Payh Blog
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Mar 31, 2011

Chief of the Bullied

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Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. Whether its apparent epidemic proportion in our day is simply an issue of modern instant digital and pervasive media is a matter of conjecture. One can argue that bullying raised its ugly head in the very beginning soon after the fall of man into the ugliness of sin; the end result of Cain’s bullying of his younger brother Abel was murder; too often the ultimate outcome of this evil when persistently pursued; if not physical murder, psychological murder. Bullying is the persecution of a fellow human being (or beings) primarily to gratify the desires of the bully no matter the reasons for or how complex his or her psychological abnormality may be. Sin is always the ultimate reason!
When you study the life of Jesus, the Son of God, you see a life increasingly beset by persecution at the hands of bullies. They pursued and hounded Him unto death. You can say He was the chief of the bullied. Often we will restrict the term “bullying to the interaction of children and teenagers, and not to the altercations that take place with “more sophisticated adults. Yet the unjust persecution of another at any age has the same characteristics as the evil actions of a bully. Ultimately as the anger and bloodthirstiness of the bully remains unabated it leads to murder. He or she simply wants to see the person or persons they are bullying destroyed; note the language in the current political discourse in public and in the blogs.
There are times and circumstances when a child or a person being bullied cannot escape. It persists for months, even years. And when one bully goes away, another (or others) appears. Indeed, being bullied or persecuted is what is promised to the person who takes seriously the claims of Christ and strives to be obedient in his own words, and actions to His commands and example. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets before you. (Matthew 5:10-11)
There is little doubt that such bullying is going on at every level in our modern day, on the playground, in school, in the political arena, in all areas of life in this culture. Parents ought to begin from the time their children are toddlers teaching them about the fallen world in which they are growing up; that they will encounter many a bully in their lifetime, and that they do not want to be a bully themselves. All too often we do not instruct our children in the knowledge of the evil world around them and how one whose Lord is Jesus Christ can and should live in a world of sin and sinners. The first time they are bullied even in their interaction with brothers or sisters is a great opportunity to teach them about the Savior who encountered bullying His entire life. We do not know about His years from 2-12 or 12 to near 30, but you can be sure that a righteous child and man invited and encountered bullying at every age, and all the way to Calvary’s cross.
The route of true blessing and happiness is to respond to bullying righteously and refrain from the evil of perpetrating it on others. When bullied the righteous response is not vengeance. A bullied child ought to be protected as much as possible by his or her parents and the relevant authorities, but also instructed in the knowledge and example of their Savior. Jesus gives us the glorious promise that our fellowship and bond with Him is cemented in the crucible of persecution, not unlike His. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven. (Matthew 5:44) It is never ever an easy task, but the reward at the end of the journey is worth every painful inch of it.

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Mar 24, 2011

Eden and Gethsemane


Two locations, separated by time but forever joined in the greatest story of history: Eden and Gethsemane. The season of Lent can have many sanctifying influences on the believer’s life, but none so evident or “Lenten as our battle with the pervasiveness of sin in us. From the symbol of ashes placed on the forehead on Ash Wednesday. . . what more prominent location to declare that sin has infiltrated every part of our being . . . to the darkness that spreads over the land on Good Friday when the battle with sin reaches its climax on the cross. It is finished there when the Victor lowers His head and dies.
Sin raised its ugly head in a garden millenniums before and now meets its doom, once more in a garden. Eden and Gethsemane span the ages. “The first Adam began life in a garden. Christ, the second Adam, came to a garden at the end of His life. In Eden Adam sinned. In Gethsemane Christ the Victor overcame sin. In Eden Adam fell. In Gethsemane Jesus conquered. In Eden Adam hid himself. In Gethsemane our Lord boldly presented Himself. In Eden the sword was drawn. In Gethsemane it was sheathed. (R. Kent Hughes) In Eden Adam fled from God. In Gethsemane Jesus fled to God. The symbolism is too rich to ignore; the message too grand to smother; the medicine too powerful to diminish.
What issued from Eden is too horrendous for our eyes to behold as down through the ages the wages of sin have wreaked pain and ruin upon mankind. Perhaps by lumping the sufferers together into a generic, less personal, “mankind, we can “manage the contemplation of it; but not when we see and feel the misery visited upon individual babies, children, women, and men. Neither the eyes nor the heart can bear to see or hear the pain up close, devoid of the anesthesia of distance. When my first wife was dying of cancer which was ravaging her body she whispered the words into the dark one night not knowing anyone was around to hear, “Cancer is so terrible! When we see the affects and results of sin near and far, when we contemplate its horror in life after life after life, when we confront its anguish and gruesomeness in our own personal experience, maybe then we can grasp a clearer picture of the awfulness of sin, coming to hate its existence with everything that is in us; to hate it so much we want nothing to do with even the hint of it; to hate it with such passion we cry out for its Conqueror, and flee to His protection. We won’t go there if we can stomach sin. We will go there if it nauseates us sufficiently. Nausea simply cannot be tolerated for long. We need to be nauseated by sin. If we are not we are too sick to care about anything that is truly good.
Sometimes the only way to combat sin in our lives is following the example of Jesus in Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36-46) The second Adam, Jesus, is not like the first. Adam succumbed without a fight because of a wishy-washy view of sin. Jesus prayed with perseverance and determination seeing the awful reality of sin and the devil; He would not be deterred from the path necessary to your salvation and the removal of your sin. There is not a better goal for these weeks of Lent than to get a clear view of the sin in your own life. Then Good Friday and Easter and the lesson of the cross and the tomb will breathe life into the tired bones of your soul and you just might leap for joy.

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Mar 17, 2011



The pictures streaming from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have horrified many of us, just as 9/11 was a horrendous sight and terrifying shock to our senses. Repercussions have reverberated throughout the world affecting stock markets, energy fears, and businesses. In the midst of this last week of terror and suffering by the Japanese people, I have received information from many different sources generated by the earthquake and tsunami and its aftermath of death, destruction, and radiation fears from the severely damaged nuclear power plants. It is important to get some balanced perspective from as many sensible sources as possible, recognizing that the media will give a picture that is not nearly compatible with the full truth, since they are more pressured to excite and sustain readership and viewership than objectively convey actual facts on the ground.
For example the fears of another Chernobyl have been fired up by the media creating nuclear energy knee jerk reactions around the globe. Unfortunately, the true facts of Chernobyl are in very short supply as the pundits show they are neither aware of the final results of Chernobyl nor able to accurately portray the potential damage to people’s health in Japan and elsewhere; note the run on anti-radiation medicine in the stores of California, Oregon, and Hawaii. In actual fact the only people after thorough study and investigation who died as a direct result of Chernobyl’s meltdown were the 30 people in the plant who died in the explosion. Perhaps you did not know this because you relied on the news media to tell you the truth. Additionally, the Sunday Times of London reported April 28, 2002 that the animals around Chernobyl are “thriving. 50 years after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by nuclear bombs, the 90,000 survivors had experienced only 700 cases of cancer in excess of the normal rate of cancer in the population, and half of the 90,000 survivors were still living.
One of the most important aspects of the impact of this natural disaster is not even on the radar screen of the media. From a career missionary friend to Japan, who was born and raised there, I received a letter with the expression of hope that this upheaval of shocking proportion will awaken the Japanese people from spiritual lethargy to think about eternal values. He wrote that on any given day in Japan 90-100 people commit suicide. Even as the death toll from the earthquake and tsunami climbs to above 10,000, such a number represents only a third of the people in Japan who die every year by taking their own lives.
As in any disaster, natural or man-made, the question inevitably arises, strangely enough from even atheists and agnostics (go figure), “Why did God allow this, or if He is sovereign over all creation as the Bible teaches, why did He cause it, or why didn’t He stop it if it is just nature running its course? It’s a good question to ask, especially if you also consider your answer to the following questions along with it: “Why has my ignoring of Him been so pervasive in my life in the past? And why am I concerned about His plan, purposes, and practice only when my life is inconvenienced by a disaster that really gets my attention?
This last earthquake, tsunami, or what have you is not nearly the final one we will see or experience. The doozy of them all is still to come, described graphically in Revelation 16, not to mention all those in-between. Whatever the full ramifications of God’s purposes in the many devastations of the past, the present and the future, this much is surely true; it has been seen that is often the only way to shock spiritually dead or lethargic people into seriously evaluating where their life is headed eternally and to seek out the Almighty and Living God. Would that Japan would experience a spiritual revival as a result of this upheaval, as well as other peoples of the world who are able in this 21st Century to see firsthand what is happening across the globe from them. For every believer Japan’s pain should motivate our own prayer life, and stir us more readily and earnestly to speak the gospel into our own personal world, to those near and around us who are devoid of any relationship with Jesus Christ or hope of heaven.

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Mar 10, 2011



Recently when writing a college reference for one of our young men soon to graduate from the Paul Anderson Youth Home and High School, I highlighted one of his traits which first came to light after he had been here for some time; a trait which I felt especially qualified him for college: intellectual curiosity. He was genuinely eager and excited to learn and to be taught. And, he loves theology: the study of God. Is there a greater mystery worthy of applying your passion in a forever-endeavor? We too often ignore or simply misinterpret the gospel as “mystery; that the Bible often speaks to us of the “mysteries of God; that it describes Christ’s dwelling IN us—a “mystery; that the Apostle Paul guided by the Spirit of God links the sacred oneness of husband and wife to the eternal marriage of Christ to His Bride, a Bride dressed and transformed by His own supreme sacrifice of love; this, Paul writes, is not simply a “mystery; it is a “profound mystery!
Solving mysteries demands a detective-like curiosity. That is why so many people love mystery novels. But by the last page they “know who dun it. The once mystery is mystery no longer. I think this is the same way in which many consciously or unconsciously interpret the “mystery of the gospel. Once you have heard the gospel preached, and you are acquainted, or so you think, with what the Bible says of the gospel and of God, the mystery is gone. You get it! It becomes “old hat. The “mystery is mystery no longer. In YOUR mind it is solved.
Well, this is NOT the meaning of “mystery as in the “mystery of God or the “mystery of the gospel! It is not even the meaning of “mystery in the mystery of husband and wife oneness. That is a lifetime study if there ever was one. We might see more clearly the mystery of being “ONE in marriage and the male and female psyche and God’s creative rationale for making man male and female as He did, once we get to heaven, but anyone who says he or she gets it now? You can be sure they are blowing smoke! On the other hand, the mystery of God can never be fully comprehended by us in all its manifold depths even in heaven, when we see not dimly, but face to face. Still every unfolding of the mystery in our mind and experience is a delight that can be matched nowhere else. It is the gift that never stops giving. Augustine rightly said centuries ago, “If you can comprehend it, it’s not God. We are finite creatures, and though we will live forever, we will never become God, nor plumb the depths of His immensity. But when you develop a mindset that you know everything there is to know, or as much as you think it is essential for you to know, curiosity to know Him dies, and so do you.
Passionate curiosity to know God is your lifeline to all that lies in your future; it is your purpose for being. As the Westminster Catechism begins, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever; this is exactly what you are doing when you exercise an indefatigable curiosity to never cease exploring the frontier of the wonder and glory of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; to know Him, and yet never come to the end of Him. Curiosity propels us to relentlessly pursue finding out many things in life, some of which we are better off not knowing; the sense in which “curiosity killed the cat is prophetically true for us. Our curiosity pursues such trivial things of this world, in light of eternity; like what did Charlie Sheen say or do this week. Or what is the latest gossip? Or how many hours can I spend on Facebook? Unlike such time consuming trivia that leads eventually to deep regrets about time ill-spent, curiosity about the mystery of God, compelling your heart and mind to search out every facet of His being, leads to one enjoyment after another with no end and no regret.
My wife and I once drove along the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Every numerous curve of this literal ribbon of highway clinging to the side of the cliff above the spectacular blue Mediterranean opened another vista which we repeatedly thought could not be surpassed; and yet it was, at the very next curve. As you purposefully stir and engage the curiosity of your heart and mind in pursuit of the mystery of God, it will reward you with one discovery after another, delving into the depths of who He is. In that unfolding process you will also discover yourself, a glorious being upon whom He has chosen to bestow glory. And, you will then realize you have finally come home!

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Mar 03, 2011

A Passion for Worship


How shall we express a passion for worship?
A number of the older military chapels I have been in are decorated with beautiful stained glass windows some of which were designed to honor soldiers who died in battle for their country. During a worship service in such a chapel a young boy whispered to his father, sitting next to him in the pew, asking who the figures were in the stained glass windows. The father whispered back that they were soldiers who died in the service; to which the boy asked, “Was it the morning or the evening service? I think many would agree that such feelings are not limited to children. The Prime Minister of England at the close of the First World War, David Lloyd George, once wrote: “When I was a boy, the thought of Heaven used to frighten me more than the thought of Hell. I pictured Heaven as a place where time would be perpetual Sundays, with perpetual services from which there would be no escape. Whatever your pictures of Heaven may be, the fact remains that the Scriptures declare the supreme activity of your life to be worship of the living God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. If it is your supreme activity in life should it not be something about which you are keenly passionate?
The first occurrence of the word “worship in the Bible is in Genesis 22, the account of Abraham and his son Isaac climbing to the top of Mt. Moriah that they might worship. What astounds me as I read this story is the earnest, incredible faith which Abraham displays in responding to the God he sees and who he knows as his God. It is here in Genesis 22 that I begin to understand why Abraham is given so much space in the “Hall of Fame chapter of faith of Hebrews 11. There will be little passion for worshipping God if our faith does not see Him as Abraham did, nor if what was foretold by Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah is not right at the heart of your worship.
Centuries later in the same spot where Abraham once laid Isaac on an altar, King David builds another altar for worship, and makes a statement of faith which is an essential ingredient of passion for worship: “I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing. (2 Samuel 24) Is worship so vital to our life that we will sacrifice whatever it takes for it? As the people of God in Malachi 1, do we bring our leftovers of mind and heart to the worship of the living God? They worshipped God Malachi said, but clearly their heart wasn’t in it. Just look at the offerings they brought (Malachi 1:7-9). In a spiritual sense is this what we bring?
In the last book of the Bible, the Living Lord and King of the Church directs the Apostle John to write to professing believers who were in the Church at Laodicea. He essentially says to them, “Here I am! I am at your heart’s door and I am knocking. If you will open the door I will come in and eat with you and you with me. This is not written to unbelievers, but to those who claimed Christ as their Lord, yet did not have a passion for worshipping Him (look at Rev. 3:14-22), which is akin to “eating with Him as in Psalm 23:5 or Luke 24:30-31. Eating with Him is to recognize Him, converse with Him, be fed by Him, and be satisfied (as you would at a fine meal) with His real presence. Too often we get hung up on the form of worship while completely ignoring the Person of our worship.
Passion for worship doesn’t just happen. It is fueled by an earnest faith to whom the words “I am the resurrection and the life mean just what they say. He can resurrect a dead passion. It recognizes that passion costs and will sacrifice what it takes to obtain it. And it will open the door and break bread with Him, no matter what distraction attempts to keep the door closed.

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