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Aug 31, 2011

SALVATION

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Salvation

The Paul Anderson Youth Home was founded 50 years ago by Paul and Glenda Anderson, who professed faith in Jesus Christ as the only means of enjoying a restored relationship with God. That faith foundation has proved to be strong and true. In fact, the only way we are able to offer life change and lasting transformation to the young men we serve is through the good news of the gospel. Here’s the truth that has changed our lives and that of over 1200 troubled young men:
A. Admit that you have a sin problem. Whether our problems are exterior (obvious from the way we treat others) or interior (through our attitudes), all of us fall short each day of the way God would have us live. That sin separates us from God, who is holy. He cannot look on us or be close to us when we are covered with sin. On our own, we are condemned and helpless apart from God. But God’s word promises, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). Confess your sins to God right now.
B. Believe that Jesus has both removed your sin and given you His righteousness. Many people believe that God will help them if they “try harder to be good. The truth is, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith (Romans 3: 23.25). A cosmic exchange happened on the cross: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). Picture your sin – everything that keeps you from getting close to God – being laid on Jesus, who accepts a criminal’s death in your place. Now picture all of His goodness, kindness, love, and righteousness being placed on you. That changes forever how God the Father sees you: you are now His beloved and delightful child. You are now free to enter His presence in prayer, in confession, and in constant fellowship with God – all based on what Jesus has done for you.
C. Commit your life into God’s hands. If Jesus Christ demonstrated His love for you by dying in your place, He deserves to be not only your Savior, but also your Lord. That means that from this day forward, you are in the process of dying to self and learning to living in Christ. Instead of making your own decisions and plans, you will consult God in His word and in prayer to receive His will and direction. The Holy Spirit of God now lives in your heart, guiding you into truth, comforting, and encouraging you to become more like Jesus.

You can pray this prayer right now to begin a relationship with Jesus Christ:
“Lord, I know I have lived in a way that dishonors You. I have done what I shouldn’t have done, and I haven’t done what I should have. I ask you to forgive me for my sins and to remove them from my account. Thank you for placing them instead to the account of Jesus, and thank you for giving me His righteousness. I receive your forgiveness and His righteousness by faith. I now give you my life, and ask you to guide me day by day to live in a way that brings You honor. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.


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Aug 25, 2011

Adam and Eve: History or Myth?

In recent years some scientists who also claim to be Christian, and who still believe God to be the Creator of the universe, have been declaring that the science of origins, particularly the human genome project, has proved “beyond a shadow of a doubt (scientists’ typical claim for their own authority and inerrancy) that we did not come from two original parents. Consequently, they are convinced that an actual Adam and Eve, as described and affirmed in the Bible, did not exist. At most they say the mythical Adam and Eve represent about 10,000 humans from whom we all genetically descended. Of course, to retain some semblance of the authority of Moses, or Luke, or the Apostle Paul they claim these Bible authors were simply creatures of their time, and despite Christ and the Scripture’s own testimony of the inspiration and inerrancy of their writing, they were simply unenlightened.
As a college freshman in the 60’s one of my required reading books which I have not forgotten was entitled Science is a Sacred Cow. It has proven to be remarkably accurate and amazingly prophetic through my next 47 years; years of further post-graduate study and wide reading. Its content concerns the fallacy that the mere word “science in the minds of most everyone, especially those who think of themselves as “intellectuals, equates to absolute, unassailable truth, despite the fact that scientists have had to eat their words repeatedly throughout history in many arenas. That is not to say that scientists have not been right about many things learned through research and accurate application of the scientific method; and that in so many areas they have advanced the knowledge of man in discovering the astounding truths of God’s intricate creation. But modern scientists seldom talk of their failures, or mitigate the arrogance they espoused prior to being proven wrong. Humble is a characteristic found in precious few scientists today. Humility wins few research grants and does not advance one’s work in the eyes of fellow scientists who demand conformity to their own prevailing view. The very fact that Darwinists who rule the realm of public education, universities, and museums will not countenance the slightest mention of the many thus far unbridgeable gaps in Darwin’s evolutionary theory, will not allow any of those gaps to be taught or discussed, is in itself damning evidence to the integrity of the unbiased scientific process required to reach a conclusion true to the universe as it is, or was, or will be; the fact that they viciously scorn and judicially expel the presentation of any reasonable opposing theory such as Intelligent Design exposes the weakness of the ground on which they have chosen to take their stand.
This is not an insignificant matter to the readers of SFTD. Many of your children or grandchildren, and so many with whom you associate are being inundated with what they are told are scientific facts proving the Bible in essence to be inaccurate, outdated, and unreliable. “Trust us, not the God of the Scriptures, is their cry. The “science that has claimed that man is increasing the temperature of the globe in an alarming fashion and that restrictions can be placed on him that can reduce this warming significantly has been exposed to be fallible; accompanied with distortion, intimidation, and deceitful manipulation. What would be the motivation to do this one might ask? Power, status, and hundreds of billions of dollars accruing to their own personal aggrandizement! In the 1970s, assuming many have either forgotten or are under 45 or 50, we were told by the scientific community that the world was headed toward a new ice age.
The Book of Revelation does not present a pretty picture of the future of this present earth, so global warming, or freezing, neither of which are specifically prophesied in Revelation, unless global warming is equated to destruction by fire, may be more preferable to the apocalyptic judgment described by the Apostle John. When these “scientists and “philosophers of self-proclaimed intelligence actually see Adam and Eve face to face, along with believers such as Moses, Luke and Paul at the judgment seat of Christ, nary a word will need to be said to prove their error. I doubt they will even say, “But, but, but . . . . . . Mouths will be shut before the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; the One who said, My Word is Truth!
A firm foundation to undergird any scientific exploration or hypothesis is described by the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. It served scientists like Galileo, Copernicus, Isaac Newton and so many others quite well; and it will serve you in whatever your calling, to not be ashamed at the judgment.


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Aug 18, 2011

Counting Your Life In Breaths

Every breath came fast and increasingly labored as I pedaled up a Colorado hill, gasping for the diminished oxygen in the over mile high atmosphere. I couldn’t help but think of the young men of the Youth Home who had pedaled not just a few miles, as I this morning, but 1500 miles a few weeks ago. The temperature for me this beautiful day was in the delightful 70s; for them, day after day of over 100 degrees accompanied by an almost equal and incredibly stifling humidity. Their feat, one these young men had never even attempted before, awed all of us; the staff who rode with them and those like me who accompanied by car. One of these young riders who will graduate the Home today spontaneously volunteered, when approaching Omaha and the end of the trail at Boys Town, to ride Paul Anderson’s one speed Schwinn bike, preserved for 50 years, the rest of the way; and just as Paul, he wore flip-flops, Paul’s foot-wear for the entire 1500 miles in 1961. He later told me, “It was tough, as I am certain it was.
Such is the spirit of many of these young men who graduate the program at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. It is a different spirit from the days when they entered the Home as much as a year and a half before; a spirit made tender to the reality and presence of God by His own Holy Spirit. There are many breaths which encompass those eighteen months, if you measure your life in such a biblical fashion. It is not normal practice as human beings to account for our life in the number of its days, or number of breaths; we measure by years and the celebration of annual birthdays. We believe our life to be a personal right, rather than on loan from God, and long life to be expected, even demanded, as if we have the authority and power to do so. We think little of the fact that so many never take a breath outside the womb, and countless others do not even survive childhood.
The measure of our life viewed as one breath at a time not only speaks to its remarkable brevity contrasted with eternity, but it speaks just as powerfully to its vanity. Psalm 39 describes how vain we really are, which is evident not only in the observation of others around us, but is all too evident looking inside, when or if we ever see our self with the fog of vain thinking cleared away by the wind of the Spirit; in all our naked vain-glory. Until the character and truth of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) is consciously at work within and being applied by breaths, you are not healthy; vanity wins; you don’t. This is not just a truth we pray for our young men to see, it is one we all must be reminded of every day, every breath we take. When I observe the political rhetoric of politicians now filling the atmosphere with streams of never ending vanity, I dare say that a person of Matthew 5 character could never be elected as President today, much less dog-catcher (with apologies to all dog-catchers). Election to heaven is infinitely more important!
Be reminded, then, of truth, as you exercise and experience labored breath, or even climbing stairs for some; as you take a breath to speak, sometimes not so edifying words; be reminded of the brevity of your life and also the vanity of it; be reminded of the humility that unceasing prayer, breath by breath, nurtures within the soul; be reminded that God knows every day ordained for you, and that there is an end to your breath which He knows, and you do not. Be reminded of His grace and mercy every breath you take. . . . . . . . And be thankful.


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Aug 11, 2011

Overcoming the Anticlimactic

It is not hard to immerse yourself in the fantasy of the screen. Movie romances, which sell lots of tickets, end rather well on the screen, but the movie-goer always leaves the fantasy of the theatre to re-enter life’s realities. The movie may end with the not so subtle implication of “happily ever after for the actor pair who finally realize they are meant for one another, just as the fairytales that regaled us as children; but one has to wonder what would become of the love struck couple if the movie had continued on into the common life that follows. Gone with the Wind was one book/movie romance that did not necessarily end this way; Rhett walked off into the fog despite Scarlett’s pleas. She still has hope to get him back somehow, and her final words of the film are; “After all, tomorrow is another day.
Those six words capture well the hardest challenge to living life Christianly or well. Life is made up of anticipations, preparations, concentrations, determinations toward one or another future event: a project, a vacation, a test, a performance, a feat to be conquered. It finally comes and then, it passes. What comes next? Back to the grind of everyday life? Yes. Until another anticipation comes along which gathers you up in its current of excitement and drive to experience whatever it brings. In most every case, this too shall pass; a return to the grind. There is almost always an anticlimactic letdown after the event is concluded.
Seven of our young men at the PAYH just completed a 1500 mile Bicycle Challenge of which the readers of SFTD are well aware. Months of disciplined training preceded the Challenge and then the three grueling, physically stretching, adventuresome weeks of the event itself concluding in a celebration of victory and the joy of completion; and then. . . . . back to the old routine, not as exciting as what preceded. So it is with us all, and all of our lives, to one degree or another.
Yet, it is exactly here, in the grind of everyday routine, where your greatest challenge lies, and where even greater reward is waiting for those who learn what it means to walk wisely, to walk in the Spirit; like breathing. We know what it is to run, to race, to climb, to soar, to ride, to compete, to anticipate with a combination of fear, adventure, and joy all tangled together. But we have trouble just walking; which is what life returns to after the event that captured your attention for a time. To walk rightly in daily (common) life is the greatest challenge the Christian or non-Christian faces, and it is here where you are most vulnerable to attack and ambush from your Enemy.
The fact is no event will ever satisfy or indefinitely encourage like THE EVENT that awaits those who look or it. The Apostle Paul is not reticent to encourage you to “eagerly anticipate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and the end of the age. We have a hard time getting our minds around this, unlike other events that stir your anticipation. But this Event is able like no other to capture your mind in walking out the “routine of today, tomorrow, and the next. Rollercoasters are fun for the minutes they last; but no one wants to live on a rollercoaster. Riding emotional and spiritual rollercoasters need not be your consignment for life. Walking in the Spirit is simply NOT a rollercoaster way of living. The posture of the man and woman described in the first paragraph of the Book of Psalms, how they walk, stand, and sit, is the every day and night posture of someone who even in the midst of suffering is still blessed and happy.
Life need not be anticlimactic after your event. As He leads you beside still waters, this can be the very place He restores your soul . . . . . .even in the “daily grind of life.


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Aug 04, 2011

The Jesus Prayer

Soon after he got in our car, he said to me, “I haven’t talked to God so much as I have in the last few hours. These were the words of our young man on the 1500 mile PAYH Bicycling Challenge who had been missing for four and a half hours, and who had us extremely worried for his safety. (See SFTD, “We Have Him! from 7/21/11) We had been in fervent prayer the whole time he was missing. Severity of circumstances will always drive the believer to prayer; to a greater intensity of communication with God that rises above the norm of common everyday life. Yet the Apostle Paul wrote in four of his epistles that there ought not be greater and lesser frequency of prayer in the believer’s life. He wrote to four different churches, “Pray at all times in the Spirit….Continue steadfastly in prayer….Pray constantly…Be constant in prayer.
Is that possible? Is it useful? How do I do it? All those questions come to mind, if indeed, this command concerning prayer even enters your mind. In the course of my pastoral and chaplain ministry I have counseled many couples prior to and after marriage that they ought to pray regularly with one another; yet, frequently find that they are very reticent to do so, and frequently do not. Now that does not even rise to the level of constant prayer, but still proves to be a difficult and ill-practiced event in their lives. Paul’s instruction goes so much further in living out the discipline of genuine faith.
I have written a book for parents on praying for and with their children (available on our website). In it I write that there are no greater prayer warriors to cover these children than their own parents, especially when you take God at His word when he tells you that their enemy is stalking them as a lion stalks his prey to devour it. A serious parent has all the incentive they need to be constantly in prayer when they consider the world, the flesh, and the devil in conjunction with the children they have received from God. But one of the reasons our faith is so faint and tired is that we have not learned the joy or the discipline of constant prayer, nor do you pray for yourself enough.
Recently, I have been reading a book titled The Jesus Prayer (Frederica Mathews-Green), a prayer that arose in the early church to practice continuous prayer and in some church communities has been passed on from one serious believer to another down through the centuries. It is on the surface a simple prayer, yet it is packed with truth; the truth of who He is and the truth of who you are, and it speaks to exactly what you need in every moment and circumstance of life, not just when you feel your situation is precarious or severe. This biblical prayer is found in today’s Scripture above: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me. This is not telling God the Father, or His Son Jesus anything they do not already know, but it is consistently and constantly acknowledging to ourselves in His presence that we are sinners who need mercy in every moment of life, and constantly reminds us of our previous commitments to be imitators of the One who saves us, helps us, and walks with us. You know as well as I, we are always forgetting who we are and whose we are. At least, our words, actions, and thoughts are testimony to such forgetfulness.
This is a prayer that can be thought (prayed) in your mind even when you are in conversation with others. Very possibly such a thought-prayer will sanctify your part of the conversation to bring blessing and truth into another’s life. And it also guards you from saying something at intense moments which you later regret, even in those situations when God is your only witness. The prayer focuses the need where it belongs; on you! It makes you less the critic who sees the splinters in everyone else, and misses the log in your own eye.
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me!


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