Payh Blog
Feb 18, 2010

Ashes for Make-Up


Scriptural Basis:
“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9
Anderson’s Applications:
My wife and I landed in Quito, Ecuador on a mission trip last fall as the native people were celebrating “Dia de los Muertos”: Day of the Dead. The country kind of comes to a complete halt. From the days of the Catholic Spanish conquerors the pre-Hispanic celebration now coincides with All Souls’ Day (November 1st) and flows over into the days preceding and following. We very much enjoyed the blueberry/blackberry, corn based drink, colada morada, which was everywhere available, and observed a fascinating, some might think macabre, exhibition labeled “Memento Mori,” translated, “remember you must die;” a truth certainly prominent in the Scriptures. After Adam and Eve brought about the fall into sin of the entire human race, God tells Adam, “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) The familiar words of the Common Book of Prayer for funeral services is derived from God’s words in the committal of the body to the grave, “…earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” Wise King Solomon wrote, “It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:2) And the writer of Hebrews declared, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
Ashes and dust certainly symbolize the mortality of our bodies and what happens to them in the grave; and these same elements, dust and ashes, were utilized by those in the Bible who came to the realization that they, above all else, were sinners. Job is one among many souls sprinkled throughout the Scriptures who both said and did the following: “Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” The use of dust and ashes and sackcloth signified a grieving, repentant heart, but it also graphically alluded to the certain condition and consequence of sin: death and rot!
Yesterday, February 17, was Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of Lent, leading up to Holy Week, our Lord’s last week in Jerusalem before his crucifixion, including Palm Sunday, Passover, and Good Friday. It all culminates in the celebration and joy of the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday, like Lent is never mentioned in the Scripture, nor commanded by God, but the truths to which it points are truths intended to lead us to a greater knowledge of God and of ourselves, and to lead us to the Savior who alone redeems us from our miserable condition. Ash Wednesday is observed in the rubbing of ashes in the shape of a cross on the forehead making a public statement quite opposite of cosmetics. Make-up is applied to beautify the face, cover blemishes, add color, and show us at our best. On the other hand, ashes on the forehead are a visible mark intended to declare the true nature of our heart, which cannot always be seen by others. As our text says, the heart can be cunningly deceptive to the world. This mark of ashes says rather that I am a sinner, and I abhor my sin. It is as if I am joining together with Job and the saints of Scripture, “I desire repentance in my life; therefore I repent in dust and ashes.” Now, not all who participate may genuinely be expressing such faith by this observance, but that is true of any of the outward manifestations and rituals of our faith. There are always pretenders. But such should not detract from the serious penitent desiring to display his or her love for their Savior and His work.
C.S. Lewis was drawn to the writings of Alexander Whyte the 19th century Scottish minister because he said “he brought me violently face to face with a characteristic of Biblical Christianity which I had almost forgotten: For him, one essential symptom of the regenerate life is a permanent, and permanently horrified, perception of one’s natural and (it seems) unalterable corruption. The true Christian’s nostril is to be continually attentive to the inner cesspool.” This is at the heart of the use of ashes and use of the season of Lent to say to myself and the world, “I remember who I am, and I remember Whose I am, and I repent in dust and ashes. Lord, make me clean.”
“Broken, humbled to the dust by thy wrath and judgment just, let my contrite heart rejoice and in gladness hear thy voice; from my sins O hide thy face, blot them out in boundless grace.”
“Sinners then shall learn from me and return, O God, to thee; Savior, all my guilt remove, and my tongue shall sing thy love; touch my silent lips. O Lord, and my mouth shall praise accord.”
(4th and 6th verses of the Psalter version of Psalm 51:1-15, The Psalter, 1912)

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Payh Blog
Feb 11, 2010

You Say You Love Me


Scriptural Basis:
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. I John 4:7-8

Love is the grand prize of human existence. Obviously, it is something for which people are willing to die. They will work, pay, sacrifice, give everything they have, if only they may know, experience, and secure love for themselves. It may not even be love for or from another person; it may be love of money, status, or power which compels them, though none of those ever return love. But once these “lovers have their “first love they want to have their cake and eat it too. So, eventually, there is always “another for whom they pine. There are a great many people in the world, a world filled to the brim with “know-it-alls of every stripe, who consider themselves “experts on love. Many of these peddle their “expertise to those searching for it, or else desperate to fix what they once thought was in their grasp. Others author books on love filling myriads of bookstores or gathering dust on the shelves of homes where love is elusive or non-existent. A whole host of history’s “intellectuals, whose philosophies and theories have created revolutions and captured cultures, know nothing of love, and proved it by their broken marriages, relationships, and wasted personal lives. (See Intellectuals by Paul Johnson, 1988)

The Apostle John, who called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, in his elderly years wrote something astounding about this grand prize of human existence. He simply said, if you don’t know God you don’t know love, no matter how much you think you do, because God, and only God, is love. If there is love, genuine, authentic love, God is always in the mix. Otherwise it is something other than love, in fact, quite different from love; and whatever it is, it is never satisfying. It is not that God creates love, or bestows love. It is never said of Him as it is of light, “And God said let there be love, and there was love. God is love. If you would know love, you must be born of God, and you must know Him. He doesn’t give it and walk away leaving you to it. He must be there, and you must know it, or love isn’t.
This is the mysterious dynamic of Christian marriage. If a man and wife avidly pursue God in the course of their marriage, that pursuit, knowledge and love of God produces an unbreakable, intimate, and fully satisfying love for one another. As wise King Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12) The closer a couple draws individually to the “source of love, the more deeply and fully they will love one another. Out of this one flesh relationship, energized by their love of God, will pour a godly love for their children and for their neighbor. It is so often the case in a marriage when things are rough or the “first love grows cold that one or the other attempts an earnest pursuit to win back the love of the spouse never thinking or knowing that they themselves are not the source of love in their marriage; God is. Pursue Him! An old saint, being asked whether it is easy or hard to love God, replied: “It is easy to those who do it!

C.S. Lewis wrote to one of his correspondents about their doubt of God’s love, “Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless He wanted you, you would not be wanting Him. In this “season of love be reminded once more to seriously pursue LOVE Himself, and in so doing love one another more completely.
“Here might I stay and sing, no story so divine; never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine. This is my Friend, in whose sweet praise I all my days could gladly spend.
(7th verse of Samuel Crossman’s hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown, 1683)

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Payh Blog
Feb 10, 2010

Quitting Weed is Not So Easy


I have been smoking weed for 6 years and want to quit and go back to school. When I try to quit I feel horrible. What is going on? How can I quit?
–Reggie, age 21.
You are not alone. Approximately 14 million teens and adults use marijuana on a regular basis. Due to the high potency of today’s genetically engineered marijuana, the level of impairment, dependence and withdrawal is significantly higher than in years past.

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Withdrawal symptoms for marijuana are protracted over weeks and are similar to those experienced by people who quit cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. Recent research found that nearly two-thirds of marijuana users experience a pronounced withdrawal syndrome. Symptoms include anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings and sleep problems, and for some, bizarre and colorful dreams.
As a result, the acute symptoms of marijuana withdrawal cause significant distress and can last up to two weeks. Long-term symptoms, which include anxiety, anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure), fatigue, memory problems and boredom can last for several months. As a result early recovery is like roller-coaster ride and marred by frequent relapse.
When I first quit smoking weed I felt depressed and agitated for about a week. Then I was just bored and restless most of the time. I made myself do some positive things, but life just seemed “blah, like watching black and white television. So I smoked some weed, and for a few hours, the color came back on and life became interesting again.
Restlessness, boredom and just feeling “blah are normal in the early stages of recovery. It takes a little time for the brain to recover and for the color to come back on—but it does come back. However, restlessness and boredom are significant relapse triggers.
What to Do

  • Commit to a recovery program. In early recovery you wont always “feel like gong to a 12-step meeting or support group —go anyway. In early recovery, good feelings follow right actions.
  • Be accountable. Talk with trusted others about your recovery on a regular basis. This can be 1 or two supportive friends, clergy or 12-step sponsor. Make plans to meet regularly or have regular telephone contact.
  • Establish daily discipline and routines. Decide what time you will rise and go to bed each day. Schedule your daytime activities, family times, sleep times, recreation and quiet times, as well as your daily 12 step meetings.
  • If you still can’t quit, get into a treatment program. Your family doctor can direct you.

Quitting weed is a difficult process. It takes time to feel better. Establishing daily discipline and accountability will help you stay on track. Remember the good feelings derived from recovery are not instant. But unlike the temporary highs of addiction, the rewards can last a lifetime.
Written by Dr. Drew Edwards. All rights reserved

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Payh Blog
Feb 04, 2010

Dogs, Pigs, and Salvation


One of the strengths of AA meetings is admitting and coming face to face with your struggle. Before speaking a participant will say, “I’m [your name] and I’m an alcoholic. What if the world was one big SA meeting, “Sinners Anonymous. We would always introduce ourselves as, “I’m [your name] and I’m a sinner. Whether a person who has some assurance of “being saved from sin or one who has no such conception and truly scoffs at any such idea, neither is much interested in being publicly known or introduced as “a sinner. Yet the Bible from Genesis to Revelation fairly screams out the fact on page after page, “You are a sinner! What Paul writes in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, is the message of every book of the Bible. Maybe that is why so few read it.Peter in his second letter reminds us of two most unappealing pictures: a dog returning to his vomit and even eating it, and pigs once being washed relishing the idea of wallowing in the mud, slop, and garbage again. (2 Peter 2:22) It is a graphic description of people who having known something of Christ and the message of salvation turn from it back to a life that is a downward death spiral; rather than climbing out of the pig sty, they settle deeper into it; and what was once purged from inside them becomes their “delicacy again, though it is but “vomit. That downward spiral is faster for some, slower for others, but the direction is still the same.Just how large is the population that falls into this category of people Peter describes? There seems to be a far greater concern for those people in the world we perceive have never heard about Jesus and His message of salvation, than for the huge population who have once known of Him and have turned their backs on Him. There is much talk of reaching the unreached, which is certainly valid, but something less for the already reached who have tasted and stopped eating. For those who have experienced the joy of speaking the gospel into ears that hang on every word and to whom it is a new message, who would then delight in the hard work of discipleship or persevering with those to whom it is not new, of whom the picture of “dogs and pigs is accurate? In fact as we struggle honestly with our own sin we know Peter’s description is accurate even of those who know and love the Savior.
The great mystery of salvation is in the progression of it, and understanding the parallel truths that salvation is both ALL of God and His grace, and yet making every effort ourselves, as Peter says, to eagerly, earnestly, and urgently “make our calling and election [to salvation] sure. He says we do this as we make “every effort to add to our faith goodness; and to goodness knowledge; and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5) It is this mystery of “working out your salvation with fear and trembling, knowing all the while that it is God who works within you. (Phil. 2:12) Of this we need constant reminding ourselves as well as for the many we live around every day who have either begun the fight and need discipling, or who once considered the fight only to give it up and return to the pig sty; and now need our mercy. It is why Jude tells us to “be merciful to those who doubt, snatch others from the fire and save them; show mercy mixed with fear, so you do not fall into the “dog and cat spiral along with them.
This is what we are about at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. Day after day it is persevering work. Yet it is work with a sure promise; a work that keeps us, as such work will keep you, in God’s love (Jude 21). Dogs, pigs OR salvation?

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