Payh Blog
Man sitting on a mountain
Dec 27, 2017

Waiting Is Not Natural, But It Is Godly

“Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 1 Corinthians 1:7


I am not a good waiter. I get irritated by bumper-to-bumper traffic. I hate waiting in long lines. I am always looking for a quicker way, some shortcut, some advantage to get where I am going or get what I am after quicker. Is this my fallen nature kicking in? Is there truly sanctification in patient and contented waiting?
The most excellent examples for us in the patience of waiting are these two first century saints: a man living in Jerusalem, Simeon, and a woman, apparently unrelated to him, though a sister in the Lord, Anna. We are told they were both waiting devotedly for the consolation and redemption of Israel, something they were convinced would come in God’s timing.
It is not that they were inactive in their waiting; it was a waiting of service to God and in the worship of Him, of devotion and of their own sanctification. Their minds and hearts were involved in the study of God’s Word and in the encouragement of others with whom they crossed paths.
But miraculously they were both in the temple, purposefully by God’s appointment, when Mary and Joseph brought their firstborn there for His consecration, as the Law instructed. It is of such consequence that the Scriptures under Luke’s writing alone records this encounter. This is the only place in Scripture where the names and activity of Simeon and Anna are written down. But they are universally recognized by Christians from then until now.
To those around who were willing to hear, their words and pronouncements were the most momentous of their lives, though they may have been unaware. To us who know and study the Scriptures, this was the event and verbal testimony which spotlighted the fulfillment of THE prophecy of all time, from man’s beginnings to the appearing of God made flesh; the start of a brief thirty-three years in the midst of all millenniums when your salvation actually came to be.
It marks its great significance that we are told of Simeon’s and Anna’s contribution and that we can see them as examples for us in waiting for Jesus’ return. You and I need to emulate the eager waiting of these two while we look for the appearing of Jesus our King. Advent is a time where we can be readily reminded. Celebrate His first coming; anticipate His coming again! Become a Simeon or an Anna in spotlighting Jesus’ return! I believe this is a reason for their story being told.
Waiting is made worthy and rewarding when you wait for the most important reason in your entire life and in the life of the world. Such waiting should be active in those things which marked Simeon’s and Anna’s long lives. In Simeon’s waiting you see a love and study of God’s Word, a knowledge which he shared with others. In Anna’s waiting you see a devotion for worship, a discipline to be near the heart of God through fasting and prayer.
But such waiting must never lose the eagerness with which they waited for the Savior’s return. Scripture encourages us to “eagerly await His coming. Are you so enmeshed in the vicissitudes of this world that you have lost, that you have even forgotten, the joy of His coming? Your eagerness and longing for His return should rise above all thoughts which misdirect your thinking and erroneously impact your attitude while living in this fallen world.
You need to acknowledge with them by the way you live your life Jesus’ own encouragement at the very end of His written Word: “Surely, I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!


“Lo! He comes with clouds descending, once for favored sinners slain; thousand thousand saints attending swell the triumph of his train. Alleluia! Alleluia! God appears on earth to reign.
(1st verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending, 1758)
 
 

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A white angel and four white Advent candles
Dec 20, 2017

God’s Vast Host: Angels

 
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!’ Luke 2:8-14


When they are visible to us, quite infrequently to say the least, they appear as men, as any other human would appear, though they are seemingly known almost immediately as an emissary of Almighty God. In the recent movie “Noah angels were depicted as other-worldly, large, supra-powerful entities. No evidence in the Bible supports such angelic appearances. They are described anthropomorphically for our benefit, for example, in Isaiah 6 with six wings, but perhaps only to reflect their speed, care, protection, and special characteristics to do God’s bidding. The laws in our dimension of existence do not restrict them as they restrict us.
The angels were created by Him. Some of them apparently fell through sin (rebellion) and were cast down from heaven, led by Satan (also known as Lucifer); these remain in a perpetually condemned state according to Scripture. The angels who remained obedient are emissaries of God who obediently do His will. They are primarily invisible to us, but a couple have been given names, Gabriel and Michael, and they have appeared or been made known to men, mostly through dreams. But to those like Zachariah, John the Baptist’s father, Mary, and the shepherds, Gabriel appears in person. Their appearance is just as real in dreams. Unnamed angels appeared as men to Abraham and Sarah, as well as Lot’s family, for example. The fallen angels follow their chief, Satan, and are participants in a cosmic battle against God, His heavenly host, and us to destroy the salvation of men and women if they could.
But angels are quite real as God’s Word relates their existence to us. Why are they? Why did God create them? Well, that remains with God and is as His Word declares. We know something about their purpose, however, in seeing how God directs those who were obedient and seeing how the others conspire against God and against us, as in the Book of Job. We learn about them when we get glimpses of angelic life in the Scriptures, both the angels and the devils.
We understand who our enemies are in passages like Ephesians 6 and why we require armor in defense against “powers and authorities in high places. We learn who these devils are and who the Devil is, as he presents himself in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. C.S. Lewis has brilliantly and Scripturally depicted the temptations and psychology of the Devil (Screwtape) and his demons in his book, The Screwtape Letters. Remember Satan charades himself as an “angel of light.
We also learn that obedient angels are a particular aid to us in our traversing the snares and pitfalls of this life. When our eyes are eventually opened to this whole world, we will know more about the angels’ interaction with us, performing for God on our behalf, or, in the case of Satan and his minions, trying to bring us down as they do Satan’s bidding. It is definitely a part of the world which is mostly a mystery to us. The eyes of faith are what opens the door to this entire world, the whole apple of life, so to speak, sort of akin to Martin Luther, who allegedly threw his inkwell at the Devil, splattering the ink on the wall. Or the Wise Men believing the angel who told them firmly not to go home through Herod’s Jerusalem.
C.S. Lewis writes that we men fall into a quandary over our belief in this other realm of existence, devils especially: We do not believe in them, denying their reality on one hand, or we are overly obsessed with them on the other. Neither should reflect your heart and mind. My wife has been known to express that “her guardian angel was doing splits to get her out of a particular jam. On the other hand, we all need to be more conscious of telling Satan to get behind us, even out loud, when we know he is actively shooting his darts at us. Do we all have an assigned “guardian angel? Scripture seems to allude clearly to something similar to this when Matthew 18:10 says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
It seems the shepherds outside Bethlehem to whom the angel announced the good news of Jesus’ birth were the sole audience of the most magnificent concert ever: God’s angel choral host singing, “Glory to God in the highest! Performed on the first Christmas Day! Complete with orchestra! Ok, I do not know that exactly from Scripture, but I imagine it, or the most beautiful a cappella performance ever. It is the pink “Angels’ Candle which is the last candle lit in the Advent Wreath, before the middle white “Christ Candle is lit on Christmas Day. The angels played a central and critical role in heralding the coming of the promised Son of God, who had been promised in response to the sin of our first parents in the Garden of Eden; God’s provision for that penalty of sin: death!
Angels and devils are real. They seriously impact your life. They aid or subvert you depending on if they are God’s or are followers of Satan. Your faith grasps their reality, or your lack of faith ignores or denies them. It is not wise to ignore or deny what God tells you is real. Know, study, and love His Word, and take up the whole armor of God to defend against the wiles of the Devil, and his demons. Angels were there at His birth, and so was the Devil and his cohorts, who could not through Herod destroy Him, though they tried. Jesus lives, and His angels are.


“Hark! the herald angels sing, ‘Glory to the newborn King; peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!’ Joyful, all ye nations, rise, join the triumph of the skies; with the angelic host proclaim, ‘Christ is born in Bethlehem!’
(1st verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, 1739)
 

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Live Christmas nativity scene reenacted in a medieval barn
Dec 13, 2017

The Mary For Whom Marys Are Named

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? Luke 1:26-31, 34


Mary is probably the most iconic person in the whole human race. No other person has as close a physical affinity to Jesus, fully man and fully God, than his mother, Mary. Spiritually, as well, the intimacy of motherhood draws her very close in a unique way to the Savior. As “theotokos, the mother of God, Mary’s humanity is not elevated beyond any other human being. She remains solely human; she does not partake of the nature of divinity which alone belongs to her Triune God. But she stands in a unique relationship to her Lord as His mother.
We do not have as complete or detailed a biography of Mary as we have of, say, Abraham, Moses, or David, or even New Testament Paul. However, we do have Scriptural glimpses into her life which tell us a lot about her. Mary was a very thoughtful person. We are told she pondered deeply the great things that impacted her unusual life. She was not professionally educated as the Apostle Paul, but her education, though informal, fully fit her for her calling as the Lord’s mother.
She was beyond her years in maturity, seen in her life response to Gabriel’s announcement and her handling of all the pressure and intrigue this remarkable announcement introduced into her life hereafter. Her knowledge of the Scriptures, seen in Mary’s Song, even though aided as we all are by the Holy Spirit, signifies a very devout young lady.
Though the cultural experts say Mary was a teenager, possibly even as young as 12 or 14, because young girls married at such an early age in the Palestine of that day, you cannot randomly cast Mary among the norm of marriageable maidens of her society. She was prepared and chosen by God, fitted with her character in maturity and thoughtfulness. She was not particularly pretty, nor was Joseph handsome, given the description of Jesus in Isaiah as a less than average looking or even unhandsome face. Maybe she was initially overlooked for marriage by the men of her generation. Perhaps Joseph did not pick a wife until he was much older than the marrying men of his time. He, for some reason such as older age, poor health, or accident, leaves this earthly scene before Jesus’ public ministry commences. And perhaps, when he did choose a wife, he chose someone who was not pretty but, nevertheless, of greater maturity, character, and devoutness than the typical maiden available.
I am not saying Mary was an old spinster when she married, for she had a full family with Joseph after Jesus, but I rather imagine she was in her late teens, even very early twenties, based on the maturity reflected in her response to the unusual events of her life. Her reaction to the shocking announcement of Gabriel, her knowledge of Scripture in her Song, and her seemingly mature character all suggest a greater period of formation than age 14 or even 16 allows in the normal course of such things. Mary may have had to care for her parents or help with her siblings from an early age, precluding earlier marriage; we actually know nothing about her family.
Mary was not among the average. You could say she was exceptional. She displayed this in her actions and words at the wedding in Cana at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. When women were not accorded as much opportunity for education, Mary found time to acquaint herself with God’s Word, and she displayed a devout nature marked by a love for worship of her Father God.
Unusually, Jesus committed her care after His crucifixion to the Apostle John rather than to one of her other children, and she went in her old age, according to tradition, with him to Ephesus after the destruction of Jerusalem. We do not know all the reasons John was selected by Jesus, but it may be that John by his younger age, or the foreknowledge of the future lives of her other children, was the best to care for her. We do not even know to what age Mary lived, but it must have been very old for her to move with John to Ephesus. Her knowledge of Jesus’ life on earth surpassed that of any other except His Father; and her thought life and pondering of all she knew about Jesus and their combined life events was more rich and full than any you can imagine.
Mary is and should be a major part of Advent devotions and worship. Her example of pondering and meditation on the truly important things of life should inspire you as you celebrate this Advent season. Mary’s life really touches every part of Jesus’ ministry and, therefore, every season of the Church Year. Her words in response to the momentous announcement from God through Gabriel, which would transform her life and the life of the whole world, say exactly what should be the confession from your own lips: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.


“Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.
(from Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary Did You Know? 1998)
 

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Angel of the Lord visited the shepherds
Dec 06, 2017

First Visitors

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


They say shepherds did not have a good reputation around the time of Jesus’ birth. Did they ever? Well, names of previous shepherds include Abraham, Moses, David, and in the Gospel of John and the Psalms, Jesus! A shepherd of men. Pretty good company, don’t you think? So, I do not buy the assertion of “cultural experts, that shepherds were generally untrustworthy – at least not all shepherds.
There were shepherds on a hillside between Jerusalem and Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. It is conjectured they were watching the herd of sheep that provided lambs for priestly sacrifices at the Temple in Jerusalem, even Passover lambs. This is probably accurate; our Passover Lamb was visited first by those who actually guarded Passover lambs.
The response of the shepherds to the announcing angel and the great angelic choir tells us something about these particular shepherds. They were obviously not your run-of-the-mill shepherds. They were probably poor, or at least relatively so, but there was definitely a devout spirit within them. They were, as all of us would be, very fearful at the extremely unusual experience, but they listened, and they responded to the message with earnestness. They believed what they heard. They acted obediently to what they were told. They went, and they found exactly what was described to them. It did not make them rich in worldly goods, but it made them rich in spirit.
They did not fall into silence. They told everyone they encountered of their experience. They spread the message purposefully. It did not turn the world on fire, but plenty of people had something to chew on. If they were believers who, like Anna and Simeon, were waiting for the ages-long promise to be fulfilled, they could give thanks. Or they could think upon what they heard and soon dispense with something that for them was mere hearsay. Their hearts were not expecting what just transpired, but the shepherds’ lives had to be dramatically transformed.
What became of these shepherds? Did they live throughout Jesus’ life on earth? Did they meet Him again when He was an adult and a public figure? Did any of them become some of His disciples? Were they privy to any of His miracles or times of preaching? The Sermon on the Mount? Were they at the crucifixion? Did they see the risen Christ? Were any a part of the upper room crowd prior to Pentecost? All possible. We are not told. It will be our joy to discover this as we become acquainted with the redeemed family of God in eternity.
Did the families of these shepherds come to faith? Did they produce generations of saints? I rather think that such a dramatic experience changed their lives for eternity, as it did the foreign wisemen from Gentile nation(s). We have so much to learn beyond the veil of death and resurrection. The Word of God provides many answers to our questions, but many, many more are saved to be answered in eternity for our lives and our fellowship in a new heaven and new earth.
But on this amazing, fairly quiet night, a few men were changed forever. They went on with their lives the next day, but things were never the same again. Jesus has such an effect on everyone He meets, even as a non-verbal infant. Most succumb to His majesty, to His glory, and to the truth of His divinity. They are secured in His person. They become a part of His forever family. I rather think this was the outcome of each of these blessed shepherds. They were invited to the feast. They came and they ate of the eternal bread and drink to never be hungry or thirsty in spirit again.
What is it to you to meet the King of Kings even in the state of an infant, which you most likely will not? Just to meet Him, be transformed by Him, be forever related to Him, never fearing separation? What is it to you? There is nothing greater in your whole existence than this! How incredibly blessed are you to know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, you in His chosen poverty might become rich as these poor shepherds did two millennia ago on that remarkable night when the Son of God entered our world as a man, a savior, a redeemer, and your brother. Praise be to God!


“The Son of God who framed the skies, now humbly in a manger lies; He, who the earth’s foundations laid, a helpless infant now is made.
The eternal and Almighty God assumes our feeble flesh and blood; He deigns with sinful man to dwell, is God with us, Immanuel.
Though rich, He poor on earth became that we might all His riches claim, and opened through Himself the way to everlasting day.
For us these wonders hath He wrought to show His love, surpassing thought; then let us all unite to sing, praise to our Savior, God, and King.
(Hymn by Horatio Bonar, “The Eternal and Almighty God, 1845)
 

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Glowing gift or present with beam light
Dec 05, 2017

The Only Gift That Matters

Paul Anderson Youth Home is here to provide transformational change for troubled young men and their families. To accomplish this, we focus on four priorities: planting God’s word in their lives and discipling them in His Word, providing a fully accredited college preparatory high school and vocational training, providing therapeutic counseling with a substance abuse component, and providing a transition program for young men reentering society
By pursuing these long-term, we are trusting God to build generations of strong families that will help transform our culture. We know that lives can only be transformed by the grace of God through faith in the sacrificial work of our Lord Jesus Christ – the gift of His son. We believe this leads to a ripple effect, touching their families, their future wives and children, and others for generations to come.
Every December I see many Christmas decorations and commercials and I am struck by what the world sees as “great Christmas gifts. Toys, video games, gadgets, electronics, jewelry, clothes, you name it… Gifts, gifts, gifts! The National Retail Federation estimates that the average American will spend $700 on Christmas gifts this year, totaling more than $465 billion.
All this focus on gifts misses the point. Christmas isn’t about an abundance of expensive gifts – Christmas is about a single priceless gift to all mankind. Over 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus, who came to the earth in human form to save sinful men from death and restore their relationships with Him.  It is the most priceless gift ever given throughout all of history.
But it doesn’t stop there; without the priceless gift of Jesus Christ, nothing we do will have eternal value, but because He sent His Son to save us, we have His message of good news to share. It’s a gift that changes lives for eternity. Instead of being separated from God, we will enjoy Him and praise Him forever. There is no greater gift we can receive than to be forgiven of our sins and be allowed to repent, leave the path to destruction, and walk the path that leads to life.
A changed life is priceless!


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