Thoughts on Leadership, Part 5 Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 5   by   Larry W Peebles   July 14, 2017   17.26

We did not know what to think.  We were very interested in the home, but the seller did not bother to respond to our offer.  I felt insulted.  Our local housing market had begun to warm.  Sales activity was increasing, and prices had started to rise.  My wife and I had prayed about moving out of our existing home of 16 years into something a little larger.  This was a desire to move out of a declining neighborhood into one with a fresh appeal and less crime, although there would be a God-purpose in this move we would not understand until years later.  I had just gotten a promotion and a raise at work, so the timing seemed right.  One day as I was praying about how to begin the search, I felt the Lord said to start by looking in the local newspaper.  It was there we found what seemed to be the ideal home.  When we actually visited the home for the first time, it had everything we had put on our wish list, and a few things extra.  The price was on the high end of our range, but was manageable.

The listing realtor did not return our call, so we enlisted the services of our own realtor to represent us.  He made arrangements to show us the home.  There was no doubt on our part when we saw it.  This was the home we wanted.  The home was priced at the leading edge of a new wave of increase, which made me want to test the price against the resolve of the seller.  Our initial offer was so low the seller did not bother to respond with a counter offer.  As a career builder and real estate developer, I had negotiated countless contracts to purchase properties.  I considered myself a skilled businessman in the art of making the deal.  I had never made a written offer that was totally ignored.  I did not know my next move, except to go back to the prayer closet.

It was in prayer that I received the answer.  I learned that I had shown no respect for the seller with my low offer.  I came to clearly understand that I would need to offer something much closer to his asking price to elicit a response.  The Lord asked me if the other man had to lose in order for me to win the negotiation.  God asked if I believed that He had enough to make it possible for both sides to win.  Was it possible that the price could represent a win for the seller and the buyer?  Did the Creator of the universe have enough to go around so that both sides could walk away satisfied?

After I shared this with my wife, we took a more humble approach, and signed a higher, and much more respectable offer.  At that point the seller met us half-way, and a deal was made.  The Lord blessed us with the home of our dreams.  He also blessed us with a quick sale of our existing home for considerably more money than we had anticipated, so we were able to close and move in rather quickly.  Years later, when the national economy was hit with the Great Recession, a family member lost their job and home, and had to move in with us.  At that point we knew why God had directed us to the larger home.  What might have been considered excess space when we bought the home became very necessary space.  If I held any reservation about the price we paid for the home, it was washed away with gratitude for the space in the home God had given us.  There was room to come together for meals and family time, yet space to be apart for private time and thought, a necessity in a two-family arrangement that lasted for 14 months.

The word “respect” (noun) means “a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.”  Synonyms are esteem, regard, admiration, reverence, deference, and honor.  The lesson I learned about respect would serve me well during the time of the housing market expansion.  As the leader of a local division of a national home building company, I had to strike while the iron was hot in order to rapidly take advantage of the growing market opportunity.  Success would come to the builder best able to meet the growing demand for homes.  Over the next three to four years I would need to buy more land and developed lots on which to build homes than I had ever bought in my career.

Land owners and developers were to be viewed as partners, not as adversaries.  It was not necessary to beat them on the issue of price in order to win.  A fair price meant both could win.  I would pray, and the Lord would lead me to another successful deal.  We were able to not only grow our business to meet the increasing demand, but we were able to double our share of the available market.

A fair deal is defined as one where both sides are in favor of the terms.  Neither side has an advantage over the other side which forces one party to accept the terms.  Each side has a certain respect for the other, a duty if you will, to be sure the agreement works for both.  If the deal is so one-sided one party simply cannot perform, neither side wins, and there will be no future dealings.

God is most interested in how we treat others, and that our dealings are fair and honest.  As leaders, we must convey that interest.  We are all His children, and He is clear on how we are to respect and relate to one another in our dealings.  Consider these Scriptures on fair dealings and respect for others:

  1. Matthew 22:37-39- “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  We are not only to respect others, we are to love them.
  2. Matthew 7:12- “So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do unto you, for this sums up [is the essence of] the Law and the Prophets.” [Insert mine.] The so-called Golden Rule says that if we want respect, we must treat others with respect.
  3. Galatians 6:7- “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” Planting respect yields a harvest of respect.
  4. Romans 12:10- “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”  Rather than compete with one another to gain an unfair advantage, compete in showing the most honor toward the other.
  5. Romans 13:7- “Give to everyone what you owe them: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
  6. Deuteronomy 25:15- “You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Honest and fair dealings are a key to a long and prosperous life.
  7. Leviticus 19:15- “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.” Both the poor and the great deserve the respect that comes with just and fair treatment.
  8. Philippians 2:3- “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
  9. Titus 2:7- “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.”
  10. Leviticus 19:32- “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.” Our Western society would do well to focus on regaining its respect for the elderly.
  11. Luke 14:10- “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.”  Out of respect for others, do not promote yourself.  Let God promote you.
  12. 1 Peter 5:5- “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

There are many more such Scriptures, to be sure, but these provide a definite conclusion.  We are to treat and respect others above ourselves.  We are to deal fairly and honestly with others, out of respect for their situation, experience, and wisdom.  God will repay our integrity; we do not need to take unfair advantage of others.  God will reward and promote our honesty; He puts all leaders and authority into their position.  Whatever we gain does not have to come at the expense of another, as God can and will provide the increase.  These are true traits of a leader.

Dying For a Drink, Part 2 by Larry W Peebles

Dying For a Drink, Part 2    by   Larry W. Peebles   June 30, 2017   17.24

The living water that Jesus describes in John 7:37-39 is real.  It is supernatural, but none-the-less real.  In Part 1 of this series, we looked at the scriptural evidence in Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22, as we compared Ezekiel and John’s visions from God, both concerning this living water.  In Part 1 (June 2, 2017), we learned that this living water is a form and manifestation of the Holy Spirit—one of several we see in Scripture.  Other examples include a dove, wind, fire, supernatural strength in a man, and more.

When a believer gives his heart over to Jesus, and makes Jesus the Lord and Savior of his life, he is “born again”, and receives this living water of the Holy Spirit.  This water brings life and refreshing everywhere it flows.  Jesus said it would not only come to the believer, but it would flow like a stream out of the believer to a dry and thirsty world.  (John 7:37-39).  This water, unlike the water we drink from the faucet, is sufficient to quench our spiritual thirst forever.  Jesus never intended the believer would receive and keep the living water for himself.  He intended that the believer would share the living water with others, that they might come to know Jesus.  The Bible calls that “bearing fruit” (see Galatians 5: 22-23).  The believer is to bear fruit continually.  We are not to merely observe, share and report on the condition of man and this world, we are to change it–for the better.

In order to go further with this study of living water, I want to share two stories.  Both come from ministry trips to Kenya.  On my first trip in 2007, my wife and I traveled with a team to a number of churches in the Mt. Kenya region, about two hours north of Nairobi.  Each day we visited a different church, and ministered to the church pastor and leaders.  We did a morning meeting and an afternoon meeting, with a break for lunch.  God graced those meetings with His presence, and the meetings were powerful.

On one such day, we visited one of the leader’s homes for lunch between the morning and afternoon sessions.  We found the Kenyans to be a very friendly, gracious and welcoming people.  The hostess provided a very delicious home-cooked meal, offering no less than the best they had for their guests.  Following the meal, and after a warm thank you and good bye, I stepped outside to board the van for the short drive back to the church for the afternoon session.

The leader’s home was in a very small village, with only two intersecting dirt roads.  On one side of the intersection was a concrete tank, maybe 6 ft. or so square, 2-3 ft. deep.  A man in a home-made wooden cart pulled by a small donkey had stopped alongside the tank, and began to empty 4 or 5 big barrels of water into the tank.  I studied the scene for a moment, and realized the man was bringing water to the village.  The tank was the community water supply.  There was no water main to supply clean water to the houses.  There was no sewer main.  Most of the homes in this small village had out houses,  or some type of in-ground pit.

The Kenyans knew the water in the tank was not for drinking.  They would use it for bathing and washing clothes.  Boiled water would be used for cooking, and bottled water would generally be provided for guests to drink.  Still the man who delivered water to the community tank provided a major service, as it was not unusual to see people in the area walking for miles to bring a few containers of water back to their homes—perhaps enough for that day.  This man in the cart made a positive difference in his village.  He changed the circumstances of that village by delivering the precious life-giving water in large quantities.

It was some time after the trip, as I continued to study this living water and prepared to tell the story of the man in the cart, I felt the Lord issue a challenge.  I sensed from the Lord that we are to be like that man, and make a difference in our circumstances.  We are to bring water to our village.  Our village might be our marriage, our family, our workplace, circle of friends, school, or church.  We are to carry living water—the message of salvation, hope, healing and encouragement—to that village.  The river of living water, the Holy Spirit of God, is to flow to us and through us to a dry and thirsty world.

The second story comes from my last trip to Kenya in 2013.  (My wife and I are going again later in 2017.)  On that trip my wife and I were part of a team that conducted revival meetings in a large tent we had set up in a mid- sized town in the Mt. Kenya region.  The team met in the morning for teaching, inspiration, and assignments, then spread out over the town to greet people walking about, inquire if they knew Jesus, and extend an invitation to the tent revival meetings.  If possible, we would get their name and contact information for a local pastor to follow up.  People were receptive to the invitation.  They would stop on the street and listen, and ask questions about what was happening at the big tent.

I was asked to teach at the morning team meeting on Saturday, the last day of street evangelism.  We had scheduled meetings for Saturday afternoon and evening.  The revival meetings would end with an afternoon meeting on Sunday after morning church services.  I spoke to the team Saturday morning about living water, and told the story of the man hauling water to his village in the cart.  I encouraged the team to carry water to this village by first believing the living water flowed through them individually, and second by looking for opportunities to pray with and for people on the street.  I specifically encouraged the team to lay hands on the people as they prayed.  Scriptures compare us to trees planted by streams of water, whose leaves (hands) are for healing (all discussed in Part 1 of this series).  I simply asked them to apply in faith what Scriptures have already said.

My wife and I felt good about the street evangelism that morning, as we encountered and prayed for a man we found walking alone through a field.  He kneeled down on the ground and received Jesus as his Lord and Savior.  He had not eaten in days, so we were able to direct him to our tent, where there was food and tea.  But we felt even better when we returned to the tent.  A woman pastor from another team was looking for us with a marvelous report.

Her team had encountered a man they described as “out of his mind”.  He was babbling incoherently, unable to speak an intelligent word.  He was filthy with hair matted in dirt and grass from sleeping on the ground.  His eyes were rolling and looked glazed, and he was living like an animal.  He was a literal wild man on the verge of death.  The woman remembered the teaching from earlier in the morning, and laid hands on him and prayed for him along with the team.  She said he immediately snapped back into his right mind, and his eyes were stable and clear.  He was able to speak.  He came back to life.

He said he had not eaten in days.  The team took him to the church’s training center.  He bathed and shaved his head, which was easier than trying to clean his hair.  He was given a set of clean clothes and a meal.  The pastor was hardly able to contain herself with what she then told me.  The man had agreed to speak at the afternoon meeting under the tent to give a testimony of what had happened, and how God had immediately set him free from demonic control, cleared his mind, and returned his speech.

We all marveled that afternoon when he rose to speak.  He spoke clearly and confidently.  He knew he had received a miracle.  He knew he was as good as dead, but now could testify to life.  He confirmed Jesus as his Savior, and gave Him all the glory.  All of this was because of the great power and compassion of God, and a team of believers who acted in faith and prayed as though living water flowed through their hands into the dry and thirsty people in that town.

Jesus is issuing a challenge to His followers to believe that living water flows to and through them, as He has said.  He is calling His followers to act like thermostats instead of thermometers, where we by our actions and prayers are changing things instead of reporting the current conditions.  He is challenging us to carry living water to our villages.  The world is dying for a drink.

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 4 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 4   by   Larry W. Peebles   June 16, 2017   17.22

At five ft. five inches, my Dad was considered short in stature.  But as a boy, I watched him deal with authority as a customer and a consumer.  He did not let his size diminish his authority.  He knew the authority he had with the company when a mistake had been made in his account.  In those days, the conversations to straighten out an account with a problem were done face-to-face.  There were no automated phone answering machines, no internet, and no email.  Even a big retailer like Sears would have a department in the local store to handle account questions.

Dad would walk in and ask to speak to whoever was “in charge” or “the boss”.  He went straight to the top authority in the company to explain the mistake and receive his assurance as a customer that all would be corrected.  He saw no point in taking time to explain the mistake to someone who did not have the authority to correct it.

When I think of leadership and the role of the leader, I believe this question of authority must be addressed.  At the most fundamental level, the leader must realize that ultimately all authority is given or granted; it is not taken.  Authority is also not to be confused with power.  To help distinguish the two, let me give this example.  When a police officer or a state trooper raises their hand to stop traffic, do they stop the traffic by power, or by authority?  The officer or trooper does not have the physical power to stop a bus or an 18-wheel truck.  Those vehicles will, however, come to a stop when the officer’s hand is raised to halt traffic because the driver of those vehicles recognizes the officer’s authority to stop traffic.

The city or state has by law granted the officer the authority to stop that traffic, and stands prepared to enforce that authority.  That city or state has been granted the authority to pass those laws by the people’s consent to be governed.  So who is the real leader in that traffic control situation?  Is it the driver who applies the brake, the officer who raises the hand to signal halt, or the court who stands ready to issue a fine for failure to stop?  It might be the people of the state, who hired the officer to enforce the control of traffic, and granted the court the ultimate authority to back up the officer with penalties provided by law.

I spent the biggest part of my career in homebuilding in charge of the local division of corporate homebuilding companies that operated across the nation.   I was considered the leader of that division, which might consist of hundreds of employees.  My title was Division President, or General Manager.  Many would consider that a powerful position.  However, my authority to operate in that position was granted by the corporation in the form of a written document called a corporate resolution.  This resolution, adopted by the Board of Directors of the corporation, spelled out what I was authorized to do, and what I was not authorized to do in my position.  If I took authorized action, the company stood behind it.

I reported to high level officers of the corporation, who reported to the Board, who reported to the shareholders.  I had no power per se, except for personal energy, drive and certain abilities.  My authority in that position was granted by the corporation, who ultimately answered to the shareholders.  All authority is granted by some ultimate source, and authority is not to be confused with power in the leader’s mind.

During His time of ministry on this earth, Jesus’ authority was questioned by the chief priests and elders of the church- “By what authority are you doing these things [teaching and doing miracles], and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23).  [Insert mine.]  But following His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection, Jesus said in Matthew 28:18- “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples,….baptize,….and teach.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

His death and resurrection annihilated any and all other claims to authority.  No king or kingdom, no devil or mystic power could ever again claim authority.  Jesus had ALL authority in the earth and in the heavens.  Ephesians 1: 20-21 says the incomparable power and mighty strength of God was exerted in Christ “when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age, but in the age to come.”

The devil had tried to destroy His creation.  Jesus’ mission of turning the tables and restoring mankind to his original position with God was complete.  In the process, He utterly destroyed the works of the devil.  After He made that point clear, Jesus issued a heavenly resolution.  He in turn authorized us to “go” spread the good news of the Gospel, and make disciples.  We were also authorized to baptize into new life in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach His commands (which are not restrictions, but rather keys to long life).  We are not to be fearful and shrink back.  We are to let nothing stand in our way- -Jesus said He would always be with us to enforce the authority given to us as believers and His followers.

Simply said, our authority is His delegated power.  Consider these Scriptures that speak of the authority (delegated power) given believers:

  1. Jesus said in John 14: 12-14- “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing [miracles]. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in my name [delegated authority], so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”  [Inserts mine.]
  2. Mark 16:17- “And these signs will follow those who believe. In my name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues, they will take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will by no means hurt them.  They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.”
  3. John 15:7- “If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you will, and it will be given you.”
  4. John 16:23- “In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
  5. Matthew 17:20- “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’, and it will move and nothing shall be impossible for you.”
  6. Romans 5:17- “We shall reign in life through Jesus Christ.”

These scriptures make the case clear.  When Jesus conquered death and the devil, He put all things under His feet.  Then He gave the authority to His followers, and delegated power to enforce the consequences.  If this is not enough to convince, consider that in other Scriptures, He used these terms to describe His followers, all of which reveal the authority given: “heir of God”- Galatians 4:7; “ambassadors for Christ”- 2 Corinthians 5:20; and “more than conquerors”- Romans 8:37.

Finally, He would not be the Good Shepard if He left us short of anything we needed to succeed in this life or the life after.  2 Peter 1:3 says- “His divine power [delegated to His followers] has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.”

Prince George, the son of William and Catherine, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is royalty but does not know it.  He is a future king, but now acts like a small boy.  That is no criticism, but rather an indication of his maturity level as a soon-to-be four year old.  He will grow to know who he is and the authority he possesses.  Similarly, we have been given full authority by the King of Kings, but often do not act like it.  Our maturity level of faith in Jesus needs to grow so that we know and understand our authority.  Otherwise, what He has given us goes unappropriated, wasted and useless.  We are already standing in the highway, dodging everything that is coming our way, and asking God to redirect the traffic away from us.  He could do that, but we would not grow from the experience.  He has already given us the authority to stop what is coming at us.

All believers have the authority (delegated power) to oppose everything that oppresses them spiritually-fear, sickness, poverty, loneliness, anger, etc.  James 4:7 says- “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  It is not a matter of feeling powerful or authoritative.  We have been given more authority than we think we have.  My Dad did not feel or appear “big”, but he knew his authority.  A true leader must rise up in authority, and exercise it, remembering it is not about the leader’s power, but it is about the authority they have been given.  For the believer, there is no greater authority than that given by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dying for a Drink, Part 1 Larry W Peebles

Dying for a Drink, Part 1   by   Larry W. Peebles    June 2, 2017   17.20

There was no question the young couple was in trouble.  A group of men from our church were on a weekend hiking trip.  We ran across the couple near dark as we came back to our campsite.  We had set up our camp after hiking most of the afternoon, and replenished our water supply from a near-by stream.  We then finished our hike up to the summit of Blood Mountain in Georgia (elev. 4459’) to enjoy our evening meal and a spectacular view of the sunset.  The day had been warm, and the hike was uphill and strenuous, but the scenery from the summit and the cool evening breeze made it all worthwhile.  As the sun began to fade, we descended back to camp for the night.  That’s when we found the couple.

The man was dehydrated and confused, extremely weak and sick from lack of water.  He said the young lady with him was in worse condition.  They had managed to set up a tent in the camping area while we were away, but she was not able to come outside.  I do not think it would be an exaggeration to say they were dying for a drink.  The man said they knew they needed water, and they even knew they were close to a source of water, but they could not find the water in the dark.  The main trail would have led them to the water, but it first led them by the sign directing them to the campsite.  They came to the campsite expecting to find the water, but there was none to be found.  By then, night had set in all around them, and they could not find water even by going back to the main trail.  It was too late, they were sick and confused, and did not know where to look.

We had extra water, and quickly shared it with them to start the re-hydration process.  Then some of our men took the young hikers’ water bottles and jugs together with our water filtration equipment, and left by flashlight to walk back to the stream.  It was not long before we had completely replenished their supply.  With water and rest, along with some food, the couple was back on their feet by morning.

All of this reminded me of how critical water is to life.  Humans can go 7 to 10 days without food, but only 2 to 3 days without water.  About 60% of the adult human body is water, and for some vital organs the percentage is higher.  Without water, these organs begin to shut down.  It was very fortunate for these hikers that someone came along who had water and knew how to get more water for them to complete their journey.  As I thought about what had happened, the Lord showed me the spiritual lesson embodied within this real-life experience.

Jesus did not take the matter of thirst lightly.  In John, Chapter 4, Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well for a drink.  She said “How can you ask me for a drink?”, as she was a Samaritan, and He was a Jew.  The spiritual lesson is revealed in His response in verses 10-13- “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.  ‘Sir’, the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.  Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this well, and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his flocks and herds?’  Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’”

In John 7: 37-39, Jesus explains further- “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

This says that when Jesus spoke of the living water, he was speaking of the Holy Spirit.  Up to that time, the Bible is clear that the Spirit came upon men for a time or a purpose, but would lift.  Jesus was speaking of a time when the Spirit would come and permanently live within men, to the point that man would be filled to overflowing with the indwelling presence of God.

Previously, when the Spirit of God came upon a man, we see incredible things happen, such as Elijah outrunning King Ahab’s horse-drawn chariot all the way back to Jezreel in 1Kings 18:46. When the Spirit of God came upon Jesus “like a dove” at His baptism in Luke 3:22, He received the Holy Spirit without measure or limitation.   After Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to Heaven, we see the Spirit manifest at Pentecost as wind and fire (Acts 2:2-4), but at that point those present were filled with the Spirit.  The Spirit then permanently occupied the temple of their hearts.  Their lives were incredibly changed forever.

The Spirit is not a dove.  It is not wind, fire, or super-human strength to out-run horses.  It has manifested as such, and Jesus said we might also expect it to manifest in believers as living water.  Once a person believes in Jesus and receives the Spirit, they can expect to receive living water in abundance.  The purpose, however, is not to receive the living water and keep it.  We are to become a conduit to distribute the living water.  Just as it is eternal life to the bearer, it is eternal life to those who will receive it.

We see the picture of how this is to work by comparing two men’s visions of this living water from Scripture—Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47:1-12), and John (Revelation 22: 1-2, 17).

  1. Living water comes from the Temple of God- Ezekiel 47:1-2     Rev. 22:1
  2. Living water forms a river-                                 Ezekiel 47:3-6     Rev. 22:1
  3. Trees are on each side of the river-                   Ezekiel 47:7         Rev. 22:2
  4. Where the water flows, things live-                   Ezekiel 47:9         Rev. 22:17
  5. These are fruit trees-                                             Ezekiel 47:12       Rev. 22:2
  6. Trees bear fruit year round-                                Ezekiel 47:12       Rev. 22:2
  7. Leaves of the trees are for healing-                    Ezekiel 47:12       Rev. 22:2

These two visions, some 680 years apart, are remarkably similar and are convincing that Jesus was not speaking metaphorically of this living water.   The living water is supernatural (outside the realm of the natural senses), but it is none-the-less real.  Additionally consider, as Psalm 1:3 says, we can be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.”  If we can be trees planted by streams of living water, then we can draw on this water and our hands (leaves) can be for life and healing, as Jesus said in Mark 16:17-18-“And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

This supernatural living water brings life and healing to those who receive it.  It is for that reason, once the believer receives the living water of the Holy Spirit, they immediately become part of the distribution system to get it out to others.  They immediately want to tell others about Jesus, for it is by faith in Him one receives the living water along with all the other benefits of salvation.

The young couple on the hiking trip knew they needed water.  They knew they would die without it.  They had waited dangerously late to look for it.  Fortunately, someone who knew of the water led them to it, and even carried light into the darkness to help them secure it.  This is the story and the purpose of spreading the good news of the Gospel of Jesus to a lost and dying world.

We live in a dark time, full of dry and thirsty people.  Many are looking for something that will carry them through life, and into eternal life, but do not know where to look or how to find it.  Jesus is the answer.  When He comes, He brings forgiveness, salvation, and hope.  He also brings the Holy Spirit, the living water, to live in our hearts.  Our job is to then pass it on to others who are thirsty.

More on the incredible purpose and power of this living water will follow in    Part 2.

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 3 by Larry W. Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 3   by   Larry W. Peebles   May 19, 2017   17.18

When I think of great leaders I encountered over a 35 year business career, and those I still encounter today, I conclude there is no discussion on leadership without a discussion of character.  There is no shortage of information on the character traits of good leaders.  One can find numerous books and articles from business magazines, leadership centers, leadership coaches and trainers, and entrepreneur magazines on the essential character qualities of a good leader.  I had no trouble finding a number of such articles on the internet recently.  I reviewed them just to get the content freshly processed in my mind.  It is interesting that many of these articles include the same traits, and give them a similar ranking without really saying that they are ranked in order of importance.  In addition, some of the same traits are described differently.  For instance, are integrity, honesty and trustworthy different traits, or by definition is not an integrity-filled person also honest and trustworthy?

The word character comes from the Greek word “kharakter”, which is a stamping tool that leaves a distinctive mark.  No two people are alike, and no two leaders are the same– each is distinct.  Each leaves a mark or impression that is unique to that person.  From my experience, and from the material I reviewed (adjusted for terminology), here are perhaps the consensus top three leadership characteristics, presented with a Biblical perspective.

  1. Integrity—the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Synonyms include honesty, decency, fairness, sincerity, truthfulness, and trustworthiness, among others.  This suggests a person has a moral compass that does not waiver.  People want to be treated with integrity, and will follow a leader who demonstrates this skill.  Day after day, this person is trying to do the right thing for the right reasons for all involved.  It’s been called the Golden Rule.  Jesus expressed it in Matthew 7:12—“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Daniel comes to mind as the Biblical example, although there are certainly others.  Darius was King of Babylon where the Israelites were exiled.  He had been tricked into issuing a decree forbidding everyone from praying to any god other than the king.  His own staff had whispered and plotted in secret because they were jealous of Daniel.  They knew of the king’s plan to set Daniel over the whole kingdom, yet “they could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.”  (Daniel 6:4).  They knew Daniel prayed to the One True God three times a day, and knew they could trap Daniel if they could influence the king into signing such a decree.

Daniel knew of the decree, but continued to pray to God.  He was caught praying, arrested, and taken before the king.  The king favored Daniel, and knew he had been tricked by his own advisors—men with no integrity.  The law of the land was such that the king’s edicts could not be waived.  The king had no choice but to have Daniel put in a den of lions overnight.

After a sleepless night alone and worried about Daniel, the king hurried to the lions’ den early the next morning.  God had shut the lions’ mouths all night–Daniel was safe.  The king had his tricky advisors thrown into the den, along with their families, where they were immediately crushed by the lions.  He then decreed Daniel’s God was the True God to be worshipped throughout the land.

Daniel would not waiver from worshipping the True God, even when confronted with death.  He served the king with integrity, and certainly meant him no harm, but he could not rightly worship a man.  Both God and the king honored Daniel’s integrity.  The Bible says “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.” (Daniel 6:28).

“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort, choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy, and choosing to practice one’s values rather than simply professing them.”

“Speak with Honesty.  Think with sincerity.  Act with integrity.”  (Both are quotes from the public domain.)

 

  1. Confidence—the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust. Synonyms are trust, belief, faith, credence, and conviction, among others.  This suggests a person has or enjoys a state of feeling certain about the truth of something. It is distinguished from self-confidence when that someone or something relied upon is bigger than oneself.  When I have seen this trait come to the surface, it is invariably because the opposition is mounting up against the truth or the cause, yet the leader remains sure and is in command.  The three friends of Daniel–Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego–said when they were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace by the king for worshipping God and not the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” (Daniel 3:17.)  That is confidence in the face of danger.

The Pharisee Saul encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus in Acts 9.  The encounter opened his eyes to the reality of the Messiah.  He converted from a well-known persecutor of the Christian faith to perhaps its greatest proponent.  His life was never the same thereafter, as evidenced by his confidence in the Truth he had come to know.  He was also confident that he must spread the Truth, even as he then risked great persecution.  Though Hebrew and Jewish, he preached largely to the Gentiles, and thereafter preferred to be called by his Roman Gentile name-Paul.

In 2 Corinthians 4: 1 and 7, Paul writes—“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart…we have this treasure [Jesus Christ as Lord] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  [Insert mine from v. 5.]

Paul also wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12- “I know whom I have believed and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”  Paul was absolutely confident in what was revealed to him on that road to Damascus, and for the rest of his life could not keep silent about it, although it ultimately cost him his life.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”  Helen Keller.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”  Teddy Roosevelt.

 

  1. Commitment– the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause or activity. Synonyms are devotion, allegiance, loyalty, faithfulness, and fidelity, among others.  This cause or activity is larger than oneself, and the leader can see the outcome and the benefit.  He also knows the steps necessary to achieve the outcome.  When Moses was chosen to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, he knew the magnitude and the gravity of the situation.  He said- “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15).  Moses knew that he might be perceived as the leader by the people, but only God could truly lead such a freedom march from 400 years of captivity in the mightiest nation on the planet at the time.  Moses was committed to lead only if God was going with them on the journey to freedom.

Nehemiah was committed to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem.  Though he was called by God, and had the backing of Babylonian King Artaxerxes, he faced great opposition in returning from exile to rebuild the city walls in his homeland.  He was told the task was too great.  The locals accused him of rebelling against the king in order to set up his own kingdom.  He was told he did not have the skilled labor or the necessary materials to rebuild the walls.  His opposition spread rumors of impending attack, and threats against Nehemiah’s life.  Distractions were everywhere, yet Nehemiah refused to come down off the wall.  He would not let the distractions pull him away from the work to which he was committed.  He and his men worked with tools in one hand and weapons for protection in the other.  They worked with limited rest, water, food and changes of clothes.  Nehemiah said –“Don’t be afraid of them [the detractors].  Remember, the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your home.” (Nehemiah 4:14).  [Emphasis mine.]  As the leader, Nehemiah called to remembrance the great cause of rebuilding the walls around their ancient homeland city of Jerusalem for the glory of God.

“A committed, energetic, enthusiastic, and inspiring leader is more likely to have a cooperative, hardworking and victorious team.”  William C. Oakes, Christlike Leadership.

When one reflects on these top characteristics of a leader, considers the heroes of these Bible stories, and the truths reflected in these marvelous quotations, one concludes that perhaps the greatest leaders emerge when the circumstances are the direst.  The greatest power to lead comes from outside the leader, from a source bigger than the leader—it comes from God Himself.  As a final thought, consider this paragraph from Part 2 of Thoughts on Leadership–

WWII Fleet Admiral “Bull” Halsey, who led all the combined forces that held the island of Guadalcanal against Japanese invasion, said “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”  With all due respect to the late Admiral and to the Navy, I would modify that to say “God helps ordinary men deal with extraordinary circumstances.”  This is the most important key to leadership.

God is our ultimate source of integrity, confidence, and commitment.  He wrote the book on it!

 

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 2 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 2    by   Larry W Peebles   May 5, 2017   17.16

I often found myself in a leadership position in my business career that spanned 35 years.  I led small groups of 3-5 members at times, and large divisions of big companies with hundreds of people at other times.  I do not remember being specifically taught to rely upon the work of those under my charge, but I do remember having that philosophy early on.  Perhaps it was something I learned while working for my father and watching him supervise the efforts of others.  He managed a small but hard-working crew in a magazine shipment business.  He had other duties such as receiving magazine deliveries in bulk, payroll, and organizing the day’s activities.  When his work was done, he would jump in beside the workers in the crew and help them finish off the manual tasks involved with filling the daily magazine orders and getting them shipped out to retailers.

He not only led by example, he also relied upon the work of the crew members.  He led from the front, as opposed to barking orders and retiring to a desk somewhere.  If someone on the team was not carrying their load, they received special private coaching, which never took place in front of others.  He depended upon the crew to carry the load while he took care of his other management duties, but was not afraid to get his hands dirty and work hard to assist the crew to complete the day’s shipment goal.  He never took the credit, but his helping hand near the end of the day got the entire team over the finish line when it did not look like we would make the shipping quota.

He demonstrated the value of challenging a group with a quota to meet, complimenting and encouraging as their work progressed, and then stepping in as needed to ensure the success.  As I worked for my Dad, I remember feeling exhausted by the end of the day, but so fulfilled for having met the quota—something we did a high percentage of the time.

Let those in your charge do their work.  Let them know how much their efforts count, and are appreciated.  Let them run with their own ideas on ways to be more efficient and productive.  Rather than dictate how something should be done, I often found that it was better to ask the workers their ideas on the best way to do something or accomplish a goal.  Their idea might not be the way I would suggest.  I might provide some advice or refinement, but I essentially let them try their idea.  Often they would make their idea work just because it was their idea.

I learned that leadership is not about the leader.  The leader’s job is to make it all about the members of the team being led.  Give them a chance to do their job.  Help out those who may be struggling, and be sure the team secures the victory.  But above all, stay in the background.  Remain humble, and consistently let the others take the credit.

My leadership tips may seem foreign, but consider these two Biblical examples of leaders chosen not by their resume of accomplishments, or assertive personality, but by God:

  1. Moses (Genesis Chapters 2, 4)- Moses was raised and educated in Pharaoh’s house; however, he did not receive his call to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt until he had completed years of tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness. When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, He told him He would send him to Pharaoh and that he was to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’”  This reluctance was followed with a question regarding what he should tell the people if they asked who sent him (or what authority had been given him?).  Moses tried to dodge the role of leader when he asked God “What if they do not believe me” (that I have been sent by God)?  He then pointed out to God that he was not qualified by virtue of being “slow of speech and tongue”.  Finally, he outright asked God to “send someone else”.  All of this would not be the normal progression of an interview for a leadership position.

We know the rest of the story.  With God’s help, Moses led an entire nation into freedom from Egypt, the most powerful nation on the earth at that time. The Bible tells us Moses grew so very close to God that they talked as friends, and God Himself buried Moses upon his death.  Moses was so greatly regarded by God that he appeared with Jesus at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).  There is no one better to qualify a person for leadership than God, and no leadership should be undertaken without prayer and submission to the call to God.

  1. Gideon (Judges Chapters 6, 7) – The Midianites for several years had overpowered the Israelites and destroyed/confiscated their crops. The Israelites had resorted to dwelling in caves to hide themselves.  Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites when the Lord appeared to him and called him “Mighty Warrior”.  He told Gideon to “Go in the strength you have and save Israel.  Am I not sending you?”  Similar to Moses, Gideon began to pour forth his excuses as to why he could not lead the people against the Midianites.  Gideon considered his clan “the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least of my family.”  He did not see in himself the leadership God saw in him.  Gideon asked for a sign that it was God asking him to lead.  His offering of bread and meat was consumed by fire.  He asked for another sign — dew on the wool fleece while the ground was dry.  When that was done, he asked for the reverse sign—dew on the ground while the wool fleece was dry.  That night God did as Gideon asked.

The Spirit of God then came upon Gideon and he summoned an army from Israel.  God thought the initial army of 32,000 was too large.  When offered the chance to opt out, 22,000 went home.  Then a test of how the remaining men lapped water to drink with their hand while on alert (instead of kneeling and putting their face in the water) reduced the force to 300 men.  When God calls one into leadership, it is never about the size of the army or the resources.  The three hundred were divided into three companies, and Gideon led one of the companies.  All three companies followed God’s direction, and the Midianites were routed in the night.  Gideon’s army appeared to be mighty and great in number when they blew trumpets and smashed jars to reveal hundreds of lights in the jars.  The panicked Midianites turned the sword on each other in the dark and noise and confusion, resulting in their own defeat.  If leadership is in touch with God, His strategy will result in victory, with little effort on their part.

Prayer is a key component of leadership.  When God qualifies one for leadership, even a reluctant leader, victory is assured.  One of the men I respected most as a leader was the late Bishop Kimaro of the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church.  He identified and trained many new pastors.  He championed church planting and growth.  He never refused help to those in need.  He was Bishop over more than 200 churches, yet pastored his own church.  He built a complete PEFA training facility for the Mt. Kenya region near his hometown.  He was a tireless worker, stretched thin in his responsibilities, but took time to buy food for the street kids.  When asked how he was so effective in his leadership, and how he got so much done, he quickly responded that it was so easy—he simply said “It’s the Holy Spirit.”  As a last bit of advice on leadership, let’s draw from that example.  A leader does not have to have all the credentials and answers.  If they are called by God to the role of leadership, they know where to go for resources and help.

WWII Fleet Admiral “Bull” Halsey, who led all the combined forces that held the island of Guadalcanal against Japanese invasion, said “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”  With all due respect to the late Admiral and to the Navy, I would modify that to say “God helps ordinary men deal with extraordinary circumstances.”  This is the most important key to leadership.

 

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 1 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 1   by   Larry W Peebles  April 21, 2017   17.14

This might just be my dream job.  I was invited to interview for a major leadership position with a big company in our local area with a great brand name.  This was a successful company with an image to match.  They were looking for a company president to take them to another level.  I went through a high level interview, with all the appropriate tests and interview strategies, conducted over several sessions.  In one of the sessions I was asked to name a favorite book or a book that I had read recently.  I replied “the Bible”.  This caused an awkward moment for the interviewer, as if that was an unusual or inappropriate answer.  I think the follow up question to my answer was “Why”?  I gave a short but accurate response and we moved on to the next question.  Instead of my answer being considered a strong answer, I had the impression it was deemed something they might be able to overlook or work around.

I was offered that job, but after praying, I felt I should decline.  God ultimately had something even better in mind.  Thinking back on it, I do not believe I could have been happy in a company that never saw themselves intentionally aligned with Biblical principles, or had no appreciation for or understanding of anyone who was seeking Biblical wisdom and guidance.

I have been fortunate to have many men in my life that I respected and considered to be leaders—even great leaders.  As I think of these men, I realize styles of leadership vary.  My dad, my father-in-law, my two brothers, a coach, and a few pastors and friends are certainly on the short list of leaders that impacted my life.  However, for purposes of this article, I will use my grandpa as an example of a great leader.  I loved my grandpa, and the older I get, the more I remember from what he taught me.  I do not write this to glorify my grandpa, although I adored him and think of him often.  He led by example more than by what he said.  Much of what he demonstrated I did not grasp until years later.  There is no better legacy than to have your example endorsed by the Bible.

Let’s start with this familiar principle–we reap what we sow.  I can remember when I was a small boy I found my grandpa alone in the barn, combing through the ears of corn, hand sorting each one.  Everyone else was in the yard starting to celebrate finishing the harvest of the corn crop.  Good ears went in one pile, bad ears that were only partially developed, or that had sections of brown or black kernels went in another.  The bad ears would be used for hog or cow feed.  Grandpa was really looking for the outstanding ears—the ones that were big, perfectly developed, with rich golden kernels.  Grandma’s fried chicken at the celebration would have to wait until he had finished searching for the perfect ears of corn.

When he found one of those golden perfect ears, it went in yet another pile in the corner of the barn.  After those ears dried, they would be run through a special machine that picked the kernels off the cob, where they fell down a chute into a seed bag.  The seed bag would be sewn shut, and the seed stored until the next planting season.

Without his ever saying a word, my grandfather taught me a valuable lesson.  If one wants to produce a field of big, beautiful golden corn, one must have the discipline to start with the best seed.  Seed selected from the partially developed ears with black kernels would produce more of that same poor quality corn.  The poor corn should be fed to the animals.  Similarly, the seed from the average corn would produce more average corn.   This corn could be sold or eaten.  The very best corn had only one purpose.  It was not to be eaten, not even at the celebration with friends and neighbors who helped bring in the crop.  The very best corn needed to be his seed for the next planting.  Similarly, the best results require the best effort.  If we expect to be treated well, we must treat others well.  Loving others is the best way to receive love in our lives.

The Bible says it this way.  “Be not deceived: God is not mocked; for whatever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap.”  Galatians 6: 7.  Whatever one plants determines his harvest.  My grandpa provided a graphic illustration of this Biblical truth I shall never forget.  Consider these additional examples that reveal great leadership:

  1. He worked hard, dawn to dusk, and he was not afraid to do things that were hard. There were fields to plow, livestock to feed, barns and fences to build or paint, and lots of children and grandchildren that needed attention.  Colossians 3:23- “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”  Proverbs 16:3- “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”  Proverbs 14:23- “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”  Isaiah 41:10—“Fear not, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
  2. He did not work on Sunday. Exodus 20:10- “But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God: in it you shall not do any work, not you, nor your son, nor your daughter, your manservant, nor your maidservant, nor your cattle, nor any stranger that is within your gates.”  Sunday morning was for church, and Sunday afternoon was for the large family gathering at the farm for fellowship, a light evening meal, or perhaps homemade ice cream.
  3. Grandpa not only rested himself, he rested the land. He lived his whole life on his farm.  He was born there, and he died there.  He was a successful farmer, married over 50 years to one wife, and raised six children through two world wars and the Great Depression.  Under all that pressure, he never over-worked the land.  He also never used fertilizer on his crops.  He plowed the stubble back into the field after the last crop, and let it decay naturally back into the soil.  Certain crops were planted that had no value except to rejuvenate the soil, and crops were rotated through different fields.  On a rotating schedule, he also rested a field so it could refresh itself.  Leviticus 25:4- “During the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath rest to the Lord; you shall not sow [plant] your field nor prune your vineyard.”
  4. Grandpa left an inheritance. He left a book full of fond memories, an example of a life well lived, and a monetary inheritance.  Although he only completed formal education through the third grade, he ultimately owned two farms, and a number of rental homes and commercial buildings.  He was decisive with the investments he made with the money he had received as a blessing from God.  When he died, my dad and mom (his daughter) were able to pay cash for a modest home from the inheritance.  When my dad and mom passed, my portion of the proceeds of the sale of that house went to my children, or grandpa’s great grandchildren.  Proverbs 13: 22- “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.”
  5. Grandpa was a willing lender/giver to those in need. He loaned money to my older brother to finish college.  He gave me and my wife an envelope full of cash on our wedding day, which took a great deal of financial strain off our plans for the honeymoon.  Grandpa had no debt, and he never had a credit card; he paid cash for everything.  One of the blessings the Lord promised Israel in return for following and obeying Him is found in Deuteronomy 28: 12- “You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.”
  6. He cared for the widow. I went with him and watched him care for his mother and my grandma’s mother (both my great grandmothers) after they became widows.  He would visit them often, make sure they had food to eat, check on their health, and keep up the maintenance on their homes.  James 1:27 says- “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”  I watched him care for his wife (my grandma) when she had a stroke and went into the nursing home.  As busy as he was, he always had time for others and their needs.  This experience helped me as I cared for my parents in their later years.
  7. He helped his family and neighbors. He could repair almost anything.  He painted my first car, put new brakes on my cousin’s first car, and helped my dad keep our family car running.  If he was not repairing his own farm equipment, he was off helping a neighbor repair theirs, or helping them bring in a crop.  Hebrews 6:10- “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”
  8. He loved to laugh. He had a certain enthusiasm for life.  Many of his children, my aunts and uncles, carried on that trait.  They were the generation that courageously carried the burden of WWII, but when the war was over, they came home, rebuilt their lives, moved forward, and learned to laugh again.  They never allowed their situation or their circumstances to diminish their joy or hope.  Psalm 126: 2-3– “Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.  Then it was said among the nations, The Lord has done great things for them.  The Lord has done great things for us, and we were filled with joy.”

He never used tobacco products, and the only alcohol I saw him drink was a little brandy he made himself from peaches he grew on his farm.  These are just some of the leadership examples my grandpa left for me, all Bible based.  Enthusiasm, courage, discipline, and decisiveness are some of the traits of a leader I saw in my grandpa.  I’m sure Grandpa was not perfect, and maybe these are the things I choose to remember about him.  But the examples I remember out of the shadow he chose to cast helped me as I grew older.

Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples and a leader in the early church.  His shadow healed the sick as he walked by.  (Acts 5:15).  We all cast a shadow as we walk through life.  My prayer is that my shadow is helpful to others, not harmful.  My prayer is that I can be a positive influence on my wife, children and grandchildren.  My prayer is that I can lead by example, and demonstrate an inner Biblical compass that points to Jesus.

Repair or Replace by Larry W Peebles

Repair or Replace   by   Larry W Peebles   April 7, 2017   17.12

The food in the refrigerator was ruined.  I knew it as soon as I opened the freezer compartment to retrieve some ice.  The ice in the freezer had melted, and the water that resulted had mixed with the liquids from the other defrosted foods to form a sticky slime that filled the bottom to over flowing.  The temperature in the freezer was tropical warm.  The meats were ruined, along with all the packages of peaches my wife and I had peeled and put away from the summer crop.  There would be no fresh peach cobbler until next summer.  From the looks of things, the freezer had stopped cooling some time ago.

Fortunately this was not the main kitchen refrigerator, and the loss from the refrigerator compartment below the freezer was minimal.  This was a back-up refrigerator in the downstairs kitchenette off the game room.  It did a good job of producing ice.  We used it for over flow, and to store freezer items we do not use every day, such as the peaches.  Since it was not in use daily, some time had passed since it was last opened.  There was nothing to do immediately except throw out the spoiled items and clean up the mess.  Once that was done, I could begin the process of analyzing why it had failed, and make the decision to repair it or replace it with a new refrigerator.

There are some things I can fix, and enjoy doing it, but a refrigerator is not one of them.  I decided it was time to call in the experts.  In a few days, the local appliance repairman had performed his inspection and found the problem.  The electronic mother-board (or “brains”) of the refrigerator had failed, and would need to be replaced.  My cost to repair would be the charge for the first service call, plus the cost of the part including installation. The part would have to be ordered.  While this was no small expense, it was a lot better than the cost of a new refrigerator.  In addition, I was not eager to move the old refrigerator upstairs, and deliver a new one downstairs.  In this case, a repair was clearly the better way to solve the problem, and the refrigerator works well to this day.

The question of whether to repair or replace something comes up often.  It always depends on the exact part that is broken, the availability of a replacement part, and whether the owner can repair it themselves, which will save on labor costs. The decision could involve a car repair, a computer, or something in the house such as an air conditioner, TV, or a vacuum.  Sometimes the cost of the repair is so high it approaches or exceeds the cost of a new item.  Sometimes the age of the item is such that additional repairs might well be expected, and the smarter move is to replace it now rather than to continue to invest in repairs.

When a person makes the decision to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, it is often because something in their life is broken, missing, or not working as it should.  Perhaps there is an addiction to something they cannot shake or control, or there is something that happened to them in the past that they cannot change. It might be a damaged relationship, or any of a number of other possibilities.  They may have tried to fix it themselves, but had no success.  Frustration may have led to actions that made the matter worse.  Out of desperation, the decision is made to turn it over to someone with the expertise to fix the problem–God.  Who better to get to fix the problem of a broken heart, a ruined life, or a crushed spirit than the one who created it?

When God comes into the broken situation, there is never the question of whether to repair or replace.  There is no budget or cost constraints.  Economics is never the issue.  There is no need for salvage or refurbished parts.  He does everything new, and He does it right.  Consider these ten things that become “new” when we invite Jesus into our lives to take control, and to correct the problems.

  1. We become a new man, or “born again”. As Jesus explained to Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council (John 3:1-21), we are born again spiritually when we come to Jesus, believe in Him, submit to His Lordship, and let His spirit dwell in our hearts.  We enter into His kingdom with new life, new light, new truth, and new hope in life eternal.  2 Corinthians 5: 17 -“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
  2. We receive a new heart and spirit. Ezekiel 36: 26, 28—“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh.  You will be my people, and I will be your God.”  When we follow the One True God, we have a leader we can follow whole-heartedly.
  3. We receive a new container for this new spirit. The Bible refers to this as a new wineskin.  Matthew 9: 17 says—“Neither do men pour new wine [new spirit] into old wineskins.  If they do, the skins will burst, the wines will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” [Insert mine.]  God thinks of everything; there is no sense in pouring a new person into the old form of life.
  4. We start fresh on a new day. Lamentations 3: 22-23- “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  God’s mercies are new and fresh every day.
  5. We start a new life. In Romans 6: 1-4, we read in part, “We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer…just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”  We take our past to the grave, and rise again with Christ in a new life.
  6. We receive a new covenant promise from God. “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15).  Again, when we follow the One True God, we have a promise we can rely upon.
  7. We receive a new name or identity. At turning points in their lives, Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel, and Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul.  Revelation 2:17- “To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna.  I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”  To God, names are important, as they give clues to the character, purpose or destiny of a person.  We know the name we were given by our parents at birth.  How much better it is to know the name God has given us as a result of our new birth.
  8. We receive a new tongue or language. This language becomes a direct and effective way to communicate (pray) with God.  While some controversy exists in the church today over this gift of tongues, the Bible is actually quite clear on the matter.  Acts Chapter 2 tells the story of the Day of Pentecost, as was foretold by the prophet Joel in Joel Chapter 2: 28-32.  Jesus spoke of the “new tongues” in Mark 16: 17-18 as just one of the new “signs” which would accompany those who believe.  I myself have experienced the new tongue.  I consider it a prayer language I use it to pray fervently, especially in complicated and overwhelming situations when I do not know exactly how or what to pray.  I think of it as praying directly through a powerful interpreter (Holy Spirit), who makes my translated prayer known before the throne of God.
  9. He makes all things new. God has no limitation on what He can do.  He is able to turn around any situation, and remove every obstacle.  He can even work unfortunate things in the past into our current and future good.  Isaiah 43:18-19—“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  He can bring water to dry desert, and cause wasteland to flourish.  Nothing is too difficult for Him.
  10. He will one day establish a new heaven and a new earth. In the Book of Revelation, John records seeing a new heaven and a new earth.  Chapter 21: 1-3—“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”   This is the ultimate fulfillment of the verses in 2 and 9 above. He will continue to live in the hearts of men I suppose, but the time is coming when He literally will once again walk and live among men, just as He did originally with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, when everything was new.

This list is not intended to be exhaustive.  It is intended to encourage us to believe that when our lives have become unbearable because something is broken and not working well, God promises more than a repair of what has been damaged.  He has the unlimited power and resources to completely replace the problem with new components.  He does so much more than put a patch on the old problem and hope it holds for a while.  When a ruined life or a broken heart is involved, instead of continuing to ignore the problem and hoping it will get better, or trying to fix it ourselves, we need to turn back to God and ask for Jesus to take over in our lives.  He makes everything new.

 

 

Strength Never Comes Easy by Larry W Peebles

Strength Never Comes Easy   by   Larry W. Peebles   March 24, 2017   17.10

In 1973, America fell in love with a race horse.  That was the year Secretariat, Horse of the Year in 1972 as a two-year old, won the Triple Crown of racing.  He was the first Crown winner in twenty-five years, and made the cover of Time Magazine, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated along the way.

He did not just win—he dominated the Triple Crown.  The Kentucky Derby was the first race of the Triple Crown.  He ran a record time for the 1 ¼ mile race at Churchill Downs that still stands today.  Each quarter mile was faster than the previous, meaning the horse was still accelerating at the finish line.   He then ran a record 1 1/8 miles at the Preakness, although that record was not established until 2012 when forensics settled the controversy caused by a clock malfunction on race day.  At the Belmont Stakes, the final leg, he set not only a Belmont record for 1 ½ miles, but also an American record for 1 ½ miles on a dirt track.  His margin of victory, 31 lengths, was also a record.  Each race of the Triple Crown drew record crowds, and the televised Belmont Stakes drew a 52% market share. He set a world record for 1 1/8 miles at the Marlboro Cup that same year, and tied the track record for 1 mile at the Gotham Stakes.  He was voted the Horse of the Year again in 1973.

The strength of this unique horse was evident when he stood at 45 minutes following birth, and nursed at one hour fifteen minutes after birth.  Secretariat was described as a massive, powerful horse—well-balanced, with a nearly perfect shape and stride.  Bio-mechanically speaking, he was a machine with a large chest, large heart (estimated at 22 pounds at death), and well-muscled hind quarters.  His hind legs reached well under himself as he ran, with great drive and a stride measured at 24’ 11”.  He had a tremendous appetite, 15 quarts of oats per day, and only his heavy speed workouts kept the food from turning to fat.  His trainer often opted for training versus rest between big races because of the horse’s great energy.  He was concerned the horse would hurt himself banging against the stable walls if he did not get out and run.  Secretariat’s eagerness to train, coupled with his strength from birth, destined this horse for greatness.

A gifted champion like Secretariat does not come along all that often.  Some would say this was the greatest thoroughbred of all time.  In the one hundred forty one year history of the Triple Crown races, there have been only twelve winners.  Oddly, Seattle Slew won the Triple Crown four years after Secretariat in 1977, followed by Affirmed in 1978.  Then there would not be another winner for thirty-seven years, until American Pharoah won in 2015.  He was one of 23,500 new thoroughbreds registered in North America the year of his birth.

Why all this attention on a horse in a Christian article?  Because there is a life lesson we can learn.  Like horses, most people are not gifted from birth with great physical, mental or spiritual strength.  Our strength is developed over time, by trial, and does not come easily.  Most people are not eager to train themselves for strength.  Motion through resistance to gravity in the form of weights increases physical strength, while overcoming opposition increases mental and spiritual strength.

With regard to spiritual strength, the Bible is clear on two points:

First, our loving Father God allows us to be exposed to circumstances involving opposition or resistance in order that we strain and struggle to overcome.  In the process, we grow stronger.  The Bible calls it many things, such as discipline, testing or trials.  We might call it training.  He does it because He loves us, and knows what we need to grow to full spiritual strength and maturity.  Consider these five verses:

  1. Hebrews 12: 5-11- “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.  For what son is not disciplined by his father?  If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it.  How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!  Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  This scripture is clear that the discipline arises naturally out of a loving Father/son/daughter relationship.  However, adding strength-getting stronger-never comes easy.
  2. Hebrews 3: 8- “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.” We must not rebel and become angry and hard of heart during discipline, lest we miss the training opportunity.  Continued rebellion might lead to our falling away from God, so there is a very real danger here.  This does not mean we cannot eventually come back to God, but I have known many who paid a dear price while drifting so far away.
  3. James 1: 2-4- “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
  4. Proverbs 17: 3- “The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” There is a process for refining silver and gold, but God refines (tests, strengthens) our heart because, as stated elsewhere in Scripture, even a man’s heart will deceive him, until it is pure and refined before the Lord.
  5. Isaiah 48: 10-11- “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, I do this.  How can I let myself be defamed?”  God is interested in the proper development of our character because we carry His name and are created in His image.  We have a certain responsibility to carry the family name well.

The second point the Bible clearly establishes is that during the testing or training process, God is with us and supplies the necessary increase in strength to pass the test.  He wants us to succeed.  The Bible is filled with verses and stories to support this statement.  Now consider these five verses:

  1. Colossians 1: 11-14 “…being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves [Jesus], in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
  2. Hebrews 12: 2- “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” God set joy before Jesus so that He would have the strength to endure the cross.
  3. Nehemiah 8: 10- “Do not grieve, the joy of the Lord is your strength.” This indicates that I do not have to merely survive the trial and training—I can have joy the whole time, and the joy of the Lord is my source of strength.
  4. 2 Samuel 22: 33-35- “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.  He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”
  5. Isaiah 40: 31- “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

The quote “Fatigue makes cowards of us all” is attributed to WWII General George Patton, but has also been made famous by the late legendary football coach Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers. Fear comes from a lack (or perceived lack) of superior strength or weapons, lack of help or allies, or lack of position relative to the opposition.  God tells us over and over again in His word that we are not to be afraid.

It is popular these days to put ourselves in the hands of a trainer, a personal trainer, or a life coach.  Why not ask and then trust God to train us?  Why not willingly (joyfully) put ourselves in His hands, and let Him test and condition us so that we have the strength and confidence for what lies ahead?  He is the only one who knows the exact training and schedule we will need to prevail victorious over the oncoming opposition.  Psalm 147: 10 says- “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of a man; the Lord delights in those who fear [reverently respect] Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.” [Insert mine.]  When our love for and trust in Him is well placed, we can say “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”  (Psalm 144: 1).  It may not be easy, but may God train us to be champions for Christ.

 

God’s Not Sneaky by Larry W Peebles

God’s Not Sneaky   by   Larry W. Peebles   March 10, 2017   17.08

We were snowed-in for the weekend.  Our daughter, her husband, and three children had come to the mountains to visit my wife and me in hopes of catching some predicted snow.  We were all hoping for enough snowfall for a good play day.  Shortly after they arrived on Friday night, right on cue, it began to snow.  By Saturday morning, 3 inches had accumulated, enough to spend the day outdoors sledding, hiking, and building a snowman. It was truly a great family day.

By Sunday morning the snow that melted Saturday had turned to ice overnight, leaving a mixture of snow and ice on the slippery mountain roads.  In town, ice had blanketed the church parking lot, and services were cancelled.  We would have to conduct our own worship service right here in our home on the side of a mountain.  Our daughter’s oldest son and I played some worship songs on our guitars, and everyone joined in the singing.  Then I spoke to all the grandchildren about how the snow and ice had changed the mountain.  The snow and water had seeped into cracks in the rocks, frozen and expanded, and had popped off the face of some of the rock.  I suggested they might see evidence of that when they were able to drive home later in the day.  It might be small signs of a mountain changing, but over long periods of time, this is how mountains erode and become smaller.

I went on to tell them that even if the mountains change, God does not change.  He promised in His word that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  I asked them to name some things they knew about God that do not change.  My granddaughter said His love for us does not change—He always loves us.  The older grandson said His power does not change—He is the most powerful force in the universe, and can do anything.  Then the youngest grandson, age 5, said something very profound.  He said “God’s not sneaky.”  He never tricks us.  Being the youngest, his brother and sister may play tricks on him, and maybe I joke around and tease with him more than I should, but God does not.

Let’s study what came from this young boy’s mind and heart.  As I think about God’s not being “sneaky”, I can easily find these three characteristics of God that make Him “not sneaky”.  There are more, to be sure, but these came rather easily.

He is always truthful.

God is so full of truth that He only tells the truth.  He cannot lie.  John 1:14 says Jesus was “the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  In fact, Jesus was not just full of truth, He is the truth.  Truth is not a philosophical concept, it is the very person of Jesus.  In John 14:6, Jesus answered “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one goes to the Father except through me.”  Jesus admonished His followers to “let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘no’ [be] ‘no’”.  Matthew 5:37.  We are to be truthful so that others can count on our word, just as we count on, depend upon, and trust in God’s word.  We find in Scripture seven things that are detestable to God (Proverbs 6:16-19)—two of these are “a lying tongue”, and “a false witness who pours out lies”.  Both of these are “sneaky.”  When we are not truthful, we are not only disappointing God, we are moving toward becoming like the devil.  Scripture says he “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.” (John 8:44).  It would be hard to make it any plainer than that.  Just as Jesus can only speak the truth, the devil can only speak lies.  We want our native tongue, our heart language, to be the truth.  In this way, we operate in the image of God, our Creator.

There is another simple explanation as to why God cannot lie.  It is because of the creative power of His words.  In Genesis we understand that all creation came into being (from nothing) when “God said”.  When He said “let there be light”, there was light.  He spoke creation into being.  If He said one’s hand was green, would that be a lie?  No, because when He said it, the hand would become green.  He cannot lie.  When He says it, it is.  What He says manifests.

He always does what He says He will do.

In Genesis 18:14, God promised Sarah, age eighty-nine, a son—“Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.”  Abraham, her husband was already ninety-nine when the promise was given.  A year later, Isaac was born to this couple, who from a reproductive standpoint, were already thought to be dead in their bodies.  (Genesis 21:1).  Not only can God do what He wants, He does what He says.  Numbers 23:19 says—“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?”  Psalm 89: 8 and 34 taken together read—“O Lord God Almighty, who is like you?  You are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.  You will not violate your covenant, or alter what your lips have uttered.”  Then Isaiah 55:11 says—“My word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return to me empty [void, powerless], but will accomplish what I desire, and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”  [Insert mine.]

He is not a God of empty promises.  When we want to reinforce a promise, we might say “I give my word.”  Jesus is the Word of God. (John 1:1).  When God gives a promise, He has already given His Son.  In Psalm 138:2, we see that God places such a high importance on His word (doing what He says He will do), that He places His word above His name.  His word is magnified in importance above His name.  Without the integrity of His word, He does not have a name.  It should be no different for us.  We make a name for ourselves with the integrity of our word.  If we say it, we must do it.

His plan is always for our good.

When my wife and I started our juvenile justice ministry, which lasted for fifteen years, we asked God what He wanted us to tell the young people held in maximum security in the juvenile justice system.  We felt strongly we were to tell them two things.  First, God loves them no matter what they had done to break the law.  Second, God still had a good plan for their lives.  Those two simple statements guided our messages and prayers for the young people as we visited them on a weekly basis over the years.  God is a good and loving God, and His unwavering intentions and plan for our lives is good.  Jesus provided another sharp contrast between His purpose and that of the devil in John 10:10—“The thief [devil] comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  [Insert mine.]  Jesus came that we might have full, abundant life.  Jeremiah 29:11 says—“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and to not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  The devil wants to harm; God’s plan is for a life full of hope for the future.  As He says in 2 Chronicles, He is always looking for ways to help strengthen His children in whatever they face—“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (16:9). His plan is not that we would come up short, give up and fail.  His plan is that we would succeed and accomplish every good purpose for which we were uniquely created-that we would reach our God-given destiny.

So out of the mouth of a child comes this truth: God is not sneaky.  Indeed, He always speaks the truth, He always does what He says He will do, and He always plans for our good.  There is nothing sneaky about it- we can depend on that.  We should aim for no less from ourselves.