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Jul 31, 2014

Rigorous Race To Glory

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. I Corinthians 9:24-25


It is an incomparable feeling to crest the very top of a 14,000+ foot peak; one you had labored to conquer for many hours, even a long, hard day or more. It is a terrific feeling to peddle the last mile of a 560 mile bike ride. You are thrilled when your chest breaks the ribbon at the finish line of a foot race indicating you won. The roar of the crowd is a sweet sound in the boxer’s ears as the referee raises his arm in victory in the center of the ring. All of these are almost a better reward than the medal, ribbon, or trophy which winners receive. The Apostle Paul loved this comparison of an athlete in rigorous, disciplined exercise to eventually compete and win in the contest for which his training was begun, with the race of the Christian’s life. The similarities are always worth your serious thoughts as you consider the prize of your physical goal against the prize of your life’s endeavor; and the comparison of the rigor and discipline you place in each one.
St. Paul contrasts these passing feelings and the destructible awards, as grand at the moment as they may seem to you, with the honor of a life time of rigor toward an indestructible result and a glory which is unsurpassed. Listen to Paul’s words: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus, Philippians 3:12-14. You have to work to keep this contrast in the front of your mind with the glory of what is truly ahead, far surpassing your estimated value of the award and accomplishment of this momentary physical contest or event. It is certainly difficult to do; for the tangible of the moment is always so much more prominent in your eyes and mind, than the intangible of God’s promise. But this is exactly what Paul is calling you to tackle with your faith and action.
You have to rigorously exercise your faith to achieve something so much more important than the world’s comparable achievement; and it is astounding just how far these two are apart in value; from tiny and trivial to unbelievably great. The reward and feeling of the moment for the physical achievement is like a breath of air that is there briefly and quickly lost to the wind. The weight of glory is so infinitely greater! But seriously we are too willing to trade trinkets for infinite riches which permanently last. Only a rigorous faith can make this leap; for each of us is too tied to this world’s and this moment’s trinkets and fleeting honors that we cannot see the far greater joy beyond.
It is worth your thinking to ask yourself if you put as much effort into pursuing your spiritual life habits and disciplines as you do into preparing for a race or a prodigious physical achievement. This is Paul’s exact point! He doesn’t want you to be disqualified for the ultimate prize by not rigorously attacking the race of your life. Compare your energy, work, time, and sweat and pain preparing for a quickly passing moment of some physical and mental challenge like a 600 mile bike ride with the same put into a lifetime race that equates with who you are now, what you will be, and where you are really going, so that you are assured of hearing from your great Judge yet in your future, “Well done! Enter into the glory prepared for you!


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Jul 24, 2014

The Life In Your Head

“After He had dismissed them, He went up in the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. Jesus in Matthew 14:23


Can you be alone in a crowd? Absolutely! A great portion of your life is lived in the privacy of your own consciousness, or what many sense is their privately-“gated-territory. Some of your thought-life is voluntarily shared with others, some is definitely not. You can be alone with your thoughts even in a crowd; and you can be alone when you seek escape or peace and rest from a harried world in the many spaces of solitude which are everywhere in the populated world, urban, rural, or wilderness.
Next week a number of the young men at the PAYH with a few staff will begin a 600 mile bike trek around the State of Georgia. You can follow our annual Bike Challenge at payhbikeride.com. There will be lots of conversation and interaction during the week-long event, however, as in many individual endeavor sporting events there is much time spent in the confines of your own mind. You know what goes on there from your own experience. It may be thoughts and observations about what you are seeing; it may be dreaming of the future, or reminiscing about the past; you may be planning something; you may be thinking of something that has impacted your thoughts; your mind might be focused upon another or some others; your thoughts can go hundreds of directions.
What captured the conscious thoughts of the Savior during his life on earth? You can often surmise what a person is thinking by what comes out of his mouth and what his actions are. You can tell from Jesus’ parables and comments that he was a man of keen observation. His observations were applied to the truth of the world and to the gospel, the life-giving message he came to live out to the fullest. His thought life was saturated in conversation with his omnipresent, omniscient Father. He shared all of his life with Him. Consequently, Jesus recognized from his earliest human age that he was never alone. He experienced total aloneness only once, and that was in the physical, spiritual, and mental agony of the cross when he cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!, as he became sin for us. His private thoughts were focused and He was well aware that they were seen and heard by a loving Father.
Your thoughts, your consciousness, should imitate Christ, your Messiah and Savior, if indeed you claim to be his disciple. Your private mind should never be thought of as private to only you. All our thoughts either defend us or condemn us, whether you believe it or not. The One who created you tells you your thoughts are not private, not unknown, and certainly not “deletable by you; you cannot destroy your mind’s hard-drive like the IRS, thinking you can cover your sin. “Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, O Lord (Psalm 139:4). God’s merciful action based on the sacrifice, the blood of Christ His Son, can alone blot out your sin. He alone is able to remove it from His sight as far as the east is from the west (infinite) and in the depths of the deepest sea (infinite) (Psalm 103:12). But this forgiveness, absolutely and unalterably, necessitates a faith that clings to Christ, and claims his sacrifice as your personal substitutionary atonement from your sin’s eternal results, ACCOMPANIED by a genuine repentance of your sin, consciously turning from it and embracing obedience to His commands. “If you love me you will do what I say, Jesus said. Perfection is neither expected nor possible; but consistently and immediately returning to Jesus’ arms when you sin acknowledges that you KNOW where your pardon lies (1 John 1:9).
Only us, men, women, and children, are so designed and made; no other creatures on earth have a consciousness with a conscience as those created in the image of their Creator God. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made! We have a life private from other people, but not private from God. Following the example of Jesus we can reform our thought life by His grace to turn from our idle thoughts to a more useful and beneficial personally-private endeavor: conversation in prayer with our Father, thinking on things as Philippians 4:8; things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy.
Make no mistake, this is a battle because the mind is a war zone and our Enemy-Deceiver is cunning and shrewd. But it is in your thought life where the battle must be fought and won, knowing that “no temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (I Corinthians 10:13). There is no more important battle for you to pursue in the days already ordained for you which still remain and with every ounce of your strength and MIND.


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Jul 17, 2014

The Spiritual Expressions of Your God Designed Tears

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears for the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Hebrews 5:7
“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. Psalm 6:6-9


The weeping prophet in the Bible, Jeremiah, often spoke of tears in metaphors of rivers and fountains. Tears are not infrequent products of the eye moved by the heart. Tears can be tears of anger, sadness, joy, pain, communication where words cannot do justice, or the profound result of being overwhelmed by something in life or simply life itself. Unique from all other creation, we humans cry to express the heart. Our tears can be for different reasons; pain, irritation in the eye, language, manipulation, true emotions, or simply and necessarily lubricating the eye with a complexity of liquids, so much more than saline solution.
Tears from the eye are a necessary element of the intelligent design of the eye by a loving and magnificent Creator. Darwin and his progeny of evolutionists speak only of biological or physiological reasons for tears with no mention of the psychological or what Francis Schaeffer called the mannishness of man; humans have a soul, unrecognized by materialists, who have yet to dissect a material soul; so for them it doesn’t exist though the evidence is overwhelming. The existence of a soul is itself evidence of an intelligent designer and Creator. Yet having not “seen Him, the materialist makes extreme efforts to ignore His existence.
A research team at Johns Hopkins concluded: “Tears aren’t simple. They’re complex creations of water, mucins, oils, and electrolytes. They also possess some protective bacteria-fighting substances that help reduce our risk of getting eye infections. Their functions are many and essential. For the cornea, they provide a smoother optical surface, so that our vision remains clear; they also help keep the cornea properly moisturized and rich in oxygen. For the eye in general, tears act also as “wiper fluid, allowing the eyelids to wash the eye free of debris with every blink. Without tears you would very quickly go blind.
The tears caused by irritants in the eye are much different in substance than tears of emotion or stress. The latter contain far more toxic biological by-products giving evidence they remove many kinds of toxic substances from the body produced by stress. Weeping is an execratory process intended to deal with the unhealthy things stress produces in the body. Holding back tears consequently is not a healthy thing in dealing with stress or other emotional factors. Emotional tears are initiated by a different part of the brain than the part that initiates reflexive tears, the part of the brain which responds to sad, happy, painful, or pleasant experiences. Boys and girls before puberty cry equally, but adolescent and adult women have serum prolactin levels sixty percent more than men, meaning they cry four times more often than men. Not a bad thing. Why did God design this difference? Possibly because women are meant to be much better nurturers than men, and God planned it so. In any case the sexes are created to complement one another in producing and rearing children supporting the biblically revealed ideal for marriage found in Genesis.
But the spiritually focused design for our tears, the weeping produced by repentance from sin, by intimate closeness to God, by being “surprised by joy, by discovering a “new thing about God or His creation or yourself, by experiencing pardon, freedom from guilt, the freedom to love and be His child, produces and is intended to produce the outpouring of tears. Just read the Bible, like Psalms or Jeremiah; just follow the example of the Lord Jesus. Tears are an expression, a potent language without words, to God, to ourselves, to others of who we are and who we want to be; of the passion of our worship and experiencing our holy and loving God. Then certainly they must be a vital part of the refreshment of our souls as well as our bodies.
It is amazing to see the glory of God revealed when we consider that something so small as your eye, and so common as your tears, can be so beneficial to the molding and maturity of your soul.


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Jul 10, 2014

This Age of Powerful Delusion

“The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12


“I suppose there are two views about everything, said Mark. “Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there’s never more than one (C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength). We live in an age of information glut. There are a myriad of views on virtually everything, which has made it harder for many to make choices in arriving at a right answer (and there IS a right answer); the answer that aligns with God’s defining truth which has the promise of a good end attached to it. There are so many religions; numerous political views and proponents; history as seen through the lenses of a myriad of diverse and contradictory observers, many with a different agenda than truth; all kinds of counsel on sex, relationships, marriage, non-marriage; a variety of economic theories; opinions on what to do with your life; et cetera. Information glut has made most people confused or lethargic in sorting through what they think are too many possibilities to arrive at a “true answer. The task is made infinitely more impossible when there is no personal thought mechanism, or a confirmed set of principles, to narrow the choices, eliminate the desirable but deceptive, and eventually select what is true and good. On top of all that, there is this prophecy in Thessalonians for this age that God is going to send a powerful delusion so people will believe the lie, and never settle on the truth. How do you wrestle with this?
The recently released documentary, America, makes an evident and credible claim that much of America, especially the newest generations have already fallen for a delusion perpetrated by shysters of lies whose pupils have infiltrated the highest levels of government, academia, media, entertainment, and the business world. The story of the nation’s history has been stolen and replaced with a story of falsehoods to purposefully sow seeds of destruction for the nation, an intent which these liars openly admit. One of the foremost sowers of such seeds, Saul Alinsky, even openly claimed to take for one of his operation models, Lucifer, or Satan. Many of his most ardent pupils run our government today. Do your research!
It does not matter in what thought arena lies are perpetrated; all truth in every arena is God’s truth, and lies always lead to destruction wherever they are sown, in the church or in the world. Whether lies about history, lies about sex, or lies about the gospel, all have an impact on people’s eternal destiny. The Christian is not to be solely concerned of lies about the veracity and authority of the Bible and the substance and conveyance of the gospel; lies in every arena of life in this world are stumbling blocks to God’s blessing a nation or a people, and lead inevitably to the proliferation of wickedness when they are not refuted and are allowed to stand unchallenged.  The Christian should not be silent, allowing lies to triumph, in any area of life. Silence in the public square is acquiescence to whatever falsehoods are spread there.
Evangelism is not always enhanced by holding your tongue under the excuse of maintaining love and kindness, or keeping peace. “Speaking the truth in love never means refusing to speak at all. The Christian zealous for God’s glory prepares, thinks, researches, and practices in order that he might have an answer for all men of the truth that is in him. God’s Word never severs the tongue; it rather loosens it to speak His praise and truth to men. After all, if you are embarrassed to speak of Him before men, Jesus will not speak for you before His Father in heaven (John 10:32). Anticipate the powerful delusion today which causes the world to believe the lie, while not succumbing to it yourself. Do not be afraid of what man can do to you because you speak the truth and refuse to remain silent; rather fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell (Matthew 10:26). In the “Believers’ Prayer in Acts 4 Peter and John asked the Sovereign Lord, to enable them to speak His Word with boldness; and, indeed, as the Holy Spirit filled them this was the exact answer to their prayer (Acts 4:31).


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Jul 03, 2014

Know God, Know Hope; No God, No Hope!

Tomorrow’s holiday, Independence Day, is above all else about HOPE. It is the natural hope of all humanity to be free and to enjoy the hope freedom procures. It is primarily why we Americans still celebrate July 4th; for the hope of freedom and the hope which protects freedom is more important than all the non-essential trivialities which garner such major attention today. Of course, there are all kinds of picnics, BBQs, and firework displays with “nada mention or recognition of the reason this holiday is celebrated; but such puerile failure does not remove the purpose for which it was first established and continues to this day 238 years later. If you were to go out to a mall and survey the crowd you might be surprised how little is known about freedom and its cost, especially among the present generation. There has been precious little perseverance to pass on to the newest generations what freedom costs and what has been necessary in costly sacrifice to keep it; consequently, without genuine change in the hearts of Americans, freedom will not be kept much longer. For too many it will never be fully appreciated until lost.
However, we must never forget that earthly freedom is only a shadow and foretaste of eternity: it never equates to the real thing. C.S. Lewis wrote, “The Apostles themselves who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in: aim at earth and you will get neither. These great men of faith were spurred on by their hope of Heaven to do what they did on earth. The hope generated by the taste of freedom on earth is purposed by God to create an earnest desire for what awaits the believer where freedom will never be lost and hope never dies.
Lewis similarly expressed, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world…If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.
The celebration tomorrow, in addition to the opportunity of expressing thankfulness to God for the blessing of freedom we Americans enjoy on earth, should also remind your heart of the hope of the REAL thing, the freedom of Heaven, and the satisfaction of your soul, like nothing here on earth has done or can ever do. As you picnic with family and friends, as you watch the “bombs bursting in air, may your hope grow in the contemplation of your true citizenship in Heaven. This is a holiday of HOPE! Know God; know hope!


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