WHY Questions

WHY Questions
When talking to unbelievers, we often hear the WHY questions. “Why is there something instead of nothing?” “Why do bad things happen to us?” “Why does God allow …?” Seekers can’t answer the WHY questions by rejecting the existence of God, because atheism offers no answers at all. Even Christians struggle with the WHY questions when God doesn’t answer their prayers the way they think He should.

We can understand virtually all of the WHY if we look at God’s purpose in what He has done and what He is doing today. In Ephesians 3:8-11 we read:

“Unto me, who am less than the least of Christ’s People yet I was chosen for this special joy of telling the Gentiles the Glad News of the unsearchable riches of Christ and to make clear what is God’s way of working out that hidden purpose which from the beginning of the world has been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now to the Archangels and to all the Powers on high should now see the complex wisdom of God’s plan being worked out through the Church in accordance with that purpose that runs through all ages and which He has now accomplished in Jesus Christ, our Master.”

If you believe that evil exists, and atheists like Richard Dawkins deny the existence of evil (see River Out of Eden, page 133), then you can easily understand why there is something instead of nothing. We are in a war between good and evil. It is all around us, and even modern science-fiction writers recognize the struggle and strive to show that good is superior to evil.

The book of Job gives us a picture of the struggle. After facing the challenge of his own suffering and criticism by the wise men of his day, Job finally hears from God. His response to God is, “I have uttered things that I did not understand, things too wonderful for me which I did not know…. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now my eye has seen you, and I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3-6).

We have seen and are seeing how ugly evil can be. Humans treat each other with such malice that it is hard to comprehend. We can see the consequences of the selfish choices we make in everything from the effects of pollution to the destructive force of crime. Even though I don’t like the bad things that have happened in my life, I know there is a purpose in them. Some of those purposes I have already understood, and eventually, we will all understand.

The song “Farther Along,” which is in our hymn books, deals with the WHY questions. After describing all the injustices and pain we all see, the verse ends with: “Farther along we’ll know all about it, Farther along we’ll understand why. Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine. We’ll understand it all by and by.”
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Are You Jesus?

Are You Jesus?Are you Jesus?
This is a true story relayed to me by a friend of the person involved. I heard it many years ago, and recently one of the persons involved met me and reminded me of what happened. It has a message for all of us.

Some salesmen were at a regional sales convention in Chicago. They were rushing through security with tickets, briefcases, and the usual airport hassle. One salesman inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of apples as he hurried to get to his flight. Apples flew everywhere. The guilty salesman rushed on without looking back. The other salesmen stopped, looked at each other and then followed his lead. But one salesman stopped and called his wife to tell her he would be taking a later flight.

He returned to the area of the display and realized that a mentally challenged, blind person was operating it. She was crying softly with tears of frustration running down her cheeks. As she groped for her spilled produce, the crowd swirled around her, and no one stopped to help. The salesman knelt on the floor with her and gathered up the apples. He put them back on the table and helped organize her display.

The salesman noticed that many of the apples were battered and bruised. He set those aside in another basket. When he finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $40 for the damage we did. Are you OK?” She nodded through her tears. “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly” he continued. As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister…” He paused and turned back to look at her and responded, “Yes?” “Are you Jesus?” she said.

I question whether that could happen in today’s world, but the question remains whether anyone could ever mistake us for Jesus? The person who gave this account to me pointed out that the goal of our lives should be that we would be so much like Jesus that an innocent, mentally-challenged blind girl couldn’t tell the difference. If we claim to know Jesus, then we should live, walk, and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting scripture and going to Church. It’s actually living the Word as life unfolds day by day. Are you Jesus to the people you meet?
–John N. Clayton © 2018

The Day and the Hour

The Day and the Hour-False Prophets
In 2000 Francis X. Gumerlock wrote a book titled The Day and the Hour. The subtitle was “Christianity’s Perennial Fascination with Predicting the End of the World.” The book tells about people who attempted to set a date for the coming of Christ and the end of the world (or end of the age) going all the way back to the first century. In more than 350 pages it lists numerous predictions by self-proclaimed prophets, charlatans, and even sincere people who tried to set a date. If that book had been published in 2018, it might contain perhaps twice as many pages.

The people who believed those false prophets were forgetting that Jesus said, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). If we believe in Jesus, we should believe what He said.

Unfortunately, there is a new prediction for this month. A certain false prophet is saying that April 23 this year will be the rise of the antichrist and the beginning of seven years of tribulation. (He also predicted it would happen on September 23 and the October 1 of last year.) He bases his prophecy on politics, numerology, astrology, taking Revelation 12:1-2 out of context, and some completely bogus astronomical predictions. There is no giant rogue planet named Nibiru. The Sun, Moon, Jupiter, and stars will not align in the way the false prophet is saying. Anyone promoting this idea is either ignorant, trying to gain fame, or trying to make money.

What is the real problem here? These false claims that supposedly come from Christians make all Christians look foolish in the eyes of unbelievers. That makes it difficult to teach the truth of the Gospel to skeptics and seekers. Also, some Christians are duped by these false prophets into giving money that could better be used to share the true message of Christ.

Don’t listen to or support those who predict the time of Christ’s return. Don’t share their message with others on Facebook, Instagram, or elsewhere. Pray that all Christians may be doing the work Christ has given us to do as we remain ready for His return–whenever it will be. Remember that Jesus said nobody knows the day and the hour.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

Prosperity Gospel or Health and Wealth Gospel: Same Old Distortion

Prosperity Gospel
There is a new “gospel” out there called “The Health and Wealth Gospel.” In the past, this teaching was called the prosperity gospel. The message is that God wants to bless us in every way, including our material possessions. The religious leaders pushing this “gospel” promise that if you give your money and possessions to them and their organization, God will give you far more. Religious leaders justify enormous salaries by saying that God is rewarding their righteousness, faith, and spirituality by giving them physical wealth. They promise that members of their churches will also become rich if they give their money to the church.

The logic of the prosperity gospel is that God is good and that in His goodness He will bless His children with material blessings. Preachers of this doctrine say that God cares about the whole person and that He is faithful to His promises. They take Jeremiah 29:11-14 and especially Deuteronomy 8:6-18 out of context to show that God promises to multiply one’s gold and bless us materially if we are His children. They also use Matthew 6:33 to say that God will give material blessings to those who seek the kingdom.

The biblical error in this is that Deuteronomy and Jeremiah were not written to Christians. The Jeremiah passage refers to the Jews being released from Babylonian captivity. The Deuteronomy passage refers to taking over other people’s homes and lands which Christians are not commanded to do. These are Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel, and they have nothing to do with Christians today. The passage in Matthew 6:33 promises to provide basic needs–food, drink, and clothing–not luxury items. The emphasis of the passage is spiritual and not physical.

Jesus Christ did not enjoy the luxury items of His day. He and his apostles lived in austere conditions. Paul suffered beatings, imprisonment, and mistreatment from both the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Jesus warned His followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” Christ also warned about the dangers of riches. (See Luke 6:24; 8:14; 16:14-15; 18:24 etc.) The riches that Christianity promises are spiritual riches. God promises peace, love, eternal life, and the joy of learning both to love and to serve others.

Don’t go to Church or become a Christian to make money or become rich in material things. The prosperity gospel is nothing new, and it is a twenty-first-century example of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:6-7 where he was amazed that people could pervert the clear teachings of Christ.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

New Human Organ Discovery

There Is a New Human Organ Discovery
With all that science knows about the human body, it is truly amazing that they have just made a new human organ discovery. Scientists at the New York University Langone School of Medicine have announced the discovery of a previously unknown organ in the human body. They gave it the name “interstitium.”

The human body is about 60% water, most of which is in the cells. The interstitium is a network of fluid-filled spaces, and it holds about 20% of all the fluid in the human body. The reason this organ wasn’t detected earlier is that researchers treat and dehydrate the tissue samples before they put them under a microscope. That causes the interstitium to collapse. Until now researchers saw the interstitium as a dense wall of the protein collagen. They now realize that it is not a wall but an “open, fluid-filled highway” supported by a lattice of collagen.

The interstitium organ plays a major role in the immune system. Interstitial fluid is the source of lymph, which sends out white blood cells to fight infection. The interstitium’s role in the body’s battle against infection is significant, and this discovery may change how some difficult infections are treated.

Medical researchers discovered the interstitium by using a new imaging technique called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy (pCLE) to examine living tissue. They found interstitium tissue under the surface of the skin, in the lining of the digestive tract and lungs, and surrounding the muscles. This new human organ discovery helps explain how cancer cells spread throughout the body.

We still have much to learn about the design and function of our bodies, but we see God’s wisdom and the complexity of His creation as we grow in our understanding of how our bodies work. David said it best in Psalms 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works God, and my soul knows that very well.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018

Brain Uploading

Brain Uploading
How would you like to have your brain uploaded before you die so that your consciousness could be preserved? That is the goal of a brain uploading company called Nectome.

The company wants to deliver a “100-percent-fatal” service to terminally ill patients. They are developing a process that fills the patient’s arteries with embalming fluids. The result is that the patient will die, but the brain will be preserved. Their process is supposed to preserve the links between the neurons in full detail. Then Nectome will view those links with an electron scanning microscope. Their goal is to preserve those links to revive the consciousness of the deceased person. The company hired lawyers to work out the legality of this process under California’s physician-assisted suicide law.

Nectome was founded by graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received funding from a famous Silicon Valley startup incubator. The brain preservation project involved a collaboration with MIT and received a grant of almost a million dollars from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They also received a prize of $80,000 from The Brain Preservation Foundation for preserving a pig’s brain using their process. MIT severed ties with Nectome just a few days ago after previously publishing a favorable article in the MIT Technology Review on March 13.

After the article in MIT Technology Review, several leading neuroscientists criticized the idea of brain uploading after preserving a brain from a live person. Nectome has removed a statement about being able to “back up” people’s minds from their website. They are now saying that they have no plans to do this in “the foreseeable future.” Robert McIntyre, the co-founder of Nectome, recently said, “…we don’t mean to imply that electron microscope image data is the only thing we would need to reconstruct consciousness or even memories.”

We have said for a long time that there is more to humans than just the physical body or the neurons in our brains. There is a spiritual aspect that cannot be preserved by any scientific means. By its very nature, it cannot even be adequately studied by any scientific means. We are created in the image of God with a soul that can live forever. Brain uploading, if it ever works, can never preserve the essence of who we are. Only God can do that. We must place our hope in Him, not in a company no matter how prestigious or well-funded it might be.
–Roland Earnst © 2018

America’s Founding Fathers and Christianity

America's Founding Fathers
There is a continuing effort by atheists and skeptics to claim that the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were written by men who were deists, agnostics, and atheists. The fact is that of the 54 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 29 were ordained ministers of established churches and most of the others were deeply religious men involved in the Christian faith. That was the character of America’s founding fathers. Those historical documents came from a Christian heritage based on three fundamental Christian values:

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 1 – The equality of all humanity before God. The Christian notion of equality says that people are equal because (1) God made humanity in His image. (2) He loved us enough to sacrifice His son for each of us. That is the basis of, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 2 – Human nature is evil. God holds mankind to a higher standard of goodness based on His law, and because of our fallen nature, we fail to reach this standard. The separation of powers and a system of checks and balances were written into the constitution to limit what the government can do and were written by men who knew the nature of humans.

CHRISTIAN VALUE # 3 – God was willing to sacrifice His Son giving each of us an opportunity for salvation. In America, each individual has the right to participate in electing our representatives. The Bill of Rights seeks to protect the rights of the individual. Only a high valuation of the individual could produce a society that granted all people regardless of race, gender, or social position, inalienable rights that no one, not even a king, could take away.

Today our culture attempts to denigrate Christianity, and society attempts to take away the rights that America’s founding fathers wrote into our historical documents. We must not allow the belief system of the founders of our country to be ignored.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
(This article was based on the writings of Dr. Andrew Stebbins published on Reasons to Believe’s Blog. You can read the article at reasons.org.)

Elder Fraud Schemes and “Psychics”

Elder Fraud Schemes
The United States Department of Justice has filed documents against a group of people who have conducted a scam that has taken $500 million from seniors using what is claimed to be “world-renowned psychics.” The scam involved a promise of the seniors winning money in a lottery and gave them various supernatural objects or personalized astrological services to achieve the predicted wealth. It seems that elder fraud schemes are showing up every day.

U.S Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We will hold perpetrators of elder fraud schemes accountable wherever they are.” The most common scam is called “the grandparents’ scam.” The elderly person receives a call from someone who claims to be a grandchild. The fake grandchild claims to have been arrested on a traffic charge and needs bail money wired to them. A similar version is a call from a person who claims to be an IRS agent demanding immediate payment of a mythical tax obligation.

Skeptics accuse religion of being the source of the gullibility that seems to exist among seniors. There is literature from atheists claiming that Christianity makes people vulnerable to these scams. The truth is that the Bible has always opposed psychic claims and warned people about the severity of this kind of activity. The old law even prescribed death for those who practiced sorcery or mystic arts. (See Exodus 22:18, Deuteronomy 18:10, and 1 Samuel 15:23.)

In the New Testament, this kind of activity is listed along with murder, adultery, fornication, and drunkenness (Galatians 5:19-21). In Acts 8:9-20 Peter confronted Simon the sorcerer and told him to repent of his wickedness. In Acts 19:13-16 when “vagabond Jews” tried to use Christianity to promote their commercial exorcisms the result was disastrous.

Seniors should rely on Jesus Christ to express their spiritual needs, and on the Church to help them in their spiritual as well as their physical problems. In the Christian system, we help one another. If we are faithful in doing that, the elder fraud schemes will fail.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

We Need Each Other

We Need Each Other
God has designed humans to have a unique relationship with God and each other. The terms “brother” and “sister” in the New Testament are a reflection of this relationship. We need each other as we face the challenges of life. When God created man, He said: “It is not good that man should be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

Researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder conducted a study of 22 heterosexual couples who had been together for at least a year. They wanted to see how the simple act of a human touch affected various scenarios in life. To conduct this test, they divided the couples into different groups at different times. In one grouping they held hands. Another group sat nearby but didn’t touch. In a third group, the people were in different rooms.

The researchers used brain scans to study each of the groups. They conducted scans before applying a mild pain and again after applying the pain. The tests indicated that holding hands reduced the intensity of the pain by 34%. When the couples held hands, their brain waves became synchronized, especially when the women were in pain.

The conclusion of the researchers was: “We have developed a lot of ways to communicate in the modern world, and we have fewer physical interactions. This research illustrates the power and importance of human touch.”

This experiment gives scientific proof of what we probably already knew from experience, that we need each other.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
Sources: ScienceDaily.com and The Week, March 23, 2018, page 19.

How Many Atheists?

How Many Atheists?
How many atheists are there in America? This ministry has existed for 50 years, and throughout most of that time, Church members have told us that there is no such thing as an atheist. They have said that we are wasting our time trying to convince people that God does exist.

Atheists claim that as people become better educated they realize that “God” and religion are just products of ignorance. This ministry was begun by a man who came to faith in God through science and did so late in his scientific education. Because of that, our approach has been different from what most Christians can relate to and understand. That difference has its advantages, but it also makes us a lightning rod for some denominational leaders.

In the April 2018 issue of Scientific American (page 77), Michael Shermer devoted his regular column to the subject of how many atheists there are. He concludes that in America alone there are 64 million atheists. Shermer is an atheist himself, even though he graduated from Pepperdine University where he studied religion. We might be suspicious about his claims, but the article quotes a variety of valid data-gathering sources including a Harris Poll, a Pew Research Center poll, the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture, and the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Shermer ends his article by saying that the number of atheists in America is:

“…a staggering number that no politician can afford to ignore… we should be thinking about the deeper implications for how people will find meaning as the traditional source of it wanes in influence. And we should continue working on grounding our morals and values on viable secular sources such as reason and science.”

Some of us have already tried reason and science as a source of morals and values. It didn’t work and led us to realize that only Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). I would not wish that rough road of experience for anyone.
–John N. Clayton © 2018