Underwater by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0522I thought I was going to die. I was a young boy who had not yet learned to swim when I accidentally slipped off an inner tube in deep water. My family had gone to a lake near our home town for a day of fun and recreation. It happened so fast I did not have time to cry out for help before going under. I opened my eyes to see the sun silhouetting the inner tube floating on the surface above me, but I could not get to it. I could not scream for help while under water. No one would hear me, and I would lose my last breath. My lungs began to burn for lack of oxygen. I remember thinking this was probably it for me. I was done, helpless even as I struggled mightily to get to safety, but getting nowhere. I was sinking into an underwater grave.

Suddenly I felt my father’s right hand grab my arm and lift me out of the water and onto the safety of the inner tube. Just in time, my father rescued me and saved my life. He escorted me back to the shallow water, where I stayed the rest of the day, numb and quiet from what had happened. All these years later, if I close my eyes, I can see that inner tube floating on the water above me, safety just out of my own reach.

The words “underwater”, “upside down”, and “sunk” are common terms used to describe a situation where things are spiraling downward, helplessly out of control, and heading for a very negative outcome. Lately, underwater is used to describe a situation caused by the 2008 Great Recession where the value of a home is less than the mortgage against the property. If one paid off the mortgage debt, they would have paid considerably more for the home than it was currently worth.

An underwater situation could be something other than financial. It might be something at home or work involving health or a relationship. It might be a physical injury, or a broken heart. It might be a desire of the heart, or a dream that has gone unfulfilled.

2 Kings 6: 1-7 speaks of an underwater situation. The school of prophets wanted to build a place near the Jordan River where they could meet with Elisha. To start construction, they borrowed an axe so they could cut poles. While cutting down a tree, the axe head fell into the river. When the axe head went into the water, it created an obligation or debt that had to be repaid. The borrower has a moral duty to return the borrowed item to the owner. If the students had another axe head, or the money to buy an axe head, they would not have had to borrow one.  Replacing the underwater axe head was a real problem. They cried out for help.

In verses 6 and 7, Elisha, the “father” of this school of prophets, threw a stick in the water where the axe head had gone under. The iron floated to the surface, where it was retrieved. The underwater situation was miraculously remedied. What seemed hopelessly underwater was rescued.

In prayer recently, the Lord took me back to that time I fell off the inner tube, and He told me two things:

  1. He said “If your (natural) father, out of his love for you, would rescue you from an underwater situation like that, how much more will I come to your rescue?”
  2. He also said “Your (natural) father had his eyes on you the whole time. Even when you drifted out into the deep water where he told you not to go, he never took his eyes off you. Neither do I take my eyes off you.”

Concerning the first point, that word rescue is somewhat interchangeable with save or redeem. Since He used the term rescue in explaining it to me, hear what these scriptures have to say about rescue:

  1. Judges 6: 8-9- “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you up out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. I snatched (rescued) you from the power of Egypt and from the hand of all your oppressors. I drove them from before you and gave you their land.”
  2. From the story of David and Goliath, David says in I Samuel 17: 37- “The Lord who delivered (rescued) me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver (rescue) me from the hand of this Philistine.” He was referring to the giant Goliath.
  3. Psalm 107 begins with “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.” The rest of the chapter tells why. It is a long list of times the Lord delivered (rescued) His people from trouble. Verses 19 and 20 say “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved (rescued) them from their distress. He sent forth His word and healed them.”
  4. Isaiah 43:1-2 says “Fear not, for I have redeemed (rescued) you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
  5. In Colossians 1: 13-14, the apostle Paul writes “ For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”         (Emphasis mine.)

My father rescued me. The Bible contains many references and promises that our heavenly Father will also come to our rescue, as evidenced by the scriptures above.

Concerning the second point, hear these scriptures that affirm the Lord keeps His eyes on us:

  1. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”
  2. Zechariah 2:12 says “….for whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye….”

What I have now learned from this experience as a youth is this: My father had his eye on me the whole time I was having an underwater experience, and he rescued me just in time. Your heavenly Father will do the same for you.

You may have caused your underwater situation, or it may have been an accident. It might be something that just happened to you, such as the collapse of the real estate market that caused the value of your home to drop. Life happens. It may be taking you down to the point you can’t breathe, or sleep, or get any relief. In fact, you may feel if you don’t get some help you may die.

God specializes in underwater rescues. He will respond to your cry for help. Like retrieving that axe head from under the water, He is the only one who can bring miraculous help. Call out to Him. He loves you so much, and His eye is on you.

What Will You Leave Behind? By Kay K. Peebles

20150331_115734Nature walks are very inspiring. I never know what I will discover when I’m on a nature walk. Creation speaks, if I am listening. It has stories to tell if I take the time to hear and see what it is saying.

One of my favorite places to hike is in the forest rich mountains near our cabin in north Georgia. The air is clean and fresh. Life abounds, wherever I look. Brooks babble as they wind to and fro following the curves of the mountain, while exposing reverse images of the scenery on their banks.

I have always been fascinated with trees. From the time I was a child, trees sparked my imagination. A giant, untamed oak with its huge outstretched arms became a luxurious hotel entertaining visitors from around the world. The 1913 poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer further inspired my love for trees.  20150125_165944_resized

Trees possess a grand and majestic place in the forest, but eventually, like us, all trees will die. When a tree falls in the forest, it is left where it lies. I often wondered why massive 50-60 foot trees would be left to rot on the forest floor. They could, of course, be cut into logs for firewood, made into furniture, or sculpted into a masterpiece for man to enjoy. I’m sure some are, but most lie dormant where they fall. It seems a waste, unless you frequently visit those places where trees live and die.

The moment a tree dies, new life begins to spring forth. Parasites such as fungi, bacteria and invertebrates find a place to lodge and feed on the nutrients the tree holds within. Animals find shelter within its cavities, while visitors find them to be a quiet bench on which to sit and meditate. Before long, lichen attach to the top side of the fallen trees where the sun warms them as they feed on the bark beneath. Some weave intricate, lacy leaves, like the most detailed tatted lace or crocheted doilies women make for their homes. Their colors and designs are beautiful, all sustained by the fallen tree on the forest’s floor.  20150306_134129_resized

It takes years for the tree to decompose, but in the process nothing is wasted. The soil is enriched with vital nutrients. Life is sustained and new life is born by the sacrifice of the fallen giant. A tree’s seeds germinate, reproduce and shelter the forest, until they too, find their rest on the forest floor. The tree’s life and death leave a legacy which makes it possible for new plants and animals to thrive. Without it, the cycle of life would diminish for all.

Jesus’ life, death and resurrection left us a legacy which causes all who believe in Him to thrive two thousand years later. In Genesis 2:7 He breathed the breath of Life into mankind, and caused us to live. In John 6:63 His Spirit gives Life as it connects us to God; His words are Life as they transform us, by manifesting God’s Truth in our hearts. In John 14:6 He is the Way, the Truth and the Life; no Life exists apart from Him, no Truth subsists separately from Him, and there is no other Way to God except through Him. In Revelation 22:2 Jesus is the River of Life; in John 4:10 He is the Living Water where all Life springs forth and from which all life is sustained. In John 10:15-17 Jesus laid down His very Life for the sheep, because He considered us worth dying for. In John 11:25 Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, so that we too will rise and live with Him in eternity. In 1 John 5:11-12 God has given us Eternal Life through His Son, Jesus, for all who believe. In Genesis 2:9 and Revelation 22:2 Jesus is the Tree of Life; He feeds, nurtures and heals all who come to Him for Life. In Malachi 2:5 Jesus is the New Covenant which is Life and Peace through which He reconciled us to God, making us at peace with Him. In John 10:10 Jesus came that we might have Life, a life overflowing with His abundance. In 2 Peter 1:3 Jesus has given us all things that pertain to Life and Godliness; in Him we are complete, lacking nothing. In Revelation 20:15 and 22:19 Jesus has written our names in the Lamb’s Book of Life declaring we eternally belong to Him. Through His own sacrifice, Jesus has given us a rich, eternal legacy.

Knowing the legacy the Lord has left for us, what is the legacy we will leave behind for our succeeding generations and the world? Will others be nurtured and fed by our life and death? Will we pass on a legacy of abundant life in Christ? Will we sacrifice for those coming after us or will we live for the moment, enjoying and taking all we can for ourselves with little thought of those who will come behind?

May we apprehend all of the legacy Christ Jesus acquired for us, and pass it on to those generations who will inherit what we possessed. May what we leave them cause them to exceed beyond all expectation so that they may truly become the fullness in Christ Jesus. Their success and well-being will depend on what we leave behind!

Looks Don’t Matter, Part 2 by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0520An old dog can still learn a new trick. In my previous article (Looks Don’t Matter, Part 1), I wrote of our tour of the Alaskan sled dog training facility last summer near Denali. The point of the article was that the dogs were valued for heart and attitude, not because of looks or appearance. The color of coat, color of eyes, and ears up or down were not important. What was important was their willingness and eagerness to do what they were born to do–run with speed and power. They do it in a spirit of cooperation and affection for the driver and the team. Based on what the trainer was saying about the dogs, we should do no less in measuring a person. Look at the heart, what’s on the inside, rather than judge by appearance. I’m learning new tricks from these dogs.

When it was time to hitch the dogs to a training sled, they went wild with eager anticipation of being chosen for the team. There was more to learn from this demonstration as well. The Alaskan sled team consists of six dogs–two lead dogs, two dogs in the middle, and the two nearest the sled. Each was chosen for their particular skill set. As the trainer began to review the criteria for each position, I could immediately see more application to my own life.

Two lead dogs instead of one set the example of cooperation and teamwork for the whole team. It defuses the ego that can come into play when one is “the” lead dog instead of “a” lead dog. The dog’s objective is not to compete to become the leader; it is to be a part of the team. When two dogs are the leaders, they can actually help each other lead. There is less chance a command or maneuver is missed. The dogs only learn four basic commands–stop, go, right, and left. Their job, therefore, comes down to two things: listen to the driver, and instantly obey the commands. Soldiers train by marching to hone those same skills–listen and instantly obey. By leading from out front, the other dogs will follow. Even though they are the leaders, they also help shoulder the load. They pull their share of the weight of the sled. That is a real lesson in leadership, I thought to myself.

The two dogs in the middle are to follow the lead dogs with regard to both direction and pace. Since they are closer to the sled, they are also to assist more in pulling the weight of the load. In other words, as good members of the team, they are to be good followers, and they are to share in carrying the load. Their assistance in both these areas makes a strong statement to the team. They are willing to help in all areas of the work assignment, up and down the line.

Finally, the two dogs nearest the sled need to be the strongest and most powerful. When it is time to move forward on the assignment, their power sets the sled and the team in motion when it has been at a dead stop. Newton’s First Law of Motion says that things in motion tend to stay in motion, and things at rest tend to stay at rest. The greatest force, the most strength is needed to pull a load at rest into motion. Getting a sled or a team or a project started is often the hardest part. Once it is moving forward, and has some momentum, it is often much easier to complete the task. These dogs are in the rear of the team, yet their role is just as vital as any other. There is a certain satisfaction from doing important and meaningful work, no matter the title or position on the team.

The combined skill sets of the six-dog team provide willingness to take instruction, leadership, direction, pace, followers, assistance where needed, and power. Nothing is accomplished unless the whole team works together to accomplish it, and everyone shares equally in the recognition and reward. Each dog knows the role they are to play. Each role is very different. No dog is trying to play another’s role. The roles complement each other nicely so that every necessity is covered. Each dog is not in competition to beat out the others for the leader’s role, but rather is working as a unit to achieve the common goal of moving the sled to the desired location. What a dream team.

As I thought about applications of this lesson, I could not help but think of what the Bible says regarding teamwork. Romans 12:4-8 says “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”

The apostle Paul wrote these words under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to describe the players and the team (the church) that would do the work of Jesus until His triumphant return to the earth at the end of the age. The Kikuyu people of Kenya say “if a person walks alone, he can walk fast; but if he walks with others, he can walk far.”   So much more is accomplished within the framework of a team than could ever be accomplished by one person working alone.

So these principles of teamwork and leadership, so adeptly taught by the Alaskan sled dogs, can apply to the church, a business organization, a marriage, or to a family:

  1. The players are all different, and have different looks and abilities; but a common goal, once clearly defined, communicated, and agreed, can energize and unite them.
  2. Let the players’ differences work to the team’s advantage, not against it.
  3. Give each player meaningful work that corresponds to, but often stretches, their abilities.
  4. Each player should know the value of their assignment, and how it fits into accomplishing the common goal.
  5. Players should know that recognition comes from doing their assignment well, not from trying to be the leader. Effort is appreciated; egos are not.
  6. Recognition should also come from helping others do their assignment well. Cover for the other players.
  7. Leaders should lead by example, helping with the work where needed.
  8. Great teams are comprised of great leaders and great followers. Great followers give enthusiastic effort and obey instructions instantly. Great leaders set direction, but do not try to do all the work themselves. Rather, they rely on the team to help with the assignment. Both should respect the other for their contribution.

These principles are Biblical, and they are common sense. Diversity is an advantage, not a disadvantage. Differences in appearance, skills, and approach can be crafted into a team when a common goal unites and these principles are applied. God is building His team. What part will you play?

Where Do You Hang Out? By Kay K. Peebles

20150331_115734It was the first case of its kind in the State of Texas. Several years ago I was appointed to serve a six month term on a Grand Jury in Rockwall County, Texas. The Grand Jury was used by the state to present possible criminal cases which occurred in the local County. The prosecuting attorney and his private investigators would spend months researching evidence to build a criminal case. If they believed they had a solid case, they presented their evidence to the Grand Jury. The Grand Jury would then determine if their case was strong enough to bring criminal charges or an indictment against the suspect.

One of the most interesting cases presented to our Grand Jury was for voter fraud. A man who had family in our local community voted in our local election. In the State of Texas, it was against the law to vote in an election in a community where you did not reside (abide). This man claimed he resided in our community where he had grown up, and his father had a law office. The case was completely based on proving where he lived the majority of the time.

Our Grand Jury gave permission for the prosecuting attorney to subpoena the man’s telephone (land line), electric, rent, and dry cleaning bills, as well as gasoline credit card charges. The next month we met with the attorney to learn the results. All the suspect’s bills proved that his primary residence was in Dallas County and not ours. We released the prosecuting attorney to indict the suspect. That case was the first one in the state of Texas to prosecute a person for voter fraud. The strength of the case was based on proof of the suspect’s abiding place. The man had claimed to abide in our community, but the “fruit” of his life provided overwhelming evidence he did not abide there.

In John 15:4-5 Jesus told His disciples, “Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you, [Live in Me, and I will live in you.] Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in (being vitally united to) the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” (AMP)

The Lord gave a wonderful promise to His children in the above verse. If we abide in Him, we will not only bear fruit, our fruit will yield an abundant harvest. We are all fruit bearers of one kind or another. When John the Baptist was baptizing the people preparing them for Jesus’ ministry, many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came out to observe him. He rebuked them by saying, “Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart]; And do not presume to say to yourselves, We have Abraham for our forefather; for I tell you, God is able to raise up descendants for Abraham from these stones! And already the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” Matthew 3:8-10 (AMP)

Paul listed the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].” (AMP)

Before I gave my heart to Jesus, when people would ask me if I was a Christian, I would get angry and would reply by listing all the offices I had held in the church, committees I had been on and the fact that I was a regular church attender. I did not know at the time, my activities in the church were not my list of the “fruit” (or evidence) of the Holy Spirit dwelling in me.

By abiding in Christ and making His presence our dwelling place, our whole countenance and character will change. There will be indicators of His Spirit in our personality. The more time we spend with the Lord, the more sin we see in ourselves. His presence causes us to recognize hidden motives and self-centeredness. Through our repentance, His character becomes infused into ours. The closer we are to Him the more humble we become as the Fear of the Lord brings us the Wisdom to discern in our heart between good fruit and bad.

The picture the Lord gave us of being a branch connected to a tree is very powerful. My father grew pecan trees. There were times when some of the branches would become infested with a worm that would weave webs around large clusters of leaves. These webs would choke off the supply of nourishment the branch required. They would also destroy the branch’s ability to produce fruit. The weakened branch would eventually wither, requiring the removal of the branch from the tree. It was necessary for the branch to be cut off from the tree to protect the rest of the tree’s health and its harvest of fruit.

When we do not abide in the Vine, we too, are susceptible to spiritual contamination which will limit our fruit production and possibly destroy it entirely. It is imperative that we stay vitally connected to Him, because He is our only source of sustenance, protection and healing.

Current research of western Christianity reveals that much of the church is producing the “fruit” of the world instead of Christlikeness. Pressure from the world and sin within has caused so much compromise, for many “Christians”, there is not enough evidence for their claims to be a Christian. Because of this, our Christian influence has diminished as we have sought to be politically correct instead of shining His light. The warning of Christ is as powerful today as it was when He spoke it. If we do not choose to abide in Him, producing the fruit of righteousness, we will be cut off.

John 15:5-6 “I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If a person does not dwell in Me, he is thrown out like a [broken off] branch, and withers; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, and they are burned.”

Romans 11:21-22 “For if God did not spare the natural branches [because of unbelief], neither will He spare you [if you are guilty of the same offense]. Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s gracious kindness to you-provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away).” (AMP) (See also John 15:7 & 16 and Romans 11:17-23)

Abiding in the Vine waters and feeds our branch. It also protects us from spiritual “parasites”. If we find ourselves lacking in the production of spiritual fruit, repentance will reconnect us to the Vine. By abiding continually in Him, we will find the joy and peace we long for. We will also be empowered with the patience to persevere and the self-control to navigate difficult times. Our love will increase, multiplying our influence because our focus will be to do His will, not ours. If we choose to abide in Him, we will never lack good, abundant fruit.

If a prosecuting attorney was tracing your steps, investigating your life and amassing the evidence you have left behind, would he find evidence to prove you to be a Christian? If not, I have good news for you, the invitation to abide in Him is given to us all.

So, where do you hang out?