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.

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.