Payh Blog
Detail of fire sparks isolated on black background
May 27, 2011

Kicking Against The Pricks


Kicking against the “pricks is King James Version language; what I memorized as a child. Modern translations use “goads. Either will do, but “pricks is more expressive to me. God may use a slight prick in our life to get our attention or to guide us, like the sting of a needle, or He may use something more severe and painful, akin to a sword. In any case this illustration used by the Lord when speaking to Paul in his life-transforming-Damascus-road-encounter was a common sight in 1st Century agrarian society and clear to Paul in its meaning. Prior to this encounter, a dramatic prick that penetrated his hard heart, Paul’s life was a constant resistance to the Gospel, to God’s plan revealed in Christ in the fulfillment of God’s Law of which Paul erroneously thought he was the chief defender. Instead, much about Paul lashed out at the Law written on his heart and conscience (Romans 2:15); he railed against the truth of the Creator’s plan and manifested a bitter refusal to accept the true Messiah; the Lord who had laid claims on him.
Through the reading and study of the Scriptures, consistent and logical reasoning of facts, personal faith, and life experience, the sovereignty of God in our lives is simply irrefutable, though the blindness of sin produces many ranting objections to the contrary. You may not comprehend the depths or process of God’s sovereignty and subsequent divine plan in yours and others lives, or the parallel truth that we are definitely not automatons. Rather, we are willful beings cast in the image of the One who made us, even though we have succumbed to rebellion, producing in us a spirit of “kicking against the pricks; a burden many carry on their backs through life producing at various times resentment, bitterness, guilt, indifference, bondage, and dysfunction, despite every conceived machination to express your personal “freedom; a freedom from any “encumbrance which would weigh on your “free choice to do what you want, when you want, even if it kills you. God’s natural laws alone, such as gravity, genes, or health, will tell us our so called “freedom needs to be understood with a grain of salt and a wink of the eye. But what really “gets one’s goat is to be told or to think that God can in any way control your autonomy. In some cases this instigates virulent objection, in others, total or partial indifference; either one equates to the Old Testament Hebrew word “hate; hating your Maker with opposition, denial, or indifference. His Enemy and yours gloats in this behavior and claims such to be “his children. (John 8:44)
The common world view that saturates every area of our society, and most noticeably much of the world of academia and public education, does not recognize nor acknowledge the truth of original sin or its pervasiveness in human society, nor what to do with it. All expression of this world view no matter the contributing sources is a state of mind content with contradiction and incoherence toward what is. Myriad evidences in life contrary to this prevailing thought process are ignored, the pricks against which many persistently kick.
I see God’s sovereign hand at work in every part of my life’s journey. It is not a journey devoid of pain, sorrow, disappointment, or even premature death of child and wife. If you think God’s sovereignty is there to give you a life devoid of any hardship, think again, or read the Bible. Nevertheless, when rightly understood as you walk with the Lord in the light of His word, His burden is truly light and His yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30). You will not understand this as long as you kick against the pricks, and as long as you have not experienced the truth of Wesley’s great hymn, “And Can It Be that I Should Gain an Interest in the Savior’s Blood. The goads, the pricks, are life-saving. I fear for those whose nerves go numb when the Almighty stops His striving.

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Payh Blog
May 23, 2011

From the LA times today on the SC ruling to release prisoners

The American Civil Liberties Union said the court had “done the right thing” by addressing the “egregious and extreme overcrowding in California’s prisons.”
David Fathi, director of the ACLU national prison project, said “reducing the number of people in prison not only would save the state taxpayers half a billion annually, it would lead to the implementation of truly rehabilitative programs that lower recidivism rates and create safer communities.”
Amazing that people really think this way. Completely devoid of reality as the ACLU truly believes that this reduction will allow a culture change to suddenly occur amongst the thousands of people working in the prison system!? Are they willfully ignoring the reality of how difficult it is to change a culture and a mindset that already is established and has been in existence for years?
Without a doubt, you can predict that California’s prison population will return to this size again and ultimately, the threshold for laws in California and elsewhere will continue to change because capacity does not exist. Hence, it will continue in our society that what Judges state, will not be held as true as very few laws or punishments are ever really adhered to. A three year sentence is really only equal to 18 months, etc. The issue illustrated here in the release of these prisoners is merely indicative of a systemic problem that no amount of capacity will solve.,0,2337401.story

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Crucifixion And Sunset
May 19, 2011

Your God, Their God?


Maybe it’s a question you don’t feel you need to ask: Your God, Their God? You’re pretty sure about the answer. Then again it’s a question you may want to avoid; the answer is too agonizing to contemplate. For others it’s a question they would never think of asking. It’s not critical. Nevertheless, for any parent it’s the most important question they can ever ask, especially those who know they worship the God revealed in the Bible: Is God your God, their God? Is He your children’s God?
Parenting is a potent force for good and for ill. God created a pattern and natural power in parents which is universal, creating universal results, good or bad; except in the cases where God makes a decision to show mercy when mercy isn’t warranted; where the course the parents have set is headed toward disaster and God mercifully intervenes. The power which God has bestowed on parents is children will do what you do, but not always what you say. The power is especially potent when what you do is one and the same with what you say, and the child discerns no contradiction between the two. Authenticity always strikes a responsive, efficacious chord; but authenticity is absent when a disparity between actions and words, being and speaking, doing and prevaricating is the norm. Even the smallest child has instinctive abilities to discern authenticity or the lack thereof.
Given the truth of original sin, a fallen world, and a shrewd enemy, God knew parents would need superhuman help. His strongest promises to us in the Scriptures are related to parenting and the responsibility of the older generation conveying to the following generation the message of salvation and truth . . . a path to victory. But it is not a message cast in words alone; the words must put on clothes; that is, a living evidence of paternity: who is your Father? God’s promises are straightforward and discernable, accomplishing their purpose and goal in a life where they are believed and claimed, and the proof is always in the pudding of who you are and are becoming.
No matter what your theological tradition, if you accept the authority of God’s Word, the COVENANT is an essential element of the Gospel. The covenant God the Father made with His Son, Jesus Christ, and subsequently with all those who are in Christ by faith, contains promises backed by the power of God, confirming them, and making them work to your and your children’s good. God is saying in the covenant to parents who live in that covenant, “Your efforts will not be in vain when you do what you say and say what you do in obedience to Me as you exercise parenting.
When our children or some of our children live as though God is not their God, the failure is not God’s covenant, nor Him, but our own parenting. Augustine once said, give me a child until he or she is seven and they are mine for life. The formation of a child’s heart begins long before we think it does, even when the communication is yet unintelligible. Fortunately for us when that time of formation in the home is past, we still serve a God of mercy and compassion. Therefore, it always behooves us as parents to never stop crying out to Him to intervene in their willful rebellion and turn their hearts to the Father. God never gives up on His side of the Covenant, neither should we on our side. Even when your children have left the home your work is not done, though a larger portion of it will be on your knees. Work on your own fitness for heaven, and pray for your children’s.

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Evil of Serving the Lord
May 12, 2011

Bridging the Gulf of Separation


Most of you have treasured relationships with not a few others; family and friends you want to be with if time and location were not such inveterate obstacles. Bridging the gulf of separation at times can be a challenge that seems insurmountable. We simply are not omnipresent beings, unrestricted by time and energy. But we often wish we could be, for we miss seeing children, grandchildren, parents or dear friends on a much more frequent basis. Not only are separate and distant locations hindrances, but the limitations of time and energy keep us even from those relatively “nearby. Unlike previous centuries we have modern “marvels like Facebook and smart-phones to keep in touch with many distant friends and family, but even with this remarkable, recent technology we cannot match the satisfaction of face to face, non-skyped interaction.
I just read the blog of a friend who was bemoaning being away from his young granddaughter for a month. Many have to endure separation for much longer periods, as soldiers who a year or longer at a time are away from wife, children, family and friends. Missionaries often are separated from loved ones for months, years, a lifetime, and before modern transportation their first goodbye was frequently their last. In our life experience we come to understand the nature of such reality, but we surely wish it were different and we yearn, like the Apostle Paul, for the time to get “caught up even while we bemoan the fact that we can’t recapture all we have missed in-between.
Paul’s letters are filled with references to his eager desire to be with many loved friends and family of the household of God. Paul was not married, but his children in the faith numbered in the thousands. Just to see them he had to brave long, arduous and dangerous trips by ship and on his own two legs; and then he had to part all too soon, knowing he might not see them again for a long time, if ever in this life. Such separation produced real pain and sorrow that pierced his heart and he wasn’t reticent in telling us about it in his epistles.
There are many illusions that keep our perspective and our hearts earth-bound. This should not be one of them. Paul’s vision of heaven was not so muddied as ours when it prompted him to say he desired to depart and be with Christ; for he was utterly convinced that this meant he would more quickly be reunited with what he called his joy and crown: his brothers and sisters and sons and daughters in the faith, for whose presence, but also for whose eternity he yearned. I do not know the specific nature of getting “caught up (as we so often say to one another) in heaven, or in recapturing the years of relationship and personal interaction missed on earth, but I am sure God has it well thought through. Timeless eternity removes the obstacle of time-bound fallen-earth, opening all kinds of imaginable and unimaginable interaction and relationship in the new heavens and new earth (more than we can ask or think!)
I doubt you or I are done bemoaning our separation from those we would love to be with so much more than is now possible. But every occasion of remembering and bemoaning their absence ought to be compelling reminders of what lies ahead, restoring and fulfilling what we think we missed. The very thought of those for whom Paul yearned compelled his prayers (night and day) and his actions to do all he was able, even at a distance, to supply what was lacking in their faith, to the end that they may be “established in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, with all his saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13) Paul’s goal in writing this is that it might also be your personal mind-set every time the sorrow of absence strikes? You can make it so; and if you do, like Paul, your joy and crown will be greatly enlarged when The Day arrives and the shadows flee away.

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Close up of young couple toasting with glasses of red wine at restaurant
May 05, 2011

Wine or Brush Heap?


Jesus uses many word pictures familiar to his first century audience to communicate the gospel. Any today who have an ear to hear can understand it just as well. Wine is the ultimate fruit of the vine; grapes first, then wine as the final result. In the Old Testament as well as in the New, wine symbolized joy and gladness. The generous amount of wine that Jesus provided for the wedding guests in Cana signified abundant joy. The picture Jesus draws in John 15 speaks to the fruitfulness of those who abide in Him, and the fruitlessness of those who do not. The result to those who abide in Him is that they bear much fruit, and consequently His joy enters them, and their joy is abundant and full (John 15:11). This is in stark contrast to those who remain outside of Jesus. The consequence is that they bear no fruit, even those who point to their “good” works, for Jesus clearly says that “apart from me you can do nothing.” The fruitless branches are stacked in the brush heaps for burning.
Ah, but what is the fruit of which Jesus speaks; the spiritual fruit symbolized by the vine and it’s grapes? What is the fruit we are to produce when we abide in Him? Some say the fruit speaks of the harvest; bringing in the sheaves, i.e all those who come to Christ and are born-again as a result of your direct involvement with them to that specific end. (John 4:31-38) While evangelism is a vocation of the believer, it is subsidiary to the fruit of which Jesus speaks in John 15. St. Paul in Galatians 5:22 is more descriptive of the fruit that is germinated when one abides in Jesus Christ. He writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” This specific fruit is symptomatic of a transformed life, from a proud, purposeful sinner to a redeemed sinner who now reflects the character of his Savior. One who germinates such fruit will always be used by God to bring to Jesus any the Spirit so chooses to put in their path.
The fruit of those branches grafted into the vine and abiding in that vine is a visibly changed life. There will always be pruning which is necessary to spur the germination of the fruit of the Spirit of Christ, but this is a branch that is not destined for the brush heap! Pruning comes in all shapes, forms, and sizes, but you can be assured that the vinedresser knows every hair on your head and will do what He knows is necessary to produce the right result. Here He is the vinedresser, in Hebrews 12 He is the loving Father who disciplines you as His own child: the pruning of a perfect Father.
The task for you today and into the future is to examine yourself, your character, your daily living, your inner and outer, your private and public self for the fruit of the Spirit. The presence or absence of fruit will be an indicator to you that you are or you are not abiding in the vine. Your relationship with the One who says, “I am the vine,” is a relationship that must be safeguarded that He might continue to abide fully in you. Faith to believe this is a gift of God’s grace, but it is still nevertheless an act of your heart, your mind, your will to believe that what He says is true, and you must act on it. Not one day should pass that there is not some self-examination to see what is budding on your branch, and whether or not the grapes are ripening.

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