Payh Blog
Woman with Bible
Mar 31, 2016

Live Humbly or Die Arrogantly

“Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished.” – Proverbs 16:5


How often we miss the blunt directness with which the Scripture, and consequently, God, speaks to us. We may read His Word as though God is merely making suggestions to us, rather than clear and unwavering commands. It happens to be the way things are, even though we may be offended by the truth as it is. But I rather think we should much more appreciate knowing and accepting the truth, rather than dancing around what really is.
Grace is a concept we too often count on erroneously to escape the consequences of sin, but grace is never meant to allow you to live as an antinomian; meaning to live as though there are no laws to be obeyed, but able to be ignored without consequence. God’s universe is governed by laws of nature designed by a Creator. Your own life is governed by laws such as gravity or the requirement of oxygen. If you fall from a cliff or tree, you suffer the consequences; if your brain is deprived of oxygen, you die. If you defy God’s moral laws there will be a negative result. If you refuse to profess Jesus as Lord, His Father will turn his favor away. There is always the continuous offer of grace and forgiveness from God through faith in Jesus, for any and all sin. But unrepentant sin always bears a consequence; arrogance never earns a reward; and it always suffers punishment.
To live arrogantly is to actually live usurping the place of God in your life. It is to put yourself outside His authority and declare no need of Him, when actually it is by and in Him you live, and move, and have your being. It is not without reason that God declares in Proverbs that arrogance in the heart is an abomination to Him; and it will never go unpunished.
Humility, and by virtue its opposite, arrogance, is succinctly described in Philippians 2 where Paul defines the character of Jesus. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Paul then goes on to point out what living humbly will mean, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” This is humility, the clothing of Christ’s character put on as the clothing of your own character; that is, you are to live humbly by following his living example; He didn’t grumble and He didn’t question. The opposite of such humility is, of course, arrogance; it is an attitude and behavior where you make yourself equal to or above God, in that you act as you choose with no thought you are usurping who and what He is to all creatures. What is more, you then grumble and question when things do not go as you want or expect. It is no wonder that such arrogance on our part is an abomination to God. Eventually we bring upon ourselves the punishment of what unbridled pride produces in us.
You have a choice which can only be made in the strength which Christ affords you; live humbly as He would have you live, or choose to live arrogantly, which God abhors. He doesn’t mince words. It is a continuous battle. Sin provokes arrogance and it is a default mode when you let it rule. Humility can be your character only when you prayerfully consider beforehand how you will specifically act in the circumstances of your life. Those circumstances will always bring a reaction from you; it is what the test of your faith is intent on accomplishing. But rather let the mind of Christ rule in your heart and behavior. That mind is always…….humility!


“Have thine own way, Lord! Have thine own way! Hold o’er my being absolute sway! Fill with thy Spirit till all shall see, Christ only, always, living in me!”
(4th verse of Adelaide Pollard’s hymn, “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!”, 1902)


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SFTD
Mar 24, 2016

Love to the Uttermost

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” – John 13:1


“Everybody don’t have somebody” was the title a writer for the St. Louis Post Dispatch gave to an article he wrote telling of his experiencing serious and potentially fatal health issues when traveling away from his home. Fortunately, he did have a wife and daughter along who cared for him and dealt with a myriad of complexities with two unfamiliar hospitals and their staffs. The point of his article was he, unlike perhaps many others, did have somebody to care for him in a strange place when he desperately needed help, being suddenly weak and ill. Not everybody, he wrote, has a “somebody” to aid them when desperate and alone. Maybe they once did, but perhaps now, not; they have become alone in their world. How many experience this at anytime in their life? How many find themselves alone at death? How many will be in this situation beyond the grave? All alone, with no one to walk beside through the valley of the shadow of death. And even if there are family or friends, they cannot go through this valley with them. No one to truly love “to the end,” meaning, to love “to the uttermost.”
This is Holy Week; today, Thursday, is the remembrance of the Passover Meal when Jesus introduced the Last Supper to his disciples, a meal to be thereafter celebrated often by his faithful followers until the day he returns. Tomorrow is Good Friday when the true Passover Lamb was sacrificed for the sins of his own people on the cross on Mt. Calvary. The night before as Jesus and his disciples prepared to eat the feast of Passover, Jesus expressed his great and intense love for them, and represented by these dozen disciples, expressed his love for all his own people of every century. He knelt on the floor before them to personally wash their dirty feet. He expressed his love for them as a love “to the end, to the uttermost,” a love which would never fade at anytime, in any way. This is, perhaps, just a phrase in a verse which can easily escape one’s notice, but the Apostle John knew exactly what he was writing when by the Holy Spirit he conveyed the precise words and meaning of Jesus’ own lips.
In the later remarkable vision which John palpably experienced, when he was the last of the apostles alive, exiled in old age to a small island in the Mediterranean Sea named Patmos, John viewed the Savior he loved, and whom he knew beyond all doubt loved him. In metaphoric and apocalyptic adjectives Jesus is poetically and “other-worldly” depicted in Revelation Chapter 1, and later described as a Lamb that was slain in the center of the courts of heaven, and then as a rider on a white horse with flaming eyes, head crowned with many diadems, wearing a robe dipped in blood, and coming out of his mouth a sharp sword. In all of this mysterious, prophetic vision John remembers quite well the One who once walked beside him for three years in Palestine, who expressed a deep love for him in no uncertain terms, and vowed: “He loved his own who were in the world, and loved them to the uttermost!” This is the same Redeemer whose eyes and heart John saw in and behind all the various visions of the great eternal and universal King of Creation. John still saw and heard through it all the familiar and intimate companion who was his Savior.
“Everybody don’t have somebody,” at least somebody who loves and can love them to the end. The love of many will grow cold, the commitment of many more will fail, the strength of all will become utterly weak, but only One will love to the uttermost; to the full pardon of all your sin, to overcoming the power of death which can hold you in its deadly grip, to performing the miracle of transforming your perishable body into an imperishable one, to removing the certainty of a second and final death, and to being your mediator forever; this is the capability of but One.
The message you should consider in your memory of his persecution and crucifixion tomorrow, and in your acknowledgement of the empty tomb on Sunday, is his loving you to the uttermost. Good Friday and Easter are personal statements of his love. Do not celebrate these days and their events as just going through the motions of what you do, because you always do it, with many responsibilities of being with family, friends, church, Easter baskets, meals, etc. Celebrate them as personal and real; as an expression of authentic love for you which you cannot and will not ignore. Good Friday and Easter speak an intense and intimate love into your heart, confessed by your Savior as love for you to the uttermost! Meditate on that.


“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee; I give thee back the life I owe, that in thy ocean depths its flow may richer, fuller be.”
(1st verse of George Matheson’s hymn, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” 1882)


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Christian symbols of the crucifixion of Jesus
Mar 17, 2016

Strange Bedfellows

“And Herod with his soldiers treated him (Jesus) with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. – Luke 23:11-12


It took unbelief, scoffing, and great abuse of the Son of God to bring two enemies together. They became friends over their common disbelief in the King of all Creation. Strange? Maybe not so much, as we see in our world the same behavior today. Jesus is the watershed point of civilization and culture. People determine their destiny based upon a belief or disbelief of who he is and what he he has said. He is the most popular swear word in the languages of the world; he and his Father. What he created and made sacred for mankind is the second biggest vulgarity. Friends who are his enemies talk the same language. They are comfortable with similar things which come from their mouths. Antipathy for him creates friendships, just as genuine love for him binds others together in an indissoluble fellowship.
Herod and Pilate at first had not a bit of affection for each other. They actually were at each other’s throats. But the trial of Jesus, and their like treatment of him inspired friendship, the Scriptures tell us. We see the same activity in the sons of men. Scoffers of Jesus or those who give little conscious thought of him, ignoring him and his words, find they have a lot in common. They enjoy the same coarse language, topics of conversation, similar desires in life, all the things that make for some sense of no awkwardness between them.
In life in general people who are characterized by similar goals, behavior, language, and appetites flock together out of a sense of comfortability. They do not feel judged in the presence of those who freely enter into their lifestyle minus criticism. The pursuit of their desires goes unchecked, even if such behavior proves to be harmful or result in fractured relationships. Many other like-minded unbelievers can be found with whom to consort. Such was the dynamic of wicked Herod and ethically- challenged Pilate. It is the nature of friendships of the world.
Living a Christ-like life isolates you from much of the world; living a Christ-less life endears you to a Godless society. Most of Jerusalem joined in calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, mocking and scoffing with the crowd joining with their fellows like lemmings. Jesus said in his most famous sermon, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Those who choose the narrow gate are drawn together in a close bond with the One who calls them, but those who choose the wide gate find a “fun” road encouraged and entertained by the one true enemy who hates Christ. It is a road that ends in destruction.
The crowd with which you relate most closely characterizes your beliefs and convictions. Your friendships reflect your hopes and personal confession; they influence powerfully how you live. The believer is “in the world, but not of the world.” He has friendships and acquaintances in the world for the purpose of sharing the good news, but not to live as they live. You could never become an intimate friend of a Herod or Pilate or of one of the crowd who called for Jesus’ execution. They chose the wrong side of the watershed which is Jesus. Some can be snatched from the fire by your witness of the gospel, but unless they are they will not be those who will take the narrow path with you.
Friendship with the world, to live as they live, is enmity with Jesus. Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and sinners to heal them from sin, not to join in a life of sin. And he said of those who chose to follow him and hang on his words, “They (the world) will know who you are because you have love for one another!” It is a love which does not characterize Herod’s and Pilate’s friendship. There is still a calculated tension between them even in friendship which seeks to serve themselves above all. There is not a self-sacrificial love.
Consider carefully your own “bedfellows”, your intimate friends. There are a variety of co-activities and topics of conversation which draw you to friends you have chosen, which cause you to seek out one another’s company. But ask yourself, do these friends draw you closer to Christ? Do they inject into your relationship a sanctification of your spirit? Do they strengthen your marriage? Make you a better parent? Draw your attention to the things of God? Friends certainly are to be enjoyed, but the best friends are those who move your heart closer to the source of your salvation, where real joy takes place. Herod and Pilate became friends in dastardly deeds. They furthered one another’s slide into a common enmity with Jesus Christ. They flowed the wrong direction from their fateful encounter with the King of the Jews, indeed, the King of Creation.
Everyday we move closer to our destiny with death and eternal life. We are in a crucible of testing in this present life, to be made fit for life in a new heavens and a new earth. Keep and make friendships with those in the world that you may share the good news with them, snatching them from the fire, but be sure you have those friends who are closer than a brother, who move your heart in the right direction, toward the best friend of all, the Lord Jesus.


“Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; friends may fail me, foes assail me, he, my Savior, makes me whole. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, he is with me to the end.”
(1st verse of J. Wilbur Chapman’s hymn, “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!”,1910)


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INSTILLING RESPECT
Mar 16, 2016

A Lost Art: Instilling Respect

We wanted to share an article written  for The Washington Post by Patricia Dalton, Clinical Psychologist, Paul Anderson Family Strong Center.  Written in 2007, possibly even more relevant today .


There’s been a fundamental change in family life, and it has played out over the years in my office. Teachers, pediatricians and therapists like me are seeing children of all ages who are not afraid of their parents. Not one bit. Not of their power, not of their position, not of their ability to apply standards and enforce consequences.

I am not advocating authoritarian or abusive parental behavior, which can do untold damage. No, I am talking about a feeling that was common to us baby boomers when we were kids. One of my friends described it this way: “All my mother had to do was shoot me a look.” I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was a look that stopped us in our tracks — or got us moving. And not when we felt like it.
Now.
These days, that look seems to have been replaced by a feeble nod of parental acquiescence — and an earnest acknowledgment of “how hard it is to be a kid these days.”
In my office, I have seen small children call their parents names and tell them how stupid they are; I have heard adolescents use strings of expletives toward them; and I remember one 6-year-old whose parents told me he refused to obey, debated them ad nauseam and sometimes even lashed out. As if on cue, the boy kicked his father right there in the office. When I asked the father how he reacts at home, he told me that he runs to another room!
It came to me like a lightning bolt: Not only are the kids unafraid of their parents, parents are afraid of their kids!
What ever happened to the colorful phrases our parents relied on to put us in our place? “Keep your shirt on.” “On the double.” “What do you think we are, made of money?” “Because I said so.” “If you want sympathy, look it up in the dictionary.” Or one of my personal favorites: “Don’t bother me unless you’re bleeding,” which a friend’s mother said to her six kids when she sat down to read before dinner.
The honor is yours.
Today’s generation of children is the most closely observed, monitored, cherished and scheduled in our history. They are also the most praised. Families are smaller, and there are fewer children upon whom parents can beam their attention.
Today there are moms and dads who aren’t just parents — they believe in “parenting.” They read volumes and volumes about how to be good parents and view parenting as both an art and a science that must be studied and updated and practiced self-consciously. Letting children run around the neighborhood and be bored some of the time is anathema to them.
Many parents these days don’t expect their children to contribute much around the house, although they do expect them to achieve outside the house. They have strong beliefs about what makes children successful and happy-ever-after, and underpinning those beliefs is the concept that they — the parents — are all-important in this quest. Such parents believe that self-esteem is the key to lifetime success, and to this end they compliment their children a lot.
They are egalitarian, and they believe families should be democracies. Needless to say, they don’t give orders. They believe that children will do things when they are ready to. They ask their child politely if he or she will do something and are surprised and dismayed when the response is “no.”
It’s as if parents have rewritten the Fourth Commandment to read, “Honor thy children.”
And, boy, are they paying for it.
When a teacher, pediatrician or therapist suggests that perhaps these “parenting” behaviors are not helping but in fact causing harm, such earnest parents can be hard to convince. They don’t want to have to hear that their New Age concepts for raising kids not only do not work, but actually are prescriptions for disaster.
‘Scrumptious’? Please.
Let’s take the constant parental praise. I first noticed it when my three children were small, and I would hear mothers lauding their kids’ incredible artwork or rich vocabulary. I can recall one mother who brought her 6-year-old to my office after the school observed some social difficulties. “Isn’t she scrumptious?” she said, in front of her beaming daughter. (I made a mental note to myself: This may be part of the problem.)
After all, there is a difference between appreciation, which is from the heart, and flattery, which is from the mouth.
Starting in the mid-1990s, a team led by psychologist Carol Dweck did a series of experiments on fifth-graders over a 10-year period. One study compared two randomized groups of children in a classroom setting. In one group, researchers attributed children’s achievement to their effort and in the other to their intelligence. Those praised for their hard work, it turned out, were more likely to attempt difficult tasks and performed better than those praised for intelligence. Children who were told that innate intelligence is the key were less likely to expend effort and take risks, perhaps because they were trying to maintain an image that they felt was not under their control.
A later study that Dweck conducted among seventh- and eighth-graders confirmed these findings and found that an effort mind-set also led to higher achievement, as measured by math grades.
More-serious concerns were raised by a 1996 review of 200 studies on self-esteem by Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University. Rather than promoting success, he found that an “unrealistically positive self-appraisal” was linked to aggression, crime and violence.
It all makes a therapist long for the days of the good old inferiority complex. And for parents who could put children in their place. Some interesting research on interpersonal attraction has shown that self-confidence in combination with some degree of vulnerability makes a person more appealing to others. Unshakable self-regard is a liability. And dominance is the kiss of death.
Over-parented and under-disciplined children can also have trouble later as young adults with the process of separating from home and creating an independent life. Kids who were constantly praised often become thin-skinned adults who have trouble taking negative feedback on their job or in their personal lives. And I have had more than one client over the years who was positively indignant when a boss expected him or her to be at work on time and to call in sick only when necessary.
Kids who were told, “You can do anything,” may have extremely high expectations that can be hard to attain in our multifaceted modern lives. In her 2006 book, “Generation Me,” Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University, documented an enormous rise in young people’s expectations from the late ’60s to the late ’90s. Twenge refers to a quote from the character Tyler Durden in the movie “Fight Club”: “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very [ticked] off.”
Maybe it wouldn’t be so painful if parents would sign on to the following manifesto: Let’s expect more help from our kids around the house and withdraw some of our frenetic investment in their academic, sporting and social achievements. Let’s shore up boundaries and let them be kids in the kid zone. And let’s allow them to experience some of life’s disappointments. Let’s talk on the phone and go out on weekends with our friends. Let’s start worrying less whether our kids are happy all the time and more about whether we are enjoying them and ourselves. Let’s get a life in the parent zone. And last but not least, let’s resurrect an old concept: Father and Mother Know Best.

Patricia Dalton is a clinical psychologist at Paul Anderson Family Strong Center in Vidalia, Ga.


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Human heart beats
Mar 10, 2016

Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23


How true! Guard your heart! For it is the organ that constantly pumps life through your body. Your brain is essential for thinking, conversing and directing your body’s functions, but the heart keeps your body and brain alive. Remember, the brain dies when the heart stops. Your heart feeds your body with necessary-to-life nutrients carried to your cells in the blood pumped by this heart muscle. My heart suffered its second attack last week. In August 1999, after the first, I underwent a three-way bypass. 17 years later the three bypasses are still operating, but needed necessary oblation (enlarging). One of my native main arteries was completely blocked, so I had to undergo last Monday a rotoblation (opening of this artery with a diamond drill) by way of a catheter. Amazing what modern medicine is able to do. Much of this heart/arterial disease was the result of acute exposure to the defoliant Agent Orange, when I fought in Vietnam. Its poison produced diabetes, which in turn brought heart disease and an attack.
Just as your physical heart is the center of physical operations in your body, so your spiritual heart is the center of all your moral, emotional, and spiritual functions. While your brain sends electrical impulses to your senses, thought, speech and body function, your spiritual heart (every bit as palpable as your heart of flesh) is the determinate of who you actually are in character and soul. The physical and spiritual elements in you are intricately intertwined. They operate so in us all. The spiritual heart and its eternal consciousness is the one part of you that survives the grave, until you receive an imperishable body. “Out of the heart are the issues of life,” the Creator tells us. He also tells us post-Fall that, “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can know it.”
So just as your physical heart is susceptible to and requires cleansing from disease and plaque, so the spiritual heart requires cleansing from sin to live. Sin clogs the arteries of a spiritual heart causing slowness of spiritual breathing, weakness of spiritual strength, and eventually spiritual illness or even death, just as much as physical disease and plaque will sicken or kill a heart of flesh.
Your physical heart is completely in the dark, out of sight, except in the rare instance of open heart surgery. Disease in your heart creeps up on you silently in most cases, until the unwary person is shocked by a heart attack, which can sometimes be a “widow maker”; lethal. Occasionally, there are symptoms; shortness of breath, lack of strength, angina. Often, there are absolutely no detectable signs at all an attack is going to happen, until it does. The spiritual heart is out of sight for most people as well, in terms of encroaching disease. That is, because sin upon sin, which is true to life when the flesh is still active in all of us (Romans 7), deadens sensitivity to its presence and affect. It is apparent that the Holy Spirit is the only “instrument” which can expose the condition of a spiritual heart to your senses, and that, only when you are attune to His presence. The Holy Spirit produces humility in you, otherwise; pride reigns.
Sin, the plaque of the spiritual heart, does its damage silently in spiritually insensitive people, which is a vacillating condition in each of us, clogging the spiritual arteries more and more, and blocking spiritual nutrients from freely flowing in a person who is hardly aware that he or she is “skating on thin ice.” Sin builds upon sin in such a way that it changes the perspective with which you see it; sin is not perceived anymore as sin, for it is personally evaluated as even something which is good or at least “neutral” for you. Consequently, it is a silent killer, just like plaque in your arteries.
As you need to be constantly aware of what you eat and drink, that exercise is necessary, to keep your heart healthy, it is absolutely true of your spiritual heart that you be sensitive to sin; what it is, what it looks like, what it does in you, how you fight it. The Word says to you, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” It is a constant exercise not open to pauses. Pauses, as we all know allow the “fog” of sin to creep in under your doors, through your windows, on little cat feet (T.S. Eliot). Sin is pervasive and requires constant vigilance to avoid. “Be always alert,” Peter says, “your enemy is (actually) stalking you like a roaring lion, seeking to devour you.”
Guard your spiritual heart; for it is where your self-treasure is, and out of it flows the character of everything you are, all that you will ever do. I would say to you that it is surely worth guarding, even more than your physical heart, for it determines your eternal destiny. Fortunately, you have a God who provides all the grace necessary to eradicate the plaque of sin out of your heart and establish it, unmovable for the eons of eternity. But today, in this life, “Make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things,” it is promised, “you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:10).


“Spirit of God, descend upon my heart, wean it from earth, through all its pulses move; stoop to my weakness, mighty as thou art, and make me love thee as I ought to love.”
(1st verse of George Croly’s hymn, “Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart,” 1854)


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Man with hiking equipment walking in mouton forest
Mar 03, 2016

Nomads, Chameleons, or Pilgrims?

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.” Psalm 84:5-7


“To journey without changing is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and to be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” (Mark Nepo, “The Exquisite Risk.”) A good friend in ministry in Montana included this quote in his update letter. To me, it reflects on the 55 year journey of the Paul Anderson Youth Home and it’s indefatigable co-founder Glenda Anderson. And it reflects on your own journey through a definite and unique life. Are we nomads, chameleons, or pilgrims on this journey to Zion? Do we see in us and do we bring life changing impact upon the deserts and wilderness through which we travel. The Valley of Baka after all is a dry desert. As a pilgrim we undergo a change as we ourselves are transformed by the journey. In that light we bring with our self-transformation a change in the “landscape” traversed, that is, in our audience, the persons we serve as their neighbor in this world. Who are your neighbors whom you are to love in response to the Savior’s personal command: love your neighbor as yourself?
The ministry of the PAYH has persevered to retain its core values over the more than half a century it has worked with young men, ever striving to introduce them to the unchanging Savior. Yet the young men, the boys, have changed in the things they do to invite trouble into their lives, the changes in their own reaction to authority, an increasing disrespect for rules and elders. The PAYH has had to adapt to the changing audience of young men being served. Changes to the program provided reflect the changes over time in the nature and character of these young men who arrive here. Changes in the judicial system impact attempts to minister to boys who do not want any help, and to whom judicial leverage is no longer available or commensurate to motivate a boy toward even being helped.
We see all three of these types in the boys at the Home: nomads, chameleons, and yes, pilgrims. What will their journey reveal them to be? Nomads, in that their journey is making no permanent change in their character. Chameleons, in that they impermanently change and change back with frequency, with no thought of engaging in a truly transformative journey. And yes, pilgrims, in that their journey is seeing transformative changes upon their character and being, as well as those to whom they may minister.
But what about ourselves, those who are here to serve these young men? Do we see ourselves as those on a journey, pilgrims being transformed by the pilgrimage? Are we nomads, journeying, but being left unchanged? Are we chameleons, not recognizing we are even on a journey, changing back and forth from wave to wave? Or are we really pilgrims, journeying to Zion, going from strength to strength, being intentional about the journey having a transformative impact on me?
To enter into transformative pilgrimage, you must be intentional about the journey. The landscape really is a desert: wearying, frustrating, unfruitful, dry. The journey must first be transforming you in the midst of this bleak landscape. Blessed are those whose strength is in God, not in yourself. Seek God’s face for the journey, continuously; because your goal is focused on being one day “before God in Zion”; of first priority, before any other. To “SET your heart on pilgrimage” are your marching orders. I will enter into a life transforming journey that I might one day appear “before God in Zion.” Each day ministering to young men, in this case, at PAYH; I will seek to make the desert of this work be transformed into multiple springs of living water; by my seeking God’s strength for the task, by my demeanor and pleasing attitude, by my putting on Christ as my character-clothing, by truly loving my fellow-laborers in my actions toward them, and in seeking to win these young men to Christ with my words and example.
We are all on a journey whether we acknowledge it or not. Some are not changed by the journey; they are nomads. Some are changed flippantly and frequently with no permanence of character; they are chameleons. While others journey with a set focus of being transformed from strength to strength in their journey; they are pilgrims not unlike the allegory of Pilgrim’s Progress. They will stand before God in Zion in the confidence of Jesus Christ. Will this be your journey and will it transform you, a pilgrim in the grandest sense?


“Since, Lord, thou dost defend us with thy Spirit, we know we at the end shall life inherit. Then fancies flee away! I’ll fear not what men say; I’ll labor night and day to be a pilgrim.”
(3rd verse of John Bunyan’s hymn, “To Be a Pilgrim,” 1684)


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