind and have a very negative impact on the making of right decisions, but how we use our money and our bodies is a different issue.

People who sexually abuse children and members of the opposite sex will be delighted to blame their sex addiction on psychological baggage that others forced upon them. How we conduct our lives and the choices we make are under our control, and while people may excuse aberrant sexual behavior on medical issues, God will not.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Reference: USA Today, July 13, 2018, page A-1.

The Human Body and the Christian

Human Body

One of the unique teachings of the Bible is that the human body is the temple of God. First Corinthians 3:16 says it clearly: “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells within you?” This concept is repeated numerous times throughout the New Testament. The consequences of that belief are very significant. The next verse tells us: “If any man defiles the temple of God, he will be destroyed: for the temple of God is holy, and that temple is you.”

As Christians, we should treat our bodies with respect and care. Taking recreational drugs of any kind is an affront to that care. The consequences of taking alcohol, nicotine, meth, or crack into our bodies or abusing prescription drugs will ultimately destroy our health. The list of ailments from alcohol and nicotine is massive and growing.

In today’s world, many have been told that vaping involves no health risks. That is simply not true. It is true that e-cigarettes contain no tobacco, but medical data is showing that the vapor from e-cigarettes reduces the body’s ability to heal wounds. Teens who vape can develop smoker’s cough and bloody sores. Chemical analysis shows that the vapors contain cancer-causing chemicals. A new vaping behavior called “dripping” intensifies the effects of vaping and increases the risks.

The human body is an amazing machine, but it is also more than that. God has called us to care for our bodies and to treat them as a sacred dwelling for His Spirit. Involvement in solving the problems facing humanity today is a better high than vaping can ever produce. We cause many of our physical problems by not caring for God’s Temple, and the teachings of Christ should lead us to correct that.
Reference: Science News May 13, 2017, page 5.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Time: God’s Prozac

Multiple Medicines

A comic strip called “Close to Home” is carried in daily newspapers around the country. On April 1, 2017, the cartoon showed a huge pipeline labeled “Prozac” running into a town named “Gurgeville.” A television news reporter is shown giving a report and saying, “Since adding the pipeline, Gurgeville has had a 30% drop in crime, divorces are down 40%, and student grades are up 28%.” I thought it was appropriate that our newspaper, The South Bend Tribune, ran the cartoon on April Fool’s Day. But for many people in our culture, the message that drugs are the solution to all our problems is real.

God’s solution to most of the things we try to medicate away is TIME. Dr. Stephen Eckstein wrote a wonderful article titled “Quality Time is LOTS of Time.” Eckstein points out that for the first few months after birth a baby requires almost all of the mother’s time. If the mother is sincere in her love, she will change her activities so that the baby can grow and develop. Any child deprived of this time and of both parents engaging in cuddling, kissing, and expressing love to the child is irreparably harmed. As the child grows, there must be time in which the parents play with the child, read to the child, and give the child enormous attention. We public school teachers see an amazing number of children on medications that are simply addressing the problems that result from their growing up without time from their parents.

We adults also need the time of others to be stable, productive adults. Jesus set the example of maturing and growing stable adults. Can you imagine Jesus and his disciples meeting one time a week for an hour? For three years the disciples walked, talked, traveled, ate, and lived together. The Passover meal of John 13:25 portrays an intimate social setting where teaching and sharing took place. The members of the early Church described in Acts 2:42-47 were together daily, sharing, eating, praying, and enjoying the stability of a common faith and experience.

For many of us, Church today involves parading into a building, watching a performance for an hour, being told to come back 167 hours later, and then returning to the struggles and challenges of the modern world. This simply doesn’t work, and people quit coming because their needs are not met. The Church is people, not a building. Passages like 1 Corinthians 3:11-23 make it clear that what most of us experience as “church” is not even close to what God planned for us. There are times when a medication is needed because of chemical imbalances and medical conditions, but for most of us, pharmaceutical Prozac is not the answer. God’s Prozac involves having large amounts of time with those who love us and with those whose values will lead us to good choices in life.

For a copy of Stephen Eckstein’s article, you can contact him at sdeckstein@juno.com. Or contact us with your mailing address, and we will send it to you.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Legalizing Marijuana and Being a Convicted Christian

Marijuana

As of November 11, 2016, the number of states in the US that have legalized medical marijuana is 28. The Gallup poll tells us that 60% of all Americans approve the legalizing of marijuana. Celebrities like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dog now have their own marijuana lines. Tech companies like Microsoft have developed software for cannabis growers. In Colorado, nearly half of all marijuana sales are for THC-infused items. Pot shops sell ice cream laced with THC as well as cannabis-infused breath spray, energy shots, and bacon brittle. There are now marijuana massage oils, body lotions, and lip balms.

There are some reasons why one might support making marijuana legal. Criminalizing the use and sale of drugs has produced the violent drug cartels and has filled prisons with people who were not in power positions with the cartels. Legalizing marijuana allows the states to tax it. In Colorado, the income to the state has generated 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity and has created 18,000 full-time jobs. Promoters of marijuana now point to scientific data showing that marijuana is less dangerous to the individual than alcohol or tobacco. From a political and economic standpoint, it may seem that the legalization of marijuana is a good thing.

From a purely political standpoint, however, there are some good reasons to oppose the legalization of marijuana. In Washington State, the number of drivers involved in fatal car crashes who tested positive for THC rose by 48% between 2013 and 2014 when legalized marijuana hit the market. Also in Washington, the number of DUI arrests during the first six months after the legalization of marijuana nearly doubled. The number of patients hospitalized in Colorado for accidentally ingested marijuana rose from 809 patients per 100,000 to 2,413 after marijuana was legalized, with a large percentage of the victims being children. The use of marijuana by Americans has more than doubled in the last 12 years to 8.4 million people. The long-term effect of marijuana use is just beginning to be studied, but the adolescent use of marijuana has been shown to cause significant losses of IQ points and an increased risk of psychotic illness. In my hippie days, LSD was said to be harmless by its proponents, but we now know that certainly was not true. It is undoubtedly not true for marijuana.

You may have noticed that the title of this article includes the term “convicted Christian.” First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that our bodies are “God’s temple” and that the Spirit of God lives in us. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him: for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” A little later in chapter 6:15-20 Paul goes on to repeat the concept that our bodies are members of Christ himself and raises the issue regarding uniting with a prostitute. He concludes the discussion by saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” In 1 Thessalonians 5:22 Paul encourages Christians to “abstain from every appearance of evil.” The question becomes, “What is our first priority?” Is it serving God or finding pleasure while trying to avoid getting in so deep that we lose our souls.

Saying that marijuana is less dangerous to the human body than alcohol or nicotine is an incredibly poor argument to justify using marijuana. Just as Christians should oppose the use of marijuana, we should oppose the use of alcohol as a social drug. Do we really mean what we say when we talk about “dying to sin” in the language of Romans 6? It is important to understand that what we are addressing in this discussion is the use of marijuana as a recreational drug. Are there medical uses of marijuana that can make it a positive tool of medical science? The answer is yes. That answer is also true of alcohol. In 1 Timothy 5:23 Paul tells Timothy to “take a little wine for your stomach’s sake.” Paul certainly wasn’t telling Timothy to get drunk. The use of alcohol in the time of Paul to fight contaminated water and infection was not the same as an alcoholic drink used to take the drinker to non-reality. Marijuana may have some great uses in treating cancer, pain, and any number of ailments. To be used medically, for the most part, the marijuana would not be smoked. The medical use of anything God has given us is certainly not at odds with the teaching of the Bible. There are may be good uses for marijuana, but there are also destructive uses. Data from The Week, November 25, 2016, page 11.
–John N. Clayton © 2017