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The climb
Jan 26, 2017

The Path I Take

“Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path” – Psalms 119:105


We were climbing a 14,000-foot peak in Colorado with a large group of teenagers participating in a Christian Youth Leadership Conference. A smaller group of 15 or 20 had for some reason fallen behind the main group of hikers. The young staff person with them decided to take a shortcut to catch up, so he led them off the trail in what he thought was the way a crow would fly to cut off the separating distance. He thought, if we just hike over this ridge we can go down the other side and meet up with them. But, after going up the heavily forested ridge and down the other side, the main group was nowhere in sight. No problem, he thought, we just need to go over one more ridge.
Now these Colorado mountain ridges were no small feat to hike. They were steep and rugged. So after the second ridge which took some time and great effort, there was still no sign of the main group. Must be just one more, he thought. Well, after 3 more ridges, this smaller group of young people and their lost leader did not get back to camp until long after dinner, and did not even get to the top of the 14,000-foot peak. The main group not only summited, but were all back in plenty of time for dinner. The stragglers came in late, completely bushed, and never came close to the main route to the top of the peak. What appeared to be a shortcut turned out to be a mighty, fatiguing, and most difficult fool’s errand!
It is easy to get lost in the wilderness. What seems to be a good route to your goal may turn out to not even be close. This is why many get totally confused by going off the known route by even a bit. And, getting lost can turn out to be dangerous to your life. Since weather in the Rockies can turn on a dime, getting lost can be lethal, not to mention stumbling onto treacherous cliffs. It is always best, if you do not know the mountains where you are hiking, to at least have a guide who knows, or be able to read a map and compass quite well.
Life, metaphorically, follows a path through mountains. Your life may well be lived within the confines of civilization, but it contains the pitfalls of wilderness. Not every path is smooth, straight, or clear to follow. It is necessary to safely traverse wilderness if you must and always know where you’re going. But, in fact, you do not; since you haven’t yet lived all your days. You must have a guide who knows what he is about. The Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 1:8) is One who does; in fact, there is no other. As Job anciently wrote, he is a mediator, who “lays his hand on us both,” both God and man, eternal and created. There is no other guide who can work. He knows the way that you take. In the Psalms, King David said of him, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path,” Psalm 119:105. David wrote out of experience, guided by the Spirit.
How comforting is it in the midst of traumatic wilderness, which life is, to suggest you simply read a book? Such instruction may not immediately calm your fears or answer your questions. It may at first seem woefully insufficient. How will reading the book of Micah, for example, tell you what decisions to make today in the twentieth century? Will reading the Word put food on the table? Will it heal an impending divorce? Will it tell you how to live tomorrow?
When you consider this, you must ask, has this really worked for others? Has it been the all-sufficient answer for which you seek? How long have people been reading his Word to find life-solutions? It is simply eye-opening to search out first-person testimony of believers and seekers who conscientiously read God’s Word. Look down through the many centuries and find too-numerous-to-count-saints who, no different than the way you would do it today, read, meditated, and prayed through his Word. It has been done over and over, month in and month out. If you are a regular reader of the Word, you join an illustrious cloud of witnesses through the ages. Not one has ever starved, not one has ever failed to find the One they were seeking.
Psalm 1 speaks of the preeminent success of the life of the person who delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates on it day and night. It contrasts his/her life with the one who neither delights in the Word of God, nor even thinks about it. It does not enter their mind. The nature of his or her life is one amounting to so very little, no different than dry chaff blown away in the wind. Nothing lasting, nothing foundational, nothing putting down any roots by springs of water, nothing even worthy of someone’s memory. There are too many such lives. The answer of those lives are, as Dylan sings, merely “blowing in the wind.” Truly, truly sad!
On the other hand, the reader and delighter in God’s Word, produces a fruitful, inextinguishable life; prospering, permanent, eternal. You cannot imagine a more blessed life, nor one with greater hope for eternity. Read the Word!


“That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.”
(4th verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” 1529)


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Jan 19, 2017

God Is?

“Come let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extoll him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” – Psalm 95:1-7


“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”; so harangues Richard Dawkins, the crusty old atheist hater of God. One wonders if we will hear this quote again, recited aloud at the Great White Throne Judgment of Almighty God, or if it will be buried in the depths of the sea with the other sins of an unlikely, lately redeemed Dawkins, because the Spirit of God finally brings him to fall on his knees and cry out for God’s mercy and forgiveness. If this never happens, he will experience an eternity of utter misery. But Dawkins is not so heinously evil that he cannot receive mercy upon the very moment of miraculous belief in the Lamb who was slain.
Megalomania is certainly an apt description for anyone as a mere man who commands such worship and adoration as requested in the Bible. Dawkins’ great error is he equates the God of the Bible with a mere fellow creature like himself, since he is completely ignorant and in denial of the existence of any supernatural being like the one true Trinitarian God. The evidence for such a being is overwhelming, but Dawkins is a total fool who denies his existence. “The fool says in his heart, there is no God,” says the Psalmist (14:1).
Perhaps you have wondered why God in his word commands his people to give him such complete worship and adoration, that you are to hang on his every word, obey every request he makes. Isn’t this a bit much? Why should he be the complete center of attention, the one who receives all the adulation? Is this necessary? Will he miss anything if you do not? Well, no; God does not NEED any of it. He is in need of nothing! But you do! You desperately do. Your worship of him benefits you; it satisfies everything in you and about you; it fulfills who you are and who you were made to be. Without it you will be a miserable creature. This is why those who refuse to worship the One who made them continue to be miserable. This is the nature of hell: existing, but miserable.
The very nature of being a successful living creature is to be a lover of the One who gave you being. To deny and not live out your purpose for being is to be ever unsatisfied, unfulfilled, incomplete; always desiring and never able to be satisfied. There is no other alternate nature of what it means to be human. Even the animals and plants worship their Creator by doing what they were created to do. “The trees of the forest clap their hands (Isaiah 55:12).
You differ from the non-human creation in that sin is an element which clouds the thinking and perceptual vision of humans who were created in God’s image, something foreign to animals and plants. The only means of restoring clear thinking and accurate vision is faith; a belief that God is, and that he rewards those who seek him. Otherwise, you cannot see or believe what is true. You live under false illusions.
Yes, God is megalomaniacal if you believe he is no different than you, that he isn’t a God at all. If this is your thinking you will always live as a blind man “groping along the wall, feeling your way like people without eyes” (Isaiah 59:10). It is a terrible thing to go through your whole life with no ability to see clearly, or recognize truth; but this is exactly the state of so many. It produces the Richard Dawkins’ of the world or those who simply do not care enough to even articulate their unbelief except in the way they live, or utterly fail to live well.
The only real joy in life is found in the genuine pursuit of the God who made you and his Son who died that you might live. Understand what it is to see him rightly as the God who is, and all that entails. It changes your perspective on everything the Bible reveals of his being and character, and all his actions. It makes the charge of megalomania completely ludicrous. What is more it makes your humble submission to the providence of God the only sensible behavior you can wholeheartedly pursue; indeed, a behavior which will fully captivate your heart. God is love.


“Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail, in you do we trust, nor find you to fail; your mercies how tender, how firm to the end, our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend!”
(5th verse of Sir Robert Grant’s hymn, “O Worship the King,” 1833)


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Jan 18, 2017

Second Chances

HGTV’s “Fixer Upper is my favorite show on television right now. A husband and wife duo (Chip and Joanna Gaines) renovate homes and flip houses in and around Waco, Texas. In addition to his construction and realty responsibilities, Chip serves as the entertainment, constantly making jokes about his weight and doing something outlandish for the sake of a laugh (read: eating cockroaches). Joanna contributes the direction and creativity as she designs the layouts of the new homes, instructs Chip and the construction crew on how to proceed, and concludes the renovation process using her breathtaking interior design skills. Somehow, they manage to balance their three extremely successful businesses, their thriving marriage, their four growing children, their own ongoing renovation project at their idyllic farmhouse on Magnolia Farms, and even ever-multiplying farm animals. What these two accomplish throughout each episode is truly astonishing, taking what seem like hopeless houses and transforming them into jaw-dropping homes for their eager clients.
One particular episode got me thinking. In the first season, Chip and Joanna take on a true fixer upper for their friends Clint and Kelly Harp. Built in 1913, the five bedroom, three bathroom, two story project grabbed everyone’s attention, but not in a positive way. The outside of the house was decorated with bullet holes, a dilapidated screen door, and trash strewn across the yard. As the daring foursome entered the ominous house, they swiftly regretted it. The rancid stench forced them to hold their breath as they proceeded inside, where they found garbage lying everywhere, rotting ceilings and collapsing floors, graffiti-adorned walls, a rodent infestation, and dirty clothes, baskets, and various broken-down appliances. The house looked more like it needed to be condemned and demolished than renovated. With fear in her eyes, Joanna said it looked like a crime scene, while Chip joked that it would require more than just demolition – it needed an exorcism. Chip and Joanna lovingly named this house “The Pit.
The more I thought about it, the more I could relate to this nightmarish property. Much like “The Pit, my heart is a landfill of garbage, drowning in decay, rotting from the foundation, reeking of disappointment and disaster, seemingly helpless and hopeless. In fact, throughout the Bible my heart is described as desperately sick, impure, evil, wicked, wretched, immoral, hard, impenitent, foolish, deceitful, slanderous, and murderous. In short, there is nothing good in it. It would be easy to stop there, consumed with the destitution of my heart, just as it would have been easy to dismiss “The Pit for all its decay. However, beneath all the mold and rust, Chip and Joanna envisioned a second chance for this house.
While the recognition of our total depravity is critical, there is so much more beyond the wickedness that must not be ignored; there is mercy, grace, forgiveness, and then restoration. We can’t ignore the bad, but the bad makes the good even better. As Pastor Tim Keller puts it, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time, we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. The more we understand our destitution, the more beautiful Jesus and His saving grace will be to us. We will understand what a truly magnificent work He has done, both to rescue us from the relentless entanglement of sin and restore us through sanctification. Clint and Kelly’s new house would not have seemed so gorgeous if it had started out clean and in need of a few minor repairs. Because we know where it began, we can deeply appreciate the value of their restored and renovated home.
As you start 2017, maybe you need a second(or millionth, chance). The truth is that we all do. God is sanctifying us daily, but sanctification is a process, and we remain sinful. In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul laments, “I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing. Maybe you have disregarded discipline and become lazy, or you are ungrateful and have made a habit of complaining. Perhaps you are living in sexual immorality and excusing it by telling yourself that God’s design for sex is outdated and no longer relevant. Maybe you are consumed with greed and allow yourself to steal small things when no one is looking. Perhaps you prioritize social media at the cost of your alone time with God or are impatient with your children and rude to your spouse. These things are not okay, but Jesus still loves you in spite of them. In fact, He loves you too much to simply let you remain in your sin. This is why He offers you second chances.
We have the great privilege of witnessing second chances every day at the Paul Anderson Youth Home. The young men who come to live with us have hit rock bottom; they have estranged their families, hurt their friends, and turned their backs on God. Their lives are characterized by selfishness, destruction, and failure. Many of them are in trouble with the law and facing a life of incarceration, unemployment, and a cycle of unhealthy family patterns. When they arrive at the PAYH, they are given the opportunity to start fresh. We know where they have been, and work to help them turn their lives around through, wiser decisions, healthier habits, and changed hearts. We strive to demonstrate love, forgiveness, and grace to them, just as we have been shown these things by our merciful Savior. We see potential in our troubled young men because we know the Lord saw a redemptive future for us while we were still enslaved in our sins. There is hope for restoration beyond the addiction, deceit, betrayal, and hurt that our boys bear when they arrive on our doorstep. Jesus is greater than it all, and His love knows no bounds. Romans 8 says that nothing in creation can separate us from God’s love; that includes the most heinous crimes, unspeakable habits, and even the Harp’s deplorable pit!
This year, don’t get bogged down in your overwhelming sinfulness. Follow Paul’s example in Philippians 3 – “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Embrace the second chances God offers, and accept the new direction He provides for your life. Don’t look backward at your mistakes or who you used to be; go forward in confidence as the new creature He has made you!
Emma Payne
Emma Payne Signature.png
 
Advancement Associate
Paul Anderson Youth Home
 


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Jan 12, 2017

Thank You for your Support


Due to the Lord’s provision through your generosity, we finished 2016 in the black and are poised to begin 2017 with strength and purpose.  We couldn’t have done it without you.  Thank you for being a part of this ministry!


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Jan 12, 2017

Predicting a Dire New Year

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail, and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.” – Habakkuk 3:17-19


If you follow economic experts who attempt to discern the tea leaves of the future of the US and global economy, you cannot be a completely happy camper. They mostly agree that in 2017 we are headed for a bigger economic bubble-burst than hit the world and especially the US in ’07 and ’08. It is yet to be seen if a new administration can divert it. 

The political partisans who lost the recent election, sourly predict disaster under this new President. Many celebrities in that light previously and vehemently announced their impending departure from the US upon the “unlikely” event of a surprise victory. Absolutely none of them have kept their promise; not unusual for this particular class of characters. If you believe even some of these “expert” prognosticators, however, 2017 will not be a terribly successful year. Rather, the forecast is dire. So what do these predictions do for your own outlook going into a new year?

The diminishment or loss of hope can adversely impact psychological health as you go about your daily responsibilities. If feelings about the future are under a cloud, it impacts your attitude about most everything in life; relationships, family, job, dreams, plans, work, even faith. Faith will be tested; hope, perhaps, even crippled. But do these predictions really take root in your thinking; do they impact your faith? To be honest, you have to say you wrestle with it. It is something which can take a toll on you. The question is this: is your faith able to rise above the fray?

It is what this expression of faith is all about in Habakkuk 3. The situation can appear hopeless, the pantry be empty, the job disappear, cancer arise, house burn, spouse or child become deathly sick, but……..the joy of the Lord in the midst of dire reality will be your strength. It is not only possible, it is real. 

Our hope we are told in the Psalms does not rest “in the strength of the horse or the legs of a man,” it rests and finds true “strength in the fear of the Lord” and a persevering “hope in His unfailing love.” Everything from the world’s perspective can be going to pot, but faith in a faithful God rises above the treachery of failure and the dire predicament of the world’s sinking affairs; it places your feet on the Rock! “He makes me tread on my high places.” Your footing will be as sure as “the feet of a deer,” in the lethal danger of walking through mine fields. 

2017 is certainly unknown. It is venturing into the mystery of tomorrow where no one except God controls what it brings. Often in life “Murphy’s Law” seems to ring true; if anything can go wrong, it will. Perhaps we can cope with the inconsequential, irritating things, but how do we deal with “the floods?” (“The swelling of the Jordan.”) 

This is the reality of life as we know it, so why not put your trust in the hands of the One who truly holds the future. When dire predictions come to fruition there is not much more important to do than survive. But survive how? In bitterness? In whining victimhood? In inconsolable pain? In a weary giving up? Or, by discovering in God a surprising joy, which can “laugh” at the circumstances, and finds refreshment and encouragement in His promises. 

 The Habakkuk promise is a faithful buffer against bad news, against dire predictions, because anything which is thrown against your present and future to darken your hopes and dissuade your faith is far overcome by the loving and merciful God in whom you trust in this life. He will never disappoint. Trust His promise while obeying His commands. Come on 2017! I am ready.


“Therefore, my trust is in the Lord, and not in my own merit; on him my soul shall rest, his Word upholds my fainting spirit: his promised mercy is my fort, my comfort and my sweet support; I wait for it with patience.”

(3rd verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “From Depths of Woe I Raise to Thee,” 1523)


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Jan 05, 2017

Epiphany Remembered

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshipped him.” – Matthew 2:10-11


It was first celebrated, even before December 25th was, as early as the late second century. Epiphany, January 6th, has been acknowledged in the church for 18 centuries, at least as the day celebrating the coming of the Magi to the very side of our incarnate Savior and King of Kings, and also as a day acknowledging Jesus’ baptism, the beginning of his public ministry in the world. Tomorrow is this day called Epiphany since at least 200 AD (by Clement), and in the Eastern Church still celebrated as Christmas.
Commercially, in America, the Christmas season now begins even before Thanksgiving to lengthen the-buying-of-gifts-season. Separating the commercial from spiritual worship and remembrance is a peculiar discipline of the individual Christian, together with his fellow Christians. Eschewing the meaningful worship of the Christ-child because of the gaudy commercialization of Christmas is literally “throwing the baby out with the bath-water.” Sanctifying worship of the Advent of our Lord and Savior can still be enjoyed through personal discipline, and not be blotted out by the secularism and craziness of a pagan world. It is wittingly or unwittingly the purpose of pagan revelry to ignore and even denigrate the spiritual meaningfulness of sacred celebration and worship, whether at Advent/Christmas, or Lent, or Holy Week, or Easter. The birth and resurrection of our personal Savior and King is a source of great joy and spiritual refreshment to every believer. Do not allow the unbelieving world to take it away from you!
The account of the coming of the Magi, along with the other recorded events in the life of our Lord, were not written down in Scripture to be forgotten in the future life of believers through the centuries leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus. They were written to keep our fallible memory fresh and our devotion sure as we wait for the coming of our King from heaven. It was not necessary for our remembrance of the accounts of the shepherds or the Magi to be repeated in each Gospel. It was sufficient to have it recorded once in separate Gospels.
The journey of the Magi from a far distance out of a Gentile world, to recognize the Savior of the whole world, a light to all the nations, to people of every tribe, language, and culture, is a prophesied event whose fulfillment testifies to the truth of the Scriptures. It solidifies your belief in the Spirit-breathed truth of revelation to your mind and heart of exactly who Jesus is and what his Gospel means to you. These Magi came seeking a King; they found him and they worshipped him; and they will be united to him as their Savior and Lord for eternity.
Only a few would have the privilege of personally coming to his infant side, or a much larger crowd to the foot of his cross, or, again, a much smaller family of believers to see the empty tomb and later place their fingers in the wounds of his side and hands and feet, over 500 eyewitnesses according to the Apostle Paul, or see him ascend into heaven, but they are the personal representatives of you, as though you were there as well. The accounts of Spirit-breathed Scripture take you there as your faith encompasses these events. Real to you, loved in your heart, grasped by your mind, never to be forgotten! Your faith can take you to the manger, to the house in Bethlehem, to the temple in Jerusalem, to Calvary, to the empty tomb, to the mountain of his ascension. But you will also be present at his return, along with every believer! Faith is as mysterious as it is real. It can take you to the manger, to the cross, to the empty tomb; and it will ensure your presence at his glorious return.
Relish the actual event of Epiphany, of these Magi, wise, important men, coming on a months long, arduous journey, to worship their new born king. Picture being there tomorrow as your faith encounters the Matthew 2 historical description. And worship the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, your own Savior from your sin, and your Redeemer for eternity. Your arms will one day actually hug him!


“Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain, Gold I bring to crown Him again, King forever, ceasing never, over us all to reign. O star of wonder, star of night, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
(2nd verse of John Henry Hopkins Jr.’s hymn, “We Three Kings,” 1857)


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