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

Government and Christianity

Government and Christianity
Government and Christianity have not always been in harmony. Christianity began under the rule of the Roman government, which abused human rights and promoted immorality. Although persecuted, the Christian faith grew strong and brought many people to the realization that our real hope lies not in government, but in God. In spite of the oppression by the Roman government, the Apostle Paul instructed Christians to honor those in authority (Romans 13:1-6) and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1,2).

We have always pointed out that Christianity is not an American institution. When we argue for the validity of Christianity and attempt to provide scientific support for the existence of God, we do not bring American politics into the discussion. In spite of that, the Christian faith has played a vital role since the founding of this country and even before that.

God blessed the United States with a standard of living higher than the world had ever seen. We argue for the truth of Proverbs 14:34 which tells us, “Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” We sing “God Bless America” as a hymn to ask God’s continued blessing on our nation. We place “In God We Trust” on our money. But today America seems determined to reject God and His teachings.

Righteousness in our government seems to be eroding and several groups have been formed to fight against that trend. One of those groups is Judicial Watch (www.JudicialWatch.org). This organization seeks to expose corruption in the American government and in organizations that have government connections. It is bipartisan in its efforts exposing both Republican and Democrat corruptions.

Judicial Watch publishes a magazine, and in their July issue, they have a report of abuses in the Veteran’s Administration. Those who are interested or active in American politics may find this a useful resource. Paul wrote that “the one in authority is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4). Christians can serve to remind those in authority of their sacred duty. Government and Christianity can work together to benefit all Americans as well as those in other countries.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst

Nursing and Christian Faith

Nursing and Christian Faith
To see what religion is true, look at what the system produces. Matthew 7 records the words of Christ, “Every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit … therefore by their fruits you shall know them” (verses 17-20). One of the areas of evidence is in the field of medicine including nursing and Christian faith.

Someone sent us a section copied from a textbook for nursing students titled Fundamentals of Nursing, Human Health, and Function. The text was published by Lippincott, and the editors are Ruth Craven and Constance Hirnle. The book was from the Washington Hospital School of Nursing. We mention that to emphasize that this is not a religious publication, but a textbook used to teach nursing in one of the finest nursing programs in the country.

In Unit 2 of the book, there is a section titled “Highlights of the historical evolution of professional nursing.” This section traces how modern nursing came into existence. The history of nursing begins with the period up to A.D. 500. In those early centuries, the book says, “Christians working in close association with an organized church primarily provide care.” The book records a deaconess named Phoebe in A.D. 55 AD who identified the need for nurses and for hospitals to care for the sick. The first general hospital began in Rome in 380 AD founded by a Christian woman named Fabiola. The book then jumps to 1836 when a training school opened in Germany where Florence Nightingale was trained. Nightingale said she felt a “calling from God” and began a training school herself in London in conjunction with the Crimean war. She is known as the founder of modern nursing.

The book concludes “Men and women committed to the church spread the philosophy of Christianity while providing nursing care to the ill. Religion’s influence raised the social position of nursing by placing more value on human life. Compassion, charity, and willingness to serve were qualities associated with nurses. Deacons and deaconesses (individuals working for the church ministry) were designated to perform services for the sick. Deaconesses functioned as visiting nurses, dedicating their lives to charity work.”

Atheists like to portray Christianity as a cause of war and violence when in reality those things contradict what Jesus taught. Those who look at history without prejudice see Christianity bringing solutions to the world with peace, caring, and love. We see that in a special way through the connection between nursing and Christian faith.
–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.jimmyhinton.org.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

South America Apologetic Outreach

South America Apologetic Outreach
Zipaquira Salt Cathedral, Colombia

Several years ago I was invited to do a lectureship in Quito, Ecuador, with Joshua Marcum and his coworkers in that large South American city. In July of 2017, I had another opportunity for a South America apologetic outreach in the area of Chia and Zipaquira, Colombia, just outside of Bogota, the capital. This effort was an outreach to the general population with two congregations of the Church of Christ involved and with an American team of workers led by Jimmy Pinzon and the Olive Street Church of Christ in Peoria, Arizona.

Roman Catholicism has dominated South America since the time of the Spanish explorers. You can read about the tightness of that control in history books, but when you travel these countries you comprehend how extensive the control is and the effect it has had on the people. These two South American lectureships were followed up with evangelistic efforts. They have clearly shown the need for material dealing with the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the importance of the Church as it is presented in the Bible.

One day we visited what is probably the #1 tourist attraction in Colombia called “The Salt Cathedral.” When we visited this huge salt deposit, I expected to see the same kind if thing that we had seen in Hutchinson, Kansas. We could see how the Kansas deposit was formed, and how the mine could be used in modern times to store electronic data. As we entered the Salt Cathedral, we found that Catholicism ruled the mine. The “Stations of the Cross” were carved into rooms and there were huge statues, carvings, and icons. Some rooms had prayer benches and placards about the Virgin Mary and Catholic saints. The main cathedral area had space and facilities for many worshipers including all of the altars and devices that are used in Catholic worship. Between the rooms were shops that sold statues of Catholic traditions, prayer beads, crosses, icons, and statues of Mary and Christ. The mine was a massive tool to promote Catholicism.

As we walked through the mine, we saw some young people who were mocking those who came to worship and making fun of the statements in the displays. Because most of the visitors spoke only Spanish, it was difficult to dialogue about why they were ridiculing the Catholic teachings presented in the mine. On one occasion, I heard a young man arguing with his girlfriend in English. He told me young people were fed up with Catholicism and the sexual abuse it had tolerated and the fairy-tale atmosphere of the mine, When I told him about my ministry and the fact that science supports faith in the God of the Bible, he was incredulous. We are still communicating with him through email, but I believe he reflected the feelings of many young people in Colombia.

One of the ways we advertised our lectures in Colombia was by singing as a group in the La Estacion Square in Zipaquira and the Comunerar Square. The Plaza at Comunerar is in front of a huge Roman Catholic Church. All kinds of vendors surrounded the square selling just about anything you could think of, most of which were related to Roman Catholicism. Jimmy’s group, my daughter Wendy, and I would sing in English well-known hymns like Amazing Grace. People would stop and listen. Some of them were testing their English, some were interested in the message, and some were just curious. The missionaries handed out flyers about my presentations and invited the people to come. We met many people who were disenchanted with Catholicism. Many had children who laughed at their faith and made fun of Catholicism just as we had seen in the mine.

In both Ecuador and Colombia, we have seen the need for a South America apologetic outreach teaching people the evidence for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. People did not want to hear about “church” because to them that was a rehash of Roman Catholicism. Pray for the people of that great country as they are hungry to know how they and their children could believe in God, and how they could bring God into their lives. We will share more of our experience in Colombia in tomorrow’s post.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

God of Creation

Father-Daughter Bible Reading
When we hear the word “creation,” we think of the Genesis account of God’s creation of “the heavens and the Earth.” But God did much more than just position things in space and on the surface of this planet. Quantum mechanics has enlarged our understanding of how the creation of the physical world takes place. For many years atoms were thought to be the smallest particles of matter, but now particle physics takes us into much smaller and more amazing realms. As we learn more about such basic things as charge, mass, and gravity, a whole new set of laws and principles comes to light. As we learn about fermions and bosons and principles of “simultaneity” and “parity,” we grow in our understanding of all that is involved in the physical creation presented in those few words in Genesis 1:1. We begin to appreciate the wisdom involved in the process as described in Proverbs 8:12, 22-30 and Isaiah 40.

The biblical concept of creation also refers to the creation of human consciousness, our appreciation of beauty, our awareness of self, and our spiritual makeup. These things are not accidents or commonplace occurrences. The Hebrew word bara meaning to create is used to describe the process of creation of man and woman in the image of God. Bara is a word that never refers to something a human can do. The Bible does not use bara for the making of the physical human body. The word used there means “formed” (yatshir Genesis 2:7), which describes the molding or shaping of something from materials already in existence. The most important part of human creation is the spiritual image of God, and that is where bara is used. (Genesis 1:27) To show the effect of God’s image displayed in humans Genesis 4:21 tells us that a man named Jubal was the first to handle musical instruments. In the next verse, we are told that a man named Tubalcain was the first to be an “artificer of brass and iron.” These and other passages refer to human creativity which results from our being created in the image of God.

Creation also involves the food that would sustain life. This process is described in Genesis 1:29-30 and referred to again after the Flood in Genesis 9:1-3. In 1 Timothy 4:3 it is described as a conscious creation of God, and that all of God’s created things were made for our use. Creation is also involved in God’s plan for marriage. In Genesis 2:24 the oneness of man and woman is introduced, and it is detailed in 1 Corinthians 7 and 11 with the sexual and emotional needs of both men and women being detailed.

The most important aspect of God’s creation for us is the creation of the Church and of the opportunity for us to be restored to God in the same relationship Adam and Eve had in the beginning. Our purpose for existing is spelled out in Ephesians 3:10 and 6:12. Isaiah 65:17 begins us on the road to understanding that God will create a new heaven and new earth for us. The fulfillment of that promise is described in Revelation 21. Ephesians 4:24 lets us know God can change us, if we were willing, into new people for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:10). In Psalms 51:10 the writer asks God to “create” a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. The Hebrew word bara is used here again because that can only be done by a creative act of God. That new creation is what the promise of Acts 2:38 is all about. Christianity is a system for removing the sin and guilt that result from our bad choices. The renewal that comes through Christ is an act of re-creation by the God who created us and who is indeed a God of creation.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2017

More Church-State Issues

Church and StateOne of the delicate areas in our culture today is the issue of the separation of church and state. It might appear on the surface that this is a no-brainer, but like most things, it isn’t that simple. Romans 13:6-7 instructs Christians to pay taxes and obey civil authority, and in Luke 20:25 Jesus tells us “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” The Constitution of the United States is clear about the government not sponsoring a religion but also guarantees religious freedom. Every nation with a state religion has had enormous problems with what evolved from that endorsement. It is biblical and logical to keep the state and religion separate.

The current crisis which appears to be headed for the Supreme Court is the situation where a church is handling an issue too big for the state and needs money that the state has available to meet the need. In 2012 Trinity Lutheran Child Learning Center in Columbia, Missouri, needed to replace the gravel that was under their playground with safer and cleaner material made from recycled tires. This material was available from the state by simply applying for a grant to get the material. The state denied the grant to the church saying that public funds cannot be given to religious organizations according to the Missouri state constitution. The case went to an appeals court which had a tie vote.

It would seem logical that the state should not fund a theology major’s education in religion, but protecting children from physical damage would seem to be a different kind of issue. When Trinity was evaluated by the state on its physical facilities and its program, which does not include religious instruction, it placed fifth among 44 applicants for the state funds. The “slippery slope” issue becomes a part of this, because if Trinity is given money for its playground, what comes next? Isn’t saving the church money freeing up their funds for religious purposes? If the church accepts money from the government isn’t it potentially allowing the government to make rules that it will have to follow? It will be interesting to see if and when the Supreme Court decides.
Data from USA Today, April 19, 2017, page 3A.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Church-State Problem

Religious Separation
Religious Separation
The polarization that has taken place in America in the past 25 years is appalling. That statement is true on many levels with the political situation being the one that gets the most attention in the media. The relationship between the Church and the State has strong advocates that have very different agendas.

On one side of the issue are groups who advocate freedom FROM religion. They don’t want religious people to take a public stand on moral issues. Americans United for Separation of Church and State is an example of such a group. They say: “We envision an America where everyone can freely choose a faith and support it voluntarily, or follow no religious or spiritual path at all, and where the government does not promote religion over non-religion or favor one faith over another.” That sounds good, but the problem with groups like this is that they do not want any attempt on the part of religious people to evangelize or to promote moral agendas. You can go to church if you wish, but don’t say or do anything outside of the church walls that demonstrates your faith. Any religious group opposing gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia, legalizing marijuana, or any other moral issue is considered to be violating the separation of Church and State. Also when a church congregation helps families with food shortages they cannot let the families know that they are doing so because of their religious convictions or invite them to any church events if they use any government commodities, even if the church purchases those commodities. A Christian can be fined or jailed in America for publicly living out their faith in opposition to gay marriage or other moral issues.

On the other side are groups advocating freedom OF religion. An example is Alliance Defending Freedom who strongly oppose any government interference with individual expressions of religious belief. Groups like this are fighting in courts for the right of religious people to live out their faith in the public arena. The problem is that some fringe religious groups hold to something that clashes with the safety and well-being of innocent people. An example is those who oppose medical treatment for disease. We had a case in Indiana in which a child was an insulin-dependent diabetic, and the parents refused to allow the child to have insulin shots on religious grounds.

These are tough questions. The lesson of history is that when a religion gains control of the government, the result is always a disaster. It is also a lesson from history that when a government embraces atheism and enforces it, the result is anarchy and chaos. America has become more and more antagonistic to religious belief and expression, and the result is chaos and conflict tearing at the very fabric of our existence as a nation. The founding fathers had no desire to make America an atheist state. Some people today want to allow any kind of dissent as long as God is not mentioned or involved in any way. Rendering to “Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” should not be that difficult, but vested interests are making it difficult for religious freedom to exist. Romans 13:1-7 spells out the solution. Whether America will officially adopt the atheist religion or turn back to the ideal of our founding fathers remains to be seen.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Beauty of Change

Accepting Change
A common denominator in all of life is the difficulty of accepting change. We establish a procedure to do something that works for us. Any change in that way of doing things is likely to involve work and adjustment. We tend to oppose work or adjustment. Driving in a rut is easier than trying to get out of it, but sooner or later you have to either get out of the rut or rebuild the road. If you stay in the rut, it gets deeper and deeper until it brings the vehicle to a total stop!

One of the lessons we can learn from our planet is that change is a design feature built into all aspects of the creation by God. When the sperm meets the egg in conception, change begins to take place at an incredible rate. From a single fertilized cell, a human develops over nine months. This change continues after birth until a seven-pound baby has turned into a teenager weighing over 100 pounds. When physical growth stops, change continues in different ways. Every seven years we get a completely new body. One by one, cells are replaced with new cells continually rejuvenating your physical body.

The changing seasons require accepting change. As fall comes, plants shed their worn and tattered leaves. Small animals enter their safest time of the year as predators have a harder time finding them under the-snow. The insect domination of the world is brought to a halt. During the winter the soil is covered with humus to provide for next year’s plants, and all is made ready for spring when even more dramatic changes take place. Change is seen in many positive ways in the natural world. Our muscles grow stronger through hard use. Caterpillars turn into butterflies. Breeding techniques have produced a bewildering number of new kinds of roses, tulips, dogs, cattle, fish, and vegetables.

We also see change in the surface of the earth as erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and gravity constantly alter the planet on which we live. All of this geological change brings us new soil, new land, and nutrients to sustain the plants on which we depend. This was dramatically driven home to me many years ago as I walked beside a lava flow on the big island of Hawaii. I saw a man with a wheelbarrow full of warm lava. When I asked him why he was collecting lava, his response was to grow orchids. He found that orchids grew better in the new soil he made out of ground up lava and seaweed. The value of volcanic change and rejuvenation of soil through lava flows is a good demonstration of beneficial changes. The world around us shows the benefit and beauty of physical change.

Christianity is a religious system of change. One of the original complaints about Christians in the early days was that they “were turning the world upside down” (Acts 17: 16). The concept of repentance involves change. The lifestyle of Christians is to be change-agents in the world around us. Why would people who are a part of God’s tool to change the world be resistant to accepting change themselves? Somehow we seem to forget Paul’s example that he “became all things to all men that I might by some means change some” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22). Seeing a person change from a destructive, selfish, egotistical way of life to a serving, caring, God-directed life of love and graciousness is the most beautiful change of all. That is the highest beauty to which Christians are called.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Rose, Mixed Blessings, and Life

Roses
Roses
There is probably no flower in America that gets more notoriety than the rose. Our music is full of songs about roses–“I Want Some Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” “Paper Roses,” etc. We send roses to people for virtually all special occasions and to convey and emphasize all kinds of messages.

Those of us who grow roses are keenly aware of another side of roses–they have thorns. I love to grow roses because they are so easy to grow. Roses are very forgiving to “klutzy” gardeners like me. They do fairly well even when you forget to fertilize them. Even when you forget to spray them until the bugs have eaten off all the leaves or the black spot has covered the foliage, they seem to rebound and carry on. The only thing I do not like about caring for roses is weeding them. Every time I reach to get the weeds out of my rose garden, one of those treacherous thorns catches me and penetrates even my work gloves to draw blood. There is a tendency to castigate the plant for stabbing you when all you were trying to do is help it.

Many things in life are like roses–children, for example. They are beautiful in many ways, and in many ways a joy to help them grow and nurture. When you try to weed out the things you know may strangle and hurt them, you frequently get wounded by the child. Marriage is another beautiful thing that can bring incredible joy, pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment into one’s life. But there is always some pain in marriage too. The Church is beautiful and a joy to work with, but it is almost impossible to get involved in helping the Church grow without getting hurt in some way–usually by the ones you are trying to help.

The skeptic might look at this circumstance as an illustration of God’s ineptness. If God exists, why should there be thorns among the roses? It is the thorns in marriage and child raising and the Church that cause many to abandon these institutions. Even in our limited ability to understand, I believe we can see the answer to this question which, on the surface, seems to be a flaw in the design. The rose is not only a thing of beauty, but it is also an excellent source of vitamin C. One of the frustrations of growing roses is the fact that a variety of animals and birds like to eat the flowers. It is only the thorns that protect the plant from predation that would destroy it.

In the same way, our dealings with one another have to be conducted so that each person has a certain amount of protection. When I hear a parent bemoaning the independent streak in their teenager, I sometimes ask them if they really want a child who is dependent on them for life. When someone is complaining about their spouse having a different viewpoint on things, I wonder if perhaps their spouse may be right at least part of the time. Sometimes a different perspective prevents us from making foolish mistakes. When I see struggles in the Church over whether my choice of an action or activity is best for another person, I have to ask whether I want the responsibility of always having to have the right answer for every situation.

The writer of Hebrews said, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11). Anything really worthwhile takes effort and demands a price. Do not let the thorns of life keep you from the real beauty.
–John N. Clayton © 2017