Struck Blind – How to Keep Things in Perspective

Struck Blind - How to Keep Things in Perspective
John 9:1-41

I have learned in my long life that every experience, good or bad, can teach you a lesson if you allow it to. I think this is why Paul gave Timothy qualifications for congregational leadership that a young man simply couldn’t have had time to experience. They included having children in subjection, not being a novice, and having a good reputation in the community (1 Timothy 3:4-7). I know that the death of my two younger brothers, my wife, and my son in a short period of time taught me a lot about life. It taught me how to keep things in perspective and help those facing the death of a loved one.

Now I have been taught about another struggle that humans have–blindness. In the Bible, we see the loss of sight as a major affliction that altered the lives of biblical characters. In some cases, like Samson, enemies used blindness to retaliate and punish (Judges 16:21). In John 9, Jesus restored a blind man’s sight to teach and confound His critics. Several miracles of Christ were centered around restoring sight to someone who was blind.

I recently got a taste of what it would be like to lose my sight. I awoke on August 25th, unable to see out of my right eye and with only limited vision in my left eye. No amount of rubbing or washing affected my loss of sight. It is hard to describe the panic I felt, and you can imagine what my prayer life was focused on at that point. With what little sight I had left, I painfully struggled to grade the day’s correspondence courses and managed with great difficulty to prepare two classes and one sermon I was scheduled to give in four days. In addition, trying to read a large number of emails was difficult, and I kept asking myself, “What will I do if this gets worse?”

I now understand Paul’s reaction as he suddenly was struck blind and had to be led by the hand. I can imagine how for three days, he tried to make sense of what had happened to him. I didn’t want to eat, which Paul also experienced, as dread, anger, and confusion swallowed up my appetite. But, like Paul, I was led to a restoration of my sight. Like Paul, it has changed my view of life and my mission on Earth. Once again, it has shown me how to keep things in perspective.

My medical diagnosis is that I have a very rare kind of cataract that can grow in a matter of days. Thankfully, surgery can correct it. However, living with virtually no vision for several days has taught me a great deal. I now understand why my son Tim who was blind from congenital cataracts, mentally challenged, and rendered physically challenged by COVID, could only talk about soon being able to see. He would soon see his mother, who had passed away years before. He understood that he was about to die, but that paled in the face of regaining his sight.

I better understand why my dear friend Glynn Langston, who has been blind from birth, struggles with my very visual presentations. He tells me that my verbal descriptions don’t help much. I can understand why Samson after his enemies blinded him, had the courage to tear down their building ending his own life.

What has happened in your life that may have been a tragedy to you but can open a door of empathy and give you a unique opportunity to serve others? What has helped you learn how to keep things in perspective? God is constantly molding our character, and life’s experiences are the tools He often uses.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

Jesus began his Sermon on the Mount with the beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Phillip Yancey quoted a writer named Monika Hellwig in an article on the beatitudes. She listed the “advantages” of being poor, and Yancey suggested we take it one step further by applying those same statements to the rich. In our age of materialism, these are some ideas worth considering:

HELLWIG: The poor know they are in need of redemption.
YANCEY: The rich do not know they are in urgent need of redemption.
HELLWIG: The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.
YANCEY: The rich rest their security not on people, but on things.
HELLWIG: The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance and no exaggerated need of privacy.
YANCEY: The rich feel they are of great importance and strive to protect themselves from anything they think might threaten it.
HELLWIG: The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.
YANCEY: To the rich, it is a dog-eat-dog world – look after number 1.
HELLWIG: The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
YANCEY: To the rich, everything is a necessity.
HELLWIG: The poor can wait because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence,
YANCEY: The rich want it now.
HELLWIG: The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
YANCEY: The rich go to pieces when hardship does come their way.
HELLWIG: When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not a threat or a scolding.
YANCEY: The rich hear the gospel as a threat and an attempt to put them on a guilt trip.
HELLWIG: The poor can respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.
YANCEY: The rich feel that they have everything to lose and nothing to gain.

In Matthew 19:23-24, we find Jesus saying, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and again I say to you it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” When his disciples questioned this statement, Jesus went on to say, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible (verses 2-26).”

We can debate the whole question of who is rich and who is poor, but in comparison with most people on this planet, everyone in America is rich. Reading the things Hellwig listed, you probably realize that you struggle with some of them. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are the poor.” He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Jesus is not concerned with our gross income but our attitude toward what God has blessed us with and how we use it.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: The Hellwig and Yancy quotes are from Following the Call, edited by Charles Moore, Plough Publications © 2021 ISBN 978-1636080048

Another Virus Is Spreading

Another Virus Is Spreading - Monkeypox

Here we go again! Another virus is spreading and has begun to infect large numbers of people, and the LGBTQ community has borne the brunt of those infections. That data has led to hatred and polarization. This reminds us of the situation with AIDS in 1984 when over 7,700 people became infected with AIDS, and over 3,500 died. There was a great deal of finger pointing and some violence, as vividly displayed in the 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain.”

On May 7, 2022, British health officials discovered the monkeypox virus and announced it occurred primarily in LGBTQ men. In July of 2022, infections have been found in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. At this time, infections approach 1500, with California and Illinois having more than 100 cases and New York with more than 400. The virus spreads from person to person through direct contact with rash lesions or body fluids. Men having sex with men provide an easy pathway for the virus, so as another virus is spreading, some blame the LGBTQ community.

Those who delight in attacking Christianity have claimed that Christians are fueling hatred against the LGBTQ community, but that claim is simply incorrect. It is true that the Bible teaches us not to engage in sex outside of marriage, but it also tells us not to use alcohol or other substances harmful to the body. Christians are concerned about people doing things that hurt themselves or others. For Christians, the human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:15-20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Therefore, we urge everyone not to engage in destructive lifestyles, including the use of all recreational drugs and the practice of aberrant sexual activity.

We also oppose any violence against others. Anyone who abuses, brings harm to, or verbally condemns others is not following Christ’s teaching. Instead, he told us to love our enemies, go the second mile, and turn the other cheek. (See Matthew 5:38-48.)The teachings of Christ are unambiguous, but not everyone who claims to be a Christian follows them.

Another virus is spreading as people engage in the activities of the LGBTQ community, putting themselves and others at risk. There is no question about the wisdom of the Bible’s teaching about sexual conduct. But unfortunately, every alternative to God’s way has caused injury to the participants and others, and monkeypox is just one more evidence of that truth.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Reference: USA Today by Boris Q’va for July 18, 2022. SouthBendTribune.com

The Biblical Gospels and Apocryphal Gospels

The Biblical Gospels and Apocryphal Gospels

The message of Christ threatens many people, including some scholars and parts of the general public. To counter this threat, skeptics have written many books trying to deny that Jesus was anything more than a strange aberration of history. Some of these books are written by authors who claim to be experts, and many of the writings have been promoted in the tabloids or on television as revealing some new discovery about Jesus from sources outside of the biblical gospels known as the apocryphal gospels.

We have seen claims that Jesus was a peasant cynic philosopher, a leader of a hallucinogenic cult, or married to Mary Magdalene. The authors base those claims on the so-called apocryphal gospels such as the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Hebrews, The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas, and the Gospel of Philip. It is essential to understand that none of these apocryphal gospels have any validity compared to the biblical gospels we have in the New Testament.

The apocryphal gospels appeared in the second half of the second century, influenced by pagan gnostic philosophy competing with the true gospel. By comparison, consider how much has changed in the past 200 years in secular writing about people’s views of race, homosexuality, the rights of women, and beliefs about democracy? Even in the past two decades, there has been a massive change.

In contrast to those late manuscripts, the biblical gospel writers lived during the lifetime of Christ and in the formative years of the Church. Archaeology has verified the characters and many of the events described in the gospels. Things described in the gospels fit the known historical facts that can be verified from various other sources.

Perhaps the clearest demonstration that the biblical gospels are reliable while the apocryphal books are not is the writers’ motives. Modern books are written and marketed in a way that brings financial gain to the authors. Cult writings, books on UFOs like the Roswell incident, claims about Nostradamus, and claims of alien visitation to Earth have all been money-makers for their authors. The biblical gospel writers not only didn’t make money or fame from what they wrote, but they even risked losing their lives.

You can trust the biblical gospels and believe they are accurate and contain the Word of God. Any attempt to discredit them fails in the face of the evidence and the weakness of claimed alternatives to the message they contain.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

Note: We have a video series on this subject called “Beyond Reasonable Doubt” with John Cooper. You can purchase the series on DVDs with a study guide at this LINK or watch them for free on doesgodexist.tv
An excellent reference on this subject is On Guard by William Lane Craig, David C Cook Publisher Chapter eight. ISBN 978-1-4347-6488-1.

Christ Confirmed His Message by Miracles

Christ Confirmed His Message by Miracles
Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead

Many things are unique to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Among those is the fact that He never endorsed force or war and established no power structure for humans to follow. Also, the fact that Christ confirmed His message by miracles is another unique feature of the teachings and life of Christ. Unfortunately, some people look for miracles today to solve life’s problems, but they misunderstand the purpose and nature of Christ’s miracles and those of the apostles.

The miracles of the apostles were meant to establish who spoke for God and who was a fraud. Neither Christ nor His followers sought to remove the reality of life and death. If becoming a Christian would solve all of life’s problems, people would come to Christ solely to solve physical or emotional pains. New Testament Greek used two words to indicate the nature of a miracle. One was “dunamis” used to show power (Mark 9:39, Acts 2:22). The other was “semeion” dealing with a sign (John 2:11, 2:23, 3:2, 4:54, 6:2, etc.) Christ confirmed His message by miracles.

The Bible records miracles of Christ that show His power over the problems humans face. Studying these miracles demonstrates the absolute ability of Christ to meet all the needs of humans. Look at this list:

Power over things in the natural world: Matthew 8:23-27
Power over disease: Matthew 8:1-1, Luke 17:11-19
Power over spiritual forces: Mark 1:23-26 Matthew 9:32-33 and 12:22-29
Power over human disabilities: John 5:1-16, Matthew 9:1-7, John 9
Power over mental issues: Matthew 8:28-34 Power over death: Luke 7:11-17 and 8:40-56, John 11:1-46


Notice that Jesus didn’t randomly remove all of these things from human existence. Each miracle had a purpose, and it was not to eliminate all human problems on the planet. In today’s world, all of these problems still exist because people still have illnesses and die. However, Christ has provided a way for everyone to deal with the maladies in this life and ultimately be free of them. Christ confirmed His message by miracles. The Bible spells out the war between good and evil and the purpose for our existence. God helps us in this life in many ways, but the perfection of heaven is not yet available to us while we live in the flesh.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

By Their Fruits, You Will Know Them

By Their Fruits, You Will Know Them

Jesus Christ warned that false religious teachers could be identified by the results of following them. “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The June 17, 2022 issue of The Week magazine contained several articles about problems in the world that are the fruit of false teachings.

One article addresses the application of the atheist “survival of the fittest” mentality to hospitality in Sweden. We have found that Christianity is not accepted very well in Sweden. That society prefers secular explanations of creation and a secular code of ethics. The article by Meryem Yebio on page 14 of The Week is titled, “Yes, Swedes Really Are So Unhospitable.” Yebio explains that by Swedish custom, when a family sits down for a meal, they will refuse to feed their guests. The defense of this behavior is that including guests would threaten their food supply.

Another article on page 15 has to do with a three-way conflict in India between secularists, Muslims, and Hindus relying on the teachings of their faiths. The dispute involves insults to Islam’s Prophet, the religious position of the Hindu ruling party Bharatiya Janata, and the Indian constitution. Finally, an article on the same page tells about water problems in Mexico, where the local wine production facility, with the backing of the area’s dominant religion, controls the water supply, leaving the poor without water.

Know them by their fruits as we see similar fruit problems in American denominations where materialism and racism have oppressed the poor and enhanced the rich. Some wealthy television preachers have flaunted a lifestyle few others can afford, including their contributors. No human-made religion has ever produced positive fruit, even though some claim to be “Christian.”

The fruit of Christ’s teaching includes sharing. Acts 2:41-47 describes the Church of the first century sharing what they had and even selling things their possessions to meet the needs of the less fortunate. Read chapters 5-7 of Matthew and see the difference between the teachings of Christ and what is happening in every other belief system on Earth. You can know them by their fruits.

Humans don’t have all the answers to a fruitful life. However, God does, and He has revealed those answers in His Word. So follow the teachings of Christ, and the fruit will be positive. But, on the other hand, following any human religion will only lead to negative results. You can see this in the current world situation and the struggles within America.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

The Apostles of Jesus Used Evidence

The Apostles of Jesus Used Evidence - Peter preaching on Pentecost
Peter and the Apostles speaking on the Day of Pentecost

Yesterday, we said that we should not be afraid of evidence. We point out in our daily postings that solid evidence supports our faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible. We pointed out that Jesus used evidence. Today, we want to look at some examples of how the apostles of Jesus used evidence.

The Church began on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached to the crowd in the Temple. To convince the people of the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh and convict them of their sin of rejecting Him, Peter began by showing that the miracle of the apostles speaking in languages that they had not learned was evidence that their message was from God. Then he pointed out that Jesus of Nazareth had proven that He was from God by “miracles, wonders, and signs that God did among you through him” (Acts 2:22). Then in verses 23 and 32, we find Paul using the miracle of the resurrection as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, God in the flesh.

On Pentecost, Peter spoke to the Jews who believed in the prophecies. Paul took a slightly different approach when he addressed the Greeks in Lystra. They did not have the Old Testament prophecies. Instead, they believed in many gods, even mistaking Paul and Barnabas for gods. Paul appealed to them on behalf of “the living God,” whose existence was evidenced by the fact that He “made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (Acts 14:15). Paul used a similar approach in speaking to the pagan philosophers in Athens. He spoke to them of the true God “who made the world and everything in it.” The evidence for God was in the things He had made, and Paul quoted Greek poets who had said, “For we are also his offspring.” (See Acts 17:22-29.) Paul also wrote similar words to the Romans, saying that all people can know there is a God by the things He has made (Romans 1;20).

Thus, we see that the apostles of Jesus used evidence to convince people of God’s existence and that Jesus is God. Likewise, Paul used eyewitness evidence when he wrote to the Corinthian church. First, he quoted an oral tradition of the Church that most likely originated within five years of Christ’s resurrection, telling about various people who witnessed Christ alive after the resurrection, including over 500 individuals at one time. Then Paul said that most of those people were still alive and could confirm what they had seen. Paul then testified that he also was an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ. (See 1 Corinthians 15;1-11.)

As we can see from these examples of Peter and Paul, the apostles of Jesus used evidence to testify to the existence of God, the deity of Jesus, and the truth of the resurrection. Evidence does not destroy faith. It reinforces faith. We can know that Jesus was God with us by His miracles. His greatest miracle, and the only one He predicted in advance, was the resurrection, and we have eyewitness testimony evidence for that. We can know there is a God by the things He has made, and science testifies to the fact that creation was fine-tuned for us to be here.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Jesus Used Evidence, and We Do Too

Jesus Used Evidence with the two disciples on the Emmaus Road
Jesus speaking with two disciples on the Emmaus Road

You can look at atheist websites and see that they insist there is no evidence for the existence of God. In contrast to the atheist viewpoint, some Christian groups insist that faith is all you need, and evidence can even be harmful because it destroys the need for faith. We believe that there is extensive evidence for God’s existence, and we daily point that out to anyone willing to open their mind to it. To the Christians who have a negative attitude toward evidence, we want to point out that Jesus used evidence. Let’s examine how Jesus used evidence.

As Jesus spoke with his disciples for the last time, Philip asked Him to “show us the Father,” meaning God. Jesus responded by saying that anyone who has seen Him has seen the Father because He was in God, and God was in Him. He said that the words He spoke were the words of God, and His “works,” that is miracles, were the works of God. Then He said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.” In other words, the miracles Jesus performed were evidence of God and proof that Jesus was God with them in the flesh. Therefore, they needed to examine the evidence shown by His actions. (See John 14:8-11.)

After His resurrection, Jesus spoke with two followers on the road to Emmaus, but they did not recognize who He was. They were sad and discouraged because the one they had admired as “a prophet powerful in action and speech before God and the people” had been crucified. Before they realized that He was Jesus, He told them that the fulfilled prophecies were evidence that the one they were talking about was the Messiah, the promised one of God. His point was that they needed to examine the evidence in prophecy. (See Luke 24:25-27.)

When Thomas doubted the testimony of the other disciples that Jesus was alive, what did Jesus do? He showed Thomas the wounds in His hands and side, and He challenged Thomas to examine the physical evidence. (See John 20:24-29.)

Jesus never said that you have to believe without evidence or in spite of the evidence. On the contrary, Jesus used evidence for God and for the fact that He was God with us. He was not afraid of evidence, and we should not be either. Tomorrow, we will look at some examples of how the apostles used evidence for God and Jesus.

— Roland Earnst © 2022

Repeating the Cycle of History

Repeating the Cycle of History

Galatians 3:19-26 tells us that God gave the old law as a “schoolmaster” to show His people their transgressions until the promised “Seed,” meaning Jesus Christ, would come. Therefore, we should learn from the past and not make the same mistakes that were a part of the history recorded in the Old Testament. The value of knowing history is to avoid repeating the cycle of history, but humans have been slow learners in that regard.

The cycle of the human relationship to God keeps repeating and can only be broken when we allow the message of Christ to break it. That is a lesson we can learn from Old Testament history. The cycle begins with Adam and Eve and is repeated over and over until the present time. When God creates, His creation is perfect. God gives His promises and commands to humans, and for a while, they obey. They experience God’s blessings, but then they turn away from God.

In Deuteronomy 28:1-14, God told Israel, “All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.” God then lists all the good things Israel would receive if they would do as God said and take advantage of His promises. Then beginning in verse 15 for the following 54 verses, God tells Israel what will happen if they do not obey the provisions expressed in His covenant.

We all know the history of Israel from that point on. From the golden calf to corrupt king after corrupt king, Israel repeatedly turns away from God, worships pagan gods, and embraces sinful and destructive practices. They neglect to worship God and follow the false gods of their neighbors, even to the point of human sacrifice. Over and over, God responds by removing His protection of Israel and allowing foreign nations to overtake and destroy them. The whole message of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles tells of this destruction. Jeremiah and Hosea devote their entire lives and message to warning Israel.

When Israel returns to God, the covenant is restored until they again turn away, repeating the cycle of history. Finally, Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed, and history repeats with a new covenant. Christ, the Anointed One predicted by the prophets, comes on the scene and establishes His Church. Through the Church, people can become new. (See Romans 6.)

So here we are in America today, repeating the cycle of history. Jesus shed His blood to make us one body free of all divisions and human fallacies. As in the past, God promises blessings when we obey His commands. We have seen those promises fulfilled as America has prospered and been blessed in many ways. However, today Americans are rebelling against God and His covenant.

In today’s society, we not only see people rejecting God but embracing the practices that will destroy our country. How long will God tolerate immorality? We see our nation restricting the worship of God, endorsing the dissolution of marriage, killing babies before they are born, and murdering children in school. The Church is all that stands against the complete rejection of God’s commands and His covenant. We can break the cycle of history by relying on God’s word and following His instructions, individually and as a nation. We can choose to follow God or repeat the cycle of history by following the path of the nations that rose and fell in the past.

— John N. Clayton © 2022

A Poem Lovely as a Tree

A Poem Lovely as a Tree

In 1913 poet and journalist Joyce Kilmer wrote his best-known poem simply titled “Trees.” It begins with, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.” In fact, poems and trees have one thing in common. They are hard to define. What one person considers poetry could be something very different to another. The same is true of a tree. How can we define a tree?

There is no universally accepted common or scientific definition of a tree. Scientists classify all plants and animals into categories such as family, genus, and species. But trees, in general, don’t fit into any of those categories. You can assign any of those labels to a specific tree, but you can’t fit all trees into one specific classification. The best you can do is say that all trees are in the plant kingdom.

Even the common concept of a tree is a bit vague. You could say that a tree is a tall, woody plant with branches, leaves, bark, and a trunk that shows rings when you cut it down. That means what we call “palm trees” are not trees. Neither are banana trees, papaya trees, or Joshua trees. Also, bamboo is a plant that can grow to heights that exceed many trees, but we classify bamboo as grass. Many woody plants that we call shrubs or bushes can grow as tall as a height. How tall does a bush have to grow before we call it a tree?

No matter how you define trees, consider the benefits they give us. From trees, we get wood for furniture, homes, and buildings. We get fuel for campfires and even heating homes. Without the wood from trees, our ancestors could not have built boats and wagons that allowed them to travel, explore, and spread around the world. Trees provide shade, protection from wind, and in many cases, fruit. They can live for decades, centuries, or even thousands of years, releasing oxygen and taking in carbon dioxide to reduce Earth’s greenhouse effect. We will never find a poem lovely as a tree in spring, summer, or fall.

In Genesis, we read about the progressive steps of creation as God placed on Earth first grasses, then plants bearing seeds, and then trees bearing fruit that was good to eat (Genesis 1:11-12). God told the first couple to enjoy the fruit of all the trees except one. The beauty of the paradise where God placed Adam and Eve must have been beyond description. However, the tragedy that came because of the sin of pride and disobedience did not completely destroy that beauty. A glimpse of it has remained for us to enjoy, and it inspired Joyce Kilmer to write those words, “I think that I shall never see, A poem lovely as a tree.”

No matter how you define trees, we could not live without them. Kilmer’s poem ends with, “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.” God made the trees, and it was on a tree that He made the ultimate sacrifice for the sin that began with Adam and Eve. (See I Peter 2:21-24.) Sin has marred the beauty of the world and our lives as well. However, God has provided the solution–if we are willing to accept it.

— Roland Earnst © 2022