Peace by Larry W Peebles

Peace   by   Larry W Peebles   February 9, 2018   18.04

Winston Churchill found himself in quite a dilemma his first day on the job.  As the brand new Prime Minister of Britain in May of 1940, he saw the army of Nazi Germany (6.5 million including reserves, and 18.5 million including the navy and air force) had conquered most of mainland Europe.  News came the invasion of France had begun.  Before the month was over, French and allied troops were pushed north toward the English Channel at Dunkirk.  The French army suffered 270,000 devastating casualties.  The Nazis had pinned Britain’s remaining army of 300,000 with their backs to the sea.  Sunken ships in the waters around Dunkirk severely restricted the British Navy’s ability to rescue the trapped soldiers in time.  Their big ships had only limited access to the beaches.  The fall of France was imminent.  The King of England was considering evacuating the royal family to Canada.  Many in Britain’s Parliament, and in the Department of War, clamored for a negotiated peace with Germany.  They hoped to save the lives of their troops and avoid a prolonged war with an army of superior numbers and equipment.  Churchill had only days to decide the course of action.  His decision would affect the world.

Churchill was not only a statesman, having held many seats in Parliament and in the British government, he was also a soldier.  He had been an officer in the British Army in India and in WW I.  He knew the value of a soldier’s life, and he had seen the horrors of war.  He was more than capable of negotiating a peace with Germany.  However, he also knew peace with Germany was not the answer.  He could not imagine life in a Nazi-occupied Britain, where there would be no freedom.

Powerful and ruthless in war, the Nazis were experimenting with human lives to create a “master race.”  Races they indiscriminately determined to be “inferior”, such as the Jews, were being callously exterminated in gas chambers.  Churches were being taken over by the state, and crosses on the altar were replaced with pictures of Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Army.  He answered to no one.  European countries that had attempted to make peace or declare their neutrality were given false assurances until Hitler was ready, then they were suddenly invaded without warning and conquered.  Blitzkrieg, or lightening warfare, was the term given to their attack methods.  Combining armor, infantry and air strikes, and presenting an ever-moving front, they often encircled an enemy in order to annihilate.  Hitler was an evil monster who could not be appeased.  To negotiate with him was to make a deal with the devil himself.  Churchill said “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”

During Britain’s darkest hour, Churchill called for a daring crossing of the English Channel to rescue the soldiers at Dunkirk.  Civilians in over 800 boats of all sizes answered the call.  Many made more than one trip across the water and back with their boat full of soldiers, including the wounded.  Over 330,000 British, Dutch and French soldiers were rescued.  Realizing his actions could either rally or dispirit the people, the King decided to remain in the country, and agreed to back Churchill’s position on the war.

Churchill inspired Parliament and a nation with his famous speech which declared the country would not surrender.  He challenged the people to fight the evil Nazis “on the seas and oceans…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds…in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”  When dealing with something so evil, so very contrary to whatever is right and just in humankind, there is no making peace with the enemy.  Better to die than to submit to its captivity.

Hezekiah faced a similar situation long before Churchill did.  In Isaiah Chapters 36 and 37, the Bible gives the story of King Hezekiah and Jerusalem threatened by Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, who had already taken all the fortified cities of Judah.  Military historians label Assyria as the first superpower of the ancient world, and favorably compare their military tactics to the Germans of WWII.  They employed a large well-trained, full-time paid army, fully equipped with metal weapons.  Brutality and savagery were effectively used as psychological weapons to instill fear in the hearts of their enemy.  Sturdy, four-horse chariots carrying four men struck like lightening and pierced holes in the front lines.  They were virtually unstoppable.  The infantry carried huge shields, and were even trained to cross water by breathing from air-filled leather bags.  They had taken the practice of war to a new level.

Sennacherib’s representative, Rabshaken, had promised 2,000 horses to the men walled up in Jerusalem if they would surrender.  Within the hearing of everyone in the city, he had belittled Hezekiah by challenging that they did not have the men to put on the 2,000 horses.  Further, he said they had no hope that their God would help them, because their God had not stopped the Assyrians to this point.  In Isaiah 36:16, he went on to say that the people should not listen to their own King Hezekiah; rather, they should surrender to him, and everyone would “eat from his own vine, and his own fig tree, and drink the waters of his own cistern.”  It sounded so good.  There was no need to fight.  If everyone would just surrender, there could be peace.

Hezekiah did not fall for the sweet sound of the peace offered.  He would not surrender.  He knew of the Assyrians’ brutal treatment of its captives.  Instead, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth (a sign of repentance), and went to the house of the Lord to seek a word from the Lord.  That word came from the prophet Isaiah.  He sent word to Hezekiah in 37:6-7- “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria [Rabshaken] have blasphemed me.  Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own hand.”  Hezekiah then prayed (verses 16-20), recounting to God the situation and the way the Assyrians had insulted God, ending with-“Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”

Isaiah recorded God’s answer to the prayer in verses 22-35.  In verse 29, God said- “I will put my hook in your nose (Sennacherib) and my bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came.”  The angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in their camp that night (v.36), and the next morning Sennacherib went away.  He returned to Nineveh, where his two sons killed him with the sword.

Here are seven points to take away from the stories of Hezekiah and Churchill:

  1. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and true peace comes from Him.  Isaiah 9:6.  As the “angel of the Lord”, He will fight for us.
  2. There is a difference between worldly peace, and spiritual or inner peace. Romans 8:6, Isaiah 26:3.
  3. The Word of God encourages us that we are to do our part so that if possible, we are to live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18.
  4. The Word of God instructs us to resist the devil. We are to submit to God, but resist the devil (James 4:7).  Resist means to withstand, strive against, or oppose in some manner.  Peace does not mean the absence of war.  There are certain times and certain evil enemies where battle is required before peace can come.
  5. The biggest army does not always win the peace. God cares about righteousness and justice.
  6. Prayer is effective for peace. Philippians 4:6-7- “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
  7. We are not to be afraid of the battle. In John 14:27, Jesus said- “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  This suggests we can call on Him to control our fears.  Colossians 3:15 says we should “let the peace of God rule in your [our] hearts.”  The story of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20 is full of encouragement on this point.

There is evil in the world today which must be defeated.  There is no making peace with these forces.  Wherever innocent lives are taken, human rights are taken, or corruption exists in government, we are to resist.  These are the direct product of the work of the devil in the world, and we are to pray, withstand, strive against and oppose in some manner.  The battle is the Lord’s.  When the victory is ours, peace will come.  1 Peter 3:12 says- “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.  And His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”  We are not assured of a world without evil, and to the extent there is evil in the world, we may not find world peace.  We are assured we can resist evil, yet still have the peace that comes from God.

Fake News by Larry W Peebles

Fake News   by   Larry W Peebles   January 26, 2018   18.02

There is much said these days about fake news.  Without going into the political arena, there is a spiritual point to be made concerning this topic.  Fake news is opinion, bias, and half-truth reported as fact.  Its headline may be slanted or sensational, in some cases not even supported by the body of the content.  While media bias has been around for a long time, I am convinced it has become more refined and widespread by our continual use of social media to receive information.  The use of print media is on the decline, and it has been forced to utilize social media as well to keep its message in front of the consumer.

There are truthful and integrity-filled news writers on print and social media, just as there are readers who critically analyze and filter what they read in search of the truth.  The problem is reputable news articles and biased opinion articles are intermingled.  Articles are written so that the difference is subtle.  Discernment is often required to separate the two.  Furthermore, some writers for social media are obscure or “phantom” writers.  They are usually paid in whole or in part by the number of “hits” or views on their article. The more articles they can write, and the more attention they can attract by the headline, the more views and pay the writer can receive.  Careful, time-consuming research can be a thing of the past.  With the writer’s identity hidden, there is no need for creditability and reputation.  Those adept at using social media can move fast, and often do not finish the article, much less pay attention to who wrote it.  Discernment requires time to think.  The trick in the fake news business is to catch the reader’s attention, if only for a brief moment, and trigger a view.

Those wanting to hear, process and retain the truth must discipline themselves to search and discern.  They must avoid the constant bombardment of fake news, false reports, and misleading headlines, or else they begin to believe it.

The spiritual connection is this—the devil is in the fake news business.  It’s in his character.  He is a liar who cannot even occasionally tell the truth, because there is no truth in him at all.  Jesus said in John 8:44- “He (the devil) was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native tongue, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.”  He doesn’t just lie– he lies continually, repeatedly, fluently, proficiently, naturally, and easily.  He loves it, just like a person who speaks more than one language loves to find someone to converse with who speaks their native tongue.  When he gets into our head with his fake news, it takes discipline and discernment to tune him out and turn him off.  The first fake news story in the Bible involved Adam and Eve.  The misleading headline was “Did God Really Say?”  (Genesis 3:1-13).

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth, according to John 15:26 and 16:13.  When Jesus’ time had come to be crucified, He told his disciples He would give them an “advantage”.  When He was gone, He would send His Holy Spirit to be with them (and us) on the earth.  This is a powerful and profound statement.  What more advantage could we ask for than to have Jesus, the all-powerful Son of God on our side.  He was the long –awaited Messiah, King and Savior of the world. Heaven and earth would adore Him.  All creation would bow before Him.  Yet He said it is to our advantage that He go away (be crucified, resurrected from the dead, and ascend into heaven), so that He could send us a Helper, His Holy Spirit (John 16:7).  Today, we have Holy Spirit help, the Spirit of Truth, when dealing with fake news.  Unlike the devil, who can only tell lies, the Spirit of Truth can only tell the truth.  We can depend on Him for help.

Let’s examine a sampling of fake news reports we have all heard or may be hearing at the moment.

  1. We (you and I) can’t do this. “This” can be anything that stands as a challenge to overcome.  The devil tells us our limitations are so great it is not possible to do what is before us. We will not succeed.  Examples include getting an education, getting a job, paying the bills, being a good husband, father or employee.  Maybe “this” is speaking before a crowd, or witnessing our faith to a friend or neighbor.  The limitation might be that we are timid, or private, or nervous.  Maybe we don’t have the money, education or intellect.  Perhaps we have tried “this” before, and the result was a totally embarrassing failure.  The number one tool of the devil is discouragement, and if he can use something from our past to discourage us, even if the remembrance is twisted with age and lies, he will do it.  Why—because there is nothing we can do to change the past.  He loves to use our past against us.

The truth is we have a Helper in the person of the Holy Spirit.  God said in His word (Philippians 4:13) – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Maybe I can’t do this.  But Jesus sent me His Spirit to help me do this. Together we can do this.  Jesus said in Matthew 21:21- “if you have faith and do not doubt…and also if you say to this mountain, be ye removed and be cast into the sea, it will be done.”  Psalm 103:12 says our sins are removed from us as far as the east is from the west.  God remembers them no more when they are covered by the blood of Jesus.  Our past is just that—the past.  Past failures make us stronger and better prepared for the current challenge.  We can do this.

  1. We (you and I) are unimportant. The devil tells us we are not significant in position, stature, power or resources.  What we do and say has little meaning.  In the overall scheme of things, our lives are insignificant.  We cannot make a difference in anything, so why try?

The truth is contained in God’s word, which says God desires that all would come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  (2 Peter 3:9).  All includes you and me.  The Bible also gives the illustration of a man with one hundred sheep who, when he discovers one is missing, leaves the ninety-nine to go look for the one.  (Matthew 18:12).  You and I are that one when Jesus misses us.  The Bible says that one can put a thousand of the enemy to flight, and two can put ten thousand to flight.  (Deuteronomy 32:30).  Can we do that on our own?  No, but we can with the Holy Spirit on our side.

  1. No one cares. The devil tells us we are not loved, appreciated, needed, or even necessary.  Friends come and go, few are dependable.  There is no one we can trust.  No one seems to care what we need or are going through.  We are isolated, abandoned, and rejected.

The truth is God loves us so much He sent His innocent Son into the world to die that we might be forgiven and reconciled back to our loving Father. (John 3:16).  When Jesus died on the cross, He had us (you and me) on His mind.  After our lives on this earth are done, He wants us to spend eternity with Him in heaven.  He cares about everyone, and wants us to care about everyone around us.  His word says that His very nature is love.  (1 John 4:8).  His word requires us to love Him, and to love our neighbor.  (Mark 12: 30-31).  To properly love God, our neighbor and ourselves requires the help of the Holy Spirit.  When we are functioning with Him, the love will flow back and forth in all directions.

  1. There is something we should fear. The devil loves to try to intimidate us with fear.  Fear can accompany any of the fake news messages.  Examples include fear of failure, fear of defeat, fear of rejection, fear of being alone, and fear of being betrayed.  Fear can stop us from taking action, moving forward, making decisions, and even rob us of sleep and peace.  Even though they may be too young to describe their fears, children adopted into loving families can take years to sleep peacefully through the night.  Fears of loneliness and abandonment can torment their sleep.  Love and prayer eventually wins out.

The truth is we have nothing to fear.  Consider Isaiah 43: 1-4- “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I AM the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I love you.”’

The Bible is full of examples where God tells us not to be afraid.  Joshua was told this a number of times when the Israelites were ready to move into the Promised Land and conquer the inhabitants.  The women who came to Jesus’ tomb were told not to be afraid.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to the disciples and said “Peace be with you.”  There is no need to worry or be afraid.  The Eternal One, the one who conquered death, is on our side.  In the Old Testament, He is the “Commander of the Armies of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15).  He is powerful and fearless, yet He is the Prince of Peace.  He goes before us in every storm and battle.  Before he was anointed king, David wrote in Psalm 27:1- “The Lord is my light and my salvation –of whom shall I be afraid?”

Isaiah 41:10 says- “Fear not, for I am with you: Be not dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The Holy Spirit will give us the wisdom to discern the fake news from the devil if we will ask for it.  He will then also give us the power and strength to overcome and defeat its message from spreading into our lives.  If we hear the fake news message enough, we begin to believe it.  It must be recognized and stopped quickly, so we can believe and act on our God-given potential and destiny.  My prayer is we will ask the Holy Spirit to help us in this area today.

Announcement

As has been our custom, we are taking off the first two weeks of the new year for  a much needed break.  We have written fifty articles per year for the past three years, attempting to be faithful to what we believe God has called us to do.  During this break, we will be seeking the Lord to see what direction He has for 2018.  We are also working on updates to the website.  We expect our first article for 2018 to appear on January 19.

Happy New Year, and thank you for visiting our website. We pray God’s richest blessings on you in the year ahead.

Larry and Kay Peebles

Prophesy Fulfilled by Larry W Peebles

Prophesy Fulfilled   by   Larry W Peebles   December 29, 2017   17.50

Bible scholars say there are over 350 prophesies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled by the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.  These prophesies came through multiple prophets writing over thousands of years.  These 350 prophesies are in different books of the Old Testament.  Considering these facts, the mathematical odds that any one man could fulfill all of them are infinitely small.  Writing in the book Science Speaks, Stoner and Newman estimate that the odds of one man fulfilling just eight of the 350 or so prophesies would be similar to the odds of finding one certain marked silver dollar out of  a stack of unmarked silver dollars two feet deep covering the entire State of Texas.  There is no way of verifying this calculation, but it does give a graphic visual of the difficulty.

There are studies available on the internet that summarize these 350 prophesies.  All of the prophecies are important because they emphasize that God does speak through His prophets, as He said in His Word (Luke 1:70).  Additionally, and against all reasonable odds, Jesus fulfilled them all.  He did not leave one thing undone that God had told His children would happen concerning the Messiah.  This is how we can know beyond all doubt that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah Savior who came to rescue those who would believe in Him.

As I write this article, we are in the season of celebrating Christmas, the birth of Jesus as a human infant.  Make no mistake however; He is the Son of God, the Messiah planned and promised to mankind since the first man Adam fell into sin.  For purposes of this article, I submit thirteen of these prophesies, a baker’s dozen for consideration, although some of the categories contain multiple prophesies under the same general topic:

  1. Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). This was fulfilled in the accounts of the birth in Matthew 1:18 and Luke 2:4-6.
  2. Messiah would come from the line of Abraham (Genesis 12:3 and 22:18), Isaac (Genesis 17:19), Jacob (Numbers 24:17), the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and would be heir to King David’s throne (2 Samuel 7:12-13). Luke 3:23-38 records the lineage of Jesus back through all these men, through Noah and even back to Adam.  Since Jesus created all things including Adam, He stands at the beginning and the end of His own human lineage, and is able to say “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13).
  3. Messiah would be called Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). This is fulfilled in Matthew 1:23, which says “they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated ‘God with us.”’
  4. A messenger would prepare the way for Messiah (Isaiah 40:3-5). This messenger was John the Baptist, as Luke documents in Luke 3:3-6.
  5. Messiah would be rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3). John speaks of Jesus’ rejection in John 1:11 and 7:5.
  6. Messiah would be declared the Son of God (Psalm 2:7). When Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, the Holy Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus, and “a voice came from Heaven, saying ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”’ (Matthew 3:16-17).  This was the voice of the Father.
  7. Messiah would bring the authority of the government of the kingdom of heaven to the earth in a new way (Isaiah 9:6-7). Jesus affirmed this in Mark 1:15 when He said “the kingdom of God is at hand.”  All authority (of kings and governments) and principalities (demons) are subject to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15, and Revelation 19:16).
  8. Messiah would come to heal the brokenhearted, to set the captives free, and to comfort those who mourn (Isaiah 61:1-2).  Jesus established this prophesy as His mission statement when He read this very scripture from Isaiah in the synagogue and said “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:18-19).
  9. Messiah would be high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20, and Psalm 110:4) and King forever (Zechariah 9:9). We read more about the Old Testament king and priest Melchizedek in Hebrews Chapters 4 and 5, but the best explanation is perhaps the entirety of Chapter 7.  This is where we see the comparison of Melchizedek and Jesus, with Jesus firmly established as The High Priest.  The people welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem as King in Mark 11:7-11, yet crucified Him as “King of the Jews” in Matthew 27:37.
  10. Messiah would be betrayed (Psalm 41:9), falsely accused (Psalm 35:11), and the blood money (thirty pieces of silver) paid His betrayer would be used to buy a field (Zechariah 11:12-13). These three prophesies were fulfilled in Luke 22:47-48, Matthew 26:14-16, Matthew 27:9-10, and Mark 14:57-58.
  11. The prophesies concerning Messiah’s crucifixion were numerous and detailed yet were fulfilled with the same detail: crucified with criminals (Isaiah 53:12/Matthew 27:38); given vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21/Matthew 27:34); hands and feet pierced (Psalm 22:16/John 20:25-27); mocked and ridiculed (Psalm 22:7-8/Luke 23:35); soldiers gamble for His garments (Psalm 22:18/Matthew 27:35-36); bones would not be broken (Psalm 34:20/John 19:33-36); forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1/Matthew 27:46); pray for His enemies (Psalm 109:4/Luke 23:34), and soldiers pierce His side (Zechariah 12:10/John 19:34).
  12. Messiah would resurrect from the dead (Psalm 49:15), ascend to heaven (Psalm 24:7-10), and would be seated at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1).We see these prophesies fulfilled in these respective verses: resurrected from the dead-Matthew 28:2-7; ascended to heaven-Mark 16:19; and seated at God’s right hand-Mark 16:19, and Matthew 22:44. Additionally, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:6 that the resurrected Jesus appeared to not only the twelve disciples, but that “He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present [date of Paul’s writing], but some have fallen asleep” [died]. [Inserts mine.]
  13. Messiah would be the (great and final) sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:5-12). Romans 5:6-11 speaks beautifully of this when it says -”while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  These verses then go on to explain how we as enemies of God were reconciled again to God through the death of his Son.

At the beginning of the New Year, I find it helpful to reflect and return to the basics—those truths that endure and are worthy places to anchor my hopes for the future.  My hope and my strength rest in the living Savior and Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God.  He extended love and grace to me before I ever came to Him.  He saved me from myself.  Left to go on my own path, I surely would have died.  By His grace, He saved me from sin by offering His blood as atonement, washed away my shame, and made me a son of the Father, an heir to the kingdom.  Once I was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, His grace continues to call me to a life that honors Him.  Old thoughts, habits and sinful ways are being broken off me.  I am far from perfect, but I am moving in a direction to be more like Jesus.

When God speaks a word of direction or wisdom, we would do well to listen.  When He speaks twice, we are without excuse.  When He spoke 350 times through the prophets that Jesus is the Son of God, Savior of the world, He has issued a loving yet firm ultimatum.  The world will one day be judged by what it has believed.  I urge us all to believe and to begin to act accordingly.  We should make this our resolution for 2018– to believe without reservation or hesitation.

Passing the Test by Larry W Peebles

Passing the Test   by   Larry W Peebles   December 15, 2017   17.48

A test is intended to demonstrate how well the student has learned the subject matter of a lesson or course.  I remember tests all through school, especially high school.  Certain scores were required to graduate from high school in order to complete the required public education.  I remember taking the ACT test to qualify for college.  Then there were many tests in order to achieve the grades necessary to graduate from college, including graduate school.  These were followed by tests of professional competency to become a CPA, and a Real Estate Broker.  My oldest grandsons are currently in high school, and are very conscious of their test scores.  They are already preparing for their college entrance exams.  All my grandchildren are in school, where doing homework and studying for tests are a daily practice.  They expect to be tested on what they have learned.  Passing scores on a test mean they can move on to the next level.  Often these achievements are celebrated with grand ceremonies and congratulations from family and friends. I was reminded of this recently when a friend graduated from Bible College.  While I could not attend his graduation, I was able to rejoice with him when I saw the pictures from the ceremony.  I was so proud of his accomplishment, because I knew of the difficulties he had gone through to reach that level of success.

Outside the arena of formal education, there is much to be learned about life itself, and that testing process is life-long.  Formal education results in acquired knowledge, and while much of the material is widely accepted facts, some of it is not necessarily the truth.  It may contain a mix of opinion and contemporary thinking subject to later revision.  Life lessons teach wisdom.  Similar to formal education, life has a way of making us retake the test if we continue to fail what it is trying to teach us.  This is sometimes referred to as “going around the mountain again”.  If we did not pass the test life sent our way, we get to go around the mountain and do it again.  I believe God’s hand is in that, as the test usually has something to do with wrong spiritual beliefs or flawed character traits that need to be overcome or strengthened.

My wife, whom I respect greatly for her wisdom, likes to say that God gives open book tests.  The answers are in His Word, and He doesn’t mind if we look up the test questions before responding.  One of the best examples of this is contained in the Book of Deuteronomy.  Chapter 28 sets forth many wonderful blessings that are promised if we obey the voice of the Lord and His commandments.  It also sets forth many dreadful curses that we become subject to if we disobey.  In Chapter 29 God renewed His covenant with Israel on the condition that they obey him.  God reminded them again in Chapter 30 the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience.  Finally, in 30:19-20 He summarized by giving the people the answer- “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days, and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give to them.”  We are to choose to obey, which produces rich blessings, long life, and peaceful security in the land where we are to dwell.

If we need wisdom but cannot find the answer in His Word, the Bible says we are to simply ask for it.  James 1:5 says- “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”  When Deuteronomy says we are to obey the voice of the Lord, it is implied we can hear the voice of the Lord.  James assures if we ask for wisdom, He will either speak it to us or show it to us in His Word.  One of my favorite verses on this matter is Isaiah 30:21- “Your ears shall hear a word (voice) behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left”.  I literally had this happen to me when I heard the voice of the Lord come over my left shoulder. He was alerting me to look in a certain direction as danger was approaching from the left while I was driving a car.  We can hear the voice of the Lord.  One of the favorite things my wife and I try to do on a daily basis is morning worship and prayer time with the Lord, followed by a period of lying still before Him to hear His voice or feel His touch.  It takes some discipline to force all other thoughts and plans out of the mind in order to be totally still before Him, but the results are well worth it.  We are both looking for wisdom and the correct answer in time so we don’t have to make that repeat trip around the mountain.

Abraham passed a huge test of faith in Genesis Chapter 22.  Abraham knew the Lord, and was called out of his homeland and away from his family to follow the Lord and go to a place the Lord would show him.  He had received the promise of a blessing for his obedience.  Though he and his wife Sarah were well past the ages of child bearing, the Lord had personally appeared to them, and promised not only a son, but also that nations and kings would come out of them.  The Lord fulfilled that promise with a son they named Isaac.  The child they had waited and longed for had come to them.

In Chapter 22, the Lord tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah.  Abraham packed all the necessary provisions and set out for the three day journey to the mountain with his son.  Upon arrival, Abraham laid the wood on the place the Lord had directed, and knife in hand, he called Isaac toward the altar.  Isaac observed there was no lamb for the sacrifice.  Abraham responded (v. 8) – “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” He then proceeded to bind Isaac and place him on the altar, and took the knife to slay his son.  The Angel of the Lord (Jesus) called from Heaven and told Abraham not to lay a hand on the boy. (v. 10-12).  Abraham knew the Lord, believed the Lord, and believed that for the promise to be fulfilled his only son would have to be spared.  On that basis he proceeded as instructed until he was stopped. Abraham saw a ram tangled in the bushes, and that lamb the Lord provided became the sacrifice.

Abraham called the place The Lord Will Provide, or Jehovah Jireh.  Listen to what the Lord did to celebrate and commemorate the passing of that test.  Genesis 22:15-18- “Then the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said ‘By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son-blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore, and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.  In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  Jesus, not Isaac, would be the innocent sacrifice that one day would save the people of all the nations.  Abraham’s willingness to obey God and sacrifice Isaac resulted in that promise.  His score on this test assured every nation would be blessed through Abraham.  Jesus Himself promised it.  As Abraham grew closer to the Lord and continually obeyed Him over a long period of time, His promise of blessing also grew.  What started as a personal blessing grew to a nation that would be blessed, and then expanded to all nations that would be blessed. Each test he passed resulted in the blessing moving to the next level as well.

To avail ourselves of Abraham’s promise and blessing we need make the choice to obey God.  1 Samuel 15:22 says- “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” We must seek and obey the voice of the Lord in every situation, in order to make the correct choice and pass the test.  Jesus is the (only and correct) Way, the (absolute) Truth, and the (blessed and abundant) Life, per John 14:6.  Pass the test; choose life.

If we get it wrong, we can ask forgiveness and try again so long as our heart is to try to get it right or make the necessary change.  God is a patient teacher.  He is also a God of grace and many chances.  For even the most difficult sin habits, He will help break the pattern and advance change when we cry out earnestly for His help.  He wants us to score well, pass the test, and move on to the next level.

The Perfume Counter by Larry W Peebles

The Perfume Counter   by   Larry W Peebles   December 1, 2017   17.46

Why is the perfume counter located near the entrance of the department store?  The marketing concept is to change the atmosphere and to create a sense of arrival for the shopper immediately upon entering the store.  Not only is the perfume counter an aromatic experience, it is also a visual experience thanks to the lighting, colors and images on display.  It announces a fresh start for the cautious weary shopper.  Indeed the message is that the whole store is something special that should not be missed.  More subtly, the diffusing of the perfume smell activates the saliva gland in the shopper, and the salivating causes the shopper to relax and drop their guard.  They become more open to suggestion and impulse buying, and less resistant to the price.

The idea of the perfume counter located near the entrance is credited to a retailer named Selfridge around 1910.  He wanted to set the tone for the shopper immediately upon entering his store.  He wanted the whole shopping experience in his store to be pleasant, and he had the idea to start with the pleasant smell of perfume.  His idea was also a necessity.  Frankly, he needed to cover the smell of the horse manure in the streets, and he wanted it stopped right at his front door.  The new approach was a huge success, and is now the norm for a department store

Not every shopper would agree.  Some perfume smells better than others, depending on personal preference.  Some smells might even be offensive.  With a variety of perfumes offered and sampled at the counter, the scents can clash.  Some shoppers are outright allergic to the fragrances in the air.  At various shopping seasons, the perfume brands become more aggressive in their marketing, and a virtual gauntlet of salespeople at the perfume counter will offer to spray, swipe, or otherwise mark the shopper with their scent.  The very same perfume that was intended to start a pleasant, aromatic shopping experience may then have the opposite effect.  Shoppers entering the store may immediately cut to the right or the left to avoid the perfume counter.

Paul says something similar happens when a believer presents the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbeliever.  In 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16, he writes- “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us to triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.  For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.  To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.  And who is sufficient for these things?”

For the believer, the way we live our lives, the example we set, and the things we say when presenting the Gospel is the very “fragrance of Christ”, according to Paul, “diffused…in every place.”  To some, it is the fragrance of life.  To others, it is the fragrance of death, like the horse manure in the streets outside Selfridge’s store.  The believer carries this fragrance whether they intend to or not.  Paul goes on to say in verse 17 that we must be consistent and honest in the message of Jesus, because “of sincerity…we speak in the sight of God.”

Assuming we are sincere, consistent and honest in expressing our faith and proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus, how can the same fragrance have the widely different effect?  We have some obligation to adapt the message to the audience, so long as we do not compromise the message.  Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:22- “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”  He knew he should do everything and become anything in order to present Jesus to the lost and dying world.  He also knew, that despite his efforts, not all would be saved.  Some would be saved, but some would find the fragrance of Christ offensive, and would reject it.  Today, the believer can only do the best job possible when presenting the message of Jesus, be willing to reasonably adapt to the audience without compromising the message, and then rely on the Holy Spirit to convince, convict, and change the heart.  The outcome is then dependent on the individual(s) to whom the message is directed.

Another example of this comes from the Old Testament prophesies.  David wrote in Psalm 118:22- “The stone [Jesus] which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone”, and Isaiah 8:14 says- “He [Jesus] will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” [Inserts mine.]  How can the same stone be both rejected and yet a cornerstone?  How can it be a sanctuary yet a stumbling stone of offense?

There is no lukewarm reaction to Jesus.  There is no middle ground for a relationship.  Knowing and following Him is an “all or none” proposition.  He is not someone to tolerate and put on the back shelf until needed.  When the crisis in our lives comes, as it surely will, Jesus is not just our sanctuary, or the person we run to for help.  He must already be our cornerstone.  He must already be the very cornerstone on which our lives are constructed.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:30- “Whoever is not with me is against me.”  There is no neutral zone.

There are a number of places in the Bible where Jesus, the cornerstone, is referred to as “The Rock.”  When studying the story of David and Goliath, I felt I heard the Lord say David did not kill Goliath with a stone or rock (1 Samuel 17, esp. verse 40).  He killed Goliath with “The Rock.”  When David picked up the “five smooth stones”, he effectually picked up or appropriated the power of “The Rock” to kill Goliath.  There is no way to know how long those stones lay there on the ground.  They were available to anyone, but most people passed by without ever picking them up.  They were largely ignored.  Some may have even stumbled on the rocks and cursed them.  David chose to pick them up and use them to take on a powerful opponent.  He knew he could not defeat Goliath without Jesus, The Rock, whom the Bible calls The Commander of the Armies of The Lord.

Similarly, many will pass through life ignoring Jesus, not making the decision to follow Him.  Some will encounter Jesus, but will stumble over Him and curse Him.  Some will be offended and consider His fragrance offensive.  The wise will choose Jesus, and will be counted among those who are for Him.

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2 that Jesus is the precious living stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God.  Verses 6-10 tell us- “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief Cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’  Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief Cornerstone.’, and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’  They stumble, being disobedient to the word to which they also were appointed.  But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him (Jesus) who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.”

We are called to present the light of Jesus to a dark and fallen world.  We must not shrink back even knowing some will reject Him as an offensive odor, and will stumble over Him instead of making Him their cornerstone.  We must proclaim His praises.  There is no neutral ground.  By presenting Jesus, we are presenting the choice described in Deuteronomy 30:19- “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”

I AM, Part 6 Larry W Peebles

I AM, Part 6   Larry W Peebles   November 17, 2017   17.44

My wife and I have been married over 48 years, and have known each other for over 51 years.  We fell in love immediately when we met, but after we married we soon realized we were more different than we were similar.  The early years of our marriage were a struggle as we searched for our marital identity.  Genesis 2:24 says that at marriage a man and wife “become one flesh”, and while that is certainly true, it can take time before they operate as one.  After years of living together, learning each other’s ways, experiencing trial and error, having intense discussions, and really coming to know each other, we matured and grew into one.  Now in our marriage there is solidarity, dependability, and a trust that is the most precious thing I know.  We have grown to know each other’s preferences, habits, and even thoughts.  More and more we move and act as one.  The deep familiarity has fueled the growth of even more love.  As our faith in Jesus has grown, we have experienced the power of a third person in our marriage.  His presence has added strength to fend off the attacks that come against every marriage.

The disciple John and Jesus grew that close.   John, Peter and James were the three disciples closest to Jesus, and they were the three disciples who not only witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration, they also saw Moses and Elijah with Him.  (Matthew 17:1).  They were the only ones invited into the house of the ruler of the synagogue when Jesus prayed for his daughter who had died and brought her back to life. (Mark 5:37).  These were also the three disciples Jesus asked to go further into the Garden of Gethsemane for more intense prayer as Jesus’ betrayal approached.  (Mark 14:33).  They clearly were the inner circle of disciples who were closest to Jesus.

In the Gospel of John, however, it is John who is referred to six times as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  It was John who laid his head on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper.  (John 13:23).  Following His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples and spoke to them about what was to come.  He said Peter would be bound and “taken where he did not want to go”, meaning imprisonment and death.  Peter then asked Jesus “What about this man?”, referring to John.  Jesus responded “If I will that he remains until I come, what is that to you?”  (John 21:22).  John explained in verse 23 that this did not necessarily mean he would not die, but church history teaches that he was the only disciple to die a natural death.  Although he was lowered into a vat of hot oil at Ephesus, he did not die.  He was exiled by the Romans for a while to the island of Patmos, but his faith was not silenced at the hands of man.  Although ready to die for the Gospel he had received from Jesus, he in fact died peacefully of old age.

In writing the Book of John, he wanted the world to know Jesus as intimately as he did.  John 20:31 says- “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”  He desperately wanted to reveal the identity, character, and deity of Jesus to the world.  He used the “I AM” statements of Jesus to do that.  All of the “I AM” statements we have studied in this series have come from the Gospel of John and Book of Revelation, books written by John:

  1. I AM the bread of life. John 6:35.  Part 1.
  1. I AM the light of the world. John 8:12.  Part 1.
  1. I AM the gate/door. John 10:9.  Part 1.
  1. I AM the good shepherd. John 10:11.  Part 2.
  1. I AM the resurrection and the life. John 11:25-26. Part 2.
  1. I AM the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.  Part 2.
  1. I AM the true vine. John 15:1. Part 2.
  1. I AM the Alpha (Beginning) and the Omega (End). Revelation 1:8 and 1:17-18, Revelation 21:6, and 22:13.  Part 3.
  1. I AM the Root and Offspring of David. Revelation 22:16.  Part 4.
  1. I AM the Bright Morning Star. Revelation 22:16.  Part 4. 
  1. I AM before Abraham was. John 8:58.  Part 5. 
  1. It is I AM; do not be afraid. John 6:20.  Part 5. 

One reason John carefully recorded these I AM statements of Jesus was so the world would come to know the great expanse of His character and nature.  When we know Jesus and believe in Him as John did, we become one with Him.  Ephesians 5: 30-32 speaks of the strength of this unity- “For we [believers] are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This is a great mystery, but I [Paul] speak concerning Christ and the church.”  [Inserts mine.]  1 Corinthians 6: 16-17 adds- “For the two [husband and wife], He says, shall become one flesh.  But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.”  [Insert mine.]  His desire was we become one with Christ, as Jesus prayed in John 17: 20-22- “I do not pray for these [disciples] alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You Father are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one as we are one.”  [Insert mine.]

Again, when we know Jesus as John knew Him (intimately, as the I AM), we become one with Him.  When we pray in His name (I AM), and we pray allowing His spirit to pray through us, we pray effective and powerful prayers.  In John 16: 23-24, Jesus issued a new instruction to the disciples- “In that day you will not [need to] ask Me about anything.  I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you ask the Father in [the merit of] My name [presenting all that I AM, and as the representative of I AM], He will give you.  Until now you have not asked in My name; but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive, so that your joy may be full and complete.”  Amplified version.

When we know Jesus as John knew Him, and we allow His spirit to pray through us, we also are one with and pray on behalf of the King.  We are issuing decrees and commands in the name of the King.  As a representative or ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20) of the King, we speak in prayer with the granted authority from the throne.  Even devils know and recognize that authority, and must obey.  Declarations must be followed, and commands obeyed.  Failure to obey the commands of the King will result in certain death.

It is not enough to teach and follow the faith.  There must be evidence of a power flowing out of that faith through a connection and oneness with the Spirit of Jesus.  Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2: 4-5- “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  When we know Jesus (the I AM), believe in Him, and pray through His spirit, the power of prayer will be there.  Then lives and situations can be impacted, and the world will believe and be changed.

I AM, Part 5 by Larry W. Peebles

I AM, Part 5   by   Larry W. Peebles   November 3, 2017   17.42

My daughter has become quite successful in the Human Resources profession by being able to efficiently fill open employment positions for her clients.  She is able to quickly look at a resume, and determine if there is a potential fit for the open position.  If there is potential, a telephone interview will then reveal if this candidate should be recommended to the client for the position. If the client accepts her recommendation and conducts a face-to-face interview, a high percentage of her recommendations are ultimately hired for the position.  A big reason for her success is the quality of the initial questions she asks the candidate in the phone interview, along with her ability to listen to the answer and pursue with instinctive and appropriate follow up questions.  Her process is intended to dig into the basic question of who the candidate really is—what are their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, etc. relative to the requirements for the position.

In this I AM series, we have been looking at the statements Jesus made regarding Himself—who He was/is, and His qualifications.  I can only imagine the look on the HR interviewer’s face if he or she asked Jesus who He was—to tell something about Himself.  The I AM statements we have studied thus far (Parts 1-4) are listed below, and they are not the average interview-type responses:

  1. I AM the bread of life. John 6:35.
  2. I AM the light of the world. John 8:12.
  3. I AM the gate/door. John 10:9.
  4. I AM the good shepherd. John 10:11.
  5. I AM the resurrection and the life. John 11:25-26.
  6. I AM the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.
  7. I AM the true vine. John 15:1.
  8. I AM the Alpha (Beginning) and the Omega (End). Revelation 1:8 and 1:17-18, Revelation 21:6, and 22:13).
  9. I AM the Root and Offspring of David. Revelation 22:16.
  10. I AM the Bright Morning Star. Revelation 22:16.

These are some very weighty answers, but Jesus in the flesh was also Deity, and He had a big job to do while here on earth.  He came to save the human race from sin’s death and destruction.  This job required some unusual and divine qualifications.  He could not just be a “star,” He was the bright Morning Star.  He would not be a mere “leader”, He was the Way.  He was more than “honest,” He was the Truth.  He was above a “self-starter,” He was the Beginning and the End. He was better than a good “manager”, He was the good shepherd.   His qualifications would leave the interviewer speechless.  In Part 5 of this series, we will study more of these I AM statements.

I AM before Abraham was-

This might sound a bit tricky, but we begin with the background to the statement.  In John Chapter 8, verse 48, the Jews had a dialogue with Jesus to find out more about Him, and they accused Jesus of having a demon (being possessed by a demon).  The conversation became more intense when in verse 51 Jesus said- “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word he shall never see death.”  In verse 52, the Jews pointed out that Abraham was dead, and the prophets were dead (both assumed to be greater than Jesus), and therefore they felt justified in saying that Jesus was demon-possessed because of His statement.  In verse 53 we read- “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead?  And the prophets are dead.  Who do you make yourself out to be?”  Jesus responded that the Jews did not know Him or His Father (God).  Because the Jews claimed Abraham was their father, Jesus then said in verse 56- “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it, and was glad.”

This had to really confuse the Jews.  How could Abraham, who was born and died before Jesus, have possibly seen the day of Jesus’ coming on the earth and have been glad for it?  Verse 57 says- “Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”’  Jesus concludes that part of the interview with this statement in verse 58- “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’”  The Jews were so infuriated they were ready to stone Him, but He slipped away through the crowd.

There was no doubt Abraham was the father (ancestor) of these people.  God promised it in Genesis 12: 1-3- “The Lord said to Abram (later Abraham), ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’”  As we discussed in Part 4 (I AM the Root and Offspring of David), Jesus’ human heritage also traced back through David and Abraham, all the way back to Adam.

When did Abraham “see Jesus…and was glad”?  Genesis Chapter 14 tells of Abraham’s encounter with Melchizedek, king (jeru) of Salem (peace), or of Jerusalem (king of peace).  He is also referred to as the “priest of God Most High”.  Abraham honored this king and priest with a tithe from the spoils of battle, the first tithe in Scripture, and Melchizedek blessed him.  In addition to this strong symbolism, Jesus is King and High Priest forever according to Hebrews Chapters 6 and 7, and is from “the order of Melchizedek”.  Hebrews 7:3 says Melchizedek “had neither beginning of days nor end of life, but (was) made like the Son of God.”  It was Melchizedek’s assistance in battle against five other kings that saved Abraham’s life.  Abraham was very glad and grateful to meet this “Jesus”.

Abraham also met Jesus in Genesis Chapter 18.  The Lord came with three angels to prophesy a child for Abraham and Sarah (v. 10), and to warn Abraham of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 20-23).  In this encounter Abraham bowed to the ground to honor the Lord (v. 2), called Him “Lord” (v. 3), washed His feet (v. 4), served Him bread (v. 6), and shed blood to serve Him meat (v. 7).  The symbolism here is also strong, and again Abraham was glad and grateful to meet the Lord Jesus.  He received the good news that a child would be born, and that his nephew Lot would be spared from the coming destruction.  Jesus was not referring to a figurative meeting with Abraham, He was referring to an actual meeting.

Jesus was not disputing that Abraham was the father of this nation.  He was pointing out that if the Jews knew Abraham as father without knowing Father God, they could not know Jesus, whom the Father sent.  Further, if all their attention, admiration and pride focused on Abraham as being the greatest they would also miss Jesus, who was greater than Abraham.  Jesus declared He was the I AM of Exodus Chapter 3, the eternal and almighty one who revealed himself to Moses.  He was not just present at creation, He was the Creator (Colossians 1:16-17- “by Him all things were created…all things were created by Him and for Him…He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”)  He created all things, including Adam, and therefore was before Abraham.  Though Abraham was great, Jesus was greater.  The man Jesus standing before the Jews in flesh came after Abraham, but they did not recognize Him as the eternal Son of God who had always been.

 

It is I AM; do not be afraid-

Following the feeding of the five thousand in John Chapter 6, Jesus went onto the mountain to be alone.  After dark, His disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee to get to Capernaum.  A great wind came up across the sea.  After rowing over three miles in the rough waves, they saw Jesus walking on the sea, coming toward the boat.  They were afraid.  In verse 20, Jesus said – “It is I (I AM); do not be afraid.” (Amplified version.)  They took Him into the boat, and immediately they were at the land where they were going.  They were through the storm.

I have seen the lion in Africa on several occasions.  This animal is so calm and self-assured.  It is fearless, powerful and composed.  The locals say its paw can break the back of a cape buffalo, and its jaws can crush its prey.  How much more powerful and fearless is the Lion of Judah.  Jesus is saying the “I AM” is with us, we do not need to be afraid.  He will get in the boat with us in the midst of a storm.

Consider Isaiah 43: 1-4- “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are mine.  When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.  For I AM the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….you were precious in my sight, you have been honored, and I love you.”’

The Bible is full of examples where God tells us not to be afraid.  Joshua was told this a number of times when the Israelites were ready to move into the Promised Land and conquer the inhabitants.  The women who came to Jesus’ tomb were told not to be afraid.  After Jesus’ death and resurrection, He appeared to the disciples and said “Peace be with you.”  There is no need to worry or be afraid.  The Eternal One, the one who conquered death, is on our side.  In the Old Testament, He is the “Commander of the Armies of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15).  He is powerful and fearless, yet He is the Prince of Peace.  He goes before us in every storm and battle.  Before he was anointed king, David wrote in Psalm 27:1- “The Lord is my light (I AM the light of the world) and my salvation (I AM the resurrection and the life) -of whom shall I be afraid?”  (Inserts mine).

Isaiah 41:10 says- “Fear not, for I am (I AM) with you: Be not dismayed, for I am (I AM) your God.  I will strengthen you, yes I will help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Inserts mine.)

Both of these I AM statements give us great insight into the omnipotent, eternal, and faithful Son of God who has always been involved in the affairs of mankind.  Taken together with the ten I AM statements from the preceding parts to this series, we see deep into the divine character of Jesus.  He is the literal center of the universe as its Creator, Sustainer, and absolute Focus.  Everything and everyone is by Him and for Him.  Yet with all the vastness of His creation, including the billions of people on this earth, He still comes for the one, you and me.

I AM, Part 4 by Larry W Peebles

I AM, Part 4   by   Larry W. Peebles   October 20, 2017   17.40

When Jesus described Himself to the world, He used unconventional words and phrases.  Terms that related to earthly things were not relevant or adequate to describe Him.  Though He appeared in the flesh, He was God, an eternal spirit.  He then demonstrated that He was/is God with miracles that defied the natural world.  In this series of articles, I have used Jesus’ own statements to pull out the super-natural qualities He wanted the world to examine and remember.  These self-descriptions are in the form of “I AM” statements recorded in Scripture, spoken from His mouth.

  1. I AM the bread of life. John 6:35.
  2. I AM the light of the world. John 8:12.
  3. I AM the gate/door. John 10:9.
  4. I AM the good shepherd. John 10:11.
  5. I AM the resurrection and the life. John 11:25-26.
  6. I AM the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.
  7. I AM the true vine. John 15:1.
  8. I AM the Alpha (Beginning) and the Omega (End). In the Book of Revelation this was spoken four times (Revelation 1:8 and 1:17-18, Revelation 21:6, and 22:13).

All of these have been discussed in the previous parts to this series.  In addition to these eight, The Book of Revelation contains more of these “I AM” statements.  This article will explore Revelation 22:16, where Jesus spoke to John in a vision and said- “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.  I AM the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

I AM the Root and Offspring of David-

Addressing the first part of this I AM statement begs this question– how can someone be both the root (ancestor) and the offspring of the same person?  The answer is that Jesus is both God and man.  In His deity, He is David’s Creator and God.  In His humanity, He is the offspring of Jesse, David’s father, and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Isaiah 11:1- “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots will bear fruit.”  (See also Romans 1:3, 4).  Luke takes an interesting approach in tracing Jesus’ genealogy.  He begins with Jesus, and goes backward through David, Jesse, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, and Noah, all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-37).  Adam is described there as the (first) son of God.  Since Jesus is the Creator, He is Adam’s father, and therefore is the Beginning and End of His own human genealogy.  This answers the questions raised by the Jews in John 8:48-59 where Jesus said “before Abraham was, I AM”.  It also speaks to Matthew 22:41-46, where Jesus points out to the Pharisees that David said (Psalm 110:1) the Lord (Jesus) was his Lord.  That is, the Lord who would come after him was also above and before him as Lord.  David, the shepherd/king was a fore-shadow of Jesus.  Jesus is truly son of David and son of man (Adam), yet Creator of both.

 

I AM the bright Morning Star

Luke called Jesus the Dayspring (Luke 1:78), the only time in the Bible this term is used.  The Hebrew word is “anatole”, which means the place of rising, the dawn.  Like Venus, the first planet/star to appear at dusk and the last star to be seen at dawn, Jesus is the guiding light to show us the way.  He is the point of reference for all life’s journeys and decisions.  Scientists say that if we could look down on our solar system, we would see Venus is the only planet to rotate clockwise.  This makes Venus unique, as is Jesus, the one and only Lord and King–son of God and Savior of the world.

Jesus fulfills Balaam’s prophesy in Numbers 24:17- “A star will come out of Jacob.”  It was a star that guided the wise men to His place of birth in Matthew 2:2-9. As the Word (John 1:1), Jesus is the lamp to our feet and light to our path (Psalm 119:105).  As previously studied in this series, He is the light of the world (John 8:12).

It is interesting that Isaiah says Satan is the “morning star” in Isaiah 14:12, an angel “fallen from heaven”.  He has lost his light, and is now associated with lies, darkness and death.  In sharp contrast, Jesus is the bright Morning Star, sitting in heaven at the right hand of the Father.  He is superior to the angels, the source of all truth, light and life (John 11: 25-26, and John 14:6).

2 Corinthians 4:6 says- “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  That light of the bright Morning Star is the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus.  Revelation says that light will never go out when it says in 21:23- “The city (of God) does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.”

When Moses was in the presence of the Lord, his face shined with such radiance he wore a veil (Exodus 34: 29-35).  Jesus called the believers “the light of the world.”  Our relationship with Him should be such that the radiance of His glory should shine on our faces when we have been in His presence.  Consider this from Hebrews 1:3- “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.”

Jesus is the bright Morning Star we can depend on, and the light of the world.  We must be so filled with Jesus that we too are a light into a dark world.  Jesus must shine on our faces. The beacon of our lives should reliably point others toward Him.  This is the only I AM statement we have studied where Jesus asks us to be a participant.  He says in Matthew 5:16- “So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

As the morning star closes each day and opens the next, Jesus is our hope for a new day, new life, and a fresh beginning.  Lamentations 3: 22-23 says- “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Jesus as the bright Morning Star stands as the guaranty of this verse.

Our challenge is to be a conduit of the light of the Morning Star.  2 Peter 1: 17-18 tells us this is possible- “For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

The fate of the peoples of the world lies in the balance.  I close with Isaiah 60: 1-3- “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you.  Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”

I AM, Part 3 by Larry W Peebles

I AM, Part 3   by   Larry W Peebles   October 6, 2017   17.38

Before I retired, and while I was still in the workforce, I kept a current resume on myself.  If my address, phone number, or place of employment changed, I updated the resume.  If I received a promotion or change of title, it was noted in the resume.  Any significant life event that should be included in a resume was documented in case I had need to quickly present information on myself to any interested party.  I updated the resume more than I needed to, but I was always ready to describe myself and my business credentials.

Jesus did not use a resume to tell the world who he was.  His attributes were beyond description in conventional words and terms.  Information that might appear on a resume today, such as address, phone number, education, work experience, etc. was just not adequate to describe Jesus.  As we discussed in Parts 1 and 2 of this series (see archives July 28-17.28, and August 11-17.30), when Jesus began to tell the world who He is/was, he used a number of powerful statements that began with the phrase “I AM”.  Seven of these statements are contained in the Book of John, and were covered previously:

  1. I AM the bread of life. John 6:35.
  2. I AM the light of the world. John 8:12.
  3. I AM the gate/door. John 10:9.
  4. I AM the good shepherd. John 10:11.
  5. I AM the resurrection and the life. John 11:25-26.
  6. I AM the way and the truth and the life. John 14:6.
  7. I AM the true vine. John 15:1.

John, the disciple and apostle, was very clear (John 20:31) that his purpose in writing the Book of John was “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  John used Jesus’ own “I AM” statements to tell us who Jesus is/was.  It comes as no surprise that other writings of John also contain the “I AM” statement.  The Book of Revelation was written by John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. At that time, Rome was becoming more of an emperor worship cult, and was growing increasingly less tolerant of the Christian worship of Jesus as Lord.  John was imprisoned on Patmos for his Christian missionary work.  While on the island, he received a series of visions and prophetic words (revelations) from Jesus, which he recorded.

Four times in the Book of Revelation, John quoted Jesus as saying “I AM the Alpha and the Omega”.  These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.

  1. Revelation 1:8- “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the almighty.”  This speaks to the eternal deity and power of Jesus.  He always was, is and will be.  He was not just present at creation, He is the Creator.  It was His Word and His power that created everything we see and understand as creation.  Colossians 1:16 says- “Everything was created through Him and for Him.”  It all began with Him, it all points to Him, and it will all end with Him.  He has the final say, and He already knows the ending.
  2. Revelation 1: 17-18- “Do not be afraid. I AM the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  Jesus died for our sins, and rose from the dead.  All life emanates from Him.  He is the source of all life.  He is not only the author of all life, He has the authority over death.  He raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, and then announced “I AM the resurrection and the life.”  When He was raised from the dead, He took the keys to hell away from the devil.  We do not ever need to be afraid of death.  If we believe in Jesus, death is merely a graduation from this natural existence into our eternal existence with Him.
  3. Revelation 21:6- “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.”  This is a promise of the free gift of His Holy Spirit, the One who teaches and comforts us, and gives us power to overcome this world.  Jesus made this clear in John 7:39, which says “by this (living water or water of life) he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.”  When He says He will never leave nor forsake us, He guarantees that with the indwelling of His Spirit.
  4. Revelation 22:13- “I AM the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” This is similar to the three described above.  To use a contemporary phrase, the “circle of life” is Jesus.  He is life, who like a circle, is without beginning or end.  Each person born has always existed in the mind and plan of God, and once born is already on a path of eternal existence, even as a spirit being after their life on earth is done.  The only question that remains is where they will spend that eternal existence—in heaven or in hell.

The prophet Isaiah adds meaning to this discussion with these scriptures written approximately 800 years before the Book of Revelation:

  1. Isaiah 44:6- “This is what the Lord says-Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I AM the first and I AM the last; apart from me there is no God.”
  2. Isaiah 48:12-13- “Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I AM He; I AM the first and I AM the last.  My own hand laid the foundations of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they all stand up together.”

Consider a contemporary term– the “it” factor.  One either has the desired persona “it factor” or they do not.  “It” may be hard to describe, but one “in the know” will recognize “it” when they see “it”.  “It” is cool, very desirable, and having “it” makes everyone else envious.  Some would say “it” is wit, charm, intellect or suave.  I can say without reservation Jesus is “it”.  He is or should be the ultimate object of our desire, the highest we can achieve.  He is the factor we cannot do without.  His value does not diminish or become worn.  He is the one we want to be like—not someone from Hollywood, politics or sports.

Everything true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) is embodied in Jesus.  Believing in Jesus, following Jesus, and striving to become like Jesus is a serious matter.  It has eternal consequences, but it also has eternal rewards.  He is the beginning, and He is the end.  He is the finishing touch, and an eternity spent with Him should be the medal and ribbon for successfully crossing the finish line of this life.