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Sep 29, 2011

The Prime of Your Life

During my years in college a man named Paul Little made a great impact on college and university students, especially by encouraging Christian young people to evangelize their fellow students with whom they attended school. In 1966 he published a book titled How to Give Away Your Faith, which became a classic. A few years later word came that he had been killed in a car accident in Canada. It was said of him as it was of others who died young that Paul Little had died in the prime of his life.
This past week I spoke at the funeral of a dear woman who had known me from the time I was 4 years of age. She and her husband were able and encouraging supporters of my pastoral ministry in the Pacific Northwest in the 70s and 80s. My sister married their son. Betty died at the age of 92 in a car accident. She was vigorous in mind and body though in her ninth decade of life. I asked at the funeral what the audience of friends and family would have considered the prime of her life to be: As a school girl in Korea where her parents were missionaries? At the age of the young picture on her memorial service program? When she married her dear husband with whom she lived 68 years? When she became a mother, or grandmother? Or so many other times in a life well lived in the faith? I told them that last Tuesday, the day the Lord took Betty home, was the prime of her life. And I told the audience TODAY is the prime of your life!
I said this because the Bible presents a gospel which is a TODAY gospel. Take the time to peruse a complete concordance and the Scripture references under the word TODAY and you will see what I am talking about. The gospel is a message for today, whenever today occurs in your life, whether this day or your today a week or a year from now, if indeed you still breathe. Every day you wake you awaken to a day which is the prime of your life, even if you are 92 and no longer 25 or 37 or 42. This is true because the Gospel message makes demands on you every today of your life. Whether or not we listen to the Lord’s voice that day, or if we harden our heart to his voice, it is the prime of your life; and it is another day of either the fleshing out of your salvation, or another day when the opportunity and the call was there but you hardened your heart to it. The Bible teaches that all your TODAYS are the day of salvation. And every today you either reaffirm your salvation in your response, OR your answer by word, thought, or deed is a hardening of heart to His voice.
The caveat especially for you Bereans, who search the Scriptures to see whether what I am saying is true, is the condition in some lives of dementia, Alzheimers, or diminished conscious capacity for one reason or another. Frankly, I do not completely understand this occurrence in the life of the saints. I understand the physical aging process, but not the spiritual aspect of it. One day we will see clearly God’s purpose here. But if this is not your condition, and you would not be reading this if it were, this caveat presents no means of escaping the truth of the claims and demands of the gospel upon you. The living Word of God still says to you, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.
Today, the prime of your life, what will your answer be? As Joshua of old challenges us, “Choose TODAY whom you will serve, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!


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Sep 22, 2011

A Cathedral? In Vidalia?

How do you measure 50 years? Anyway you cut it, it’s a long time; half a century. A few years ago I read the British author Ken Follett’s magnum opus, Pillars of the Earth, and its sequel World Without End. What struck me was the unbroken perseverance through years of trials and suffering to build a cathedral over hundreds of years. Generations of families, skilled builders and stone masons, worked tediously through corruption, strife, wars, famine, fires, life and death, and all the diverse machinations of which life on a fallen earth consists, to finally bring to completion a magnificent cathedral, towering over all around it. Though the cathedral at the center of this novel is in fictitious Kingsbridge, England, its story, comprising several centuries, could be told over and over of the hundreds of cathedrals that dot the landscape of Europe. Such awe inspiring stone edifices were not thrown up overnight. They were built with the blood, sweat and tears of generations of particular men, women, and children.
Though no great stone cathedral stands on the 50 acre campus of the Paul Anderson Youth Home in Vidalia, Georgia, over the last fifty years a construction project has been continuously in progress. Yes, there have been added physical structures through the years, and the campus looks significantly different than the campus of 1961. Yet you will not see towers and turrets piercing the sky. The cathedral that has been under construction for half a century is neither seen nor measured in rock and mortar. Its peculiar building stones are scattered throughout the country and the world. But I do not doubt that in its finished state, though still a work in progress, there is a cathedral of spiritual proportion magnificent to behold.
What is it exactly that the Psalmist has in view in Psalm 48? “Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation. For this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end. This is not physical Jerusalem on which the Psalmist has set his eyes, but rather a structure made up of redeemed men, women, and children; treasures of God’s grace. Transformed young men, brands plucked from the fire, reproducing Christian families, servants in His kingdom; these are the ingredients of an eternal “building which only the eyes of God see completely. We, the PAYH family, are not capable of pulling together all the many pictures giving us a complete view of the fruit of this work built one “stone upon the other. We catch little glimpses here and there encouraging us to greater perseverance; but we cannot see it this side of heaven in its finished and complete state.
So with what do we compare, how are we moved to the commensurate sense of wonder, awe, and gratitude when we cannot see the “cathedral which God has built in these past 50 years? I know I have been moved to silence and awe when I have stood before the great and magnificent cathedrals of the world, when I have looked over the edge of the Grand Canyon, when I have opened my eyes to the incredible expanse of the Milky Way. Our God tells us that these works cannot compare to the surpassing glory of what He is building with the work of our hands and the hands of our supporters in the lives of over 1200 hundred young men and their families. Fifty years of tribulation and trial has produced perseverance, character, and hope, because this is and has always been God’s work and He has not left us Fatherless. So it is I pray for wherever in His kingdom He has put you to work. May you see with the eyes of faith the “cathedral He is building. Sola Deo Gloria!


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Sep 08, 2011

Your Touchstone to Reality

My daughter died in 78, my first wife in 96, my mother in 03. Close friends from boyhood and youth are scattered and now strangers as I am reminded by recent high school and college reunions. Time, location, and responsibility keep current dear friends and family to far too infrequent visits. I have lived in numerous locations whose “homes are only a distant memory. If your “dwelling place, your home, your identity, is expressed by a physical location, a person or persons, a job, who are you when they are gone? Christina Rossetti’s poem At Home captures the emotions and thoughts of just such a plight; lost-ness and loneliness flooding the senses. Perhaps she writes with Psalm 90 in mind prompting her own thoughts of life and meaning. This is a human condition, never resolved by adding more of the same: homes, jobs, avocations, family, people, memories, in order to find your dwelling place, the place where you are intimately and accurately known and loved; true home.
This is preeminent in Moses’ thinking when he devises and prays the prayer which is the 90th Psalm. Moses did not find his dwelling place, his identity, in the vagaries of a life stretched over 120 incredible years of everything imaginable. Who has seen a life like his? We read of an identity linked to being a prince of Egypt, a life miraculously preserved, plucked from the bulrushes; a fugitive and alien, a husband, father and shepherd in the deserts of Midian; a savior, leader, and prophet to a nation wandering 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai. Moses considers it all mere dust; a span of time saturated with trouble and sorrow; and, in the end, finished with a moan (read Psalm 90); all except for this unshakeable truth: God was, at every step, his touchstone to reality, purpose, and meaning. Apart from God it made no sense. Moses found in Him his path to finding satisfaction; He was the measuring stick and preserver of the value of his work; He was the light to see in the dark what it all meant. In God he found himself; he found his dwelling place. This is the underlying hunger in us all, whether we acknowledge it or not.
How do you feed such hunger? Where will you find Him in your life? The promise of God in James is simply this: “Come near to God and He will come near to you. He will not be your touchstone to reality when kept at a distance. God reveals Himself in the personal closeness you choose to build with Him. “Abide in me, is the way Jesus said it in John 15. Abiding is not happenstance, here and there, it is a continual pursuit of the God who is there, and is not silent, as Francis Schaeffer entitled his book. It is one thing to talk about it, to say I “know it, and quite another to pursue it with all that is in you, as you pursue the physical necessities of life. One doesn’t replace the other in this life, but if you do not feed the spiritual, the physical pursuit of food, water, air, and whatever else you consider a “necessity of life, will result in mere dust, trouble and sorrow, and a finish with a moan; not a shout of victory.
When I consider the fleetingness of my life, the people who have come into it and gone, the desire to measure its worth, there is only one Touchstone that has been there at every turn, one Guide who has placed me in humanly inexplicable paths with blessing, only One who knows who I truly am, and in whom I find my identity: the Living God, who calls me by name. So we say with Moses and James, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. . . .I will come near to you so that you will come near to me!


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Sep 01, 2011

Living Accountably

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Living-Accountably

Everyone requires accountability. We need someone with whom we have a spiritually accountable relationship before God that is not neglected. No one is immune to sin in this life and frequent attacks from the enemy of our souls. The Apostle John’s admonition in his first epistle is true of us all: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us . . .If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word has no place in our lives. There is, I believe, some equivalence between John’s admonition here and thinking we can combat sin in our life just as well on our own, minus the help of other believers. When thinking this we deceive ourselves while turning a deaf ear to the warnings of Scripture and the evidence of history. In essence, we make the Lord out to be a liar when we claim we do not need accountability. Even Peter needed Paul. (Galatians 2:11f)
I had a conversation this week with one of our recent graduates about the accountability relationships which have been established at the Christian college he is attending. I praised him for the humble and wise attitude he expressed with gratitude for these arrangements; arrangements that could be considered by some a time consuming pain and an obnoxious irritant to the “freedom we think we relish. I told him each one of us ought to have a similar accountability established with some trusted and godly confidant(s), because each of us are susceptible to sinning, even though the power of peculiar sins vary in persons and circumstances or stages of life.
One of the constant bombardments of the Enemy on your mind is I am strong enough to do this myself, and I do not need to be sharing intimate details of my life and thoughts with anyone else in order to withstand the arrows of the Deceiver. Pride always precedes a fall; just ask some of the fallen. And remember that those falls most always precipitate ruin, pain, and wreckage strewn in its path. Healing may eventually come, but not without peripheral damage to more people than we considered before we acted. No man is an island, and our lives are connected in one way or another to a far greater crowd than we realize. Accountability is in actuality a blessing with promise rather than unwarranted intrusion into our private inner sanctum.
The Bible’s “Lettuce Patch found in Hebrews 10:19-25 has some choice instruction not only for the larger body of Christ, but for the smaller body of those with whom we are linked for active accountability, even if but one or two others: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
It is not that we do not have the time to invest in a relationship of mutual accountability; it is that we cannot afford to not do it; the stakes are simply too high and the rewards are too great to ignore doing it.


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