Giver Or Taker – Which Are You?

Giver Or Taker – Which Are You?

One of the major arguments against naturalistic evolution is the philosophical question of where does your belief system takes you in life? What we really believe affects every facet of how we live. “Survival of the fittest” is a statement of naturalistic evolution. While it has applications in the biological world, for humans, it is a philosophical belief system in which we base every life decision on what will make me more “fit.” That is a TAKER mentality.

A person with a TAKER mentality might do something good for someone else only if they can visualize how the act might ultimately benefit them. Narcissism is a natural product of this kind of thinking. Hoarding, abuse, control, and deception are all a product of a TAKER mentality. People even use religion to promote TAKER value systems. In the Bible, we read of numerous cases where the goal of an individual was self-promotion. For example, in Acts 8:18-24, we see a man named Simon who attempted to use his religion for his personal gain.

The Christian system as taught by Jesus Christ offers a diametrically opposite view of life. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). He lived that belief system even to the point of dying for it. In today’s world, we see the fruit of rejecting the teachings of Christ and living a “survival of the fittest” belief system. The misery index and suicide rate of our culture are at an all-time high. Sexual satisfaction is at an all-time low, with abuse of all kinds at astronomical levels. Racism and hatred are destroying the fabric of our society.

So how do I become a GIVER instead of a TAKER? May I suggest three things you can do that will change your whole outlook on life? As a result, you can become more blessed, happier, and more satisfied with life. These are biblical teachings, and they work:

BUILD FAITH IN GOD by studying the evidence that God is an abundant giver. Spend some time looking at the creation. Go to apod.nasa.gov and see the wonderful pictures each day showing the cosmos that God created. On a clear night, look up at the sky and reflect on what God has created for us to exist. The Psalms and Proverbs are full of admonitions to do this. For example, read Psalms 8:3-9, 19:1-3, and Proverbs chapter 8. Then read Psalms 139:1-14. and consider John 3:16

FOCUS ON HOW YOUR LIFE CAN BLESS OTHERS rather than on what your activity brings to you. Matthew 6:1-4 states this well. The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 demonstrates the wrong motives some people have when they seek glory for themselves rather than being faithful GIVERS. Realize that TAKERS view sex as something that brings pleasure to them, rather than giving pleasure and satisfaction to someone else. As a result, TAKERS are left with an empty feeling of frustration.

LET GOD’S SPIRIT WORK IN YOUR LIFE. The Holy Spirit working in us can help us to become joyful GIVERS. In 2 Corinthians 8:3-7, we see that the ability to give is a “grace” that God wants to give to us. Luke 6:38 tells us that givers will receive back in proportion to their giving.

As long as we live, we have 168 hours every week to use either as a GIVER or a TAKER. Give a tithe of your time – 10% of 168. Include time spent in worship, in class, in prayer, and in meditation. Be sure also to spend part of that 16.8 hours in action. Matthew 25:31-40 gives various areas to choose from where we can give as Jesus calls us to. When we see God work through us, it will motivate us to do more, and God will open doors we never thought possible. We will come to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

— John N. Clayton © 2021

The Futility of Atheism as a Source of Happiness

The Futility of Atheism as a Source of Happiness - Contentment in Faith

It is interesting to read the responses of various groups to what we post on this site. Atheist reactions to our discussions about the futility of atheism have been especially interesting. We have occasionally made the statement that one of the problems atheists face is that they see no purpose in their existence. On the other hand, atheists have responded that their pleasures in life serve as a purpose. 

Vladimir Putin recently made a statement published in Time magazine (July 5/July 12, 2021, page 6), “There is no happiness in life. There’s only a mirage on the horizon.” That is a quote from Leo Tolstoy, the Russian Nobel Prize winner in literature. Putin used it concerning the struggles between Russia and the United States. It is interesting that the Russian dictator living in the 21st century would draw on it. But, what did he mean by “happiness?”

Happiness and pleasure are two different things. For example, sexual pleasure is not happiness. A biblical example is the rape of Tamar by Amnon in 2 Samuel 13. After he raped Tamar, the passage tells us, “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred for her was greater than the love by which he had loved her.” Thus, sexual pleasure is not happiness, and neither does having massive amounts of money bring happiness. Unfortunately, the life stories of some of the richest men in the history of America are largely tragic and often ending in suicide. 

How does an atheist deal with tragedies and illnesses in life? If the things you think will bring happiness are put out of reach by something you cannot control, what do you do? That is when the futility of atheism becomes apparent. 

On the other hand, Christians find happiness in fulfillment. Contentment is another word that that describes the fulfilled Christian who sees a purpose in life and hope for the future. Feeling God’s Spirit working in you as promised in Acts 2:38 will bring contentment. That is something that atheists cannot fully understand because their belief system does not allow it. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Living the Christian Life

Living the Christian Life

One of the struggles that we all have is living the Christian life completely. Both atheists and believers often misunderstand what it means to be a Christian. Those of us who claim to be Christians do not claim to be perfect or better than anyone else. My favorite analogy is that I am called as a Christian to be faithful to my wife. That is within my power. It is not within my ability to be perfect to my wife.

Over the years, there have been situations where I could have been unfaithful to my wife and probably gotten away with it. As a speaker on college and university campuses for 53 years, people opposed to my ministry have made deliberate attempts to trap me by giving me opportunities to be unfaithful. With God’s help, I have been able to avoid those traps.

By the same token, my relationship with my wife has been far from perfect. I have failed in so many ways that I could write a book about how husbands fail in their marriages. Those failures are of things I should have done and didn’t. I am ashamed to say that there were things I did that could be called abusive.

The same is true of my relationship with Jesus Christ. I have tried to be consistent in living the Christian life, but I have been a long way from perfect in my life and ministry. I have not always “turned the other cheek.” I have not always “loved my enemy.” Even more important, I have left undone things that I should have done. Does this mean I am rejected by God and doomed to the same end as the atheists with whom I have debated? Certainly not!

My greatest encouragement in this matter is the writings of the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:15-23. Paul tells us, “I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate….For the good that I want to do, I do not do, and I practice the same evil that I do not want to be a part of…I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body waging war against the law of my mind…” So the atheist will say, “How does your being a Christian change anything? You are just like me.” That is true. We all have the same battle, but living the Christian life, I have two things the atheist doesn’t have.

(1) I have guidance in my life that works. I know that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have help in not actively engaging in sin after sin after sin. The Holy Spirit has given me solutions that help me avoid sin. I still make mistakes, and I am sure that my carelessness and stupidity make Jesus weep sometimes, just as at times it makes my wife weep. But as a Christian, I am programmed to do things that are against human selfish desires.

(2) I know that I am forgiven by Jesus. After describing his struggles, Paul ends by saying, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” He answers that by telling us, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” I am no better than anyone else, but I am forgiven, and I avoid the destruction of a bad conscience and a guilt-ridden life. Living the Christian life, I also have the motivation to avoid repeating the damage produced by a selfish life.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

God Positioning System and What it Means

Homing Pigeon - God Positioning System and What it Means
Homing Pigeon

The Spring 2021 issue of God and Nature published an article by Angie Cornwell about the “God Positioning System.” During World War I, a homing pigeon saved the lives of almost 200 American men by carrying a message 25 miles despite being bombarded with gunfire. People have used homing pigeons for thousands of years to carry messages in all kinds of terrain, all kinds of weather, and in unfamiliar territory. Studies of how homing pigeons do this have concluded that they use at least five different systems. If one method doesn’t work, they use a different one. One technique is visual, using familiar landmarks. A second involves the use of environmental odors. A third system consists of using Earth’s magnetic field. A fourth system uses infrasonic (low frequency) signals, and a fifth system uses information stored in the pigeon’s brain.

Humans have a difficult time learning how to navigate in unfamiliar environments. For most of my life, I have relied on maps, but they are hard to use. You have to know where you are on the map, and folds in the map can cause misinformation. The invention of the global positioning system (GPS) has eliminated the weaknesses of maps. When in our human arrogance, we think we have a better way than the GPS has advised, causing us to get lost, the GPS will jump back in and guide us back to where we wanted to go.

Christians have a special GPS which Angie Cornwell has called the God positioning system. There are many similarities to the global position system. The God positioning system finds us wherever we are in life and directs us to where we need to go. When our arrogance causes us to choose a destructive path, we can turn back to the God positioning system to find our way.

God, in His mercy, has given us the ultimate navigational system to find our way back to Him. He has given us His Word to follow and His Holy Spirit to guide us. The global positioning system uses three satellites to triangulate our position. God the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit can pinpoint our spiritual condition and navigate us toward our eternal home. We never have to be desperately lost or alone. We don’t have to struggle to figure out where we are and how to get where we need to be.

Science hasn’t completely figured out all of the things that allow homing pigeons to navigate, and our human wisdom does not allow us to comprehend how the God positioning system works. The good news is that we don’t have to understand either one to take advantage of all they do for us.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: “God Positioning System (GPS)” from God and Nature Spring 2021.

The Christian Temple and the Jewish Temple

The Christian Temple and the Jewish Temple
Illustration of the Temple Solomon Built

One of the great misunderstandings of atheists and believers alike is the true meaning of the temple. The Christian temple is radically different from all other temples, including the Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish Temple’s history goes back to the time of King David, who complained that he lived in a house made of cedar while the ark of God was in curtains. God told David in 2 Samuel 7:3 to do what was in his heart. The enthusiasm for building a physical temple seems to come from David, but he did not complete the job.

There are many problems with temples. They are costly to build and maintain, they can be destroyed, and they can become political tools of evil people. However, the main problem is that temples limit God. If God dwells in His house, then you go to His house to be with God. When you leave His house, you leave God. That also is likely to mean you leave your morals behind. Did you ever wonder what was in David’s mind when he got involved with Bathsheba? Where was God in his thinking? Answer – in the Temple with his morals. How often do we see people who claim to be religious have the same moral weaknesses as everyone else?

Jesus gave a completely different view of the Christian Temple. First Corinthians 3:16-17 tells us that Christians are God’s temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells in us. In Acts 17:24-25, Paul told the pagans that God does NOT live in temples made with human hands and is not served by human hands. First Corinthians 6:15-20 tells Christians that their bodies are the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and that going to a prostitute is a logical impossibility.

Jesus made comparisons between the Jewish Temple and the Christian Temple. Just as the Jewish Temple had lights, so too should the Christian Temple. “You are the light of the world.” (See Matthew 5:14-16.) Galatians 5:22-26 speaks of what the Holy Spirit working in the Christian’s life will produce. Jewish worship involved giving the best they had. Mark 12:42 (the widow’s mite), and Luke 18:18-27 (the rich young ruler) make clear the Christian sacrifice and priorities.

The Jewish Temple was a place of learning and growth, and so too is the Christian temple. We need to learn and grow every day. This website and the “Does God Exist?” ministry are dedicated to helping people learn and grow. We learn new things every day, and we are always amazed to see how God uses our feeble efforts to help others grow.

You can receive God’s Spirit, making you a temple of God, by obeying Acts 2:38. That verse tells us that we will receive the “gift of the Holy Spirit” when we are baptized into Christ. God will never leave us, but we can force the Spirit out of our lives (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The blessings of being the temple that Jesus promised far outweigh any physical reward. Human efforts to replace the true temple with a “temple made with human hands” cannot compare.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Lessons from a Prism

Lessons from a Prism

It seems that God has built into the natural world all kinds of reminders about the nature of our relationship with Him. We repeatedly talk about how intelligence, order, and design are a natural part of the creation around us. One of the best examples of that is what we call lessons from a prism.

If you take sunlight and shine it on a prism (a solid triangular chunk of glass), the sunlight is broken up into all the colors of the rainbow. Each of those colors has a specific function In living things due to their different energies. Red has the lowest energy of visible light, and violet has the highest. The other colors have energies in between from red to orange to yellow to green to blue to violet. Green has the highest energy of light that makes it through the Earth’s atmosphere to reach us. Plants are green to reflect that highest energy, thus protecting the plants. Higher energies of light are scattered away from the Earth’s surface, making our sky blue.

The parallel to Jesus is astounding. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” This idea is repeated over and over. (See John 1:4-5; 1 John 1:5-7.) Like natural light, the “light of the world” is made up of many things – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We see all of those things in the lives of the followers of Jesus. The most energetic of these is love. That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is devoted to describing the unique power of the kind of love Jesus brings to the world. The Greek word used in that passage is “agape,” the most unique form of the five types of love the Greek language describes.

The lessons from a prism do not end with visible light. In the spectrum of physical light, some frequencies are not visible to our eyes. There are ultraviolet, Xrays, and gamma rays, all of which have incredible power beyond that of visible light. In the “light of the world” we have the operation of the Holy Spirit, who has power beyond anything we can imagine. He can make changes in each of us not only now, but also when time has ended.

On the other end of the physical spectrum, we have less energetic forms of light beyond red. These include infrared and all kinds of radio waves. Jesus came to the Earth to bring a special kind of light to all people. The problem with this part of the “light of the world” is that it involves words and the written page. People could and did reject what Jesus taught. Today people not only reject it but misinterpret and misrepresent what Jesus wants us to do. This light is less effective because humans are involved in making it work.

The ultimate future of the cosmos is that all light will be made into one. Second Peter 3:10-13 tells us that the elements will melt with fervent heat, and everything physical will be dissolved. We see confirmation of this in the equation E =mc^2. Peter goes on to say that this will lead to a New Heaven and a New Earth. Revelation chapters 21 and 22 describe some of the properties of this new spiritual existence. Paul had a vision of it in 2 Corinthians 12:3-5 and said that any words to describe it would be unspeakable.

Lessons from a prism remind us that we are the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14-16). Understanding the magnificence of the spiritual spectrum seen in Christ Jesus gives us the tools to carry that light to those in darkness.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Holy Spirit’s Work and Nonsense

Holy Spirit's Work and Nonsense

Skeptics of Christianity frequently challenge the concept of the Holy Spirit. That criticism is mainly due to the denominational world’s claims of miraculous acts by their religious leaders. There is no question that God can perform whatever miracles He chooses. However, many claims of the Holy Spirit entering and taking over a person are not only illogical, but they violate biblical teaching about the Holy Spirit’s work.

Numerous books have been written on the Holy Spirit, but from an apologetic standpoint, we must see what the Bible says:

1) In Acts 2:38-39, Peter promised the Holy Spirit to all those who are baptized into Christ, not just to an elite church group.

2) Jesus promised to send the Spirit as a “Comforter.” The Greek word is “parakletos,” which means “one called alongside.” The Holy Spirit helps us in our Christian life but does not make us robots (John 14:15-17).

3) The Holy Spirit’s work is primarily spiritual, not physical (Ephesians 3:16-20). The Holy Spirit is not here to allow us to handle poisonous snakes, raise the dead, or calm physical storms today. The Spirit helps our prayer life (Romans 8:26-28) and helps us to be patient (Galatians 5:22-26). The Holy Spirit enables us to us give freely (2 Corinthians 8:1-7, Acts 20:35) and to live moral lives (Galatians 5:16-26, Romans 6:1-23, 8:1-17). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can reach out to others (Romans 8:16), and use the gifts we are given (1 Corinthians 12:1-13).

4) The Spirit gives us the power, but He doesn’t force us to act. He nudges us but doesn’t overpower us (Acts 7:48-51, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22). John 14:15-17 tells us that the skeptic will not accept the Spirit. Rejecting God’s help makes life become a burden, not a joy.

The promises of Jesus, such as Matthew 7:7-11, are primarily spiritual. Becoming a Christian to get rich or have political power is a nonsense understanding of the Holy Spirit’s work.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Promise and Hope of Christianity

Promise and Hope of ChristianityWe can’t win with the atheist press, because atheists attack us for anything we do or anything we don’t do. If Christians are not involved in the latest natural disaster relief effort, atheists criticize that non-involvement. They ignore the fact that virtually no atheist organization has ever consistently engaged in disaster relief. When Christians are involved, critics question their motives and challenge their financial involvement. The atheist critics are overlooking the promise and hope of Christianity.

Our small congregation here in Michigan has a food pantry that serves around 100 people in our area. We and are constantly reminded by the state that we cannot allow our name to be on anything we give people because that is considered to be self-serving.

An atheist spokesman recently told me that he would never become a Christian because he wanted to enjoy life and be happy. He said he wanted no part of being poor and miserable by giving everything away. He was very familiar with Matthew 25:31-36 where Jesus says that service to others is a measurement by which we will be judged. The Bible urges Christians to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), to do good to all (Galatians 6:10), and to be helpful to the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16).

What atheists and many believers alike are forgetting is the promise and hope of Christianity. Jesus came “that (we) might have life, and that (we) might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The Bible teaches that we should take care of our bodies. Ephesians 5:29 tells us, “No man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it…” The body is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and God’s Spirit lives within us ( 2 Corinthians 5:5). Acts 2:40 finds Peter telling the crowd at Pentecost, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”

The Bible is concerned about more than our physical well being. A more significant threat to an enjoyable life and happiness is our mental condition. Jesus cured extreme mental illness in the wonderful story of Luke 8:26-40. Psalms 139 and Psalms 23 provide the viewpoint of a child of God who is mentally stable, satisfied with life, and confident about the future. The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 -7 provides ways of living at peace with good mental health. Romans 8:28 gives a level of confidence no atheist can comprehend. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul expresses a view all Christians can have. “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am in, to be content. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

I have lived as a vocal, campaigning atheist, and I have been with loved ones who lived and died as atheists. Atheism is not a happy philosophy or religion, and it makes no promises about the future but eternal blackness at best. If I found there is no God, I would still want to live as a Christian, because the promise and hope of Christianity now and in the future is priceless. The peace that the Holy Spirit brings assures me that God is real.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Should Christians Get Tattoos?

Should Christians Get Tattoos?
Tattoos are nothing new. In 1991 tourists found a 5,300-year-old iceman mummy in the Italian Alps with 61 tattoos on his body. Recently archaeologists found tattoos on 5,000-year-old mummies in Egypt. Even though tattoos have been around for a long time, they have become very popular in the last few years. According to a Harris poll, currently, 21 percent of U.S. adults have at least one tattoo. The thing many people want to know is should Christians get tattoos?

There are disagreements among Christian teachers about tattoos. You can search the internet and find discussions on the topic, such as here and here. What does the Bible say? The passage that is often quoted is Leviticus 19:28. However, there is disagreement on exactly what it means. We don’t have room here to go into a lengthy theological discussion about whether or not tattoos are sinful. We will leave that to others. But there are some things we can say for certain about tattoos.

You may wonder why tattoos are so permanent when our skin cells, like other cells in our bodies, die and are replaced every few years. According to an article published on March 6 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the reason has to do with our immune system. When the needle punctures the skin, immune-response cells called macrophages rush to the site and gobble up the foreign substance. After capturing the ink, they hold it until they die. When they die a cellular recycling system kicks into action. New macrophages take up the ink and hold it until they die. The process continues keeping the ink as a permanent part of the cellular network. Tattoo removal requires laser pulsing the macrophage cells that hold the ink coaxing them to release it into the lymph system of the body. This removal process can take years.

It is also safe to say that tattoos can cause serious adverse reactions. These can be short-term problems such as infections. They can be long-term problems including redness, swelling, and itching. In a random sampling of tattooed people in New York City, ten percent said they had some complications. Of that ten percent, sixty percent had chronic problems. Sometimes people develop allergies to the inks used, and sometimes that happens only after they get a second tattoo. The treatment for tattoo allergies may involve topical or injected steroids or surgical removal. Tattoo inks are not closely regulated, if at all. Unsanitary tattoo parlors or a tattoo artist who doesn’t use proper precautions can cause infections. Bacterial infections are the most common, but fungal or viral infections are possible. Tattoos can result in blood-borne diseases such as hepatitis B and C.

Another potential problem of tattoos is that they can hide health problems such as skin cancers of all kinds including melanoma. With skin cancer, as with any cancer, early detection is essential and even a dermatologist may not see early evidence if it is hidden by a tattoo. Tattoos can also increase your risk of the effects of Sun exposure. Yellow ink, which contains cadmium, is known to cause itching and redness when exposed to the Sun. Black or dark ink colors can absorb the Sun’s rays and cause overheating. Because black ink contains iron, it can also create problems if you have an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Black ink contains iron, and the magnetic field can generate electric currents in the iron. That can cause burning, and the more black ink, the more danger in an MRI.

But should Christians get tattoos? For a Christian, there are more things to consider before getting a tattoo. Why do you want one? Is it to glorify God, or is it to draw attention to yourself? Is it an act of rebellion? How will friends and family react? Will it be a stumbling block for other Christians? Will this tattoo be appropriate for me 30, 40, or 50 years from now? Will it make it hard for me to get a job? (Many employers do not want their employees to have visible tattoos.) Is this the best stewardship of money which could be used to spread the gospel or help others in need? (Tattoos are expensive, but removal is much more expensive and painful.) What does the tattoo say about me? Does it convey the kind of message I want to present as a Christian?

Let’s go back to the original question. Should Christians get tattoos? If you are a Christian, a better question to ask is, “Should I get a tattoo?” As you ask that question remember “you are not your own” and “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) Finally read Romans 14:22-23 and consider, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.”
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Recreational Drugs and God’s Plan

Recreational Drugs
The Bible tells Christians that the body is the “Temple of the Holy Spirit” and warns us not to destroy it but to take care of it. (See 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 and 6:19-20.) It also tells us to live in such a way that those who know us and watch us are encouraged by our lifestyle and not offended by what we do. (See Romans 14:21.) Recreational drugs should not be part of a Christian’s lifestyle.

In spite of all the teachings and warnings, the Church has been very silent on the evils of recreational drugs while those drugs are doing massive damage. The numbers from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics for 2015 show that 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired crashes in the United States. Recent numbers from the Highway Loss Data Institute show that since the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state auto insurance claims have increased 6% more than in neighboring states.

Can you imagine the response of the American public if an enemy managed to kill over 10,000 of our people every year? In spite of that, we see repeated attempts to justify the use of alcohol and recreational marijuana even in many discussions in the Church. This is the most destructive thing that has ever happened to Americans, and yet we are silent about its use.

God calls His people to avoid those things that would impair both our function and our example. We must not let our culture numb us into complacency about the destructive issue of recreational drugs.
–John N. Clayton © 2017