Payh Blog
Group of people holding hands praying worship believe
Apr 25, 2018

Forgiveness

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. -Luke 23:34


Apparently it was a very rabid crowd in Jerusalem calling for His crucifixion, even more so than the two real criminals who were crucified with Him. They had listened to the ring leaders stir up their shouts, curses, and spit. Nevertheless, this crowd had returned to their homes to fix their meals and carry on with their everyday lives, thinking very little about what they had done the day before. “Father, forgive them.
When I was planning to return to Vietnam after 48 years away, many asked, “Why do you want to go back there? You ought to wash your hands of the place. But, I did want to go back. I had loved the Vietnamese people. The land was gorgeous despite the War and the human carnage, and the people were gracious, warm, and friendly. Yet, I wondered about the North. America had bombed them and considered them committed enemies, ones who allegedly hated America; what would they be like?
They had put the War behind them long ago also. They, too, were very loving to us, showing huge smiles, thumbs up gestures, and stating how wonderful they thought Americans were. The same with Cambodia! As it was with the former Viet Cong we came across. Our Viking Cruise host and guide’s parents had been Viet Cong couriers and had long ago put the War behind them, bearing no animosity for their former enemies.
I am convinced that the Vietnamese people, like most peoples, just want to be left alone to live their lives as they will; to grow rice, to marry and have babies, to live in peace. They do not want communism. They put up with it because they have to. They do not want, nor do they pay completely, an 88% government imposed income tax. Despite a communist government, capitalism flourishes. Communist leaders put dampers on it for show, but government largely looks the other way.
Very unfortunately, but promised by the Lord, Christianity is persecuted, though the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the church of Jesus Christ. Buddhism is rampant in its pagan idolatry and enjoys a vast majority of followers which seems more a “nationalistic group-think than anything rationally considered. This is the dark cloud over a warm and friendly people and also the reason, perhaps, why a Vietnamese person stepped purposefully into the path of our fast-moving train, stopping the train for a 30-minute hiatus. Buddhism has no answers for the heart-sick condition of the people.
Forgiveness was the current reigning attitude of the Cambodians for the horrendous “Killing Fields of the genocidal Pol Pot regime. So much so that a Pol Pot follower and fellow murderer escaped into Vietnam, returned with Vietnamese liberators, and eventually became Prime Minister of Cambodia. They actually forgave an unforgivable act, a cold-blooded genocide of millions of people. They have put the terrifying, horrendous period behind them.
Forgiveness was also the overall attitude of the North Vietnamese to America, as it had been to the French colonialists and racial-patronizers before them. Similarly, the South Vietnamese have forgiven the oppression and re-education camps of the victorious North, who overran them after America turned tail and ran from their commitments to them. They also have forgiven the perpetrators of the drownings and ravages of tens of thousands of boat-people attempting to escape their communist victors.
It is either forgiveness or the fact that time heals all wounds, but I rather think forgiveness plays a part in it. What is forgiveness exactly? Letting bygones be bygones? Or, if the sword of brutality and injustice has been largely laid down and is no more being wielded, to get on with living life and not allow revenge to continue burdening the soul to distraction? There is a time for retribution and complete justice at the Great Judgment. The injustice perpetrated will receive its just reward in the future.
Jesus pleaded, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. Can you not do the same? Is it time to get on with living while not being burdened with continual thoughts of revenge? “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord. Leave such to Him. Live your life as much as possible in the peace of the Lord.


“When peace like a river attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’ It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul, 1873)
 

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Jesus Reaching Out His Hand
Apr 18, 2018

Why James?

“Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. -1 Corinthians 15:7


We are today in the 40-day period after Easter Sunday when Jesus originally made all of His post-resurrection appearances, ten in all. Sometime just prior to His last appearance to all the apostles when He ascended into heaven, He appeared to His half-brother James, according to the Apostle Paul, when James was apparently alone. Why? James, the first born after Jesus to Mary and Joseph, was among Jesus’ siblings who did not believe He was who He said He was, the Son of God. They thought He was quite mad and out of His mind. Being the oldest, James was perhaps the dominant leader of his brothers and sisters in their unbelief.
So, at the time of Jesus’ resurrection these siblings were still unbelievers of the Messiah. His stepfather, Joseph, was dead. His mother, Mary, believed in her Son, but the Scriptures tell us His own siblings were skeptics. They had grown up with Him in the same household. And, contrary to the apocryphal stories told about Jesus’ miracles and supernatural acts as a child, they had not witnessed anything to believe He was supernatural; this is a good indication that those apocryphal stories were false myths concocted long after. Jesus’ changing the water into wine at the wedding at Cana was actually declared by John to be His first miracle.
Jesus, knowing James was the key to reaching the rest of His siblings with the truth of who He really was, appeared in His resurrected state to him alone, knowing that James being convinced of Jesus’ resurrection would lead to his brothers’ and sisters’ belief as well. The appearance of Jesus to His half-brother made all the difference in the world. It was the catalyst for James not only to fully believe, but to soon become the leader of the church in Jerusalem. From skeptic to committed and passionate believer, James became a stalwart among the saints of the early church up to his martyrdom in 62 AD.
James and his younger brother Jude became authors of two of the books of the New Testament, two books focused on living lives of committed Christian character and intense integrity, while still encouraging mercy to those who doubt, as they themselves had doubted when they were so close to Him, even half-brothers of the true Messiah. They were by their personal experience perfect instructors to those who doubt to perseveringly nurture them to an understanding of the truth as it is in Jesus (Jude 22-23).
The post-resurrection appearances were relatively few, but they accomplished the powerful purposes Jesus intended for them. We would not have known of this appearance to James were it not for the brief mention by Paul in Corinthians. This again displays the full sufficiency of Scripture to provide you everything you need to live lives worthy of the calling to which you have been called, even brief phrases. Your Bible, God’s precious Word, is your lifeline to everything you truly need. Treat it so.


“Undimmed by time, the Word is still revealing to sinful men Your justice and Your grace; and questing hearts that long for peace and healing see Your compassion in the Savior’s face.
(3rd verse of Sarah Taylor’s hymn, “God of Light, Your Word, A Lamp Unfailing, 1952)
 

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Doubts And Question Marks With Child Thinking At School
Apr 11, 2018

Going All In

“Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt… Jude 21-22


Doubters are common and complex. The practice and process of doubting the sensibleness of faith, believing in the God who is, is certainly difficult to critique with broad, indiscriminate strokes as though all doubters can be lumped into one bundle. Since I have not personally experienced severe doubt in my own life, that is, doubt in the foundational belief that there is a God who has revealed Himself in creation and in His Son, Jesus Christ, I am unwilling to presume an intimate understanding of the personalized struggle doubters experience, especially of those who have once “known faith and the message of the Gospel before doubting it. I know there are those who doubt out of sheer mental laziness; they simply shut their eyes to seeking answers to the challenges and difficulties of life. Blaise Pascal described such this way: “Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. Many others doubt because of the evil they experience or observe in our fallen world. Some doubt because they cannot see what faith postulates or on their own terms verifiably test its veracity to their satisfaction; the supernatural for them is beyond human reason and therefore irrational or unbelievable.
C.S. Lewis wrote in one of his letters, “I think the trouble with me is lack of faith. I have no rational ground for going back on the arguments that convinced me of God’s existence, but the irrational deadweight of my old skeptical habits, and the spirit of this age, and the cares of the day steal away all my lively feeling of the truth, and often when I pray I wonder if I am not posting letters to a non-existent address. Mind you I don’t think so — the whole of my reasonable mind is convinced, but I often feel so. However, there is nothing to do but peg away. One falls so often that it hardly seems worthwhile picking oneself up and going through the farce of starting over again as if you could ever hope to walk. Still, this seeming absurdity is the only sensible thing I do, so I must continue it.
Lewis is expressing obedience to Jude’s admonition, “Be merciful to those who doubt, in writing to another and admitting his own not-too-uncommon struggle with feelings and his response of sheer faith. In grieving the untimely death of his wife, with whom he had a joyful and too short marriage, he wrote about its impact on his faith: “Bridge-players [you could substitute poker as the current rage] tell me that there must be some money on the game ‘or else some people won’t take it seriously.’ Apparently it’s like that. Your bid — for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or non-entity — will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world. The non-serious doubter is a fool. The one who doubts had better be “all-in in seeking answers or else his struggle is not credible. Too many are only playing games with themselves, with God, and thus with eternity.
I have recently been rereading Jacques Ellul’s The Judgment of Jonah. Jonah being delivered from the depths of the sea by a great fish is a biblical account that has been attributed to inciting doubt for some in the truth of God’s Word. Though I do not find agreement with Ellul in everything he projects, many brilliant points he makes are worthy of meditation, especially in those like me who do not think they are as impacted by doubt as others. He claims we miss the point in believing, as I do, or not believing in “the great fish rescue as though that is the supreme point in the history of Jonah. If we miss the message of Jonah’s story as our Savior’s chosen illustration of His own redemptive work for us on the cross – His truly dying and going down into hell to show His power over that terrible place, followed by His breaking the bonds of death in rising from the grave on our behalf – if we miss the primary message, then believing in the historicity of the great fish rescue is neither here nor there.
Too often we claim not to doubt yet somehow miss the application to our own sinful lives of the powerful truth the Lord wants us to see and experience, the message which is able to completely transform a person. There is always danger in “believing what is found in the Bible in terms of facts, the supernatural, the miracles, and the like, and yet not being personally “put to death by the Word; knowing the terrors of death and hell even as Jonah did going down into the deep, both experiencing and signifying death and hell itself, standing in utter awe of the Gospel, and being made new by it. There are many ways to express doubt, and thus every believer should daily assimilate David’s prayer as his or her own: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139: 23-24). As Lewis says, we doubters need to go “all in.


“Why was I made to hear your voice and enter while there’s room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come?
(3rd verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “How Sweet and Awful is the Place, 1707)
 

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Gold Buddha statues sitting in row
Apr 04, 2018

Believing the Lie

“They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. -2 Thessalonians 2:10-11


The besetting sin of mankind? The sin producing the fall into misery? The sin as a pied piper luring people to certain destruction? It is believing the lie!
From Eve’s trusting that the Satan-using, speaking snake spoke fact, to the willingness of man through the ages to fall for a blatant lie over the truth, the world has been mesmerized by a charade which cannot hold water; not the water of logic, not the water of absolute truths standing the test of time and reason, not the water of incontrovertible evidence producing a correct verdict, not the water of simple, eternal truth! Men and women simply have a massive prevalence to believe the lie!
Just returning from a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, we witnessed the overwhelming saturation in these two societies of the populace believing the lie of Buddhism; 97% in Cambodia, 85% in Vietnam. Temples dot the landscape like red ant hills in Georgia; new and gaudy temples, ancient temples, huge temples, small temples, temples in rice paddies, temples in jungle, temples in cities, temples on islands, temples, temples, temples.
The worshippers bring their money, their produce, their possessions. Oddly, they also burn their money, believing by doing this their dead ancestors will have that money to spend in the after-life. They worship fat Buddhas who they believe to be “happy Buddhas. They have hundreds of millions of Buddhas of stone, quartz, wood, and metals of all sizes; Buddhas to bow down to in their homes, in their temples, on the streets, in the country; Buddhas who allegedly can make their lives easier and more prosperous in this life and the next, who can insure they are reincarnated as a wealthy person and not an insect, as long as they live “good lives here. But they are Buddhas – idols – made by their own hands. How can what is made with man’s own hands do all that for those who had to make them for these idols to even exist?
For Buddhism does not have a Savior, someone without sin who died to atone for their sin and guilt, someone who was raised to life after dying for their pardon and forgiveness, someone who left an empty tomb behind and ascended to heaven as an eternal mediator between them and the one true living, eternal and almighty God, this same God who made all things and sustains the entire universe which He Himself created. They do not have this Savior, and, consequently, they remain in their guilt and sin and continue to believe the lie which keeps them separated from the one true God by a chasm of great proportion, bridged only by this Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Idols are powerless to save anyone.
How can this lie be so pervasive, so mesmerizing, so apparently impenetrable? How can it so thoroughly fool masses of people created in God’s own image and not in the image of Buddha, or Muhammad, or Confucius, or the chief fallen angel, Satan? God presents the clear answer to the lie in His Word, the Bible; a revelation delivered to mankind, protected down through the ages despite numerous attempts to destroy its existence, kept from error by the Spirit of God. It is a living Word which is empowered by the incarnate Word made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible is simply believable, which billions attest to by their personal faith and the evidence of their transformed lives.
It is simple foolishness to ignore the Bible because it is the testimony of the only antidote for the Great Lie which blinds the masses from the truth of their potential salvation. It is the answer to assuaging Jesus’ great grief as He approached Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday, turned a curve in the mountain road, saw the city laid out before Him, and broke down and wept. He cried out, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you. (Luke 19:41-44)
The Great Lie is only penetrated and laid waste by the Good News of Jesus coming to save that which was lost. He came to destroy the power of the lie and set you free to find and rest in the truth.


“Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right man on our side, the man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He. Lord Sabaoth His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.
(2nd verse of Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, 1529)
 

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