Payh Blog
Happy Man raised hands at sunset mountains
Oct 31, 2018

Loving the Lover

“To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood… -Revelation 1:5
“Keep yourselves in the love of God. -Jude 21


What is wrong with Jesus telling you He loves you? Is this a stupid question or does it point accurately to a problem with which we are all vulnerable? You can do many things with an expression of love. Think of those expressions of love you often hear from people in your life. What does this elicit in you? Do you take it for granted? Are you upset if you do not hear it enough, or not at all? Do you love back the one who says they love you and hunger for the expression of their love in return?
Near its conclusion the Book of Jude has what might be considered a strange command: “Keep yourselves in the love of God! Does this imply you have to be constantly doing something to hold on to God’s love? Does Jesus’ love require something you do to deserve it? I think you will say “no, but do your actual life choices and personal preferences betray that?
Throughout Scripture Jesus and His Father make declarations of their love to you, not once or twice, but repeatedly. Jesus went to the cross willingly and voluntarily as the supreme expression of His Father’s love for you. When you were still dead in your sins God loved you, Jesus loved you, and the Spirit is intent to spread that knowledge in your heart.
So what does it mean to “keep yourselves in the love of God? Put together with all of Scripture, it does not mean you have to earn God’s love. Nowhere in the Bible is there the slightest expression of such a thought. The Bible clearly says, “All your righteousness is as filthy rags. As the great hymn “Rock of Ages also points out, “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling. Naked come to Thee for dress, helpless look to Thee for grace. Foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.
What this expression of “keeping yourselves in the love of God really says speaks to your recognition, acceptance, and growth in the knowledge and comfort of God’s unfathomable love for you in Jesus. He loves you, but you do not have the power of that love working its good in your mind and heart – that is, until you yourself intimately know and love the Lover, acknowledging His expressed love for you with humility and gratefulness. You need to be overwhelmed with God’s unmerited love, expressing it through your own joy of listening to and obeying His voice with the very best you have.
Your lack of love for God does not diminish His love for you, it only diminishes your personal joy and comfort. By not acknowledging His love and not drawing the strength which emanates from the knowledge of it, you squander something which is meant to be yours in Christ. Your very reason for being, for living life to the fullest is knowing and responding to this truth: God loves you in Jesus.
If His love for you is neither here nor there in your mind, if the real essence of your knowing and responding is “whatever, then you are not “keeping yourself in the love of God! Jude is expressing an essential element of your life as a Christ-follower, namely your visible, tangible, love for the Lover.
You need to capitalize on God’s heralded love for you. You can do that by treasuring His love, relishing the very truth that Jesus loves you. Anyone and everyone around you cannot keep from knowing this when they see your life and hear you talk. This ought to be the most known “secret of your life. You cannot keep it to yourself, nor can you unwittingly ignore it!


“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; they are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so.
(First verse of Anna Bartlett Warner’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me, 1859)
 

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Wooden block with red arrow facing the opposite direction
Oct 24, 2018

Change of Plans?

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. -Acts 9:1-2


There are many who think God is far removed from His creation and from the lives of those who dwell in it, but He is very present in the lives of His children and even in the lives of those who deny His existence! Proverbs 16:9 assures us that “the heart of man plans his way, but God establishes his steps.
Saul had a plan and purpose for his life, but God intervened and changed it completely. There are those who think He is distantly removed from us, and they live as though He really is. However, Scripture reveals to us a God who is intimately involved in the lives of His image-bearers. You may be dull to His presence consciously, and mindfully you believe you are your own god, but Scripture pulls the curtain back on the reality of life in God’s world.
A mere sparrow appears to be a trivial part of creation, yet Scripture declares not one falls to the ground apart from the Father. Such is possibly beyond your imagination, but it is true nonetheless. Have you even given thought to the exact number of hairs on your head? Of course not! Yet He knows precisely what you may consider pure inanity. The point being that the complete personal knowledge of you is never beyond your Creator.
You would not find this surprising revelation in the book of Matthew if it was not vital for you to know and act on. It is revealed as a critical life perspective, emphasizing the truth which immediately follows – namely, “you are of more value than many sparrows, even of all else in non-human creation, and your purpose in life is to genuinely acknowledge Jesus as He is before all who come into your life so that He will in turn acknowledge you to His Father in heaven. Denying, ignoring, rejecting, or slandering Him before men will bring His denial also of you before His Father. There is nothing worse which could happen to you!
Saul was breathing hatred of Jesus’ followers as he set out for Damascus that day, purposing to destroy their lives. God intervened dramatically! Saul’s heart and life were transformed by the living Christ who had burst the bonds of death so recently. Saul, now “Paul as a result of that dramatic meeting, became a bond-servant ever after of his Savior and Lord.
Whether or not Jesus came into your life in a similar manner as Paul, His presence is still all-encompassing in you. If you are His, acknowledging Him and your love for Him is paramount in your life. It is the chief priority of who you are and what you do.
Are your plans changed by Him? How will He intervene in your life this very day? Acknowledge Him before the neighbor you rub shoulders with today. Remember He is the constant mediator between you and your Father God.


“Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, why should my heart be lonely and long for heaven and home when Jesus is my portion? My constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.
(First verse of Civilla Martin’s hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow, 1863-1948)
 

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Hands Of Diverse Business People Showing Thumbs Up And Down
Oct 18, 2018

Living in an Insolent World

“O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them…Show me a sign of your favor, that those who hate me may see and be put to shame because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me. -Psalm 86:14,17


King David faced fierce and insolent enemies in his day. “Insolent means showing a rude, arrogant, and contemptuous lack of respect for those with whom they disagree. The Judge Kavanaugh hearings have reminded many of the nature of our fallen world. The US Senate hearings for Kavanaugh in being confirmed as a Justice of the Supreme Court became filled with what could easily be called “insolent behavior in the eleventh hour. The hearings were magnified by clamorous protesting requiring numerous arrests to maintain order.
Some say America’s divided populace is more contentious today than it ever has been. They would be wrong, of course. The Civil War resulted in a minimum of 1.5 million actual casualties of Americans in lethal combat with other Americans – citizens slaughtering citizens. The effects of this vast societal disruption still impact the culture 150 years after.
This last month has been filled with incivility in a nation seemingly torn asunder. Insolent behavior has been prominently displayed in the media. So, what does the Christian committed to following Jesus Christ do in the midst of such a world?
The Scripture says we ought to imitate Jesus as we live and interact in this world. He says, “Be holy, for I am holy and “Have this same mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself…Do nothing from selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves.
How then does the true follower of Jesus behave in such clamor as this? Is this really a “turn the other cheek type of situation? Or should the Christian take a position? Should he be silent? Should he speak out?
“Turn the other cheek is Jesus’ instruction intended for personal behavior toward another individual who offends you in a personal situation. However, many situations call for the obedience of this biblical command: “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace. Such are characterized by a clear and willing obedience to the truth of the Gospel.
When they speak, Christians are to speak “the truth in love, but, nevertheless, speak and not always remain silent. Turning the other cheek does not always mean being silent. You are to be God’s voice of the Gospel in a dark world, both by righteous example and by verbal testimony. The truth will always stir up opposition no matter how much it is accompanied by love.
Opposition to the truth is constantly raised up by the “prince of the power of the air, otherwise known as Satan, and all those who are led by him. Until Jesus returns and stops the mouth of all who deny Him, this opposition will continue unabated and the fight against you will be an insolent one!
Such opposition should not be allowed to discourage you into passivity or silence. This is not what “turning the other cheek means. You have missed its meaning if you think this calls you to “give in to sinful and vile rejections and just turn away completely mute.
There are times when our Savior remained silent and other times when He both spoke out and acted in opposition to sin and lies. His speaking the truth brought irascible and angry opposition. His enemies at times sought to stone Him immediately. They were driven in irrational and vehement anger to plan His death in the most torturous way imaginable, all on fraudulent charges. Talk about insolence!
Jesus even spoke of His enemies in clear and forthright terms, calling them “white washed sepulchers among other truthfully descriptive and what might be considered harsh epithets. Was Jesus speaking the truth in love?
Righteous men in history have used some harsh but accurate words to describe those who insolently opposed them. Jesus even spoke to Peter’s face, “Get behind me, Satan! So, yes, defending the truth of the Gospel requires standing firm at times, but such a stand must be bathed in prayer for transformative salvation in the attacking enemy, even as you seek to correct the lies being espoused.
The Holy Spirit will guide you as you seek to live righteously in an insolent world. Your motives must be pure! Do not speak out of revenge or in bitter anger. Pray for humility as you pray for boldness. Silence is not always the path the genuine Christian must take. The outcome may even be martyrdom, but Jesus and His Word are always the victor, if not immediately, always in the end.


“Stand up, stand up for Jesus. Stand in His strength alone. The arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own. Put on the Gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer. Where duty calls, or danger, be never wanting there.
(Third verse of George Duffield’s hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, 1858)
 

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Young african-american woman covering her face with palm saying no
Oct 11, 2018

Hide and Seek

“Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame. -Romans 10:11


When my oldest daughter was two years old, she and I were playing hide and seek in the walled back yard of our Edinburgh, Scotland home. It was her turn to hide, and she couldn’t find a hiding place as my counting wound down to “Ready or not, here I come! Panicking, she dropped to her knees completely in the open, right in the middle of the enclosed yard, and covered her eyes with her small hands. I have never forgotten that precious sight 44 years ago. Yet it will be much the same for many, many people when the trumpet from heaven sounds throughout the world, in every living ear, ears from every tribe, nation, and language, and the greatest lightning bolt ever will flash from one horizon to the other, around the globe, as Jesus Christ returns, fulfilling His Father’s promise. Only then the stakes will be infinitely greater than a child’s game of hide and seek.
But I am persuaded of a different outcome for you at Jesus’ return. I expect you are ready and will be in welcome anticipation of it, for this very Savior you personally know by your faith. Yet, if you know and believe Him, why do you live now as though He hasn’t covered you from guilt and shame? One of the most telling characteristics of fallen human nature is the overwhelming need to “cover ourselves so the world of people around cannot see all we think, do, or have done, and all which we consider our weaknesses, failures, and warts. We feel the self-appointed pressure to cover the unvarnished truth about ourselves because what we feel we must cover is something we think does not present us in the best light. We are endlessly concerned about how our world or select others see us. What is more, we seek to cover ourselves from the Divine Judge, as if we could; ironically, this is true even of those who think He doesn’t exist or are not really sure He does. There is a drive in human nature to “cover up by our own machinations.
Consequently, we weave a web as our cover, our outward “clothing to hide things we think will bring shame or embarrassment upon us. Sir Walter Scott saw this when he wrote, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive, taken right out of the words of Isaiah 59.
Is there a better way to live our lives than always seeking to cover ourselves? A way which eschews all fears of being “found out? A way to stop the charade of weaving webs of our own making (Isaiah 59:6)? Living in the freedom of not needing to hide, or cover, or appear other than the truth of the moment ought to be that for which we hunger. What does it take for you to live in such unusual freedom?
I am not talking about the appropriate use of makeup to cover wrinkles, or the proper use of clothes to disguise the waistline, et cetera, but I am speaking of the attempts we make to cover ourselves from embarrassment or shame, embellishing a story to make ourselves look better, fudging the truth to get attention, telling a lie to cover a mistake or failure, searching for an explanation when we simply did not follow through on doing what we said we would.
We are all too aware of our tendencies and of our fear of being embarrassed, put to shame, or appearing less in the eyes of our peers when we desperately want to be thought well of. We have forgotten the benefits of our salvation. The Lord has let us know clearly that He covers us with His righteousness by faith, that His blood atones for our sins, that we are forgiven, that we are covered, even those sins yet to be committed. However, we do not live as though we believe Him. Romans 10:11 reads, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame. Or Isaiah 54:4, “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth.
Too often this is interpreted as referring only to the great Day of Judgment, but it refers to your life in Christ today as well. The truth cannot hurt you when you trust in the Lord, when you walk in the light as He is in the light. God sees you and knows you; why not let the world see you as God sees you? His sight counts, theirs doesn’t. But we do not live this way. Living in the integrity of Christ gives us the perspective of truth’s importance and attractiveness. It is the way of genuine humility, not thinking of ourselves as more important than others, and living out Philippians 2 as not only who we ought to be, but who we want to be. A life lived before others in such truth and humility will draw others to our Savior unlike the way of pride.
This is living in the freedom for which we hunger, if only unconsciously. It is what Jesus died to give you.  By not accepting what He accomplished for you, your faith is not at work as it ought to be. You are not trusting His promises, those promises He made to all for whom He died, by which you have been adopted into His family.
There is no need to hide when you hear or imagine the confrontation from others of “Ready or not, here I come. The truth will suffice, humility will be your clothing, and if you trust in the Lord, you will not be put to shame speaking the truth. Take full use of your salvation in Christ; you do not need to hide under a covering of your own making. It’s worthless; you are covered by Him. Walk humbly in His truth and blossom in the freedom.


“For it is my deep desire and my hope is eagerly that I not be put away to shame at all, but that with perfect boldness, just as I’ve been trying to do, so His honor, so His honor, so His honor may be seen in my body, so His honor may remain in my body, so His honor may be seen in me. For to me to live is Jesus Christ and to die would be so much better, for to me to live is Jesus Christ and to die would be so much better. I may even have to die, so His honor, so His honor, so His honor may be seen in me.
(Lyrics and music by James Ward)
 

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Sad Depressed Teenager spending time alone at home
Oct 03, 2018

Haunting Regrets

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. -2 Corinthians 7:10


My good friend Bob Petterson has written a fascinating book, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories. His very first story is set in Germany in the winter of 1894 beside a river covered by a thin sheet of ice. Small German boys were playing Cowboys and Indians on the bank of the river when one of the smaller, weaker boys trying to keep up with the others slipped and fell, his glasses flying, as he slid down the bank onto the ice and plunged through into the cold water.
A five-year-old playmate dove into the water and saved his smaller friend from drowning. The newspaper in their city of Passau praised the efforts of this boy, now considered a hero. His name was Johan Kuehberger, and he grew up to become a priest, continuing to spend his life serving and saving others.
Yet he spent many a future sleepless nights haunted by his heroic efforts to save that small boy when he was but five. The saved little boy’s name was Adolf Hitler.
How do regrets affect you? A past word spoken angrily, a deed of which you are now ashamed, a deceptive lie spoken, past unacceptable behavior leading to another’s ruin, less than desirable associations corrupting them and you, a bad habit continuing ad nauseam, taking the Lord’s name in vain repeatedly, encouraging another to sin? How often have you in your present life regretted something you did in your younger years? Or last week? You may wish you could have it back to make a different choice.
In this case, Johan acted with pure motives. He saw his playmate in a life-threatening situation, and he did the right thing. The outcome was not in his hands; it was in the hands of the Lord. Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps. You may often have regret for sins committed, but the answer to what is now history is simply repentance by faith accompanied by purposely chosen future obedience. Those things done out of pure motives resulting in a less than satisfactory outcome are under God’s disposition. You cannot regret those things arising from righteously motivated actions. God’s sovereign power is responsible for the outcome.
Our sinful words and deeds and what later comes from them are always under God’s purview and control. We have a responsibility to pray continuously for the favorable outcome of those things we have had a hand in initiating, or have engaged in furthering, even as we acknowledge God’s power to ultimately direct its success or failure.
Your words and deeds become history as soon as they are spoken or done. They are “written in the book, so to speak. You cannot get the toothpaste back into the tube. Such must be considered before the words roll off your tongue, not after. Once the water of a stream rolls under a bridge, it is gone, never to return.
Regret is far too often so severe that it results in suicide, like Judas from his betrayal of Jesus, or the discovered businessman who ruined other peoples’ lives through his own evil deceptions.
This would be very discouraging were it not for the mercy of God who well understands your plight. He is quite aware of man’s depravity. Yet He is ready and willing, through His Son, to forgive the one who confesses his sin and genuinely seeks His mercy. The One whose opinion alone counts tells you He buries your sin in the depths of the sea and removes it from His sight as far as the east is from the west!
This is truly amazing! The wonder of the Gospel dealing with the pain of regret accentuates the good news of His mercy and grace. Regret can and will haunt unless removed from your mind and heart by God’s merciful hand on your life in response to the sacrifice of Jesus. Just think of the regret of Moses in murdering the Egyptian, or David in plotting the death of Bathsheba’s husband, or Paul in his pain-and-blood-producing persecution of Christians.
Jesus’ own atoning lifeblood speaks volumes to those regrets which haunt. Such haunts can be removed forever!


“From out the depths I cry, O Lord, to thee; Lord, hear my call. I love thee, Lord, for thou dost heed my plea, forgiving all. If thou dost mark our sins, who then shall stand? But grace and mercy dwell at thy right hand.
(First verse of Psalm 130, The Psalter, 1912, “From Out the Depths I Cry, O Lord, to Thee)
 

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