Payh Blog
Group of military soldiers standing in line at boot camp
Feb 27, 2018

War: Life Transformative

“Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:3-4


So what will it be like to return to the place where I fought a war half a century ago? This war had an enormous impact on my life and, unfortunately, my later health. Significant Agent Orange exposure used prolifically as a chemical defoliant to keep the “jungle breaks as bare as possible entered my system and did its damage over the years.
These jungle breaks were 100-yard-wide, 50-mile-long swaths through a fertile jungle to allow watching enemy movements. I lived and fought in these swaths, shaving using rain puddles, getting water for c-rations, and low crawling through them not knowing they were saturated with the powerful, untested on humans, defoliant.
25 years later, when the Air Force researchers said it would happen, I found out it had given me diabetes, a heart attack, and a stroke, which led to heart bypass surgery and eventually heart stents. I am the only one in my family to be inflicted with these ailments. In addition, it may have precipitated now upcoming para-esophageal surgery.
I also very nearly died in country in the midst of lethal combat as an Infantry Platoon Leader, and I may never have known those later health maladies without God, by His providence, literally bending bullets and shell fragments around my body rather than through it. The powerful impression I had had before going to Vietnam was that I would not return to the U.S. alive. I knew in advance the life expectancy of an Infantry Platoon Leader was the shortest of anyone in a fire fight. But God’s plans often surprise us and alter the outcome.
After being in Vietnam for over a year, returning to the U.S. alive was surely a transformative life event. I have still, a half century after, not plumbed the depths of the experience. It was surely a traumatic stress encounter. However, God was with me through the entirety. Of that, I was well aware!
I will visit the now deserted base which was the place from which we launched our operations, mostly into the Central Highlands of Vietnam. We conducted mechanized operations; being a Mechanized Infantry Battalion with Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) mounted with three machine guns and what we called Mortar “Tracks (APCs) to fire mortar rounds from a movable platform, tanks to beef up our fire power, or air assault operations using helicopters in place of our APCs, carrying our weapons, mortars, and ammo on our backs. We even used boats on one operation, being based on the South China Sea.
As a Platoon Leader, I suffered the loss of killed or wounded soldiers for whom I was responsible multiple times. They were all heart wrenching. I lost a number of RTOs (Radio Telephone Operators) whose job was to remain within arms-distance of me, so they were killed or wounded approximately arms-length from me. Yet God surely was my shield.
Many soldiers can survive such and consider it luck or fate. They do not consider the providence of God their means of escape. They do not acknowledge that He had another call on their life. They might later, or then again, not at all. But I knew God had other purposes for me.
After marrying and having five children, God chose to take my wife at a young age through cancer, rather than me, whom He had already saved from the “fowler’s snare. He moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform.
Vietnam was surely life transforming. How could it not be? War has a way of making an indelible mark on you. You may be silent about it. You may eventually talk about it, or not. But it still leaves its deep mark, which changes your life permanently. Nothing is quite the same after.
God is certainly much more like that than any war. When He enters your heart, He leaves you reborn. You will never be the same when He comes. Nor will He ever not be afterwards. When He transforms a soul, He does it forever. Jesus said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you, and He holds Himself to it. His Word never fails.
Vietnam is a country in a far-off place where I learned what war is, about death and dying, the human carnage of it, at such a young age; an impact never passing without leaving its mark. But I am glad to go back nearer the end of my life than when I first went, though I had no idea then my life would last this long. The memories never faded – the smells, the sounds, the land, the seasons, the people. This time I go not to fight, but to remember and ponder. How great is our God!


“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings. It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings. When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again a season of clear shining to cheer it after rain. // In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue the theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new. Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say, ‘Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.’
(1st and 2nd verses of William Cowper’s hymn, “Sometimes a Light Surprises, 1779)
 

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George Washington Monument In Public Garden Boston
Feb 20, 2018

The First President

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom He has chosen as His heritage. Psalm 33:12


Not many U.S. presidents are elected unanimously. In fact, only one was: George Washington. He was so respected and revered, the colonial leaders wanted no one else to lead them when they created the office of President in their Articles of Confederation, under the recently ratified Constitution of the United States of America. All 69 votes were for him to be the president, with 34 for John Adams to become the vice president, and the remaining of those 69 votes to various other candidates, with the most being 9 votes for John Jay. So, our first president was a clear choice of all the electors. After four years the vote was repeated, and he served four more years.
Then, George Washington chose to step down voluntarily. He died a short two years later at the age of 67 after coming home from riding horseback, checking on his estate of Mt. Vernon in rain, hail, and freezing weather. He died quickly of an illness in his throat, a fever, and an increasing inability to breathe. The medical knowledge of the day, such as bloodletting, could do nothing to bring healing and may have helped precipitate his death. Such was the early medical knowledge of treating sickness and disease.
There could not have been a much better man to be our first president. He was an able man of character, wisdom, and courage. He was also a man of faith as his writings voluminously proved. He wrote most of the all-encompassing manifestations of Providence. He spoke once of the great benefit of the Indians learning the truths of Jesus Christ, yet most times he referred to the Lord in various other titles, such as “Redeemer, “Lord, “Master, and “Providence. He worshipped with use of the Anglican Prayer Book, a church of which he was a member and whose book then was quite saturated with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Both by words and deeds he showed himself to be a devout Christian, no matter the numerous later critics who called him a deist. Thomas Jefferson may have titled him a deist, but surely to comfort his personal chosen beliefs and add a friend to his deist circles. In his massive work George Washington’s Sacred Fire, Peter Lillback proves through his meticulous research that Washington was no deist.
After commanding the Revolutionary Army to victory over the British, he gave the new nation a very worthy beginning. A beginning that, despite sin and the mistakes sin caused, grew the fledgling country into the greatest nation in the world. Not nearly of little consequence, the freedom of religion invoked in the new Constitution and defended in the laws and courts of the new nation propelled the country forward to become a beacon of light in the dark world of which it was a part.
It is easy for numerous critics and scholars yearning for recognition to point out her flaws and enormous sins, but she rose to redeeming heights to attempt the healing of strife from sin and continue in the best vein to precipitate healing. How long such continues, or even if already losing her luster, depends on God’s use of her in the future to bring forth good to a fallen world.
Washington was neither a Pilgrim nor a Puritan, but he was surely a believer. And though it did not hold through all the nation’s presidents, this was a solid foundation with which to begin. Being a Christian did not always make his policies perfect. No president is ever sinless, but the commitment to call upon God for assistance in decisions and reliance upon His grace and mercy always lends benefits for the people he governs. We have good reason to thank Almighty God for causing Washington to become our first president.
On this his birthday, thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for giving us President George Washington, a brother in the Lord. And thank Him as well for blessing this nation for so many years. God has certainly been our mighty benefactor in sustaining the country of which you are a citizen. However, a far greater citizenship awaits you in heaven! Hallelujah!


“Faith of our fathers living still in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword; O how our hearts beat high with joy whene’er we hear God’s glorious Word. Faith of our fathers, holy faith! We will be true to thee till death.
(1st verse of Frederick Faber’s hymn, “Faith of Our Fathers, 1849)
 

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Bird Sparrow On Branches Of Bushes
Feb 13, 2018

February Redux

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7


February is a month which primarily honors two American leaders. One birthed a nation, and the other reunited it, giving us today a still fairly strong 242 year old country, definitely gnarled and flawed by sin, but also a provable blessing to the world.
No one can deny that this country, in addition to the pain it may have caused others, has blessed a very significant part of the globe through sacrificing its own life blood to release millions from brutal oppression and loss of freedom. I am currently reading the massive World War II trilogy by Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Atkinson. The war carnage of thousands upon thousands of American and British lives to free North Africans, Italians, numerous European nations, and so many others is horrific. This does not count the many, many Russian lives lost fighting the Nazis. Nor does it include all the American lives sacrificed in WWII to free the many Pacific area peoples from the vicious treatment and oppression by the Japanese. God raised up America to withstand the evils Satan foisted upon the world, evils that apart from God could very well have destroyed Earth’s civilization.
God uses men and women to assist in His direction of the affairs, fortunes, and/or misfortunes of those He created. As He directs the hearts of men and women, kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers in the direction He wills to bring about His sovereign purposes, He also directs your own life purposefully in a manner which you may not recognize, nor give Him credit for, nor think very significant in comparison to a Washington or Lincoln. But remember you are told He numbers the hairs of YOUR head and is aware of even a tiny sparrow falling to the ground; and how much are you more important than an “insignificant sparrow?
For what purpose then are you told of that which you might initially consider trivial? How many numbered hairs on heads are there in the world of all of history? How many sparrows, representing all birds in truth, populate the earth at any given time? Yet, as C.S Lewis declares in The Weight of Glory, there are truly no ordinary people in God’s eyes; or as Francis Schaeffer reveals in his book by the same name, there are “no little people in God’s mind.
Somehow, in the omniscient knowledge of God, these facts will not be buried in the minutia of it all. They may seem minutial to you, but they are most significant to God, otherwise He would not have told you so. You cannot grasp it, you can’t even imagine His capability nor His purposeful intent, nor even know why of all things you are significant to the God of the universe, but there is nothing ordinary about you!
Everyone knows of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, but who knows and celebrates yours? Well, maybe close friends and loved ones, but certainly not the world. Yet, the most important spectator – and so much more than spectator – of all is certainly aware and interested in you. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit knows you, knows your day of birth, knows your day of death; and you, as an eternal, immortal creature are of great importance to Him.
Even when the population of the world from beginning to end numbers approximately (and I have no idea how they arrived at this) 102.8 billion. That is huge! Only God is capable of creating and having specific interest in every single one of 102 billion! The vital question for you is this: Is He as important to you?
You cannot understand nor make His interest in you a penetrating blessing securing your eternity unless He becomes known and loved by you. That will not happen unless you deem to approach Him alone through His Son Jesus Christ. If you think that is unfair or far too exclusive, then it is simply because you deny His own revealed plan, His authority, and the knowledge of who He is in truth: Almighty God. There isn’t any other!
You cannot live your life with little or no interest in the God who knows you far, far better than you know Him or know yourself. But do not ever, ever think you are a little, ordinary, insignificant person. There really are no such people! You may think so, but the opinion which counts is not yours. You are so important to Him that He literally knows how many hairs grow on your head. This is why He uses such as an example. He cares for you, and that care is the most precious thing about you. So make an avid, life-long pursuit of the knowledge of God and the love of Him; make it the greatest issue and endeavor of your life! Think seriously on this during the month of February and throughout the new year.


“Far, far above your thought, His counsel shall appear when fully He the work has wrought that caused you needless fear. Leave to His sovereign will to choose and to command; with wonder filled, you then shall own how wise, how strong His hand.
(4th verse of Paul Gerhardt’s hymn, “Commit Now All Your Griefs, 1653)
 

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Priceless
Feb 13, 2018

Andrew: a Priceless Transformation

A Changed Life is Priceless

For Andrew, his relationship with Jesus Christ made a priceless difference. Whereas before he had been helpless in the face of temptation, now, the Word of God has taken root in his heart, and he knows that God will always provide a way for him to resist.


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SFTD-2.8.18-Feature-540x360
Feb 06, 2018

A Common Predicament: You Age

“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away. -Psalm 90:10


I am today three score and two. King David made it to 70, his son, King Solomon, all the way to 80. That was 3,000 years ago, and the average lifespan today remains pretty much the same. Growing old is our common malady. From cradle to grave the years pass quickly and you soon find yourself old. It is the result of sin.
What if we never aged? We simply do not know what that would be like, for no one has experienced it. Nor has anyone other than Jesus not known sin. The wages of sin is death, and death is the certain result of aging. Jesus aged from a baby to a 30-something adult, for he was truly man, but now remaining wedded to our flesh, he is ageless. One day such will be your condition, though you can hardly imagine it.
Until then you know what it is like to age in your body and also in your mind, by the way. It is well said, “Growing old is not for sissies! We know a time in life when we can do almost anything physically but fly. Yet this passes, and the aches and pains increase. Infirmity sets in; you get to know “Arthur.
Aging requires grace to not succumb to grouchiness. Growing old requires sanctification to continue maturing in character – that is, “growing up into Christ. An aging car wears out and breaks down; an older body is susceptible to sickness, disease, and infirmity. It is the common test of life everyone experiences. How then shall you live as your body deteriorates with age?
As the body wanes, your character must and can endure in eternal hope and gracious spirit. Your body will not survive the grave, but your spirit never dies. What is invested in your spirit truly goes with you. It is your stuff which remains, eventually burning or decaying. Every day your spirit and soul either improves in Christ or it remains the constant prisoner of sin.
So what is your itinerary for tomorrow? What is planned for your day? How much time for your body? How much for your soul and spirit? The body will not cease to age and wear out. Your spirit and soul is yearning for your investment, an investment which pays eternal dividends. But only you, with the enabling of Christ, can make this soul-investment a rich one. Whatever your investment, it will never be diminished. It will only grow.
So then, what is your plan for tomorrow?


“Fountain of o’er-flowing grace freely from thy fullness give. ‘Til I close my earthly race, may I prove it ‘Christ to live,’ may I prove it ‘Christ to live.’
(3rd verse of Ralph Wardlaw’s hymn, “Christ of All My Hopes the Ground, 1817)
 

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