There will be no post today or Jan. 13. As has been our custom, we take a short vacation from writing the first two weeks in January. Over the past two years, and by the grace and inspiration of God, we have written and posted 100 articles on this website. Please pray for us as we seek the Lord for fresh revelation and insight from Him concerning His heart and purpose for articles for the coming year. Thank you for visiting our website, and may God bless you in 2017.
Final Thoughts on Christmas by Larry W. Peebles December 30, 2016 16.50
Christmas Day has come and gone. The busy-ness of the season, holiday parties, candlelight service, and the joy of children on Christmas morning is over. We may still need to take down the tree and put away lights and decorations. There may still be some post-Christmas travels which will take us to see more family and friends. But for the most part, this most delightful holiday season is over. To keep it all in proper perspective, and to put a pointed emphasis on the Christmas holiday celebration that will give a powerful send- off into the New Year, I want to share some final thoughts designed to stand in stark contrast to the image of the baby Jesus in the manger.
The baby Jesus would have no problems adapting to His new surroundings, because He created them. Jesus is responsible for all aspects of creation. He always was, is, and always will be the Son of God. He stepped into a segment of time over 2000 years ago in the form of a baby, and grew into a man. He died for our sins, and was raised from the dead to gloriously reign forever. But, as part of the Triune God, He always has existed, and always will. His birth marks the beginning of that segment of His eternal existence where He stepped into a physical human form and became a part of the humanity He created. He was present at Creation, and He is responsible for all Creation. Creation was by Him and for Him. He currently holds His creation together, and saved it from the eternal consequences of sin. He is no longer a baby, nor is He any longer in human form, but He has not left us. He is coming back to claim the creation he was born for and died for. Consider these scriptures:
John 1:1-3 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”
Colossians 1:16-17 “For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
Matthew 18:11- “For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” Sin had separated man from God, and man’s authority over the earth had been turned over to the devil. Jesus stepped into humanity to set things straight.
Matthew 28:20- “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promised He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrew 13:5-6).
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17- “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
Most new-born babies are the center of attention, and are treated like kings. Jesus is King of all kings, and is ruler of everything within the vastness of creation. We should refer again to Colossians 1:16-17 above, and consider that Scripture says He named every star and hung it in its position. Then we will realize that with all that authority and prominence, He also knows every intimate detail of our lives, and wants to be involved in a daily relationship with us.
Revelation 19:16- “On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
Philippians 2:10-11- “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the Glory of God the Father.” How appropriate that shepherds, wise men and angels bowed and worshipped Him at His human birth.
1 Peter 5:7- “Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.” He made it all, and He runs it all, but that “all” includes you and me on a very personal basis. He wants us to look to Him when we have troubles or problems. He wants to help. He is infinitely large, but the smallest details of our lives concern Him.
Most babies are quite helpless at birth. They cannot walk, feed or care for themselves. Jesus had all the power. He laid down more power than we will ever see in this life to be born in the form of a man–He was both fully God and fully man. He is however, no longer in the form of a helpless baby.
Matthew 8:27- “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and waves obey him.’” I witnessed this kind of power in India recently when God held back the rains from a cyclone so that our outdoor Gospel meetings could proceed as planned. The equipment was kept dry, the grounds were dry, and the people were able to walk to our meetings from miles around.
John 11:42-44- “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out….” Jesus has the ultimate power over life and death.
Psalm 97:5- “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.” My wife and I recently moved to the mountains, and I now have an even greater appreciation of the power it would take to move or melt a mountain. The One who created the mountains certainly has the power to move or remove them. He is a mountain mover.
Revelation 19:21- “The rest of them [‘the kings of the earth and their armies’-verse 19] were killed with the sword [the Word of God] that came out of the mouth of the rider of the horse [Jesus- ‘Faithful and True’-verse 11]. [Emphasis mine.] He has the power to deliver on His promise—His enemies will all be defeated.
So the baby in the manger at Christmas is a human but also God. His mother Mary gave Him human DNA; but the Holy Spirit provided Him with the DNA of God. As the eternal God born into human form, He stepped into the middle of the very thing He created. He came to redeem His own creation, but in order to do that, He had to become a part of His creation.
Though he came as a baby, He was in fact (and still is) Lord over all creation. He was and is the King of all kings. The power He gave up when He was born into the flesh of a human He received again without measure when He received the Holy Spirit at His baptism. The heavenly position He gave up at His human birth He received again when He ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. He left His Holy Spirit in the earth to give us help, wisdom and guidance. He rules and reigns over His creation today, but He is coming back soon to deal with sin and the devil for the last time, and take His believers home. Have a Merry Christmas indeed.
True Beauty Part II Kay Keith Peebles 12/23/16 16.49
The Beauty of God’s Love
I was in high school when my Sunday school teacher made a statement to our class which I have never been able to forget. He said, “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear a word you are saying.” It was a profound message which has caused me to ponder it’s meaning my entire life.
We will not be judged by our intentions. We will be judged by our actions. Everyone has experienced some kind of brokenness in their lives. It is true that brokenness can influence our actions contrary to our intentions. However, for us to deliver a pure message to others, our actions must substantiate our intent.
There is more than one meaning to the word love in relation to human beings. The New Testament Greek more clearly defines love by using 4 distinguishing words: phileo, eros, storge, agape. There is a different type of love in a friendship (phileo(a)- tender affection) than in a romantic relationship (eros). The love of a parent to a child (storge) is much more powerful than the love of an adult to another person’s child and yet in English we use the same word “love”, to describe them all. We often equate the word love with an ideal which is elusive and generally unrealistic since we are imperfect and self-seeking in nature. Because of our limitations, we judge “love” by our terms and not by its true meaning or purpose. Love then becomes imperfect, unsatisfying and deeply hurtful at times. Love comes with an expectation or a demand from another person which rarely fulfills its need. Conditional love is fickle, unfulfilling and temporal. It is often cast aside and deemed unattainable.
The subject of love is as painful as the grave or as joyous as a newborn baby. The search to find love is as strong as life itself and as elusive as a snow leopard. True love would be impossible to find without knowing its true source, God. His love is so great He sought us and loved us even while we were still sinners. The beauty of God’s agape love can never be experienced without an intimate knowledge of its Creator. Love is not ambiguous nor is it simply a feeling. True love is a choice empowered by divine character which is imparted by God alone. 1 John 4:8 “He who does not love has not become acquainted with God [does not and never did know Him], for God is love.” The Greek word agapao (verb)/agape (noun) used in this verse describes God’s love toward Jesus, humanity in general, and all those who believe in Salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. [Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words]. God expects us to share this same agape love among our fellow believers. John 13:34 declares, “I give you a new commandment: that you should love (agapao) one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too should love one another.” (Emphasis mine). Believers are walking in the “proof” of their conversion by extending this agape kind of love. John 13:35 confirms, “By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].” Walking in agape love is a commandment in which God has charged His people to excel.
God also requires believers to also extend agape love toward all men. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 explains, “And may the Lord make you to increase and excel and overflow in love (agape) for one another and for all people, just as we also do for you…(and for what purpose?) So that He may strengthenandconfirmandestablish your hearts faultlessly pure and unblamable in holiness in the sight of our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) with all His saints…” (Emphasis mine.) Therefore, walking in God’s agape love toward all people is the evidence that we belong to God, and we have been abiding in the “Beauty of His Holiness”. God’s agape love flowing through us to others is the litmus test of our true Salvation birthed out of daily abiding in His presence.
1 John 4:9-12 “In this the love of God was made manifest (displayed) where we are concerned: in that God sent His Son, the only begotten or unique [Son], into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love; not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins. Beloved, if God loved us so [very much], we also ought to love one another. No man has at any time [yet] seen God. But if we love one another, God abides (lives and remains) in us and His love (that love which is essentially His) is brought to completion (to its full maturity, runs its full course, is perfected) in us!” (Continue reading to the end of the chapter).
God’s agape love cannot be faked. It cannot be duplicated by the flesh. It is impossible without abiding in Him. Man’s love is conditional. Most divorces come from “violated expectations”. We say we love our spouse, but we place expectations upon them with conditions. If they do not meet those expectations, we give up and get a divorce. Others confuse love with being in agreement on certain issues. When disagreement arises, actions demonstrate a complete lack of love. That is not God’s agape love! God’s love demonstrated by Jesus is sacrificial. It is not self-seeking. It seeks the benefit of its recipient.
God gave us His manual on agape Love. It is 1 Corinthians Chapter 13. It is read at most weddings but rarely heeded. Many seek to walk in the authority and power of God, but few are as zealous to walk in the Love of God. The Apostle Paul wrote about the Spiritual Gifts God has given to the church in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14. Between those two chapters, He conspicuously placed Chapter 13 which is called “the Love Chapter”. He ends chapter 12 with a strong emphasis upon our seeking the “highest and best way”. “But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love (agape)].” (Emphasis mine).
God’s agape love is a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our hearts. (Galatians 5:22-23). When it is abiding in us, we will not become easily offended. We will not gossip about other’s actions, we will not place blame and we will not divide ourselves into factions. We will not consider ourselves better than others and it will be very difficult for us to walk in pride. We will be unable to live contrary to His Word and speak untruth.
Those who abide in the agape love of God will not fear because His love has been perfected in them! 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist], but full-grown (complete, perfect) love turns fear out of doors and expels every trace of terror…”
We must ask ourselves, “Do we have the love of God dwelling in our hearts? Is there evidence of our soul conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do we abide in Him habitually? If so, our words and our actions will align with God’s agape love for all. Of course, there is grace for our shortcomings, but God’s love should be our highest and most sought after character trait. Extending God’s agape love to others is the only way we can possibly make the Jew jealous enough to seek their Messiah Jesus and the unbeliever hungry to know God. (See Romans 11:11).
It is a good statement to ponder, a great question to ask ourselves. “Do my actions speak so loudly that others can’t hear a word I am saying?
I would like to leave you with a beautiful Christmas Hymn I sang in church years ago:
Love Came Down at Christmas by Christina G. Rossetti, 1830-1894 (Irish Melody)
Love came down at Christmas, Love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas; Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the God-head, Love incarnate, Love divine;
Worship we our Jesus, But where-with for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token; Love be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and all men, Love for plea and gift and sign.
May the Lord God Almighty bless us with His greatest gift of all, His unfailing, unconditional agape love in and through the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. May we receive it and hold it securely in our hearts sharing it with all until that day He fulfills that love through our eternal life with Him in heaven.
Sing a New Song by Larry W. Peebles December 16, 2016 16.48
When God speaks, we need to pay attention; when He repeats Himself, we need to really pay attention. Such is the case with Psalm 96 and 1 Chronicles 16: 23-33. Psalm 96:1 begins with “Sing to the Lord a new song”. The rest of that Psalm is virtually identical to 1 Chronicles 16:23-33. With the exception of that first sentence, Psalm 96 is a repeat of the verses in 1 Chronicles 16. As in most cases when reading the Scriptures, the meaning becomes new when we get a fresh insight or revelation from God on what He is saying through the writer.
By way of background, 1 Chronicles 16 continues the story of Israel recovering the Ark of the Covenant. The Philistines had captured the ark and held it for a while, but after seven months concluded it brought only devastation and an affliction of tumors (1 Samuel 5). They were more than ready to return it to the people of Israel. Since the ark represented the very presence of God, it required special handling during transportation. Once Israel had it in their possession, the first attempt to move it ended when a man (Uzzah) lost his life because he mishandled the ark (1 Chronicles 13). The second attempt fared better, as King David instructed the ark be carried by the priests, as God had originally prescribed, and he sacrificed bulls along the way (2 Samuel 6). But when David returned with the Ark, he did not follow convention. He did not take it to Shiloh to place it in the Tabernacle, where God had originally told Moses to keep it (Exodus chapters 25-30). He did something new. He pitched a tent for it in Zion, the City of David, which was the original urban core of ancient Jerusalem. David leaped and danced before the Lord as the ark entered Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6). Instead of hiding it from the people in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle where only the high priest could see it once a year, David put it on display in the tent for the people to see. David’s actions symbolized that the presence of God had become more accessible for all. The people also presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before God at the tent, and this had only formerly been done at the Tabernacle. David was obviously doing this at God’s instruction, or else he would have encountered the same punishments others had suffered for mishandling the ark. It was a new day regarding the ark and the presence of God.
David then presented this beautiful new psalm/song to Asaph, the chief Levite in charge of ministering before the ark of the Lord (1 Chronicles 16: 23-33): “23. Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. 24. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 25. For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 26. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 27. Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy in his dwelling place. 28. Ascribe to the Lord, O families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength, 29. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. Bring an offering and come before him; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. 30. Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. 31. Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let them say among the nations ’The Lord reigns!’ 32. Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them! 33. Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.”
A new song was written that day the ark (the presence of Jesus) traveled the road to Jerusalem. As the ark moved, the bulls’ blood that was shed every six steps was a foreshadow of the blood Jesus would shed one day as a result of his coming back to Jerusalem. As the ark moved, David saw Jesus on that road to Jerusalem, the voluntary final sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Jesus’ death on the cross would forever rend the veil of separation in the Temple, and mankind would forever have a path and direct access to God. God would no longer live in a Temple or a Tabernacle, he would live or tabernacle in the hearts of men. David caught that new prophetic vision. He could not keep from dancing and leaping. That vision inspired His psalm, which made three new bold declarations:
Jesus is exalted above all gods as King (v. 31-33). David was a king after God’s own heart, but Jesus is the King of kings. He reigns over all kingdoms, and every ruler. The prophet Daniel said in Daniel 2: 20, 21- “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.” Romans 13:1 says- “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Lastly, Revelations 19:16 says- “On his robe and on his thigh he [Jesus] has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” [Emphasis mine.]
Jesus is exalted above all things as Creator (v. 26). Isaiah 40: 26 says- “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” David caught a vision of the truth that would later be recorded in Colossians 1: 16- “For by him (Jesus) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” The disciple John, perhaps the one closest to Jesus, wrote this in John 1:3- “All things were made by him [Jesus]; and without him was not anything made that was made.” KJV [Emphasis mine.]
Jesus is exalted above his people as shepherd and leader. Because Jesus is the creator, owner and ruler of all things, David’s psalm (vs. 28-33) invited Israel, and indeed all people, to worship Jesus in total abandon. This was to be by properly and literally done by stretching themselves out full length on the ground in adoration. Getting as low as possible would be the preferred position relative to one so high and exalted as Jesus. When David saw the vision of Jesus as the ark passed up to Jerusalem, he could only attempt to put into words the glory and splendor due the Savior of the world. He invited the entire creation (the earth, heavens, seas and trees), and all people (v.28-“families of nations”-including Gentiles) to worship the holy splendor of Jesus, the one he saw in the vision. That all people, including Gentiles, would come to know and experience the presence of Jesus was indeed a “new song”. David’s view of Jesus as holy and worthy shepherd and leader is expressed in Psalm 23- “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
John Chapter 10 is where Jesus describes himself as shepherd, and we are his sheep. The entire chapter contains great insight on this teaching. Verse 11 says- “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Jesus could give no more clear affirmation of what David saw and knew that day.
When the ark was brought into Jerusalem, it foretold the day the presence of God would come so close one could touch it. It would come in the form of a man–the man Jesus who would walk among men on the earth. In only five verses, Psalm 100 gives a summary of the new revelation that came the day David brought the presence of God back to the people- “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
There is nothing as beautiful as a baby. Man or woman, young or old, all are apprehended by the innocence and beauty of a baby. Their skin is so soft and pure. Their eyes are filled with wonder. Their laughter is full of complete joy. Their love is unconditional and their “cooing” so sincere. They give us such a hope for the future and a warmth in our hearts. They are full of faith. They sparkle with light and when asleep, they exude the peace of God.
I have often wondered what it is exactly, that captures our heart so powerfully when we cradle a baby in our arms and look deeply into their eyes. For a brief moment, I believe we experience a glimpse into the depths of their soul. Sinless as yet, we see in them the beauty of purity, holiness, and complete innocence which came directly from God as He formed their inward parts in secret. Their sin nature is still inactive, unmolested and untouched by the world. They have just left the presence of the Lord and have not yet been educated about good and evil.
“For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will confess and praise You for you are fearful and wonderfuland for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery]. Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them. How precious and weighty also are your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Psalm 139:13-17.
The beauty of nature has a similar effect on people. Over four and one-half million people visit the Grand Canyon each year. Almost ten million visit the Great Smokey Mountains National Park while Yosemite National Park has just over four and one-half million and Yellowstone Park has just under that amount. Nearly eight million annually visit Hawaii and two million Alaska. The visitors are all seeking to gaze upon the beauty of Creation. Awe and wonder capture their hearts as they bask in the grandeur of God’s imagination. The great attraction of these natural wonders is the fact that they are virtually untouched except for the roads, walkways and lodging which are necessary for travelers’ to have access to experience them. Like a newborn baby, they are pure and pristine, untouched by the world around them.
My husband and I visited Alaska with friends three years ago. One of our excursions was a bus ride into the mountains which surrounded Denali, (Mt. McKinley). Those desiring to camp there are trained to live inside the natural setting without destroying its flora and fauna nor disturbing any of the natural cycles which are necessary for the area to remain healthy. The rangers there call it “leaving no footprints.” They are taught how to cohabitate temporarily with moose, grisly, caribou, wolf and other animals without injuring themselves or the animals. The protection of nature’s “innocence” is imperative for those who desire to come and partake of its beauty in future years.
The search for true beauty is innate within the heart of man. We were endowed with an inexpressible ability to enjoy true beauty and seek to find it. When we stand before it, words are inadequate to express the awe and wonder of it. We become small and insignificant as we behold something we did not create nor imagine ourselves. Rather, it was created and placed there purely for us to enjoy. There is a certain holiness in something pure that God has created because He is Holy.
Standing on the precipice of the Grand Canyon there is not only a sense of awe but also a sense of fear. The beauty of the canyon compels one to come closer but the height and breadth of the canyon creates a sense of fear and caution not to step too close to the edge causing one to fall off into sudden death.
David had a similar experience as he pursued God. The Spirit of God drew David closer to Him and he was overwhelmed when he glimpsed the “Beauty of Holiness” found in God. “Oh worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; tremble before and reverently fear Him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:9. Psalm 96:6 says, “Honor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
David saw something in the beauty of God’s holiness that has no comparison on earth. Holiness has a purity in itself that man cannot fully fathom. It is transparent like a clear, cool lake except there is no bottom to it. It is like a white diamond which has no impurities or flaws in it. It is like a blue-white flame that has burned so hot there are no cinders or ashes remaining. One who gazes on the beauty of holiness can find no flaws or limitations in it.
1 Chronicles 16:29-30 celebrates, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness and in holy array. Tremble and reverently fear before Him, all the earth’s peoples; the world also shall be established, so it cannot be moved.” The holiness of God is not only beautiful, it is unshakeable and cannot be moved. His nature cannot be corrupted, polluted or changed. All His decisions and judgments are pure and holy, without prejudice or self-seeking. His holiness is completely trustworthy because it is impossible to be swayed or tempted toward malice. It is pure and unadulterated. Man has an inward longing for it but all we see with our natural eyes is that which has been perverted. “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.” Psalm 50:2.
The fear of heights or falling has kept many from partaking the beauty seen by standing upon the mountain top. One can see vistas which span for a distance of 50 miles or more. They have a view which is invisible from the safety in the valley below. The fear of the Lord reminds us that God is holy and we must examine our hearts and motives before we continue our pursuit to know Him and dwell in His presence. The Righteousness Christ has provided for us is a covering which protects us. It enables us to come closer to the Holiness of God. We become humbled as we enter the presence of the Lord because we insignificant compared to Him.
When we are in the presence of God, we are also experiencing His Holiness. His Holiness is what transforms us into His image. It gives us spiritual eyesight so that we can know and understand God’s true purpose and nature. It removes the flaws in our perception of God and His ways and reveals our true nature than has not yet been transformed. The closer we ascend to the Beauty of Holiness, the greater the fear of the Lord we experience. The purpose of that fear is not to discourage us from continuing. It is to remind us of our flesh and sin nature which is not perfected as yet, and must be put in check when in the presence of Holiness. David would have made a blood sacrifice before entering the presence of the Lord but today, we have the covering of the blood of Jesus which washes away our sin. Cleansing our hearts and minds purifies us as we approach the Lord’s presence. Thanksgiving and praise well up in our hearts when our minds become focused upon the Lord, and we can enter into His Holy of Holies to behold His Beauty.
“Who shall go up into the mountain of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His Holy Place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or to what is false nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Psalm 24:3-5.
“The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.” (See also John 7:17). John 15:15 explains, “I do not call you servants (slaves) any longer, for the servant does not know what his master is doing (working out). But I have called you My friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from My Father. [I have revealed to you everything that I have learned from Him].”
We were created for companionship with the Lord. We were saved so that we could commune with Him on earth. The Lord’s prayer which Jesus gave us, calls us to pray and expect… “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Emphasis mine.) We will never understand the Beauty of God’s Holiness unless we partake of it. We will never truly understand the workings of God’s Kingdom unless we enter in to His presence so that He can show us His ways, His purposes and His timing as heaven invades earth. It is imperative for us to be in step with His timing, His leading and His plans. That wisdom only comes from spending time in the Beauty of His Holiness.
The invitation of the Lord has gone forth, “Come”. When we draw nigh unto God He will draw nigh unto us. “The Lord appeared from of old to me [Israel], saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you.” Jeremiah 31:3. True beauty can only be found in the Beauty of His Holiness and He is calling us to enter in.
Giving Thanks by Larry W. Peebles December 2, 2016 16.46
Our whole family was together this Thanksgiving, and we had a wonderful time. Our children and their spouses are doing well, and the grandchildren are growing up fast. Everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy the others’ company, and of course, there was plenty of food and laughter. When the grandchildren were younger taking family pictures was trying, but even that went well. This year the grandchildren were more patient in keeping hair and clothes straight, and cooperative in smiling for the camera. Though older we are all in reasonably good health. We have so much for which to be thankful. The more I thought about the Thanksgiving Holiday, the more I wondered about being able to be more thankful year-round.
Taking it a step further, I wondered how it would be possible to not only be thankful every day, but on all occasions, good or bad. I Thessalonians 5: 16-18 says- “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” How can I do this? It is good to be thankful one holiday a year, but better to be thankful year-round. What is the key to unlock this potential?
The answer came as I spent time with the Lord, and meditated on His Word. Colossians 2:7 says we are to be “rooted and built up in Him [Jesus], and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” Faith therefore is the key to our being able to express thanksgiving. This verse indicates three clear steps. Our faith must first be rooted, then built up, and finally established in order for us to function from a platform that is continually thankful. Let me illustrate with the following example.
My father-in-law Roy was a very outgoing and likable man with a green thumb. He could grow anything. He farmed peanuts for a while, but even after leaving the farm to work elsewhere, he never lost his love for growing things. He kept a very productive vegetable garden, and was more than generous in giving away the excess produce beyond what his own family needed to eat. He had pepper bushes, peach trees, pecan trees, and many different vegetables that kept the family, friends and neighbors supplied.
He helped me plant trees at the first three homes my wife and I owned, as all three homes were built on bare lots. I will never forget the day we planted trees at the first home. We got up early and rented a flat-bed trailer, then drove to a two-acre property Roy owned that had never been cleared. Roy picked out four young oak trees in the 8-10 ft. high range. For each tree we dug as large a root ball as we could bag up and carry. We watered the bag and root ball to protect the roots from drying, then loaded and secured the trees on the trailer for the two-hour drive to my house.
Fortunately, I had already dug four holes on my property before leaving to visit Roy that weekend, so we were ready to plant upon arrival. Root stimulator, a mild liquid fertilizer especially formulated to help root growth, was mixed with water and poured on the root ball of each tree and into the hole before planting the tree. The loose soil was carefully and lovingly worked around each root ball until the hole was full. Each tree was watered- in to be sure there were no voids or air pockets in the hole where the roots might be exposed to dry or freeze. Each tree was then staked into position with ropes to prevent the wind from blowing the tree over and loosening the roots. If those trees were going to survive, every attention had to be given to protecting the roots, including stimulating them to grow, and keeping them firmly in place in the new soil. It is no different concerning faith in the new believer. We must pay similar care and attention that our faith is well rooted, stimulated and not allowed to go dry. This is the first step in that Colossians 2 verse. One might liken this to attending worship with the fellowship of believers, and beginning to develop daily prayer habits.
For months after those trees were planted, I continued to monitor them. Regular watering included additional root stimulator for a mild fertilizer. The trees had to be gently built-up so that they had the essential nutrients to live and grow. They could not tolerate strong fertilizer as it would have burned them up. The trees were also pruned so that the roots did not have to support the entire canopy that had existed before transplanting. Only the essential limbs were left. After the tree was more built-up, the full canopy would grow back. The focus at this point was leaving enough branches and leaves on the tree to support life without placing undue burden on the roots. By spring these efforts were rewarded with the appearance of new leaves on all the trees. All four trees had survived the winter transplant. Again, this is no different when building up faith in the new believer. Without trying to stretch too far too fast, faith must be watered and stimulated. It must be monitored to see if it is producing new growth –leaves and fruit. In this second stage, faith must be tested and encouraged to crawl, then to walk, then when it is built up, it can run. Developing consistent time to read and digest the Word of God might occur in this second stage, as this is where one learns the heart of God, and applies the Word of God to his own life. This builds up the inner spiritual person.
In the third and final stage, faith is established. From time to time over the years, my wife and I have had the opportunity to drive by those three homes we owned 30 to 40 plus years ago. I see magnificent giant oaks at those homes, and think back to the days with Roy when those trees were planted. They seemed so fragile and vulnerable at the time. It is hard to imagine those trees in that initial condition when today they stand so tall and strong.
Anyone would look at those trees today and say they were established, but it took considerable initial care, protection and stimulation to achieve the results. The experience from a life well lived before the Lord over a long period of time will similarly produce big strong faith. By this I mean literally before the Lord, as in time spent in His presence, where one is quiet and still before the Lord. One is actively waiting before the Lord, expecting that the Lord will speak into their life, touch their body, give direction, encourage, correct, provide hope, or do any other of a myriad of things any loving Father would do for their child. This establishes enduring faith over a period of time, but requires a commitment of time spent with Him.
From this platform of an established faith, strong as an established oak tree, we can give thanks on all occasions. We know we are loved and protected by our Heavenly Father. We know we are forgiven when we stumble. We know He will give us His best, and has our well-being in mind. We know that in spite of dark times, our joy will come in the morning. We know help is a prayer away, and the enemy cannot touch us. We know we “can do everything through Him [Jesus Christ] who gives me [us] strength.” Philippians 4:13. [Insert mine]. From this platform, we see thanksgiving at a whole new level. Additionally, once we are established strong like an oak tree, we can give back to others. We can provide shade and shelter for the weary, a nesting place for others in the storm, and be a part of the spiritual rain cycle that brings refreshing to a thirsty soul. Thanks giving will become thanks living, a habit and a way of life. Happy Thanksgiving.
The mountains are on fire! A month ago we were hiking just a few miles from our home. We had trekked well over a mile into the woods when we heard the sound of a helicopter. We couldn’t see it because of the tall trees so we kept on hiking and talking. During the next hour we continued to hear the helicopter and after we had turned back to head to the car we finally saw it. It was flying back and forth every few minutes carrying a large bucket of water beneath it. We realized what it all meant, the forest was on fire! We were grateful we did not smell smoke because that meant it was not in our proximity. We headed for home and sought a newscast that could inform us on the location of the fire.
Our forest was more parched than we had ever seen. Meteorologists diagnosed it as an extreme drought. Leaves on the trees were curled inward and hanging limp on the trees. Many turned brown without changing into bright fall colors because they died of thirst. It had been sad to watch our vibrant forest silently screaming for water. All of the waterfalls nearby were reduced to trickles and the rivers and streams were narrow creeks full of rocks that were under water in normal conditions.
In mid-October we drove a couple of hours north to see the beginning of the fall leaf season. The trees were beautiful and we visited several of our favorite areas before turning back home. The fires began to blaze within the month and we could smell the smoke at our home. One fire was within an hour of our home and another large one was two or three hours away. It was exactly where we had visited a few weeks prior. Several of the 29 fires burning were set by an arsonist. Another was started by lightning, from the last rain we had received over a month ago. The winds prevailed out of the north and blew the smoke into our area and it collected in the valley behind our home. We were unable to participate in any out-door activities because of the thick smoky cloud. Day after day a dingy grey cloud blocked the view of the mountains behind us except for the outline of the ridge. With no rain and lake levels terribly low, the mountain fires were difficult to contain, much less extinguish. They continue to burn as I write.
I have discovered several benefits from forest fires. A forest fire can bring a dense forest full of unhealthy trees and foliage back to life by:
Removing dead and decaying plants that are fire hazards.
Eliminating dense foliage thinning the overgrowth so that new seedlings can grow.
Yielding nutrients and minerals from the charred plants and depositing them on the forest floor.
Opening more space between plants for the sunshine and rain to fall, allowing growth and better health.
Enabling fireweed to grow helps restore a forest. It thrives on the nutrient rich soil the fire provided. (National Geographics).
The fire of God has the same benefits for the church and individual believer that forest fires do for the mountains. By observing the history of the church since Pentecost, we see God ignites “Revival Fires” within His people to restore and re-invigorate them. Isaiah, one of the prophets of God in the Bible, experienced the fire of God after a very dry season in Israel’s life. King Uzziah of Israel was not obedient to God’s Law. He failed to destroy the “high places” of idol worship throughout the nation of Israel. God had forbidden Israel to serve the false gods of other nations and the king was responsible to lead the people into righteousness. King Uzziah failed his God and his nation, causing the people to continue to sin. This spiritual compromise resulted in their loss of faith in God. Faith that had once been vibrant and pure became dried and dead from a lack of nurturing. The people began to call evil good and good evil. Israel was in danger of God’s judgment. King Uzziah died of leprosy. The death of King Uzziah marked the end of an age of “flesh” living without seeking God’s will, and it inaugurated Isaiah’s prophetic ministry.
Isaiah had a vision of the Lord in heaven seated upon His throne. God’s train (robe) which represented His Glory, filled the heavenly temple and Isaiah was struck by the awe and wonder of God’s holiness. He became aware of his own sinful flesh as he observed the beauty of holiness. (Isaiah 6:1-9). Any person who enters the presence of the Lord will be keenly aware that God is holy and man is of flesh. The holy presence of God is completely humbling. It is like looking into a mirror. A mirror shows our outward flaws but the Spirit of God reveals our inward sins. Isaiah could hear the seraphim crying out to each another “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts.” That revelation humbled Isaiah and he repented of his sin. The Lord sent the seraphim with a coal of “fire” to cleanse Isaiah’s lips. God needed to purify Isaiah’s mouth so that He could fill it with His Word for the people.
The Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) asked a question as Isaiah observed the Lord’s throne room. “Whom shall I send? And who will go for Us?” Having been cleansed and emboldened by the fire of God, Isaiah volunteered to speak for God to His people.
Something similar happened at Pentecost after Jesus had been raised from the dead. The prophetic voice of God had not been heard for 400 years before Jesus’ ministry began. Many people and Jewish leaders were dry and parched because of their sin. They had practiced their religion but they had no life because they had compromised God’s Word and forfeited His presence due to neglect. Jesus taught His disciples for three years and after he rose from the dead, visited them several times. He gave them their commission to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom and charged them to go into all the world. He had told the disciples (12 plus 108 others = 120) after He ascended, to wait in the upper room until the Holy Spirit came upon them. Fifty days later the fire of God fell upon each and every head in that upper room. They were all filled (immersed) with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak with new tongues. Peter, the most transformed disciple, experienced a remarkable change. He was formerly the one who denied the Lord during His trial, because of fear of persecution. Remarkably, the fire of God so powerfully affected him that he boldly preached the first Gospel message of the New Testament church in the same streets of Jerusalem. (See Acts 2). The Fire of God revives His people!
Today, the church of God is poised for revival! Many have become dry, complacent, and weary. The battles and challenges to remain true to the Word of God while not conforming to the ways of the world have worn down many in the faith. Our high tech culture can easily distract us and a overabundance of activities vie for our time. We can subtly begin to neglect our study and prayer time with the Lord which causes a wilted and parched faith. Earthly idols have drawn our attention from the Living Water and severe drought has set in. It is not God’s will to judge His church, He desires to send revival to restore us. When we fail to be salt and light to the world, we have become ineffective in our culture. His mercy draws us until we become desperate for His Fire to ignite us again, restoring the flames of love salvation had kindled.
The Fire of God benefits the church by:
Removing dead and decaying works that don’t bear fruit.
Eliminating dead relationships which stunt growth so that new life emerges.
Feeding, fueling and energizing our love for Him and our zeal to serve Him and obey His Word.
Restoring our communication with Him in the Secret Place of the Most High, making it our necessity for sustaining His Life in us.
Reviving His church and initiating and restoring spiritual gifts and the call of God.
We need our torch to be re-lit by the fire of God so that we can take our place of authority ushering in the Kingdom of God to the earth. Solomon gave the charge to Israel and it is just as relevant to the church today: “If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek, crave, and require of necessity My face, andturn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
We are not waiting for God, He is waiting for us. We must stop looking for others to lead. The desperation to see God move on earth today like He did at Pentecost will pressure us to cry out to the Lord like Isaiah saying, “Send me”. Those who are not satisfied with what we have experienced in God and long for a move of God which will impact our nation and the world. They will be willing to intercede until Revival comes!
The church the Lord Jesus died for was not to be buildings filled with people sitting in pews. Nor was it simply to find a place to serve others so that we felt we had contributed to society. The church He died for was to be so filled with His Holy Spirit that we would do the same works that He did: heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead. The Word of God is to be so powerful in us that we are consumed with the Kingdom and draw it to earth as He did. Those who love their God are bold as a lion, fear nothing and no one because they KNOW their God.
The dissatisfaction we have been feeling can be summed up in a question, “Is this all there is?” That question will catapult us to a place of holy desperation for more. When the church becomes desperate enough to cry out for more of God, we are ripe for revival.
I have smelled the smoke and seen the cloud. It’s time to get on our knees and remain there until we are empowered with Fire from on high, because we all know where there’s smoke, there’s fire!
First Impressions By Larry W. Peebles November 18, 2016 16.44
The place appeared dark and deserted. We had driven 4 or 5 miles off the main road on a very dark and narrow road not wide enough for cars to pass without both cars pulling off the road to allow room to get by. Fortunately there were not many vehicles to pass. Except for the lights of our vehicle, there were no lights. Suddenly in the middle of nowhere in south central India, the lights of our meeting place appeared. On the grounds of an old abandoned 18th century church, our advance team had set up a stage, sound system and lights, and had spread the word of our meetings on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights to present the gospel of Jesus. This was an area where the gospel once had life years ago. Unfortunately it had died except for a few small scattered churches. God had big plans. My first impressions were about to change into lasting impressions of those three nights.
Light overcomes the dark. As John 1:9 says- “The true light that gives light to every man [Jesus] was coming into the world.” [Emphasis mine.] When the lights of the meeting were turned on, people began to come from all directions, literally walking out of the darkness into the light. They walked through the entrance of the gates in the wall surrounding the old church grounds, and sat down on the ground in front of the stage to hear the message of the meetings. They came by the thousands from miles around. Some shared the cost of the small 3-wheeled taxis that operated in the area. Some came in large tractor drawn trailers that had been arranged to pick up at strategic points. Some traveled by bicycle or motorbike, but most walked. Jesus was prepared to meet them. Songs of praise were sung, the gospel of the good news of Jesus was preached, and all were given the opportunity to give their hearts to Jesus, and to make Him the Lord and Savior of their lives.
Jesus said in John 8:12- “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” This was a dark, forgotten and spiritually hopeless place until the light of Jesus came. John 12:46 says- “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” I cannot recall a more graphic example of light coming into darkness as I saw these three nights. Poor people who had nothing, who were physically and spiritually starved, suddenly had all they would ever need. They heard the message, believed, and walked home as new creations, full of Jesus and full of joy and hope. We could see it in their faces. They would never walk in the dark again.
Life in the valley of dry bones. My friend John, who has been to India many times, and whose ministry had received this invitation to come, preached the main message all three nights. I asked him before we went out to the meeting location for the first time if he had the title of his Friday night message. He said he thought he had to preach the story of the valley of dry bones from Ezekiel Chapter 37. In that story, the Lord showed Ezekiel a valley full of dead dry bones and asked him if those bones could live. Verses 4-6 say “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
As John preached that message, I listened and kept looking at that old 18th century church building. The roof had failed, and the windows were out. It was dark inside. The doors were fixed shut. There was no way to know when it had last been used. To the extent it had once represented the gospel of Jesus established in this region, it had long since died and dried up. But as John preached, life was returning to this valley of dry bones. The church grounds were lit up and alive with people, music and the word of God. Hope and help had returned. Jesus was walking by. These people were not forgotten by God, who had orchestrated this whole weekend. God had provided the grounds, and the finances for the lights, the music, and the transportation. He had made the arrangements between a local ministry and two men from halfway around the world to come and preach that weekend. One might ask “How can you be so sure God had a hand in all this?” Easy, check the local weather.
The local weather report. As we boarded our flight to India, the last email from the local ministry said to pray over the weather. The remnant of a cyclone (hurricane) off the east coast of the country threatened our outdoor meetings. We never thought of canceling the meetings. We got on the plane and we prayed. We called back home and had people pray with us. We prayed every day we were in the country, and we prayed each day before leaving for the night meetings. We drove through rain to get to the Friday night meeting, but the grounds were dry at our location. We drove through heavier rain Saturday night, but again our grounds were dry. Our prayers were being answered. We drove through heavy rain Sunday night, and even pouring rain going home after the Sunday night meetings, but our meeting was dry. After Jesus calmed the storm when He and the disciples were in the boat, the disciples asked (Mark 4:41)- “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him?” I know the scripture, but its meaning became real.
Two weeks after we returned home, John received the report on the meetings from the local ministry, and shared it with me. All the local churches in the region had received an influx of hundreds of new believers. The pastors in these small forgotten churches reported that the new believers attending their church all said one thing. The people knew that Jesus was real. No one other than the one true God could have held back that rain from our meeting grounds. We did not watch the local weather on television, nor did we consult a local weather app. Apparently the rain had come down everywhere by the buckets full, but we were dry. Our lights, our sound equipment and stage, and the grounds where the people sat would have all been ruined by heavy rain. Many of the people would not have even been able to travel or attend in heavy rain. They knew the supernatural hand of the one true God had held it back, and they were amazed. In the process, God backed up our message to them of how He loved these people so much. He wanted to connect with them and show them His love, care and concern. He was real, and could show them the way and help them. He would forgive their sins, and come live in their hearts. Who is this God? The One who even the winds and waves obey. He was the Creator of the universe, yet He knew their names and loved each of them.
My first impressions of a dark, dry and dead place were wrong. When Jesus was praised, preached and His presence celebrated, everything changed in an instant. As I now think back on these meetings, I can only see light, life and the love of God poured out on His people. Jesus came and walked among the crowds, estimated at five thousand for the Saturday night meeting, probably ten thousand for all three nights combined. Many were saved, and so many lives were eternally changed. Psalm 16:11 says – “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” God is true to His word, and true to His people. He was not about to let a little cyclone drown out His Light and life-giving Word.
My prayer is that everyone who reads this will come to know the one true God—the One even the winds and waves obey. It is not necessary to travel half way around the world to experience Him. He comes readily to all those who are desperate for Him.
What’s the big deal? One of our grandsons came home from school with his new band shirt. He was excited about his upcoming fall band concert. The band students had voted on the name and theme of the band. There were a couple of favorite choices. The band director had picked one of the two final emblems to represent the band and had it embossed on their shirts. The parents of the students had personally purchased their child’s shirt before knowing what the emblem would be.
When his dad arrived home from work, my grandson showed him his new band shirt. The emblem chosen was a Zodiac symbol with all the signs of the Zodiac around it. His dad was appalled. Our grandson had been excited about his new band shirt but our son had to explain what that symbol meant and how it represented the complete opposite of our faith in God. What looked to be “innocent” actually had serious implications if accepted and used to represent the school, band and our family.
Many would think that it is only a symbol and therefore it is impotent to cause any harm. The Bible, however, carefully warns of being associated with anything connected to the kingdom of darkness, the occult, and the demonic realm. That symbol was a representation of the occult realm as well as the curses attached to it.
Many years ago before I became a student of the Bible, I would read my horoscope in our daily newspaper. I thought it was interesting and wondered if it had any ability to “predict” my immediate future. I was fascinated with things that might give me an edge in navigating my life. I also remember when I was a young teenager going to my cousin’s home and playing with the “8” ball and asking it questions. At slumber parties we would experiment with levitation games. My mother had even mentioned she had played with an Ouija board when she was young but stopped when something happened that scared her. I had no idea these things were associated with the occult! Although we went to church every Sunday, there were no mentions of such dangers and my family was not knowledgeable about the Word of God. We simply believed God existed but had no personal relationship with Him. Little did I know that such “innocent” experiences were entry doors to the occult.
My son and daughter-in-law set up a conference with their son’s principal and met with her a few days later. She seemed totally surprised that the symbol could be objectionable. My son calmly explained that the Zodiac and astrology were connected to a religion. He also shared that what it represented could not be scientifically proven to be true and therefore was based on superstition and not science. Since religion is not permitted in the schools, this symbol violated those guidelines. He then told her that we are Christians and that symbol represented the direct opposite of our beliefs. If they chose to keep the symbol, he would either have to remove his son from the band or continue to object to its use through other appropriate means. The principal promised to research the matter and speak with her band director giving them an answer within two days. We were all praying for God’s grace to intervene on our behalf and there would be understanding when it was researched. Her email came two days later and the principal and band teacher decided to choose the other emblem the class had liked and the school would replace the shirts at their own expense.
This story is a perfect example of how many people become involved with the kingdom of darkness without even knowing it. Ignorance is not bliss, as the phrase insinuates. Ignorance is also not an excuse because the enemy will take advantage of any opening he is given to kill, steal and destroy. The Bible challenges us to beware of anything that is not of God and it is our responsibility to KNOW the Word of God.
Babylon existed in Old Testament times. (Genesis 10:10) Its origin is not exactly known but it began to grow in prominence around 2,000 B.C. It was located in southern Mesopotamia near the Euphrates River in the area of modern day Iraq. Babylon is not only a key part of world history, it is also prophesied in the book of Revelation as a city which will be destroyed by God because of the evil it brought to the world. (Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:1-18:24). By researching Babylon, we are not simply examining a culture but a religious belief that originates with worshipping false gods. The term babel associated to the tower of Babel (and Babylon) means confusion. The origin of the word describes its meaning: to blend or mix. Its religion existed at the time of the Hebrew patriarchs and led many Israelites astray. In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar defeated Israel and took many of the people into exile, including the prophet Daniel. The Chaldeans are an indigenous people who settled in Mesopotamia and the Babylonians were one of their tribes. The Chaldeans had established an elaborate way of reading the stars to get direction by predicting future events. However, it was not the Chaldean magicians, astrologers or sorcerers that could interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, it was God’s prophet Daniel that did so. (See Daniel 2). Their power came from the realms of darkness but Daniel, a prophet of God, received wisdom directly from the Lord Himself (Kingdom of Light).
Daniel 2:46-47 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and paid homage to Daniel [as a great prophet of the highest God] and ordered that an offering and incense should be offered up to him [in honor of his God]. The King answered Daniel, “Of a truth your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a Revealer of secret mysteries, seeing that you could reveal this secret mystery!” God wanted to show this idol worshipping king that his magicians and sorcerers were false prophets by having him experience the power of God working through a true prophet.
Today, many have been led to destruction through the deceptions of false prophets such as mediums, psychics and modern day astrologers. Other terms such as soothsayers, diviners, necromancers, fortune tellers, charmers and those who interpret omens are connected to astrology (occult). It is important that I mention astronomy is the scientific study of our stars and solar system. That is not the same as astrology. Astrology is a false religion and those who “foretell the future” use the stars, sun and moon as their source of information. They also interpret omens to predict the future. They are not of God, they are from the kingdom of darkness and they are false prophets.
God warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:9-14 “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations, the LORD your God drives them out before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.”
Those who practice magic or black magic as mediums do so by connecting with demon spirits. They charge a fee for giving their forecasts to their customers but they cannot speak truth because they have not received their information from the Spirit of Truth. The true prophet does not give prophecies by charging a fee. They are specifically called by God, ordained by God and are not to give the Word of the Lord for personal profit. In a church setting, the word is given out freely.
The prophet Balaam paid a dear price for trying to sell the Word of the Lord. God established the office of the prophet to encourage, edify and sometimes warn His people when they had disobeyed the Lord. Balak, king of Moab tried to enlist Balaam, prophet of Israel to curse God’s people. Balaam asked God if he could curse the Israelites for Balak and the Lord said no. (See Numbers chapters 22, 23, 24). The king promised to promote him to very great honor and do whatever Balaam asked him. The generous offer tempted Balaam and he eventually went against the Lord and began his journey to reach Balak in Moab to curse the Israelites. The Angel of the Lord (pre-incarnate Jesus) stopped Balaam and his donkey, and God finally told him to go but He would put the words in Balaam’s mouth. Balaam eventually spoke blessings upon the Israelites instead of curses and Balak became furious. God judged Balaam for desiring to curse God’s people for personal gain. He was willing to curse what God had blessed and use his God given gift against God’s people. The Lord used Balaam as an example to the true prophets.
Jude 11 states, “Woe to them! For they have run riotously in the way of Cain, and have abandoned themselves for the sake of gain [it offers them, following] the error of Balaam, and have perished in rebellion [like that] of Korah!” 2 Peter 2:15-22 warns the church, “Forsaking the straight road they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam [the son] of Beor, who loved wickedness… For uttering loud boasts of folly, they beguile and lure with lustful desires of the flesh those who are barely escaping from them who are wrongdoers. They promise them liberty, when they themselves are the slaves of depravity and defilement—for by whatever anyone is made inferior or worse or is overcome, to that [person or thing] he is enslaved…”
False prophets lead the people into spiritual slavery and destruction. The true prophets encourage, admonish and direct God’s people to righteousness, holiness and peace. All too often, by ignorance or rebellion, God’s people seek answers from the wrong source and become not only cursed, but led astray from God. King Saul sought answers from a medium instead of God, knowing it was forbidden, and lost his kingdom and his life.
There is nothing wrong with desiring to know what lies ahead. God promises to give us wisdom when we ask of Him. (See James 3:16-17, James 1:5-6). God speaks to His people. He answers our questions and prayers in His timing. For those who are willing to “wait” upon the Lord, walking in obedience to His word, they will receive great blessing and peace. For those who do not, destruction will be their end. The Apostle Paul warned the church that there would be false prophets in the church who were there to lead the people astray. He charged us all to be constantly alert keeping watch and judging the prophet’s words by the Word of God.
We cannot fail if we will build a place of habitation for the Lord to dwell in our hearts and homes daily. By seeking Him first, being willing to wait on His timing for our answers and trusting in His faithfulness to guide and direct us, we will be victorious. By guarding what we see, hear and do, we will walk in righteousness and peace will prevail in our lives. By giving our hearts, lives and future to the Lord, we will be assured of His constant intervention in our lives and live eternally with Him. By seeking the truth in God’s Word, we will recognize truth when we hear it.
Trouble Is Coming by Larry W. Peebles November 4, 2016 16.42
Why do bad things happen? This is a question I hear often, especially when it concerns seemingly good people. I do not want to gloss over this question with an answer that is shallow and superficial. However, since I heard this question again within the past week, I do want to share some insight I also recently gained.
We live in an imperfect and fallen world. The devil gained a toe-hold in the earth when sin entered God’s perfect creation. Man’s dominion over God’s earthly creation was taken, and man will remain in a struggle until that dominion is perfectly restored. Things happen that are the plan of the devil, who the Bible says “comes to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Jesus told His disciples they would face persecution, and He did not promise us a trouble-free life. Indeed, without being overly pessimistic, we must conclude that even the most admirable believer will face trouble.
I just returned home from three days of outdoor gospel crusade meetings which had been planned for months. As we got on the airplane to travel half-way around the world, these meetings were being threatened by weather–the remnant of a cyclone (hurricane). This crusade was intentionally planned in a remote area where the gospel had not been preached outdoors in a public meeting venue. The roads were under-developed, and many would walk for miles to attend. We did not postpone the crusade, nor did we move it. We prayed. Hundreds of believers and supporters prayed that God would intervene against the weather and protect the meetings. For three days the system produced rain all around the meeting site, coming as close as one-half mile, but the grounds where the meetings were held stayed dry. Sound equipment and lights remained functional. People came by the thousands, many more than were expected, traveled safely, and sat on dry ground. I believe that by our collective prayers, we took authority over that storm, and God miraculously kept it away.
The Biblical basis for this comes from a story told in the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus fell asleep. A storm approached, and threatened to swamp the boat. The disciples feared for their lives, and woke Jesus. Luke 8: 24, 25 says- “He [Jesus] got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. ‘Where is your faith?’ he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another ‘Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.’” [Emphasis mine.]
Jesus says something very incredible that causes us to be optimistic regarding the storms and troubles of our lives. In John 14:12-14, Jesus says- “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”
Jesus has all power and authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). He has given us authority to use His name when we pray. He has told us we can expect our prayers to be answered, and that we will do great things in His name. When He spoke to the storm, He was teaching that we can do the same.
Here are two recent observations on this discussion of storms and trouble that may come our way:
When the storms of life come, it is better to be in the boat with Jesus than doing our own thing in our own boat. If we live a life committed to Him, we are seeking Him in a personal relationship. We strive to be and do what He wants us to be and do. We are on His side, and in His boat. When we are in the center of His will, we are under the protective wings of the Almighty (Psalm 91:1, 2). That is the perfect place to be when the storms come.
On those days when we feel we have no effective prayers, and there is no power to change anything, we need to remember there is a difference between power and authority. We are not to rely on feelings and appearances. In John A. MacMillan’s classic book “The Authority of the Believer”, one finds the illustration of a traffic cop. The officer does not have the power to stop an oncoming bus or 18-wheeler, but he has been granted the authority to control and stop the traffic.
Jesus has all power and authority in heaven and on earth to halt, detour, and destroy the storms and troubles of life. He has granted us the authority to use His name to deal with them also. Human nature is such that if we have no storms or troubles, we become lazy and content. Trouble will surely come, but we are stronger when we exercise our God-given authority to calm the storm.
Why do bad things happen– because our enemy, the devil, “prowls around, like a lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5: 8). A more productive question might be “What do we do about it?” We stay in the boat with Jesus. We exercise the authority we have been granted, pray in the name of Jesus, and believe we can calm the storm. 1 Peter 5:9-10 goes on to say “Resist him, standing firm in the faith….and Christ, …after you have suffered a while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.”
We are told to not be afraid of the test. We prepare by getting in the boat with Jesus, and exercising our authority by praying in His name. He supplies the power to calm the storm.