Payh Blog
Feb 28, 2008

The Only Complete Realist

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Scriptural Basis:
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13
Anderson’s Applications:
Mountains attract me. They are majestic, glorious, mysterious, yet beckoning; like other parts of God’s creation, they speak of His nature, majesty and power. The Psalmist said, “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1-2) But for anyone who has hiked in the mountains or climbed peaks, mountains can fool you. Zebulon Pike was fooled by the peak that bears his name. Looking from a distance he thought he could reach the base, scale the summit, and return in a few days. He not only returned many days later, but failed to reach the top of Pikes Peak, struggling for several days in waist deep snow without food.
Nearly two centuries later in the Sangre de Cristo Range in Colorado, I led some high school young people up 14,000 foot Horn Peak during a Youth Leadership Conference I was directing. One of the young male counselors of whom I thought highly was leading a group behind us. Though they started later, he thought they might be able to catch up with us and made the unfortunate decision to try a “short cut.” If you do not know where you are going in the mountains, short cuts are disastrous. Four thickly forested ridges and rugged gulches many hours later, the exhausted young people and leader were totally discouraged, and sadly no closer to the peak toward which he was convinced he was making a “beeline.” Only they weren’t bees. In the meantime we had crested the summit, returned to camp, and I was worried about our missing hikers. As I was about to send out search parties, the bedraggled crew struggled in, putting my fears for their safety to rest. I knew where I was going; having climbed this peak numerous times since I was a boy. He did not.
What are we praying when we ask God to not lead us into temptation? The Bible tells us clearly that God does not tempt us to sin: “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”(James 1:13-14) Pretty serious words with bad implications! So what are we asking from God when we pray, “Lead us not into temptation?” Precisely, that God keep us from being led, enticed, cajoled, seduced into any situation or circumstance where we are certain to be overcome by temptation; a situation from which we cannot escape due to our weakness. Our real problem is the same as that of the two men above: we seriously overestimate our ability, in this case, to resist evil or the evil one; and, we underestimate the great difficulty of situations we assume we can overcome. So we not only are neither quick nor faithful to pray this prayer, we are not genuinely convinced of the need for it!
Maybe C.S. Lewis can help us grasp it: “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist!” (Mere Christianity) This Realist is the One who instructs you and me to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” He knows far better than us how powerful and evil temptation and sin are. We would do well to pay heed to His words.
Encouragement:
“Today, Lord, keep me from those temptations and sins which separate me from You. Do not let me be tempted beyond what I can bear.”


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Payh Blog
Feb 20, 2008

Rogue Waves

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Scriptural Basis:
“The Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:6

Anderson’s Applications:

Tragically, my cousin, 62 like me, drowned this past week in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja in Mexico. He was by all accounts a great swimmer and was not unfamiliar with handling strong surf and rough seas. On this day it was rough enough for his friend watching from the beach to stay out of the water. No one is quite sure what exactly happened next. The friend’s attention was diverted briefly, and when looking again saw my cousin floating face down in the sea. Several joggers on the beach helped pull him in, but could not revive him; nor could medical personnel some time later. The conjecture is that a “rogue wave” hit him full force taking him to the bottom and holding him down for a time. There was blunt trauma to his chest, damaging his heart, from the blow of the water and then the sea floor. Like many tragic events involving loved ones or others we do not always find fully satisfying answers to our questions this side of heaven.
I have no knowledge that my cousin had any certainty of salvation, nor pursued a saving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus’ own testimony was and is, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father except through me.” My cousin’s sister has such a conviction and a living relationship with Jesus Christ. She often shared her faith with her brother and it is her great desire, as mine, that he cried out to the Lord even in the midst of his trauma. The doctors said he lived possibly ten minutes after being hit by the wave.
I did not know my cousin’s heart, but I do know my own. My own experience tells me that the hearts of men and women in the normal course of life do not naturally place a priority on pursuing forgiveness for their sin as though their life depended on it. In fact, it does! Yet in most people’s busy race in life for meaning, amusement, and identity, all other pursuits far exceed pursuing forgiveness from God. If there is any weight of conscience at all, it is numbed with the mistaken opinion that if there is a God, He will take care of it without any regard or involvement from me. After all, isn’t that His job? If it is my problem, in the final result God will brush it off. Isn’t that what a “loving” God does? Without much effort to think or consider many are seemingly content to roll the dice in the face of the most readily available truth to the contrary.
When or even if we pray to God, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us,” it is not a mere religious platitude without any value in determining your destiny. The necessity of God’s forgiveness impacts everyone whether they choose to acknowledge its truth or not. If it is their committed choice or choice by default to ignore Him and the guilt of their own sin, this text from the book of Exodus does not mince words when it says: “He will by no means clear the guilty!” A bold presumption of mercy from God while ignoring and repudiating His act of cleansing and forgiveness through His Son Jesus, is the greatest deception of willful ignorance in the history of the human race. Jesus described this kind of thinking in the Sermon on the Mount, “Broad is the gate that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) In fact, there is a proud rush for the broad gate, intentionally passing by the narrow gate that leads to life. Man knows not his time, but you can make a choice today to not be numbered among the ranks of the “guilty” when that time comes. Continual procrastination flirts dangerously with the unanticipated “rogue wave.” On the other hand, God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.
Encouragement:
“Heavenly Father, I want to be ready for any “rogue wave” if or when it comes. May I get right with You now, not waiting for some future time.”


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Payh Blog
Feb 14, 2008

O To Grace How Great A Debtor

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Scriptural Basis:
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (#2) Matthew 6:12
Anderson’s Applications:
Recently I heard a television preacher say on the air waves that the Christian hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” was errant in its theology. He said that the hymn writer’s words, “O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be” were simply not true. “God freely forgives us,” he said, “through the atoning death of Jesus Christ for our sins on the cross.” He concluded, “Since Jesus paid it all, we owe nothing in return. Our salvation is a free gift. That is what grace is.” What he says is all very well and true concerning grace and the complete payment for our sin, which could only come from the sacrifice of a perfect sacrificial lamb, the sinless Lamb of God. The great hymn writer Augustus Toplady said it like this in his classic hymn Rock of Ages: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” We have absolutely nothing with which to pay or erase our debt of sin. Yet this preacher is well off the mark when he denies we are “in debt” to God for His magnificent gift of mercy and love. Toplady expresses the very thought of the nature of this debt in the first phrase of another of his hymns, “A debtor to mercy alone, of covenant mercy I sing.” And the Apostle Paul puts it in a nutshell when he wrote, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love….” (Romans 13:8) We do have a debt to pay, a debt which remains even after we ask for our debts to be forgiven, as we have forgiven our debtors: it is to love!
C. S. Lewis remarked in his book The Great Divorce, “You cannot love a fellow creature fully till you love God.” With this combination of Valentine’s Day 2008 and our consideration of the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer, it well we recognize these abiding truths: in loving God we comprehend how our previous love for our fellow beings was truly deficient; and, we who know His salvation are indebted to Him, a debt calling for one thing from us, and one thing alone, our love. An old saint, being asked whether it is easy or hard to love God, replied, “It is easy to those who do it!”
A young pastor of a church in the highlands of Scotland in the 19th Century, Robert Murray McCheyne, penned the words of this hymn to express his debt to his God and Savior. The first and fifth stanza read:
“When this passing world is done, when has sunk yon glaring sun, when we stand with Christ in glory, looking o’er life’s finished story, then, Lord shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe.”
“Chosen not for good in me, wakened up from wrath to flee, hidden in the Savior’s side, by the Spirit sanctified, teach me, Lord, on earth to show, by my love, how much I owe.”
Consider this Valentine’s Day how great is your salvation, and, then, how great is your love?
Encouragement:
“Teach me Lord, on earth to show, by my love, how much I owe.”


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Payh Blog
Feb 06, 2008

We Prove Daily That Forgiveness Is Not Natural

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Scriptural Basis:
“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Matthew 6:12
Anderson’s Applications:
I was nine or ten years old and it was 10 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve. At midnight sharp the fireworks would go off on the top of Pikes Peak. Unfortunately, I was sitting in a position that did not give me a view of the top of the peak, despite the large window in the front of the church; depending on where you were sitting you would have a very good view of the top. But I was not sitting in such a spot! I just had to get outside in time I thought to myself. I was in a New Years Eve prayer service in my church where my father was the pastor. It was the conclusion of an evening of games, food, and family activities and now we were “praying in the New Year.” The program called for the prayer meeting to end at 12 midnight so all could go outside and view the fireworks. They usually lasted only 10 minutes or so because the top of the peak this time of year was bitterly cold and snow bound. A group of men climbed it annually to set them off and it was not conducive to a long show. Unfortunately for me, that is, for my immediate desire, an older man in the church began praying about 5 minutes to 12 and continued through the midnight hour until, you guessed it, 10 after 12. I was sitting next to my Mom, the preacher’s wife, with absolutely no chance of a quiet escape. I have never forgotten it, as you can see.
If he had just prayed the Lord’s Prayer, I would have gotten to see the show! But I was so intent on him finishing his prayer that I remember absolutely nothing of what he prayed that night. He could very well have prayed a prayer that followed the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, for the Lord’s Prayer is both a prayer unto itself and a pattern of how we ought to pray. I am not sure when I forgave him, I just know I have. The old saint died a few years later and I know His prayer was far more important in the grand scheme of God’s plan than my seeing fireworks on New Year’s Eve. I have seen them many times since. Still it strikes at the heart of this petition, “Forgive us our debts, our trespasses, our sins, as we forgive our debtors, those who trespass against us, those who sin against us.” Yes, this illustration is a trivial matter. But we all should know from our own experience that trivial matters escalate into firestorms and grievous, sometimes permanent actions on our part or of another in retaliation. Forgiveness is not our first instinct. It is not even our strong suit. Forgiveness is not so ingrained into our hearts that it is our “natural” response. But it ought to be.
The major reason it isn’t is we do not hold dear our own gracious forgiveness by God. We quickly and conveniently forget that we are by nature wretched sinners and hypocrites, unable even to keep our own standards, much less God’s. This petition of the Lord’s Prayer is so important to Jesus that immediately upon instructing His hearers with this prayer of how we should pray, he goes back to this specific petition in further explanation: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Pretty strong language! But I think we let those words go right in one ear and out the other. We still let trivial matters and offenses send us through the roof. It is not our nature to forgive, but it needs to be. If we want the cleansing freedom and peace of forgiveness for ourselves, we must learn to be quick to forgive: forgive in the moment of offense. This absolutely requires personal humility, which arises from treasuring God’s forgiveness above all offenses against you in word or action. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And again, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Both are principles of genuine humility. It is the proud and selfish who choose not to forgive and live miserably because of it.

Encouragement:

“Heavenly Father, I need to relearn forgiveness. Refresh it in my mind and spirit today and every day.”


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