THIRTY FEET BELOW PART II Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

I was so nauseated I did not know whether to get on my next flight or go home.  It was my first mission trip.  A few months earlier my cousin from Texas had called and invited me to join their family and church group on a mission trip to Honduras.  My heart leapt inside me as I thought about going with them.  I was not sure my husband would approve of my going out of the country, and there was the cost of the trip.  I laid those issues before the Lord and the answer was yes!  (Please read Thirty Feet Below Part I in the archives if you have not already done so, to understand the reference to it in this writing.)

Packing the last articles in my bags, I felt an excitement inside me.  It seemed as if I was on the edge of destiny.  The apprehension of traveling overseas, to an unknown country, was swallowed up in the joy I felt about participating in the Lord’s Great commission, in Mark Chapter 16.  The first leg of my trip originated in Tampa with a change of planes in Miami.  I was to continue from Miami to Houston where I would meet with the team.  We would then fly on to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Soon after my flight to Miami took off, I began to feel very nauseated and sickly.  The flight attendant gave me a cloth napkin with some ice to cool my forehead.  I started to pray.  I knew it could not be fear or anxiety because I was thrilled to go.  I wondered if the symptoms were from a virus and I was concerned about the possibility of infecting the team.  The plane finally landed and I had to decide whether to go home or continue on.  I felt the Lord was compelling me to go so in faith, I stepped onto the plane to Houston, found my seat and continued icing my forehead.  The moment that plane took off, the nausea instantly left!  I realized it was the enemy (devil) trying to keep me from my destiny.  It was then I understood he could put false symptoms on people to prevent them from fulfilling God’s will in their lives.  I then felt a strong sense of God’s blessing and protection which stayed with me the entire trip.

The week in Honduras was filled with many memorable events, but the most impactful for me personally, was going to a Honduran prison.  The prison ministry excursion was voluntary.  Nine from our team of fifteen chose to go.  The group included five women and four men.  Our leader drove us an hour and forty-five minutes out of San Pedro Sula.  We travelled from the busy city to outlying highways, then onto dirt roads, passing farmlands with acres of pineapple plantations.  The air was pleasant as the sweet aroma of fresh pineapple enticed our sense of smell.  

We created a dust cloud behind our bus as we journeyed down a road that appeared to go nowhere.  The road finally ended at the base of a small mountain, next to a dated one-story cement block building in need of paint.  It was surrounded by a tall metal fence which was wrapped in razor wire at the top.  A large rusty wrought iron gate stood to deter visitors from going forward.  The scene was menacing and foreboding.  Several guards standing by the fence held long rifles as if they were prepared to use them. They stared at us with serious and intimidating facial expressions.  Their shirts were unbuttoned because of the oppressive heat adding to our discomfort, and planting a seed of doubt in our reason for coming.  The climate was thick, having a temperature in the mid 90’s and the humidity was extremely high due to its coastal location.  The mountain blocked any breeze from cooling the prison complex and the lack of shade trees emphasized the unrelenting heat.  My mind momentarily recalled an old western movie I had seen years before, which made me chuckle at the similarity of this scenario.  I quickly returned to a sobering thought which caused me to question my judgement in coming, but it only lasted for a brief moment.

The local missionary Paul, who sponsored our team, handed one of the officers at the gate a piece of paper which confirmed our invitation to enter the prison and do a worship service.  The head prison guard was summoned for final approval.  He quickly nodded and ordered the gate to be opened.  We entered the building which housed a few small offices and quickly passed through the entrance to the prison yard.  Grey unpainted cinder block cubicles were surrounded by a latrine which ran through the entire property, wafting a pungent odor that was as oppressive as the heat.  Sidewalks led us to the rooms that were no more than 8X10 feet in size.  Each room had a set of metal bunk beds with a thin mattress and a sink.  There were no doors or bars on the rooms.  The prisoners congregated all over the grounds as we walked through but we had an armed escort, and armed guards were stationed throughout the complex. 

Our escort led us to a large rectangular room that was walled on three sides, with a large opening on one of the long walls.  The walls inside the room were a dingy grey and there was the obvious absence of pictures or decorations.  It was filled with at least fifty men, young and old, making it difficult to navigate to the other side.  A handful were Americans; all were imprisoned for various reasons.  It was clear they were paying an exorbitant price for their crimes.  The heat was almost unbearable and their sunken eyes were filled with hopelessness.  It felt as if we had stepped into the bowels of hell.  We had to weave our way through the crowd and it was then I sensed fear and vulnerability.  The Lord quickly gave me a peace that we would be alright.  Our team of nine lined up at the back wall and all 50 prisoners were standing between us and the exit.  That day I personally experienced God’s peace surpassing all understanding. 

I had been asked to share something that morning.   I wondered what I, a middle aged American white woman, would share that could possibly relate to their situation.  The Lord quickly told me they needed hope and I had several testimonies of the Lord intervening in hopeless situations in my life.  My sharing was brief but as I looked into their eyes, I felt my testimony had made a connection with many of the men.  The Gospel transcends time and space, gender and culture.  Others shared and then our leader began to preach a powerful word from the Lord.  He gave several altar calls that morning, one for salvation, another for backsliders and a third to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The power of God came into that room and most of those hopeless, forgotten men had encountered their forgiving, gracious and loving Lord.  Many were speaking in their new heavenly language with hands raised and we were urged to wander through the crowd praying and laying hands on them as we left the room.  It was an honor to pray for those men, forgotten and seemingly lost, but remembered by our loving Lord.

God moved in that place of darkness and hopelessness.  He protected all of us in a dangerous setting so that we could bring hope and encouragement to them.  We were honored and respected by them for coming, and God honored our faith and obedience by touching those men.  It is a memory forever carved on my heart.

Since that incredible mission trip I have discovered that fear is the greatest enemy of our destiny.  Fear can manifest in many ways.  Insecurity, fear of the unknown, concerns for safety, and inadequacy are several fears that can squelch the call of God in our lives.  When the voice of fear is greater than our faith in God’s protection, we can be stopped in our tracks, unable to move forward.  I was afraid to talk about the Lord with people and had a fear of flying for many years.  I felt so insecure and inadequate that I did not believe the Lord would use me to touch others.  Over the years, He has delivered me from those fears and proven Himself to me.  The Lord specifically chooses us because we are inadequate so that He will be all sufficient!  He doesn’t use those who are secure in their own abilities; He picks those who depend upon Him.  It doesn’t matter when we are called to do something, or go somewhere that is unknown to us, because He has already gone before us to make the way.

It is not about us having our own faith or strength, it is totally about our having faith in Him and trusting in His power to flow through us.  We don’t have to speak eloquently, we only need to deliver the word He gives us.  When we realize we are simply a conduit through which His Spirit flows, then we remove ourselves from the consideration and merely let Him work through us to touch others.  Our works become simply hearing and obeying.

How do we get to the place of simply hearing and obeying?  We make knowing Him our priority, and pursuing Him our reality.  He reveals Himself through His Word:  both the Old and New Testaments.  He also reveals Himself through His Holy Spirit, who is our paraclete-the one who walks beside us teaching us about Him and His ways.  Learning to flow in the Holy Spirit is as easy as prayer.  The Bible says we can pray in the natural and pray by the Holy Spirit of God.  Ephesians 6:18 instructs us, “With all prayer and petition pray [with specific requests] at all times [on every occasion and in every season] in the Spirit, and with this in view, stay alert with all perseverance and petition [interceding in prayer] for all God’s people.”

The Holy Spirit’s role in everything we do is critical.  The promises of God are centered on our motivations and actions being in agreement with the Lord’s will.  If we are not Spirit-led, then we are not led by God at all.  He sent us His Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and to pray through us.  Everything we do for His Kingdom is based upon the Holy Spirit’s direction and guidance.  Our success is based solely upon how surrendered we become to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The Lord speaks to all His children, but only those who hear His voice are able to walk in obedience.  His voice can be as subtle as a gentle breeze but those who are attentive to His quietness will hear His instruction and obey even without questioning.  When we live and move in Him, and when we have our being in Him, He becomes such a part of us there is no longer a separation.  We become infused or enmeshed in what He is doing and flow effortlessly with His leading.

His heart becomes our heart.  What is on His mind is on ours.  Those for whom He is concerned, become our concern.  We are no longer pulled by the world and its many distractions.  Instead, our focus becomes what He is directing us to do.  Our comfort is not the center of His will.  Our willingness to go beyond our place of comfort, to stretch beyond our safety and convenience is what He is calling us to do.  One of my favorite songs is Oceans by Hillsong United.  It cries out to the Lord to take the believer into the deep waters where their safety is only in Him.  It beckons the Lord to stretch one’s faith to walk on unknown paths and to trust in Him in unsafe waters.

 “You call me out upon the waters, the great unknown, where feet may fail, and there I find you in the mystery, in oceans deep, my faith will stand.  I will call upon Your name and keep my eyes above the waves.  When oceans rise my soul will rest in Your embrace for I am Yours and You are mine.  Spirit lead me where my faith is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever you may call me.  Take me deeper than my feet have ever wandered, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior.”

Those who are willing to dive in the oceans of the Lord to go “Thirty Feet Below” to reach those whom the Lord desires to touch and heal, will find complete satisfaction and fulfillment.  We will never experience the thrill of truly entering into our Father’s joy without taking risks and reaching beyond what we know, to delve into the unknown with Him.  The Bible proclaims, “Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  If you want to know what the Lord is doing in the earth today, allow Him to take you thirty feet below!

 

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.

THIRTY FEET BELOW Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

They were eating, drinking and partying, totally oblivious to what was thirty feet below them.  We were in San Salvador helping a ministry that feeds the homeless.  It houses drug addicted teens, nursing them to wholeness, and rescues victims of sex trafficking.  The ignored and forgotten are healed by the love of God.  The hopeless are liberated and restored to life in Jesus’ name.

Thursday morning several of us painted two rooms at the ministry while others in our group installed a clean water filtration system in their kitchen.  Local volunteers made beautiful greeting cards with bright colored paper strips they coiled and formed into flowers, leaves, stems, hearts and many other decorative shapes.  After lunch three of us prepped vegetables to accompany the evening meal while others of our team received the fifty clients that would be served that evening.  Showers were available as well as free haircuts.  Games like dominoes, checkers, puzzles and cards were scattered among the tables for visitors to entertain themselves while waiting for the devotional and hot meal.  Our team played games with them, prayed for them or simply conversed with them.  The mission statement of Mission to El Salvador is to treat all with Respect, Honor and Dignity.

The clients were fed by 4:30 p.m. and we had cleaned up by 5 p.m. and headed to our quarters to have our own dinner.  We were again picked up at 8 p.m. to return back to the inner city ministry to pack meals for the homeless living on the streets.  Unaware of what was to come, our team piled into the bed of a truck which was lined with benches for seating.  There was a thick metal railing attached above the edge of the truck bed that gave us something to grip to steady the ride.  Cases of orange and grape beverages were placed beneath the benches behind our legs for easy access.  The center of the truck bed held a large white cooler.  It was filled with three hundred and fifty foil packages each containing three pieces of Canadian bacon or pepperoni pizza which had been donated by a local restaurant.  It would probably be the only meal those people would have that day unless they found a trash receptacle behind a restaurant in which they could scavenge.

We had packed meals until the sunlight faded into darkness, which veiled a lonely subculture that was almost invisible.   We could not have found the people of the streets in the daytime.  They only come out in the dark of night because it obscures their existence.  Our leader gave a shout as the truck came to a stop.  The lights of the truck, which makes its rounds every Thursday night, summoned them to come out.  It also illuminated those otherwise hidden.  Men, women, children and even babies slept concealed in crevices between buildings, in delivery docking areas or underneath overhangs which protect the cement sidewalks from rain.  Some had blankets worn thin by long nights exposed to rough cement beds and evening storms.  Others had confiscated cardboard boxes to pad the unforgiving surfaces where they slept.  We drove by parks, stadiums, beautiful public buildings and churches to find them.  Every few blocks the truck would stop, the call came forth alerting them food had come, and clusters of people would step into the light and line up behind the truck so that we could hand them their only meal that day.

The ministry leader called many of them by name, asked them how they were doing and invited them to come to the ministry for help.  It was only six blocks away.  The streets of the city looked like nothing we had seen in the states.  Walls were trashed with gang graffiti, sidewalks filled with trash and temporary barricades lined the streets.  Worn paint exposed the depressed and hopeless culture while majestic public buildings stood like citadels contrasting the devastation of everyday life.  It looked like a war zone and it was.  Good and evil, haves and have nots, rich and poor were separated by only a few feet.

We rounded a corner and the sound of music grabbed my attention.  It was emanating from the roof of a three-story building.  I saw a large restaurant on the top floor, with open air tables.  It was decorated with strings of bright lights and the tables were filled with people eating, drinking and partying.  The music was up-beat and the atmosphere was filled with laughter.  They seemed totally oblivious to what existed thirty feet below them.  The truck stopped directly beneath them on the right side of the road and children were the first to line up behind the truck.  Boys 8, 10 and 12 years old stretched out their arms, smiled as they received their meal and thanked us for coming.  Women with young children, fathers, laborers and drunks came forward and then recessed back into their dark world.  Some had matted hair and stared with glazed eyes delirious from drug abuse.  Still others seemed even joyful that someone cared and acknowledged their need.  At one stop, three or four women in stiletto heels and thick make-up approached the truck for food.  Their living was made on the streets but they were not condemned or judged, they were told “God bless you”.  Two men hurried to pick up an old man unable to walk by himself.  They carried him to the back of the truck so that he could also eat that night.

Immediately, I was gripped by the contrast of those reveling above and these destitute, hungry and hopeless below.  It was an “in your face” moment exposing the clash of classes that exists.  They were partying and seemed unaware and unconcerned of what lay thirty feet below.  A scripture came to mind and haunted me the rest of the night.  Matthew 24:37-44 “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For just as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, [men] marrying and [women] being given in marriage, until the [very] day when Noah went into the ark, and they did not know or understand until the flood came and swept them all away—so will be the coming of the Son of Man…Watch therefore [give strict attention, be cautious and active], for you do not know in what kind of a day [whether a near or remote one] your Lord is coming…You also must be ready therefore, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

Suddenly, much too quickly, hands reached into the cooler and came up empty.  They reached down again swiping the insides of the cooler hoping to find another meal or two but there was nothing left in the cooler.  Three hundred and fifty meals had been handed out but there were still people in line and more around the next corner.  A sadness gripped each of us as we realized the need was greater than the food we had at the time.  Stunned, tearful and silent we drove back to the ministry and then home to our quarters to contemplate what we had experienced.

It didn’t have to be San Salvador.  It could have been Calcutta or Nairobi, Buenos Aires or Cape Town, Tokyo or Jakarta or any major city in the U.S.  Injustice can be found in every nation and every city.  The most vulnerable are the least safe.  Whether it’s threatening young boys with death if they don’t join the gangs or abducting the young girls as sex slaves or drug kingpin wives, the innocent live in constant danger.  There is no amount of money that will solve the problem and no laws will prevent it from happening.  Governments are totally ineffective and simply meeting the needs of hunger and shelter are not the full answer.  It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves, heals and delivers.  It is a change of direction, a shift of mindset, an eternal hope in the intervention of God Almighty that transforms lives.

Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  The Kingdom of God is not poverty and lack, it is abundance.  The Kingdom of God is not sickness and disease, it is health and healing.  The Kingdom of God is not addiction and fear, it is deliverance and freedom.  The Kingdom of God is not immorality and perversion, it is wholeness and hope.  Jesus commanded His disciples to begin preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, then Judea and the uttermost parts of the earth.  One might say, “But I can’t preach”.  We can all be witnesses to what the Lord has done in our lives.  We may not be able to go overseas but we can send someone who can.  We may not have the strength to serve those in need but we can pray!  What we cannot do is sit back and expect others to do for us what God has called us to do.  We cannot be those people eating, drinking and partying above the problem, oblivious to the needs in their own neighborhood.  We cannot say because we do not see what’s happening it is not our responsibility to get involved.  We cannot continue to let the innocent be victimized and destroyed by our inaction.  Everyone can do something.

James, the half-brother of Jesus made it very clear when he wrote, faith without works is dead.  James 2:17-20 declares, “So also faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative, dead).  But someone will say [to you then], You [say you] have [good] works.  Now you show me your [alleged] faith apart from any [good] works [if you can], and I by [good works of obedience] will show your my faith…faith apart from [good] works is inactive and ineffective and worthless.”

We have a friend who is an Apostle that goes to the nations and raises up churches.  He planted his family in Costa Rica and preached there until the church was established and the people continued the work.  He then moved on to the Amazon region, Cuba and so on.  He once said to me, “Find a need and meet it.  That is the ministry of Christ.”  The world is in desperate need of the Gospel of the Kingdom.  People everywhere need hope, consolation, forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

My challenge in this word is to encourage all to discover their mission field.  We must pray for the Holy Spirit to show us where we can be effective in changing people’s lives eternally.  Simply giving donations of clothing or money to ministries does not involve risk or personal involvement.  The Lord is calling us to get personally involved in the lives of others.  There are opportunities right now in our “Jerusalem”.  There are needs on the streets of our city.  There are hopeless people crying out for help in neighborhoods around us all.  The question is, will we help those who are meeting those needs?  Will we pray regularly for those living in darkness that they might see the light?  Are we willing to love the unlovable, help the needy, and get involved by going down where the people are, thirty feet below?

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.

NO PLACE TO LIGHT PART II Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

Imagine a Massai warrior standing an arm’s length from the mouth of a lion!  On our first mission trip to Kenya, the regional Bishop took our team of five under his wing and introduced us to the precious Kenyan people and their amazing culture.  We were all engrossed in his story as we drove through the rice fields, sugar cane, coffee and tea plantations.  We had been ministering two services a day for almost a week at different churches throughout the region.  Heading back to our hotel, Bishop decided to take us the long way home so that we could see the prolific produce in the Mt. Kenya area.  Bishop was teaching us the culture of the Massai people although Mt. Kenya is predominantly populated by the Kikuyu and Swahili people.

The Massai tribes live in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania.  Their home is on the Serengeti where they herd their cattle and goats among the lions and other predators.  Some have called their tribe the “lion killers” because of their on-going necessity to protect their herds.  They live together with extended family for protection.  Their large compound is constructed with an open area in the center encircled by a tall thorny fence of thickly compressed acacia tree branches.  The cattle pen has one opening which is barricaded at night.  They often designate one warrior to sleep in the pen with the herd for protection.  

The perimeter of the compound is surrounded by Bomas, which are small straw huts built with thin tree branches overlaid with a strong mortar of clay and cow dung.  Their roof is made of thatch and cow dung making it waterproof and sturdy.  The mixture adheres to the materials providing a tough structure that also insulates against weather.   

During the daytime the cattle are driven by Massai on the Serengeti but at night they are steered into the center of the compound for protection.  The thorny fence is their only fortification from lions on the prowl for a meal.  A lion that breeches the wall will meet a formidable challenge from Massai warriors in the camp.  When a young Massai comes of age, his rite of manhood is proven by his ability to kill a lion.

The Massai clothing is very colorful.  The men wear a shuka, which is a red robe with striped, plaid or checkered patterns often with bright red and royal blue.  They believe the color red scares the lions.  The Bishop told us it is apparent that lions purposefully try to avoid the Massai because they must connect their shuka with those who are lion killers.  (My pictures are from a mission trip to Tanzania in 2010).  

The men drape their large beautiful robe around their body for covering but it has versatile functions.  The women wear long, one and two piece dresses that are colorful, and wrap a cape around their shoulders.  They have beautiful vibrant beaded necklaces and earrings for their jewelry.    Their shoes are sandals made of leather or more currently, old rubber tires.  A warrior will carry a spear and a large knife (sword) at all times.  Herding cattle can be dangerous both day and night but the Massai warrior is fearless and well equipped to oppose a lion.

Bishop continued his story about the Massai warrior.  When he is attacked by a lion, the Massai removes his robe and wraps it around one forearm.  His sword is in the opposite hand.  He moves into close range and when the lion charges and opens his mouth, the warrior thrusts the forearm into his mouth grabbing his tongue in a death grip rendering him helpless and unable to bite.  He then thrusts his sword into the lion killing him with one swift blow!  The Massai are courageous and they are able to guard their families and cattle by disabling the tongue of the lion!

The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8, “Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.  Withstand him; be firm in faith [against his onset—rooted, established, strong, immovable, and determined]…”  Peter is directing the church to be prepared to withstand any persecution or suffering required because of the Gospel.  He counsels believers to walk in humility submitting to those the Lord has placed in the church to encourage, guide and direct them in the ways of the Lord.  He also warns them of the devil who is constantly seeking for an opening to bring destruction in their lives.  He charges us to withstand the devil being firm in our faith in God.  Hosea 4:8 explains, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [of my law, where I reveal My will].  Because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge…”

James, the brother of Jesus encouraged the church, “So be subject to God, Resist the devil [stand firm against him], and he will flee from you.”  James 4:7.  Notice, the scriptures do not say God will remove the devil from us.  Instead, it says we are to withstand the devil’s attacks.  We are called to be lion killers!  James 4:6 explains, “But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully).  That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it).”  Our strength comes from the Holy Spirit and our faith in God.  He gives us the strength to withstand temptations when they come whether to sin against the Lord or to doubt or fear his ability to save us from trouble.

Now, let’s examine the Massai warrior with spiritual eyes.  The Massai warrior trains to become a lion killer.  It does not happen accidentally nor does his strength come by simply being born a Massai.  It comes through study and practice.  A young Massai is trained by the elders who teach him the authority he has over the lion.  There is a process they use when they approach the lion or the lion approaches them.  James gave us a spiritual process for defeating the devil:  1) submit to God, 2) resist the devil and he will flee.

Isaiah 54:17 proclaims, “But no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong (condemn).  This [peace, righteousness security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification says the Lord.”  (Emphasis mine).

Paul instructed the Ephesian church to daily put on their armor in order to be prepared for battle.  “Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].”  Ephesians 6:13.  The entire passage continues to list the armor we have been given by the Lord:  belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.  Our belt of truth protects our innermost being.  It is the knowledge of the truth that sets us free.  God’s truth is the Rock of our foundation upon which we stand.  The breastplate of righteousness covers our heart.  Out of our heart flow the issues of life.  We are righteous because of our repentance of sin and trust in the redeeming work of the cross of Jesus Christ.  Our righteousness gives us the ability to stand in the authority of Christ daily.  When we trust in the Lord completely, we will be shod with peace and walk in peace wherever we go.  His peace guards our heart and ensures we are in His will.  Faith is a gift from the Lord.  The shield of faith is developed by hearing the Word of God.  It could come from a message preached, Bible study/reading or the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.  The helmet of salvation represents the Mind of Christ Jesus.  It is the mind of the Spirit and not of the flesh.  The sword of the spirit is the Word of God.  Our authority comes by using the Word of God in faith.  When we submit to the Lord’s will, speak His Word to the problem (storms, trouble) standing in faith, he must flee.  We must KNOW that God will back up His Word!

The Massai warrior places his robe (of righteousness representing the authority of Christ) upon his arm so that he might grab the tongue of the lion without suffering injury.  He then thrusts the sword (Word of God) into his heart to disable and destroy his ability to kill.  The tongue of the lion represents the accusations, lies and fears the enemy uses to cause us to doubt God.  The result is our being surrounded by confusion, fear and defeat.  He is the “accuser” of the brethren.  Once our past has been confessed and buried in the waters of baptism, we are clothed in the Righteousness of Christ Jesus.  The enemy no longer has the right to accuse us unless we allow him by not closing his mouth.  The devil is always trying to speak lies, fearful scenarios of disaster and accusations to draw our attention from the Lord which in turn gives him more power.

We must grab hold of the devil’s tongue with a death grip to silence all the attacks.  We do that by “throwing the Book at him”!  The Bible is the Word of God and it is filled with truth.  There are scriptures for every need we could possibly have in life and they are powerful at pulling down strongholds the enemy has erected in our lives.  There are 365 scriptures in the Bible regarding fear where the Lord encourages us to fear not.  We could read a different one every day of the year.  There are also scriptures regarding healing, finances, relationships, marriage and so on.  When the devil tries to take us down in circumstances, thoughts or by others all we need to do is get in our prayer closet and speak the word of God to each one.  We also need to remind him and ourselves who we are in Christ.

When Jesus was raised from the dead and preparing to ascend into heaven, he left his disciples with one powerful declaration.  “All authority (all power and rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age.”  Matthew 28:18-20.

Paul taught that we are now seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus.  “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One).”  The scepter of authority has been given to us.  The devil has no jurisdiction over us unless we grant it to him.  Wherever we find ourselves under his rule (or torment) we have been given the responsibility with the authority from heaven, to shut the mouth of the lion by thrusting the Word of God into his heart.

The Word of God is a lethal weapon against the enemy and when used in faith, our victory is sure.  Knowing God’s Word and using it properly enables us to defeat every giant we face.  God’s Word is the rock David used and faith in God is the sling that hurls the rock into the head of the enemy.  Our strength comes when we walk humbly before our God submitting to His will and His Word.  We are then able to stand and resist the devil and he MUST flee!  It is then we will give him “No Place to Light”!

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.

NO PLACE TO LIGHT Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

Vultures are pesky creatures.  Our home sits at 1,800 feet elevation with a southern view of mountains behind, a valley below and a long-range mountain view to the east.  It seemed to be the perfect vantage point for vultures to perch and watch for prey.  Their favorite roost was our chimney cap on top of the house.  They would make rustling noises constantly and drop nasty fur balls on the back porch.  It was rather disgusting.  They are the ugliest birds ever created and that’s probably due to the road-kill diet they consume.  At our age it is quite disconcerting to see a row of vultures waiting on top of the house every time we returned home!  My husband and I began discussing how to get rid of the scoundrels while we were sweeping their fur balls off the porch one day.  I did some research on vultures and to my shock, I discovered they have a very special purpose.  Their bodies were created to clean up all the toxic waste from dying and decaying animals without being harmed themselves.  Because of their intrinsic value to our ecology, they are a protected species with heavy fines and jail time.

I continued to research to see if there was any way to prevent them from roosting on our home.  I found a company that attaches a row of 3-4” metal spikes to the top of roofs and chimneys which eliminates any comfortable perching spaces.  Within a couple of weeks our house was sending a message to our pesky vultures, “No place to light”!  It has been over a year now and we are still vulture free.  It feels good and right.  We have peace inside and out.

The devil is like the vulture.  Jesus defined the purpose of the Devil.  “The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows].”  John 10:10.  Satan tries to steal our joy, faith, health, prosperity, well-being and peace.  His plan is to kill us and destroy our witness of Jesus, our destiny in Christ, and our purpose in the world and the church.  We must give him no place to light!

The devil perches himself, much like the vulture, in high (heavenly) places watching for those who are broken, weak and seemingly helpless.  The word of God encourages believers, “Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times.  That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour.  But resist him, be firm in your faith [against his attack—rooted, established, immovable], knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being experienced by your brothers and sisters throughout the world. [You do not suffer alone].”  1 Peter 5:8-9.  Peter gives us clues to victory in this scripture.  We are not helpless or hopeless although, our enemy is ruthless, cunning and a vigilant predator who seeks to destroy.

The animal world is well aware of the predator/prey syndrome.  The typical mode of operation of a predator is to find the weakest animal, one who is separated from the group, and attack it.  The predator will only attack a mature elephant, water buffalo or zebra if there is no other alternative, but they usually do so in groups.  Predators lie in wait trying to outsmart their prey by using the element of surprise.  They are cunning stalkers who calculate their every move.  Animals, fully aware of their prey status, are always on alert.  They have warning systems in their herd and the mature will surround the weak to protect them from being devoured.

 

One of the ways the devil is effective among believers is through his lies.  The devil is a liar and therefore uses lies as a way into our mind and heart.  If he can dispel a truth of God creating doubt as he did in Adam and Eve, he has a place to light.  From that perch, he can continue badgering the mind, will and resolve of the believer.  If there is no strong resistance, he can create a stronghold of unbelief.  Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders for their unbelief and called them children of the devil.  “You are of your father the devil, and it is your will to practice the desires [which are characteristic] of your father.  He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks whatever is natural to him, for he is a liar and the father of lies and half-truths.”  John 8:44.

Believers who do not truly know the word of God through continual Bible reading and study are easy pray for the devil.  He twists scriptures, and uses emotional pleas of reasoning which are contradictions of the truth.  The Word of God illuminated by the Holy Spirit teaches us the will and ways of God.  It demonstrates the Kingdom of God through the life of Christ intertwined in both the Old and New Testaments.  It teaches morality, the consecrated life, and the power of God working through miracles, signs and wonders.

The Lord God created Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden.  He then instructed him to cultivate it and have dominion over every living thing.  God showed him what he could eat and then instructed Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  “So the LORD God took the man [He had made] and settled him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely (unconditionally) eat [the fruit] from every tree of the garden; but [only] from the tree of the knowledge (recognition) of good and evil you shall not eat, otherwise on the day that you eat from it, you shall most certainly die [because of your disobedience].’”  According to scripture, God gave Adam His instructions before He created Eve.  We do not know from the Bible account if Eve received her instruction from the Lord or Adam, whom the Lord made the keeper of the garden.

We do know the serpent approached Eve with his cunning temptation and it appears that Adam was not with her at the time.  “Now the serpent was more crafty (subtle, skilled in deceit) than any living creature of the field which the LORD God had made.  And the serpent (Satan) said to the woman, ‘Can it really be that God has said, You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’  And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees of the garden, except the fruit from the tree which is in the middle of the garden.  God said, ‘You shall not eat from it nor touch it, otherwise you will die.’  But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You certainly will not die!’  ‘For God knows that on the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened [that is, you will have greater awareness], and you will be like God, knowing [the difference between] good and evil.’”

The lying serpent enticed Eve by making the fruit appealing to her.  Satan told her that the fruit supplied not only food to be enjoyed but it also contained wisdom only God possessed. He convinced her she would not die but she would become wise like God.  After she ate the fruit, Eve gave some to Adam and seeing she hadn’t died (immediately), he ate it also.  The Jewish tradition from their Talmud explains that Adam was not with Eve during the temptation of the serpent.  That explains why he did not contest the serpent’s statements.  The Lord held Adam responsible for the fall because Jesus is referred to the second Adam in Scripture.  “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, so death spread to all people [no one being able to stop it or escape its power], because they all sinned…For by the trespass of the one (Adam), death reigned through the one (Adam)…Romans 5:12-17.   “So it is written [in Scripture]; ‘The first MAN, Adam, became a living soul (an individual);’ the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit [restoring the dead to life].”  1 Corinthians 15:45.

I believe the Lord held Adam accountable because God had told him directly not to eat from the tree and had placed Adam with the full responsibility and authority to keep (guard) the garden and everything in it.  While Eve received second hand revelation from Adam, he received the revelation first-hand from the LORD God Himself, but Adam still ate the fruit.  Why does this make a difference to us?  Biblical truths must be experienced first-hand by the individual, otherwise they are simply someone else’s faith or “opinion”.  We cannot survive by standing on someone else’s beliefs.  We will be accountable for our own.  When true faith is born in us, we can stand against the attacks of the devil.  When the Word of God is revelation to our souls, we will not succumb to the lie or the manipulation of half-truths which make people deceived.   The Scriptures are clear that it is not the Truth that sets us free, it is the Knowledge of the Truth that sets us free (and keeps us free).  “And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  John 8:32.

The moral and ethical dilemmas facing us in the world today are continually challenging our Christian beliefs.  If our faith is not based on revelation we have received directly from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, we cannot stand for truth.  The result is obvious, we will compromise the Word of God and cower to the pressure of others.  If we do not truly KNOW God and His Word first hand, we will believe anything.

The Apostle Paul explains the Christian walk in Ephesians, Chapter 4.  He admonishes believers to allow God to transform their lives through total consecration and surrender to His will and purpose for us.  He lists many areas where our old sin nature must be changed to one of righteous and holy living which can only come by the Holy Spirit’s work in us.  Paul uses the Word of God as a tool to instruct us and reveal Biblical truth to us.  Paul also teaches by showing us how to deal with the attacks of the devil.  “And do not give the devil an opportunity [to lead you into sin by holding a grudge, or nurturing anger, or harboring resentment, or cultivating bitterness]…And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God [but seek to please Him], by whom you were sealed and marked for the day of redemption…let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you along with every kind of malice…” Ephesians 4:27-32.  Every fleshly emotion that is unbridled by the Holy Spirit is a perch upon which the enemy can light.   Paul confirms that “the knowledge of the truth leads to godliness” in Titus 1:1.

Victors resist the attacks of the enemy, they stand firm in their faith in God, abide in His word and His presence becoming rooted, established in faith and unshakable.  They are well aware of the predator/prey syndrome and remain sober by being cautious, self-disciplined and well-balanced in their faith.  They know their God and the authority He has given them in heavenly places.  They are firmly rooted in a church family which surrounds them, strengthens and encourages them.  They are not loners but have become an active part of the body of believers who stand together to defend one another.

We who are believers have been brought out of darkness and placed in the light of Christ Jesus.  Living wholly and completely in Christ Jesus places a barrier between us and the enemy.  It is in that place we will not be moved and the devil has no place to light!

 

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.

I AM YOUR KEEPER Kay Keith Peebles

Kay K. Peebles

I approached the front door and as my hand reached for the handle, the Holy Spirit said, “Don’t open that door”!  I dropped my hand to my side and looked through the beveled glass to see a young man in a white T-shirt and jeans on the other side.  I asked him what he needed and he told me he was looking for a friend and gave a name.  I knew all my neighbors and the name he gave me was not someone who lived on our cul-de-sac.  I told him he had the wrong street.  He left immediately and as I walked away from the door, the Holy Spirit said, “Call security and let them know about this”.

My daughter was away at college and my husband and son were out of town on a church men’s retreat.  I would be alone in the house until around midnight.  It was 6 pm.  Our neighborhood was open to the public but we had a security service that drove through the streets to lend some watchful eyes on our behalf.  When I called, security asked several questions about the young man.   I hung up the phone and ate my supper.  The doorbell rang an hour later.  It was the security guard so I opened the door and he asked me more questions.  He told me the police were looking for three young men.  They had stolen a van and abandoned it in my neighborhood.  He said the young man at my door fit the description of one of them and the other two were probably out of view and ready to force their way into my house had I opened the door.  I could have been in serious danger or even killed if the Holy Spirit not spoken to me.  All evening I could hear helicopters flying overhead and police cars with lights flashing were driving through the area.   I spent the rest of the night in perfect peace because I knew my Lord had kept me safe and would continue to be my keeper.  My husband and son returned home around 11:30 pm and asked what was taking place in our neighborhood.  They said there were police everywhere.  I told them what the Lord had done for me.  What would they have found when they arrived at home had the Lord not warned me?

David learned that God was his keeper when he was a youth tending his father’s sheep.  He slept out in the pasture many nights and defended the sheep from predators such as a lion and a bear.  He knew the Lord was not only with him but was his source of strength.  The Lord kept David safe when he stood against the Philistine’s greatest warrior Goliath.  Goliath towered over David, but he was struck dead by one smooth stone which David hurled from his sling shot.  The rock was sent forth by the power of God and imbedded into the forehead of the giant warrior.  The entire armies of Israelites and Philistines looked on with unanticipated amazement.  David knew who his Keeper was.  “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.  He will not allow your foot to slip or to be moved; He Who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He Who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.  The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”  Psalm 121.

The Hebrew word for keep is Shamar.  It means:  to keep, guard, to keep safe, preserve, to protect, to watch (as a watchman of cattle or sheep), and to hedge around something (as if with thorns).   (Key Word Study Bible).  David kept his father’s sheep safe from predators who would devour them.  It was his responsibility to not only nurture them, but to care for them.  He also meditated upon the Lord Who was guarding and keeping him from danger.  “Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me; Your rod [to protect] and Your staff [to guide], they comfort me.”  Psalm 23:4. (See entire Psalm).

The Lord also kept David during the eleven years he spent hiding from King Saul.  The Prophet Samuel had anointed David to be King Saul’s successor after Saul had sinned against the Lord’s commandment.  God enabled David to stay one step ahead of the king and his warriors who wanted to kill him.  He guided him and led him out of the path of danger.  He even gave him warriors who stood with him and helped him as he journeyed through those tough times.  David wrote in gratitude to the Lord, “O Lord, You have brought my life up from Sheol (the place of the dead); You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit (the grave).”  Psalm 30:3.

“Bless our God, O peoples, give Him grateful thanks and make the voice of His praise be heard.  Who put and kept us among the living, and has not allowed our feet to slip.”  Psalm 66:8-9.

I am one who has had a history of being anxious or worried since childhood.  The Lord showed me He had protected me that night He told me not to open the door.  It was over 20 years ago, but I am just now understanding Him as my full-time Keeper.  There is a difference between having a head knowledge of something and it becoming faith that is unshakeable.  Head knowledge is more like a “wish” than faith.  I can say I believe something God has promised but when I’m in the trenches of testing, I find out whether it is faith from true belief or a wish I hoped would come to pass.  Lately the world stage has given us many opportunities to become fearful or worried.  Now more than ever we (the church) must begin to function in genuine faith from KNOWING the Lord keeps his promises.

Psalm 91 has always intrigued me.  I have framed it, given it to a soldier in Iraq, and to people dealing with fear or physical illness.  I have read it to a parent preparing to meet the Lord and used it to encourage the body of Christ.  I can’t say that I have had true faith in all its promises when I think of scenarios where I might apply it.  Last week when the Lord spoke to me, “I AM your Keeper”, something congealed inside my heart.  His promise has become heavier, more substantial than ever before.  This promise however, is not just for me, it is for us all!  There are times coming which many of us will go through before the Lord returns.  The world will begin to become more dangerous and scary as the Bible foretells us, but the children of God need not fear.  When persecution comes, the glory of God will surround us.  He will lead us and guide us, as the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night protected and led the Israelites when they came out of slavery in Egypt.  We will not simply survive, we will thrive with the knowledge that God is our Keeper!  This revelation will be as important to us in life as when we one day face death.

God’s promise is for those “who dwell in the shelter of the Most High.”  He assures them they “will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].”  He declares they “will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust [with great confidence, and on whom I rely]!”  The result of our standing in faith assures “He will save you from the trap of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence.  He will cover you and completely protect you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a wall.  You will not be afraid of the terror of night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noon.  A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but danger will not come near you”…Why?  “Because you have made the LORD, your refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, (daily intimacy through thanksgiving, prayer, worship and the Word with God).  No evil will befall you, nor will any plague come near your tent. For He will command His angels in regard to you, to protect and defend and guard you in all your ways [of obedience and service]”…The Lord explains why, “Because he set his love on Me, therefore I will save him; I will set him [securely] on high, because he knows My name [he confidently trusts and relies on Me, knowing I will never abandon him, no, never].”  He again promises “He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.  With a long life I will satisfy him and I will let him see My salvation.” (Emphasis mine).

Jacob knew God as his keeper.  Isaac and Rebekah sent him away after he received Esau’s birthright and blessing through cunning and deceit.  Jacob obeyed his father and his mother but Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan did not please Isaac so he went to Ishmael and took more heathen wives.  (See Genesis 28:7-9).  Esau despised his birthright.  (See Genesis 25:29-34).  Jacob treasured and honored the birthright.  God had prophesied to Rebekah the elder son would serve the younger one. The Bible says after Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew, “Esau scorned his birthright as beneath his notice.”  Esau rejected the God of Abraham and Isaac while Jacob embraced the Lord.  When Jacob left his father and mother at their instruction because Esau vowed to kill him, he had an encounter with the Lord.  The Lord appeared to Jacob in a dream and gave him many promises including His protection.  “And behold, I am with you and will keep (watch over you with care, take notice of) you wherever you may go, and I will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done all of which I have told you.”  Genesis 28:15.  Every promise of God was fulfilled and the Lord brought healing between Jacob and Esau.

Isaiah knew the keeping power of the Lord.  “You will guard him and keep him in perfect and constant peace whose mind [both its inclination and its character] is stayed on You, because he commits himself to You, leans on You, and hopes confidently in You.”  Isaiah 26:3

I am learning to keep my mind occupied with the goodness of the Lord, the promises of God and his faithfulness to fulfill His Word, instead of worrying about my problems.  Playing scenarios in my head causes fear, worry and anxiety which kill faith.  We must put all our trust in the Lord because we cannot protect ourselves.  God’s protection doesn’t mean we won’t see or experience some difficult situations, it means He will keep us in spite of those things!

Last week as I began writing this article, the Lord proved His word to me again.  My husband and I love to hike for exercise.  The spring rains have brought a prolific growth of plants in the forest this year.  Our hiking paths have become very narrow with the over-growth of ferns, ground cover, leafy trees and shrubs.  Living in a forestry and mountainous area we can encounter deer, bear and poisonous snakes.  We make precautions for such encounters including deciding when and where we hike.  We chose to avoid the narrow paths with the arrival of warm weather because the overgrowth supplied ample hiding places for the copperheads and rattlesnakes.  We elected to hike the jeep trail near our home, which was wide and open.  Except for a few rocks here and there, the road was clear.  We were a good mile into our hike and were enjoying our conversation as we walked together.  My husband was a couple steps ahead of me and several feet to my right.  I lifted my left foot to take a step and “happened” to look down at the road.  To my shock, I saw that I was about to step on a copperhead which is a poisonous snake.  His coloring was much like the road.  He was lying completely straight like a stick, with his head slightly raised.  He lay deathly still as if hoping to catch prey that inadvertently passed his way.  I shrieked and stepped backward several feet.  My husband had already passed by him without noticing him.  Fortunately, he was walking several feet to the right, just out of his reach.  My heart was racing, but at that moment I knew the Lord had kept us both safe!

The goodness of God caused me to look down and distinguish that snake from the ground keeping me from danger.  Understanding that truth made my heart rejoice.  He really is my Keeper!  We’ve been in many near miss tragedies and have been well aware that God’s grace had kept us safe, but this took His keeping power to another level.  We need not fear or worry.  We do not have to spend another moment concerned for things we cannot control.  He is our Keeper.  We simply need to put our whole trust and faith in Him.  I would like to close with one of my favorite scripture verses.  Jude 24-25, “Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight)—To the one only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory (splendor), majesty, might and dominion, and power and authority, before all time and now and forever (unto all the ages of eternity).  Amen.”  The Lord is truly watching over all who make Him their dwelling place.  His promise is sure:  “I AM your Keeper!”

 

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!