Payh Blog
Woman hand yoga pose. Practicing meditation and praying indoors.
Oct 27, 2011

Is God Gracious?

Recently I read of a professor at a large state university who had been the president of the atheist club on campus. He had been very active in promulgating atheism among the students; that is, until he became a Christian in the last year. His atheism, he said, stemmed from childhood when he saw graphic pictures of starving children in Africa and concluded that there must not be a God, else this would not happen. Of course, this is the age old question that prompted C.S. Lewis to write his classic The Problem of Pain. Pain of every sort in the world causes many to question God and his existence. It is probably the primary problem from man’s perspective in accepting that God is, especially a gracious and good God as presented in the Scriptures. The stumbling block of pain and suffering even causes many Christians to question or lose confidence in their faith.
Is God really gracious; is He really good, since pain and suffering are such a large part of the nature of this present world? The Psalmist in Psalm 118 states emphatically that God is gracious; that He is good. He then in the following three verses encourages Israel and those who fear the Lord in the strongest language possible to confess the truth that God is who He says He is: gracious, good, and merciful forever. The strength of this plea is seen in its triple repetition. But the crux of his argument is found in verses 8 and 9. “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in princes. “Man represents humanity. It represents you with your own observation and reasoning. “Princes includes every authority, expert, scientist, you name it; anyone whose observations you are tempted to trust over God’s Word.
Whether you accept the diagnosis or not, God tells us that man sees in part, that you see through murky glass, that our perspective is not His and is deficient. We often lose sight of that fact and believe we see as well or better than the God of the Universe; and what is more there is always a shrewd, deceptive “voice in our ear telling us our sight is just fine and can be fully trusted. He spoke in Eve’s ear, “Did God really say?
If we truly live, we live by faith. Faith is receiving and trusting God at His word, even though our immediate observation tells us differently. Human observation uninformed by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit is filled with error and will lead you astray. Man is a marvelously made creature, and has accomplished a great deal in amassing knowledge concerning the universe, but he is still deficient in seeing it perfectly as it is and will be; he is deficient in wisdom in coming to the right conclusions of what he believes he knows and has observed. History has taught us the truth of this. In millenniums of history man has been unable to conquer the universe, the society, or eradicate evil. Hope lies only in the message of God’s Word, and in accepting Him at His word. This is where our confidence must find its refuge.
I do not pretend to understand the fullness of God’s plan from beginning to end. His ways are higher than mine or yours. It is why His plan and the present order of the universe are called in Scripture a MYSTERY. I am willing to accept this mystery and to marvel at my gracious God as He works it out in His Son, Jesus Christ. My triune God has given me plenty of reasons to know that my confidence is not in vain. I pray this is true for you as well.

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Women holding and playing their sacred drums outdoors in the wintertime
Oct 20, 2011

Vows: Making, Easier than Keeping

If you are a careful observer most of us make vows every day. For Christians it is “I’ll pray for you. For most everyone it is “I will do this or that; or the proverbial one, “The check is in the mail. You get the point. We make vows too easily, and we forget to fulfill them even more easily. Some vows are weightier than others. Vows made “in the presence of God and these witnesses for example; i.e.,your vow at your wedding; or a vow like Paul Anderson made in 1956 at the Melbourne Olympics in winning the Gold Medal; or the vow Louie Zamperini made while near death in a life raft in the Pacific Ocean during WWII.
Zamperini’s story is told in the recently released book, Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit. Paul Anderson’s story is told in A Greater Strength, by the famous author Jerry Jenkins. Both Paul Anderson and Louie Zamperini made similar vows: that if God would help them overcome in THE crisis point of their life, they would serve him with the rest of their lives. Paul with his wife Glenda fulfilled his vow in beginning a home for troubled young men and pursuing its success with everything that was in him right up until his death in 1994. The Paul Anderson Youth Home just celebrated its 50th anniversary last Saturday, honoring Paul and Glenda for their perseverance and faithfulness! Zamperini forgot his vow for a time, until God got his attention again and reminded him. He too began a ministry to troubled youth, Victory Boys Camp in California, and is still serving the Lord in his mid-nineties.
The Psalmist writes in Psalm 50, “Fulfill your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will deliver you, and you will honor me. God is never unobservant in hearing and remembering your vow-making. In fact, we too often forget. He never does! Nevertheless, it is promised that one day we must give an account. If we were more serious, more thoughtful, more purposeful of the words that come out of our mouth we might not speak so rashly or so flippantly. And what is more, our words would not be so fleeting. This is to say that your word means something. The Psalmist is saying that God delivers His help, while we honor him in pursuing the fulfillment of our vow. This is the highest elevation there is to being an honorable person: fulfilling your vows to God. For no matter who your honorable vow is intended to serve, it is always made in the presence of God, and, therefore, is a vow to Him as well as the object of your promise and actions. This is something we must always remember if our vow-making is indeed honorable, and not a “mistake.
The other day one of our staff members at the PAYH made a vow to one of our graduates who was in a serious, life-threatening car accident, that he would pray for him. He then sent out an email to all of us that every time we see him, ask him about the young man, to remind him of his vow to pray. We are all forgetful. But there are ways to keep your memory fresh if you desire to be honorable.
Vow-making is something most of us do naturally in our social interaction with people. It is also one of the most transparent proofs of the fact that we are sinners; we do not keep our vows, our word, as much as we may think. God will honor you in this, as He did His Son, if you will honor Him in the fulfilling of your vows.

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Video-Lift That Launched
Oct 15, 2011

Video: The Lift That Launched A Legacy

Learn about the life and legacy of the World’s Strongest Man.

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Evil of Serving the Lord
Oct 13, 2011

Is One Worth It All?

Many years ago an older friend told me the story of a missionary couple whom God had called to a very unlikely mission field. The location was a quite rural small town in the mountains of Pakistan right on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border; an extremely volatile piece of real estate today. As a member of the Board of their mission organization my friend had gone to visit them in this far off “God-forsaken place where they were convinced God had called them. The location was so difficult to reach that he could hardly believe how isolated they were, and that they had lived and labored there for nearly three decades. The local villagers and the inhabitants of the surrounding area were fiercely Muslim; so much so that in 28 years of faithfully living among them and presenting the gospel, this couple could clearly identify only one whom they knew to be a true convert to the message of Christ. Many others were their friends, respecting them not only for their years living and working among them, but because in many ways they had come to love them, if not their God. This couple continually prayed God would open the hearts of others whom they knew so well, but to this day they had not seen in their own eyes unmistakable evidence such had occurred. Just before he left my friend was moved to ask why they had stayed all those years without seeing more fruit from their years of effort. With wet eyes the missionary replied, “Because of the sovereignty of God; we are convinced this is where He called us, and He has not yet removed His call. He has his own purposes for our being here, and we want to glorify Him.
You may not agree with their determination of faith in the face of so little fruit, but an obvious question comes to mind: Is one worth it all? You could ask the same question at this milestone in the ministry of the Paul Anderson Youth Home, reaching its 50th anniversary in two days. If we had seen the transformation of only one boy over all those years would the half-century of blood, sweat and tears been worth the effort. As I asked myself that question, one boy after another came to mind; boys, young men, some now old, some recent graduates, whom God brought here that they might be made new by the Savior; any one by himself would have been worth the effort of all fifty years! I am convinced Glenda would agree. When you think of one boy at a time over the years, if he were the only one who “made it, we could honestly say, “YES! this makes it all worthwhile! The wonder is that there are so many of those ONEs who come to mind. And when you see them in such light, one individual at a time over fifty years whom God has transformed by His grace, you can hardly fathom the worthiness and the wonder of it all. We may tend to think of the hundreds of graduates, but it is the ONE who brings tears to your eyes and gratitude to your heart that God used the PAYH to reach this ONE.
There are lots of ONEs in Jesus’ ministry that you may remember: one woman at the well, one woman caught in the act of adultery, one good Samaritan, one healed leper among ten who returned to give thanks, one thief on the cross, and one you! Taken by themselves, each is worth the great cost of salvation.
On Saturday it will not be the memory of hundreds over five decades, it will be the memory of ONE. . . . . . . and then another ONE. . . . . . .and another; each worthy of the cost of the years of labor and years of keeping on when all seemed for naught. And if it is God’s will, there will be ONE more in the future, if God keeps the vision and work of the PAYH alive.
In your own life and ministry to others, is there ONE who has made all your efforts, all your work, all your prayers, worth it all? Don’t think of the many, if many there are; think of the ONE, and only then of the many, ONE at a time. Is that ONE worthy of the cost?

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group of smiling teenagers
Oct 06, 2011

Getting Old Ain't Fun

Growing old is an inevitable condition besetting us all, and regardless of the amount of money we may spend on reversing the perpetual stream of wrinkles, worn out parts, and a rapidly expanding energy deficit, the march into the clutches of old age is relentless. Ironically, little children and young people cannot wait for their next birthday. Those my age can hardly believe another one has rolled around already. Solomon, the venerable Preacher of Ecclesiastes, concludes his wise review of life, reality, and all its vanities with a poetic but graphically blunt description of the “evil visited upon our bodies as the birthdays multiply into the seventh, eighth, and ninth decades of life. The picture is not a pretty one. A good sense of humor will do wonders for the soul in this stage of life, especially when there is an assured hope of better days and new bodies to come!
I have been quite involved in these recent weeks of preparing to move my 94 year old father into assisted living, and being a necessary assistant until the move takes place, Lord willing, tomorrow. In his “day and throughout most of my life Dad was a powerfully strong and energetic individual. There wasn’t any moss that grew under his feet. But age and its calamities catches up to us all and the result is indeed humbling. Though his body, however, is now weak, the spirit is strong and a devotion to His Lord is “locked-in, since in his youth, as Solomon wrote, he came to know and serve His Creator; and the intervening years did not dissuade him from the undaunted truth that “this God is my God forever and ever, He will be my Guide even unto death.
But one just cannot read this 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, describing the corruption of our corruptible bodies, and ignore the critical message rising out of these painfully real descriptions. As age increases and the body inevitably decays, the heart grows harder, and I do not now mean hardening of the arteries. The rebellious spiritual heart calcifies and increases in either apathy or anger towards God and the liberty found in Jesus Christ. It is simply more difficult to respond to Christ in old age when one has repeatedly turned away from “remembering their Creator in the days of their youth. The habits and mind-set become increasingly fixed until even the fear of the nearness of death’s door will not dislodge them. Resisting for one reason or another specific, memorable opportunity in one’s life when there was even a blip of sensitivity to the things of God grows one more layer of scar tissue which as time passes becomes impenetrable to reason and the persuasion of truth.
Solomon wasn’t blowing smoke when he wrote these words millenniums ago. This truth I have observed, and if you have eyes to see, so have you. The parable Jesus tells of the rich landowner hiring workers early in the morning, at midday, at evening, and in the 11th hour before midnight, and then paying them all the exact same wage despite the vigorous protest of those who worked all day, expresses the truth that the offer of the Gospel is just as sufficient for those whose eyes are opened near the end of their life. But if confronting the truth of God in your life is something you believe now you can put off until later on (any amount of “later on), Solomon says your odds are pretty slim and getting slimmer every day, until there are no odds for you at all.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth!

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