I AM, Part 6 Larry W Peebles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I AM, Part 5 by Larry W. Peebles

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

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

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

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

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

I AM before Abraham was-

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

It is I AM; do not be afraid-

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

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

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

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

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

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

I AM, Part 4 by Larry W Peebles

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

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

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

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

I AM the Root and Offspring of David-

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

 

I AM the bright Morning Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I AM, Part 3 by Larry W Peebles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Standing Out In A Crowd by Larry W Peebles

Standing Out In A Crowd   by   Larry W Peebles   September 22, 2017   17.36

I had a feeling he was the one when I saw him standing across the street.  He was tall, distinguished looking, and well dressed.  He could hardly hold back the tears.  In a moment, we would know for certain.  My wife and I were on the final afternoon of three days of street evangelism meetings in a small town in Kenya.  Along with our Kenyan friends, the pastor and worship team from a local church, we had set up on the street corner of a busy transportation station, where taxis (14 passenger vans) were coming and going, moving people from one place to another.  These taxis are the principal means of transportation in this part of Kenya.  Cars are expensive, so if it is too far to walk, people use these taxis.    The traffic in and out of this transfer station is quite busy.  The locals had set up a market here also, selling snacks, drinks, fruit and other merchandise to the travelers coming through.  So it was on this street corner out in the open air we had been preaching the good news of the Gospel of Jesus for three days.

Each day we had drawn a crowd bigger than the day before.  The travelers coming and going, as well as the locals working the booths in the market would stop and listen to the message.  They would join the dancing and singing to the lively worship music.  My wife and I both spoke that last afternoon, and our messages were connected.  The messages were similar in theme not because we had planned it that way, as neither of us knew in advance what the other would say.  The messages were similar because God intended it that way.  He often does that when we both speak in a ministry setting.

I spoke from John 14:6, where Jesus says He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”  I was reminding the crowd that when Jesus comes into a new believer’s heart as Savior, He brings real life and truth, and reveals the direction and purpose for that life.  That was when I heard the Lord say He does not come for the crowd, but always for the individual.  The size of the crowd does not matter.  When He looks at the crowd, he sees only the individual.  What I heard in my spiritual ear was so strong I spoke it aloud to the crowd.  I announced that Jesus Himself would be walking into our gathering to receive one soul into His salvation.  At least one person within the sound of my voice would make the decision this very afternoon to invite Jesus into his heart and life to be Savior, Lord, and King.

When we had both finished our messages to the people, we turned the meeting over to the local pastor.  He summarized beautifully, asking if anyone present wished to give their life to Jesus, and begin a new life by making a decision to follow Him.   That was when I saw the one man standing across the street.  He stood out, although he was in the crowd.  His lower lip trembled as he fought back the tears.  When the pastor asked anyone who wanted to make such a decision to step forward, the man broke immediately from the crowd to cross the street.  A large crowd followed.  This man received his salvation, and many others were also saved or touched through prayer.

In my last position before I retired from a career in homebuilding, I was responsible for the entire operation of a Division of a large national homebuilding Company.  One year, that Division delivered 2850 homes in the local market.  That works out as an average of 11 homes per work day that were started, constructed, finished, sold and closed.  Someone asked how we could have possibly built, sold and closed 2850 homes in one year.  My response was quick- one home, one customer at a time.

Jesus works the same way.  He is the Savior of the world.  All of mankind will forever owe a debt of gratitude to Him for His saving work on the cross.  Our very eternal existence with Him in heaven is because He came to earth to pay the price for ours sins so that we can be reconciled to God.  However, He works that salvation one person at a time.  I have seen video of massive meetings in Africa where the crowd, numbered in the millions, came to hear the message of Jesus.  The number of people who came forward to receive salvation was in the hundreds of thousands.  Jesus did not respond to the millions or the hundreds of thousands.  He met each one individually, just as He came for that one man that afternoon in a small town in Kenya.

The man looked healthy and strong, but the tears on his face said his heart was broken.  I do not know if his tears were joy or pain or both.  I do not know his past, or his present situation.  I do know that in that moment of salvation the sins of his past were forgiven and washed away.  The man was given a new life, a second chance, literally a new birth.  Hope and help became available.  The burden of having to carry the weight of one’s own trouble was lifted, and great joy entered into the situation.  Each situation and individual is different, and that is the reason Jesus comes for one person at a time.

Some would say that receiving the initial gift of salvation is only a starting point, and that is true, but it is an important starting point.  Every journey begins with that all- important first step.  There may be memories to deal with, forgiveness to seek from others, and efforts made to break bad habits and behaviors.  Mentoring and study in the word of God will help strengthen the resolve to not go back to old ways.  Prayer will need to become a habit, like talking with a good friend.  Each person is unique, and each salvation experience is unique.  That is why Jesus comes to one at a time to receive His specially created child back home.

On this day, it was more than enough to celebrate one man being born again into a new life of following Jesus.  While much can be said about the process of salvation, here are five things to remember about what commonly happens when a life is turned over to Jesus:

  1. We are a new creation. When Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are born again.  2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!”
  2. We are free from past sins. Romans 8:2- “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”  The Bible says our sins are removed from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
  3. We are redeemed and forgiven. Ephesians 1:7- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
  4. We are not only free from sin, we are made righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
  5. We are alive in Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5- “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”  What we formerly considered living was merely the dead walking.  We move from being dead in sin to a new life in Christ.

Not only did the one man stand out in the crowd, but according to Luke 15:7, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”  All of heaven danced and celebrated to the music along with us because of that one man’s decision that day in a small town in Kenya.  Something outstanding happened- a man’s life was changed forever.  That, my friends, is priceless.

Who Am I by Larry W Peebles

Who Am I   by   Larry W Peebles   September 8, 2017   17.34

This is not a riddle.  It is a simple but profound question.  In the “I AM” series, Parts 1 and 2 (July 28 and August 11 in the archives of this website), Jesus answered the question of who He eternally was/is/will be.  He did it without presenting a resume of His name, address, and contact information.  He offered no background information such as education or job related experience.  He did not submit information on past positions and titles held.  There was no offer of character references for anyone to check.  Better than any resume could, He answered any and all questions concerning His true identity in the seven I AM statements recorded in the Book of John.

The beauty of what He said not only successfully and completely told who He was, it also answered a number of other questions that mankind has debated since creation.  These are deep and thought-provoking questions such as “What is truth?”, “What is the purpose of life?”, “Why do I exist?”, and “Is there life after death?”  When Jesus spoke the seven I AM statements, he identified Himself and answered all these questions with such wisdom that a resume could have never explained.

Another of those age-old questions is the question of “Who am I?” Just as Jesus answered the question of who He is, so God also tells us who we are.  We can set aside the normal resume-type questions of where we were born, current address and contact info, education, accomplishments or job experience, hobbies, and goals and plans.  We will not need personality or intelligence tests.  To know the answer to the question “Who am I?”, we should go to the real authority.  We should turn to words spoken by God, as contained in His written word, as His words have power.  Let’s consult with the One who made us to see what He said about us.

I have chosen twenty topics where God has spoken about us.  The list is by no means exhaustive.  These Scriptures are worth reading over and over again until our minds and spirits are renewed with what He says about us as believers.  We must drive out of our minds what others have said, together with what we may have begun to believe about ourselves.

1. God is our loving Father. Matthew 6:26- “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much better than they?”  Jesus said in John 16:27-28- “No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and believed that I came from God.”  I John 4:8- “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  Then consider Romans 8: 15- “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out ‘Abba (Daddy) Father’”.
2. God loves me. Romans 5:8- “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
3. We can come boldly and confidently to our Father through our faith in Christ. Ephesians 3:12.
4. We are God’s children. John 1:12- “Yet to all who did receive Him (Jesus), to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
5. If we are children, then we are also heirs. Romans 8:17- “Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”  Also, Galatians 4:7- “So you are no longer a slave (to sin), but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
6. Jesus calls us friend. John 15:15- “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I call you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I Have made known to you.”
7. We are the temple of God. He lives in us.  1 Corinthians 6:19- “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
8. We are a new creation. When Jesus becomes the Lord and Savior of our lives, we are born again.  2 Corinthians 5:17- “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come.  The old has gone, the new is here!”
9. I am free from my past sins. Romans 8:2- “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”
10. I am redeemed and forgiven. Ephesians 1:7- “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
11. I am not only free from sin, I am made righteous. 2 Corinthians 5:21- “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
12. I am alive in Christ. Ephesians 2:4-5- “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.”
13. I can be triumphant. 2 Corinthians 2:14- “Now thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere.”
14. I am more than a conqueror. Romans 8:37- “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
15. I am blessed with spiritual blessings. Ephesians 1:3- “Blessed be the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places.”
16. My needs are supplied. Philippians 4:19- “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
17. I am a citizen of heaven. Philippians 3:20- “But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savor from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
18. I am an ambassador for Christ. Not only am I the son of a King, I am an ambassador.  2 Corinthians 5:20- “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
19. I am seated in heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6- “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”
20. I have nothing to fear. 2 Chronicles 20:15- “This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”’

These Scriptures contain the truth of what God has said about you and me.  He cannot lie because His words contain creative power.  If He said it, it is!  If He looked at a white wall and said the wall is green, it would not be a lie.  As soon as he said the wall is green, it would be green.  I encourage you to read these Scriptures for your own encouragement, and to realize the position and authority we have been given in Christ.  We are His children.  He thinks highly of us.

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6 by Larry W Peebles

Thoughts on Leadership, Part 6   by   Larry W Peebles   August 25, 2017   17.32

It was another typical workday.  The line formed at my office door early in the morning, and continued non-stop until late afternoon.  I was the Division President of a national home building company, and one-by-one the front-line operations managers of the Division came to talk with me.  They might have questions regarding customers.  They might have unusual problems regarding construction.  They might want to discuss strategy regarding sales.  They might have a new solution, and were just looking for someone to listen.  In between these meetings, I had to take calls from my boss, and of course home office.  These calls usually dealt with high level corporate plans or directives.  The call might involve an update on Division performance versus budget, something the stock analysts were always interested in knowing.  By late afternoon, the calls and line at my door had diminished, and I could actually begin to work on some of my own individual responsibilities or assignments.  This would mean I could not finish before 6-7 pm, which would be another 10 hour day.

We set operating policies for the Division that covered 98% of the problems and questions that arose.  We met face to face to resolve any other issues that did not fit the guidelines.  We were entrusted to set the policies, and we were responsible to deal with the exceptions.  These meetings were vital for a number of reasons.  First, we talked until we agreed on the solution.  Second, I knew what was happening in the Division, and knew where we were having problems.  Third, once the issue was resolved, we were all moving forward again in unity.  Fourth, everyone involved had input.  Although my separate responsibilities had to step back until another’s problems were resolved, I never considered this an undue burden.  One of my major responsibilities was to serve the other members of the team in this fashion.  General Bruce C. Clarke, USA, Ret., said “Rank is given you to enable you to better serve those above you and below you.  It is not given for you to practice your idiosyncrasies.”  A good leader in the military is interested in serving those above and below in rank, and puts that as a priority above self.

I did not realize it at the time, but the Bible has a name for this—it is called servanthood.  Servanthood is the gift of doing for others, sometimes to the exclusion of meeting personal needs.  True leadership is servanthood, and the greatest leader of all time is Jesus Christ.  In only three years, He reintroduced and reconciled mankind to their loving Creator God, using only twelve disciples.  He did so in a way that would never fade away.  More books have been written, songs sung, pictures painted, and thoughts discussed concerning Jesus than anyone else in human history.  He changed the world forever.  He solved problems, connected with people, sought high-level commitments, wisely communicated, and passionately inspired like no other leader has ever done before or since.

Servanthood is an attitude exemplified by Christ “who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant.” (Philippians 2:6-7)  Speaking of rank, Jesus also said “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”  (Mark 9:35)  The five words in the New Testament translated “ministry” generally refer to servanthood or service given in love.  If we want to minister to God, or minister in the name of Jesus to others, we must take on the role and attitude of a servant.  Jesus said “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)  All believers are called to ministry (Matthew 28:18-20), and therefore we are all called to be servants for the glory of God.

Our love for God will be expressed in our love for others.  “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”  (2 Corinthians 4:5)  Our servanthood or acts of service are not based on obligation, duty or habit.  If they are, they become mindless, meaningless, and resentful.  Rather, they are genuinely based on love and gratitude for the love and grace of God, who He is, and what He has done for us.  Acts of service are not to be confused with “works”, which cannot save us.  True faith in Jesus will both save us and produce action in the form of service to others (James 2:17), but the action of service is produced out of the overflow of the believer’s heart.  1 Peter 4:10 says- “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

My wife and I attend a small non-denominational Pentecostal church in the Atlanta area.  We have attended several very good churches in the past, and I do not want to get into comparing churches because each has its own gifts, strengths and purpose.  Although this is not its only strength, our current church may be the strongest we have ever seen in the area of servanthood.  The attitude of servanthood is led by the Pastor, who sets the example by serving in so many ways.  He has an amazing gift of music and worship, and serves by sharing that gift each week as he leads the congregation into true worship of the Lord.  He also has a practical gift of helping others who need a hand, and the church has seen that multiply into a body of believers that are continually helping each other.  This might involve moving someone from one location to another, lending or buying cars, lending or giving money, and renting or giving an extra room or basement to someone in need.  Members of the body are willing to serve with not-so-light construction remodeling work, car repairs, computer repairs, and baby-sitting, just to name a few.  There a number of well qualified Bible teachers in the body, and they serve by teaching the Word of God in a variety of settings such as small groups and one-on-one. No church is perfect, but this church does a commendable job of serving one another to meet the needs of the body of Christ.  I know of no one who keeps track of how much they have served, nor who expects anything in return.  The attitude throughout the church is if one sees another in need, make an attempt to meet it.  Everyone can do something.  Everyone can lead by serving.

 

I conclude with these three Scriptures on servanthood:

  1. Colossians 3:23-24- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
  2. Matthew 20:26- “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave-just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
  3. John 15:12-13- “My command is this: Love each other as I loved you. Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for one’s friends.”

The greatest leader the world has ever seen is Jesus, and He set the example as a servant/leader.  Servanthood may not be the first quality the world thinks of when naming characteristics of great leaders.  Jesus made it clear that this should be our mindset.  The prophet Isaiah wrote “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

I AM, Part 2 by Larry W. Peebles

I AM, Part 2   by   Larry W Peebles   August 11, 2017   17.30

In Part 1 (July 28, 2017), I examined God’s answer when Moses asked God His name (“Who shall I say sent me?”).  “I AM” was the answer, which reveals a lot about God, the eternal and unchanging One– the all-powerful God of the universe who always was, is, and will be.  This question was asked before Moses led the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt on a journey which became known as the Exodus.  The final plague which convinced Pharaoh to release the Israelites from captivity was the death angel which took the lives of the Egyptian first born males.  For the Israelite households who had the blood of a lamb smeared above the door, death was spared.  This event where the Israelites were not only spared death, but passed through the door from bondage into freedom became known as Passover.  While on the Exodus, Israel was led by a pillar of fire by night (light) to show the way.  They were fed supernaturally for the 40 years of the Exodus with bread from Heaven called manna.  Part 1 concluded by studying the words of Jesus some 1400 years later when he came to the children of Israel and revealed His identity.  In the Book of John, He said I AM the bread of life, I AM the light of the world, and I AM the door.  He spoke volumes about who He was by demonstrating that He was a concealed yet active part of the stories and celebrations that had been passed down through the culture for generations concerning what God had done for Israel during the Exodus.  He did not say He was symbolic of the door, or that He provided the light or the bread.  He said He was (I AM—still is) the bread, the light, and the door.

Now in Part 2 of this series, we will look at the final four “I AM” statements of Jesus, all from the Book of John:

  1. John 10:11- “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The blood on the Passover door was symbolic of His blood that would be shed on the cross.  Regarding a good shepherd, He goes on to say He is not a hired shepherd, but is the owner of the sheep, which results in a higher level of care (v.12).  He will not run away when the wolf attacks (v.13).  In v. 14 He said- “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  In v.16 He said- “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (Judaism).  I must bring them also.” (Insert mine.)  This is an obvious reference to the expansion of the Christian faith to the Gentiles because He goes on to say “They too will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock, and one shepherd.” (v.16)  He is a good shepherd, willing to die for His sheep, but all of God’s people will have one shepherd in this glimpse of the future worldwide church.

Psalm 23 paints a beautiful picture of the Lord as our shepherd.  The shepherd was a widely used metaphor for a king, so when King David wrote this Psalm, he was acknowledging the Lord as his King/Shepherd.  Without quoting the Psalm (although I encourage reading it), David says there is not a time the sheep are in want, because the  shepherd gives them rest in green pastures, and leads them to quiet, peaceful water where they are restored.  The sheep do not fear their enemies because the shepherd protects them.  They feel goodness and love from the shepherd, so they are nurtured into their full potential.  The sheep want nothing except to be in the presence of their shepherd.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

  1. John 11:25-26- “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus makes it clear in this statement that he is the Lord over life and death itself.  He was present at Creation, and everything was created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16).  He is the Lord and Giver of life.  Our physical bodies will wear out and die, but we are spiritual beings created in His image, so that our spirit-man lives eternally.  If our natural lives are lived in and with Jesus, we live eternally with him in Heaven.

Jesus made this statement to Martha, whose brother Lazarus lay dead for four days.  To show His complete power over life and death, Jesus then resurrected Lazarus from the dead, calling him out of the tomb after four days of decomposing.  If He can resurrect a decomposed body, He can resurrect anyone or anything from the dead.  I have personally seen Him resurrect dead marriages, and lives lost to drugs, alcohol and pornography.  I have even seen Him resurrect demon-possessed lives that appeared to be in Satan’s full grasp and control.  He can not only come in to rescue and resurrect the spiritually and physically dead to life, but when those lives commit to follow Him, they need never fear death again.

  1. John 14:6- “I AM the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Notice He did not say He would show us the way, tell us the truth, and give us life.  He said I AM the way, the truth, and the life.  There are many religions on the earth seeking “the way”, but there is no way to come to the true Father God, and receive eternal life in heaven except by coming through Jesus.  He is the only way to eternal life, and the only source of victory in this present life.  Regarding truth, philosophers through the ages have discussed and debated the concept of truth—what is truth?  Truth is not a concept—it is the person of Jesus.  We also know throughout history, groups of people have searched for the meaning of life.  Why do I exist, and what is the purpose of life?  Is there an after-life?   Jesus answered all of these deeply controversial questions in two short sentences.  He is the way through this life and into the life eternal.  He holds the power over life and death.  All truth is embodied in the person of Jesus, and those who abide in Him will know the truth.  The Bible says it is the knowledge of the truth (Jesus) that sets us free (John 8:32).  Jesus asked His own disciples to believe this powerful and sweeping statement “on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11)—I AM (He is) the way, the truth, and the life.
  2. John 15:1- “I AM the true vine.” In this seventh and last I AM statement, Jesus refers to the vine, an Old Testament symbol of Israel. He is saying that out of all the history of Israel, and the writings of Moses, the kings, and the prophets, and out of all their encounters with God who chose Israel as His people, Jesus is the main point or objective.  Everything focuses on Jesus, and it is all by and for Him.  He is at the center of where God had led these people.  He then made a number of statements concerning the vine.  In verse 1 and 2, Jesus said His Father is the gardener, cutting off branches that bear no fruit, and pruning productive branches to bear even more fruit.  Verse 4 says “no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.  Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”  Verse 5 says “I am the vine; you are the branches.”  If we remain in Jesus, we bear much fruit.  Apart from Him we can do nothing.  If we bear much fruit, we show ourselves to be His disciples (v.8).  Finally (v.7)-“If you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.  This is to my Father’s glory.”

This gives a clear picture of how unsuccessful we will be if we try to live and do anything apart from Jesus.  Our lives and devotion are to be so intertwined in and with Him that we are a branch of His vine.  We flourish and are fruitful because of Him, and without Him we are like a dead branch cut off the vine.  There is no life support tied to anything other than Jesus.  However, a life tied in to the vine of Jesus is unbelievably rich and productive, full of purpose and satisfaction because it is then Him living in and through us.

In summary, John 20:31 – “But these (words of the Book of John) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”  (Insert mine.)  John’s purpose was to convince the unbeliever of who Jesus was, and so he captured all seven of the “I AM” statements of Jesus to cement the explanation.  God began the explanation of “I AM” to Moses, and Jesus finished the explanation in the Book of John.  He went on to say “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30), and “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9).

When Jesus walked in Galilee, He told the people quite a lot about Himself.  He then proved His incredible statements with signs and wonders.  Today people still ask “Who is Jesus?”  The “I AM” statements recorded in the Book of John the disciple still provide the answer—“I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, the door, the good shepherd, the resurrection and the life, the way the truth and the life, and the true vine.

I AM by Larry W Peebles

I AM    by   Larry W Peebles    July 28, 2017   17.28

“Tell them about license plates” was the answer I heard.  I asked God what He wanted me to speak about one evening at the County Juvenile Justice facility.  I had just left a busy day of work and was racing to meet my wife at the facility.  At the appointed time we could enter the facility through the maximum security door and meet with the young people detained for various charges and crimes.  Our ministry purpose was to tell them about hope and change for their lives and their future in the person of Jesus.

That can work well, I thought to myself.  If these young people don’t listen and turn their lives over to Jesus so He can help straighten them out, they will end up making license plates in a state prison.  “Tell them about my personalized license plate…the one I would have…if I drove a car…which I don’t.”  When I heard this, God really had my attention.  He wanted to go somewhere else with this message.  How would that personalized license plate read, I wondered.  “IM4U” was the answer.  Phonetically, it would read “I am for you”.  I could quickly imagine God pulling alongside on the highway in a car with a license plate that said “I am for you”, giving an encouraging smile, a nod and a wink, and pulling away.  This would make for a powerful message that evening.  God Himself, the Creator of the universe, is for us, and is not against us.  His plan for our lives is good, with a promise of a hope and a future, according to Jeremiah 29:11.

But there is a double meaning in that license plate.  When God told Moses he was going to lead the children of Israel out of 400 years of Egyptian slavery, Moses asked what he should tell the people when they asked who had sent him to do this.  In Exodus 3:14, God answered and said “This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  God called Himself “I AM.”  This name characterized His eternal, ageless, all powerful yet unchanging and faithful qualities.  The One who always was, always is, and always will be—the God of all the universe– would be with them, and could be trusted to complete the work He started.  He would do no less for those in the Juvenile Justice program that night.  He would probably not lift them out of detention, but He would rescue them from their own senseless destruction if they asked.

Biblical names carried more meaning than perhaps they do today.  Although this was a short answer to a deep question–what is your name and what does it mean?—it was powerful, meaningful and timeless.

Some fourteen hundred years later, Jesus, the Son of God, began a relatively short yet powerful three year ministry on earth that would have an eternal impact on mankind.  The Apostle John, disciple of Jesus, wrote the Book of John to give a record of Jesus’ life, ministry and miracles including His death and resurrection.  According to John 20:31, the book was written “in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”   In the Book of John, Jesus picked up where the discussion with Moses ended on the name “I AM” and its meaning.  Seven times Jesus used that reference and elaborated on the meaning when He described Himself to the people.  We will cover the first three of these statements in this article, and will conclude with the final four in a subsequent article.

  1. John 6:35- Jesus said “I AM the bread of life.” He went on to say “he who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”  When the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, they were fed daily for forty years with bread from heaven called manna.  (Exodus 16).  That bread kept them alive on their journey.  The story of that miraculous provision was written down and passed on from generation to generation.  Jesus shocked the Israelites of His day when He stood before the people and said He was the bread that would satisfy their spiritual hunger and give them eternal life.  The people would no longer need to tell the stories about the manna (bread) from heaven that gave them life.  Before He said this, Jesus had just fed five thousand with five loaves of barley bread and two fish.  The people saw this miracle and encountered the true bread from heaven, the Son of God, who would give them eternal life.  Before His death and marvelous resurrection, Jesus gave his disciples bread and wine as symbols of his broken body and spilled blood to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.  His death and resurrection forgave sin, defeated the devil, and restored man into the proper relationship with God.  There are some types of bread around the world that are hearty enough to sustain for long periods of time.  Believing in Jesus will sustain us now and into eternity.  He is truly the bread of life.
  2. John 8:12- Jesus said “I AM the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  When the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day, and “by night in a pillar of fire to give them light.”  (Exodus 13: 21, 22).  The account goes on to say “neither the cloud nor the fire left its place in front of the people to guide them.”  This account, along with Moses’ conversation with God, was also written and passed down through the generations.  Jesus’ use of the phrase “I AM” was both intentional and powerful, because He knew the people would catch the double meaning.  Jesus was that fire and light that led them during the exodus (Exodus 14:19), and more.  He is the light of the whole world.  He had come to show and light the way to eternal life.  Believers will have the light of life, and will never have to walk in darkness, fearing what they cannot see.  Most living things on earth grow by receiving energy from the light of the sun.  Without the light, life as we know it would cease.  Without Jesus, the light of the world, there is no eternal life.  He is also the eternal light of heaven, because we read in Revelation 21:23- “ The [Holy] city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb [Jesus] is its lamp.”  [Inserts mine.]
  3. John 10:9- “I AM the gate [door].” [Insert mine.]  Before the children of Israel left Egypt with Moses on the exodus to the Promised Land, God had them smear the blood of a lamb on their door posts for their protection.  They would be spared the death of the first born male, the final plague that would come upon the Egyptians.  (Exodus 12).  When they left their homes for the last time, having been spared death, they passed through that blood- stained door from slavery and bondage into liberty and freedom.  They celebrated that event for fourteen hundred years, calling it the Passover, and continue to celebrate it today.  But when Jesus came on the scene, He said “I AM the door.”  The Lamb of God and His cross would soon be blood-stained as He was crucified.  Through His death and resurrection He became the door for believers to pass from the bondage of sin into freedom and eternal life.

After the children of Israel left Egypt, God parted (opened) the Red Sea so they could escape the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 14:21). He also parted the Jordon River forty years later so they could enter the Promised Land (Joshua 3:17).  Jesus made the opening/gate/door so they could escape the bondage and slavery, and live again as free people.  He made the door across the Jordan River into the land promised to their forefathers through Abraham, which would provide a new life, a new start, and abundant opportunities.  Like a shepherd opens a gate so that sheep can enter a green pasture, Jesus is the gateway to a new life on this earth that leads to life eternal.  When we enter that life through Him, we find forgiveness and reconciliation, peace and abundance.  There is no other way to find and enter such a life except through Him.  He is the door.  He will knock on the door of our hearts in search of His people, but only we can open the door to let Him in.

Jesus says “I AM” the bread of life, the light of the world, and the door.  We see such rich symbolism as Jesus is introduced by these names during God’s rescue of His people from Egyptian slavery.  These qualities contained in His name are still evident today as He continues to rescue those lost in a spiritual desert and bound by sin.  We would expect no less from the “I AM”.  These three statements reveal so much about Jesus-who He is, and the purpose for His coming.  In Part 2 of this article, we will examine His next four statements when He says “I AM” the true vine; the good shepherd; the resurrection and the life; and the way, the truth, and the life.

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.