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

France Erases Christianity from Public View

France Erases Christianity from Public View
If you remember studying the history of France, you will recall that Christianity in one form or another had a major role in the history of that nation. In 2004 the French passed a law banning religious symbols in public. Now the French have decided that anything that reflects in a positive way on Christianity must be obliterated as France erases Christianity from the public view. Recent incidents are:

The government ordered that a cross atop a statue of Pope John Paul II in a town in Brittany sculpted by Russian artist Zurab Tsereteli must be removed. It conflicts with the law banning religious symbols in public.
Greek yogurt pots sold in a French supermarket chain were decorated with pictures of Greek villages. However, the Orthodox crosses on the churches in the pictures were removed because of the law.
A charitable organization wanted to place posters in the Paris transport system inviting donations for Christians suffering persecution in the Middle East. The transport system refused to allow them because of the Christian reference.
The attack on Christianity is unique because public religious activity for other religions is encouraged. The mayor of Paris staged an event at taxpayer expense to celebrate the end of Ramadan.

As France erases Christianity from public view, we see the beginning of that kind of government bigotry in the United States. It shows its ugly head when Christmas scenes are displayed.
–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

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

Benjamin Franklin’s Wisdom

Benjamin Franklin's Wisdom
Skeptics frequently take statements of the founding fathers of America and lift them out of context to make them appear to be rejecting Christianity. A careful study makes it obvious that they were certainly not opposed to Christianity and in fact embraced it. We even see it in Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom.

Franklin made comments in Europe that appear to be antagonistic to Christianity, and he is often cited by skeptics as an unbeliever. However, on July 28, 1787, the Constitutional Convention was deadlocked and could not agree how to draft the United States Constitution. After five weeks of proposals and counter-proposals, Benjamin Franklin (who was 81 years old) stood up and addressed the convention. This is part of what he said as recorded by James Madison:

“…have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth- that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel…”
“I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service.”

It is obvious that Franklin was not hostile to faith in God. Today as the United States Congress seems to be deadlocked on so many issues, perhaps they should take a look at history and accept Benjamin Franklin’s Wisdom.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

Lesson from the Bees

Lesson from the Bees
For a bee to fill its honey stomach with nectar to take back to the colony, it has to visit from 100 to 1500 flowers. The honey stomach is a special pouch for the nectar, and it can hold about 70 mg (0.0025 oz). To make one pound (.454 kg) of honey requires 50,000 bee-loads of nectar. You might think that this is a very inefficient and poorly designed system. However, we can learn a lesson from the bees.

Every year beekeepers in the United States collect about 163 million pounds (74 million kg) of honey. Besides that, each bee colony will eat between 120 and 200 pounds (54 to 90 kg) of its own honey in a year. The bee’s system for producing honey is highly efficient, and well coordinated in the hive. How is that possible?

Two things make honey production productive. There are enormous numbers of bees, and they all work together. Each bee contributes a very small amount, and each one has a job to do. The hive contains many bees with one purpose, goal, and objective—to make the hive work. They are each 100% committed to the purpose of getting the job done. There is no squabbling, no power politics, no division, and no jealousy among the bees.

We can learn a lesson from the bees. When Jesus told His followers to preach the gospel to every creature, He didn’t tell them something that was impossible to do. He also prayed for unity. He knew that division was the one thing that would stop His followers from getting the job done.

In Chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote about the body of Christ, His Church. He said that “we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body” even though we are diverse in our race and status. Then in verses 24-25 he adds, “But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

Think of the different status and abilities of the bees in a hive working together for a common cause and learn a lesson from the bees.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

God’s Dwelling Place

God's Dwelling Place
People have constructed massive structures and religious places of worship to get in contact with God. Islam has Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad with the Kaaba being the “House of God.” Buddhism has its shrines with the five elements–fire, air, earth, water, and wisdom. Bahai followers have their temples with the oldest one near Chicago, Illinois. Hindus have their “mandir” temples with the world’s largest one in the New York City metro area. The Mormons have the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City while Catholics have the Vatican. All of these cost a great deal of money, and all of them are geographically limited and impersonal. None of them are consistent with the biblical teachings for Christians. Where is God’s dwelling place?

Jesus made it clear that a new relationship was coming with the advent of Christianity. When Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24, He indicated that there would be no single place for worship. Peter in Acts 2:16-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32 in observing how worship of God and the presence of God was changing. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 we read that our bodies are now the “temple of God.” Ephesians 3:17 indicates that Christ dwells in the hearts of Christians based on love. Galatians 4:4-6 tells us that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

The Church is people, not places. It can meet anywhere, under any conditions, with no expense or construction or long pilgrimage required. The Church we read about in the Bible did not own a temple or a house of any kind. When we read Acts 2:46 we see Christians meeting from “house to house.” The disciples met in an “upper room,” and they even met in the Temple (Acts 3:1). There is no justification for spending millions of dollars on a physical place to meet while people starve or freeze to death within sight of the structure.

In Acts 17:22-31 Paul talks to the leaders of the day about God’s dwelling place. In verse 24 he told them and us that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He then told his listeners that people “feel after God and try to find him though he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being” (verses 27 and 28). Paul told them they should not think of God as something made by art and human design. He calls on them to repent (verse 30).

Atheists attack the abuses of religion and the waste of religious acts, and much of their criticism is valid. Humans do silly, wasteful things, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches us about God. God’s dwelling place is not in our structures but in us. That fact should affect our lives as we understand what He calls us to do with what He has given us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Transactive Memory and the Bible

Transactive Memory and Couples
Many times a new concept appears in the scientific literature, and when we look at it, we see that it is something that the Bible has already described. A recent example of this is a concept given by social psychologist Daniel Wegner called transactive memory.

Transactive memory is defined as “a shared system for encoding, storing, and retrieving information.” Wegner explains this concept in this way: “People in close relationships know many things about each other’s memories. One partner may not know where to find candles around the house, for instance, but may still be able to find them in a blackout by asking the other partner where the candles are. Each partner can enjoy the benefits of the pair’s memory by assuming responsibility for remembering just those items that fall clearly to him or to her and then by attending to the categories of knowledge encoded by the partner so that items within those categories can be retrieved from the partner when they are needed. Such knowledge of one another’s memory areas takes time and practice to develop, but the result is that close couples have an implicit structure to carrying out the pair’s memory tasks.”

Psychologists are using this concept to help people dealing with the death of a spouse. As a person who has gone through that experience, I can testify that when your wife of 49 years dies, a part of you seems to die too. Panic attacks after the death of a spouse are common, and that is when you suddenly are faced with having lost a large part of your memory.

Bible readers will recognize this “new” concept. In the Old Testament, a variety of transactive memory devices were commanded and put in place by God. Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 12, 20; Exodus 13:14; and Joshua 4:6 are all cases where devices such as writing history on door posts were given to help remember the past and teach children the value of a culture. The various feasts of Israel in Exodus 23:15-16 were transactive memory devices.

In the New Testament, the congregation was developed as a transactive device. Acts 2:41-47 shows transactive memory helping the first century Church. James 5:14-16 described congregational conduct in various circumstances in life. The Bible itself is a transactive device as it is described in 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

One of the problems with megachurches is that much of the transactive memory value of the local congregation is lost. It is hard to pray for or to encourage someone you don’t know. Death is of little meaning if you don’t know the person. The congregational conduct discussed in Hebrews 10:22 is difficult in a huge congregation.

When Jesus prayed for unity, He gave us something that can sustain us in every stage of life and in every crisis. We defeat that blessing when we make entertainment the focus of our worship and when we don’t build relationships that allow transactive memory to function. Transactive memory may be new to the world of social psychology, but it is as old as the Bible itself.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Issues
The weekend issue of USA Today for August 25-27 made the problems of Catholic priests sexually abusing children the front page story. The article centered on recent cases in Guam, and made the statement that the continuing Catholic Church sexual abuse issues have “shattered faith.”

There are multiple things to consider in this tragic situation. Many of the people coming forward and making claims about abuse are relying on “repressed memories,” which is only marginally reliable at best. Also, large settlements publicized in the media have encouraged people to claim sexual abuse, which may or may not have happened.

The point that we would like to make is that this whole horrible issue has nothing to do with the existence of God or with the validity of Christianity. The New Testament clearly teaches the condemnation of sexual acts outside of marriage. Passages such as 1 Corinthians 7:1-11 make it clear that the sexual needs of men and women are to be met only in the sacrament of marriage. The man-made teaching that those who serve God as Church leaders should not be married and should be celibate is at least a part of what has led to Catholic Church sexual abuse issues.

First Timothy 4:1-3 predicts that human perversions of God’s design would take place. “In latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. Speaking lies in hypocrisy: having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry …” The Bible never commands celibacy as a requirement of Church leadership. In fact, the qualifications of bishops given in 1 Timothy 3 require that they be “the husband of one wife (verse 2).

When humans add commands or requirements to what God has given and alter what Jesus taught, the result is always catastrophic. While this may “shatter faith” in human institutions, it should not “shatter faith” in either God or in His Word.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Where Is God When Natural Disaster Strikes?

Where Is God?
Many times atheists and skeptics use natural disasters as proof that God doesn’t exist. The argument is that an almighty and loving God would not allow these things to happen, so therefore God doesn’t exist. That is a faulty argument that assumes we know more than an omniscient God could know. When faced with the current disaster of flooding from Hurricane Harvey on the United States Gulf Coast, even those who believe in God often ask, “Where is God?” They want to know why the God they believe in would allow such things to happen.

So where is God? Why doesn’t He do something about the suffering? God is there, and He is doing something. God is working through His people. We are all created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). When tragedy strikes, even those who don’t have a good relationship with God begin to show a little bit of that image as they reach out to help. Those of us who are Christians should be the most willing and eager to show God’s love. We not only bear the image of God, but we also remember what Jesus did and what He said about helping “the least of these” (Matthew 25:34-40).

Rick Stedman posted an opinion essay on the Fox News website that answers the question about where is God when a natural disaster strikes. We recommend that you read it. We could not have said it better.

We also encourage you to help those in need in any way you can. If you can donate to help the flood victims in Texas and Louisiana, please do so. But make sure you are giving your support through a trustworthy organization. You want your money to go toward helping the people in need and churches and Christian relief funds are the best a doing that.

Where is God when natural disasters strike? He is working through His people who are demonstrating God’s love to those who need it the most. There is no better time for you to witness to those who need to know that God loves them.

If you have questions about why God allows pain and suffering, we invite you to visit our website www.whypain.org.
–Roland Earnst © 2017