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Oct 30, 2019

God Is Simply God

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.” -1 Chronicles 29:11-12


Human nature is very independent. It naturally appears to your mind that you alone determine the whole course of your life. From a young adult, or thereabouts, you decide for yourself what to eat, how to dress, when to sleep, who you spend time with, what you say, what you think; so, much of your life appears to be in your own control. You probably put it this way: “I am the captain of my own ship, the master of my own fate.”
But is this really true? Or is it just your illusion? Are there forces around you which you do not and cannot control? Is cancer or disease a personal choice? Did you choose to be born blind or to be an American, African-American, Hispanic, or Asian-American? Did you really choose these things and create yourself with your own imprinted and unique personality?
There are many honest questions raised in an introspective, inquisitive, observant mind. Life can be a real enigma. You could just roll with the punches and not think much about it, or you can think, meditate, and wrestle with objective and complex questions about who you are, why you are here, what real purpose you serve, and what is the true makeup and result of all of this that you call your life.
The Bible, for example, reveals to you what your mind does not and cannot conceive on its own. What it says does not conform to what your own mind imagines apart from the input of supernatural revelation. Consequently, you can reject out of hand what the Bible does say, or you can receive its claims, the truth about what really is, from the mouth of the One who caused all these things to be. Of course, it is your faith which is the reason you accept His words as true – a faith which also happens to be a gift to you from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This all leads to the question of whether you are the sovereign determiner of your life or whether God is sovereign. It cannot be that you are sovereign in some things and God in others, which only really means neither is sovereign. The sovereignty of God is the pillar of truth which lies at the center of all being, all knowledge, all reality.
October 31 and November 1 are All Hallows’ Eve (whence the word “Halloween”) and Reformation Day respectively. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, launching a reformation of the Christian Church that would reverberate throughout the ages. The touchstone of this entire reformation is the sovereignty of God. Soli Deo Gloria is the foundational “sola” of all the “solas” – that is, “sola scriptura,” by Scripture alone, “sola fidei,” by faith alone, “sola gratia,” by grace alone, “solo Christus,” through Christ alone, and “soli Deo Gloria,” all glory to God alone. Soli Deo Gloria is the clarion call of God’s sovereignty. To say God is sovereign is simply to say God is God.
The sovereignty of God with all of its manifestations causes many questions to rise in believers’ minds. Furthermore, if that is so, it completely throws unbelievers for a loop. Satan has a field day raising problems in saints’ minds concerning God as all-sovereign. Peace only settles in your mind as you focus on the nature of God and on His attributes drawn from Scripture and believe.
You appreciate God’s sovereignty even more when you look closely at yourself through the microscope of faith and not the filter of your own inclinations. Even when convicted of sin, your tendency is to make better of yourself than you really are apart from God’s grace and mercy.
Questions will arise constantly about God’s true sovereignty, especially in a world where sin, evil, and Satan are realities (the problem of pain, for example). These questions will not be completely answered until you stand with Christ in glory and see no longer “through a glass darkly.” Until then, your faith alone trusts in a truly sovereign God!
Your mind will not figure it all out, but neither will such faith be unreasonable. Faith and reason abide together in majestic and eternal harmony. The sovereignty of God is compatible with the reason of all that is. As the Scripture and reason say, “Let God be God (true), and every man a liar.”


“Whate’er my God ordains is right; His holy will abideth. I will be still whate’er He doth and follow where He guideth. He is my God, though dark my road. He holds me that I shall not fall, and so to Him I leave it all.”
(First verse of Samuel Rodigast’s hymn, “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right,” 1675)
 


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Rising Sun On The Horizon Above A Ocean Or Sea. On The Blue Sky
Oct 24, 2019

Rest in Peace

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” -Ephesians 1:2
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” -Romans 5:1


“Requiescat in pace” is the oft-expressed Latin phrase for the familiar “RIP” used in many a funeral liturgy or in offering a blessing toward one who has just died, as if a human blessing can carry any weight to ensure a destiny of peace for one who has forever crossed the barrier between life and death. I rather imagine the unbeliever in particular is at an awkward loss for words of anything else to say of one who has breathed their last other than “Rest in peace.”
The Apostle Paul addresses almost all of his epistles with the offered blessing of “grace and peace” to his believing readers. These readers are not dead but very much alive. So, there is the desire that the dead will rest in peace, but there is predominantly the hope that the living know peace now.
What exactly is this peace? Grace and peace are very prominently in Paul’s mind as he thinks of his brothers and sisters in Christ. Grace, God’s unmerited favor, is essential to one’s salvation and well-being, a gracious gift from God, but what is this peace of which Paul speaks and this blessing of the bereaved to the dead, “Rest in peace?”
Peace is both a state of mind and an actual place of standing, both physical and spiritual, of any person. Very apparently, every person is either at peace or he/she is not. Our object biblically is peace with God, which is the foundation of all peace, and the avoidance of its opposite: agitation, unrest, dissatisfaction, incompletion, being unsettled with God, and, consequently, all else. Peace speaks to being undisturbed, in smooth waters, complete, satisfied, content, settled, “at home.”
Psalm 23 comes to mind when defining peace. “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,” and on and on through this entire brief Psalm. These words beautifully capture the essence of peace with God. Read and meditate on it once more and repeatedly.
Peace with God begins in this life. In fact, according to the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, the instant you leave this life you find yourself either in complete agitation as the rich man or in content peace as Lazarus. One was miserable; Lazarus was at peace.
Paul teaches us that peace with God comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. Apart from seeking peace through Jesus, there simply is no peace for the weary. Jesus said, “Come unto me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Peace is the reward of coming sincerely to Jesus. If you find peace in this life through Him, you will rest in peace in the next.
Peace is a wonderful place to find. My wife suffers from a terrible physical malady called “restless legs.” It can be helped by medicine, but otherwise you are never at a place of peace. Being out of peace with God, whether you are aware of it or not, is to be agitated all the time. Nothing satisfies, and you are never content. Being at peace is something which escapes you, no matter what you may claim to others.
Do you want peace? You will only know it when you come to God by faith through Jesus. Apart from Him peace is simply not found.


“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.’”
(First verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul,” 1873)
 


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He Lifts me
Oct 16, 2019

Personally Embracing God’s Love for You

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
“…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8


We all know the most famous verse in the Bible, but does its message ever strike you personally and not as just an impersonal part of billions? In a very true sense, “the world” is not just this enormous group of people; it is you! God so loved you! What exactly does it mean to apply God’s love to just yourself? Can you really think of God’s love in such an intimate way? This is what you need to do. You are not just a tiny part of a huge whole. You are an individual person who holds great significance in the heart of God.
You ask, “How can this possibly be?” The very nature of God makes it so! Not only does He have that infinite capacity within Himself, He has the personal love and divine intent to do so peculiarly to your heart. You often read the Bible as a solitary individual; God intends for you to also read and hear it as His personal love letter to you. Not just to every saint, but His love expressed to you.
Is this the perspective you have when reading it? In John 3, Jesus is speaking not just to Nicodemus but to you. In Luke 10, not just to Martha, the sister of Mary, but to you. In John 18 and 21, not just to Peter, who betrayed Jesus three times and was forgiven in a beautiful three-part way, but to you! This is the way to read the Bible. Apply it always as though it is being written with you in mind, either to convict you of your particular sin or to express God’s unfathomable but particular love to you.
This may seem simplistic in your mind but is, nevertheless, a perspective which must be rightly nurtured by you. Otherwise you always hear Him speaking to an impersonal whole and not as He intends. God has the capacity to see and love you as who you personally are; you are never lost in His mind amongst the interminable crowd of the masses.
This is not only the vast greatness of God, but it is the very personality of His heart. He is a personal God. If you do not see and believe this, you have missed the greatness of His love. As an expression of that great love, Jesus as God took on human flesh for eternity to be the mediator between an invisible God and His visible human family and to accomplish your salvation through the cross. This Jesus you will truly see in the personable nature of face-to-face relationship.
Timelessness accomplishes such in a manner we chronological, time-bound people cannot now envision. This is a currently unknown blessing of eternity, “far greater than you can think or imagine.” Nevertheless, living in a fallen world, you can still apply the personal love of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) to your intimate self through the renewing of your mind (Romans 12). Else you are missing the greatest blessing of all – He loves you!


“Taste the goodness of the Lord: Welcomed home to His embrace, all His love as blood outpoured seals the pardon of His grace. Can I doubt His love for me, when I trace that love’s design? By the cross of Calvary, I am His and He is mine.”
(Third verse of George Robinson’s hymn, “Loved with Everlasting Love,” 1890)
 


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Founders Day
Oct 08, 2019

This Month at PAYH: Monthly Newsletter, October 2019

He Lifts Me Up!

This past month, Paul’s widow, Glenda, his daughter, Paula, and Glenda’s husband, Stephen visited Gorky Park for the first time to see where Paul had beaten the Russians 64 years before. It was an unforgettable experience. The refurbished amphitheater still stands in Gorky Park; they stood on the same stage.
This amazing performance in 1955 put Paul on the world map. Later that same year, he won the World Championship in Munich, Germany and in 1956 the Olympic Gold Medal in Melbourne, Australia. His notoriety throughout the world began with this competition in Moscow and the next week in St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. Glenda, Paula, and Stephen saw this weightlifting sight as well.
In the “Big House” on the PAYH campus, a drawing hangs on the wall of the second floor in a gallery of pictures and framed letters of Paul’s legacy. The drawing depicts Paul lifting a great weight with Jesus standing behind and over him with His Hands on the bar beside Paul’s. This drawing captures Paul’s self-description of his Gold Medal lift in the 1956 Olympics, found in the book A Greater Strength, Paul’s biography. It depicts the truth of Psalm 75:6-7, which Paul believed was the very reason he won The Gold Medal, even though weakened by a high fever which caused him to rapidly lose over 30 pounds in the short 13 days prior to his winning lift.
The Lord Jesus Christ assisted Paul in getting the winning weight overhead, answering Paul’s just prior vowed life-service-prayer to the King of Kings. It was an amazing lift, for Paul had failed in his first two attempts of the three allotted him. That same Jesus also lifts you up in the numerous vicissitudes of this life. Your lifting up by God is not necessarily as world-renowned as the case of Paul’s dramatic lift, but, nevertheless, it is just as critical to you in your own personal rescues by the Lord of Glory.

Stories from the Home

Will & Jackson
Jackson-Will-ThumbnailTwo young men graduated from the PAYHprogram this past month. Will graduated September 13th, while Jackson graduated September 30th. Both of them came to us as unbelievers, and both accepted Christ during their time in the program, and both were baptized in the campus pool. Not only have they received a second chance in life, but through the blood of Christ they will now spend eternity in heaven. Hear their incredible testimonies at payh.org/will and payh.org/jackson.
United Way Kickoff
United-Way-KickoffA few days prior to Jackson’s graduation, heshared his story with several hundred people on at the September 19th United Way of Toombs/Montgomery/Wheeler Counties kickoff luncheon. Jackson was but one of several individuals who shared how non-profits supported by United Way helped “change the game” in their lives. This year’s goal is $550,000, and 65% had already been met by the end of the luncheon.
Haiti Trip
Steven-R.-Haiti-TripSteven Richardson, our Substance Abuse Counselor, recently took some time to travel to Haiti with his church (Harvest Time Faith Center of Vidalia). Over the course of the trip, they met with various missionaries in the Northern / Gonaives region to ascertain how they could best help their ministry efforts. It was his first trip to the country, and Steven stated that he was shocked by the extreme poverty, the abundance of resources, and the resilience of the Haitian people. They are in the process of planning a return trip.

USBR 21
USBR21While our main bike ride occurs every July, several of our riders continue to represent the PAYH Bike Ride year-round. Two of these, PAYH Bike Ride founder Mac Jordan and PAYH Director of Communications Stephen Nichols recently undertook a challenging mountain ride from Chattanooga to Atlanta along US Bike Route 21. While their intent was to camp their way down, they quickly ended up sleeping wherever they could find shelter after their tents were destroyed in a storm the first night. Still, they returned safely on September 29th, having successfully completed the trip.

Upcoming Event: Founders' Day

Founders-DayAs many of you know, it’s been 25 years since Paul Anderson was called home to be with the Lord. This October, we are celebrating Paul and Glenda’s life and ministry with a very special Founders’ Day. The program will begin with a special presentation by strong man Tim Fox, who will be performing such feats of strength as bending rebar, breaking baseball bats, and driving nails through boards with his hands (which was one of Paul’s favorite’s). Afterward, we will have a father / son softball game with the PAYH young men. Kids can play in the bouncy house and slide, and some of our staff will find themselves precariously perched above a dunking booth. A delicious dinner, catered by Papa Buck’s Barbecue, will close out the evening.

Upcoming Event: Christmas Play

Christmas-Play-2019
As we look forward to the Christmas season, one of our favorite ways to celebrate God’s marvelous gift of His son is through our annual Christmas Dinner Theater, to be held December 5th & 6th at First Baptist Vidalia. During this time, guests will be treated to dinner and a special production of “It’s Never Too Late” showcasing our PAYH young men. Through them, we will get to know 3 soldiers from the Vietnam era: their hopes and dreams, Christ’s impact on their lives, and how through Him it’s never too late to make things right.
Limited seating available. For tickets, please visit payh.org/Christmas or call us at912-537-7237.


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Oct 08, 2019

Falling Away

“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” –Jesus, John 16:1


The Gospels are filled with the teachings of Jesus. The Apostle John tells us that if all the things that Jesus said and did were recorded, the books written would fill the world and then some. Jesus tells us in this text that He has taught us all of these things to keep us from falling away. Is falling away, then, a real possibility for a Christian?
Can those who have met and believed in Jesus fall away from Him? Jesus Himself taught, “No one will snatch [My sheep] out of My hand” (John 10:28-30). Yet, on the other hand, Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.”
In recent years there have been well known “evangelical” pastors who have, by their own admission, fallen away from belief in Jesus. One of the most media-utilized New Testament scholars today, Bart Ehrman, grew up in an evangelical family and originally professed Christ as his Savior, yet he now claims to be an agnostic and believes that much of the Gospels and New Testament are not valid. I do not doubt that many of you Christians who are reading this know of at least one person in your wider circles who once professed faith but has now fallen away.
So what do we do with this? We have apparent examples of those who have fallen away, and yet we also know that the Bible teaches the “assurance of faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9, 1 John 5:12-13, Hebrews 7:25). The biblical doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints teaches that once a believer is born again by the Spirit of God, he will persevere in that salvation by the work of God completing His saving work in him (Philippians 1:6).
If you are one who claims to be a real disciple of Jesus Christ, you can have authentic assurance of faith and be reminded of such assurance by staying in His Word. Isn’t this just what Jesus is saying to you in this text? Pay attention faithfully to His Word and teachings. Jesus taught, “Those who love Me will keep My word” (John 14:23). However, it is important to know also that ignoring His Word puts you in danger of falling away.
If one who once professed to be a Christian does fall away, you must conclude that he or she never was born again by the Spirit of God. The warning of falling away is a genuine concern if you neglect your salvation. If you are intent on being one in whom God is at work completing your salvation as He promises, then be about the work and passion of personally staying in your love for God, knowing He keeps you in that love.
You can assure yourself of faith by always refreshing yourself in His love. Falling away is a doubt Satan can put in your mind, but that thought is quickly vanquished by renewing your love of Him who loved you with an everlasting love from the beginning.


“Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know; Spirit breathing from above, Thou hast taught me it is so. Oh, this full and perfect peace! Oh, this transport all divine! In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.”
(First verse of Wade Robinson’s hymn, “Loved with Everlasting Love,” 1890)
 


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Barron
Oct 02, 2019

The Temptation of Money Over Character

“While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, ‘Tell people, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.” And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.’ So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.” -Matthew 28:11-15


Hidden away in a few verses at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, this is likely the most dastardly bribe in the history of the world. However, because the Bible is the most read book in history, this act of despicable lying does not escape the notice of the saints or of those few who truly desire to search out the truth.
The soldier-guards stationed at Jesus’ tomb by the governor, Pilate, were in jeopardy of losing their lives. They had failed to keep Jesus in His tomb or under their constant watch. The tomb had been sealed, which means the huge rock over its entrance had been made secure against any attempts to dislodge it. Yet, even with all their weapons and authority, the guards were unable to accomplish what seemed like a simple task.
Not only were they completely smitten in terror by what had miraculously occurred in their very presence, they were now at a total loss to explain their utter failure to Pilate. The laws of their failure were clear; their own lives hung in the balance. The real perpetrators of Jesus’ crucifixion from a human point of view – the Jewish religious leaders, the Pharisees and rulers of the Jews – came to the soldiers’ salvation. They paid the guards handsomely to lie, even though they had received the truth themselves from the petrified soldiers.
Jesus’ true prophecy that He would be raised up to life after three days could not be allowed to stand. These committed enemies of Jesus had already scorned His words, spit in His face, tortured Him mercilessly, and put Him to a cruel death, and now they were proven by His resurrection to be liars and sham judges of the truth. Their very lives and reputations were about to be destroyed. Any amount of money was worth covering up the truth!
The soldiers were not only saved from Pilate’s wrath and penalty of death but were also made rich with a generous reward for their conspiracy to lie. Their lies were then spread abroad throughout the populace. Even centuries later, books are still being written about various theories that attempt to verify the lies of the Pharisees told by the bribed soldiers – that is, that Jesus never rose from the dead.
One of the givens in a world corrupted by sin is that money very regularly trumps character. This is always the tempter’s snare. The Evil One’s sworn purpose is to erode and eventually destroy your character. All of us face numerous efforts to cut away the foundation of our integrity. The reward is often something to benefit your pocketbook at the expense of your soul.
Soul vigilance is necessary against Satan’s daily attempts to break down your heart’s commitment to the Savior. Each particular piece of the Christian’s armor (Ephesians 6) is absolutely necessary to deflect his well-placed arrows. In any case, do not accept gifts as a trade for your personal integrity. Jesus has fully described, especially in His Sermon on the Mount, what Christian character is. There is no valid excuse to say, “I just did not know.”
Expect money or other aggrandizements to most regularly be remuneration for breaking your character, while the personal praise of your Savior will always be the reward for your obedience, indeed, your ardent love of His every word. Love always wins over bribes, even the most lucrative. The preservation of your character will simply never be regretted.


“My Jesus, I love Thee. I know Thou art mine; for Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; if ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.”
(First verse of William Featherstone’s hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee,” 1864)
 


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