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

Physician-Assisted Suicide and the Christian

Contemplating Physician-Assisted Suicide
One of the new problems people face today is the question of what to do when you have a painful terminal illness. Improved medical treatments have allowed us to live longer with diseases that previously would have ended life. This has led to increased interest in physician-assisted suicide.

As I write this, I am dealing with my younger brother facing the end of life due to a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The disease has changed him from an active, in control, retired military officer to a man confined to a wheelchair, in great pain, and unable to care for himself. He and I have talked about physician-assisted suicide a number of times. Each time we do, the discussion gets more difficult.

Christianity Today (April 2017, page 18) reported that Lifeway Research found that 38% of the American public believes that physician-assisted suicide is morally acceptable when facing a painful terminal illness. Their study shows that 42% agree that physicians should be allowed to assist terminally ill patients in ending their lives. Those numbers have been climbing, and they will continue to do so.

It is easy to give simplistic condemnations of those who choose to end their lives in this way. When we are in the situation, it becomes much more challenging. For the Christian, the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Do we have any right to end the body’s life? Is a body racked with pain and twisted with a horrible disease a fit place for God’s Spirit? What effect does ending one’s life have on the loved ones? Is there ever a time when a person cannot minister to others even as they battle a horrible disease? These are all hard questions to answer.

It is obvious that our society is moving toward the time when euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide will be widely available. That is already the case in the Netherlands, and several states have passed laws allowing it. While the atheist may feel that human life should be treated like all other kinds of life, the Christian has a higher view of human life. This makes the decision more difficult when the end of life comes, but it also mitigates many of the fears and concerns that death brings. Life isn’t easy, and the end of life can be the most difficult. We need to study and pray together and support one another in these end-of-life issues.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

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

Is Muhammad the Comforter?

The Quran
The Quran

As Islam becomes more dominant in America, Muslims have begun to attack Christianity and the Bible with increasing frequency. There are several videos on the web that claim that the Comforter mentioned in John 14:26 is Muhammad. The word Muhammad means “praised one” and the claim is that the original word in the Greek was “perikleitos” which means “famous everywhere” or “renowned,” but that it was corrupted into “parakletos” meaning “counselor.” So how do you and I, not being experts in Greek, answer this question?

The answer is to look at the context of the passage. You don’t have to be a Greek expert to see that this passage is not dealing with a physical human who was a military leader. In John 14:23 Jesus talks about his disciples loving God and promising that the Godhead would dwell with those who love God. He then in verse 26 tells them that He would be sending “the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit” who would teach them all things. This statement is right after Judas had left and before Jesus was arrested. The reference is not to a claimed prophet who would live some 600 years later. (Islamic teaching is that Muhammed began getting messages from Gabriel in A.D. 610.) Verse 26 also tells us that the Comforter would come in the name of Jesus, and no Muslim would agree that Muhammad came in the name of Jesus.

Another issue is the Muslim claim that the biblical documents have been corrupted. The problem with that claim is that all of these documents were written before Muhammad was born, and copies of the manuscripts exist that are much older than A.D. 610. Complete manuscripts of John 14 dating from the third or fourth century exist. The question would have to be, “At what time were the documents corrupted?” It would have to be before the third century and yet the Quran dates to the seventh century.

It is easy for anyone to take a passage in the Bible out of context and make it say whatever they want it to say. Assaults that attempt to undo the work of Christ are all around us in the world today, but that was also true when the New Testament was written. (See Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 3:1-3; 1 John 4:1).
–John N. Clayton © 2017