Nehemiah’s Legacy by Larry W. Peebles September 23, 2016

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Nehemiah’s Legacy   by   Larry W. Peebles   September 23, 2016   16.36

 

Our tour bus driver pointed out the left window and said “they are digging up Nehemiah’s wall.”  My wife and I toured Jerusalem, one of the world’s oldest cities, in the early 1990’s.  We were told a contractor uncovered part of what was suspected to be Nehemiah’s wall while digging a utility line.  We could see where they were digging in the middle of this busy city.  Construction on the utility line had been halted for many years, as excavation was conducted to research the wall.  We were not certain if what we saw that day was the wall, but by 2007 scholars and archeologists agreed and announced that Nehemiah’s wall had been discovered in the ancient city.

One would think the 2500 year old wall would not be that hard to find, but considering the number of times Jerusalem had been seized, attacked, changed hands and razed to the ground, the location of the wall had been lost.  Researchers had been looking in the wrong place under the wrong set of assumptions.  I read that there are now over 25,000 archeological discoveries that corroborate the Bible.  This would be another similar finding, evidence of the validity of the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  Was Nehemiah’s legacy the wall, or is it something greater?  Let’s examine the story.

The setting for the book of Nehemiah occurred after Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem, carried off the treasures of the city, and had taken the people into exile.  This exile would last seventy years, as prophesied by Jeremiah.  During the ensuing reign of King Cyrus, Ezra was given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, but this effort was sabotaged by the local inhabitants of the city.  Less than twenty years later, under the reign of Artaxerxes, whom Nehemiah served as cup-bearer, men came to Nehemiah who had been to Judah and Jerusalem. They reported “Those who survived exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and, and its gates have been burned with fire.”  (Nehemiah 1:3).  Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed.

His sadness was noticed by the King, who asked him what he wanted.  Nehemiah quickly prayed, described the plight of his homeland, and asked permission to return to Jerusalem “where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (2:5)

Rather than focus on the logistics of rebuilding the wall, which he obviously accomplished as evidenced by the ruins being discovered only recently, let us focus on the opposition he faced.  In looking at the opposition he overcame, we may find Nehemiah’s true legacy, as the obstacles and principles apply in our modern world.

Realize it or not, God gives us jobs to do–the unique reason and purpose for which each of us was created.  This purpose is our “wall to build”, so to speak.  It might be a job that will eventually lead an entire nation back to their homeland (with God).  The calling might be to lead some other great effort, or to build a great organization, a great family, or raise great kids.   It might be something less far-reaching, but no less important, such as leading an exemplary life by loving God and those with whom we come in contact, in accordance with the commands of God.  No matter the wall we are given to build, when we undertake something great, the opposition will likely be similar to that faced by Nehemiah.  These are the ancient tools of the naysayer:

  1. Doubt–Immediately after Nehemiah surveyed the situation and spoke to the people about rebuilding, the critics showed up. The criticism started with “Who said you could do this?  This is way out of your league. You cannot do this.” (2:19)
  2. Discouragement–After Nehemiah organized the workers and assigned sections of the wall for each to repair, the critics said they would not be able to build a wall from the burned heaps of rubble they had to work with.  (4:2).  He was told he did not have the materials-the required tools and resources.
  3. Ridicule–The critics said that even if the workers could build a wall from the rubble, it would not stand-if a fox ran across the top, it would fall.  The work would not last. His efforts would be wasted. (4:3)
  4. Worry/Suspicion–Nehemiah was told as the opposition grows, they will become more aggressive—they will attack. The opponents will infiltrate the work effort, and undermine it from within. (4:12).
  5. Distraction–As the work progressed, the opponents tried to distract Nehemiah away from his work.  They called him to come away to pointless meetings, when their real plan was to harm him.  He would not be distracted from his original mandate, and he would not give in to fear of personal harm. (6:2, 3).
  6. Accusation–Opponents accused Nehemiah of doing this for his own glory.  They said he was trying to build his own kingdom, and make himself the king. (6:5-7).
  7. Fear/Intimidation–Opponents said his life was in danger.  The best thing he could do for himself was run into the temple and hide for his own safety.  If he continued with his work, he would die. Nehemiah reasoned that the God who created and called him to do this work did not need to hide him in the temple to protect him.  (6:10).

Scholars and archeologists estimate the wall Nehemiah and his workers rebuilt was over two miles in length, encompassing some 32 acres.  It was 16’ wide in places, and estimated to be 8-10’ tall.  The wall was re-built in 52 days, including the gates.  With the walls secure, Nehemiah settled more new residents to occupy the city.   This would secure/ensure the lasting success of the effort. (11:1).

The work was finished; Jerusalem was saved.  What were the God-inspired keys to this success in overcoming the opposition?

  1. Nehemiah was sure of his purpose.  He had fasted and prayed, seeking God’s will in the matter.  After he knew what he was to do, he did not look left or right again.
  2. He was confident that whatever materials and help God provided would be sufficient.
  3. He was sure that whatever skills were required among the help would be present on the wall because God had provided the help.
  4. He ignored the criticism and the skeptics.
  5. He would not be distracted from what he knew God told him to do.
  6. He did not see the need to excessively defend himself from accusations or rumors.
  7. He did not fear, even for his own life.  He knew God had given him life, and God had given him this purpose.  The God who had called him into this purpose would not allow his defeat.  What good was his life if he left his God-given purpose unfulfilled?

Later in the book of Nehemiah we see he gave all the glory to God for what he had done.  More than the wall construction, Nehemiah’s legacy is the godly character he displayed in doing what he did.  Remains of Nehemiah’s wall tell us 2500 years later of a man who followed God with heart and determination, and prevailed against seemingly over-whelming opposition.

The Two Kingdoms Part I by Kay Keith Peebles

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Darkness or Light

How could I have ever liked those things?  Growing up in a small town in Texas I loved to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.  When I became an adult, I continued my fetish with the holiday.  I had a small ceramics business and made and sold lighted witches, shelf hangers, dishes, statues and other decorations depicting the scary ghoulish celebration.  I bedecked every room in my house like I would for Christmas.  I loved to go to costume parties, and I handmade costumes for my two children.  I went to church choir practice one Wednesday night dressed up like a witch. I had absolutely no idea the origin or the true culture of Halloween.  It appeared so innocent to me.

Soon after I began going to Bible Study I heard negative references about the holiday.  It surprised me because I had always considered it fun to participate in trick-or-treating.  I decided to do some studying on my own which provided information about the origin of Halloween, but I continued to excuse my participation in it.  I justified my feelings by giving the disclaimer- “I don’t believe in that stuff, I’m just having a little fun.”  It took several years for the Lord to influence me that I should no longer associate myself with that event.  One of the convincing experiences I had was at the last Halloween costume party I attended.  There was some drinking at that party and as usual, a few people became obnoxious.  I watched two different married people, one a man and the other a woman, take liberties with others of the opposite sex which were completely improper.  The Lord spoke to me, “People think because they are in costume wearing a mask they can act inappropriately and get away with it.”  I then realized they wore an invisible mask every day that hid the true motivation of their heart.  What I saw and heard turned my stomach and I walked away from participating in anything associated with Halloween for the rest of my life.  Having that resolve, I gathered all of my hand-painted ceramic pieces and smashed them with a hammer and threw them in the trash.

Something very peculiar began to happen to me as I renounced my participation with Halloween.  My spiritual eyes began to open so that I could see (perceive) things more clearly.  All the skeletons, witches, ghouls, goblins, spiders and vampires became ugly to me.  Rather than fun, I saw evil in them.  I began to see how they terrorized young children and celebrated things connected to death, gore and everything contrary to the life and joy of God’s Kingdom.  The darkness had clouded my perception of the holiday and everything it represented until I renounced it.  I discovered first-hand how darkness operates.  It clouds our discernment.

I continued doing more research on the subject and was shocked at what I discovered.    “In the Satanic Bible, Satanist Anton LaVey writes that “After one’s own birthday, the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht and Halloween (or all Hallows’ Eve)”.”  (The History Channel, history.com)  Walpurgisnacht occurs in late April and is known as the night of witches, where witches and warlocks gather to celebrate.  (Wikipedia. com)  Many U.S. animal shelters halt the adoption of all black and all white cats until after Halloween to prevent animal torture because of the superstitions connected with the holiday.  (Daily Mail.com, Animal Welfare League)  I had no idea those things truly existed and were still practiced today.  I could no longer celebrate a holiday that had such dark beginnings and still practiced such demonic rituals. I have heard the testimony of some who were steeped in witchcraft but were saved and delivered by the love and power of God.  I knew there was/is a demonic spirit realm still active today and I wanted no part in it!  Many years ago God shut the door for me and my family from ever participating in that darkness again.

There are two kingdoms in the “spirit” realm today.  They are as different as night and day.  They are polar opposites that strongly oppose each other.  It is possible to participate in both, vacillating between the two, which is dangerous for those who are not aware of what darkness represents.  It is impossible to be neutral about either.  Neutrality feeds ignorance and ignorance leads us on a path of oppression, destruction and death.  Ignorance produces fear, but truth produces life and peace.

The two kingdoms are the kingdom of darkness (Satan, world) and the Kingdom of Light (God, Heaven) and they are as contrasting as their names.  That which is evil is practiced under the veil of darkness to “hide” its true meaning, activities and purpose.  The Kingdom of Light is established in truth, which brings everything into the light.  The light exposes all those things which are hidden and done in secret.  Darkness deceives and hides truth; but the Light of truth exposes the deceptions and lies of darkness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined.”  Isaiah 9:2.  (See also Isaiah 42:6, Matthew 4:15 and 16.)

Darkness, referred to in the above scripture passage, is the Hebrew word #2822 “choshek” which means (lit) darkness, (fig) misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness:–dark (-ness), night, obscurity; according to Strong’s Concordance.  This meaning is the literal and figurative description of the kingdom of darkness.

Light, from the same scripture reference, is the Hebrew word #216 “owr” which means illumination or (concr.) Iluminary (in every sense including lightening, happiness, etc.):–bright, clear + day-light (ning), morning, sun.  Cross references listed above connect the Light to the Messiah, Jesus, Who was prophesied to come to earth to lead the people out of the darkness.  (See also verses 6-7 of Isaiah Chapter 9.)

There is a continual battle that rages between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light and the opposing agenda between the two kingdoms has intertwined with mankind throughout history.    Paul warned Christians that “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” to deceive the people.  (See 2 Corinthians 11:14). Emphasis mine).  This continual battle between darkness and light would be depressing if we did not know that it is the Light that overcomes the darkness!  John 1:4-5, “In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.  And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].”

John 1:9 states, “There it was—the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person.”  He was speaking of Jesus Who is the Light of the world!

Those who choose to live in the Kingdom of Light, are charged to separate themselves from the kingdom of darkness and “walk in the light”.  “For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born (the Jews) to the Light].  Ephesians 5:8 AMP. (Emphasis mine.)  It is truly amazing the more clearly we can see (spiritually) when we remove the dark areas in our life.  I could not see the darkness in Halloween until I quit celebrating that holiday.

Jesus declared in Luke 11:34-35, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light within you is not darkness.”  This New Testament word darkness is the Greek word “skotos”, “#4655 Strong’s:  From the root “ska”, “to cover.” The word is used literally for physical darkness and metaphorically for spiritual, moral, and intellectual darkness.  The darkness arises from error, ignorance, disobedience, willful blindness, and rebellion.  Darkness is an evil system absolutely opposed to the light.”  Word Wealth, Spirit Filled Life Bible, NKJ.

The Light of Christ shines in the darkest places.  (2Peter 2:19).  No matter how dark it seems to get, His Light will shine brighter and will overcome the darkness!  Our Savior and Lord is no longer hanging on a cross.  He is seated in heaven having full rule and authority over all of creation.  He is described in the Book of Revelation Chapter 21:22-25.  “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Omnipotent [Himself] and the Lamb [Himself] are its temple.  And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to give light to it, for the splendor and radiance (glory) of God illuminate it, and the Lamb is its lamp.  [Isaiah, 24:23, 60:1, 19]  The nations shall walk by its light and the rulers and leaders of the earth shall bring into it their glory.”  AMP.

The Light of Christ illuminates our understanding.  His Light exposes the darkness around us leading and drawing us to the Light.  Jesus is the living Word and the Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.  (See Psalm 119:105).  When we call upon His name, He will shine His light in the darkest places of our lives and deliver us from the fear and oppression of darkness.  All deception, fear and bondage is obliterated completely when we turn to His Light.

Our world may be filled with darkness today, but the Light is always available for those who believe in Jesus and call upon His name.  The darkness in this world will be overcome when each of us becomes filled with His Light and shine that Light wherever we go.  We are the carriers of His Light today.  May we reject all association with the darkness and let His Light shine!

Mending Fences By Larry W. Peebles

Mending Fences   by   Larry W. Peebles   September 9, 2016   16.34

 

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A wooden post in the split-rail fence had rotted through at the base.  It was located at the top of the retaining wall along the side of the driveway to our mountain home.  The fence would not be able to stop anything or anyone from going over the side of the retaining wall.  A dangerous and painful drop down the side of the mountain would result.  The post had to be replaced, along with the top and bottom rails on both sides of the post.  Because the rails were as old as the post, it made no sense to replace the post without also replacing the rails at the same time.  A trip to the lumber yard yielded the new post and rails, along with the bags of concrete needed to set the new post. About four hours of labor was required to dig out the old post, and properly set the new post and rails in place.  Not only did the new wood look better than the old rotted wood, but more importantly, the fence was once again solid, safe and secure.  The fence would now function as intended– anyone or anything that needed to be restrained from going over the edge of the retaining wall and down the mountain could rely on the strength of the fence to do so.  I had successfully mended the fence, and felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Farmers and ranchers rely on fencing to define their property and restrain livestock.  A fence around the perimeter of the property defines the boundaries of the ownership, and sets the shape of the property.  Cross fencing within the property defines smaller sub-sections called fields or pastures.  In one pasture the cattle are allowed to graze, but in another the cattle are kept out so the grass can grow.  In one cultivated field corn may be planted, perhaps beans in another, and in a third the field might lie fallow for a season so the soil can regenerate nutrients.  Cross-fencing aids in land management.  The cattle are fenced out of the corn field for obvious reasons.  For all these reasons, it is important to keep the fences mended.  This is especially true of the perimeter fence, where a damaged fence allows one’s cattle to escape into the neighboring property, and vice-versa.  If my fence is down, and my cattle eat the neighbor’s corn, I may owe damages.  While we all appreciate the value of good neighbors, it is said that good fences make for good neighbors.

It is probably for that reason the term “mending fences” has come to have another meaning.  It is an idiom that refers to repairing or improving a poor or damaged relationship.  Repairing a damaged relationship between neighbors (or friends and family members) is much more important than repairing a fence between them.

For the Biblical perspective, consider these twelve passages:

  1. Matthew 22:36-40- a Pharisee, an expert in the Law, tested Jesus with this question-“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets [the entire Old Testament] hang on these two commandments.’”  [Insert mine].   Who is our neighbor?  Jesus made it clear in other teachings that our neighbor includes all mankind (friends, family, loved ones and strangers, including our enemies-see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37).  Loving our neighbor is the opposite of selfishness.
  2. Ephesians 4:25-28- “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”  We must speak truthfully with our neighbor, deal with any issues that cause anger lest we give the devil a foothold, and we must share with neighbors in need.
  3. 1 Corinthians 10:24- “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”  This is in opposition to selfishness.
  4. Philippians 2:3- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  Again, this opposes selfishness.
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-“Encorage one another and build each other up.”
  6. Galatians 6:2- “Carry each other’s burdens.”
  7. Romans 14:13- “Stop passing judgment on one another.”
  8. Colossians 3:13- “Bear with each other and forgive one another…as the Lord forgave you.”
  9. Hebrews 13:1-2- “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…”
  10. 1 Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
  11. Romans 13:9- “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  12. 1 John 4:7- “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

These scriptures underlined the importance of healthy, mended relationships with everyone we call or should call neighbor.  There is also a great urgency in repairing a relationship.  The pastor of a church my wife and I attended years ago said something very wise, and for that reason I have never forgotten it.  He said life is short, yet we go through it very casually in terms of our relationships.  People come and go through our lives, and we are not intentional in telling them how we appreciate knowing them and what their friendship has meant to us.  We go on as though it is understood, and therefore do not speak it out.  After parting and going separate ways, it is often too late, and is permanently left unsaid.

I remember talking to him when we left the church because we were moving to another state.  He began with this piece of wisdom, then proceeded to tell me what specifically he liked and appreciated about me, recounting in some detail how my wife and I had gone the extra mile to make him and his family feel welcome and accepted when they first came to the church.   I was stirred to reciprocate, telling him the things I appreciated and learned from him.  It brought great closure to that period of time we were together in church, and I hope perhaps brought some encouragement to his ministry.  As I have moved on in other relationships, or when my neighbor has moved on, I try to find the opportunity to have a similar conversation with them.

But why wait?  Life is indeed too short.  Why wait until the end of a season to tell a friend or neighbor or loved one how much they have meant?  Why wait a single day to mend a misunderstanding?  Take the high road.  Take the initiative, be intentional and specific with your words, never quit trying, and find ways to show your love and appreciation.  Put words into actions, no matter how small.  It is a great feeling to mend a fence.  Great (mended) fences make for great neighbors.

A Clear View by Kay Keith Peebles

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Finally, we can see again!  We live in a mountain home and recently had some of our trees trimmed. We removed other trees that were diseased.  An untouched forest can close us in by clouding our view and eventually completely blocking it.  Removing dead or dying trees, trimming branches which are in the way and cleaning up broken limbs can lend us an entirely new perspective.  Removing undesirable brush which can hinder the growth or choke out the life of healthy trees is also necessary.  Forest management keeps the woods vibrant and optimizes its longevity creating a win-win situation for all.

We visited Yosemite National Park a few years ago after a lightning fire had burned hundreds of acres of land nearby.  We thought it was a tragedy until we learned that natural fires do a cleansing work to the forest and can be beneficial if they do not burn out of control.  They actually promote life rather than simply taking it.  Many of the national parks and forest areas do “controlled” burns which manage the undergrowth on the forest floor.  Low growing flora and parasites that multiply at a faster rate than other forest plants and trees can harm the balance of nature in healthy woodlands.

We live at an altitude of 2,800 feet which allows us a view at the heights where hawks, eagles and vultures soar.  The height gives them a vantage point to find their unsuspecting prey.  There are some disadvantages by only dwelling in the valley floor; it is hard to see clearly when surrounded by sixty-foot high trees.  The shade of the forest may cool the temperature by sheltering it from the hot sun, but the same trees can also thwart a refreshing breeze.  Perspective is limited and only allows us to see the small things in the valley.  Higher up on the mountain, our view enables us to grasp the big picture.

Our Christian walk, like living in the mountainous regions, is one filled with peaks and valleys.  While a mountain hike is exhilarating and renewing, much of the hard work and strength building happens when we transverse between the lowlands and the heights.  The valley keeps us focused on the work at hand but can cause us to concentrate too long on our individual needs and problems.  We can become weary with the day-to-day responsibilities of living, easily forgetting why we are here.  When that happens, we can lose light of the end goal we are trying to accomplish.

One of the devil’s effective tools used against us is a spirit of confusion.  When we lose our perspective, we are most likely being oppressed by that spirit.  Webster’s definition of confusion is:  misperception, mix-up or muddle.    Learning what it is and where it comes from gives us an edge over its influence.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33a.  According to the Key Word Study Bible, confusion means commotion, tumult.  “And when you hear of wars and insurrections (disturbances, disorder, and confusion), do not become alarmed and panic-stricken and terrified; for all this must take place first, but the end will not [come] immediately.”  Luke 21:9, AMP.  In 2 Corinthians 12:20 confusion includes:  factions, quarreling, jealousy, temper, rivalry, divided loyalties, selfishness, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

James 3:16-17 explains, “For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle).  [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).”  AMP.  The beginning characteristics promote confusion and destroy peace while they muddy the waters of clear thinking and doing.  The characteristics that come from the wisdom of God promote peace and understanding.

James continues in verse 18 to explain the opposite of confusion.  “And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God’s will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts].  AMP.

Confusion is a symptom of our spending too much time in the valley, and a trip to the mountains is the remedy for a “valley” mentality.  When we find ourselves stressed, overloaded and unable to sustain peace, we must change our perspective.

“I lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD (YAHWEH) which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper:  the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night.  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil:  he shall preserve thy soul.  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and forevermore.”  Psalm 121, KJV.  (Emphasis mine).

There are several references to the “mountain of the Lord” in the Bible.  Abraham took Isaac up to Mount Moriah when he attempted to sacrifice him to the Lord.  He was showing God that He worshipped Him above his only son, whom God had promised.   The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that Mount Moriah and Mount Zion were the same mountain.  There are prophetic Psalms which mention the “mountain of the Lord”.  “Yet have I anointed (installed and placed) My King [firmly] on My holy hill of Zion.  I will declare the decree of the Lord; He said to Me, You are My Son; this day [I declare] I have begotten You.”  Psalm 2:6-7, AMP.  (See also Psalm 76:1-2).

The Lord declared Jesus as the eternal King of all Kings and established His throne in Jerusalem upon Mount Moriah/Zion.  He will reign there at the end of the age during the Millennium mentioned in the book of Revelation.  Psalm 9:11 explained the Lord dwells in Zion.  In Psalm 20, the Lord promised to send us help from his sanctuary (in Zion) and support, refresh and strengthen us.  “GREAT IS the Lord, and highly to be praised in the city of our God!  His holy mountain.  Fair and beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth—Mount Zion [the City of David], to the northern side [Mount Moriah and the temple], the [whole] city of the Great King!”  Psalm 48:1-2 AMP.

It is no wonder David was so victorious.  He not only knew the Lord, he knew where to find Him!  David believed if he called upon the name of the Lord God, He would answer him and deliver him out of the hands of all his enemies.  When death surrounded David, He sought the Lord.  When confusion plagued him, David cried out to the God Who was his refuge, his very help in the time of trouble.  He knew his breakthrough would come out of abiding in the presence of the Lord.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long.  Sehah [pause, and calmly think of that]!  Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.  They go from strength to strength [increasing victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion.”  Psalm 84:4-7, AMP.

When life became confusing, David sought the Lord.  We have an even greater blessing.  Mount Zion is a metaphor to us.  Although there is a literal Mount Zion and the Lord reigns from there, we have Mount Zion abiding in our hearts if we are children of the Lord God.  When we turn our gaze away from the “valley” of problems, and look unto the “hill of the Lord”, we find solace.  When we cry to the Lord, He will give us wisdom and direction.  He will give us strength and endurance.  He will supply us with hope and grace abundant for the tasks we must accomplish.

The valleys seem endless, but from the mountains we see their beginning and their end.  When we feel weak and weary from our journey, we simply need to look up.  Our strength and help comes from the Lord (on Mt. Zion).  On the summit, we can understand our purpose and the process.  We become less fearful and are assured that change is coming.  From the valleys the storms approach us unexpectedly.  From the mountain top the storms are seen from far away, and they alert us to prepare for what lies ahead.

God is calling us to come up higher.  “AFTER THIS I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven And the first voice which I heard addressing me like the [calling of] a “war trumpet” said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place in the future.”  We will never know what the Lord has in store for us unless we “come up” to the mountain of the Lord.

Living peacefully with our brethren and our families we are able to overcome the spirit of confusion.  “It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore [upon the high and the lowly.”  Psalm 133:3, AMP.  We then can abide on the mountain top where we have “A Clear View”.

The Dangers of a Yes Man by Larry W. Peebles

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The Dangers of a Yes Man   by Larry W Peebles   August 26, 2016   16.32

I don’t know if I would have made a good soldier.  I voluntarily subjected myself to the military draft in the late 1960s, but was never selected.  In those days, the draft was conducted by a lottery drawing.   The order in which birthdates were drawn determined the order in which those subject to the draft were called for service in the military.  The year I was eligible, my birthdate was drawn so late in the lottery my local draft board filled its quota before they got to my number.

I have always had a reluctance to follow orders until I knew the reason behind the orders, so following orders in the military without knowing why would have been difficult for me.  It is simply not in my character to say “yes” or “yes sir” without knowing the big picture-the objective.  On the other hand, once I have understood the reasons for an order, and buy in to the plan, I have had no trouble following orders and respecting the person in authority.  In short, I am not a good “yes man”, which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as “a person who agrees with everything that is said; especially one who endorses or supports without criticism every opinion or proposal of an associate or superior.”

The concept of a yes man is not new.  From Biblical times, both the Old and New Testaments contain interesting stories and warnings concerning this subject.  During the time of 1 Kings 22 (and 2 Chronicles 18), when the children of Israel were split into two kingdoms, we learn that Ahab was the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah.  Three years prior, a treaty had been struck with Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, but there remained disagreement over the possession of Ramoth Gilead, a territory claimed by Israel but taken by Aram.  Ahab wanted to advance on Ramoth Gilead to re-take it, and sought Judah’s assistance in the war. Ahab threw a big feast in honor of Jehoshaphat, and asked if he would go down to Ramoth Gilead with him.  In 1 Kings 22:5, Jehoshaphat responded wisely “First seek the counsel of the Lord”.  The counsel of the Lord had left Ahab due to his disobedience (see chapters 20 and 21 of 1 Kings).  Nevertheless, he called on four hundred of his so-called prophets (false prophets), and asked if he should go to war or refrain.  They responded (v. 6) “Go…for the Lord will give it into the king’s hands.”  They told him what the king wanted to hear.  I’m sure the king smiled with delight, because he wanted to take the city back more than he wanted the truth and wisdom from God.

Jehoshaphat had the discernment that these were not prophets, rather mere “yes men.”  He asked (v. 7) “Is there not a [real] prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”  Ahab responded (v. 8) “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”  The prophet Micaiah was summoned to the gathering.  He was warned by the messenger that the other prophets were not only encouraging Ahab to fight, they were also making wild and brash predictions about the gore and destruction of the Arameans.  Micaiah agreed to come, but cautioned (v. 14) “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”  This is not the response of a yes man.  It is remarkably similar to what Jesus said in John 12:49-50 “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.  I know that His command leads to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”  How very wise for a man to seek first and solely the wisdom of the Lord on a matter, for it leads to life; and how very wise for a prophet to neither add to nor detract from a word from the Lord.

When Micaiah arrived he sensed the atmosphere.  The king immediately asked him if he should go to war or refrain.  Micaiah knew what he wanted to hear so he answered sarcastically (v. 15), using the very words of the false prophets -“Attack and be victorious…for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”  Sensing the sarcasm, the king pressed him to tell what he really heard from the Lord.  In verses 19-23, Micaiah told the king that he should not proceed to war, that instead every man should go home.  He also described a vision from the Lord where he saw a lying spirit had attempted to deceive Ahab through his prophets.  He concluded by saying “The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”  Speaking the truth landed him a round of insults, followed by a stay in prison on bread and water.

This provoked Ahab into a final decision.  He ignored Micaiah, and proceeded into battle against Aram.  Ahab died in the battle, and his army retreated at the end of the day.  He had believed the lie, and it led to his death.  Although the truth would have saved his life, out of his own pride he refuted the truth because it did not agree with what he wanted to do, and it ended in disaster for him.

In the New Testament Timothy, assistant to the apostle Paul, and described by Paul as “my true son in the faith”, received the following warning from Paul in a letter.  “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness, but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3: 1-5).  We must also honestly admit we can see this around us today.  We can see the pride in Ahab, and the form of godliness in his false prophets from the story above.

Paul goes on to say in his letter in 2 Timothy 4:3 “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  Those who say what itching ears want to hear are “yes men”.  Those who want their ears scratched or rubbed are looking for a massage, not a message.  Jeremiah 6:14 warned about prophets and priests (yes, even the church) who say “Peace, peace….when there is no peace.”

Society in general, and yes even the church, sends messages intended for itching ears.  These include messages that people are not required to change because repentance is outmoded.  Do what feels good.  People are basically good, and there is no need to deal with sin.  A person can come to Jesus just as they are, and stay that way.  God is so loving he will not judge anyone.  God wants his children to be healthy, wealthy and content in this world.

The truth is that God’s ways and priorities are different from ours.  He is more concerned about our character than He is our comfort.  He is more concerned about our forgiveness than He is about our finances.  He will speak the hard truth for our own good.  We can come to Jesus just as we are, in a low and sinful state, but He will operate on us by grace through His Holy Spirit until we are convicted and convinced of the need for a change for our own good.

Rather than walk away from hard truth, consider these additional words from Paul’s letter to Timothy, a remedy for today’s situation.  “Preach the word (as an official messenger); be ready when the time is right and even when it is not (keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome); correct (those who err in doctrine or behavior), warn (those who sin), exhort and encourage (those who are growing toward spiritual maturity), with inexhaustible patience and (faithful) teaching.”  (2 Timothy 4:2, Amplified).

A yes man answers according to the current direction of the wind.   The truth is not dependent on the wind.  A yes man answers according to what he thinks one wants to hear.  The truth speaks of what one needs to hear.  The truth is not a philosophical concept.  The truth is a person, Jesus Christ.  “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6).  When we know the Truth (Jesus), we can recognize the truth.  We can then be ready at all times to both speak the truth and hear the truth.  This leads to life.  A yes man is no help at all.  The danger of a yes man is his half-truths and lies ultimately lead to destruction.

Take Up Your Sword by Kay Keith Peebles

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It was hilarious!  I had always been afraid of snakes.  I became afraid of snakes in the third grade when I learned to distinguish the poisonous ones from the non-poisonous.  Since then, I had only seen two poisonous snakes in the wild, one was a baby copperhead.

This summer, after coming up to the mountains for ten years, I saw my first poisonous snake in our area.  I was near one of the small lakes close to our home when I saw a snake swimming on top of the water several feet from where I was standing.  I could see his head and knew he was poisonous!  Although the water was a bit murky, I got a picture of him with my cell phone and discerned he was a copperhead.  I realized, for the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of the snake, just respectful.

A week ago, my husband and I were coming home from a day-long outing and parked our car in the garage.  When we began unloading the car, my husband shouted, “There’s a snake in the garage!”  He was in the corner by the garage door.  We could see that the front half of its body was inside a box which the exterminator had placed in the corner of the garage to catch small rodents and insects as they entered.  It was late in the afternoon and the inside of the garage was dark.  I maneuvered myself to the other side of the car so that I could step outside of the garage to see the snake with better light. “It’s a copperhead,” I yelled to my husband.  We had no rake or shovel with which to defend ourselves.  Upon observing the situation, it appeared he had entered the box to eat something that may have been inside.  We realized he had become caught on the sticky surface and was unable to pull himself free.  I asked the Lord for wisdom and immediately we decided the best thing to do was back the car out of the garage so that we could sweep the box out of the corner and onto the driveway.  Our weapons became a broom and an automobile.  When the box was pushed outside, the snake drew up the rest of his body inside the box which made him fully contained inside. My husband then proceeded to drive the car over the box five or six times to make sure the snake could not harm anyone.  There was no way we could have removed him from the box.  He was stuck there to die a slow death and since he knew small critters could enter our garage, we did not want this happening again.

Once the snake was dead, we both felt relieved.  It was disconcerting to have a poisonous snake in our garage.  It left us feeling a bit vulnerable.  Then we began to laugh.  It was actually hilarious!  The head of the snake could not have touched us.  The snake had been incapacitated!  God had protected us from being bitten when we walked near the snake.  He was a dangerous snake but rendered helpless; unable to harm us.  His poisonous head was covered by a box.  We chuckled at the thought of him chasing us and trying to bite us with this big box on his head.

I began to understand more clearly the victory Jesus gave us through the cross and resurrection and the believer’s call to resist the enemy (devil) to obtain personal freedom from oppression and bondage.  In scripture the devil and the demonic realm is equated with a snake.  It was a snake that spoke to Adam and Eve in the garden tempting them to sin against God.  See Genesis 3:1, 13.  The Apostle John described the devil by what he saw in the Revelation of the end times.  “And the huge dragon was cast down and out—that age-old serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, he who is the seducer (deceiver) of all humanity the world over; he was forced out and down to the earth and his angels were flung out along with him.”  Revelation 12:9 AMP.

The Apostle Paul explained the work of the cross as Jesus redeemed mankind by defeating all the works of darkness (the devil).  “Stripping the rulers and authorities of their power, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by means of the stake (cross).”  Colossians 2:15 Complete Jewish Bible, emphasis mine.  The Amplified version says, “[God] disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it [the cross].”  God had disarmed the snake by sticking his head, which was his weapon, to the inside of the box.  It was impossible for him to bite us.  Christ gave us all the weapons and authority needed to debunk and pull down the enemy’s hold on our lives and the lives of others.

We all came into this fallen world crippled by our sin nature.  We inherited the sins from past generations in our family that did not serve the Lord or they did not deal with the curses of sin on the family tree.  Sins of the father are passed down for several generations and if there is no repentance and breaking of those strongholds, they remain and continue crippling us from one generation to another.  See Exodus 34:7.  Jesus redeemed us from our bondage, giving us all we need to secure our complete freedom.  Unfortunately, some remain bound either because they don’t know how to be free, they are afraid to deal with spiritual matters or they don’t want to be free.

How often do we cower in fear because of the works of the devil?  How many times have we backed off from an opportunity to gain personal or corporate victory over bondages and injustice when the Lord told us the victory was ours?  Fear of the enemy will stifle any hope of victory we have.  It will keep the children of God bound and powerless, always floundering instead of staunchly opposing him.  Victory comes only by resisting every weapon of the enemy, leaning into the fray and wielding our supernatural weapon Jesus provided for us.

We have been given a powerful suit of armor, but that armor only covers the front of our body, not the back.  We were never created to cower or run from the enemy, we were created to face, resist and oppose the enemy because Christ has already defeated him!

Paul encouraged the Ephesian church.  “In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him [that strength which His boundless might provides].  Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:10-11.  AMP.

“Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].”  Ephesians 6:13.

We find the armor of the Lord described in the book of Ephesians in chapter 6:14-18.  We are to be girded about the waist with the belt of Truth, Biblical Truth.  Our breastplate is that of Righteousness (integrity, honesty and transparency; morality according to God’s Word, and our hearts completely surrendered to the Lord).  The shoes upon our feet are Peace, (representing the resolve that we trust in God, believe His Word and rely upon His strength).  Faith is our shield, (faith in the finished work of the cross, the power of the blood of Jesus to redeem and protect us, and the knowledge that He defeated the enemy, we are simply enforcing His victory).  The helmet of salvation guards: 1) our mind which is the mind of Christ Jesus, 2) eyes that look only to Him for our salvation, 3) ears which hear and obey His voice, 4) breath (life in and through Him) and 5) mouths which declare His Word.  Our armor is our defensive protection but our weapon is the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God).  His Word is our supernatural weapon used against every attack of the enemy.

We must know who we are in Christ Jesus and what He accomplished through His life, death and resurrection.  Once we are established securely in Him, We are His agents in the earth raised up to uphold and apply His Word against the lies of the devil.  His Word will sustain us and enable us to stand firm until the enemy surrenders and flees.  James 4:7 promises, “So be subject to God, Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.”

Lessons Learned From The Snake:

1)    Do not be afraid of his power because Christ has overcome all the works of darkness.  Colossians 2:15, 1 John 4:18, Revelation 12:7-10

2)    Seek the Lord for His strategy (wisdom) for victory in each battle.  James 1:5,                   1 Samuel 30:8, Judges Chapters 6 and 7.

3)    Put on your armor, understanding the purpose of each piece, which guarantees victory.  Ephesians 6:13-18

4)    Faith (strength) comes through studying/meditating the Word of God, intercession/prayer, praise/worship and waiting in His presence.  Isaiah 40:31, 2 Timothy 2:15

5)    We overcome by the blood of the Lamb, by declaring our testimony, and by being willing and able to die for the faith.  See Revelation 12:11.

We are not inherently entitled to victory without participating in the battle.  We were created for this purpose.  We are in a battle for our faith, our family and the nations.  There is no true freedom apart from Christ Jesus.  American soldiers have been willing to go to war and die for our national freedom.  Are we willing to fight the spiritual battles necessary to secure our spiritual freedom and that of others and die to ourselves in order to obey the will of God?  Conscientious objectors will not inherit the Kingdom.  The world is looking for the answers only we can provide.  God is depending on us.  It is time for the church to take up our sword and fight!

Asa Had the Answer by Larry W Peebles

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Asa Had the Answer   by   Larry W. Peebles   August 12, 2016  16.30

What does one do when outnumbered two to one?  We are not talking two against one, or even two hundred against one hundred.  What if we were talking over one million enemy soldiers advancing against a nation, and the King’s army to defend the nation consisted of half that many?  What does one do?

King Asa of Judah found himself in that situation in Chapter 14 of 2 Chronicles.  By way of background, Asa was the fifth King of Judah, following his ancestors King David, his son Solomon, his son Rehoboam, and his son Abijah.   Asa was the son of Abijah.  Much is written and studied about the reign of David and Solomon.  They both loved the Lord with all their hearts, and purposed to follow the Lord and lead the people according to God’s laws and plan. Each had their moments involving personal sin and weakness to overcome.  When Solomon died, the kingdom split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah.  Rehoboam’s first challenge as the new king was to unite the tribes of Judah and Benjamin into the kingdom of Judah, and to fortify the cities of Judah.  The remaining ten tribes formed the kingdom of Israel.  During the first three years of his reign, Rehoboam was successful in doing this as long as he followed the Lord.  However, after his success in establishing himself as King, and fortifying the kingdom, he drifted away from the Lord.  The king of Egypt attacked Judah in Rehoboam’s fifth year, captured the fortified cities, and advanced as far as Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 12).   The prophet Shemaiah gave the word of the Lord to Rehoboam (v. 5) “You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak [king of Egypt].”  The king and the leaders immediately saw the error of their ways, and humbled themselves before God.  Then the Lord sent this word through His prophet (v. 7, 8) “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them…..they will, however, become subject to him [the king of Egypt], so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.”

Shishak attacked Jerusalem and carried off the treasures of both the temple and the royal palace.  He took everything, including the gold.  With a valuable lesson having been learned, Rehoboam began again establishing his kingdom and fortifying the cities.  The rest of his reign was then marked with continual warfare with Jeroboam, king of Israel.

Abijah followed Rehoboam as king, and faithfully followed the Lord.  Though he reluctantly carried on the fight against his Israelite brothers, in one particular battle with Jeroboam, Abijah addressed the army of Israel (2 Chronicles 13). He pointed out that God intended the kingship of all of Israel (Israel and Judah) belonged to the descendants of David.  The divided kingdom of Israel was an offshoot of the rebellion of Nabat, one of Solomon’s officials, but not a son.  In verse 12, he said “Men of Israel, do not fight against the Lord, the god of your fathers, for you will not succeed.”  God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah that day.  Verse 18 says “the men of Judah were victorious because they relied on the Lord, the God of their fathers.”

With all this as background, we then see Asa, son of Abijah become king of Judah.  2 Chronicles 14:2 says “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.” During years of peace, he built up the towns, and put walls, gates and bars around them.  He prospered.  He built an army of 300,000 from the tribe of Judah, and 280,000 from the tribe of Benjamin.

Thirty years after his grandfather’s lesson in the battle with Shishak, Asa learned that Zerah the Cushite was approaching with a “vast” army (literal translation-thousands of thousands, or a thousand thousand [million]).  There is historical evidence to suggest he was a general hired by the current pharaoh of Egypt.  With all the prosperity and peace in the land, Egypt thought it was time to drain the temple treasury again, and loot the royal palace.  How could Asa defend his people against an army of over one million with an army of only 580,000 men?  Verse 11 says “Asa called to the Lord his God, and said ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty.  Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army.  O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you.’”

Verses 12-15 in Chapter 14 tell us the ending of the story.  The Lord struck down the Cushites.  Asa and his army pursued, annihilating such a great number they could not recover.  The men of Judah carried off a large amount of plunder, including plunder from the enemy villages destroyed in a counter-attack.  They also carried off droves of sheep and camels before returning to Jerusalem.  The Lord turned what could have been a devastating attack into a stunning rout and counter-attack.  Instead of having their treasures plundered, the kingdom of Judah saw its wealth and treasures grow.

Upon their return to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 15: 1-2 says “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah son of Obed.  He went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin.  The Lord is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.”

The lessons we see in these Scriptures contain some jewels of wisdom.  They apply not only to nations and leaders of nations, but to individuals as well.  Consider these twelve take-away points:

  1. We must be careful to attribute our success to the Lord.  Psalm 121:2 says “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
  2. Human nature is to forget where our success comes from, and to drift away from the Lord when we are successful.
  3. When we drift away from the Lord, we must rush back to Him with humility, and ask for forgiveness.
  4. Drifting away from the Lord carries consequences we may have to live with for a while.
  5. When we humbly come back to the Lord, He restores us and lets us start over again.
  6. Men do not prevail when they fight against the Lord.
  7. When going into battle, better to rely on the Lord than on the size of your army.
  8. God helps the powerless against the mighty.
  9. When the Lord is on our side, we can expect astonishing results, but never predictable results.
  10. When we are with the Lord, He is with us.
  11. When we seek the Lord, we will find Him.
  12. If we forsake the Lord, He will forsake us.

When Solomon finished the temple, the Lord appeared to him at night and said (2 Chronicles 7:14) “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land.”  What to do when the problems and opposition that face a person or a nation are overwhelming?  Where do we start when we have lost our moral bearings?   Solomon received the answer when he was king.  Asa remembered the answer when he was tested.  We return to the Lord our God.

Casual Christianity by Kay Keith Peebles

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“Que sera, sera” is a dangerous theology!  The song “Que Sera, Sera” which means- “Whatever will be, will be” was written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans in 1956.  It was sung by Doris Day and featured in the movie “The Man Who Knew Too Much”.  The premise of the song was we do not have control over our lives because our fate is determined by the “gods”.  It is a care-free, casual belief which motivates people to live their lives to the fullest centered around their own desires, because they have no say or power to determine the final outcome.  This belief has seeped into the church and is affecting how people regard the good news of the kingdom (the Gospel).

My husband and I attended the funeral for a 16 year old young man several years ago.  He was one of four passengers killed in an automobile driven by a drunk teenager.  They had all been partying and the driver was speeding when he accidentally plowed into a large tree killing everyone in the car.  The mother of the teenager was an employee of the company my husband managed.  The family was inconsolable.  We came to the funeral to express our love and sympathy for their deep loss.

The funeral began with a hymn and a prayer; then the pastor stood at the pulpit to preach a sermon.  He asked the mourners a question:  “Why did God take this young man”?  He then proceeded to answer his question by sharing his version of the sovereignty of God.  His message to the grieving family in essence, was “Que sera, sera” (whatever will be, will be).  He explained his belief that the Lord required the young man in the prime of his life and there was nothing the family could do about it because God is God.  His remarks were similar to things I have heard others say to those grieving; “God needed your _________ (family member) more than you did.”  His message left all those in the pews feeling hopeless and brought no consolation to the family.  It did, however, stir doubt, and perhaps anger toward a God who would “take” our precious loved ones from us.  It was heartbreaking to hear him blame God’s sovereign will for the death of the teenager.  He left the entire room of people questioning the futility of life.

God’s sovereignty is blamed for many things that are not His doing but rather, they are the result of the missteps of others.  Unfortunately, like I witnessed the day of the funeral, many people believe in the theology of “Que sera, sera”.

Although the Lord is sovereign over all of creation, He created mankind with the ability to choose to follow or reject Him.  Those who believe that everything happens according to God’s perfect plan must eliminate the majority of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation the written Word of God is filled with God’s intervention in men’s lives, but His will is also subjected to man’s free will choice.  God never made man sin nor was he created with the propensity to do so.  Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God’s commandment.  Their disobedience caused sin, death and destruction to enter our world.  The Bible is clear, it is not God’s will for anyone to perish eternally, but many do because they reject God’s call to salvation, kingdom living and destiny.  See 2 Peter 3:9.  Many people die every day because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time.  God is sovereign and all-knowing, but we make our own choices.  He does try to influence our decisions but we have been given the right to choose whether we obey Him or not.

This dangerous theology deceives Christians into thinking they have no part or responsibility in what happens here on earth.  It especially affects their attitudes toward their having an active role regarding their own Christian walk, the salvation of others and the end times.  They feel no need to study the word of God and mature in the things of God.  They participate in church with a casual attitude, lightly esteeming the Lord because they are pre-occupied with their own plans.  They do not know fully what they believe and why, which can make them targets to the lies and doctrines of false prophets within the church.  See Matthew 7:15.  They can then be easily swayed by human reasoning which contradicts Biblical Truth.  This is currently happening today!

We are presently living in a treacherous time and therefore we must know the Word of God because we are daily being positioned with opportunities to speak truth or succumb to lies.  If we do not know the Word, we are in danger of believing whatever is presented as the Gospel, rendering us unable to stand in faith on God’s side.

Jesus’ disciples asked Him what the sign of His return would be and what would take place at the end of the age.  See Matthew 24 (entire chapter).  “Jesus answered them, Be careful that no one misleads you [deceiving you and leading you into error].”  Matthew 24:4 AMPV.  He continued, “And then many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert [Him Whom they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred, And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error…”  Matthew 24:10-11 AMPV.  Jesus continued speaking in parables about our responsibility to be diligent, watchful and busy about the kingdom’s business while we wait expectantly for His return.

Our Christian faith is far from casual.  It calls us to be active, equipped, matured, discerning and focused on Him.  We must not be busy doing solely our own activities while leaving no room for Him, except an hour on Sunday mornings.  Jesus described what the kingdom of heaven is like in Matthew Chapter 25 by comparing 10 virgins.  These virgins represent the church, those who are righteous by receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Bridegroom represents Jesus Who will return at the end of the age.  (See Matthew Chapter 22; Revelations 21:9, 22:17; John 3:29 and Isaiah 65:5)  Five of the virgins were described as wise and five as foolish.  The five wise virgins were sensible, intelligent and prudent.  They were prepared by pre-planning and using their time wisely.  The five foolish were negligent, wasteful and casual in regard to their bridegroom’s return.

The bridegroom delayed His reappearance long enough the five foolish virgins nodded off and went to sleep, not considering how long or difficult the night might become.  Unprepared, their lamps burned out and they had no way of acquiring the oil to re-light them before He came back.  When the bridegroom arrived, the five foolish were nowhere to be found, because they were searching for the necessary oil (the evidence of their faithful obedience) in vain.  The five wise virgins who had prepared themselves entered into the marriage feast with Him.  The door was then shut and no one else would be allowed to enter in.  When the five foolish virgins finally returned it was too late.  They insistently knocked at the door of the wedding feast.  The bridegroom answered the door and spoke heartbreaking words to them.  “But He replied, I solemnly declare to you, I do not know you [I am not acquainted with you].”  See Matthew 25.  Although they had been invited to the wedding feast, their casual attitudes toward it and the bridegroom kept them from properly preparing themselves so that they could enter in.  They were sadly rejected from the kingdom for all eternity.

God is sovereign, but we can thwart His perfect will from coming to pass in our lives.  We, like the Israelites before us, can become rebellious, calloused or simply too casual in regard to Him, risking eternal judgement.  It is true, the Word of God says the enemy (devil) cannot snatch us out of God’s hand.  We can, however, be denied entry through our own continual disobedience by having a casual disregard of His Word, His kingdom, His presence and His own sovereign plan for our lives.

The kingdom of God was offered to us at the cost of Jesus’ painful sacrifice.  He was mutilated and crucified because that alone could demonstrate the depth of wickedness our sins created.  He bore the fullness of our shame, guilt and mocking which we deserved.  Salvation was given to us freely by His great love for us, although we deserved eternal judgment.   He fully gave His life for us; therefore, to truly be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we must give our lives to Him completely.  Whether we live or die, we are His only.  2 Timothy 2:11-12 proclaims, “The saying is sure and worthy of confidence:  If we have died with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him.  If we deny and disown and reject Him, He will also deny and disown and reject us.  If we are faithless [do not believe and are untrue to Him], He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.”  His faithfulness to His Word and his righteous character is the very reason He denied the five virgins entrance to the wedding feast.  They were imposters of the true believers.

Many of the churches in Germany succumbed to the pressure of the Nazi regime in World War II, compromising their beliefs and exchanging true Biblical doctrines for the Nazi propaganda.  Today, many in the churches in America are capitulating to the pressures of our society and the escalating resistance to God’s word by our American culture.  There is a growing pressure for Christians to approve those who live godless and immoral lives.  Believers are already being persecuted for taking their stand with God.

Every day we are inching closer to the Lord’s return.  We must be equipped to endure to the end.  The night is drawing nigh.  We must prepare our lamps by filling them with the oil of the Holy Spirit while the Lord’s presence may be found.  The diligent will reap the reward.  The seeker will apprehend the prize.  The faithful will see the Lord.  There is NOTHING casual about Christianity; that is why so few are willing to walk on the narrow path.  Are you one of them?

Obed-Edom and the Presence of God by Larry W. Peebles

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Obed-Edom and the Presence of God   by   Larry W Peebles    July 29, 2016   16.28

Obed-Edom was in for a big surprise.  King David of Israel had defeated the Philistines, who had previously captured the Ark of the Covenant.  The Philistines were eager to return it after only seven months because the presence of the Ark had wreaked havoc on the Philistine people (1 Samuel 5, 6).  David attempted to move it back to Jerusalem.  He had great respect for the Ark, which was a God-ordained symbol from the days of the exodus led by Moses.  It was constructed during the time the children of Israel were set free from Egyptian slavery and journeyed into the Promised Land.  The Ark contained the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a sample of manna.  It represented the very presence and power of God when the children of Israel walked across the Jordan River on dry ground into the Promised Land, and at the destruction of the walls of Jericho.  Vines Expository Dictionary explains it this way “the powerful presence of Yahweh is metaphorically yet truly concentrated in the Ark.”

David chose thirty thousand men to form the procession to accompany the Ark home, and ordered a new cart pulled by oxen to transport it.  2 Samuel 6:5 says “David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums, and cymbals.”

Then a tragedy occurred.  One of the oxen stumbled, and the Ark suddenly shifted in the cart.  A man named Uzzah instinctively reached out to steady the Ark so that it did not fall off the cart.  He was instantly struck dead.  Although his intentions may have been good, he and the entire procession were being too casual and careless in handling the Ark.  When God gave Moses the detailed instructions for building the tabernacle and all of its altars and furnishings, the main feature of the most holy part of the tabernacle, the holy of holies, was the Ark.  The holy of holies was the most sacred room, hidden behind the curtain, where only the high priest entered once a year to sacrifice and atone for the sins of Israel.  The Ark in that sacred place contained the very presence of God.  When He gave Moses the instructions on how to build the Ark, He also gave specific and detailed instructions on how to carry and move the Ark.  These instructions were not only to show proper respect and reverence for the Ark, but also to protect someone from likely touching the power of God in a casual manner.  Man is not built to withstand the full power of God.  The unimaginable power of the Divine cannot be handled by human flesh.  Without preparation, and without thinking, Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark.  He may as well have reached out and grabbed a one million volt live wire falling to the ground.

Realizing the gravity of the situation, David became afraid and wondered how it would be possible to safely bring the Ark home to Jerusalem where it belonged among the chosen people of God.  2 Samuel 6:10 says David “took it aside to the house of Obed-Edom.”  He needed time to re-group and research God’s instructions on how to move it to Jerusalem; perhaps he had over looked something.

Can you imagine Obed-Edom’s surprise when King David asked if he could drop off the Ark of God at his house for a while, until they could assess its proper handling?  Then King David and his procession of thirty thousand walked off down the road, leaving the Ark, the very presence of God, with Obed-Edom.  What would happen next?

We know from Scripture that Obed-Edom was a Levite (1 Chronicles 16:4-5), a man from the order of priests, called by God to serve the people by ministering before God.  He had received the training of a Levite, and knew about the tabernacle, the altars, and the Ark, as all were still in use.  These were the days before Solomon built the permanent Temple of God in Jerusalem.  God’s presence still dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle.  He knew the Ark represented the presence of God, and only the high priest could access the room where it was contained in the tabernacle.  He understood the history and the symbolism, but he also respected the power of the God of his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  He was awe-struck at the very thought of the Ark of God being left at his house.

Three months passed before David returned to take the Ark on to Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 6:11).  This time he researched and followed God’s instructions to the letter on how to carry the Ark (1 Chronicles 15:13-15).  The three months Obed-Edom spent in the continual and intense presence of God changed his life forever.  A few minutes in God’s presence weekly in church, or even daily in prayer does not equate to the literal “soaking” in God’s presence that Obed-Edom and his household received during these three months.  The following Scriptures give us a flavor for and a picture of the results of that “soaking in God’s presence”:

  1. 1 Chronicles 13:14- “The ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom in his house for three months, and the Lord blessed his household and everything he had.”
  2. 2 Samuel 6:11- “The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite [reference to place of birth] for three months, and the Lord blessed him and his entire household.” [Insert mine.]
  3. 1 Chronicles 26:4- 5- Obed-Edom had eight sons, “for God had blessed Obed-Edom.”
  4. 1 Chronicles 15:18- Obed-Edom was named a gatekeeper when the Ark was brought up to Jerusalem.
  5. 1 Chronicles 15:21- Obed-Edom played the harp in the procession that brought the Ark from his house to Jerusalem.
  6. 1 Chronicles: 15:24- he was appointed as a doorkeeper for the Ark before the procession.
  7. 1 Chronicles 16:4-5- once the Ark arrived in Jerusalem, Obed-Edom was appointed by David as a Levite “to minister before the ark of the Lord, to make petition [pray], to give thanks, and to praise the Lord, the God of Israel.” [Insert mine.]
  8. 1 Chronicles 26:15- the gatekeepers drew lots for their duties.  “The lot for the South Gate fell to Obed-Edom, and the lot for the storehouse fell to his sons.”  The South Gate was just outside the palaces of David and eventually Solomon.  This was a strategic and very important body-guard type position and responsibility.
  9. 2 Chronicles 25:24- in a reference to an event that occurred under the reign of a later king, Scripture tells us that the temple storehouse contained the temple “gold and silver and all the articles found in the temple of God.”  These had been in the responsible care of Obed-Edom and his family. 1 Kings 7:13-51 describes in great detail the furnishings of the temple, and confirms that these items were kept in “the treasuries of the Lord’s temple.”
  10. 1 Kings 8:1-10 tells the story of again moving the ark into its final resting place in the completed inner sanctuary of the temple Solomon built, in the Most Holy Place.  Obed-Edom, along with all the priests and Levites, was involved in that event. He played the harp. (2 Chronicles 6:12).  When the Ark was put into position, and the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, “the cloud filled the temple of the Lord, and the priests could not perform their service, because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled his temple.”  Obed-Edom witnessed that cloud, and experienced the presence of the Lord again.

When presented with the opportunity to be in the presence of the Lord, Obed-Edom took advantage of it.  He was neither too busy nor afraid.  He and his family handled the presence of the Lord with great respect and reverence.  Otherwise they were subject to the same outcome as fell upon Uzzah.  As a result, he and his whole family were blessed. His life was changed forever.  Following that initial experience, he was called upon to move the Ark whenever it needed to be moved.  God caused kings to ask him to serve continually in the temple, where God’s presence dwelled.  He was trusted with the great treasures of the temple, both monetary and spiritual.  He was trusted with guarding the doors to the temple, and keeping watch over the palaces of kings.  He was able to labor alongside his family while serving the Lord and the people of Israel in the temple. God lifted him up into positions of honor.  I can only imagine the continual anointing and presence of the Lord allowed his serving to be a great joy, and not a burden.

The story of Obed-Edom causes us to ask some questions.  Do we seek the presence of the Lord?  When the opportunity presents itself to be alone with Him, do we take advantage of it?  What is the attitude of our heart when we do have time alone with God?  Do we come with joy and expectation, or do we come before Him out of a sense of duty?  Is our approach casual or reverential?  Are we too preoccupied with our own concerns to let Him impact us in the way He chooses?  Obed-Edom honored and revered God, and the Lord blessed him mightily.  When we demonstrate the proper reverence God expects and requires we can be trusted with His anointing, presence and power.  May we all examine our hearts, and be led by the spirit of God into His presence.

The Gift of Pure Blood by Kay Keith Peebles

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The only option was a blood transfusion!  Our daughter-in-law began to hemorrhage after her second son was born in 2004.  The doctors had been trying to stop the bleeding since she delivered our grandson.  The medication finally succeeded after several hours, but our daughter-in-law had lost so much blood they felt she needed a blood transfusion.  The birth of our grandson was joyous, though our celebration was cut short.  He had been born at 7 p.m. but it was midnight before our daughter-in-law was stabilized.  We left the hospital weary and uneasy because of our concern for her health and well-being.  The doctors would make their decision the next morning based on her blood count.

I could not sleep, although I was exhausted after a long day and late night.    The gamut of emotions had drained my mind and body.  I prayed my daughter-in-law would not require a blood transfusion but the doctors seemed adamant about her need for several pints of blood.  Screening for blood purity had begun to improve over the last 10 years, but there were still cases of people contracting serious diseases or infections from donated blood.  I wrestled with the thought of her receiving a blood transfusion from a stranger and kept praying against the need for one.

Tossing and turning for over an hour, I cried out to the Lord for peace and a word from Him on the matter.  The answer was not exactly what I had prayed, but with God’s revelation the peace flooded my mind and heart.  The Lord assured me our daughter-in-law would receive a blood transfusion but He promised she would be fine.  His word was profound:  “Your husband has been donating his blood monthly for years.  He has given over a gallon of blood to others which was pure, free of disease and contaminants.  What he has given freely to others your daughter-in-law will receive.  She will be given pure, uncontaminated blood.”  I wept.

Galatians 6:7 states, “Do not be deceived and deluded and misled:  God will not allow Himself to be sneered at (scorned, disdained, or mocked by mere pretensions or professions, or by His precepts being set aside), [He inevitably deludes himself who attempts to delude God.]  For whatever a man sows, that and that only is what he will reap.”  AMPV.  Emphasis mine.  Although the context of this scripture is in regard to true salvation, the principles of God’s Word regarding sowing and reaping are His law and they are irrevocable!  The Lord spoke that promise to me and the peace of God filled the room.  I slept the rest of the night undisturbed.

The next morning we arrived at the hospital.  The doctors had already begun giving our daughter-in-law the two pints of blood she needed.  I felt such amazement and peace that the Lord had prepared for this need years before, prompting my husband to give his blood for others’ lives.  Someone visiting in the hospital room mentioned concerns about the blood transfusion and I could see my daughter-in-law’s face turn fearful.  I was quickly able to pull down the words of doubt and concern by speaking the word the Lord had given me the night before.  His peace came into that hospital room and hovered over us all.  It has been 12 years since that happened and my daughter-in-law is healthy and strong.  She was given the gift of pure blood.

Two thousand years ago, the entire world was given the opportunity to receive a blood transfusion and it is continually offered to all who will receive it.  It was the gift of clean, pure blood.  It was not only pure, it was sinless, holy, and divine blood.  Isaiah 53:6 describes the condition of mankind and why we needed a blood transfusion.  “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord had made to light upon Him the guilt and iniquity of us all.”  AMPV.  See 1 Peter 2:24-25.  Paul addressed the same principle in Romans 3:23 which declares, “No distinction is made:  all have sinned and lack God’s glory.”  The New Jerusalem Bible.    Conditions were placed upon man’s behavior when God established His covenant with him.  God declared blessings upon those who obeyed His covenant but curses would be upon all who rebelled against Him and His word.  Those curses occurred because of the fall of man and still affect all who do not trust in the Lord.

Sin exacted a stiff penalty upon Adam and Eve and all their descendants (the whole world).  Because the wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual, Adam and Eve lost their created right to dwell in the Lord’s presence of holiness.  See Genesis Chapter 3 and Romans 6:23.  They were not created to know good and evil.  God placed them in the garden, clothed them with His glory and they abided in the holy presence of God.  Their rebellion opened their eyes to evil which also opened the door to death.  It also closed the door to the Lord’s intimate presence in their lives.  Their nakedness exposed the fact that they had sinned.  The first generation after Adam and Eve introduced death when Cain, their son, killed his brother Abel.  Now, their only remedy for sin was through the shedding of pure, undefiled blood.  Hebrews 9:22 states, “[In fact] under the Law almost everything is purified by means of blood, and without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.”  AMPV.Life is in the blood and therefore, there cannot be life without the blood:  physically or spiritually.  This created a dilemma for mankind, but God had already prepared the remedy.  The blood of animals temporarily “covered” man’s sin, but God’s perfect plan was to completely eradicate it!  The pure blood necessary for man’s atonement had to come through a sinless man.  See Romans 5:12-14.  There was only One candidate Who met the criteria for the sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus was born to a virgin by the Holy Spirit.  It was a supernatural conception which gave Him both the blood of man and God.  He lived a holy life and kept the law of God, therefore, His blood was sinless pure and holy.  His blood was enough to cover every man, woman and child that had ever been or would ever be born in the entire world.  Jesus’ pure blood had a miraculous effect on all mankind and our relationship with God.  His blood sacrifice provided:

  1. Redemption:  His blood redeemed the world from the authority of Satan changing it back to the authority of God for all who believed.  It was the perfect ransom for our bondage to a sinful life.  “[The Father] has delivered and drawn us to Himself out of the control and the dominion of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, In Whom we have our redemption through His blood, [which means] the forgiveness of our sins.”  Colossians 1:13-14 AMPV.  Our debt of spiritual death was removed by our appropriate application of the Blood of Jesus.  Repentance of our sin/sins and faith in Jesus’ blood sacrifice to atone us is required to receive this gift of redemption.
  2. Forgiveness:  Through our repentance and faith in Jesus’ blood sacrifice, God has forgiven all our sins and transgressions:  past, present and future (when confessed and repented).  Psalm 103:12 “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”   “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive out sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].”  1 John 1:9 AMV.  Our sins are remembered no more and we have been given a new beginning.
  3. Justification:  All charges for violating God’s Law of moral, ethical and spiritual principles were acquitted for all who believe in the power of Jesus’ blood sacrifice.  The penalty should have been our death.  Instead, because Jesus substituted Himself in our place, all who believe in His sacrifice become reconciled to God and are called to be a child of God.  Romans 5:1 “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” NKJV.
  4. New Creation: Jesus described our conversion as being born again.  See John 3:1-5.  The power of sin was broken and freedom from guilt and shame became available to all who would call upon the name of Jesus for their salvation.  2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away.  Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].” AMPV. Just as the natural blood in our bodies gives us life and pulses that life throughout our body, Jesus’ blood gives us spiritual life which transforms us into new creatures in Christ Jesus.
  5. Access to God: Jesus’ death and resurrection removed the veil which kept us from having the same access Adam and Eve had with God before they sinned.  Ephesians 3:12 “In Whom, because of our faith in Him, we dare to have the boldness (courage and confidence) of free access (an unreserved approach to God with freedom without fear).”  AMPV. The Lord is close to those who love Him.  He dwells in our hearts and we become the temple of His presence giving Him full freedom to transform our lives according to His will.
  6. Healing/Deliverance: The blood of Jesus was used to break the power of the curse.  His blood was not simply for our salvation.  It also purchased our right to be healed and delivered of physical and mental oppression of the devil.  Isaiah 53:4-5 proclaims, “Surely He hath borne our griefs (sicknesses, weaknesses, and distresses) and carried our sorrows and pains [of punishment], yet we [ignorantly] considered Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God [as if with leprosy].  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.”  AMPV.

When Jesus’ blood seeped into the ground in Jerusalem and at Golgotha, the entire force of heaven’s power crushed every work of darkness.  It ratified God’s covenant while destroying every curse and hold the devil had on all who received Jesus’ blood sacrifice for mankind.  Faith in the power of the Blood of Jesus and the authority of the Name of Jesus is our defense against all the works of the devil and our assurance of a victorious life.

The New Covenant God established now guarantees full victory in every area of our lives when we walk in the righteousness and holiness His blood purchased for us.  We must trust and believe in what He accomplished for our benefit without doubting or wavering.  His blood calls us to become pure and holy as He is.  His blood demands us to not only be transformed but to also be transformers who change the world.  His blood was not just shed for us, but for all; and His blood compels us to tell the world they have been given the gift of pure, sinless and holy blood.