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

America’s Music and Immorality

America's Music
Recent studies on the direction and content of America’s music have shown something that is not surprising. Billboard.com showed some data about the content of songs since 1960. While songs mentioning love in the lyrics have remained fairly constant between 1960 and 2015, the number of songs that specifically mention sex has grown from fewer than 100 to over 1000. The percentage of top ten billboard songs that are about sex today is 92%. Of the 174 songs making it to the top ten, 161 contained lyrics about sex.

The lesson of history is that when a culture loses its moral compass, and no fixed standard of moral behavior is accepted by the general population, the society collapses. Authors who have studied the collapse of the Roman Empire have shown the close correlation between morality and survival. Our ministry attempts to get people to look at evidence that there is a God, and not just scientific evidence. There is also evidence that the teachings of Jesus Christ give us a system that works and ensures the best of life for all of its followers. As America has moved from a Christian nation to a nation where Christians are a minority, the chaos and violence have grown.

What we listen to in music reflects our priorities. America’s music tells us much about where we are as a nation. What we watch on TV, in the movies, and on the stage not only influences what we believe and accept, but what we value. Jesus taught love, unity, peace, and service to one another. Do we really want to live in a society where sex dominates not only advertising and music, but also what is presented to our young people as the objective for their lives? Read Matthew chapters 5 through 7 again, and think about the implications of not following the teachings of Jesus.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Racism Exhibit at Musee de l’Homme

Racism Must End
A new exhibit has opened at the Musee de l’Homme (French for “Museum of Man”) in Paris. The exhibit is titled “Us and Them” and attempts to explore the science of racism and prejudice. It’s an interactive exhibit that invites visitors to test their own prejudices. Visitors are asked to choose who they would sit next to in an airport lounge using different words to give the options. The exhibit presents the history of racism and the genetic, biological data showing there is no scientific justification for racism.

With the influx of refugees into Europe and immigration in the United States, this is an important issue. The exhibit is needed because all prejudice is the product of ignorance. The only system on planet Earth that is truly void of racial prejudice is Christianity. However, that is not what history shows. People have done horrible racial violence using the name of Christianity including the Ku Klux Klan, the Crusades, slavery, and the persecution of racial minorities in the United States throughout our history.

Racism contradicts the very heart of Christianity, but Christians have failed to live up to their own standards. Atheists continue to use this fact as a means of denigrating Christianity. I remember when I was a very young child and my father wakened me from sleep one night when we lived in Talladega, Alabama. He dragged me to the front window of our house which was on the campus of Talladega State Teacher’s College–an all-black college at that time. He pointed to a burning cross in our front yard. My father was one of two white professors at the school, and as he pointed to the cross, my atheist father said to me, “See, son, that is what Christians do.”

Jesus worked to break down hatred and prejudice of all kinds. In chapter four of John’s gospel, Jesus spent a great deal of time with a person who represented the classic example of racial prejudice. The person he spoke with was a Samaritan. Verse 9 is careful to point out that the prejudice against Samaritans was so intense that “no dealings were allowed with them.” In addition to that, the person was a woman. The Samaritan woman said, “How is it that you, a Jew, are asking me a woman…” In verse 27 the disciples “marveled that he talked with a woman.” There are many other incidents where Jesus broke down religious, sexual, and ethnic prejudice and addressed the needs of people–even if they were Romans or Gentiles.

The first century Church was made up of a mixture of people. In Galatians 3:28 Paul concludes a part of his message in which he condemns the recipients of his letter because they have “perverted the gospel of Christ” by allowing the prejudices and legalism of Judaism to re-enter the Church. His conclusion is that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Christians have missed a wonderful opportunity to be shining lights in the world when they have failed to accept the example and teaching of Jesus. Racism and prejudice have raised their ugly heads again and again. Let us not make the same mistake in the twenty-first century.
Reference: Science News, May 27, 2017, page 28.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

By Their Fruit You Will Know Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lukewarm Laodicea – Archaeological Evidence

Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea
Ruins of Lukewarm Laodicea

Jesus addressed lukewarm Laodicea in a letter recorded in Revelation 3:14-22. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus told the congregation in that city that they make him sick because of their lukewarmness. There are many reasons for this lukewarmness. One of them appears to have been their compromise with religious pluralism.

An article in the March/April 2017 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review describes the apparent history of the church in that city. The archaeological artifacts found there give evidence of great financial prosperity in the city. There are also columns and tablets showing a collection of religious symbols from different faiths. One column has a menorah, a lulav (palm branch), a shofar (ram’s horn), and a cross. The Christian cross extends from the Jewish menorah and seems to connect the Laodicean church to the synagogue.

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he addressed all of the churches in that region, including Laodicea. Paul primarily argued against the way many Christians were returning to following the laws and restrictions of the Old Testament. He wrote these rebuking words:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ, and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6, 7 NIV).

While we as Christians are to love and support others of a different faith, we are not to meld our faith into theirs. Lukewarmness is one of the products of such compromise. Religious pluralism didn’t work for lukewarm Laodicea, and it doesn’t work today.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Weight of Christian Testimony

Christian Testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bystander Effect and Christians

No More Bystanding
No More Bystanding
Several years ago there was an incident in which a young woman on a New York street was attacked, beaten, and eventually killed by a young man while over 100 people stood around and watched. No one came to the young woman’s aid, and there have been similar incidents in other places in the United States. Psychologists have labeled this the “bystander effect.” There have been numerous studies done to answer the question of why this happens. Our culture seems to fear involvement, and the “lawyer effect” where people are afraid they will get sued or hurt is only part of the issue. Thanks to cell phones we now can assume that everyone can call for whatever help they need, and our view of others is becoming an isolationist view.

If your religious view is “survival of the fittest,” then anyone who needs help is simply not fit and endangering your fitness by helping them is not going to happen. When I was an atheist, I would be likely to stop and help a woman who was having car trouble, but my motives were less than altruistic. I would be very unlikely to help a man in the same situation. Not all atheists are so selfishly guided, but the logic of atheistic beliefs would deny endangering oneself to benefit another. Some religions would push a person to help others of the same faith, but people of a different faith are considered to be enemies and would not be helped. The “golden rule” is recognized by almost everyone as a nice philosophy, but the bystander effect seems to be more widely practiced in today’s world.

In Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37, the bystanders were the people most qualified to give aid. The twist is that the outcast Samaritan, rejected by the people to whom Jesus was speaking, refused to be a bystander and give aid to the wounded man. The first century Church stood out in the society in which it functioned by responding to the needs of everyone in Jerusalem (Acts 3-5). Throughout the New Testament, we see the emphasis on doing good to everyone.

How do we as individuals take the “bystander effect” out of our thinking? I would suggest that we need to spend some time looking at what Jesus taught, and how the early Church responded to the culture of the day. When you read James 5, you get the picture of Christians not only addressing the physical needs of those around them but also being a part of the emotional and spiritual struggles of daily living as well. The entire “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) moves us to think differently by allowing God’s Word to permeate our hearts. Second Timothy 3:15-17 tells us that Scripture has value in molding and shaping our attitudes and thoughts. We can be the light of the world that Jesus talks about. The people of Jesus’ day were astonished at his doctrine. Our world today will also be astonished when Christians live as God calls us to live. The deeper our world sinks into secularism and selfish bystander non-involvement, the brighter the Christian light will become.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

The Event that Changed the World

Empty Tomb
Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, some women came to the tomb where the lifeless body of Jesus had been placed. It was empty. It had been opened–not by any human hands but by an angel. It wasn’t opened to let Jesus out. The tomb was opened so that people might see that it was empty. The followers of Jesus were not expecting him to be alive again. At first, they couldn’t believe it. Powerful people tried to find the body or to convince the public that it had been stolen. But they could not.

Now, over 2000 years later, there are still those who try to deny the resurrection. The evidence is there. The friends of Jesus were not expecting the resurrection, but after they had seen him alive, they spent the rest of their lives telling others about it. Even when they were tortured and killed for preaching the resurrection, not one of them ever recanted. Without a body, the powerful enemies of Jesus could not disprove the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, written only a few years after the resurrection of Jesus, the Apostle Paul recorded what scholars believe was an oral tradition of the resurrection appearances dating back to the very time of the resurrection. If it had not been true, this tradition and Paul’s record of it would have been debunked by the eyewitnesses who were still around. It was true, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most solidly attested event of ancient history. The world will never be the same because of the day when death was conquered.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Excruciating Pain!

Crucifixion Of Jesus
Crucifixion Of Jesus

The ancient Assyrian army would drive a stake into the chest of their enemies impaling them. Then they would plant that stake in the ground to display their victim. They did this both to frighten and to intimidate those who would oppose them.

The ancient Romans further refined this gruesome tactic. Instead of impaling their victims on a stake, they nailed them to the stake. Impaling resulted in quick death, but crucifixion extended the horror. Crucifixion was slow and agonizing torture that sometimes lasted more than a day. It’s from this execution method that we get our word “excruciating”–which literally means “from the cross.” Crucifixions took place in public where people could see the victim and become terrified to go against the Roman government. This torture was used for the worst of criminals.

But one time it was used for the only perfect man who ever lived. He had done nothing wrong. He died for those of us who have sinned. He suffered excruciating pain and public humiliation in a way that demonstrated love and grace. He went willingly to the cross. Even more amazing is the fact that while suffered on the cross he forgave his tormentors. From the cross, he even pardoned a real criminal who hung next to him. He forever made the worst form of torture and execution a symbol that millions proudly hold up, wear, and display. What other execution device is so loved? Why do we call the day of his torture and death “Good” Friday? It’s because of God’s amazing love and grace demonstrated in Jesus Christ. That’s the “crux” of the matter.
–Roland Earnst © 2017