Kneeling Controversy and Freedom

Kneeling Controversy
During the U.S. football season in the fall of 2017, we have had a national kneeling controversy. It centers over whether the players have a right to kneel in protest during the national anthem. There have been enough varied opinions on this issue to fill a massive number of talk shows and ESPN commentary sessions. Many argue that “freedom of speech” is the issue, even though not a word is spoken.

This debate has ignored the right of coaches to kneel–including high school football coaches. Two years ago a Bremerton, Washington, high school coach named Joe Kennedy was fired for kneeling in prayer on the field after football games. There is no indication that players participated or were asked to participate. Kennedy appealed, and the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals ruled against him, The court said he: “Took advantage of his position to press his particular views upon impressionable and captive minds before him.” Kennedy served 20 years in the marines, and he says, “I just want the same rights as everyone else. What applies for one should apply to every American.”

As the kneeling controversy continues, I know many middle school and high school coaches in my area who have a moment of silent prayer or meditation before a game starts. If someone objected, that would probably be forbidden also.

In a C-SPAN interview, Senator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said that we must “be able to determine where we are as Americans. If we are going to honor all free speech and all free exercise of religion, we need to be able to honor that universally.” We agree wholeheartedly.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Holiday Season and the Black Friday Kickoff

Holiday Season Black Friday
We are at the beginning of the so-called Holiday Season which is supposed to be a time of religious significance, good will, love for others, and gift giving. The chances are that you have had some kind of reaction to “Black Friday.” In 1952 Black Friday was the name given to the day after Thanksgiving because it was the day when shopkeepers balance sheets turned black (positive) from red (loss) for the year.

What began as a commentary on business profits and margins has become a time of greed and in a few cases, even violence. In 2008 a crowd of shoppers at a Walmart in Valley Stream, New York, broke down the door to the store and trampled a 34-year-old employee to death. On the same day, two people were shot to death in an altercation over a toy in Palm Desert, California. In 2010 in Madison, Wisconsin, police arrested a woman who threatened to shoot other shoppers who objected to her cutting in line. In 2011 a woman at a Walmart at Porter Ranch, California, used pepper spray on fellow shoppers to get to the front of a line to buy a discounted Xbox. The list of abuse and violence on Black Friday is long and tragic.

Some of us can remember a time when gifts at Christmas were hand-made or involved food. Thanksgiving was a religious day recognizing how blessed we are individually and as a country. Christmas was a time of Christian celebration in song and art. Our emphasis on things has pushed us to compete for whatever is the current toy of the year. Television ads show us how important it is for us to give our mate or child a new car or an expensive piece of jewelry. For many people paying for holiday gifts goes on for months or even years,

Christians should reflect on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33, “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or drink or even for your body and what clothes you shall put on. Is not life more than meat and your body more than your clothes? Look at the birds of the air, for they do not sow and they do not reap or gather into barns. Still, your Father feeds them. Aren’t you much better than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your height? Why do you worry about clothing? Take a look at the lilies of the field, how they grow, and they don’t work at it… And yet even Solomon in all of his splendor was not arrayed like one of these… So take no thought saying what shall I eat or drink or what shall I wear. Your Father knows you have need of these things, but you should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be added to you.”

Don’t allow atheistic materialism to rob you of the great joys that come from times of thankfulness, helping others, and spending time with the Lord in thankfulness and joy at the opportunity you have to be a Christian and to bring blessings to others. Let’s make this holiday season a holy season.
–John N. Clayton

Reincarnation and Christianity

Reincarnation and Christianity
Webster’s Dictionary defines reincarnation as “A fresh embodiment, a rebirth in new bodies, or forms of life, the rebirth of a soul in a new body.” Various versions of Hinduism and Buddhism advocate reincarnation in a variety of different forms. There is no justification for bringing reincarnation into the belief system of Christianity, and there is nothing in the Bible that suggests in any way that reincarnation takes place.

There are those who teach that Enoch was reincarnated based on the fact that Hebrews 11:5 says that he was “translated that he should not see death.” This is a reference to Genesis 5:24 which says, “…Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” These passages do not say that Enoch lived in a physical form on Earth all over again. He simply didn’t die as we do.

Some people hold up Elijah as an example of reincarnation. In Malachi 4:5 God told Israel, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” At the transfiguration when the disciples saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, they remembered the prophecy of Malachi and they asked Jesus about it. Jesus responded, “’…Elijah has already come, and they did not know him but did whatever they wanted. Even so, shall the Son of man suffer because of them.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:12-13). John the Baptist had that same Spirit as Elijah, but John was his own person, not Elijah living in a new body.

We seem to confuse the words resurrection and reincarnation. The Bible clearly teaches that we will all be resurrected (John 5:28-29). But 1 Corinthians 15:44 makes it clear that the resurrected body is new, but it is us–not a resurrected body of someone else. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “…it is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” Reincarnation would suggest more than one death. If the version of reincarnation one holds to is that the reincarnated body is that of an animal, then the whole message of heaven is lost.

I am thankful reincarnation is not true. It would not be encouraging to believe that the best I can hope for after I die is to return to this same contaminated, evil-saturated Earth and live again with all the pain and loss I had to endure the first time around.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

What Is Your Sanctuary?

Sanctuary
Where do you go to get away from the problems and pressures of life? Don’t say that you don’t have a sanctuary because we all do. It may be a “man cave,” or a place in the woods, or the bathroom, but there is some place where we escape. The problem is that the physical place we go to doesn’t get us away from the things we want to escape. Many people turn to a chemical solution to find our sanctuary. It may be alcohol, or pot, or a prescription drug. The problem with those escapes is that they can become what we need to escape from.

In the Old Testament, two different Hebrew words were used to identify the sanctuary. One was “miqdash” which means “a place set apart” where God was accessible to the people. The other was “qodesh” which referred to a place of physical separation. Both of these uses referred to a physical structure. It was a consecrated holy place–first the tabernacle and later the temple.

The Israelites identified the sanctuary as the “house of God.” (See Judges 20:18; 2 Chronicles 5:1; Ezra 7:20; and Nehemiah 6:10.) The limitations of a physical sanctuary are obvious. You can’t always be where the sanctuary is! I have a place in Hyalite Canyon in Montana where I love to go to when I need to get away, but it’s a long way from Michigan to Montana.

In the New Testament the “house of God” is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Peter writes, “You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). First Corinthians 3:16 tells us that we “are a temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in (us).”

The church is not a building where we can go as a sanctuary. Second Corinthians 6:16 says that we, the church, “are the temple of the living God, even as God has said, ‘I will dwell IN them and walk IN them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people.’” Notice that God is IN us!!! God’s Spirit can take that which presses on us and change us so we can bear it. Read 1 Corinthians 10:13 where God makes that promise to us!!

We can be in our sanctuary any time and any place we choose. Frequently I will get in my boat and float down the river that flows behind my house where I can talk to God and watch the wildlife around me and feel removed for a while from the current problem. I can also go to that place in Hyalite Canyon beside the waterfall and be in my sanctuary. I can be in my sanctuary wherever I am because I am not limited by time or place. In God’s wisdom He has given us a way of escape that works.

I return to my original question. What is your sanctuary? Don’t rely on buildings or temples or chemicals or anything physical. “But you are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI)

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence
Since 1960, scientists have been using radio telescopes to search for signs of intelligent life in the universe. The program is called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). So far it has been 57 years of listening without any positive results. Scientists have now entered the next phase of the search called Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI).

On October 16-18, 2017, scientists beamed a message toward a red dwarf star known as GJ 273 in the hope that there might be someone there listening. Of course, there are always radio and TV signals of various kinds going out from transmitters all over the Earth, but this attempt is a concentrated signal beamed toward this specific system. The transmission contained mathematical and scientific information as well as music. The reason scientists chose GJ 273 is that there are two planets orbiting the star that they hope might be able to support life. And it is the closest possible potential life-supporting location.

Picking one random star to direct a communication signal toward may seem like shooting in the dark–and it is. However, a METI team member said that this is just a prototype of what they want to do “one hundred times, or one thousand times, or one million times.” In other words, this is just the beginning.

So when will the results of this experiment be in? GJ 273 is more than twelve light-years from Earth. So in about 2030, the signal will reach its destination. If there is intelligent life there listening and they respond right away, we might hear something by 2042 or 2043. Translation will be a challenge. If Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence continues to send out signals to other potential inhabitable planets, they will be farther away, and thus it will take longer to hear anything back.

Some scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, have criticized this effort because they are afraid it might wake up hostile extraterrestrial beings to the fact that we are here. Perhaps the aliens will not like our music style and decide that they want to put an end to it. They could send their “storm troopers” to start a Star Wars type of scenario. Of course, since they would not be able to travel at anything close to the speed of light (if Einstein is correct), they might arrive here centuries from now to find nobody left on this planet.

We have three observations on this project. First, all indications are that the chances of life existing anywhere in space are very slim. There are far too many variables needed to make life possible on any planet or moon. Secondly, the resources going into SETI and METI could better be used helping people right here on our own planet. Thirdly, as we have said before, whether or not life exists anywhere else in the universe has no bearing on whether God exists. God can create life anywhere He chooses.

When it comes to messaging extraterrestrial intelligence, we believe that there is Intelligence out there. We also believe that He would like to hear from us. We further believe that He has been to Earth to communicate with us. And we believe that if we choose to communicate with Him, we will not be limited to the speed of light. He can hear us instantaneously.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Alcohol and Cancer Data

Alcohol and Cancer
There is new data on alcohol and cancer. Perhaps the most frequently asked question we get is why God allows a disease like cancer to exist. There are multiple answers to this question, and no one has all the answers.

My younger brother is battling cancer as I write this, and no answer that anyone could give will make his war with pain and potential death any easier. However, if we can back away from our own anxiety and frustration, there are some answers to the question of cancer. One major factor is what mankind has done to us and what we have done to ourselves. In my brother’s case, exposure to Agent Orange when he was in the military is a likely contributor if not the total cause.

A new study released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology gives some data on alcohol and cancer. There are connections between alcohol consumption and malignancies of the head, neck, breast, liver, esophagus, colon, and rectum. The data shows that drinking is responsible for 5.5% of all new cancers and nearly 6% of all cancer deaths worldwide.

Our bodies metabolize alcohol into acetaldehyde which can cause mutations in DNA that lead to cancer. The lead author of the study, Dr. Noelle Lo Conte, says, “The message is if you want to reduce your cancer risk, drink less.” “But if you don’t already drink, don’t start” she adds.

The word “intoxicate” has a simple meaning. When we take a poison (a toxic) into our bodies, we suffer the long-term effects of the poison. Most cancer is directly or indirectly related to what humans have done, and sometimes it is what we alone have done to ourselves. How can we blame God for what we have done?
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: The Week, November 24, 2017, page 19.

Quoting Patrick Henry

Quoting Patrick Henry
There is often an attempt to remove evidence of the Christian faith of the founders of the United States. Most Americans should be familiar with Patrick Henry’s famous quote, “Give me liberty or give me death.” In quoting Patrick Henry that line is often removed from the context of his speech. Few Americans would ever hear the words of faith that he spoke.

It was March 20, 1775, when Patrick Henry addressed the president of the Second Virginia Convention. He proposed organizing a volunteer cavalry or infantry in every county of Virginia to fight for freedom. His remarks were recorded by recollection from Thomas Jefferson and others who were present. These are some excerpts from Patrick Henry’s speech which give evidence of his faith in God and the understanding of others of the founding fathers who were present:

“An appeal to arms and to the God of Hosts is all that is left us!… Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power… Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us… Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

If a political leader today spoke those words, the reaction would probably be criticism for referring to God in a public speech. Times have changed, and we need to recognize the connection between Christian faith and the founding of our country.

Click here to read the full text of the speech or listen to a Colonial Williamsburg interpreter quoting Patrick Henry.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Thankfulness and Being Human

Thankfulness
We had just left a sandwich shop where we ate lunch. A woman with a smile on her face came up to our car window holding a sandwich. I rolled down the window to see what she wanted. She said, “Are you the ones who paid for my sandwich?” She said the employee in the store told her that a person ahead of her had paid, so she didn’t owe anything. I told her that I was glad for her, but we were not the ones who had done this generous act. As she went away, it was obvious that the small kindness had made her day, but she was disappointed that she didn’t get to express her thankfulness to her benefactor.

We have many people to thank, such as soldiers, police, firefighters, and teachers; but most of all our thankfulness should be directed toward God. There is something about humans that makes us want to express our gratitude. It’s part of what makes us different from the animals. Our pets are loyal to us because we feed them, and they get excited when they see us open the food container. But only humans are motivated to express true gratitude. The Psalms often express thankfulness to God for the things He has done. Reformer Martin Luther called thankfulness “the basic Christian attitude.” G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”

We often show thankfulness toward each other, but our greatest debt of gratitude is to God. One evidence of God’s existence is that not only does He give us many good things, but He also has given us the desire and ability to say, “Thank you.” In Romans 1:21 the apostle Paul wrote about godless people, “…they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Thank you for reading our daily posts. We hope that you will express your thanks to God who has given us all good things.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Respectable Bird– Confusing Name

Respectable Bird
Benjamin Franklin called this animal a respectable bird. They are large birds native to North America where they’re called “turkeys.” The origin of that name is disputed, but it apparently has a connection with the country of Turkey.

Turkeys were brought to England from America, on merchant ships from the Middle East area of Turkey. After being domesticated in England, turkeys spread throughout the British Empire, including India. From India, they were taken to various other countries where they were known as “a bird from India.” For that reason, the name for turkeys in several languages is connected to India. In the country of Turkey, turkeys are called “Hindi” which means “India” in Turkish. To make things even more confusing, in Portuguese a turkey is called a “peru” which is apparently derived from the name of the country of Peru. To further compound the confusion, there are several other birds in other countries that have “turkey” names but are not related to the American turkey.

Native Americans first used turkeys for their feathers in about 800 BC. It was almost 2,000 years later before they used turkeys for meat. In the United States, turkeys are a popular food on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

The founders of the United States chose the bald eagle as a national symbol. Benjamin Franklin was famously critical of that. He called the eagle “a bird of bad moral character” and wrote that “the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.” With respect for Mr. Franklin, the truth is that the only creature God created that has “moral character,” whether good or bad, is the human creature. All other creatures do what God created them to do. Humans often choose to do otherwise.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Persecution of Christians Increases

Persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians in the United States has thus far been pretty much confined to government legal attacks on the religious freedom of Christians. We have reported on some cases in recent months.

Unbelievers also are making legal attempts to silence the followers of Jesus Christ to prevent people from hearing our message. We are finding that even our lectureships on evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible are now banned in many public places. That is especially true on university and college campuses. Places where we have regularly spoken for 50 years are now off limits to us. That is in the name of supporting the national mandate for religious pluralism.

Conditions in other parts of the world are much worse. The October 31, 2017, report from The Institute on Religion and Democracy tells that in India attacks on Christians have reached record numbers in 2017. Christians in a worship service in a small village were “viciously beaten by suspected Hindu radicals.” ISIS has killed Christians and destroyed churches in Syria. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been attacked and killed. In China, Christians were arrested for sharing their faith by singing in a public park. The Institute reports that “The greatest persecution of Christians in history has been occurring during years 2015-2017.”

It is hard to grasp the fact that we live in a time that has greater persecution of Christians than the time of the Roman Empire. But that is apparently the case.
–John N. Clayton © 2017