Standing Out In A Crowd by Larry W Peebles

Standing Out In A Crowd   by   Larry W Peebles   September 22, 2017   17.36

I had a feeling he was the one when I saw him standing across the street.  He was tall, distinguished looking, and well dressed.  He could hardly hold back the tears.  In a moment, we would know for certain.  My wife and I were on the final afternoon of three days of street evangelism meetings in a small town in Kenya.  Along with our Kenyan friends, the pastor and worship team from a local church, we had set up on the street corner of a busy transportation station, where taxis (14 passenger vans) were coming and going, moving people from one place to another.  These taxis are the principal means of transportation in this part of Kenya.  Cars are expensive, so if it is too far to walk, people use these taxis.    The traffic in and out of this transfer station is quite busy.  The locals had set up a market here also, selling snacks, drinks, fruit and other merchandise to the travelers coming through.  So it was on this street corner out in the open air we had been preaching the good news of the Gospel of Jesus for three days.

Each day we had drawn a crowd bigger than the day before.  The travelers coming and going, as well as the locals working the booths in the market would stop and listen to the message.  They would join the dancing and singing to the lively worship music.  My wife and I both spoke that last afternoon, and our messages were connected.  The messages were similar in theme not because we had planned it that way, as neither of us knew in advance what the other would say.  The messages were similar because God intended it that way.  He often does that when we both speak in a ministry setting.

I spoke from John 14:6, where Jesus says He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  I was reminding the crowd that when Jesus comes into a new believer’s heart as Savior, He brings real life and truth, and reveals the direction and purpose for that life.  That was when I heard the Lord say He does not come for the crowd, but always for the individual.  The size of the crowd does not matter.  When He looks at the crowd, he sees only the individual.  What I heard in my spiritual ear was so strong I spoke it aloud to the crowd.  I announced that Jesus Himself would be walking into our gathering to receive one soul into His salvation.  At least one person within the sound of my voice would make the decision this very afternoon to invite Jesus into his heart and life to be Savior, Lord, and King.

When we had both finished our messages to the people, we turned the meeting over to the local pastor.  He summarized beautifully, asking if anyone present wished to give their life to Jesus, and begin a new life by making a decision to follow Him.   That was when I saw the one man standing across the street.  He stood out, although he was in the crowd.  His lower lip trembled as he fought back the tears.  When the pastor asked anyone who wanted to make such a decision to step forward, the man broke immediately from the crowd to cross the street.  A large crowd followed.  This man received his salvation, and many others were also saved or touched through prayer.

In my last position before I retired from a career in homebuilding, I was responsible for the entire operation of a Division of a large national homebuilding Company.  One year, that Division delivered 2850 homes in the local market.  That works out as an average of 11 homes per work day that were started, constructed, finished, sold and closed.  Someone asked how we could have possibly built, sold and closed 2850 homes in one year.  My response was quick- one home, one customer at a time.

Jesus works the same way.  He is the Savior of the world.  All of mankind will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Him for His saving work on the cross.  Our very eternal existence with Him in heaven is because He came to earth to pay the price for ours sins so that we can be reconciled to God.  However, He works that salvation one person at a time.  I have seen video of massive meetings in Africa where the crowd, numbered in the millions, came to hear the message of Jesus.  The number of people who came forward to receive salvation was in the hundreds of thousands.  Jesus did not respond to the millions or the hundreds of thousands.  He met each one individually, just as He came for that one man that afternoon in a small town in Kenya.

The man looked healthy and strong, but the tears on his face said his heart was broken.  I do not know if his tears were joy or pain or both.  I do not know his past, or his present situation.  I do know that in that moment of salvation the sins of his past were forgiven and washed away.  The man was given a new life, a second chance, literally a new birth.  Hope and help became available.  The burden of having to carry the weight of one’s own trouble was lifted, and great joy entered into the situation.  Each situation and individual is different, and that is the reason Jesus comes for one person at a time.

Some would say that receiving the initial gift of salvation is only a starting point, and that is true, but it is an important starting point.  Every journey begins with that all- important first step.  There may be memories to deal with, forgiveness to seek from others, and efforts made to break bad habits and behaviors.  Mentoring and study in the word of God will help strengthen the resolve to not go back to old ways.  Prayer will need to become a habit, like talking with a good friend.  Each person is unique, and each salvation experience is unique.  That is why Jesus comes to one at a time to receive His specially created child back home.

On this day, it was more than enough to celebrate one man being born again into a new life of following Jesus.  While much can be said about the process of salvation, here are five things to remember about what commonly happens when a life is turned over to Jesus:

  1. We are a new creation. When Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are born again.  2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!”
  2. We are free from past sins. Romans 8:2- “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  The Bible says our sins are removed from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
  3. We are redeemed and forgiven. Ephesians 1:7- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
  4. We are not only free from sin, we are made righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
  5. We are alive in Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5- “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”  What we formerly considered living was merely the dead walking.  We move from being dead in sin to a new life in Christ.

Not only did the one man stand out in the crowd, but according to Luke 15:7, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  All of heaven danced and celebrated to the music along with us because of that one man’s decision that day in a small town in Kenya.  Something outstanding happened- a man’s life was changed forever.  That, my friends, is priceless.

It’s Time to Take Dominion Part I Kay Keith Peebles

Our victory or loss will be determined by where we focus our attention. The enemy tries to turn our focus in every direction except the one of victory: our past (back), our current circumstances (around us), and our inabilities/insecurities (down).

Looking Back-The Lord called Lot and his family out of Sodom and Gomorrah before He destroyed it. An angel told them not to look back. Genesis 19:17 “So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” Lot’s wife did not heed the warning. She looked back unable to leave the past behind her and she turned into a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26. Our past cannot help us and we must not let it haunt us.

The Israelites looked back at Egypt when Moses was up on Mt. Sinai for 40 days. They quickly discarded their deliverance the Lord had given them and began to worship the gods of Egypt. Many died in the wilderness because they could not see what the Lord was doing. Instead, they chose to look backward. Exodus 32:31-35 “Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.’ And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. Now therefore, go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit for punishment, I will visit punishment upon them for their sin.’ So the LORD plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.” There is nothing in Egypt (the world) we need, nothing that can help us and nothing to desire.

Isaiah 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” We cannot go back and correct our past mistakes. We cannot change the choices we made or the damage we left behind other than asking for forgiveness. Our past is unchangeable and some aspects of it will affect us the rest of our lives. When we repent to God and ask forgiveness from those we hurt, we are then free from our connection to the past. One of the most important things we can do is to also forgive ourselves for the mistakes we made. Once we do all of those things, we are in a position to pull down the devil’s reminders to us with power and authority from God. Our past does not have the power to continue to haunt us unless we allow it.

One of the most powerful scriptures we have been given is our greatest tool of warfare against our past mistakes, 2 Corinthians 5:17. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

Looking Around – Our circumstances are in the earthly realm. If we stay focused upon what is going on around us, we will lose sight of what God is doing. Romans 8:5-9a “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…”

Problems are either initiated by the devil, others or ourselves. Life in itself can create problems. When problems occur, they are evidence of something that is amiss. The “evidence” of a problem is at the surface level, but the cause of the problem is something greater that is hidden. The enemy always tries to make us set blame by looking at the “circumstantial” evidence hoping to keep us from attending to the true problem which is the root cause. Unless we cut off the root, the problem will continue to re-produce itself over and over again. Generational curses are passed down because one generation did not deal with the root causes. The majority of our problems are spiritual, not physical.

Ephesians 6:10-12 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” We will never find the answers we need by looking around at our circumstances. Defeat will always be the result when our focus is in the wrong direction.

Looking Down – Placing our focus on our inabilities, our unworthiness, or our weaknesses will keep our eyes looking down into the depths of defeat. Sometimes we think that when we focus on our inabilities we are being humble. The reality is, we are in pride. Humility is believing what God says we can do! We are also in pride when we focus on who others say we are whether good or bad. True humility is believing we are who God says we are! Psalm 8:4-6 “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower that the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet.”

1 Corinthians 1:27 “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence, But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.’”

When we are self-focused, we are self-absorbed. We do not have the personal power to resolve our problems that are spiritual. We lack the wisdom to fix everything that is wrong in our lives and we remain in a cycle of defeat. When we become God focused, we are God-absorbed. A God focus is full of faith. Faith makes the impossible possible. It knows the power required is not only accessible, it’s more than enough. It believes the supply required will come in abundance. It understands that in our weakness He is strong, in our inabilities, He is more than able. Whatever help we need is found in Him. There is therefore no climate of lack in any area at any time!

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The result of simply changing our focus transitions us from looking to ourselves to find and fix all our problems to looking up and living in Him. Acts 17:28 “for in Him we live and move and have our being.” The Lord is coming back. Our focus must be on Him, His plans and His purposes. In order to be positioned to be used by the Lord, we must remember that all we know here will soon be gone. The only thing eternal is His Kingdom and those who truly call Him Lord. We must not allow the distractions all around us to miss the event of a lifetime, of all eternity! We can only take dominion by looking up!

Who Am I by Larry W Peebles

Who Am I   by   Larry W Peebles   September 8, 2017   17.34

This is not a riddle.  It is a simple but profound question.  In the “I AM” series, Parts 1 and 2 (July 28 and August 11 in the archives of this website), Jesus answered the question of who He eternally was/is/will be.  He did it without presenting a resume of His name, address, and contact information.  He offered no background information such as education or job related experience.  He did not submit information on past positions and titles held.  There was no offer of character references for anyone to check.  Better than any resume could, He answered any and all questions concerning His true identity in the seven I AM statements recorded in the Book of John.

The beauty of what He said not only successfully and completely told who He was, it also answered a number of other questions that mankind has debated since creation.  These are deep and thought-provoking questions such as “What is truth?”, “What is the purpose of life?”, “Why do I exist?”, and “Is there life after death?”  When Jesus spoke the seven I AM statements, he identified Himself and answered all these questions with such wisdom that a resume could have never explained.

Another of those age-old questions is the question of “Who am I?” Just as Jesus answered the question of who He is, so God also tells us who we are.  We can set aside the normal resume-type questions of where we were born, current address and contact info, education, accomplishments or job experience, hobbies, and goals and plans.  We will not need personality or intelligence tests.  To know the answer to the question “Who am I?”, we should go to the real authority.  We should turn to words spoken by God, as contained in His written word, as His words have power.  Let’s consult with the One who made us to see what He said about us.

I have chosen twenty topics where God has spoken about us.  The list is by no means exhaustive.  These Scriptures are worth reading over and over again until our minds and spirits are renewed with what He says about us as believers.  We must drive out of our minds what others have said, together with what we may have begun to believe about ourselves.

1. God is our loving Father. Matthew 6:26- “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much better than they?”  Jesus said in John 16:27-28- “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and believed that I came from God.”  I John 4:8- “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  Then consider Romans 8: 15- “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba (Daddy) Father’”.
2. God loves me. Romans 5:8- “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
3. We can come boldly and confidently to our Father through our faith in Christ. Ephesians 3:12.
4. We are God’s children. John 1:12- “Yet to all who did receive Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
5. If we are children, then we are also heirs. Romans 8:17- “Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”  Also, Galatians 4:7- “So you are no longer a slave (to sin), but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
6. Jesus calls us friend. John 15:15- “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I call you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I Have made known to you.”
7. We are the temple of God. He lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:19- “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
8. We are a new creation. When Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are born again.  2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!”
9. I am free from my past sins. Romans 8:2- “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
10. I am redeemed and forgiven. Ephesians 1:7- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
11. I am not only free from sin, I am made righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
12. I am alive in Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5- “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”
13. I can be triumphant. 2 Corinthians 2:14- “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”
14. I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37- “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
15. I am blessed with spiritual blessings. Ephesians 1:3- “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.”
16. My needs are supplied. Philippians 4:19- “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
17. I am a citizen of heaven. Philippians 3:20- “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savor from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
18. I am an ambassador for Christ. Not only am I the son of a King, I am an ambassador.  2 Corinthians 5:20- “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
19. I am seated in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6- “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
20. I have nothing to fear. 2 Chronicles 20:15- “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”’

These Scriptures contain the truth of what God has said about you and me.  He cannot lie because His words contain creative power.  If He said it, it is!  If He looked at a white wall and said the wall is green, it would not be a lie.  As soon as he said the wall is green, it would be green.  I encourage you to read these Scriptures for your own encouragement, and to realize the position and authority we have been given in Christ.  We are His children.  He thinks highly of us.

THE ALL-SUFFICIENT ONE Kay Keith Peebles

I grew up in an area called tornado alley. The first tornado I remember happened when I was in the eighth or ninth grade. The entire school was in the gymnasium and our choir, including me, was standing on risers singing our annual Easter program. The students were sitting on pull-out benches which rose like stairs to the height of the windows near the top of the gym. The windows were open because there was no air conditioning and it was a hot sultry day. Halfway into our program the windows began to bang violently against the metal frames. We heard a roar sounding like a huge freight train go over our building. Everyone froze where they were not knowing what was happening.
After the storm ended we lined up to go back to our classrooms. The room where I would have been was filled with mud and glass. Our projects which were left on our desks were scattered all over the floor making a huge mess. I realized we could have been seriously injured by flying glass or possibly killed, had we been in our original classrooms during the storm. We were told later that a postman was delivering the mail outside our school at the time of the tornado. He saw the funnel cloud coming. It flipped over his truck but he was not seriously injured. He had seen the tornado jump over our building doing very little damage to it. A few miles away the same funnel cloud tore off the roof of another school. The tornados we experienced in north central Texas were much more dangerous than those in Florida where we were living at the time of my next tornado story.
It all started when my husband was out of town a few days for quarterly business meetings. Our children were away in college and I was home alone. I didn’t mind having a couple of days to myself every now and then. I would usually plan a special project around the house on which to focus, in order to pass the time. During the summer months we would have rain storms blow through during the afternoon heat. Sometimes a tropical storm or hurricane would spin off tornados that were usually short lived. I was watching the news that evening and saw a weather report that storms were coming through later that night. They warned that a storm system could spawn a tornado in our area. I finished my chores, watched some TV in bed and heard the winds begin to pick up in intensity.
I was tired and ready to go to sleep. I checked the weather reports which brought no immediate cause for alarm. Before I drifted off, I decided to pray for my family and the possible storms that night. I prayed that the Lord would surround our yard with angels, I would be completely safe and that there would be no damage to our roof or our home. Our back yard had a large screen over the patio behind the house and we had a wooden fence around the entire lot. I prayed our fence would not be damaged nor the lanai screen connected to the house. I then drifted off to sleep.
The next morning while checking the news I learned that a tornado had done damage in our area. The same system hit a town 45 minutes away where it also did damage. I immediately walked around our yard to check for any problems. The only thing I saw out of order, was one large tree limb that had broken off in the wind. It had been caught by other branches which kept it from crashing into our lanai screen. It was evident the strong storm had come through but we had been completely protected. There was tornado damage around our area but it did not affect our yard. I rejoiced in the Lord’s protection of me and our home.
Six months later, I was watching an evangelist on TV who lived in our area. He was giving a testimony about his elderly mother who lived in that town 45 minutes away where the tornado had hit. He said that when the storm intensified, she prayed asking the Lord to spare her life, her rocking chair and her Bible. He was rejoicing that although her house was destroyed, the Lord had protected her life, her rocking chair and her Bible. Everything she had asked for was spared. I was rejoicing with him but I was puzzled about the difference in our outcomes. I knew that the Lord was no respecter of persons, to Him we were all equally loved and cared for. I asked why He protected all of my house and belongings and this wonderful woman of God lost her house. His answer to me was profound. He said, “I gave you each exactly what you had prayed.” Stunned, that began to motivate me to pray BIG prayers!
For years I have been studying the names of God. Each name is a glimpse into His character. One of my favorite names of God is El Shaddai – the All-Sufficient One. Scripture draws a picture of an animal nursing their young. There are enough breasts or teats to meet the need. No one would lack what they needed to survive and thrive. They would all be nurtured or sustained, and no one would be left out! It gives a portrayal of no lack, no want, more than enough, the All-Sufficient One! The name El Shaddai also means the All-Powerful One, all Sovereign One. His power transcends nature, the power of any earthly king or kingdom and all of the demonic realm.
The Lord God revealed Himself to Abraham as El Shaddai. He did so because Abraham needed to know that the God who promised a child through him and Sarah at an old age was capable of fulfilling His promise. Abraham also needed to know that the God who promised to him all the land he could see as his possession was able to deliver. He needed to believe that God was able to perform his promise that his descendants would be as great in number as the stars in the heavens or the grains of sand on the seashore. Why? Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. See Hebrews 11:1.
El Shaddai is sufficient within Himself to do anything He desires, says, promises or declares. The power of Almighty God, El Shaddai is more than enough to make every promise come to pass. He has no limitations. Many consider El Shaddai a connection to the “blessing” and “favor” of the Lord. Because He is All-Powerful and All-Sufficient, He is able to bless His people no matter their circumstances. The blessing of God does not require perfect circumstances in the natural realm. It requires faith in the One who provides the blessing and obedience to His word.
Isaac blessed Jacob as he left to find a wife. “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you until you become a group of peoples. May He give the blessing [He gave to] Abraham to you and your descendants with you, that you may inherit the land He gave to Abraham, in which you are a sojourner.” Genesis 28:3-4.
The Lord God Himself spoke to Jacob in Genesis 35:11-12. “And God said to him, I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you and kings shall be born of your stock; the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and to your descendants after I will give the land.”
We are a part of the seed of Abraham. We share in his blessings. His provision never ran out, he never lacked anything. He believed the word of the Lord and in His power to fulfill it. “For my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19.
Psalm 91:1 declares, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand].” “I have been young and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging bread. He is ever merciful, and lends; and his descendants are blessed.” Psalm 37:25-26.
“And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. As it is written, He [the benevolent person] scatters abroad; He gives to the poor, His deeds of justice and goodness and kindness and benevolence will go on and endure forever. And [God] Who provides seed for the sower and bread for eating will also provide and multiply your [resources for] sowing and increase the fruits of your righteousness [which manifests itself in active goodness, kindness and charity].” 2 Corinthians 9:8-10.
“Blessed be the Lord who daily loads us with benefits.” Psalms 68:19. “The Lord shall command the blessing upon you in your storehouse and in all that you undertake, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Deuteronomy 28:8.
If we believe in the provision, sufficiency and power of El Shaddai, we will never fear that we will lack anything we need. When we trust in His care for His children, we will know that He is working for our good and He will never run out of supplies. God does not have to rob one of His children to take care of another. There is more than enough to go around and there will be left-overs in addition! Wherever we are lacking, we can ask for the provision of El Shaddai: spiritual, physical/healing, wisdom, and material needs.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” Psalm 103:1-5. He’s the All-Sufficient One, He is more than enough. He is El Shaddai!

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6   by   Larry W Peebles   August 25, 2017   17.32

It was another typical workday.  The line formed at my office door early in the morning, and continued non-stop until late afternoon.  I was the Division President of a national home building company, and one-by-one the front-line operations managers of the Division came to talk with me.  They might have questions regarding customers.  They might have unusual problems regarding construction.  They might want to discuss strategy regarding sales.  They might have a new solution, and were just looking for someone to listen.  In between these meetings, I had to take calls from my boss, and of course home office.  These calls usually dealt with high level corporate plans or directives.  The call might involve an update on Division performance versus budget, something the stock analysts were always interested in knowing.  By late afternoon, the calls and line at my door had diminished, and I could actually begin to work on some of my own individual responsibilities or assignments.  This would mean I could not finish before 6-7 pm, which would be another 10 hour day.

We set operating policies for the Division that covered 98% of the problems and questions that arose.  We met face to face to resolve any other issues that did not fit the guidelines.  We were entrusted to set the policies, and we were responsible to deal with the exceptions.  These meetings were vital for a number of reasons.  First, we talked until we agreed on the solution.  Second, I knew what was happening in the Division, and knew where we were having problems.  Third, once the issue was resolved, we were all moving forward again in unity.  Fourth, everyone involved had input.  Although my separate responsibilities had to step back until another’s problems were resolved, I never considered this an undue burden.  One of my major responsibilities was to serve the other members of the team in this fashion.  General Bruce C. Clarke, USA, Ret., said “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above you and below you.  It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.”  A good leader in the military is interested in serving those above and below in rank, and puts that as a priority above self.

I did not realize it at the time, but the Bible has a name for this—it is called servanthood.  Servanthood is the gift of doing for others, sometimes to the exclusion of meeting personal needs.  True leadership is servanthood, and the greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ.  In only three years, He reintroduced and reconciled mankind to their loving Creator God, using only twelve disciples.  He did so in a way that would never fade away.  More books have been written, songs sung, pictures painted, and thoughts discussed concerning Jesus than anyone else in human history.  He changed the world forever.  He solved problems, connected with people, sought high-level commitments, wisely communicated, and passionately inspired like no other leader has ever done before or since.

Servanthood is an attitude exemplified by Christ “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7)  Speaking of rank, Jesus also said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)  The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love.  If we want to minister to God, or minister in the name of Jesus to others, we must take on the role and attitude of a servant.  Jesus said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)  All believers are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore we are all called to be servants for the glory of God.

Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others.  “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  (2 Corinthians 4:5)  Our servanthood or acts of service are not based on obligation, duty or habit.  If they are, they become mindless, meaningless, and resentful.  Rather, they are genuinely based on love and gratitude for the love and grace of God, who He is, and what He has done for us.  Acts of service are not to be confused with “works”, which cannot save us.  True faith in Jesus will both save us and produce action in the form of service to others (James 2:17), but the action of service is produced out of the overflow of the believer’s heart.  1 Peter 4:10 says- “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

My wife and I attend a small non-denominational Pentecostal church in the Atlanta area.  We have attended several very good churches in the past, and I do not want to get into comparing churches because each has its own gifts, strengths and purpose.  Although this is not its only strength, our current church may be the strongest we have ever seen in the area of servanthood.  The attitude of servanthood is led by the Pastor, who sets the example by serving in so many ways.  He has an amazing gift of music and worship, and serves by sharing that gift each week as he leads the congregation into true worship of the Lord.  He also has a practical gift of helping others who need a hand, and the church has seen that multiply into a body of believers that are continually helping each other.  This might involve moving someone from one location to another, lending or buying cars, lending or giving money, and renting or giving an extra room or basement to someone in need.  Members of the body are willing to serve with not-so-light construction remodeling work, car repairs, computer repairs, and baby-sitting, just to name a few.  There a number of well qualified Bible teachers in the body, and they serve by teaching the Word of God in a variety of settings such as small groups and one-on-one. No church is perfect, but this church does a commendable job of serving one another to meet the needs of the body of Christ.  I know of no one who keeps track of how much they have served, nor who expects anything in return.  The attitude throughout the church is if one sees another in need, make an attempt to meet it.  Everyone can do something.  Everyone can lead by serving.

 

I conclude with these three Scriptures on servanthood:

  1. Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
  2. Matthew 20:26- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
  3. John 15:12-13- “My command is this: Love each other as I loved you. Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for one’s friends.”

The greatest leader the world has ever seen is Jesus, and He set the example as a servant/leader.  Servanthood may not be the first quality the world thinks of when naming characteristics of great leaders.  Jesus made it clear that this should be our mindset.  The prophet Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Restoration Kay Keith Peebles


The transformation was amazing. I loved refinishing antique furniture. My husband’s uncle taught us how to refinish furniture when we were newly married. He had made a business of furniture restoration and wanted to pass his knowledge on to us. We learned how to turn tired or damaged furniture into beautiful new treasures. I was able to find many wonderful pieces for pennies on the dollar at garage sales, and restore them into beautiful treasures for our home and for others.
One of my projects was a solid wood golden oak pedestal dining table from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It was round, seating 4-6 people but had two extensions which enabled it to seat eight to ten people. It was shrouded in 5 layers of paint varying from grey, white and tan to bright green. I bought it for $10 at a neighbor’s garage sale. I knew what was beneath the ugly exterior and offered additional money for the table but she refused to charge more than $10. Many people may have overlooked that table unable to see its true beauty and lasting value. The golden oak, which is a hard wood, will last for centuries if cared for properly.
Restoration was a four stage process which began with a caustic paint stripper. The liquid stripper would cut through multiple layers of old paint or varnish. Thick gloves were needed to protect the hands while goggles protected the eyes from splatters. Accidental encounters with the skin would cause intense burning and require a trip to the sink to wash off the fiery goo. The paint stripper would seep into cracks and crevices of the carved detailed areas which made removing it easier and more effective. It was exciting to see the beautiful grains and the color of the pure wood reappear before my eyes.
The second stage was sanding. A good sanding ensured a smooth finished surface upon which the stain would be applied. Some pieces required a rough sanding at first, to level out chipped or scarred places causing them to almost disappear. Fine sandpaper was used to smooth and polish the top layer. The ugly nicks became beautiful. Stage three was staining. The purpose of restoration was to bring the broken or damaged furniture back to its original state. Staining made the wood grain pop with color and restored its beauty. The furniture piece came back to life! There was some oil in the stain which would penetrate below the surface reviving the dry neglected wood. The fourth and final step was hand rubbing tung oil over the entire piece for a smooth semi-gloss or satin finish. The hand rubbing would generate heat which caused the oil to penetrate into the wood grain. Several coats were applied for healing and protection of the wood. It would then harden to shield the furniture from damage and give it a deep sheen. Once restored, the furniture was worthy of being displayed in a prominent place. We used that table for many years and eventually sold it for much more that I had paid when I purchased it.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commandment forbidding them to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, they caused destruction in the earth, the plant and animal kingdoms, and everything living. Satan, who had deceived them, was given the right to have the dominion over the earth which God had given to Adam and Eve. The curses of sin and death were activated and have since had a terrible effect on every living thing. The nature and heart of mankind became sinful and as a result, every human being that has lived on earth became broken or damaged and in need of restoration. Jesus came to restore everything back to its original state as God created it. Restoration began with His ministry on earth and has continued as mankind repented of their sins and believed in the power of His death and resurrection. Believers have been set free from the laws of sin and death and God’s restoration is available to all who will seek Him. When the Lord returns at the end of the age, He will restore everything completely.

Physical and emotional abuse, sickness and disease, immorality, fear and depression are a few of the consequences the choices of sinful man have caused. God’s love found a way to restore all who would come to Him and allow Him to heal their wounds. Isaiah Chapter 61 explains the plan of God to send the Restorer Jesus to His people. “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and commissioned me to bring good news to the humble and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up [the wounds of] the brokenhearted, and to proclaim release [from confinement and condemnation] to the [physical and spiritual] captives and freedom to prisoners, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance and retribution of our God, to comfort all who mourn…(to give) the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a disheartened spirit…” Isaiah 61:1-3. (See entire Chapter). Emphasis mine.
How does the Lord heal and restore us and what is our responsibility in the process? Once we are born again into the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, the restoration process begins. Those who earnestly seek the Lord’s presence and willingly submit to the Lord’s discipline and cleansing process will experience the Fire of God. This Holy heat is what the Apostles experienced on the day of Pentecost. “And there appeared to them tongues resembling fire, which were separated and distributed and which settled on each of them.” Acts 2:3. Jesus charged them to wait there and pray until the Holy Spirit came. Like the piece of furniture that was restored, we can do nothing but seek Him and surrender, allowing the Holy Spirit to come and transform our lives into the likeness of Christ.
The men and women in the Upper Room were totally changed, transformed by the fire of God. Fire burns off the useless, damaged surface debris while it cleanses and purifies from decay and bacteria. The Fire of God has the same effect on the heart and mind of man. It exposes and burns off our sin while giving us the desire and the empowerment to be holy. The Lord first appeared to Moses as a burning bush, and to the Israelites as a mountain of fire. (See Deuteronomy 4:9-13). “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined and will test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will hear and answer them. I will say, The Lord is my God.” Zechariah 13:9. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and He will purify the priests, the sons of Levi, and refine them like gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord offerings of righteousness.” Malachi 3:2-3. The fire of God is connected to His holiness. Fire at its hottest point burns a blue-white flame and purifies everything in its path. We must not be afraid of the fire of God. His fire comes to purify our hearts and make us more like Him. We need to run to His fire and ask Him to purify our hearts. What isn’t purified will be judged, but those who allow the Lord to cleanse and purify them will have pure hearts. It is the pure in heart that will see God. (See Matthew 5:8).
The Lord places us in the church, which is the body of Christ, where we can be sanded and smoothed by “rubbing against” our brothers and sisters in the Lord. “Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend [to show rage or worthy purpose].” Proverbs 27:17. We need each other. Our brother or sister in the Lord may be the very one the Lord uses to bring us our breakthrough! We need the correction of the body of Christ and we need the intercession of our fellow believers to make it through. We also need their encouragement when we become weary and tired of the journey. “Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].” Galatians 6:2. The Lord uses our fellow believers to “sand off” our rough edges making us smooth.
When we are in the transformation process, the Lord put’s His “mark” on us figuratively and literally. “Mark the blameless man and behold the upright, for there is a happy end for the man of peace.” Psalms 37:37. This “mark” means to observe or take notice of the man who is blameless. There is something observable about his actions and attitudes that indicate His love and obedience to the Lord. “And the Lord said to him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in the midst of it…but do not touch or go near anyone on whom is the mark. Begin at My sanctuary…” Ezekiel 9:4, 6. The Lord puts His mark or impression of Himself upon those who seek Him and uphold His righteousness. We not only become like Him, we become one with Him. (See John 17). The stain applied to the piece of furniture causes one to notice the beauty within. The mark of God on the righteous causes others to see the beauty of the presence of the Lord in those who love and obey Him.
The oil of the Holy Spirit restores and protects the believer from the attacks of the enemy. It penetrates below the surface sealing and bonding to the faithful of God. It makes them resilient to attack and strong enough to persevere through the challenges of life. It ensures victory. Everyone who is broken can come to the Restorer and be made whole again. Every ugly sin and the scars it leaves can be healed and made beautiful. The Lord has promised beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for the Spirit of heaviness and a double portion for all that was lost. There is no need to fear His restoration process because His goal is to make us new again. Restoration is an act of love and mercy. Restoration is vital to the body of Christ. We become made new in the likeness of His image. Wholeness comes through Restoration.

I AM, Part 2 by Larry W. Peebles

I AM, Part 2   by   Larry W Peebles   August 11, 2017   17.30

In Part 1 (July 28, 2017), I examined God’s answer when Moses asked God His name (“Who shall I say sent me?”).  “I AM” was the answer, which reveals a lot about God, the eternal and unchanging One– the all-powerful God of the universe who always was, is, and will be.  This question was asked before Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt on a journey which became known as the Exodus.  The final plague which convinced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity was the death angel which took the lives of the Egyptian first born males.  For the Israelite households who had the blood of a lamb smeared above the door, death was spared.  This event where the Israelites were not only spared death, but passed through the door from bondage into freedom became known as Passover.  While on the Exodus, Israel was led by a pillar of fire by night (light) to show the way.  They were fed supernaturally for the 40 years of the Exodus with bread from Heaven called manna.  Part 1 concluded by studying the words of Jesus some 1400 years later when he came to the children of Israel and revealed His identity.  In the Book of John, He said I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, and I AM the door.  He spoke volumes about who He was by demonstrating that He was a concealed yet active part of the stories and celebrations that had been passed down through the culture for generations concerning what God had done for Israel during the Exodus.  He did not say He was symbolic of the door, or that He provided the light or the bread.  He said He was (I AM—still is) the bread, the light, and the door.

Now in Part 2 of this series, we will look at the final four “I AM” statements of Jesus, all from the Book of John:

  1. John 10:11- “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The blood on the Passover door was symbolic of His blood that would be shed on the cross.  Regarding a good shepherd, He goes on to say He is not a hired shepherd, but is the owner of the sheep, which results in a higher level of care (v.12).  He will not run away when the wolf attacks (v.13).  In v. 14 He said- “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  In v.16 He said- “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (Judaism).  I must bring them also.” (Insert mine.)  This is an obvious reference to the expansion of the Christian faith to the Gentiles because He goes on to say “They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock, and one shepherd.” (v.16)  He is a good shepherd, willing to die for His sheep, but all of God’s people will have one shepherd in this glimpse of the future worldwide church.

Psalm 23 paints a beautiful picture of the Lord as our shepherd.  The shepherd was a widely used metaphor for a king, so when King David wrote this Psalm, he was acknowledging the Lord as his King/Shepherd.  Without quoting the Psalm (although I encourage reading it), David says there is not a time the sheep are in want, because the  shepherd gives them rest in green pastures, and leads them to quiet, peaceful water where they are restored.  The sheep do not fear their enemies because the shepherd protects them.  They feel goodness and love from the shepherd, so they are nurtured into their full potential.  The sheep want nothing except to be in the presence of their shepherd.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

  1. John 11:25-26- “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus makes it clear in this statement that he is the Lord over life and death itself.  He was present at Creation, and everything was created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16).  He is the Lord and Giver of life.  Our physical bodies will wear out and die, but we are spiritual beings created in His image, so that our spirit-man lives eternally.  If our natural lives are lived in and with Jesus, we live eternally with him in Heaven.

Jesus made this statement to Martha, whose brother Lazarus lay dead for four days.  To show His complete power over life and death, Jesus then resurrected Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb after four days of decomposing.  If He can resurrect a decomposed body, He can resurrect anyone or anything from the dead.  I have personally seen Him resurrect dead marriages, and lives lost to drugs, alcohol and pornography.  I have even seen Him resurrect demon-possessed lives that appeared to be in Satan’s full grasp and control.  He can not only come in to rescue and resurrect the spiritually and physically dead to life, but when those lives commit to follow Him, they need never fear death again.

  1. John 14:6- “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice He did not say He would show us the way, tell us the truth, and give us life.  He said I AM the way, the truth, and the life.  There are many religions on the earth seeking “the way”, but there is no way to come to the true Father God, and receive eternal life in heaven except by coming through Jesus.  He is the only way to eternal life, and the only source of victory in this present life.  Regarding truth, philosophers through the ages have discussed and debated the concept of truth—what is truth?  Truth is not a concept—it is the person of Jesus.  We also know throughout history, groups of people have searched for the meaning of life.  Why do I exist, and what is the purpose of life?  Is there an after-life?   Jesus answered all of these deeply controversial questions in two short sentences.  He is the way through this life and into the life eternal.  He holds the power over life and death.  All truth is embodied in the person of Jesus, and those who abide in Him will know the truth.  The Bible says it is the knowledge of the truth (Jesus) that sets us free (John 8:32).  Jesus asked His own disciples to believe this powerful and sweeping statement “on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11)—I AM (He is) the way, the truth, and the life.
  2. John 15:1- “I AM the true vine.” In this seventh and last I AM statement, Jesus refers to the vine, an Old Testament symbol of Israel. He is saying that out of all the history of Israel, and the writings of Moses, the kings, and the prophets, and out of all their encounters with God who chose Israel as His people, Jesus is the main point or objective.  Everything focuses on Jesus, and it is all by and for Him.  He is at the center of where God had led these people.  He then made a number of statements concerning the vine.  In verse 1 and 2, Jesus said His Father is the gardener, cutting off branches that bear no fruit, and pruning productive branches to bear even more fruit.  Verse 4 says “no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  Verse 5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  If we remain in Jesus, we bear much fruit.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  If we bear much fruit, we show ourselves to be His disciples (v.8).  Finally (v.7)-“If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory.”

This gives a clear picture of how unsuccessful we will be if we try to live and do anything apart from Jesus.  Our lives and devotion are to be so intertwined in and with Him that we are a branch of His vine.  We flourish and are fruitful because of Him, and without Him we are like a dead branch cut off the vine.  There is no life support tied to anything other than Jesus.  However, a life tied in to the vine of Jesus is unbelievably rich and productive, full of purpose and satisfaction because it is then Him living in and through us.

In summary, John 20:31 – “But these (words of the Book of John) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  (Insert mine.)  John’s purpose was to convince the unbeliever of who Jesus was, and so he captured all seven of the “I AM” statements of Jesus to cement the explanation.  God began the explanation of “I AM” to Moses, and Jesus finished the explanation in the Book of John.  He went on to say “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30), and “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

When Jesus walked in Galilee, He told the people quite a lot about Himself.  He then proved His incredible statements with signs and wonders.  Today people still ask “Who is Jesus?”  The “I AM” statements recorded in the Book of John the disciple still provide the answer—“I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, and the true vine.

MY PASSPORT Kay K. Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

The warning was stern, “Don’t let anyone take your passport out of your presence!”  We were preparing for our first mission trip to Kenya and our pastor was counselling us on do’s and don’ts regarding travel to other countries.  He emphatically explained to us that we must never let any official take our passport and leave the room without us.  We came very close to that scenario happening to us in Lagos, Nigeria on a lay-over from Nairobi to Atlanta.  We had to run to keep up with the airport authority who had taken our passports and began to move to another location.  Since then, I have made a practice of carrying extra copies of my passport before embarking on an out of the country trip, in the event mine was ever lost or stolen.

My passport is a document that identifies who I am and where I abide.  The U.S. Government records all my personal identification information and guarantees my citizenship in the U.S.  My citizenship in the United States of America is assured to foreign governments by the seal our government has imprinted on my passport.  My picture is on my passport thus anyone examining my credentials can clearly see it belongs to me.  Each nation I attempt to enter will first confirm my identity and then stamp their seal on my passport when they accept my entrance.  I am also required to fill out a form that acknowledges the dates I arrive and my departure as well as where I will be temporarily residing while in their nation.  My passport subsequently becomes a record of my travels.  One can get a good idea where I have been and what I have been doing during my life by looking at the stamps on my passport. It guarantees my entrance back into the United States upon my return from travels.  It is a proven document that affirms the nation or “kingdom” in which I habitually dwell.

There have been instances when people have attempted to deceive a nation by using a counterfeit passport.  They may have gained entrance into a foreign country if they had access to a good forgery, but it would never work for someone trying to enter the gates of heaven.  All true believers have a “passport” record in heaven which is called the Book of Life.  The Lord keeps an on-going record of those who have put their faith in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus pledging their citizenship in the Kingdom of God.  The first mention of this book which records the generations of the faithful is in Genesis 5:1.  “This is the book (the written record, the history) of the generations of the offspring of Adam.  When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”

The Bible mentions the Book of Moses, the Book of the Law and the Book of Life to name a few.  It was important to the Lord to have a book (record) of the generations that have lived on the earth.  Exodus 32:31-33 explains, “So Moses returned to the Lord, and said, Oh, these people have sinned a great sin and have made themselves gods of gold!  Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray You, out of Your book which You have written!  But the Lord said to Moses, Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him [not you] out of My book.”  AMPV.

Daniel saw the vision of the last days.  He wrote, “At that time Michael (Archangel) will arise–the great Prince, defender of your people.  That will be a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.  When that time comes, your own people will be spared—all those whose names are found written in the Book (of Life).”  Daniel 12:1.  NJB.  (Emphasis mine.)  This Book of Life (our passport to heaven) is mentioned several times in the New Testament.  Paul writes to the Philippian church, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the Book of Life.”  Philippians 4:3.  NKJV.

I personally believe the Book of Acts is still being written through our lives.  The Bible could not contain all the testimonies the original Apostles accomplished in their generation.  Since then, others have followed in their footsteps continuing to preach and teach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  It is of utmost importance for the present-day church to preach the same Gospel of the Kingdom that Christ taught.  The Biblical truths from Genesis to Revelation are imperative teachings in order for the church to be the authentic Church that represents the Lord and His Kingdom.  Otherwise, those believing in a false form of Christianity are simply a counterfeit and no counterfeits will gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven.  (See also Revelation 20:12-15.)

The Apostle John was invited to heaven to see the end of the age, in order to warn the succeeding generations of the importance of persevering to the end.  He saw the Lord in His resurrected form and wrote down the Lord’s instructions for the church.  Revelation 3:2-6 expounds upon our need to hold tightly to the truth of the Gospel.  It urges us to persevere through the onslaught of deception, immorality and complacency which constantly attacks a believer’s faith in the Lord.

“Rouse yourselves and keep awake, and strengthen and invigorate what remains and is on the point of dying; for I have not found a thing that you have done [any work of yours] meeting the requirement of My God or perfect in His sight.  So call to mind the lessons you received and heard; continually lay them to heart and obey them, and repent.  In case you will not rouse yourselves and keep awake and watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know or suspect at what hour I will come.  Yet you still have a few [persons’] names in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, and they are worthy and deserving.  Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels.  He who is able to hear, let him listen to and heed what the [Holy] Spirit says to the assemblies (churches).”  AMPV.  (See also Psalm 69:28, Revelation 21:25-27).

The Lord charged His church with a very sobering statement!  He declared that God has established a standard to which our “works” must conform and we have the obligation to “obey” the lessons He taught about the Kingdom.  If not, our name can be blotted out of the Book of Life.  He also said, however, that there are those who have kept the faith and are worthy and deserving.  He promised them He would openly confess them before His Father and His angels in heaven.  What about grace?  Aren’t we saved by grace?  Yes we are, but His grace is not a license to keep on sinning as the world sins.  If the deeds of the church are the same as the world and continue unchanged, then the church has believed a false gospel.  God’s grace is given to all who repent of their sins and confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.  Grace, however, is not only our covering of righteousness, it is also the empowerment by the Holy Spirit to obtain victory over our sins.  His grace enables us to consecrate our lives completely to the Lord.  He expects us to become holy as He is holy.  “[Live] as children of obedience [to God]; do not conform yourselves to the evil desires [that governed you] in your former ignorance [when you did not know the requirements of the Gospel], But as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living.  For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44-45)…You must know (recognize) that you were redeemed (ransomed) from the useless (fruitless) way of living inherited by tradition from [your] forefathers, not with corruptible things [such as] silver and gold, but [you were purchased] with the precious blood of Christ.”  1 Peter 1:14-19.  Emphasis mine.  AMPV.

John 10:28 says no one can “snatch” us out of the Lord’s hand but it does not mean that we can’t choose to neglect the Gospel teaching and live the way we desire.  When one rejects Gospel truths, they reject the Lord Himself.  Esau surrendered his birthright to Jacob for a pot of stew.  (See Genesis 25:29-34, Hebrews 12:16.)  Verse 34 declares, “Thus Esau scorned his birthright as beneath his notice.”  Hebrews 12:17 declares, “For you understand that later on, when he wanted [to regain title to] his inheritance of the blessing, he was rejected (disqualified and set aside), for he could find no opportunity to repair by repentance [what he had done, no chance to recall the choice he had made], although he sought for it carefully with [bitter] tears.”  See Genesis 37:30-40.  AMPV.  We could never earn our salvation but we do have the ability to forfeit our inheritance in the Kingdom.

Our “work” is to surrender our will, our very lives to Him, allowing Him to work in us and through us whatever He desires.  “Strive to live in peace with everybody and pursue that consecration and holiness without which no one will [ever] see the Lord.  Exercise foresight and be on the watch to look [after one another], to see that no one falls back from and fails to secure God’s grace…”  Hebrews 12:14-17.  (See entire chapter).  AMPV.  When our works of surrender cause us to completely consecrate ourselves to the Lord, we will bear the fruit of righteousness and our name will be permanently etched in the Book of Life.  John 17:22-24 is part of Jesus’ prayer to His Father just before His death on the cross.  “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me…”.

I close with Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church.  “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.”  Ephesians 1:18-21.  NKJV.     Our salvation is not achieved by our works but His grace does not cover our negligence in regard to the Gospel.  The only place of safety is to live in Him, and He in us.  Our passion must be to know Him and to be known by Him.  Our “passport” to glory will be secured by our dwelling in Him.

I AM by Larry W Peebles

I AM    by   Larry W Peebles    July 28, 2017   17.28

“Tell them about license plates” was the answer I heard.  I asked God what He wanted me to speak about one evening at the County Juvenile Justice facility.  I had just left a busy day of work and was racing to meet my wife at the facility.  At the appointed time we could enter the facility through the maximum security door and meet with the young people detained for various charges and crimes.  Our ministry purpose was to tell them about hope and change for their lives and their future in the person of Jesus.

That can work well, I thought to myself.  If these young people don’t listen and turn their lives over to Jesus so He can help straighten them out, they will end up making license plates in a state prison.  “Tell them about my personalized license plate…the one I would have…if I drove a car…which I don’t.”  When I heard this, God really had my attention.  He wanted to go somewhere else with this message.  How would that personalized license plate read, I wondered.  “IM4U” was the answer.  Phonetically, it would read “I am for you”.  I could quickly imagine God pulling alongside on the highway in a car with a license plate that said “I am for you”, giving an encouraging smile, a nod and a wink, and pulling away.  This would make for a powerful message that evening.  God Himself, the Creator of the universe, is for us, and is not against us.  His plan for our lives is good, with a promise of a hope and a future, according to Jeremiah 29:11.

But there is a double meaning in that license plate.  When God told Moses he was going to lead the children of Israel out of 400 years of Egyptian slavery, Moses asked what he should tell the people when they asked who had sent him to do this.  In Exodus 3:14, God answered and said “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  God called Himself “I AM.”  This name characterized His eternal, ageless, all powerful yet unchanging and faithful qualities.  The One who always was, always is, and always will be—the God of all the universe– would be with them, and could be trusted to complete the work He started.  He would do no less for those in the Juvenile Justice program that night.  He would probably not lift them out of detention, but He would rescue them from their own senseless destruction if they asked.

Biblical names carried more meaning than perhaps they do today.  Although this was a short answer to a deep question–what is your name and what does it mean?—it was powerful, meaningful and timeless.

Some fourteen hundred years later, Jesus, the Son of God, began a relatively short yet powerful three year ministry on earth that would have an eternal impact on mankind.  The Apostle John, disciple of Jesus, wrote the Book of John to give a record of Jesus’ life, ministry and miracles including His death and resurrection.  According to John 20:31, the book was written “in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”   In the Book of John, Jesus picked up where the discussion with Moses ended on the name “I AM” and its meaning.  Seven times Jesus used that reference and elaborated on the meaning when He described Himself to the people.  We will cover the first three of these statements in this article, and will conclude with the final four in a subsequent article.

  1. John 6:35- Jesus said “I AM the bread of life.” He went on to say “he who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  When the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, they were fed daily for forty years with bread from heaven called manna.  (Exodus 16).  That bread kept them alive on their journey.  The story of that miraculous provision was written down and passed on from generation to generation.  Jesus shocked the Israelites of His day when He stood before the people and said He was the bread that would satisfy their spiritual hunger and give them eternal life.  The people would no longer need to tell the stories about the manna (bread) from heaven that gave them life.  Before He said this, Jesus had just fed five thousand with five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  The people saw this miracle and encountered the true bread from heaven, the Son of God, who would give them eternal life.  Before His death and marvelous resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine as symbols of his broken body and spilled blood to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.  His death and resurrection forgave sin, defeated the devil, and restored man into the proper relationship with God.  There are some types of bread around the world that are hearty enough to sustain for long periods of time.  Believing in Jesus will sustain us now and into eternity.  He is truly the bread of life.
  2. John 8:12- Jesus said “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  When the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day, and “by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.”  (Exodus 13: 21, 22).  The account goes on to say “neither the cloud nor the fire left its place in front of the people to guide them.”  This account, along with Moses’ conversation with God, was also written and passed down through the generations.  Jesus’ use of the phrase “I AM” was both intentional and powerful, because He knew the people would catch the double meaning.  Jesus was that fire and light that led them during the exodus (Exodus 14:19), and more.  He is the light of the whole world.  He had come to show and light the way to eternal life.  Believers will have the light of life, and will never have to walk in darkness, fearing what they cannot see.  Most living things on earth grow by receiving energy from the light of the sun.  Without the light, life as we know it would cease.  Without Jesus, the light of the world, there is no eternal life.  He is also the eternal light of heaven, because we read in Revelation 21:23- “ The [Holy] city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb [Jesus] is its lamp.”  [Inserts mine.]
  3. John 10:9- “I AM the gate [door].” [Insert mine.]  Before the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, God had them smear the blood of a lamb on their door posts for their protection.  They would be spared the death of the first born male, the final plague that would come upon the Egyptians.  (Exodus 12).  When they left their homes for the last time, having been spared death, they passed through that blood- stained door from slavery and bondage into liberty and freedom.  They celebrated that event for fourteen hundred years, calling it the Passover, and continue to celebrate it today.  But when Jesus came on the scene, He said “I AM the door.”  The Lamb of God and His cross would soon be blood-stained as He was crucified.  Through His death and resurrection He became the door for believers to pass from the bondage of sin into freedom and eternal life.

After the children of Israel left Egypt, God parted (opened) the Red Sea so they could escape the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 14:21). He also parted the Jordon River forty years later so they could enter the Promised Land (Joshua 3:17).  Jesus made the opening/gate/door so they could escape the bondage and slavery, and live again as free people.  He made the door across the Jordan River into the land promised to their forefathers through Abraham, which would provide a new life, a new start, and abundant opportunities.  Like a shepherd opens a gate so that sheep can enter a green pasture, Jesus is the gateway to a new life on this earth that leads to life eternal.  When we enter that life through Him, we find forgiveness and reconciliation, peace and abundance.  There is no other way to find and enter such a life except through Him.  He is the door.  He will knock on the door of our hearts in search of His people, but only we can open the door to let Him in.

Jesus says “I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, and the door.  We see such rich symbolism as Jesus is introduced by these names during God’s rescue of His people from Egyptian slavery.  These qualities contained in His name are still evident today as He continues to rescue those lost in a spiritual desert and bound by sin.  We would expect no less from the “I AM”.  These three statements reveal so much about Jesus-who He is, and the purpose for His coming.  In Part 2 of this article, we will examine His next four statements when He says “I AM” the true vine; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; and the way, the truth, and the life.

THIRTY FEET BELOW PART II Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

I was so nauseated I did not know whether to get on my next flight or go home.  It was my first mission trip.  A few months earlier my cousin from Texas had called and invited me to join their family and church group on a mission trip to Honduras.  My heart leapt inside me as I thought about going with them.  I was not sure my husband would approve of my going out of the country, and there was the cost of the trip.  I laid those issues before the Lord and the answer was yes!  (Please read Thirty Feet Below Part I in the archives if you have not already done so, to understand the reference to it in this writing.)

Packing the last articles in my bags, I felt an excitement inside me.  It seemed as if I was on the edge of destiny.  The apprehension of traveling overseas, to an unknown country, was swallowed up in the joy I felt about participating in the Lord’s Great commission, in Mark Chapter 16.  The first leg of my trip originated in Tampa with a change of planes in Miami.  I was to continue from Miami to Houston where I would meet with the team.  We would then fly on to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Soon after my flight to Miami took off, I began to feel very nauseated and sickly.  The flight attendant gave me a cloth napkin with some ice to cool my forehead.  I started to pray.  I knew it could not be fear or anxiety because I was thrilled to go.  I wondered if the symptoms were from a virus and I was concerned about the possibility of infecting the team.  The plane finally landed and I had to decide whether to go home or continue on.  I felt the Lord was compelling me to go so in faith, I stepped onto the plane to Houston, found my seat and continued icing my forehead.  The moment that plane took off, the nausea instantly left!  I realized it was the enemy (devil) trying to keep me from my destiny.  It was then I understood he could put false symptoms on people to prevent them from fulfilling God’s will in their lives.  I then felt a strong sense of God’s blessing and protection which stayed with me the entire trip.

The week in Honduras was filled with many memorable events, but the most impactful for me personally, was going to a Honduran prison.  The prison ministry excursion was voluntary.  Nine from our team of fifteen chose to go.  The group included five women and four men.  Our leader drove us an hour and forty-five minutes out of San Pedro Sula.  We travelled from the busy city to outlying highways, then onto dirt roads, passing farmlands with acres of pineapple plantations.  The air was pleasant as the sweet aroma of fresh pineapple enticed our sense of smell.  

We created a dust cloud behind our bus as we journeyed down a road that appeared to go nowhere.  The road finally ended at the base of a small mountain, next to a dated one-story cement block building in need of paint.  It was surrounded by a tall metal fence which was wrapped in razor wire at the top.  A large rusty wrought iron gate stood to deter visitors from going forward.  The scene was menacing and foreboding.  Several guards standing by the fence held long rifles as if they were prepared to use them. They stared at us with serious and intimidating facial expressions.  Their shirts were unbuttoned because of the oppressive heat adding to our discomfort, and planting a seed of doubt in our reason for coming.  The climate was thick, having a temperature in the mid 90’s and the humidity was extremely high due to its coastal location.  The mountain blocked any breeze from cooling the prison complex and the lack of shade trees emphasized the unrelenting heat.  My mind momentarily recalled an old western movie I had seen years before, which made me chuckle at the similarity of this scenario.  I quickly returned to a sobering thought which caused me to question my judgement in coming, but it only lasted for a brief moment.

The local missionary Paul, who sponsored our team, handed one of the officers at the gate a piece of paper which confirmed our invitation to enter the prison and do a worship service.  The head prison guard was summoned for final approval.  He quickly nodded and ordered the gate to be opened.  We entered the building which housed a few small offices and quickly passed through the entrance to the prison yard.  Grey unpainted cinder block cubicles were surrounded by a latrine which ran through the entire property, wafting a pungent odor that was as oppressive as the heat.  Sidewalks led us to the rooms that were no more than 8X10 feet in size.  Each room had a set of metal bunk beds with a thin mattress and a sink.  There were no doors or bars on the rooms.  The prisoners congregated all over the grounds as we walked through but we had an armed escort, and armed guards were stationed throughout the complex. 

Our escort led us to a large rectangular room that was walled on three sides, with a large opening on one of the long walls.  The walls inside the room were a dingy grey and there was the obvious absence of pictures or decorations.  It was filled with at least fifty men, young and old, making it difficult to navigate to the other side.  A handful were Americans; all were imprisoned for various reasons.  It was clear they were paying an exorbitant price for their crimes.  The heat was almost unbearable and their sunken eyes were filled with hopelessness.  It felt as if we had stepped into the bowels of hell.  We had to weave our way through the crowd and it was then I sensed fear and vulnerability.  The Lord quickly gave me a peace that we would be alright.  Our team of nine lined up at the back wall and all 50 prisoners were standing between us and the exit.  That day I personally experienced God’s peace surpassing all understanding. 

I had been asked to share something that morning.   I wondered what I, a middle aged American white woman, would share that could possibly relate to their situation.  The Lord quickly told me they needed hope and I had several testimonies of the Lord intervening in hopeless situations in my life.  My sharing was brief but as I looked into their eyes, I felt my testimony had made a connection with many of the men.  The Gospel transcends time and space, gender and culture.  Others shared and then our leader began to preach a powerful word from the Lord.  He gave several altar calls that morning, one for salvation, another for backsliders and a third to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God came into that room and most of those hopeless, forgotten men had encountered their forgiving, gracious and loving Lord.  Many were speaking in their new heavenly language with hands raised and we were urged to wander through the crowd praying and laying hands on them as we left the room.  It was an honor to pray for those men, forgotten and seemingly lost, but remembered by our loving Lord.

God moved in that place of darkness and hopelessness.  He protected all of us in a dangerous setting so that we could bring hope and encouragement to them.  We were honored and respected by them for coming, and God honored our faith and obedience by touching those men.  It is a memory forever carved on my heart.

Since that incredible mission trip I have discovered that fear is the greatest enemy of our destiny.  Fear can manifest in many ways.  Insecurity, fear of the unknown, concerns for safety, and inadequacy are several fears that can squelch the call of God in our lives.  When the voice of fear is greater than our faith in God’s protection, we can be stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward.  I was afraid to talk about the Lord with people and had a fear of flying for many years.  I felt so insecure and inadequate that I did not believe the Lord would use me to touch others.  Over the years, He has delivered me from those fears and proven Himself to me.  The Lord specifically chooses us because we are inadequate so that He will be all sufficient!  He doesn’t use those who are secure in their own abilities; He picks those who depend upon Him.  It doesn’t matter when we are called to do something, or go somewhere that is unknown to us, because He has already gone before us to make the way.

It is not about us having our own faith or strength, it is totally about our having faith in Him and trusting in His power to flow through us.  We don’t have to speak eloquently, we only need to deliver the word He gives us.  When we realize we are simply a conduit through which His Spirit flows, then we remove ourselves from the consideration and merely let Him work through us to touch others.  Our works become simply hearing and obeying.

How do we get to the place of simply hearing and obeying?  We make knowing Him our priority, and pursuing Him our reality.  He reveals Himself through His Word:  both the Old and New Testaments.  He also reveals Himself through His Holy Spirit, who is our paraclete-the one who walks beside us teaching us about Him and His ways.  Learning to flow in the Holy Spirit is as easy as prayer.  The Bible says we can pray in the natural and pray by the Holy Spirit of God.  Ephesians 6:18 instructs us, “With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.”

The Holy Spirit’s role in everything we do is critical.  The promises of God are centered on our motivations and actions being in agreement with the Lord’s will.  If we are not Spirit-led, then we are not led by God at all.  He sent us His Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and to pray through us.  Everything we do for His Kingdom is based upon the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance.  Our success is based solely upon how surrendered we become to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord speaks to all His children, but only those who hear His voice are able to walk in obedience.  His voice can be as subtle as a gentle breeze but those who are attentive to His quietness will hear His instruction and obey even without questioning.  When we live and move in Him, and when we have our being in Him, He becomes such a part of us there is no longer a separation.  We become infused or enmeshed in what He is doing and flow effortlessly with His leading.

His heart becomes our heart.  What is on His mind is on ours.  Those for whom He is concerned, become our concern.  We are no longer pulled by the world and its many distractions.  Instead, our focus becomes what He is directing us to do.  Our comfort is not the center of His will.  Our willingness to go beyond our place of comfort, to stretch beyond our safety and convenience is what He is calling us to do.  One of my favorite songs is Oceans by Hillsong United.  It cries out to the Lord to take the believer into the deep waters where their safety is only in Him.  It beckons the Lord to stretch one’s faith to walk on unknown paths and to trust in Him in unsafe waters.

 “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail, and there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand.  I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves.  When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine.  Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you may call me.  Take me deeper than my feet have ever wandered, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Those who are willing to dive in the oceans of the Lord to go “Thirty Feet Below” to reach those whom the Lord desires to touch and heal, will find complete satisfaction and fulfillment.  We will never experience the thrill of truly entering into our Father’s joy without taking risks and reaching beyond what we know, to delve into the unknown with Him.  The Bible proclaims, “Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  If you want to know what the Lord is doing in the earth today, allow Him to take you thirty feet below!