Curse of Sin – What Is It?

The Garden and the Curse of SinMany Christians don’t have a clear understanding of the curses described in Genesis 3. God told Eve in verse 16, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” To Adam He said, “…cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” What exactly is the curse of sin?

We struggle with this account because of our assumptions about what life was like in the Garden of Eden and how it changed. Some have assumed that the environment changed and that humans were no longer gatherers, but that they had to develop agriculture to survive. Some have suggested that Eve underwent a physiological change so that the pelvic opening was reduced, causing increased pain in the birthing process. Some have felt that the Garden of Eden was essentially heaven, with no pain and no problems or work of any kind. That is not only a poor understanding of what heaven is about; it also raises more questions than it answers.

The Garden of Eden was a physical existence. Genesis 2:10-14 identifies a physical location with known rivers. Being physical means that the laws of physics and biology were in place. Adam and Eve were not in heaven, and they had work to do. In Genesis 2:15, God told Adam to take care of the Garden. The fact that thorns and thistles are mentioned in the curse tells us that they were in existence. The law of entropy was in existence, so things did age and die. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 that God created every creature “to be received with thanksgiving … for every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving.” Pitcher plants ate bugs, and bats and lions were not vegetarians.

The message of the curse of sin is not primarily physical. Thorns, thistles, and sweat are more than just a complication to those involved in agriculture. They are symbols of pain and the difficulty of life away from God. It has been said that the least amount of pain a woman has is the birth process. The struggle and pain of raising a child to adulthood can far exceed the pains of labor and birthing. Eating the forbidden fruit was not just a physical action but disobedience to God. The separation that it produced between humans and God also caused separation in human relationships. Cain killing Abel was a part of the curse of sin. The adage known as Murphy’s Law, “if something can go wrong, it will,” applies to far more than the failure of mechanical things.

Revelation 22:3 gives some pictures of our heavenly existence. Notice the simple statement, “No longer will there be any curse.” In 2 Peter 3:11-13, we read that the physical world with its thorns, thistles, pain, and sweat will be dissolved. There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth. We will be free from the curse of sin and enjoy the blessings of being back in the presence of our Creator. That existence will truly be Heaven.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Beauty of Earth’s Diversity

Beauty of Earths DiversityThe plant in the picture is called the “bird of paradise.” It is neither a bird, nor is it found in paradise. However, it is indeed a beautiful example of the beauty of Earth’s diversity in the plant world. One of the primary reasons many of us enjoy travel and visiting museums, zoos, and arboretums is that we are enthralled with the incredible diversity of living things.

We want to suggest that this diversity is more than a device to entertain us humans. From a scientific standpoint, it is the diversity of life on Earth that has led to the high standard of living available to us on this planet. As geneticists unravel the genome of living things, it becomes more and more apparent why agricultural breeding practices of the past have been successful. The production of super chickens, super cows, low-fat pork, and all the other unique breeds has been possible because of all the different genetic options God built into life. If, for example, there had been only one set of genes for all bovines on this planet, such cattle as the Charolais would not have been possible. It is only because we have an infinite number of genetic possibilities to draw from that we can select those that will serve our particular needs.

In plants, this is equally obvious. We have only begun to appreciate all that plants can do. Scientists have studied only a small percentage of all plants on this planet to see how we can use them. Cures for cancer, AIDS, the common cold, and a variety of other ailments may well be in a plant we have not yet investigated. It is self-evident in today’s world that solving the problem of hunger lies in the fuller use of plants. The diversity of plants holds the key to better nutrition, more and better fabrics to protect and shelter us, and even the improvement of air quality.

In God’s creative wisdom, He gave us a wide diversity of life of all kinds and told us to “take care of the Garden, dress it, and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). The future has vast potential for good if we will use in a constructive way all that God has given us. To arbitrarily destroy any of this diversity and thus end its potential usefulness is not only poor management of the “Garden,” but also the worst kind of foolishness.

We also suggest that the beauty of Earth’s diversity of humans offers the potential for vast good. Each of us has a gift designed into our makeup that uniquely qualifies us to bring great blessings to others. Paul said it best:

“According to the grace given to us, we have different gifts: If prophecy, use it according to the proportion of one’s faith; if service, use it in service, if teaching, in teaching; if exhorting, in exhortation; giving, with generosity; leading, with diligence; showing mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8). See also 1 Corinthians 12:8-27.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why There Is No Demon Possession Today

Why There Is No Demon Possession TodayYesterday we pointed out that there was a reason for demon possession in the time of Christ. With God in the flesh on Earth dwelling among men (John 1:14), for humans to have a choice to reject God, there had to be a vehicle to allow that freedom. Satan offered that choice, and demon possession was the tool that allowed people not to be overpowered by the work of Jesus. We want to examine why there is no demon possession today.

There are eight reasons why we can be confident that we will never be taken over by demons and compelled to do something that violates our freedom of choice:

1. Prophecies of the work of Christ indicate an end to demons and unclean spirits. Zechariah 13:1-4 is one example. 1 John 3:8 and Colossians 2:15 tells us that Christ ended that kind of power of Satan.

2. Warnings to the Church do not include demons. There are many warnings: Acts 20:28-31, 1 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 1:28, 2 Peter 2:1-3. Surely if demon possession were a threat, Christians would be warned about it.

3. The tools to resist Satan do not include exorcisms. Read James 4:7 and Ephesians 6:12-18. There is no mention of exorcisms in instructions to the Church.

4. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that Jesus was “tempted in every way as are we,” but no one believes Jesus was ever demon-possessed and needed an exorcism.

5. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that nothing we face is any different from “what is common to man.” Demon possession is not “common to man.”

6. The Bible tells us that if we trust God, He will control Satan. See Job 1:12 and 2:6. God placed limits on Satan. Romans 8:28 tells us that God can turn Satan’s best shot into something good. See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

7. Pictures of the judgment do not show one single case of a person being condemned because of demon possession. See John 20:31 and Matthew 25:31-46. Passages like Philippians 2:12 and 2 Timothy 2:15 show us that what we do and how we live are the key to salvation, not just being lucky enough not to become possessed by a demon.

8. The methodology of exorcisms in the Bible does not match those of exorcists today. Acts 16:18 show us a biblical exorcism – “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her.” I have observed modern “exorcisms.” They take hours of chanting and commanding and emotional manipulation. Only those authorized by Christ could perform exorcisms. See Acts 19:13-16 and Mark 16:17.

Those are biblical reasons why there is no demon possession today. Where you spend eternity is your choice. Matthew 10:28 tells us to fear Satan, but the Bible clearly teaches it is our choice whether to obey God or not. Relying on modern shysters who use religion to take money from people and gain political control over others is an opposition to the teaching of the Bible and a destructive activity. The message of Acts 19:13-16 rings true today.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Marriage Versus Cohabitation

Marriage Versus CohabitationA U.S. Census Bureau report released September 25, 2019, says that the number of unmarried partners living together has tripled in the past two decades. The report says that the number went from 6 million in 1996 to 19.1 million in 2018. There are all kinds of editorials about this data, with some writers referring to it as “increasing normalization.” The report comments that people who cohabitate are “older, better educated, more likely to earn higher wages and more racially diverse.” The report also says that cohabitation is “an alternative to marriage for low-income and less educated people.” What is the truth about marriage versus cohabitation?

Why government reports find it necessary to attempt to explain data escapes me. Interpreting the data in an atheistic way is not only illogical but raises more questions than it answers. What was the population from which the data was taken?  How many of the people cohabitating have children, and what effect is the cohabitation having on the children? How does cohabitation provide a viable alternative for low-income people? My wife and I were eligible for public assistance when we got married. We had no money, and I was a public school teacher making $4300 a year. Working as a team, we lifted ourselves out of that poverty and provided a stable home for our three children. On my own, none of that would have been possible.

Another vital aspect the report doesn’t mention is the role of sex in marriage and cohabitation. First Corinthians 7:1-6 describes the concern married Christians should have for the sexual needs of their mates. Every expert from Masters and Johnson to modern specialists has shown that a committed relationship provides the best in sexual satisfaction and the most fulfilling relationship for both men and women. Cohabitation may satisfy the immediate sexual gratification of some, especially males. It does not meet the real needs of both men and women in the long term.

It is no wonder that many young people are embracing alternative living arrangements. They have been lied to by their culture and often influenced by the bad examples set by their parents. Also, they have had no instruction or education in God’s teaching on the divine plan for sex and marriage. The collapse of the nuclear family leaves children struggling with life and with increased learning disabilities. The result to fill the void they feel is the increasing use of drugs and a radical increase in suicide. When it comes to marriage versus cohabitation, God’s plan works. The alternatives do not.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?

Has Society Lost the Value of Human Life?Recent events have led us to consider the question, “Has society lost the value of human life?” There were two events in the news this past week that certainly seem to indicate where society is going.

One of those events took place at a town hall at a public library in Queens, New York. The freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who has been in the news for her “Green New Deal,” and other things, was holding the event. A woman stood up to ask a question and complement the congresswoman on her interest in climate change. The woman said, “Because of the climate crisis, we only have a few months left. Getting rid of fossil fuel is not going to solve the problem fast enough.” She went on to say, “Your next campaign slogan has to be this, ‘We got to start eating babies.’

She then removed her jacket to show her T-shirt which had the slogan, “Save the Planet, Eat the Children.” She looked around at the people in the room and said, “All of you, you know you are pollutants.” She also said, “Even if you would bomb Russia, we still have too many people, too much pollution, so we have to get rid of the babies.” It was shocking that someone would bring up such an idea in a public meeting. It makes me ask, “Has society lost the value of human life?”

Also shocking to me was the fact that the audience around her did not seem shocked or outraged. Neither did Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of saying that the woman’s idea was disgusting and unethical, her reply was, “One of the things that’s very important to us is that we need to treat the climate crisis with the urgency that it does present…There are a lot of solutions that we have.” You can see the exchange on YouTube using THIS LINK. If that video is removed, the entire town hall is on C-Span at THIS LINK. You will find the question at 1 hour 48 minutes into the video.

The other news item was from CBS News. It was a report on the newest abortion facility of Planned Parenthood. Missouri has placed some restrictions on abortion, and Illinois has passed the “Reproductive Health Act,” making access to abortion a “fundamental right.” Because of that, Planned Parenthood secretly constructed this new facility in Illinois, just outside of Saint Louis. According to CBS News, it is an “18,000-square-foot mega-clinic” able to “serve up to 11,000 patients a year.” Planned Parenthood set up a shell company to purchase an abandoned medical clinic and secretly convert it into “one of the largest abortion clinics in the country.” The secrecy was to “avoid protesters and delays.” You can see the CBS News report HERE.

So now the states of Illinois, New York, and Virginia have opened up the law to allow abortions up to, and perhaps even beyond the moment of birth, and eating babies to control climate change is being suggested. Has society lost the value of human life? What is the purpose for saving the planet if we kill the people because they are “pollutants?” The only thing that can reverse this trend is an understanding of the value of each person as we are made in the image of God and loved by Him with incredible love. See John 3:16.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Great Auk and Human Stewardship Failure

Great Auk and Human Stewardship FailureIt was a flightless North Atlantic bird that stood upright 30-33 inches (75-85 cm) tall and weighed 11 pounds (5 kg). Its small wings were less than 6 inches (15 cm) long. It’s also the story of the great auk and human stewardship failure.

The fact that the great auk couldn’t fly and that it was large enough to provide a meal for hungry sailors is a major reason why it became extinct. People also killed them for their feathers. As the great auk was nearing extinction, people killed the last ones to stuff their skins and display them as trophies in museums and private collections.

Though the great auk couldn’t fly in the air, it did fly underwater. Some might say this bird was poorly designed with its large body and small wings. But underwater, those wings became fins to pursue and catch fish. Larger wings would have been a hindrance underwater. The large size of this bird gave evidence that it found abundant food and had no need to fly in the air.

Great auks had few predators, but since they couldn’t fly and were slow on land, they became easy prey for humans. When it was evident that they were becoming extinct, great auks became more valuable. Collectors wanted a stuffed bird for a trophy, and museums wanted one for display. At last, there was only one breeding pair and one egg left on Eldey Island off the coast of Iceland. On July 3, 1844, three men climbed up on Eldey Island, killed the last two birds, and smashed the egg. The great auk was no more.

The picture shows a monument to the great auk in Iceland facing toward Eldey, the rocky island where the birds made their last stand. It tells the sad story of the great auk and human stewardship failure. God gave humans the duty to care for His creation. He commanded Adam and Eve to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28). Jesus told us that God cares for the birds. (See Matthew 6:26 and Luke 12:6.) The Apostle Paul in Romans 13:4 talks about human rulers. He wrote that they are “God’s servants for your good.” I think we can apply that concept of rulers to our duty toward the living creatures God created. We are stewards entrusted with caring for the world God gave us, including the living creatures.

Today there is a lack of regard even for human life. For the sake of convenience, people kill babies before they are born. Others set out to kill as many people as possible using guns or vehicles. The great auk and human stewardship failure is a reminder of how many times humans have failed to keep God’s commands. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by Grace!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 CSV).
— Roland Earnst © 2019

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?

Ten Percent of People Are Gay?You have probably heard the statistic that “ten percent of people are gay” or even “ten percent of people are BORN gay.” The truth is that nobody is “born gay.” There is a condition called “intersex” in which a child is born with some characteristics of both sexes. Those cases are very rare and varied. The different variations of intersex can occur anywhere from one birth in thousands to one in hundreds of thousands. But that does not mean the child is “gay.”

Research and observation seem to indicate that same-sex activity is increasing. Some experts have suggested that the apparent increase in “gayness” in our society is due to environmental pollution. There has been a lot of research into finding a “gay gene” or any environmental factor that makes a person “gay.” So far, there are no reliable answers.

The “ten percent of people are gay” statistic was falsely derived from the 1940’s Kinsey research. Alfred Kinsey, a zoologist at Indiana State University, interviewed people in prisons and the “gay underworld” using methods that would not hold up to modern statistical sampling techniques. He compiled the statistics in his reports on “Human Sexual Behavior” that shocked America. In the 1970s, Bruce Voeller, who founded the National Gay Task Force, used Kinsey’s research to say that ten percent of people are “gay.” That number has become one of the myths of modern culture. (Similar to the myth that we use only ten percent of our brains.) After all, ten percent is a nice round number even if it has no basis in fact.

So what is the truth about the apparent increase in same-sex activity? Reliable research indicates that the percentage of people in the overall population who consider themselves to be gay/lesbian/bisexual is between one and two percent. However, the percentage is much higher among young people. How much of this is a factor of family breakdown, media and celebrity influence, or society’s acceptance of the “gay lifestyle” is difficult to determine.

It is interesting to consider the consequences if “ten percent of people are born gay,” and the concept of human evolution and “survival of the fittest” is correct. In that case, “gayness” should have evolved out of the human population since same-sex relationships can’t produce children to pass on their traits. At the very least, it should be decreasing rather than increasing. After the flood, God told the few survivors to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 9:7). That is one of the few commands of God that humans have kept. Satan tempted the first couple to disobey the first command God gave them to not eat fruit from one of the trees. Perhaps through abortion and same-sex relationships, Satan is trying to get people to disobey the only remaining command of God that humans have thus-far kept.
— Roland Earnst © 2019

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?

If I Die Now, Will I Go to Heaven?“If I die now, will I go to heaven?” That is a personal question and one you need to answer for yourself and no one else. What we can do is to see what the Bible says about this. Here are some points for your consideration:

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED AND GO TO HEAVEN. This is clearly stated in the Bible. It is stated clearly and plainly in 1 Timothy 2:3-4 and 2 Peter 3:9. Titus 1:2 indicates that before the creation, God intended that people would end up in heaven.

GOD WILL NOT FORCE ANYONE TO GO TO HEAVEN WHO DOES NOT WANT TO GO. Joshua 24:15 states personal choice clearly saying, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Judas made a choice. Thomas and Peter made a choice. (See Matthew 26:69-75 and John 20:24-29.) As long as we are alive, we have that choice available, and both Thomas and Peter changed their minds. Judas could have, but he chose not to.

THERE ARE PASSAGES THAT WARN ABOUT FALLING AWAY FROM GOD AS JUDAS DID. See 1 Corinthians 10:12, 2 Peter 1:10, Hebrews 3:12 and 4:11. All of these passages in context show that those they were written to people whose hearts were so attracted to evil that they deliberately chose to reject God. None of these passages say that God rejected people who were trying to live as God called them to live.

THE BIBLE TELLS US TO BE SURE OF HEAVEN. Read 1 John 5:13, Romans 4:8, Romans 8:1 (and include Romans 7:14-24 in your reading), 1 Corinthians 1:18, Romans 5:1, 1 John 1:5-7, and Romans 10:9-15. None of these passages say we earn heaven, and all of them indicate that even though we as Christians sin, God provides for our continuous cleansing through the blood of Christ. (“Purifies” in 1 John 1:5-7 is an active verb.)

THE BIBLE MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SALVATION IS A GIFT. Romans 6:23 and Ephesians 2:6 state it outright. We don’t earn heaven. It is a gift given to us by the grace of God. Any gift has to be accepted. God’s gift is described in Romans 6:3-23. We receive the gift by submitting to God’s workmanship as Ephesians describes it. Baptism is a gift of God, washing away our sins and allowing us to walk in the light living a new life. When we reject baptism, we reject God’s gift, and all that comes with it.

Heaven is not a goal to be reached by what we do. What we do is a result of the gift of God working in us. We urge you to obey God and thus choose to accept His gift and answer “yes” to the question, “If I die now, will I go to heaven?”
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Transgender Person Changes His/Her Mind

Transgender Person Changes His/Her MindAmerica’s first official “non-binary” person was a man named James Shupe, a retired Army officer who in 2014 announced that he was a transgender woman. Two years later, as Jamie Shupe, he/she petitioned an Oregon Court to be recognized legally as “non-binary” – neither male nor female. The court in Multnomah County granted the request. Some states have now put the “non-binary” option on driver’s licenses as a result of that decision. The question becomes, “What happens when a transgender person changes his/her mind?”

In March of 2019 Shupe, who again goes by the name “James,” wrote a blog saying that his transgender and non-binary identities were the result of a mental health crisis. He wrote, “Two fake gender identities couldn’t hide the truth of my biological reality. There is no third gender or third sex. Like me, intersex people are either male or female. Their condition is the result of a disorder of sexual development, and they need help and compassion.” Shupe went on to say that the country’s “out of control transgender activism” has made it difficult for doctors and nurses to say “no” to people who want to change their gender. “I should have been stopped,” he writes.

The fact is that transgender people have to take hormone medication for the rest of their lives. Their identity continues to be an issue in areas such as women’s sports which we discussed before. (Click HERE.) Those facts should cause all of us to work together to help people with identity issues. Stampeding into a change that has enormous consequences is just going to increase the pain, especially if the transgender person changes his/her mind.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

End Of Life and God

End Of Life and GodOne of the most difficult personal issues of today is what a person should do when they are very near the end of life, and their quality of life is zero. Medical science has progressed to the point where a person can continue to be alive even though they are in enormous pain and connected to machines with no hope of ever being free of wires and tubes. Most of us do not want to ever be in that situation, but the fact is that many of us will be.

I have a Buddhist friend who maintains that having a difficult time in life at any stage is payment for sin, and we should not do anything to minimize that payment. There are many Christians who maintain that God and God alone should determine the time of our death and that extending or reducing the time of death is wrong.

We are not talking about suicide in the sense of wanting to leave this life because of relationship problems or failures in life. We are talking about cases like a woman named Brittany, who had an aggressive brain tumor. After an eight-hour surgery, doctors told her that they could not get it all and that within six months, she would die. Doctors told her that “her symptoms were going to get much worse with brutal headaches, seizures, a loss of motor and cognitive abilities, a change in her personality, and ultimately she would die.” She did die on her 30th birthday in Oregon where she and her family had moved because physician help in dying is available there.

This case has been publicized by an organization called “Compassion and Choices.” They are pushing for nation-wide acceptance of “physician-assisted compassionate death.” They are using Brittany Diaz as their poster child. There are all kinds of issues involved in a case like Brittany’s. The medical profession has been lax in dealing with pain, and the current opioid crisis has made the situation worse. The potential for abuse in end of life cases is enormous. The expense of keeping a terminal patient alive can bankrupt a family. On the other hand, end of life situations frequently provide for healing among those left behind and also allow a person a final opportunity to be obedient to God. How should Christians deal with this issue?

The first point we need to understand is that death from a biblical standpoint is when the soul returns to God. It is not when the heart stops beating or when the person stops breathing. A person can be dead, and yet their body can continue to do biological functions. The Bible tells us that the body is the “temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you. If any man defiles the temple of God, him shall God destroy: for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). This same principle is involved in 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, where Paul condemns prostitution by again referring to the body as “the temple of the Holy Spirit.” He ends by saying, “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

We are not talking about “pulling the plug” in this discussion. Christians can work with their physicians when death is near to stop the pain and yet allow the person to continue to manage their affairs. Giving enough relief from pain to cause a person to be unable to manage their affairs is rarely the situation, and it is not actively killing the person. Even giving morphine can accelerate the death of an individual by suppressing breathing, but pain killers should be available for every individual.

Each case is different, and each person should make clear what they want to be done when the end of life is near. When God has more work for a person to do, and they are able to do it, physician-assisted suicide should not be forced upon them.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: CompassionAndChoices.org.