Girls Harming Themselves

Girls Harming Themselves
On November 21, The Washington Post reported on a 15-year study showing that there has been a dramatic increase in American girls harming themselves. Cutting, swallowing poisons and pills, and other forms of self-harm have increased 8.4% annually among middle-school girls between 2009 and 2015. Hospitals across the country provided the data for the study. The lead author suggests that suicide is linked to the same causes.

Our culture’s obsession with sex and the discarding of the purpose God has for sex and replacing it with struggles for power, popularity and social status has to be a major part of the problem. The authors blame cyberbullying, and smartphones, but also include social isolation in their list of causes. Society makes girls feel like they are objects and not special creations of God. The media tells them that their bodies are the focus and not the biblical concept of being created in God’s image. When nobody tells them that they have a purpose far beyond competing for physical beauty, their feeling of self-worth suffers.

Girls harming themselves is a product of our sex-saturated culture. We will continue to see social isolation and people struggling with feelings of poor self-worth as long as our society rejects God’s plan for family and the roles for men and women.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

Mothers Are Important

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

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

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

Religious Freedom Threatened

Religious Freedom Threatened
We have recently posted about some believers who have had their religious freedom threatened merely because they want to live out their faith. Government agencies at various levels are attacking believers with fines, jail time, or bankruptcy because they will not participate in something which is against their Christian convictions. Wedding photographers, cake artists, and owners of flower shops and wedding venues have been charged with discrimination. Their only crime is not wanting to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies because they believe it violates God’s plan and design for marriage.

Now government punishment is being carried out against Christian farmers because they expressed their belief in the God’s design and sanctity of marriage. Steve and Bridget Tennes and their five children live on a farm 22 miles from East Lansing, Michigan. For the past seven years they have been selling their produce at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market. The city has adopted a policy that bars those who believe in traditional marriage from selling produce in the market. Steve Tennes posted his Christian view of marriage on Facebook. When the administration of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market learned about that, they said the Tennes farm, known as Country Mill, would no longer be allowed to sell.

Country Mill was selling the only organic apples available in the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, and those sales are a significant part of the income for the Tennes family. Steve Tennes filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and a federal district judge ordered that he should be allowed to return to the farmer’s market until the case is settled. Tennes does not want to see Americans’ religious freedom threatened. He said, “This isn’t just about our ability to sell at the farmer’s market. It’s really about every American’s right to make a living and not have to worry about being punished by the government.”

In the meantime, the U.S. Justice Department has filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in one of the cases we reported on earlier. That is the case of Jack Phillips, a Christian cake artist who will not participate in a same-sex marriage ceremony by designing a cake for it. The Justice Department is siding with Phillips in this case. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court will decide. There are Christians who just want to live out their faith and not be forced to participate in something they believe is in violation of God’s commands. The Jack Phillips case could have repercussions for many others.

We can’t ignore the fact that religious freedom threatened just because it hasn’t directly threatened us. Believers should not be forced to do something that violates their faith. That sounds too much like the situation the early Christians faced in ancient Rome.
–Roland Earnst © 2017

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?

Second-class Citizens in Christianity?
In our day of constant protests about human rights and discussions about racism and sexism, skeptics say that women are treated as second-class citizens in Christianity. The truth is that there are no second-class people in Christianity.

In his excellent book Under the Influence (Zondervan Publishing, 2001) Alvin J. Schmidt presented a strong historical case for the fact that Christianity has been the main influence for women’s equality. The Bible does not portray women as second-class citizens or as subservient to men.

One of the sources of misunderstanding is the word “submission” in the New Testament. Two Greek words can be translated “submit.” One is the Greek word hupeiko which means to retire, withdraw, yield, or surrender. It is used only in Hebrews 13:17 where Paul wrote, “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.” The idea involved is to turn everything over to someone else, and that word is not used in the relationship of women to men.

The Greek word used to portray the husband-wife relationship is hupotasso. It comes from two root words: hupo meaning “under” and tasso meaning to “arrange.” It can be used in a military sense, and it means to submit yourself to or obey. When I was in the army, I submitted to my commanding officer. I was not a slave or a second-class citizen. Our commanding officer gave us a mission. Together we arranged a way to solve the mission objective. I never questioned the role of my commanding officer, but I knew he was dependent on me to arrange things to achieve our mission.

Ephesians 5 begins its discussion of submission by telling Christians to submit (hupotasso) to one another (verse 21). Christians have a common goal, and we accomplish that goal by being in submission to God and to one another as each of us has different gifts (1 Corinthians 12). God gives us a job to do, and we are valued as agents to get that job done. Paul then uses the same word to describe the relationship of wives to their husbands (verse 22).

Sometimes a man will be in subjection to his wife. When it comes to laundry and grocery shopping, I do what my wife says. The picture of husband and wife in Ephesians and throughout the New Testament is a picture of trust, love, service, and respect. Paul tells husbands to love their wives “as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). He told wives to respect their husbands(verse 33). The goal is a happy marriage and ultimately eternal life.

Christianity elevates women and places them as equals to men in every way. Each one has roles and abilities unique to them and to their gender. “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” (Galatians 3:28). There are no second-class citizens in Christianity.
–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

Business Owner’s Religious Freedom

Business Owner's Religious Freedom
One of the most critical issues of this decade in America is a business owner’s religious freedom. If you own a business, do you have a right to refuse to perform a service which violates your religious faith? Here are some examples of Christian business owners being told by the government that they must provide a service that they find morally objectionable.

Barronelle Stutzman owns Arlene’s Flowers in Richland, Washington. She declined to design a flower arrangement for a same-sex wedding. The Washington Attorney General and the ACLU brought suit against not only her business but her personally. She could lose everything because of taking a stand based on her Christian faith. This case is being appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

Blaine Adamson owner of promotional printing company Hands On Originals in Kentucky turned down a job to print promotional t-shirts for a gay pride festival. He had refused to print other materials that he considered to be morally objectionable. The local human rights commission charged him with sexual orientation discrimination saying that he must print the shirts. In 2015 a Kentucky circuit court found in favor of Adamson, and that decision was upheld in 2017 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Now the Kentucky Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.

Masterpiece Cake Shop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission is one of a dozen similar cases where a private business owner of a bakery wishes not to produce something that violates their religious convictions. In this case, Jack Phillips did not want to design a cake for a same sex wedding. The state is threatening him with a fine and jail time.

It is not only Christian printers, flower shops, and cake decorators that are being forced by the government to provide services that violate their faith. Christian wedding photographers and videographers also face legal challenges. In the Minnesota case of Telescope Media Group vs. Lindsey, Carl and Angel Larsen have a video business. They produce videos that teach Christian values and educate couples about God’s plan for marriage. They are being threatened with a $25,000 fine and 90 days in jail because they do not make videos of same sex marriages as well.

These cases bring to mind many questions about a business owner’s religious freedom. Can a printer refuse to print pornography because of the moral issues involved, even if it is legal? Should a black business owner be required to provide materials promoting a KKK rally? Should a Jewish business be required to provide facilities for a neo-Nazi rally? Should a Christian printer be required to print materials promoting atheism? Does a business owner’s religious freedom end when the doors open for business? To turn the question around, should a business owner who is a gay rights advocate be required to produce material saying that homosexual activity is immoral?

We have commented before about the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their efforts to protect religious freedom and Christian values. In Acts 4:18-20 we read about the authorities telling Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” They responded with, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 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.churchprotect.org or the PowerVine Store.

–John N. Clayton © 2017

“Born This Way”–Is It True?

Born This Way Sign
The theme of many gay pride parades has been “born this way,” and the question science has been wrestling with for at least 50 years is whether that is true. Is being “gay” not something that can be chosen or changed? Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist, has written a book titled Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences. The book reviews hundreds of scientific studies on sex and the brain conducted over the last 13 years. Her conclusion is that biology matters, but it is not the whole story.

The Bible makes it clear that God created man and woman with purpose and with definite roles. Romans 1:24-27 indicates that it was humans who changed “the natural use into that which is against nature” (verse 26). People have misused just about everything God has given us.

Dr. Sari van Anders at the University of Michigan says, “The science of whether sexual orientation is biological is pretty sparse and full of disparate, mixed, and unreplicated findings.” The data shows that there is no “gay gene” that causes a person to be a homosexual. A combination of genetic characteristics, the hormone pollution in our environment, and the effects produced by experiences in early childhood are all part of our sexual orientation and how we act on it. We are not all born with the same genetic factors, we don’t all have the same libido, and we have not had the same experiences in our first twelve years of life. There is much more to it than just being “born this way.”

We would add that choosing to live a life that blesses others according to the teachings of Christ will lead us to use all God has given us in unselfish, constructive ways. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 that he would prefer that all men would have the ability to live single as he was living, but that is “better to marry than to burn with passion.” He referred to his own ability of celibacy as a “gift of God.” Using our gifts in selfish, destructive ways is strongly condemned by God. Using our gifts to bless others as Paul did is what we are all called to do.
Data from USA Today 6/20/17 B1&2
–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