Payh Blog
Dec 29, 2016

The Days Immediately After Christmas

“This is how the birth of Jesus came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:18-21

So much to get done. A baby just born, lodging to be immediately acquired, work for Joseph to earn wages for food, clothing, and home; yes, so much to do. They had borrowed an animal stable in their emergency in which to give birth. The poor shepherds had come to worship, but they had no means to give gifts. The unexpected Magi with their then unknown valuable gifts would not arrive for months. 

The circumcision of Jesus must take place within a week, either by Joseph or a mohel. Then the baby would receive his name, already given to mother and father by angelic messengers from heaven. The time of the purification of Mary in the Temple in Jerusalem was yet a month off. Simeon and Anna still had no idea of their Lord’s visit to the Temple soon to take place.

We are not aware of the resources available to Joseph, only that they were a poor couple. They did have all the resources of heaven behind them, but they had no experience in what this entailed. They were aware of the interest of God and heaven in their child, just not sure at this point what all that meant. The pregnancy and birth of a child to Mary, still a virgin, was a complete mystery to them both. They could only go with the flow of what had been supernaturally visited upon them.

They knew they were on a continuous adventure filled with mystery. Mary, particularly, was struck with wonder as she pondered these strange events in her heart. Joseph was filled with a sense of responsibility to provide for and protect his wife and baby; he had her character to guard as well, for only he and she knew there was no immorality involved in her pregnancy before marriage to Joseph. The trek to Bethlehem for census-registration had removed them from the gossip of small town Nazareth. And this concern likely kept them in Bethlehem for the time being. They were on a course pretty much out of their hands. One day at a time was their only approach.

In all reality, this is exactly yours as well. You have no idea what tomorrow may bring. You are in the hands and plans of a Sovereign God. We may make our plans, but the outcome is the Lord’s. My wife and I were reminded of this again just this last week as we headed out for an out of town doctor appointment. At the first intersection from our home we were broadsided by a car running a red light. Our lives were preserved by driving a big heavy car, the seat belts, and airbags; and, of course, God’s perfect plan for us. 

We learn from this recorded account of Joseph and Mary that we must fully rest in the providence and care of our Heavenly Father for all circumstances of our life here and in the courts of heaven, where we may be ushered at any moment. It would be well for us to follow Mary’s example in pondering God’s ever present concern and care for our lives; to imitate Mary’s faith, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.” 

This is a powerful lesson for you of how to live a life of faith, which is the calling of all who claim to be a disciple of Jesus. You are now in the immediate days after Christmas. How will you live out the days of your life going into a new year? It needs to be a life of faith patterned after Mary’s and Joseph’s example: “Be it unto me according to your word.” They are truly your sister and brother in the Lord. Follow their example.

“Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by, we shall see him, but in heaven, set at God’s right hand on high; when like stars his children crowned all in white shall wait around.”

(5th verse of Cecil Francis Alexander’s hymn, “Once in Royal David’s City,” 1848)

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Dec 22, 2016

Christmas Then and Christmas Now

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, And folks dressed up like Eskimos, conjures up a familiar picture of Christmas celebration and family traditions, whatever yours may be. In a few days many of you will be sitting around a Christmas tree exchanging gifts, observing delight on the faces of those you love, smelling the aromas from the kitchen. But consider how contrasts heighten the enjoyment of most pleasures. Sitting before a warm, crackling fire in your favorite chair seems more inviting when its snowing outside. Hot spiced cider, a good cup of coffee, a warm fire are all the more pleasurable on a cold day. When you are hungry, eating is a greater joy. When you know pain, relief or painlessness is a treasure. And when you are alone and lonely, company warms the heart.
The first Christmas is quite a contrast to the Christmases most of us experience today. We have romanticized the true Nativity story passed down to us in the Bible so that we do not readily think of the pain and discomfort Mary and Joseph endured. What we do know is that the circumstances were dire and severe. The birth was not in the comfort of a home, but in some form of a dirty stable vulnerable to the elements, manure, mice and insects. Young Mary did not have the comforts normally accorded to most mothers giving birth; nor for her first birth, the assistance of her mother. She had Joseph, but this was his first experience as a father. They were not people of means. There is no doubt Jesus was born in the humblest of circumstances.
Meditating on the reality of it, contrasting it to our own blessings this Christmas, should bring the warmth of thanksgiving for what God has done for us in this supreme act of love. We would not have what we enjoy this Christmas without the love God conveyed to us in that stable on the first Christmas night. The contrast ought to make our love for Him even greater. But then so should our contrasting our bondage in sin to the freedom of the children of God, our life apart from His love to basking in the light of our Father’s smiling countenance, a Christ-less eternity to “well done, good and faithful servant. The contrasts are of infinite proportion.
We who know the righteousness of Christ, begun in the poverty of a stable when He took on flesh to become our eternal brother, redeemer, friend, and mediator, are blessed this Christmas beyond measure. The poverty, but nevertheless, glory, of that first Christmas, warms our hearts and is our joy.
Merry Christmas!

“Born Thy people to deliver, born a child, and yet a King. Born to reign in us forever, now Thy gracious kingdom bring.  By Thine own eternal Spirit rule in all our hearts alone;”¨ by Thine own sufficient merit, raise us to Thy glorious throne.”

(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” 1744)

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Dec 20, 2016

Still, Small Voice

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9  

As we mentioned last week, 2016 did not go as planned for many people. While God gives us freedom to make our own plans and pursue our own desires, our freedom does not negate or override His sovereignty.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13 

In His sovereignty, God first lovingly moves us through a “still, small voice toward His plans and purposes, which often don’t align with our own.  When we obey, He blesses us; if not, He often uses other measures to compel us, including trials, testing, and even storms that threaten to sink our ships and large fish that swallow us whole. 

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  And let patience have its perfect work, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  – James 1:2-4

The purpose of these trials is to keep our hearts turned toward God in faith, trusting Him to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

The Christian life is not complicated.  Since the creation of the universe, God has sought men and women who will simply listen to His voice and obey.  To each of Jesus’ 12 disciples He simply said “Come, follow me, and they heard His voice and obeyed.

Only by listening to His voice can we know what He expects of our time, talents, and resources. 

Over the past year, we have seen a few trials, but they have served to strengthen us and to keep our hearts turned toward Him and our ears attentive to His “still small voice. Whether you are in the midst of a trial, on top of the world, or somewhere in between, we pray that the Lord will bless and be with you as you celebrate this Christmas season, and that somewhere in the hectic schedule that often dominates our lives during this time of year, you will find the time to “be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

May His still, small voice lead and comfort you.

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Dec 15, 2016

The Glory of Endurance

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

Recent surveys by Pew Research and Lifeway Research revealed some disturbing findings. 67% of Americans agreed that when a person is facing a painful terminal illness, it is morally acceptable to seek the aid of a physician in ending your life. 59% of Christians surveyed agreed, as well as 38% of those who claimed to be evangelical. How accurate these findings are is a matter of some conjecture, but they do potentially show a definite ignorance and/or denial of what the Bible has to say about God’s purposes in allowing suffering and the endurance of it in every believer. 

The beneficial lessons of waiting, what celebrating this season of Advent is really about, are increased in difficulty exponentially when pain and suffering are added to the equation. To wait while experiencing pain is a suffering requiring patient endurance, something intended by God as a crucible for righteous character-molding, developing trust and faith in His ultimate goodness. There are those faithful believers through the centuries who waited patiently throughout their generation in this world for the revealing of a redeemer, a mediator, a Messiah. God always retains His faithful remnant. Unfortunately, there were so many more who continually fell away from obedience to the one true God. The history of Israel is of a continually rebellious people who must be restored to repentance over and over by a gracious God who forgives.

Advent remembers the waiting required, trusting in the many promises of a redeemer to come, as Job of old who said, “I know that my redeemer lives,” with His equally firm belief that, “In my flesh my eyes shall see him!” It traces the red thread of redemption from Eden to Bethlehem to the cross, when suddenly the Lord, the messenger of the covenant, comes just as promised. And today our “beneficial waiting” looks for the promised return of our Living Lord from heaven. The celebration of Advent looks back with rejoicing, and it looks forward with eager expectation to His coming again. The exhortation of Titus should daily penetrate your consciousness, “The grace of God has appeared…training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

This is good reason for using an Advent Calendar throughout the days of Advent, using a different OT prophecy each day proclaiming the coming of Messiah, His star, His birthplace, those who would come to welcome him, His defeat of the evil one, His redemption of his own. This is a beneficial waiting, a good reminder, a good exhortation to wait patiently and expectantly for His future return. But this is also a celebration of Advent which encourages a patient waiting in the midst of suffering, because the glory that will be revealed Jesus tells you, far surpasses any of your present suffering. After all, he endured life-long opposition and the suffering and shame of the cross for the glory before him; so, he says, can you.

Do not short-circuit what God will give you, the strength to overcome in and through His Son, by taking your own life to escape what he wants to accomplish in you. Suicide is a real failure of faith. It is complicated, I know. We are chemical creatures. Chemistries can get out of whack. But the promises of God can overcome the chemistry in our bodies. It requires staying near God above all other relationships. This is your most serious life pursuit. It is always a life and death issue. If only we would recognize the grave seriousness of our relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All else is truly trivial in the light of the Savior. Advent is all about him. And your celebration of Advent is all about your remembrance and pursuit of him, whom to know is life eternal!

“Come to earth to taste our sadness, he whose glories knew no end; by His life he brings us gladness, our Redeemer, Shepherd, Friend. leaving riches without number, born within a cattle stall, this the everlasting wonder, Christ was born the Lord of all.”

(3rd verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus, 1744)

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Dec 14, 2016

Purposeful Disappointments

2016. What a year! For me, it held the birth of my first child, learning how to balance motherhood, marriage, and work, the death of two grandparents, wrestling with loneliness away from my family and friends, excitement and gratitude over new friendships, lots of traveling with my husband and working on the road, very little sleep, and, let’s be honest, a TON of coffee. On a larger scale, 2016 brought the devastation of numerous earthquakes and hurricanes across the world, the spread of the Zika virus, terrorist attacks, the Summer Olympics in Brazil, a heated US presidential election, 135,858,636 births, and 56,893,923 deaths.
Every year, December naturally ushers in a season of reflection. The Thanksgiving leftovers are finally gone, the Christmas trees are being undressed, your extended family has gone back home, and you are frantically attempting to remember what New Year’s resolutions you made last January 1 to evaluate what kind of last minute work you need to accomplish. Maybe you can lose that 5 pounds if you run two times every day until New Year’s Day. Did you say you would read six new books this year? You definitely meant two. Okay, now you’re ready to find the courage to ask your boss for that raise. Maybe this past year was everything you dreamed of, but what if 2016 didn’t turn out like you’d hoped it would? If 2016 was a year of disappointment, unmet expectations, or devastating loss and pain for you, take heart in this truth: God is still sovereign.
Sovereignty is defined as “supreme power or authority. When we say that God is sovereign, we are referring to the Biblical teaching that all things are under God’s rule and control, and that nothing happens without His direction or permission. God is sovereign over His creation, the affairs of man, and our salvation, sanctification, and glorification; nothing and no one can thwart His sovereign plans. The gravity of this knowledge can feel heavy as you grasp the ramifications: In addition to the blessings and favor He shows you, God allows and even orchestrates the disappointments and tragedies in your life.
The Bible teaches us that God is good, faithful, loving, and merciful. He orchestrates each of our lives through the lens of these characteristics as well. But how is the tragedy that He allows good? 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. The purity of your faith is more important to God than your comfort, the achievement of your dreams, your avoidance of tragedy, or the weight of your wallet. This makes sense, of course, because our faith affects our eternity, unlike our earthly circumstances. When gold passes through fire, the impurities are burned, leaving the gold refined and shining more brightly. Pastor John Piper believes that this “praise, glory, and honor mentioned in 1 Peter 1 is yours, and not God’s. Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:21). God praises your still imperfect faith, and that moment is more valuable to Him than your comfort or even your life.
So, how do you respond if you look back at 2016 and see nothing but failure, shattered dreams, broken relationships, and disappointments? You pray for a spirit of thankfulness. It seems counterintuitive to be thankful for the things we perceive as negative, but we must remind ourselves that God is working for our good. As He refines our faith, He molds us to look more like Him, He encourages us, and He uses us for His glory. Everything He does in our lives is done in love. These are things to be thankful for! Without fire, the gold will never shine as brightly. Even when we don’t always understand why things happen the way they do, we can rest in the knowledge that we will be okay because God is in control, and He is good. Now, “okay may look different than we expect. “Okay may mean that you still have cancer, or that your husband still loses his job. But, according to Romans 8, we know that “God works for the good of those who love Him.
Sometimes talking about the sovereignty of God can make Him feel distant or maybe just too big to be concerned with our problems. Do not let Satan convince you of this lie! God is close: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). God is in your midst and rejoicing over you: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Nothing can separate you from God’s love: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39). Write these truths down around your house, recite them every morning, put them to melodies and sing them throughout the day – whatever you need to do to combat Satan’s deception and discouragement.
As we prepare to ring in the new year, remember who is in control. There is nothing wrong with New Year’s resolutions and setting expectations for the future, but we must not think too highly of our own wills. If 2017 unfolds exactly how you want it to, praise God. And if it blows up in your face, praise God. He can see the bigger picture in it all, and we must trust Him, regardless of our circumstances. Embrace the refining process when your faith is tested and rejoice in His perfect plan for you!
Emma Payne
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Advancement Associate
Paul Anderson Youth Home

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Dec 08, 2016

Waiting is Not Often Easy

“I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his Word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” – Psalm 130:5-6

Hey, hurry it up, will you? Few of us are pragmatically patient. Clogged traffic, when you must get somewhere quick, wears thin. Waiting in a slow-moving shopping line, when you have lots more to be doing, is more than exasperating. Desiring information from a retail clerk, who is engaged in a seemingly trivial conversation with someone else, makes you want to scream. Waiting for your young son or daughter to do something you can do yourself five times faster stretches your patience to the limit, but it is a good thing. Waiting for the fulfillment of a seriously important life and death promise for your whole life may well cause you to lose all interest, even your faith, but this is something to which you must not succumb!
The Apostle Peter tells us, “Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” Well, that is not quite true. The Messiah, promised from the beginning of creation, suddenly “in the fullness of time” came, after the waiting for his arrival over centuries, millenniums. But remember Peter’s word in the same passage, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
God’s timing, the fulfillment of his certain promises, is, according to his own Sovereign plan, a filling up of the book of life of his elect. He will complete what he has begun. He will be satisfied in bringing to himself all for whom his Son died on the cross. Then, just as he promised, the end will come. Judgment will take place, and all enemies will be put under the feet of his son, the Lord Jesus. Death will forever be vanquished.
The meaning of this season of Advent is your fully appreciating what it was for so many to wait on the Lord, the coming of the promised Messiah. A faith which was rewarded with a unique babe laid in a manger, the coming of a Savior; this is the same faith which eagerly looks for his return, in majesty, power, and glory. Advent represents the celebration of patient waiting, and it represents sure faith in the trustworthiness of God’s promises. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his Word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” (Psalm 130)
The driving force in a life of patient and watchful waiting, even with an eagerness in your wait, is given you by Titus when he writes: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
This is THE theme of Advent, the first and the second Advent; a celebration of Jesus’ coming in the flesh, and now a looking forward to his promised return, coming on the clouds, when every eye will see him. You may not be on earth for his return, but you will be a participant in it. Some will mourn his coming (Revelation 1), but those who look with eagerness for his return, will welcome him with overflowing joy. Until then utilize the Advent season fully to increase your faith. He is coming soon; even so, come, Lord Jesus!

“Joy to those who long to see thee, Dayspring from on high, appear; come, thou promised Rod of Jesse, of thy birth we long to hear! O’er the hills the angels singing news, glad tidings of a birth: ‘Go to him, your praises bringing; Christ the Lord has come to earth.'”
(2nd verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” 1744)

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Dec 01, 2016


“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive the adoption as sons.” – Galatians 4:4-5

Elijah was a pretty lonely man at one time. He thought he was the only follower of the one true God left on the earth. All others in Israel had abandoned their God, the God who had made them a nation and a people. All, Elijah believed, had gone over to a false god, an idol made of created material elements; a non-thinking, non-seeing, non-hearing statue named Baal. But God knew better. He told Elijah there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal; a remnant kept by God of genuine worshippers of Himself. But Elijah’s loneliness was a reminder of the desire for something more in man’s relationship with the Sovereign God.

The fellowship enjoyed with God-in-the flesh far exceeds any other fellowship we have with God. It is why the Father sent His Son, wedded to our flesh for eternity, to redeem us. It is why Job yearned for a mediator between God and man who could lay His hand on us both (Job 9:23). Jesus is this mediator. Until He took on flesh and came to win our salvation, we were lonely for such a mediator. Job yearned for this, and he represents us in his holy desire.

This desire for a mediator between God and man, the dispelling of the loneliness created by His not having come, by His not being yet incarnate (in the flesh), makes His Advent so necessary, so desirable, so eagerly anticipated. This was the hope of centuries, of millenniums. Prophets throughout the centuries from the “protoevangelion” of Genesis 3:15 (first promise of the gospel) to the prophecy of Malachi (3:1), along with the announcement to Zechariah by an angel of God of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth. He would be the forerunner of Messiah. And up to the Annunciation by Gabriel to Mary of her choice by God to give birth to Jesus, His only begotten Son. It is a string of messianic prophecies over thousands of years.

Advent, when in the fullness of time in God’s calendar, arrived, penetrating centuries of darkness and loneliness that extended from the fellowship Adam and Eve enjoyed with their Creator in the Garden of Eden to the sudden coming of the Son of God in the flesh to a small animal shelter in the tiny town of Bethlehem of Judea. Of course, there were many who had walked intimately with God in the intervening centuries, talking and fellowshipping with him in spiritual reality. But the promise of an in-the-flesh Redeemer had not yet been fulfilled; the promise to our first parents of a Messiah, the seed of a virgin who would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15). This promise created a sense of hope in some mothers in Israel that their new son might possibly be the promised Messiah.

Advent is the fulfillment of this grand promise, of these prophecies through the ages past, that Messiah would suddenly appear in God’s timing. And suddenly appear He did. Only a handful were cognizant of it: Mary and Joseph, a group of shepherds (because of the angels’ announcement), Simeon and Anna, Magi from Persia. The celebration of Advent encompasses the prophetic history of waiting for the fulfillment and then celebrating the actual occurrence of the arrival of Messiah. Since his birth, death, resurrection, and ascension we live in the period of awaiting His Second Advent, the return of Messiah, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.

May your celebration again this year of Advent be your comfort and joy, and cause you to eagerly expect His return. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

 “Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art, dear Desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.”

(1st verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus,” 1744)

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