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Apr 28, 2016

The Megalomaniacal God

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6


The atheist Richard Dawkins has described God in this way: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” (The God Delusion) There are several ways in which to hate God. You can actually manifest overt hatred and anger towards Him with words, thoughts, and expletives or you can simply ignore Him with no or little thought one way or another; remain deaf to His words and commandments. Both express hatred for God. The Hebrew word for ignore is “to hate.” Dawkins at least makes his thoughts for God blunt and fully expressed. We cannot say as much for the host of those who simply act as though He isn’t there, and mostly do not really show concern if He is or isn’t.
There are some occurrences in Scripture of God acting upon man that give us just enough information that appearances lead some to think that He is acting unfairly, capriciously, or without just reason, such as the immolation of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, because they led the worship of God in a way they were not instructed by Him; or the reaching out of Uzzah to apparently steady the Ark when the oxen pulling the Ark stumbled and it appeared to be falling, and he immediately died; or the instruction to God’s people to completely destroy a pagan enemy, men, women and children; or the immediate killing of Ananias and Sapphira when they lied about the selling price of their own property, secretly holding some back, as though publicly giving all the proceeds to support the Christian assembly of believers. These are but a sampling of Scripture history which seem to lead to Dawkins’s description of God, that is, if you do not search out any more facts for right interpretation and see these events from your own human perspective. But seeing that these written accounts are inerrantly expressed by the Spirit of God, what we have in the description of them is exactly what God wanted us to have; no more, no less. Trust is required.
Yet in the observations which we make of fellow human actions, do we ever judge just on what we see, entirely separated from who they are, or who they are to us, or to others whom we know and trust. Does their previously observed personal character enter in? Does it matter if they are family to us or a complete stranger? There are numerous factors which complete the picture of what we witness to determine the nature and “facts” of what we have just seen, for we “see” not only with our eyes, but the emotions, memories, intuition, familiarity, etc. God gives us enough factors to judge our opinion of Him, our trust in who He is and who He has revealed Himself to be. People like Dawkins bring, as we do, much personal mind-baggage to interpret what they read and what they see. In this case, those like Dawkins already have zero trust in the One they have come to hate. It is perhaps telling that they hate so vociferously the One who to them doesn’t exist.
There are many unspoken and for us unobserved-at-the-moment factors which may arise only from a relationship to God, our experience with Him, our acquaintance with His being and character which go into judging His actions. The Bible does not go to great lengths to defend God’s every action. It allows you to judge on your own, based on your trust in who He is and what His character is. Searching the Scriptures brings many other factors to bear on the particular recorded instance of what happened in a specific passage. For example, God had given clear and direct instructions elsewhere for the Ark to be transported on the shoulders of Levites, the priests of the people, not drawn with oxen. He had numerous times described the holiness of the Ark of the Covenant and who could and could not touch it to emphasize the eternal seriousness of worship, obedience, and its weighty consequences.
There is a real tendency in the fallenness of man to treat as common what is truly uncommon, unique, and powerful. This describes the very history of man in which sacred ministries, institutions and purposes have lost their singular message and mission and devolved into slovenly misrepresentations of a holy and pure God. That may not mean much to many, but it is the cutting off and denigrating of the majestic glory and power of the Giver of the Gospel, the one message which alone brings life to man.
God’s history with mankind, and the written record of it, can only be rightly seen, treasured, and applied personally so as to result in your eternal life, when it is seen and understood through trust in who He is and will always be; trust without leaning to your own understanding; trust which relies on the fear of God and not the fear of man, which more ably characterizes a Richard Dawkins.
The nature of knowing and hearing and obeying God is encapsulated in the nature of trusting God, which goes beyond personally understanding everything about Him. His ways are high above ours, his purposes are not fully known, His infinite knowledge of the hearts of men, of the past, the present, the future, place Him in a sphere that is far removed from your capacity to grasp the full truth and immensity of all things. Hence your trust of Him is absolutely essential. This, Richard Dawkins and his comrades, simply refuse to do, which place them in an ignorance of God they do not see. They trust only in their own perspective, which is but a fatal narcissism.
That which you cannot always see clearly with your eyes, or understand with your finite mind, or feel with your emotions you must entrust to God, casting all your concerns on Him, believing He cares for you, and will never lead you errantly. Trust in Him is absolutely necessary to your sojourn in this world. You cannot pass through it without it. Do not understand it, cannot see the justice of it, tend to blame God, are mystified by His sovereignty, question the Scripture, wonder if the Scripture fails to keep up with the times, wonder about LGBT? Where God has truly spoken, you must trust Him. Many today, even professing believers, are giving up on such trust because they lean on their own understanding. It is possibly why Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” Indeed.


“We have not known thee as we ought, nor learned thy wisdom, grace, and power; the things of earth have filled our thought, and trifles of the passing hour. Lord, give us light thy truth to see, and make us wise in knowing thee.”
(1st verse of Thomas Benson Pollock’s hymn, “We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought,” 1889)


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Apr 27, 2016

Just This Once…

It seems pretty harmless, doesn’t it? You know, that little habit you practice when no one else is around. I’m just going to visit this one website. No one will know. I’ll only stay on it for a minute anyway.
Scripture refers to Satan as the Father of Lies. From the very beginning, he has been deceiving mankind. Sometimes, he does so blatantly, but other times, he will twist the truth ever so slightly so that it is hard to identify. In the Garden of Eden, he started by planting a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind. He asked, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ Then he got a little more aggressive, calling God a liar, and saying Adam and Eve surely would not die if they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He made it easy for Eve to talk herself out of doing what she knew was right. I imagine she had thoughts along the lines of: Maybe I misunderstood God. Surely He didn’t mean we could NEVER eat from the tree. He won’t really mind if I have just one bite. Besides, He’s not around right now, so He doesn’t ever have to know.
Something as seemingly inconsequential as a single bite changed the course of history. Once Eve had convinced her conscience that one bite wouldn’t hurt anybody, she made a compromise that would affect the entire human race.
We often overlook the truth that decisions become habits, and habits become lifestyles. We think we can allow ourselves a little wiggle room to make a bad decision here or there. After all, we’re only human, right? What we don’t consider in those moments, however, is that we are forming habits. Every time we tell ourselves it will be okay if we look at this website, tell this lie, or lose our temper, it becomes easier to do so in the future, thus forming habits. Merriam-Webster defines “habit as “something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. As we repeat these habitual decisions, pretty soon they begin to characterize our lives. We go from telling a lie, to lying frequently, to being known as a liar. What started out as a small compromise has now come to define our way of life.
If you are a believer, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. He is the voice in your head and your heart telling you that you really shouldn’t click the link or tell the lie. The more you quiet His convicting voice by saying, “Just this once, or perhaps, “Just one more time, the further you push Him away. This is a dangerous game to play. We serve a merciful and forgiving God, but there comes a point when we have ignored Him for so long and pushed Him so far away that we stop hearing His voice altogether. This is a scary place to be. His conviction and correction are only for our good; when we stop hearing them, we miss much of His will for our lives. This should concern us because being in His will is the most important place we could be.
Our tendency to ignore God’s voice in favor of compromise is rooted in selfishness.  We value ourselves above others. Sure, if it’s convenient, we’ll consider how our decisions affect others, but if it’s going to keep us from doing what we want to do, don’t count on it. Sometimes we simply want to be lazy. Disciplining ourselves to refrain from sin can be too much work, so we decide to conserve our energy and succumb to our natural tendencies, which are always sinful and never pure.
Just as in Eve’s case, when we make these compromises, it damages our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others. In our selfishness, we put our desires first, and all other concerns become secondary. So what if I look at this website when no one is home? So what if it would hurt my wife if she knew? This is what I want, and that’s all that matters right now. Soon our compromises create problems for the people around us. Maybe you looked at that website, and your wife feels disrespected and unloved. Maybe you lied, and your friend doesn’t trust you anymore. Maybe you lost your temper in the restaurant, and your family isn’t welcome back.
There is good news though! You cannot push God so far away that you are beyond His reach. He is gracious and loves a repentant heart. Your life doesn’t have to be devoid of God’s voice. Run back to Him like the younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who, after forming habits and developing a lifestyle of selfishness, disobedience, and compromise, said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. His father saw him coming in the distance, dropped everything, and ran to greet him. He was so happy that he couldn’t even wait for his son to get to the door.  He exclaimed “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. God wants you to grow closer to Him, but this isn’t possible without the Holy Spirit’s presence and active voice in your life. He will rejoice if you return to Him and will reinstate his voice in your heart. He wants you back, regardless of how utterly selfish and disobedient you have been.
How different life would be for all of us if Eve hadn’t ignored God and taken that one bite. Consider the gravity of your everyday decisions. Just because something seems harmless doesn’t make it so.  Listen to the Lord’s voice when He speaks. You will inevitably mess up.  When that happens, run back to His open arms; He will be there waiting for you.
Emma Payne
Advancement Associate
Paul Anderson Youth Home


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Apr 21, 2016

If the Lord Calls, He Will Provide

“For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.'”  – 1 Kings 17:14


The vicissitudes of life always bring times of drought. In all manner of God’s provision, whether the quality of relationships, economic variability, the nature of weather, personal health matters, success/failure in life, or whatever, drought is a not so unusual fact of life. Were we to live in drought continuously without relief we would not survive. Were we to not weather the occasional or even many droughts of life, we could not ultimately survive. Life is beset by droughts. Thank God they are not fixed conditions.
Faith ministries to which God calls his church are afflicted by droughts of resources, financial and/or human. Those droughts if they remain can indicate that God has determined that a particular ministry has finished its calling for one reason or another known to and approved by God.
Yet droughts keep a ministry in close touch with God; they test and revitalize the faith of His laborers. On the other hand, a generous provision of endowment may result in a lethargy of waiting upon God in faith, and relying upon a burgeoning bank account, rather than the God who regularly supplies those who faithfully pray and cry out for his hand of blessing. Many an institution or ministry has grown cold in spiritual vitality when their resources have outgrown the necessity of a faithful and passionate reliance on prayer with the Giver and Sustainer of all things. Just look at the current well-endowed Ivy League institutions which have long ago abandoned their original spiritual commitments to God and His Son. Once inspired by spiritual vitality, they have become hostile to the living God of the Scriptures and His purposes. So have many a once spiritually thriving para-church ministry intent on preaching the gospel to lost souls become estranged to that purpose in their current “raison d’etre.”
The Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) is currently experiencing a drought, but it is one of many over a fifty-five year life of blessing upon blessing interspersed with many a drought in financial resources. The PAYH has always been a labor of faith backed by faithful prayer warriors and sacrificial givers. It has always required a faithful crying out for God’s equally faithful providence in keeping us at the spiritual task at hand, caring for and reaching troubled boys with the life transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. We have always had to remain close to the throne room of God and the precious Father who sits on it. It is, we believe, exactly where He wants us to be. This place in relationship to God’s manner of provision reminds us of the historical account of Elijah and a poor widow and her son in the ancient town of Zarephath of the region of Sidon in Phoenicia, or modern day Lebanon.
Elijah at the beginning of his biblically public ministry had been sent by God to the wicked King of Israel, Ahab, whose equally evil Queen Jezebel was actually the daughter of the King of Sidon, a region in which the village of Zarephath was located. Elijah announced to Ahab that a drought which would last three years was now beginning by the hand of God. To escape the sinful and murderous King Ahab, God sent Elijah into the wilderness area east of the Jordan River in the present land of Jordan, a place where Ahab and his minions would not discover Elijah. He received his water from the Brook Cherith and his bread and meat from ravens, guided by God to feed Elijah. Ironically, displaying God’s power, ravens were known to naturally even avoid feeding their young. This the ravens did, however, for Elijah twice a day until the brook dried up from the continuing drought.
Then God sent him across the land to the Mediterranean Sea coast to a village in Sidon where he was to find a poor widow and her son. This widow was in desperate straits to survive the drought. She was down to just a handful of flour and tiny amount of oil to cook bread for herself and child and then wait to die. But, apparently, she was a woman of some faith though we do not even know her name. She said, “As the Lord lives,” to Elijah, which could be just a common saying, or a statement of some faith. In any case, despite her extreme condition because of the drought, she was apparently willing to accede to Elijah’s request to feed him first with the little flour and oil she had, which may have taken what she had left for her son and herself; all this on the strength of believing Elijah’s word from God that the flour and oil would not be fully expended, but would remain for all the days of the remaining drought. What fairytale madness was this? But the word of God through Elijah was true. The flour and the oil never ceased to cover the bottom of their containers. God did not then provide an abundance to store up. He provided what was needed for a day. But daily provision would never fail. As it was used, what was used was replaced continuously. Use it, and God replaced it with just enough for the next meal. The grace for these meals was immediately answered with each succeeding grace.
We are not in such a state at PAYH that we are down to our last meal, but we are on the precipice of continued ministry survival. It is not a new place in which to be. It is the place we have been many times before, waiting on God for the next pay period and paying the next bill. God has called the PAYH to this ministry since 1961 and he has kept the flour jar and oil jug from going empty all these 55 years. There has never been an abundance to store up for a rainy day or a drought. In fact, there are always dry seasons in every year. But God has seen fit to keep the bills paid and the staff employed in every year for over half a century; nor has He given notice that our calling is finished and it is time to close the doors. Rather, He has called us to trust Him through faithful prayers and labor to continue until the task is complete, the rolls of believers are filled, and He appears with the blast of the trumpet.
Our “Elijah Provision” is what we ask God to keep on, keeping on. And so should you, as you pray for us, and as you continue in whatever task you know God has called you to do and complete. Elijah’s true story, as it says in 1 Corinthians 10, is for our encouragement, to continue believing God and counting on him to keep the flour and oil jars unempty, always with enough flour and oil to keep our witness to the gospel resonating, clear, true, and persuasive…until He comes! And so we pray, “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”


“Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, pilgrim though this barren land; I am weak, but thou art mighty; hold me with thy powerful hand; Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more, feed me till I want no more.”
(1st verse of William Williams hymn, “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah,” 1745)


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Apr 14, 2016

Living with a Sense of Wonder

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” – Psalm 8


G. K. Chesterton, writing about the essential sense of wonder in the way a person sees all the bits of life said, “He had often maintained that the main object in a man’s life was to see a thing as though he has never seen it before.” But alas, we often move through life as though we are seeing things ad nauseam, so often without thoughtful curiosity, that the wonder of it all is lost in a strange and myopic boredom with life’s “sameness” or “routine”; the grandeur of God’s creation, the awe of life itself is completely missing in the monotonous pattern of living with life’s presumed pressures pressing the joy out of being. Is this what the Creator God envisioned for His marvelously made creatures in the midst of a grand universe over which you have been blessed by Him with dominion?
The beauty of King David’s words in Psalm 8 are focused on one thing; the awe and wonder in our environment to elicit personal praise of the One responsible for it, a praise and thanksgiving that not only befits us, but blesses us. Life is so beset by sin and the miserable affects of the fall, that these evil stains too often take precedence over the wonder and awe with which we should see Creation and our life within it. Yet the Psalms continually are expressing in song the marvel of our created being within the setting of a universe beyond our wildest dreams. It is so immense and defying description that language cannot capture it in mere words. David may come as close as possible in the praises of Psalm 8.
But the way in which we can participate personally with David is to take the time to delight in the work of the designer and maker and give to Him unceasing praise for what we observe and in which we can find great pleasure and joy; even to delight in a daisy, butterfly, robin, or fellow human being. Unfortunately, we are often drawn away from His handiwork to find pleasure in the deceptive substitutes of the evil one. Such eventually turn to filthy rags, while the genuine sources of wonder in the work of His hands is kept from sight, from a curious awe, and from the sheer delight which produces pure joy in the soul.
Such is the nature of sin; it destroys the wonder and awe with which you find great pleasure in the character and creative artistry of your Heavenly Father and His Son, who made all things. How much of your life must pass or go unrewarded before you find the wonder and awe with which to see what is always all around you? A world in which He has given you the capacity to wonder, delight in, perceive in awe, and give Him thanks. He is not keeping you from it! You are! Your sin steals the perspective with which you can see, truly see, the Creation in which He has placed you, your neighbor with whom to share it, your own company to revel in what you see, and think, conversing privately or publicly with Him.
Seek to see a tree today like you are seeing it for the first time, or another person, even a familiar friend, like you are seeing them for the first time. Wonder at the wonders of life with which your Father and your Redeemer have perfectly planned for your pleasure. Thanking Him will extol your own character and bring blessing where blessing is sorely needed.


“All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, he made their glowing colors, he made their tiny wings…He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell, how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well. All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.”
(1st and 5th verse of Cecil Alexander’s hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” 1848)


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Apr 07, 2016

Consider the Consequences: Judge Verda Colvin


Paul Anderson Youth Home has worked with thousands of young men who may have made very different decisions if they had a few minutes with Judge Colvin.
We support and applaud the outreach of Bibb County Sheriff’s Department and the “Consider the Consequences, an early intervention program designed to show children and teens the possible consequences of their actions.  It was created in 2015 to encourage youths to foster positive behavior and provide tools to them to achieve goals. It also serves as a resource for parents to develop disciplinary techniques.
 


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Apr 07, 2016

Riches the Reward of Humility

“Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.” – Proverbs 22:4


To think one will become rich by living humbly never enters the mind of one who truly is. They have no thought of riches and honor as the earned reward for humility. They are humble out of a profound sense of their own poverty. Yet the wisdom of Solomon states the wages of humility are riches, honor, and life.

I recently attended the awards ceremony as a guest for 13 new inductees of the Horatio Alger Association. There have only been 608 members inducted since its formation 69 years ago. 300 members still live. An average of 10 are inducted each year and an average of 10 die each year. New members are always of advanced age, so they are never members for a life-time.

The three days of the awards events are spectacular, planned to perfection, and truly inspiring for those in attendance: members, their guests, and the high school seniors who earn Horatio Alger scholarships that year; all of which are quite generous, and offered to winning applicants who have overcome significant adversity already in their young lives. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has presented the awards to the new members for the past 24 years in the court room of the Supreme Court. Tom Selleck and Lou Dobbs, both members, have been the masters of the award ceremony and formal dinner the following evening since the 90’s. But one of the remarkable traits of the new members who are chosen for their character, for overcoming adversity, rising from nothing and becoming truly successful, often to great wealth, is the genuine sense you get in listening to them; they are normally people of humility.

But despite the fact they are both relatively humble and also have become wealthy, are these the riches and honor of which King Solomon speaks as being the wages of humility? The Gospel of Matthew expresses the nature of true “treasure”; “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys or thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Is there a conundrum here? Is money-wealth truly a reward for a humble spirit? Or does wise Solomon have something completely different in mind?

When the author of Proverbs speaks of riches is it always or even ever referring to money-wealth, at least in this context, as wages for humility? Or is he referring to true riches; riches of the soul, of the spirit, riches which do not pass away, riches which remain throughout eternity? A rich man or woman, as many of the Horatio Alger Association Members, may be truly humble, but his or her money-wealth is incidental to genuine humility. Humility adorns the character of godly individuals whether rich or poor. In any case, a godly person will never live in abject poverty, seeing God’s promise that He will not allow His children to go begging bread; the promise is never for money-wealth for everyone of His children. In fact, Jesus said, it is harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The truly humble person will be rich in spiritual matters, luxuriating in peace with God, confident in the prospect of eternal reward; and, recognizing and appreciating those “riches” as coming to them personally from God’s hand. They consider themselves as mightily blessed beyond all deserving. These are the riches, honor, and life which are the wages of humility in the fear of God. Corruptible treasures are not comparable objectives of one who consistently fears the Lord; who being humble, never thinks he is. He has a poverty of spirit which eschews any permanently distracting yearning for money-wealth. It is enough; he is content with whatever God does or does not provide.

His treasure resides in being right with God and loving his neighbor as himself. His humility follows the example and attitude of Jesus’ mother, Mary, “Be it unto me according to your Word.” He walks in the wisdom of Micah 6:8: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” It is enough. It is his total satisfaction. It is the reward of humility.


“Hidden in the hollow of his blessed hand, never foe can follow, never traitor stand; not a surge of worry, not a shade of care, not a blast of hurry, touch the spirit there. Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest, finding as he promised perfect peace and rest.”

(3rd verse of Francis Havergal’s hymn, “Like a River Glorious,” 1874)


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