Toughest Part of Prison Ministry

Toughest Part of Prison Ministry
From the beginning of this ministry, we have been involved in working with individuals who are incarcerated. The toughest part of prison ministry is inescapable. It is dealing with children who are experiencing incredible pain because of the actions of their parents.

Ezekiel 18:20 makes it clear, “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son…” Still, children who are not guilty of any wrongdoing suffer when a parent is put in jail. It is excruciating to be part of “visitation” at a prison as children cry out for love and attention and can’t understand the reason for an end to the visit that always comes way too soon.

This issue has far-reaching consequences for all of us. Dr. Molinda Chartrand who works with both military families and incarcerated people says, “Hitting, biting, and hyperactivity are much more frequent when a parent is deployed or incarcerated.” Very young children who have a parent absent from the home have a 5% higher incident rate of behavior problems than the general population. Older preschoolers have a 20% higher rate.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that an estimated 2 million children with one or both parents incarcerated face the greatest risk of perpetuating the cycle of crime. Nearly 50% of all state prison inmates have either another family member in prison or have a family member who has been in prison.

There is a huge need for Christians to get involved in efforts to help address this problem. God’s plan for the family is the only plan that works. When the family is disrupted for whatever reason, it is the children who suffer as much as anyone. The toughest part of prison ministry is ministering to the children of inmates.

The data comes from the Kings Crossing Prison Ministries and the NewLife Behavior Ministries.

Physician-Assisted Suicide and Wise Choices

Physician-Assisted Suicide
Citizen Magazine reported in August that over 50% of “Christians” approve physician-assisted suicide. As we get older, we have relatives and friends who no longer want to stay alive because their quality of life is poor and they see no hope of getting well. The question really is a matter of alternatives.

In previous years there was a group known as The Hemlock Society who campaigned for and supported physician-assisted suicide. They have renamed themselves Compassion and Choices. The title suggests that we need to have compassion for the dying and allow them to kill themselves with the assistance of a physician to make sure the suicide isn’t bungled.

They have it only half right. We must have compassion for the dying. In this culture and this time of medical advances, there is no reason why anyone should have to endure massive pain as life ebbs toward its end.

Seventy years ago my paternal grandmother had spinal cancer that was causing her massive pain. The doctor severed her spinal cord in a way that stopped the pain but rendered her unable to walk or control her bladder or bowels. She lived for 15 years after that surgery. I remember visiting with her, being taught by her, playing games with her, and hearing about ancestors that I would never see. She was positive and encouraging to me.

Suicide doesn’t allow some vital things needed by those left behind. My younger brother is suffering a similar disease situation as I write. He too has had surgery on his spine that has confined him to a wheelchair. It allows him to continue to enjoy family, his grandchildren and working with his wife on family issues and problems that she otherwise would have to face alone.

Humans are not robots. We are created in God’s image, and our relationship to God and one another is different from animals. The statement by a euthanasia proponent that putting down a human is no different than putting down a dog is incredibly ignorant. We need to have compassion for the survivors as well as the dying and make choices that benefit everyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy

Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Legacy
The Los Angeles Times in a story printed on September 27, 2017, quotes the late Hugh Hefner as saying, “If you don’t commit, you don’t get hurt.” Hefner was the poster boy of the new morality of the late twentieth-century giving an outward appearance of lavish and luxurious fun and frivolity. Playboy magazine with its centerfold and in recent years the website showing nude women have held out the idea that marriage is a relic of religion that has outlived its usefulness. The message is that for real happiness people need to forget all the taboos and express their sexuality with as many partners as they can in as many relationships as they desire.

When Hefner died earlier in 2017, the media presented his empire as a goal that everyone should aspire to. Now that the dust has settled, more information is coming out showing that Hefner’s personal life was one of brokenness. The Times article indicated that Hefner made the above quote when he found out that his first wife had cheated on him during their engagement. Many of the people who worked for Hefner are now coming out and talking about his frustrations and the bad relationships he had with many of the women who were part of his periodicals and short films.

Your child can go to the Playboy website and see complete nudity unless you block the site. The number of women now expressing that they felt exploited shows some of the damage Playboy has done. They are telling how they feel about seeing themselves publicly displayed in nude pictures. Many men have also been swept away in a fantasy world that makes big promises, but only delivers disappointment.

We live in an age of abusive pornography. Hugh Hefner will be remembered for his role in promoting the porn of today not for any meaningful contribution he made to society.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mothers Are Important

Mothers Are Important
Mothers are important and an organization called MOPS encourages motherhood. On their website they say that there are two billion mothers in the world and that four million babies are born in the United States every year with six out of ten born to single mothers.

Christians should be concerned that five in ten mothers say they don’t feel they receive emotional support from their churches. Outreach ministries of most congregations have ignored the needs of mothers. Mothers are important and we cannot overemphasize the importance of helping young mothers realize that the first seven years of a baby’s life shapes their entire development.

Church programs that don’t start with helping train the child from birth on are missing the most effective ministry they can have. For ideas and inspiration for an outreach to mothers, visit www.mops.org/church.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Alzheimer’s Disease and God

Alzheimer's Disease and God
The theme of the December 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation is “Understanding and Helping Those with Alzheimer’s.” The American Scientific Affiliation is an organization made up of scientists holding advanced science degrees who are believers in Jesus. This issue brings up questions regarding Alzheimer’s disease and God.

The World Health Organization reports that there are 47.5 million people with dementia worldwide. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 70% of those. The WHO also tells us that 7.7 million new cases are added each year. The National Institute of Aging ranks Alzheimer’s as the third leading cause of death for older people–behind heart disease and cancer. There is still much that science does not understand about Alzheimer’s. Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga writes that “dementia including Alzheimer’s may simply be the result of our brains living beyond what they were designed for.”

The question concerning Alzheimer’s disease and God becomes whether God’s design is flawed or whether Alzheimer’s is something humans have brought on themselves. First, we need to understand that there are two forms of Alzheimer’s. One occurs early in life and is called familial Alzheimer’s. It is a rare disease accounting for less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The more common late-onset Alzheimer’s is associated with a gene called apolipoprotein E which is involved in metabolizing fats in the body. Studies have linked diet and environmental contaminants to Alzheimer’s. It now appears that Alzheimer’s is not a single disorder, but that there are many forms with many different causes. Obviously, that makes identifying the specific cause and treating patients very difficult.

The bigger question is how we handle people with Alzheimer’s. One solution is euthanasia at early stages of the disease. Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who developed a lethal injection system as a means for assisted suicide, promoted this view. The first patient he euthanized by his system was a 54-year-old Alzheimer’s patient. Peter Singer, who is the head of the ethics department at Princeton University, has promoted this view on an academic level.

Because the American Scientific Affiliation is a Christian organization, the euthanasia alternative is dismissed by the magazine. Instead, it suggests ways that faith can help patients and caregivers deal with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

If your view of life is that it is all about “survival of the fittest,” then Alzheimer’s is simply a demonstration that the patient is not fit. That would suggest a treatment that concerns itself more with those who are fit and doesn’t address the quality of life objective that Christ would teach for the patient. For more about ASA go to their website. To see the issue on Alzheimer’s Disease and God click here.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Unfair Abortion Law and Freedom of Speech

Unfair Abortion Law and Freedom of Speech
The United States Supreme Court has accepted a case titled National Institute of Family and Life Advocates verses Becerra. The issue here is an unfair abortion law. California passed a law that makes it mandatory for pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion as a part of their services to clients. These centers will have to pay a $1500 fine to the state for every case where they don’t promote abortion as an option for pregnancy.

The obvious question that arises in this situation is whether abortion providers would have to provide information to clients that promote pro-life options. The answer to that is obviously “No.” Pro-abortion spokespersons claim that not providing pro-life options is part of their right to free speech. Should that not also be true of pro-life groups not having to provide information about abortion services?

The implications of this whole situation are huge. If a preacher gives a sermon condemning abortion, is he required to also give a sermon promoting abortion? Since the Church is tax-exempt that answer to that question would seem to be “Yes.” There have already been cases where the government has threatened churches that won’t allow a woman to preach or won’t allow a homosexual to be a minister with losing their tax exemption.

No matter what your view might be on these issues, it should be obvious that the most fundamental question that underlies all of this is whether we want to government to dictate our morals and control our speech. An unfair abortion law is telling pro-life clinics that their speech must promote abortion. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court handles this issues.
–John N. Clayton © 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.

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

American Priorities: What Really Matters?

American Priorities
What really matters to the American public? What do Americans choose to support with the money they have left after taxes and basic expenses like food and shelter? Is it the homeless, the orphans throughout the world, the starving children in third world countries, the refugees from war, or the health issues in places where living conditions are producing blights? What are the American priorities?

Today 40% of our population says “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. As America has moved from a Christian country to a secular society, a large percentage of our disposable money goes to support professional sports, including player’s salaries. What many don’t realize is that there is a vast amount of spending involved in support of the games. The NBA, for example, maintains a “Replay Center” in Secaucus, New Jersey, with a president, vice president, and staff of officials. Last season this group examined 2,265 replays. The cost factor in just reviewing basketball plays is vastly higher than what I made in a lifetime of teaching in the public schools.

If we wanted to eliminate the national debt and balance the budget or put an end to hunger in the world, we might consider dropping professional sports for one season in America. Don’t worry; it will never happen because the problems of the world are not a priority in twenty-first century America.

There are some hopeful signs of caring in professional sports. I recently saw a television show where a professional athlete was encouraging young people to wear a “What Would Jesus Do?” bracelet. I am sure Jesus would be very pleased with the care center for teens that this athlete was using his wealth to support. The interviewer expressed amazement that anyone would use their multi-million dollar salary for such a project. “That is not a high priority for most of us,” the interviewer said. Looking at American priorities today, I have no doubt that is certainly true.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
Reference: A.P. release in South Bend Tribune, 11/17/17, page C4.

Freedom from Religion Foundation

Freedom from Religion Foundation
There are always those who just can’t stand the idea of Americans, especially leaders, acknowledging their dependence upon God. The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) perpetuates its existence by trying to stamp out every recognition of God from across our land. They are doing the same thing that Communist governments tried to do in the last century.

For over 240 years, our elected representatives to the federal government have begun their public duties with a prayer seeking God’s guidance. This prayer is a reflection of the faith of many people across America who themselves seek His guidance in their lives.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has challenged public monuments, prayer, and virtually any public recognition of religion. Like most on the Left, FFRF engages in bullying tactics threatening to haul the “offenders” into court for their “unconstitutional” activities. Unfortunately, too many school districts and city and town councils hand over their milk money to the bullies and capitulate.

When the Freedom From Religion Foundation actually does sue, a very high percentage of their cases are simply dismissed. However, they occasionally find a sympathetic ear as when a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of the group’s claim challenging housing allowances for pastors. After failing so many times, the FFRF is now trying a new tactic. Co-president Dan Barker (who has publicly proclaimed his atheism but maintains ministerial credentials) applied to the U.S. House of Representatives chaplain to lead a prayer. His application was rejected, and he sued, claiming the practice of House prayer was in violation of the Supreme Court’s decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway. That ruling said that permitting ministers to pray before legislative gatherings is constitutional.

Thankfully, Judge Rosemary Collyer from the D.C. District Court wasn’t too eager to go along. She rejected FFRF’s claims, holding that Barker could not piggyback on Town of Greece to demand that the House allow a “prayer” to what or whoever he wanted. The judge wrote: “[C]ontrary to Mr. Barker’s hopeful interpretation, Town of Greece did not reference atheists–who are, by definition, nontheists who do not believe in God or gods–but ‘any minister or layman who wished to give [a prayer].'”

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who was named a defendant in Barker’s suit, praised the ruling. He wrote, “Since the first session of the Continental Congress, our nation’s legislature has opened with a prayer to God. Today, that tradition was upheld, and the freedom to exercise religion was vindicated. The court rightfully dismissed the claims of an atheist that he had the right to deliver a secular invocation in place of the opening prayer.” He concluded: “I am grateful that the People’s House can continue to begin its work each day as we have for centuries: taking a moment to pray to God.”

The interpretation of the Establishment Clause in this and other cases simply doesn’t require what Barker demanded. Sanity has prevailed–for now.
–J.R. Towell © 2017