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Oct 30, 2014

Choose: The Daily Test of Sincere Faith

“Choose you this day whom you will serve; but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15


Much is written today in Christian circles of the need to emphasize the wonder and abundance of God’s grace. And so it is. It overwhelms sin and penetrates the hardest heart. It is why it is called “amazing grace. It is the truth of our theology. Yet there are times when thinking to lift grace up to an all-encompassing level, in doing so, the law of God and its purposes in our justification and sanctification are minimized. It is the age old battle of law and grace. If, as the Bible describes, the end or goal of the law is Christ, the law has a grace-benefit in driving us to Christ where grace abounds and the law doesn’t kill.
Many years ago in dialogue with a young man who believed he was “made a Christian deserving heaven because he had been “christened in the church of his parents, yet there was no current or past evidence of faith in his life to back up his claim of being a Christian. He didn’t pray, attend church, talk of the Lord, read the Bible, guard his tongue from profanity, or live or strive to live morally. Yet he had been led to believe he was “safe. There are many professing Christians who live a life much improved over his; they do attend church, read the Bible, at least a little, pray some, eschew most profanity, yet there is little victory in their life over those sins which so often lead to destructive addictions of substance or thought or actions or even inactions. Their lives seem to slide from bad to worse or fossilize in place. Yet Bible passages like Hebrews 6:4-6 appear to bring little if any fear to their presumption of salvation and eternal life.
Joshua’s final words and challenge to the Israelites brings a familiar verse to our remembrance which characterizes the life of one who has entered into a breathing relationship with Christ through faith and considers them self a true disciple: “Choose you this day whom you will serve. The English “choose is expressed only in a future tense, as Joshua saying “sometime in the future you need to choose to serve the Lord; the Hebrew is more expressive in its verb tense. In the Hebrew the tense reflects both past, at some specific point, and continuing on into the future, a continuous action that never ends. Once you have chosen to follow Christ, tomorrow you choose to do so again, and the next day you choose Christ as your Master, and on continuously every day. The first justifies, the continuance of choosing confirms to you regeneration and an increasing sanctification. This is Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites, and his own testimony for himself and the house he presides over as leader of his own family. The succeeding book, Judges, shows that many did not take up Joshua’s challenge as their own, yet others courageously did.
Therefore, the “always challenge to you from God’s Word is that an active and genuine faith incorporates a continuing daily choosing to follow Christ, to walk in His Spirit today, to hear His words and do them today. Many, constant decision points will arise in your life and you must and will make choices each day. His grace enables your choices to serve Him, but it is still an action of a redeemed will. Choosing is something your will, engaging your heart and mind, says yes or no to; I will choose to do this. I will serve the Lord; and as much as it depends on me, so will my family.
The Apostle Paul is all too aware that there is a constant temptation being under grace to succumb to complacency, to use grace as a license to sin and follow other gods, because the law is dead to you when you are under grace (Romans 6 and Galatians 3). Paul’s retort to such thinking is vehement: “God forbid! Your faith must prove itself sincere; choose today whom you will serve. And tomorrow do it again!


“Standing by a purpose true, heeding God’s command, honor them, the faithful few! All hail to Daniel’s band! Dare to be a Daniel! Dare to stand alone! Dare to have a purpose firm! Dare to make it known!
(1st verse and refrain from Philip Bliss’ hymn, “Dare to Be a Daniel, 1873)


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Oct 28, 2014

What Is Your Place Of Influence?

What is your place of influence?   We often live our lives as if no one else notices us.   The attitude of “what I do is my business, and it hurts no one but me simply isn’t true.   No matter who we are, our lives always touch someone else’s.    “No man is an island apart from the whole.    One can argue that a baby doesn’t influence anyone, but ponder for a moment that thought.   Expectant parents may take a particular job, eat different foods for the sake of their child or live in a neighborhood where there are other children.  Everyone impacts someone.  Even the beggar on the street who may touch our heart to give, or irritate us because they are not working, influences us by their existence.
So the question becomes, what is the impact of MY influence?   Many of the young men who come to the PAYH often tell us they started hanging out with the wrong group.   Obviously, those who influenced them did so negatively!   Jesus told us to “go out into all the world and make disciples of men.   Therefore as Christians we cannot just exist.   There is within the heart of all who love Christ, a desire to love our fellowman and to make a difference, as much as possible, for His sake in feeding “good stuff into those lives we touch.   I believe that is what Paul Anderson felt when he saw young boys being placed in jail with older, hardened criminals; he recognized that the experienced criminal’s influence could destroy any hope of rehabilitation.  In contrast, the Paul Anderson Youth Home came into existence to favorably influence young lives for good.
We may then look at someone like Lee Harvey Oswald, who, as a boy was terribly abused and unloved, his life had experienced only harsh and brutal treatment.  He reacted likewise, as he became an unfeeling psychotic murderer.  The influences in our early lives develop who we become.  Without positive input, we as members of society become negative, unfeeling, and uncaring.
Only God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit can truly provide freedom.   With Him, even if imprisoned, we can be free, as His power provides that for us.
As a child, hearing bad language usually told me that my parents had been consuming alcohol.  I remember coming home from school looking into their eyes and knowing immediately if they had been drinking.   The moment when I recognized it, I knew it was not going to be a good day.   My father hated to hear God’s name taken in vain, yet when he was drinking, which usually brought on anger over something, or anything, his words were mean and surely inappropriate for a child.   Today, those words are as common as yes and no.   The negative influence of our present culture has loosened the tongues of parents to the point of little children now saying “oh my G as a part of their conversation.
Growing up in a home that was, much of the time, unstable, it would have been difficult for me to overcome all that influenced me as a child.  But I had a grandmother who must have prayed for me often and who loved the Lord.  After my mother died when I was nine, I would cross the street every afternoon from the school to my grandmother’s house as I waited on someone to pick me up.  She was not a warm woman, she did not pull me onto her lap and assure me of her love; but I saw in her a love for the Lord.   She exuded strength from which I drew security.  Her influence in my life made all the difference.  Though she died when I was 11, I can still see her even now, in her dark long dress, old lady lace up shoes, black of course, with her permed grey wavy hair, sitting in her chair with her magnifying glass, studying the Bible as she did every day.   She had no idea that the image of her was being set in my mind for eternity, but it was and is.
I often ask myself, what will my grandchildren remember about me?   At the age of 73, I no longer ride roller coasters or motor cycles.   I wear out more quickly and go to bed much earlier.   I have not spent as much time with them as I had hoped I would when they were born.   But my prayer has been that there would be something in my life which will influence them as my grandmother’s image has influenced me these many years.  She was clearly hungry for more knowledge of God and His Son as she constantly read His Word.   If I can only leave them with the knowledge of my love for Christ, obedience to Him, and my desire to share Him with others, then that image of me in their hearts and minds will be enough.
It is extremely important for us to constantly ask ourselves if our behavior is that which would bring glory to our Creator, our Savior, and honor to our family and to ourselves.  We are going to influence those around us one way or another; we cannot remain neutral.  Let us influence with the love of our Savior, always ready to give reason for the hope that is in us.


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Oct 23, 2014

I Am Not Consumed

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23, 24


What is it in your life that is more consuming than anything else; that is, that renders your life hopeless, and you don’t think you can go on? There is nothing more consuming than sin, and sin piled upon sin is a death spiral from which there seems no escape. The sin that has already occurred in the past has been so destructive, the results, you think, cannot possibly be remedied.
I just attended the funeral of a man who was a dear friend for most of my life. He died at 89, but except for a fall from a ladder up in a tree some ten years ago, which had a great impact on his health, it was easily expected he would live to over a 100. He always had Christ on his lips, speaking of his Lord to others as a joyful daily habit. One of his traits was to share his wonder each day while reminding others that today is a new day, a day to begin anew. God’s mercy and compassion to us is such that despite what happened yesterday, today is truly a new day. “Isn’t that amazing, he would say.  This truth, as described in Lamentations, puts the lie to the thought that our sins can consume us, and no remedy or hope can be found to the situation in which we find ourselves. This thinking has driven many a Christian into the pit of despair.
Jeremiah, known as the weeping prophet, certainly traversed some deep valleys. He was no stranger to tears, pain and misery, being thrust into one dismal situation after another. This small book following the Book named after him, Jeremiah, is after all named Lamentations, a lament. Yet there is in the midst of sorrow the promise of compassion and mercy capable of remedying any crushing situation. Some just do not believe it; so they end up spiraling down into greater despair and more sin. There is little room in them for patience for waiting quietly for God’s remedy by placing hope in Him while earnestly seeking Him (see 3:25-26). The hope and the seeking are simply absent when there is no belief in the promise.
When sin is in the process of consuming your life, and you recognize it, you are faced with several options: (1) my sin is too great and my circumstance is too impossible for remedy; so I do nothing except to continue in it hoping my despair will somehow pass. (2) I want a solution immediately, I want to see the light now at the end of the tunnel, there is no place for hope or waiting (3) I believe the Lord’s promise and put my hope in Him, seeking Him through genuine repentance, and patiently waiting for His salvation however long it takes.
When I was in Vietnam and praying to survive the year-long tour, experiencing one brush with death after another, God’s answer to my prayer could have been my getting wounded so badly it would require my removal from the battlefield immediately and being sent home, or He could display His presence to me through continuing to surround me with His mercies and protection. In this case my year would not shorten. It would remain a year of 365 days in which I would continue on the battlefield. I would have to wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord for the rest of what seemed a longer than normal year. Very often our salvation from the situation which sin has created in our life necessitates waiting patiently for what the Lord is doing or will do, a process that tests the mettle of your hope in Him. It isn’t authentic hope if you expect an immediate escape and removal of the pain of the dilemma into which your sin has thrust you. There is not a set time as my tour of a year in Vietnam. The time of waiting is in God’s hands molding your hope into a persevering one, which is hope indeed. Some are not willing to actually put on such a character of faith and would choose to sink into greater despair or become insensitive to sin altogether. The reckoning will eventually come after the searing of the conscience has done its damage.
Sin always consumes everything in its path, but its remedy is nearer than you know. Sin will always tell you, “I have gone too far, and there is no going back. But God’s promise still rings in the ear of the hearer of His Word, “My compassions never fail, they are new every morning!


“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.
(Refrain from African-American spiritual taken from Jeremiah 8:22)


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Oct 16, 2014

Not Good To Be Alone

Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone.’”


In conversation with a good friend who has his own landscaping business, he bemoaned the difficulties of managing, not plants or flowers or trees or lawns, but people! He once had three or four people working with him at all times. He had many clients. But after the stress of hiring and firing and managing employees, he was delighted to be working again alone, and his profits had even increased. It is apparent on some days that the men counselors at the PAYH wished we did not have any boys in residence to guide, mentor, discipline and manage; but then that is what we are about. Many a manager of human resources know they are his most difficult resource, causing him or her to pull out their hair in despair some days. There are days many wish they could live and work all alone.
Perhaps you saw the Tom Hanks movie Castaway, a modern version, though not nearly the classic, of Robinson Crusoe. In both the heroes were alone for a long time, though Crusoe eventually got his pal Friday. Hanks had to settle for Wilson, a volleyball with a painted-on face. But neither of these, and none since the first man, has ever had to deal with such total human isolation as Adam. All had parents, and all had families, and all had some human interaction sometime in their life, even if they experienced a solitary existence for some period of their life. Life alone is unnatural to who we are, and how we are designed in God’s image. Crusoe and Hanks displayed the agonies of life alone. Adam, who had never known what it was like to be alone without another human to live and work with, did not know to make any comparison; yet the Scriptures tell us God knew that this state of His creation, Adam being alone, was not good nor as He intended. And Adam must have known it, for his exclamation upon Eve’s creation expressed his heart’s desire: “At last!
Can’t live with them; can’t live without them. Fellow human beings can be a pain, but our very existence cries out for their fellowship. There are certainly circumstances and situations where we may wish we could live in isolation, but it is never fulfilling to the human psyche or becoming a whole, spiritually healthy person. We are never complete or satisfied outside of human companionship, and neither is God God outside of relationship within the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are made to be a part of the many-membered church, the body of Jesus Christ, a unity of diverse and multi-gifted beings, redeemed to live in harmony, loving one another as ourselves. The Bible is saturated with instruction about how we are to live together within the company of believers and how we are to spur one another on toward love and good deeds before and in the midst of a fallen and dying world. There is no thought of isolated living in the pages of the Scriptures where we live solitary lives impacting no others; unless in unusual and rare circumstances God places you where you are unable to interact with other believers.
We have experienced the joy of companionship and fellowship in the intimacy of marriage and family, and we have immensely benefited from the comfort and encouragement of the fellowship of the church, but we have also been frustrated and grieved by relationships and experiences with those who provoke us to despair, anger, or sadness. None of this ought to be a surprise to the student of God’s Word. It is a significant part of the testing of your faith and those numerous opportunities to learn how to apply the mind of Christ in such situations. Do not flee difficult relationships, especially in the body. Pursue, with all the power of the promises of God, reconciliation and harmony with fellow believers; and with unbelievers, seek their conversion and transformation in Christ without being tainted by their sin or succumbing to compromise of the truth. You should never soft-pedal the truth to appear tolerant or “open-minded of sinful behavior, thinking (erroneously) that you will gain the non-believer’s confidence and sneak through the gospel message at a more ready moment.
The vast majority of you will never be a Robinson Crusoe or Tom Hanks character in Castaway. Rather your life will be among other human beings with a mixture of joy and sadness. Jesus wept as he approached Jerusalem thinking of her inhabitants, fellow human beings, some destined for destruction, others to eternal life. That determination is not yours. As far as you are concerned everyone you rub shoulders with is a candidate for eternal life. Pursue this perspective in every one of your encounters, while not giving into despair, irritability, or lasting grudges. Never forget, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?


“How beautiful the sight of brethren who agree in friendship to unite, and bonds of charity; tis like the precious ointment shed o’er all his robes, from Aaron’s head.
(Psalm 133 in James Montgomery’s verse, 1771-1854)


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Father And Son Praying Under The Cross
Oct 09, 2014

Father's Prayer

Father’s Prayer

To be a good father to those who look to me I have so often craved and yearned.
And only from You, Oh Father of fathers, can this great lesson be received and
successfully learned.

I want to lead my flock in the path that is good, noble, and true.
This, my Lord, I know that You alone can so wisely teach me how to do.

It is my desire to reflect Your will in all that I think and that I say.
How can I accomplish this, Oh my God, for my feet are surely made of sand and clay.

But in trying to guide a child of my own, I would certainly be at a total loss,
Without the guidance of your Son’s steps from the manger to His sacrificial cross.

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Oct 09, 2014

What If Today Were Your Last?

Many memories remain in my mind of a year in my life surrounded by the fog and violence of war tramping the jungles of a far off place, Vietnam. This is one: as an Infantry Platoon Leader I was constantly on the lookout for any soldier who had the skills and the fortitude to be what we called a Point Man. Such a soldier would lead a Platoon or a Squad forward in enemy territory; someone always has to be in front. The man pulling point is the one who will most likely encounter a lethal booby-trap, the firepower of the enemy, or any type of deadly force first. It is not a job for sissies. In fact, he needs to be a person who sets aside his own safety for the benefit of his fellow soldiers; he knows his survivability percentage is extremely low. He must be highly trained and alert to all the signs of enemy presence or contact, to all the peculiarities of the landscape which might betray the presence of hidden booby-traps or ambush, and when to warn those behind him to stop or take cover.
One Point Man I had in my platoon for a very short time was a soldier whose parents were both active military and who was presently on his third tour, consecutively, because he voluntarily and repeatedly chose to extend his time in Vietnam, which was highly unusual. Consequently, he had a boatload of combat experience. My platoon had been ordered to take a patrol outside our protected perimeter late at night, hoping to interrupt the enemy in their normal nighttime tactics and catch them off-guard. This type of patrol is especially fearful because of the deep darkness with no significant moonlight. When we were maybe 20 minutes away from our perimeter, our silent single file column suddenly halted and remained so for a longer than usual time. I passed the word up the column one soldier whispering to another to find out the cause of what was happening. My point man had suddenly stopped and was apparently in a catatonic state. He was unable to move, was shaking all over, and was basically frozen in place. Not a good situation in a deadly location. I moved forward to investigate his condition and made the decision to return the patrol to our base camp and get this soldier medical help. Returning the patrol at night when we were not due back until morning was in itself very dangerous, for our own men in our perimeter could fire on us and this had to be accomplished with extreme caution.
Subsequent investigation once inside the safety of our defensive perimeter revealed that this soldier had extended his courage in a combat zone for so long (2 1/2 years), disregarding his life and safety in numerous critical situations, that it finally caught up with him; in the midst of this nighttime patrol all his subdued fears came to the surface. He was struck with the probability in his mind that this might be his last night of life. He had pushed his “luck too often.
What was your first thought this morning? Did you think this may be your last day of this life? I doubt it, because it is not the way most think who do not have a terminal illness which has reached its last stages. Young people think little of death or its consequences being largely oblivious to the idea that their life may indeed be brief. At my age I am thinking more about how much longer on this present earth God has for me, but since Vietnam I have not normally awakened to the thought that this might be my last day. The Scripture is replete with the thought and warning for you that you consider the day of your departure and how that consideration brings a truer perspective to how you live your life today. If the Bible speaks so constantly about the brevity of this life, do you not think your mind would be considering “How brief?, rather than “I have lots of time! The facts of history and observation prove to you that a relative few proportionately live to the age of my father who is 97. Your first thought when you awake should not be wondering how long you will live, but rather if today were my last day am I ready to meet my Savior face to face and stand before my Father in Heaven? The Apostle Paul had a great freedom in his life, loosed from the fear of death as observed in his testimony, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. But he also had a great recognition of God’s purposes for him and how his life was being lived out now, “[Yet] I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.  (Philippians 1:21-26)
Your first thought waking ought to be “Thanks be to God, today may be my last day on earth, which is good, for I am convinced I will be with Christ; but if He wills for me to remain, I will spend my life for those around me for their progress and joy in the faith. Freedom and not fear of death, the joy of faith in Christ, ought to characterize my life. My point man in Vietnam did not possess such freedom; he could not do what he was skilled at doing suddenly because he feared death, and in the years prior to that catatonic fear he lived in denial that death could come at any moment. We do not know the day or time of our departure, but if we are always ready such ignorance truly doesn’t matter, does it?
Living in denial or living in fear, one or the other characterizes how most wake to face a new day. It is not the way to live your life no matter how long or short it is. What you do today with Christ can make a transformational change in how you wake tomorrow.


“Awake my soul, and with the sun your daily stage of duty run: shake off dull sloth, and joyful rise to pay your morning sacrifice,
“Lord, I my vows to you renew, disperse my sins as morning dew; guard my first springs of thought and will, and with yourself my spirit fill.
(1st and 4th verses of Thomas Ken’s Morning Hymn, “Awake My Soul, 1695)


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Oct 02, 2014

Keeping Yet Kept

“To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father, and kept by Jesus Christ…..Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life……To Him who is able to keep you from falling. Jude 1, 21, 24


It is that time of year in Colorado when the mountains are gloriously splotched with golden majesty and variegated red hues of the myriad Aspen groves spread luxuriously amid the pines throughout the Rocky Mountains; the magnificence of God’s creative painting with brilliant colors in spectacular settings. It is almost too much to take in! It is that time of year of elk bugling, gathering and protecting their harems, the bulls confronting other bulls for preeminence with their own collection of cows (female elk). It is fascinating to watch and listen to say the least. This act of nature according to God’s design repeated every fall season in matchless beauty reminds me of the theme of Jude in his New Testament epistle and of the dialectic of Scripture which greets us throughout its pages: keeping, yet kept!
Jude’s words to begin and end his brief epistle present two expressed actions juxtaposed with one another in describing the heart of the Christian life and its promised end: eternal salvation. Those who are called and loved by God the Father are KEPT BY JESUS CHRIST with the parallel command to KEEP YOURSELF in the love of God as you wait for the mercy of His Son, always while He is able to keep you from falling! In a similar picture in nature, but far less significant, the mighty bull elk protects his harem, keeping them from other bulls, as his gathered cows must keep themselves within his conclave of protection.
The dialectic of Scripture presents to us the actions of a sovereign God which because of His character are certain and unchangeable actions over against the wooing of this loving God to earnestly seek Him and do all to keep yourself in His love. God’s unlimited power to save is presented immediately beside His invitation, His command, to keep within His love, overcoming the world, and patiently waiting for His mercy to bring you to eternal life. It is a dynamic dialectic of what God does sovereignly and irrevocably, and what you do every day in earnest response to such amazing love. One presents a basis of sure hope and trust for you, the embattled believer; the other, a spur to your own will to invest your life and actions exclusively in pursuing this God of your salvation, equating your purposes with His.
Some will emphasize one over the other to the detriment of God’s revealed will expressed in His infallible Word. The biblical Christian must keep the two in dynamic balance trusting in an all-powerful Savior while clinging to Him with every breath that is in you as if doing less would invalidate you from the promises offered. It is not a salvation of works; it is a willful response which acknowledges salvation by grace bestowed on you not of your own deserving. Your will in action to please God assures your own heart and mind of the genuineness of your faith. Faith without works is dead, and your faith proves its genuineness in choosing to live humbly and righteously.
Jesus Himself assures you that no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28) once you are in His hand, while you continue to believe you are in it by clinging to His nail scarred hand by your choices. Sin, even in your life of faith, happens (see I John 1 and Romans 7). But His hand is constantly stretched out toward you for you to continually come and confess your sin with not only the promise of forgiveness, but a call to walk with Him in light, rejecting darkness. Your heart knows the difference between light and darkness! It is not complex, though you try to make it so.
Go into your day each day with the thought of keeping yourself in God’s love with everything that is in you, being fortified with the promise from your loving Father that you are kept from falling or failing in this endeavor of your own faith by Jesus.


“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
(4th verse of Isaac Watt’s hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, 1707)


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