Moderate Drinking and the Brain

Moderate Drinking
Does moderate drinking cause physiological problems? We see a lot of misleading information in the media about the effects of alcohol. There have been studies linking consumption of alcohol to longer life expectancy. We have pointed out that the agents causing health benefits from drinking wine are the flavonoids in grapes. Alcohol is not the agent of health benefits.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reports that long term studies show a negative effect in the brain of moderate drinkers. The study defined moderate drinking as weekly doses of 8 to 12 small glasses of wine, bottles of beer, or shots of liquor. It followed 527 British citizens for 30 years, and the subjects were “predominantly white middle-class men.”

The study showed that moderate drinkers were more likely than nondrinkers to develop brain changes that might precede or accompany memory loss. They also were more likely to show a more rapid decline in a language fluency test. Moderate drinkers were three times more likely than nondrinkers to show shrinkage of the hippocampus area of the brain–a change that accompanies dementia. Heavy drinkers showed the most shrinkage.

Claims that moderate drinking is healthy and improves the quality of life are simply not true. Alcohol continues to be the most destructive recreational drug.
Reported in USA Today, June 7, 2017, page B1.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Pornography Impacts the Church

Pornography Impacts the Church
Sex is a beautiful creation of God. The complexity of human sexuality is enormous because the sexual experience is not just physical. Sex also involves the emotions as well as the spiritual nature of humans as beings created in the image of God.

Like everything else that God created, Satan can take something beautiful and purposeful and corrupt it and make something evil from it. The role of intimacy in marriage and the special nature of oneness which it binds in love and sharing seems to be lost in today’s world. Pornography impacts the Church also.

We have seen how evil sex can become in the pedophile behavior of some Roman Catholic priests. The media has seized on this abuse and attempted to make it appear to be the norm for Christianity. Church leadership seems to be in denial on this subject, and yet recent studies show that 68% of men who call themselves “Christians” view pornography on a regular basis.

The internet allows men to view pornography at home or in the privacy of their office. In an article in Christianity Today (August 2017) titled “Pornography is Paralyzing the Church” Luke Gibbons wrote, “When men view porn, they become stricken with guilt and shame which leads to feeling unworthy to lead and afraid to speak out. Their secret sin becomes a dead-weight in their lives. They avoid ministry opportunities and begin to suffocate spiritually.”

Pornography impacts the church when it encourages child predators. Jimmy Hinton is a man who knows that from first-hand experience. We worked with him to create a DVD series and booklet to help churches protect themselves from child predators. The title of the material is “Spiritual Warfare: Safeguarding Churches from Child Predators.” It is available on loan from our ministry, or to purchase from www.churchprotect.org or the PowerVine Store.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

Epicurus on Death and Fear

Epicurus on Death and Fear
About 2300 years ago in ancient Greece there lived a man named Epicurus. He spent his time thinking about things and taught others about the things he was thinking. One of the things Epicurus thought about was death. That’s not unusual. There has never been a living human being who has not thought about death at one time or another. But Epicurus was a professional thinker (also known as a philosopher), so his thoughts were influential. What do we hear from Epicurus on death and fear? In his thinking, he concluded that death was the end of body and soul. When we die, we just cease to exist and therefore, he said, death should not be feared.

Epicurus died in 270 B.C. at the age of 72 in great pain because of kidney stones. However, he wrote a letter in which he said it was, “a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life.” Since Epicurean philosophy says that death is nothing to be feared, why do people still fear death? Perhaps it’s because most people think that Epicurus was wrong.

What is the source of the greatest joy and fulfillment in life? Isn’t it love? The relationships we have with others bring us happiness and give us purpose as well as joy. Loving and being loved by family and friends is the greatest of human experiences. God never intended for us to be alone. (See Genesis 2:18.) Being rejected by those we love is the source of the greatest pain. Interestingly, Epicurus believed that a happy life is one in which friends surround us. We know that nothing makes us as sad as the loss of those we love. Death is the most permanent form of separation and loss. Death steals away those we love one-by-one if we manage to live long enough. Death gives us much to fear, and then finally death comes to take us.

If Epicurus is right, then death is the end of love. If there is no existence beyond the grave, there is no love. If you believe that death is the end of existence, seeing a loved one dying is the most fearful and terrible experience in life. But what if death is not the end? What if love goes on? Genesis tells us that death was not part of God’s original plan for humans. Death is a consequence of human sin. Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend Lazarus out of sympathy for Mary and Martha. He must also have been weeping over what sin had done to the human race. Grief and anger over the mess brought on by human disobedience touched the emotions of the human Jesus.

But Jesus was more than human. He is also God. He had the power to bring Lazarus back from the grave and restore him to the sisters who loved him. But that resurrection was only temporary. Lazarus, as well as his sisters, died at some later time. Soon after raising Lazarus, Jesus conquered the power of death once and for all. His death brought both fear and grief to those who loved him. But as Timothy Keller wrote in Making Sense of God, “…the darkness of death swallowed Jesus, he entered it, but then he blew a hole out of the back of it.” The pain of those who wept was turned to joy as Jesus was alive again. When Jesus conquered death, he brought not only joy but also hope. Death is not the end of love and relationships. Love goes on.

So what can we conclude about Epicurus on death and fear? Epicurus was right when he said that death should not be feared, but he had the wrong reason. For those who accept the gift offered by Jesus Christ, death is the entryway to eternal life and a love relationship with the One who IS love (1 John 4:8).
–Roland Earnst © 2017

“Born This Way”–Is It True?

Born This Way Sign
The theme of many gay pride parades has been “born this way,” and the question science has been wrestling with for at least 50 years is whether that is true. Is being “gay” not something that can be chosen or changed? Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist, has written a book titled Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. The book reviews hundreds of scientific studies on sex and the brain conducted over the last 13 years. Her conclusion is that biology matters, but it is not the whole story.

The Bible makes it clear that God created man and woman with purpose and with definite roles. Romans 1:24-27 indicates that it was humans who changed “the natural use into that which is against nature” (verse 26). People have misused just about everything God has given us.

Dr. Sari van Anders at the University of Michigan says, “The science of whether sexual orientation is biological is pretty sparse and full of disparate, mixed, and unreplicated findings.” The data shows that there is no “gay gene” that causes a person to be a homosexual. A combination of genetic characteristics, the hormone pollution in our environment, and the effects produced by experiences in early childhood are all part of our sexual orientation and how we act on it. We are not all born with the same genetic factors, we don’t all have the same libido, and we have not had the same experiences in our first twelve years of life. There is much more to it than just being “born this way.”

We would add that choosing to live a life that blesses others according to the teachings of Christ will lead us to use all God has given us in unselfish, constructive ways. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 that he would prefer that all men would have the ability to live single as he was living, but that is “better to marry than to burn with passion.” He referred to his own ability of celibacy as a “gift of God.” Using our gifts in selfish, destructive ways is strongly condemned by God. Using our gifts to bless others as Paul did is what we are all called to do.
Data from USA Today 6/20/17 B1&2
–John N. Clayton © 2017

ACLU Attacks Christian Values

Protest ACLU Suit of Teachers for Praying
Protest ACLU Suit of Teachers for Praying

The stated purpose of the American Civil Liberties Union is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.” Founded in 1920, the ACLU was useful in racial conflicts and in situations where women were being abused. In recent years the leadership has veered off to become an atheist attack group. The ACLU has chosen almost exclusively to attack institutions and individuals attempting to have and promote moral values and individual rights compatible with Christian values.

In Missouri recently the ACLU settled with a school district that was attempting to put internet filtering software on their school computers to prevent children from accessing pornography. The school had to remove the filter. A major suit has been filed against Catholic hospital systems which do not want to participate in abortions.

Another situation involves Cynthia and Robert Gifford a couple who own a farm in New York called Liberty Ridge Farm. The Giffords host and coordinate weddings in their backyard. When they chose not to host a wedding they considered immoral; the ACLU sued them. The ACLU persuaded the New York State Division of Human Rights to fine the Giffords $10,000. It also ordered them and their employees to attend “re-education classes.”

The plaintiffs in these cases are defended by an organization called The Alliance Defending Freedom. There are many such cases listed on their website. If you are interested in this subject, you can find them at http://adflegal.org/.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alcohol and Breast Cancer

Alcohol and Breast Cancer
For the past several years studies have suggested that drinking reduces the risk of cancer. The flavonoids in grape-derived drinks were said to boost the immune system. A new study connects alcohol and breast cancer risk.

The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund have announced the analysis of 119 previous studies involving 12 million women and 260,000 cases of breast cancer. The study shows that even one small glass of wine or an eight-ounce beer a day causes a 5% greater risk of breast cancer for premenopausal women and a 9% increase for postmenopausal women. Alcohol triggers DNA mutations and raises estrogen levels which are linked to increased risk for breast cancer.

Alcohol is the most destructive recreational drug ever created by man. The damage it causes brings enormous pain and suffering not only to those who use alcohol but to innocent people who are victimized by its effect. Most of the things that cause pain to us individually and collectively are not from God, but rather from our abuse of the things God has given us.
Reference: The Washington Post, quoted in The Week, June 9, 2017, page 19.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Memorial Day Remembering

Memorial Day Remembering
God has always called us to pay attention to what has happened in the past. It is important for all of us to spend some time remembering how we got where we are. In the United States, we pause on the last Monday in May for Memorial Day remembering the sacrifices that others have made so that we can be free.

The celebration of this day began right after the American Civil War when people realized the carnage and sacrifice that had taken place. In the past, we put great emphasis on remembering the blessings that loved ones gave us by their sacrifice in wars with foreign powers. We visit graves and decorate them to emphasize that remembrance. In recent years, our secular society has drifted away from that emphasis. There has been a reduction in parades and services and an increase in recreational events. Instead of a time for remembering, Memorial Day has become a commercial promotion of the beginning of the summer season.

In the Old Testament, a great many holidays, feasts, and celebrations called ancient Israel to remember their blessings. As the New Testament came into existence, there was a whole new system of emphasis on remembering. God’s relationship was no longer with one nation and one system of living. Jesus called all nations to unity and oneness. Paul stated it this way: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).

The importance of remembering the basis of our freedom and our oneness was not lost when Jesus established the Lord’s Supper recorded in Matthew 26:26-29. The purpose was to establish a continuing memorial. Paul described it in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. He quoted Jesus as saying, “Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”

The change in Americans and their Memorial Day remembering should remind us of how easy it is to forget the blessings we have and to take them for granted. It is important for Americans to remember the past and to be thankful for those who died to make freedom possible. For Christians, it is important to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to free us from sin. It reminds us that Christ gives us peace and confidence as we face the trials of life.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

By Their Fruit You Will Know Them

Flooded Town
One of the great lessons taught by Jesus Christ is that you evaluate the lives of people by their fruit. The fruit they produce tells much more than the claims they make. In Matthew 7:15-20 and 12:33, Jesus says the fruit reveals the credibility and truthfulness of the “tree” from which it comes. Atheism can be rejected simply because it does not even make a real attempt at fruitfulness. If your guiding principle is “survival of the fittest,” then it is logical that you would not harm yourself by helping someone else.

We can apply this principle to religious groups, including denominational and non-Christian groups. The service of Christianity throughout the world in its broadest sense has been exemplary. Barbara Lewis writing in the Gospel Herald for May 2017, (page 12) gave some encouraging numbers of work done in 2016. Actions speak louder than words, and here are some great actions by congregations and groups associated with the Church of Christ.

Healing Hands International, is a group associated with the Church of Christ. They shipped 23 containers of relief supplies and drilling equipment to seventeen countries. They also sent a million dollars worth of vitamins to fifteen mission points.

Congregations of the Church in 20 states gave and used $13,233,902 to help and rescue people devastated by storms, floods, tornadoes, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

“Dorcas: Sewing for Jesus” made 20,000 items used in medical clinics.

Over 876 water wells were drilled, 75 water wells were restored, and 1,638 water filters were distributed.

Over four-thousand people were trained in agricultural methods to feed themselves and their families in eleven countries.

All of this is just one organization associated with the Church of Christ. Our hats are off to those working to relieve suffering and poverty. We see their heart by their fruit. Their work is what Jesus talked about in Matthew 25:31-46.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

“Demons and Reality” Brings Reactions

Demons and Reality

We nearly always get some mail about any article we have in our quarterly journal. In the second quarter of 2017, we published an article titled “Demons and Reality.” In it, we discussed the question of what demon possession is about, and whether it happens in today’s world. We gave seven reasons why demon possession does not happen today, based on the Bible and the evidence. You can read the article online.

One of the points we made was that Jesus was tempted in every way we are. (See Hebrews 4:15.) We said, “No one has ever suggested that Jesus was demon possessed.” We received an objection to that statement because in Matthew 12:24 the Pharisees claimed that Jesus was casting out demons “by Beelzebub.” Beelzebub is a Hebrew word that means “lord of the flies.” Beelzebub was a heathen deity to which the Jews ascribed supremacy among evil spirits. First, the accusation was false. Then, notice that the statement is not that Jesus was possessed and had to have an exorcism to cast a demon out of him. What the Pharisees accused Jesus of was using the power of the heathen deity to do demon exorcisms. That is a far cry from having a demon overtake a person and, against their will, cause them to do things they wouldn’t do otherwise.

We heard from some others who claimed to have witnessed everything from voodoo to ghost habitations to spirit murders. In our world, violence is equated with entertainment and technology can place us in unreal environments. Almost anything can be invented and carried out by the human mind. People can produce illusions that are convincing. Don’t buy into these claims and scams. Rely on God and His Word. We would repeat the conclusion of the “Demons and Reality” article:

“God is a rational God, and He wants us to come to Him out of love and with feelings of gratitude and thanksgiving. We are to be new creatures, not just creatures purged of a perceived problem by a human not authorized by God to do so. The Bible tells us, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation’ and ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.’ God allows you to choose ‘this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”’ (Acts 2:36-41; Philippians 2:12; and Joshua 24:15.)
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Weight of Christian Testimony

Christian Testimony

Christian testimony is very powerful. After I finished speaking in a recent lectureship, an atheist vociferously attacked Christianity. He said that in the twenty-first century Christianity is useless. He said it doesn’t help anyone, it creates conflict, and it wastes resources.

Before I could respond, a woman said to him, “Before my husband came to Christ he was a drunk, an abuser, and a terrible father. Since becoming a Christian, he has been a kind, loving father and husband because of his new relationship with Christ.” Before he could respond, a man standing behind him said, “I was an alcoholic for 26 years, and since becoming a Christian I have found the strength to free myself from this horrible drug.” Then a young woman said, “I grew up in an abusive home and abused my own children until I became a Christian and learned there was a better way.”

Then the man’s wife held him by the arms and looked into his face and said, “Why do you think I have stayed married to you through the affairs and the times you left me lonely and crying? I have told you that God wanted us to make this marriage work, and if it wasn’t for Christ, I wouldn’t still be here. I want to build our family according to the pattern the Bible gives us.” The man looked at me and said, “I have answers for what you said in your scientific lecture tonight, but I don’t have an answer for all of this.” He waved his arm at the people standing around him and walked away from me with his arm around his wife.

In 1 Chronicles 16:8-9 we read: “Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works.”

In Mark 5:1-20 we see the amazing story of a man who was mentally deranged until Jesus cured him. The man wanted to go with Jesus and leave the place where he was known for being a lunatic. Jesus told him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” The man not only told his friends and family about what Christ had done for him, but he went to ten cities in the area and did the same. The next time Jesus came to that area, there was a crowd waiting to hear him because of the testimony of the cured man.

It is easy to find people who claim to be Christians who do nothing to change the world around them. There are also many who do make a difference by their Christian testimony. Even in our modern times, testimonies carry more weight for most people than any scientific evidence I can offer.
–John N. Clayton © 2017