Payh Blog
Diverse group of children doing peek a boo hand gesture
Oct 02, 2017

Humor in Jesus

“Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God…” Hebrews 2:17


And Jesus threw back his head and roared with laughter! Can you see this as true from what you have read concerning Jesus and who the Scriptures tell us He was and is? Was Jesus a man who knew and practiced humor? Well, the Scriptures do not tell us much or possibly even nothing of any humor which Jesus displayed. You might possibly see it in some of His parables where the numbers are used to get a glint of humor, but you have to be very acquainted with the numbering terms of ancient Israel as Jesus’ hearers were to catch His humor, possibly in the use of certain exaggerated sums of money or debt expressed in these parables.
Yet the New Testament accounts of Jesus are reluctant to express explicit accounts of His humor. They did not seem to fit into the more serious accounts of Jesus’ most important encounters. And the lighter moments of His relationships with his disciples and friends are simply not recorded by Jesus’ eyewitnesses, possibly because they were not seen as crucial or of such great importance to the narrative.
Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God…” Humor is a natural proclivity for human beings and for Jesus as long as the humor itself is pure. Laughter emanates from the human creature God made. So, if Jesus is like His brothers in every respect, He is, in His being a man, one who possesses sinless humor, even if not written about. When you understand the cultural background, His parables can speak of humor in the results. For example, the contrasts drawn from different amounts of debt owed and paid, the insiders’ snub of an invite to a huge special event and then an invite to outsiders in particular offered while the insiders’ invite is withdrawn, etc.
The greatest evidence is the statement that Jesus is made into a being who is the same as His fellow creatures yet without sin. Pure humor is sinless, so Jesus had humor like we who recognize humor and laugh; sometimes we are so bemused we laugh until we cry! I well imagine Jesus did, too, despite the knowledge of judgment to be yet reckoned upon the earth’s unforgiven population, explaining Jesus’ tears when He saw the city of Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry prior to His crucifixion. Our likeness to Him and His likeness to us all points to a humor which dwelt in Jesus as well as us. Jesus laughed with great joy. He will laugh at the marriage feast of the Lamb and on into eternity with His brothers and sisters. Laughter is an expression of joy. It is one of the ways redemption is acknowledged. It is one of the expressions of a heavy load being lifted off your spirit.
Though nothing seems to be written that tells us clearly that Jesus laughed, you can be sure He did as His Spirit is acquainted with ours, and He is like us, yet without sin. God created us with humor. Have you ever played the game “Don’t Laugh? We always end up laughing even though we try our hardest not to. Humor is bred deep within our spirit. So it is with our Savior.
It will be a grand experience to laugh face-to-face with our Redeemer and know how much He loves and enjoys us. Jesus not only cried, but He laughed and will laugh with us in eternity where we will have no tears.


“Thou hast the true and perfect gentleness; no harshness hast thou and no bitterness. Make us to taste the sweet grace found in thee and ever stay in thy sweet unity.”
(4th verse of John Calvin’s hymn in the Strasbourg Psalter, “I Greet Thee, Who My Sure Redeemer Art,” 1545)
 

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Peace in the Maelstrom
Sep 27, 2017

Peace in the Maelstrom

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life. – Matthew 6:25


Anxiety is a killer. It is an ever-present irritant to the body’s nervous system, impacting your physical health. Excessive and constant worry gives disease a foothold. It wears you down. It saps your strength. It is perhaps the worst carcinogen of all. But truly, is an anxiety-free life even possible?
The Bible certainly warns about the danger of worry while directing you to an alternative: great confidence and trust in God, something that appears to be very difficult to achieve in a fearful world. Peace of mind is not the absence of life challenges or tests to your faith. Life in a fallen world is life on a spiritual battlefield (Ephesians 6); there are many minefields to safely navigate, constant damaging projectiles to avoid, the constant stalking of a very real and lethal enemy.
It is not the absence of problems which is your case, but your response to one problem after another, and overcoming them. Each of the letters to the seven churches of Revelation commands the believer to be an overcomer. Overcoming implies the ever-present existence of obstacles in your life. Peace in the midst of that arises from a perseverance of faith that will never be cowed by the enemy’s onslaught. He can throw the kitchen sink at you, but that will not defeat you. Jesus is the anchor to a soul that cannot be moved.
Jesus said repeatedly, “Do not fear. He encouraged, “Do not worry. “Can your worry add a single hour to your span of life? “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, he continued, “for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for today is its own trouble. He spoke truth to you, but do you really believe Him, the Lord of the universe? “Great peace have those who love Your law, wrote King David, “and nothing can make them stumble. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you, wrote the prophet Isaiah.
Peace is a frame of mind, a real palpable condition of the heart, which God’s Word promises is fully attainable, and not just to what you consider “VIP type of people; it is attainable to any child of God (because really every child of God is a VIP even if you do not accept it). Peace is the absence of anxiety, the absence of worry, the full confidence of your mind that you are in God’s protection and need not fear any harm or evil. Peace is an overwhelming sense of joy; an inescapable feeling that all is under control; your Heavenly Father personally has your back. It sounds too good to be true. But this is the unexaggerated description by God to you of the peace that passes understanding – the very peace He gives.
Life for every one of us is unpredictable. This is especially true because there is another world of reality from what you can see, a spiritual world of good and evil players. Even within the visible world you do not control the actions of those around you, who can impact your own safety, health, and well-being; and the invisible world puts your world under double the threat. Peace is not even in your picture if there is not your Creator and mighty God in the picture. And because He is, and because He is your God, His promises of peace to you are very real.
But is your faith such that you will seek His peace and experience it, even as you continue to live in a very dangerous world? No matter how dangerous, it is His world! “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world! Jesus said powerfully and honestly, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.


“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.’
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “It Is Well with My Soul, 1873)
 

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Necessary Personal Execution
Sep 20, 2017

Necessary Personal Execution

“Put to death, therefore, what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these, the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians 3:5-11


The daily “news” is so saturated with stories of conflict, terroristic oppression, racial hatred, rapes, torture, heinous murders, constant mayhem, global nuclear threats, and epidemic destruction that if you took it all seriously as personal mortal threats to your own well-being, you would not mentally survive. You must, as you do daily, separate yourself from the nearness and reality of it all, living in false thinking, illogically insulated against every threat, hoping nothing penetrates to where you live. It is so pervasive in our world that we wonder what you or any ordinary individual among billions of human beings could possibly do to change the overall world situation into a more peaceful and livable environment.
Well, God does not intend for you alone to change the world as it is. He intends for you to change YOU in the midst of this fallen world and for you to know that your life can truly impact others in your own orbit, for good and eternity. This means you must come to the realization that you must see the necessity of personally executing yourself. Not taking your own life by suicide, but putting your own sinful character in the electric chair, putting it to death, as Paul so clearly defines in Colossians and elsewhere. We do not begin by asking, “How do I change the world? but rather, “How do I control what I can control – namely, me?
It is a genuinely serious plan of personal reconstruction; it is a necessary plan which takes priority over all others. And what is more important: It is doable! “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” It takes faith, and faith is certainly attainable; it is a gift of God to all who are in Christ (Ephesians 2). Being in Christ gives you the gift of faith, which is all you need. But the gift of faith must be exercised to put sin in you to death. This you must do: Die to yourself! This is a one-time event when Christ comes into your life initially, AND it is as well a lifetime process. You must always be in the mode of putting your sinful nature to death. It only ends when you cross the river from this life to being glorified in heaven. Keep on keeping on until you see Him face-to-face.
When you see sin and fallenness all around, don’t look outward before looking inward. Sin still lives in you. Take care of these sins first, before being a judge of others. This is the definition of humility in your character. Humility comes from judging yourself continuously. Humility is the affirmation that you genuinely crave Christlikeness. Jesus is humble; He defines it by who He is. You can learn humility from studying His life. And you can best exercise it in the environment of a sinful world, because living in such is a constant test to whether you have humility and whether or not your humility is growing. This world along with its prince, the devil, is the only true crucible to determine whether or not humility and Christ-like character dwell in you.
Living in this world, your world, is God’s test of your sanctification, which the Westminster Shorter Catechism describes as “dying more and more unto sin, and living more and more unto righteousness. You see, this requires you putting sin to death, a necessary execution of all the sin which dwells in you. This is a regular discipline of a humble life. There is no more discipline which is more important. Its rewards are infinite. Its results in molding you are all which will pass attached to you into eternity. Naked you were born, and naked you will leave, accompanied only with your character. Your possessions and earthly honors, which you may believe established your status in life, are all vacated at the grave. Only character passes through to eternity.
So, by your faith execute mortification; that is, putting your sinful self to death. And keep plunging the knife into its heart as a daily regimen. Sin doesn’t die easily, but it does die eventually. Faith tells me to not give up. Keep it up till you look into His eyes. As Job tells you in Job 19, that day is coming!


“When this passing world is done, when has sunk yon glaring sun, when we stand with Christ in glory, looking o’er life’s finished story, then, Lord, shall I fully know, not till then, how much I owe.”
(1st verse of Robert Murray McCheyne’s hymn, “When This Passing World Is Done,” 1837)
 

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The 24/7 Teacher
Sep 11, 2017

The 24/7 Teacher

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6:5-9


This passage essentially describes an all-encompassing instructor, a picture of a never tiring, never sloughing teacher of sons and daughters. There really isn’t a time or activity, common or uncommon, in which he is not proclaiming the wonderful truths and commandments of his Creator and One True God and Father to his children.
This is God’s preeminent description of fathers: indefatigable teachers of and living examples to those whom they themselves father. The words of Deuteronomy 6 are direct; the school of righteousness is not relegated to a formal classroom. It encompasses the whole world and time in which you and they live. The only time their instruction hibernates is when they sleep. Either by father or mother, or the teachers selected by their parents, your children are constantly being taught, always under the aegis of their God-given master teacher, their father, until they have a knowledge, picture, and relationship with who their father emulates, their heavenly Father God. It is a responsibility of enormous proportion. The only way to avoid it is to not have children. To procreate is to immediately take on this all-encompassing task.
This appears to be the parameters laid out by God for the work of a father. He still must provide for and protect his wife and family, but in those roles, he is always teaching and nurturing – not always necessarily directly, but, at a minimum, under his authority and plan. What a responsibility! It requires energy, knowledge, and wisdom. No one is equal to the task. Apart from the recognized calling, strength, and guidance of God, it is unattainable.
This is particularly why Paul offers a necessary promise, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. It is also why God’s ideal includes two parents. It is why he provides a “help-mate to assist in the task; each parent brings gender-unique talents and strengths to this work. Two is always better than one, as the wise teacher, Solomon, tells us; husband and wife, father and mother. Short of the ideal of two parents, improvisation is required and it is so much more difficult but still possible.
Families need fathers like everyone needs air to breathe or water to drink. They are essential to family health; if a human father is taken away, a heavenly One must step in more prominently. Human fathers have one supreme model, namely their Heavenly Father. Being natural sinners, prone to failure, they desperately need His grace to survive and succeed. To teach about God and His commandments a father needs to know His Word. Ignorance of the Scriptures seals a father’s failure. Consistent discipline in reading His Word and obeying it provides promise of success.
C.S. Lewis wrote of the brilliant author George MacDonald: “An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. He was thus prepared in an unusual way to teach that religion in which the relation of Father and Son is of all relations the most central. Fathers are that critical to the health of human society and the success of the family, in mimicking the relation which the Father and Son have within the Trinity in their relationship to their own children. Children know and relate to God by the nurture and instruction from their father. Their father in turn must have and know and depend on a relationship with his Father in heaven.
The strength and health of society and especially of the church relies on the strength of fathers who know who their Heavenly Father is and convey their knowledge and experience with Him to their children. It is God’s plan in this manner to convey His love to one generation after another. In accomplishing this, God uses particularly fathers to pursue the continuity of His grace to His chosen people. Would that God’s people would catch His vision for fathers and that men would commit their lives to fulfilling God’s design for fatherhood. There truly is no greater need of the church today!


“My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear. He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear. With confidence I now draw nigh, with confidence I now draw nigh, and ‘Father, Abba, Father’ cry.
(4th verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Arise, My Soul, Arise, 1742)
 

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Sep 06, 2017

How Much Does God Expect Me to Give?

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4


Did you know that you can buy copies of the widow’s mite (2 copper coins) from numerous sources? I was given a framed copy at my retirement from 32 years in the Army. What does this comment of Jesus, whom He alone noticed, about the poor widow as she placed her apparent current substance in the collection box at the temple mean to us? Absolutely nothing would be known about her gift had not the Lord of all life commented on His perceptive observations. His comment made her known to everyone familiar with the Scriptures down through all of history after the first century. We do not know a thing of any of the “big” givers who gave “large” donations that were still a tiny percentage of their actual personal worth.
The poor widow does not even know, that is, until she entered heaven’s gates, that anyone knew of or noticed her tiny “insignificant” gift. Proportionately, it may have been the biggest gift ever given at the Jerusalem temple in the eyes of God, sight which counts infinitely. We do not know her name, but she stands predominantly in the courts of glory.
How are each of us known for our giving to God’s kingdom? And not even really “our” giving! It is how much we were willing to return what God had put in our care of all He had bestowed on us. There are actually numerous stories of those who chose to give 50% or more of their substance into “kingdom building.” And God, who knew of their giving, proportionately increased their income knowing where 50% of it was sure to go. These received the joy of giving away His treasures.
Many never know this joy, even though they could. They do not know that, though it appears to themselves there is a need of every penny to pay bills, taxes, and obligations or they would just not make it, that sacrificial giving will actually swell their income beyond what they ever thought possible; but, alas, such faith or knowledge never materializes in their minds or hearts. They totally lose out on the joy of such giving.
A lack of charitable thinking, a habit of living allegedly “watching” every penny, or wanting more and more for themselves, causes so many to not realize God asks for their first fruits, a mere 10%, before the first meal is purchased or bill paid. He actually gives 100% and asks for 1/10th in return; the first tenth. Primarily, this is to remind us it is all His. Ironically, He multiplies the other 90% to meet every need. In truth, He usually enlarges the 90% to prosper your life beyond what you need. This causes some to go beyond 10% in their giving to God’s kingdom work. The joy of giving captures their heart, and they are enthralled with what their giving accomplishes.
The application of the Scriptural phrase of “God loves a cheerful giver” comes to fruition as you think of your assets as God’s and give cheerfully. If the widow’s mite was a sacrificial gift that pleased God, what would your “mite” look like? Put your treasures in God’s bank; there are no better interest rates in the world. They just keep increasing and never lose!


“Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise. Thou mine inheritance now and always. Thou and thou only first in my heart. High King of heaven, my treasure thou art. High King of heaven, my victory won. May I reach heaven’s joy, O bright heaven’s sun! Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”
(3rd and 4th verses, Irish, 8th-10th Century, “Be Thou My Vision”)
 

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Money: Burning a Hole in Your Pocket or Heart?
Aug 29, 2017

Money: Burning a Hole in Your Pocket or Heart?

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Matthew 6:24


Your money can be a blessing; on the other hand, it can be a curse.
Your money and possessions will certainly produce a running battle between you and God in determining who your master is. You may constantly profess your master as God, but can your words and actions be regularly put to the test to prove your testimony genuine? Money can be a besetting sin, or it can be a significant blessing from God to many people. Money purchases the necessities of life, it feeds the hungry, it clothes the destitute. It also goes beyond the basics of life. It gives us far more than we deserve; like the lilies of the field or the sparrows of the air, you are beautifully adorned and cared for by a loving Master!
But the “love of money,” the obsession for it, the all-in pursuit of more and more, becomes the root of “all” evil and leads men and women, like a noose in the nose into deleterious pursuits and degradation of your spirit. The misuse of money corrupts the soul. Money has the capacity to separate you from God; it can do malicious things to your being, to your heart.
Money is necessary. In itself, it is the means of sustenance for living, for sustaining you in those things which make up life on this earth. In this commercial life of the modern age especially, money is the means of trade for what you eat, where you live, your transport, business and work, leisure, supporting children and family, education, and charitable endeavors to assist others. Money is involved with most every activity of life.
But it can be both blessing and curse. Money must be seen with a godly perspective. God reminds you of this necessity by requiring a tithe. His tithe brings the proper use and perspective of money before your mind. It calls for the organization of your money assets, the budgeting of your money in order for you to be responsible for your obligations, and to be accountable to God, to others, and yourself. How can you determine what 10% is unless you organize it to determine what you have? Money managed in a godly way becomes a great blessing both to you and to others, your neighbor to whom you owe godly service.
The Scripture tells you that “God loves a cheerful giver.” The following implication is as you give your money cheerfully and generously, it produces in you a cheerful heart, which in turn is the very essence of living joyfully. Such is a good definition of abundant living.
It begins with the fervent recognition that your money is not your own. Really? Really! All you have comes from God. He has blessed you with what you possess to use it wisely to bring glory to Him, and in that use, bless others. You are the primary steward of your money and possessions for which you must give account. The parable Jesus tells of the master giving talents (money) in various amounts to his servants to manage until he returns is an indicator that God blesses us each according to his own counsel. Some are blessed with more, and some with less. How it is managed is the real test of whether or not the master (God) is pleased. The servant who buries his talent is the one who is punished as an unworthy servant. Burial of the talent is most likely an indicator that this servant used his talent exclusively for himself and not for the glory of his master and the blessing of others in investing and increasing its worth to further just such a goal.
Do not allow your money to burn a hole in your pocket through mismanagement, that is, by not using it for His glory and truly blessing others. If you do, you also burn a hole in your heart. Your real treasure which captivates your heart is either God, with your money used to His end, or your money, used to please yourself. You cannot serve God, of first order, and your money in His place. Use your money to bring Him glory. He will bring honor to you if you do.


“All that I am I owe to thee. Thy wisdom, Lord, has fashioned me. I give my Maker thankful praise, whose wondrous works my soul amaze.”
(1st verse of The Psalter,1912, Psalm 139:14-24)
 

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Is Your Treasure Worth All It Is Cracked Up to Be?
Aug 23, 2017

Is Your Treasure Worth All It Is Cracked Up to Be?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21


In 2010, a New Mexican art collector and author of some worth, Forrest Fenn, allegedly put a nearly $2 million treasure in a ten inch by ten inch bronze box and hid it somewhere in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, or Wyoming – basically, one BIG area: the Rocky Mountains. Some 65,000 treasure hunters have seriously tried to follow the clues Fenn embedded in a poem he authored along with the consequent annual clues he has written about where the treasure is hidden. These searchers have hiked and scoured over countless acres of rugged terrain. Fenn swears to the lucrative contents in the box. This treasure hunt has caused hundreds of articles to be written and television accounts produced. At least two hunters have died searching. One unfortunate hunter’s body was found in 2016, another in June 2017. How much does searching for or finding corruptible treasure mean to you?
There are a number of missing real or mythical treasures of legend in the United States, under the sea, and in far flung places. Hunters still seek them. Most ordinary as well as wealthy people have treasures of which they actually know the location, ranging from a thousand to billions of dollars which they keep variously in cupboards, mattresses, banks, stocks and bonds, jewelry, collectors’ items, real estate, and countless other places. All are, nevertheless, susceptible to accidental destruction, market crashes, bank failures, real estate downturns, or deflation.
Those who currently feel somewhat financially secure are also susceptible themselves to failing health, fatal disease, advancing age, and an increasing, inevitable inability to enjoy their wealth stockpiled for an uncertain future. The evidence is clear: Material treasure does not always ensure a happy future, especially beyond a personal and certain grave date. Some big lottery winners and many others who have come into wealth have found that “easy come, easy go” is not just a mythical saying.
Yet all this assumes the definition of “treasure” always refers to a material substance translatable to money. The question for all of us is this: Is there treasure which can never be diminished or destroyed? You might not take his word for it, but Jesus clearly says there is a treasure which can never be stolen from you or suffer any destructive element. The bank for such treasure is not on this earth; it is in a place located beyond the erosion of the grave, a place you who are still living have not yet seen. So do you grab the treasure you can lay your hands on here, added up on a calculator, grasping it as close to your heart as possible? Or do you take the word of the Lord of this universe and trust what he says about permanent treasure? Do you invest countless hours making and hoarding losable treasure or yearning and searching for the proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow? Or do your put your whole-hearted effort into building a permanent treasure which traverses eternity?
Working for this treasure promises oases of pleasure along the way as you see lives rescued, people restored and healed, your money applied to help others survive, to see with your own eyes the glowing smile appear on a once tear stained face. Building this treasure requires your own hands, your own time, and your own heart to be engaged, where normally it must be subtracted from any effort to seek and gain a treasure which ultimately erodes into oblivion.
This is a life-transforming consideration to which you must apply your mind, sooner rather than later, for none of us knows when our time will come. According to Scripture, “Blessed is the man who wisely considers the poor man’s case.” Think wisely before the love of money captures your heart.


“Worldlings prize their gems of beauty, cling to gilded toys of dust, boast of wealth and fame and pleasure; only Jesus will I trust. All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Only Jesus will I trust. All for Jesus! All for Jesus! Only Jesus will I trust.”
(3rd verse of Mary James’ hymn “All for Jesus,” 1871)
 

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Doing It to Be Seen by Others
Aug 16, 2017

Doing It to Be Seen by Others

“Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1


There is a constant competition among a certain group of men from which most people are excluded because they simply do not make enough money to come close. However, the old boys’ club is being overcome by some “Johnny come latelies” to the “Who Is the Richest Man in the World Club,” that is, determining who is richest today based on stock market vicissitudes. Namely, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Amancio Ortega, Carlos Slim Helu, et al. getting a run for their money by newcomers Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerburg for now. The Walmart family might have been somewhat in the running, but founder Sam Walton split his assets among all his children, so they have slid down the ladder.
These very wealthy men have differing personalities, but they share a few similarities, nonetheless; chiefly, they enjoy being seen by men. Although these men most likely downplay this truth, it is nevertheless there. Their familiarity before the world is an important part of what their vast accumulated treasures – and the acclamation of men because of it – bring them.
All of the Lord’s teaching of Matthew 6 is prefaced by this truth: You should take extraordinary measures not to perform your acts of righteousness (or display your great success) before men so as to seek their praise as one of your great rewards. Your wealth-status in life is not from your own hand but from the blessing of Almighty God. Always remember this fact of life and give God the glory due alone to Him! Do not seek to accumulate glory to yourself as though God has done nothing for you and you alone have accomplished all this by your extraordinary skills, which you consider far exceed most others.
The great moral lesson of Matthew 6 extends from the truth that we ought not be focused in our hearts on the adulation of men by what we accumulate or what we do to draw such personal glory and popularity from others. We ought to be of first order seeking the approval and affirmation of God and not determining our course in life upon whether or not it is popular with men. God’s affirmation of your righteousness is on a different plane than the judgment of men and counts eternally, not temporarily. As the Apostle Paul says, our own accumulations of notoriety are as filthy rags in comparison to the rewards and affirmation of God.
None of us compete with the richest men in the world, and I doubt any of them will read this, but what blessings we do have are from our gracious God and not from our own hands. By seeking our primary treasure in accumulated things destined for destruction, we show what our hearts treasure more than God. The monied treasures of our hearts are the things that ultimately perish, rather than the rewards of obedience to the commands and instruction of God and His Son.
God may well bless you with wealth, or maybe a modest income, or possibly a thread bare existence, but whatever your status is, your heart’s treasure should be the seeking of His kingdom above all. In doing this, all needful things of this world will be added into your life. In a very real sense, you will truly be the richest man or woman in the world; for having His hand upon you to do you good moves you into this realm, which eternity will certainly bear out.


“He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine; He owns the rivers and the rocks and rills, the sun and stars that shine. Wonderful riches, more than tongue can tell; He is my Father so they’re mine as well. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills; I know that He will care for me.”
(1st verse of John W. Peterson’s hymn, “He Owns the Cattle on a Thousand Hills,” 1948)
 

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The Kindness and Severity of God
Aug 09, 2017

The Kindness and Severity of God

“Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” Romans 11:22


Achan and his family lived among the children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, having left Egypt in the exodus. He had a heart of deception and at the same time no conscious awareness of an all-seeing, all-knowing God who is fully cognizant of everything. When instructed by God to take no personal spoils when Israel defeated its enemy, Ai, Achan thought God’s commands foolish, taking for himself significant treasure, and burying it in his tent. He falsely thought no one but his family saw him. When he was discovered, he and his family were stoned. This was God’s justice on evil. Should God’s kindness have prevailed in this deception and Achan and his family been forgiven?
If you want to know God as He really is, in all His glory, then you must acknowledge both His kindness AND His severity. God, as well as His Son, Jesus, are not simply all-kindness all-the-time alone, especially not kindness toward persistent, unrepentant evil. God is love and the fullness of love’s definition includes both justice and forgiveness, holiness as well as salvation, righteousness as well as redemption. Authentic love is not to be relegated to the sentiment of total acceptance and full tolerance of everything and anything! This, unfortunately, is the opinion of too many.
There are 150 Psalms in the Bible’s Hymn Book. Six of them are not the favorites of many readers; they are studiously avoided. Those six are called “Imprecatory Psalms,” and many other Psalms as well have imprecatory verses in them. These are Psalms or passages in which God refers to His enemies and to the manner in which He stands against their evil intentions and behavior; He will judge severely and distribute a just punishment. A Holy God will not abide unrepentant sin; He will not allow sin to continue unabated apart from judgment.
Harsh words and expressions of punishments do not enter ears and minds easily. They may grate upon your sensitivities. They may shock a false opinion and view of God. If they do, you have not fully known Him as He is. It is necessary to understand and know Him fully, else you cannot draw near to Him. You need to draw near to God both in times of gladness and in times of discipline, just as a child will crawl into the lap of a parent after being spanked.
God acts both kindly and severely toward his children, for His truth cannot be discounted and will not be put to shame. Truth is neither relative nor random; truth, just as God Himself, does not change or erode. The denigration of truth by good or by evil people will always result in corrective action – as discipline soaked in grace from a loving Father toward His children or as justice toward rebels and unbelievers; maybe not always corrective action immediately but in God’s timing. It is a certainty to come. Falsehoods will not stand, or else chaos prevails. God is not a God of chaos but of order.
Order is one of God’s beautiful attributes. It inspires trust in Him and what He establishes. It causes doubt to flee. Order is always a foundation on which to build. Disorder discourages and affords no certain means to move forward with confidence. No man can flourish in the midst of disorder. He must know that obedience to God produces order in his life and results in success. Rebelliousness on the other hand produces disorder and the severity of God.
Take into account the kindness and severity of God in all your dealings. It is always based on the truth of who He is. He will not compromise with evil; it is anathema to Him. He will always deal with those who are in Christ, kindly with grace and mercy. Be in Christ!


“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.”
(1st verse of Horatio Spafford’s hymn, “When Peace Like a River,” 1876)
 

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I Am Not Consumed
Aug 03, 2017

I Am Not Consumed

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:23, 24


What is it in your life that is more consuming than anything else, that renders your life hopeless, making you question if you can go on? There is nothing more consuming than sin, and sin piled upon sin is a death spiral from which there seems no escape. The sin that has already occurred in the past has been so destructive, the results, you think, cannot possibly be remedied.
I just attended the funeral of a man who was a dear friend for most of my life. He died at 89, but except for a fall from a ladder up in a tree some ten years ago, which had a great impact on his health, it was easily expected he would live to over a 100. He always had Christ on his lips, speaking of his Lord to others as a joyful daily habit. One of his traits was to share his wonder each day while reminding others that today is a new day, a day to begin anew. God’s mercy and compassion to us is such that despite what happened yesterday, today is truly a new day. “Isn’t that amazing? he would say. This truth, as described in Lamentations, puts the lie to the thought that our sins can consume us, and no remedy or hope can be found to the situation in which we find ourselves. This thinking has driven many a Christian into the pit of despair.
Jeremiah, known as “the weeping prophet, certainly traversed some deep valleys. He was no stranger to tears, pain and misery, and being thrust into one dismal situation after another. This small book following the book named after him, Jeremiah, is after all named Lamentations, a lament. Yet there is in the midst of sorrow the promise of compassion and mercy capable of remedying any crushing situation. Some just do not believe it; so they end up spiraling down into greater despair and more sin. There is little room in them for patience for waiting quietly for God’s remedy by placing hope in Him while earnestly seeking Him (see 3:25-26). The hope and the seeking are simply absent when there is no belief in the promise.
When sin is in the process of consuming your life and you recognize it, you are faced with several options: (1) My sin is too great and my circumstance is too impossible for remedy; so I do nothing except continue in it, hoping my despair will somehow pass. (2) I want a solution immediately. I want to see the light now at the end of the tunnel. There is no place for hope or waiting. (3) I believe the Lord’s promise and put my hope in Him, seeking Him through genuine repentance and patiently waiting for His salvation, however long it takes.
When I was in Vietnam and praying to survive the year-long tour, experiencing one brush with death after another, God’s answer to my prayer could have been my getting wounded so badly it would require my removal from the battlefield immediately and being sent home, or He could display His presence to me through continuing to surround me with His mercies and protection. In this case my year would not shorten. It would remain a year of 365 days in which I would continue on the battlefield. I would have to wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord for the rest of what seemed a longer than normal year. Very often our salvation from the situation which sin has created in our life necessitates waiting patiently for what the Lord is doing or will do, a process that tests the mettle of your hope in Him. It isn’t authentic hope if you expect an immediate escape and removal of the pain of the dilemma into which your sin has thrust you. There is not a set time as my tour of a year in Vietnam. The time of waiting is in God’s hands, molding your hope into a persevering one, which is hope indeed. Some are not willing to actually put on such a character of faith and would choose to sink into greater despair or become insensitive to sin altogether. The reckoning will eventually come after the searing of the conscience has done its damage.
Sin always consumes everything in its path, but its remedy is nearer than you know. Sin will always tell you, “I have gone too far, and there is no going back. But God’s promise still rings in the ear of the hearer of His Word, “My compassions never fail, they are new every morning!


“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole, there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul.
(Refrain from African-American spiritual taken from Jeremiah 8:22)
 

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