Looks Don’t Matter, Part 1 by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0522“We don’t care what they look like.” The trainer made this statement as she took our small group on a summer tour of the training facility for Alaskan sled dogs near Denali. “The pure white Siberian dogs may be featured in the movies, but we don’t care if these Alaskan dogs are black, white, gray, tan, or any combination of those colors. It doesn’t matter if they have blue eyes, black eyes, or one of each. Either ear might stand up, or lay down. We are not concerned about size- large dogs can be fast, and the smaller dogs can still be powerful.”

By now she really had my attention. What attributes were they looking for in the dogs? I knew that sled races were a very popular sport in Alaska, and in fact, the trainer kept referring to the dogs as elite athletes. She went on to say that Alaska has so few roads relative to the size of the state, that these dogs were still a major means of transportation for moving people and goods around in wilderness areas. They were very much a working dog, bred for speed and power. But even speed and power were not the sole criteria for a good Alaskan sled dog.

“In addition to speed and power, we look for large feet”, she said. This big foundation lends to a greater stability under harsh conditions, such as ice and snow. The dog is better able to stay on top of the adverse conditions, rather than sink into them.

“We look for a social factor in the dog”. She explained that the dog must get along well with other dogs on the team, and be willing to be a part of the team. Anything that was accomplished would be accomplished by the team, not by any one individual dog. The dog must be a loyal and trusted friend of the owner/driver, as the two would rely on each other for affection and companionship.

“The dog must have a huge appetite”, she said. This is not only an indication that the dog is healthy, but that the dog appreciates what it has been given to eat. Food must be devoured rapidly. Fresh meat will freeze on the ground if the dog is a picky eater. The dogs are well fed, but imagine the problems if every dog had to have something different to eat.

“Finally”, she said, “we look for a certain attitude from the dogs- are they eager to do what they were born to do?” By now, we were walking around the dog kennels, petting some of the dogs, and taking pictures. The dogs were friendly, taking advantage of all the attention being paid to them. Some were sitting as though to pose, others were lying down, and some were stretched out on the roofs of their kennels, being lazy and enjoying a bit of summer sun.

“Time for a demonstration”, she announced. On cue, her assistant walked into the kennel compound with a sled harness. It was time to run. The summer training sled had wheels, and the track was gravel. No snow, but the dogs went wild. Of the twenty or so dogs in the facility, only six would comprise the team. They all stood to attention, jumped down off the roofs, and began to leap back and forth, barking and howling at the top of their lungs the entire time. They strained against the tether chains. The whole group of dogs went from lazy to crazy in an instant, and did everything in their power to say “pick me, I can do it. I want to run.” What an attitude, I thought to myself. I could not remember getting that excited about being picked for an assignment.

“Maybe the factor that best characterizes the attitude of these dogs is heart”, she said.   The dog was bred to run, but when the time came, how eager is the dog to run, and be a part of a team? How stable is the dog in adverse conditions? How is the appetite- how eager is the dog to eat? Does it appreciate what it has been given? How much affection does the dog have for the other dogs, and the owner? A dog that would rather fight the other dogs and the owner would not last long in these tough winter conditions.

By now I am really impressed with the spirit of these dogs. It was apparent that what was on the inside of the dog, the heart and character of the dog, was what was really important. There is more I learned about these dogs, and will later write about such things as leadership and team work. For now I am impressed with the importance of not being fooled by the appearance.

Samuel, the wise and adept prophet, was given the assignment from God to go to Jesse’s house, and find from among his sons the new king of Israel.  In 1 Samuel 16, we learn that after Samuel traveled to Bethlehem, he consecrated Jesse and seven of his sons, sacrificed a heifer, and then began to look over the sons. He saw Eliab, Jesse’s oldest, and thought (v.6) “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands right here before the Lord.”

Continuing in v.7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Samuel was reminded not to go by appearance. He continued the process until he had looked at all seven of the sons. Finding no king, Samuel asked if these were all the sons. Jesse called for the youngest, David, who was in the field tending sheep. Though not initially considered for the position of king by man, the Lord said (v.12) “Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”

Consider also these Scriptures:

  1. 1 Kings 8:39- Solomon prayed “deal with each man according to all he does, since you know his heart (for you alone know the hearts of all men)”.
  2. 1 Chronicles 28:9- David said “the Lord searches every heart, and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
  3. Luke 16:15- Jesus said to the Pharisees “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”
  4. John 2:25- John wrote of Jesus “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.”

These Scriptures, and the lessons from the Alaskan sled dogs, made me think about the old saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” One can only judge a book by its content, and a person can only be rightly judged by their heart. God alone knows the heart, so we are not to judge anyone. He knows our heart, the good and the bad, and He loves us anyway. Before forming even an opinion of anyone, we must make every effort to know their heart, as much as is possible. All of the superficial qualifiers promoted by advertising fall way short of being helpful. Hollywood beauty, Wall Street money, the number and type of credit cards, the style of car, the neighborhood and size of house, the height, the weight, and the clothes they wear tell us nothing about the person’s content or heart. In fact, nothing of the physical appearance speaks to the content of the heart, nor does social status, title, occupation or position. Now that my wife and I are retired, we are around more retired people, and it is refreshing to see how relatively unimportant it is to know what someone once did. What is important is who you are.

It’s the difference between knowing something about someone, and actually knowing them so well we know their heart. Come to think of it, that is what God wants from us. Many have rejected Him when they don’t even know Him. He invites us to really know Him, not make a judgment based on a few things we may know about Him. What we know about Him from a book (the Bible) is good, but knowing His heart from a personal relationship is so much better. He longs for relationship with us. He is a solid, willing, and trustworthy foundation on which we can build, and He will keep us from sinking under adverse conditions. Get to know Him; in His heart is an undying love for all His children. Looks don’t matter.

The God Who Sees Me by Kay K. Peebles

20150329_093912She was in excruciating pain. In her early seventies, she slowly walked in front of my car using a walker. As I waited, I wondered about the possible source of her pain. By the time I had pulled into my parking space the Lord had spoken to me. He wanted me to pray for her. Truthfully, the thought came to my mind, “Do I have to, Lord?” I knew I did, and deep down inside I wanted to; but I wondered if she would be receptive, or look at me as if I was from outer space.

After parking, I walked up to her and told her I could see she was in severe pain. I asked her if she had been in an accident, because we were in the parking lot of a physical rehab center. She told me she had simply raised up from a sitting position, when the intense pain struck her knee. She had torn the meniscus, the cartilage cushion which protects the bones in the knee joint. The injury left her with bone rubbing against bone. She was scheduled for surgery in a few weeks.

I told her I would like to pray for her and asked if she was comfortable with sharing her first name. She said her name was Pat, and gave me permission to pray for her. I sensed, however, she was very uncomfortable with the notion, so I did not ask to hold her hand or to touch her. Instantly, as I began to pray, the Lord reminded me of a scripture passage dear to my heart, Genesis 16. It is the story of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian maid. I told Pat that the Lord saw her pain. He caused me to see her pain, and asked me to pray for her. He is the God who sees.

Genesis 16:13-14 “So she called the name of the Lord Who spoke to her, You are a God of seeing, for she said, Have I [not] even here [in the wilderness] looked upon Him Who sees me [and lived]? Or have I here also seen [the future purposes or designs of] Him Who sees me? Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi, [A well to the Living One Who sees me]; it is between Kadesh and Bered.” (AMP) (Please read the entire chapter to get the whole, incredible story).

Then I prayed 2 Chronicles 16:9a over her: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless toward Him.” (AMP) I told Pat of God’s great love for her. I prayed for Him to heal and restore her knee, then went on my way. I do not know if she was healed in that instant or will be healed later. I have learned it is not up to me to heal someone. It is my job to hear from God and obey, pray a prayer of faith, and leave the results up to Him.

The first time I studied Genesis chapter 16 was in 1979, during my second year of Bible Study Fellowship. I had grown up attending church all my life but I did not have a personal relationship with the Lord. I wasn’t even saved. I believed God existed but that was the extent of my faith. The year before we studied the book of Matthew for 9 months. I began to understand the Gospel and see that the Lord loved us and cared about our daily lives.

Months after studying about Hagar, I had an incredible opportunity to personally experience the God Who sees me! My husband, Larry had built three homes for the company where he was employed. They were down the street from where we lived. He had maintained the yards himself and I kept the houses clean while they were listed on the market. His schedule got extremely busy and he was not able to mow the grass for several weeks. I decided I would bless him so I took our lawn mower down the street. I began the pains-taking task of mowing the 8-12” high grass.

I happened to be wearing a very special pendant necklace Larry had given me which was very precious to me. The self-propelled mower kept stalling in the high grass so I leaned in to help push it. When the mower jumped, the controls caught on the chain of my pendant and it fell down into the tall grass. Immediately I stopped the mower and knelt down to look for my pendant. After several minutes, the task seemed impossible and I began to panic. It was a partly cloudy day and the clouds made it more difficult to see clearly. I tried to borrow a metal detector from neighbors but the battery was dead. Frantic I went back to the yard and began to cry. By now an hour or more had passed. As tears were pouring down my cheeks, I remembered El Roi (Hebrew), the God Who sees me!

I knelt down on the grass, bowed my head and prayed to El Roi, one of the names of God from Genesis 16. I told Him I had lost a special piece of jewelry my husband had given to me and asked Him to help me find it. I also told Him I knew that one of His names was El Roi, the God who sees. I knew He could see me and where my pendant had fallen. I asked Him to please show me where it was. I ended my prayer with Amen and opened my eyes. Because I was bowing, my eyes were looking downward into the grass when I opened them. The clouds had parted while I was praying and a ray of sunlight shone down on the ground right before me. To my awe and wonder, something sparkled down in the grass. It was my pendant!

I began to thank and praise the Lord as I plucked the pendant and gold chain out of the tall grass. I was so amazed that the Lord heard my cry and answered so quickly. That day I knew He cared what happened to me personally, and believed His eyes were truly on me.

Over the years I have learned more and more about the incredible love of God for all of us. I have also learned that what concerns us concerns Him. That day He was not only El Roi, the God Who sees me, He was also my help in the time of trouble. Psalm 46:1 “God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble.” (AMP)

I do not know what is happening in your life today, but God does. What I do know is He sees you and your situation. I also know He is filled with compassion and loving kindness for you. If you are tempted to give up in despair, instead, I encourage you to put your trust in the God Who saw Hagar, Pat and me. Ask Him to intervene in your situation and bring restoration and healing in your life. El Roi is not only the God Who sees me, He is the God Who sees you!

Some Things Never Change by Larry W. Peebles

“Some things never change” I thought to myself.   This old saying came to mind as I gazed across the valley below our cabin, and pondered the mountain on the other side. It’s a large, long mountain, maybe 2500 ft. elevation at the highest peak, with steep sides and multiple peaks along the top ridge, definitely above average in size for this part of the Appalachians. Many times I have hiked the stream below that mountain, and have come to appreciate this formidable structure.

Mountains by definition can be huge obstacles to overcome. I have tried to carry firewood for the cabin up the mountain on my side of the valley, with a similar steep slope, only to stop totally fatigued and out of breath. I have tried to carry landscape rocks up the mountain to adorn the driveway to the cabin, only to abandon the effort due to exhaustion. Because of the mountain I was facing, I would have to have help to tackle those projects.

Sharp turns, steep road inclines, water, ice, snow, fog and darkness make mountains all the more imposing, and difficult to travel around or over. The mountain is immovable, unyielding, and often treacherous. The mountain is beautiful to look at, but hard and solid as a rock a thousand times over.

Some quick research on the Appalachian Mountains yielded two very interesting points. First, geologists believe the Appalachians are some of the oldest mountains on the planet. Second, geologists believe the mountains were once as tall as the current day Rocky Mountains, and would have been 10,000 to 14,000 feet in elevation at some point in the past. The effects of weather, over time, have worn them down to their current elevations (maximum 6684’ at Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina), and they sport a more rounded top due to wear as compared to the sharp peaks of the Rockies. This past winter, following a freezing rain and severe cold, the mountains shed many rocks, large and small, that could easily be seen along the sides of the road. The temperature ranges of extreme heat and cold cause the rocks in the mountain to crack. When moisture in the cracks freezes and expands, the rocks break and fall off the mountain. As the rocks give way and fall, the surrounding soil becomes subject to the erosive effects of rain. More rock is then exposed, and the cycle repeats.

Contrary to what the casual observer might think, and certainly contrary to what I was thinking as I looked at that mountain across the valley, that puts mountains in the category of things that change. Perhaps the rate at which they change is slower, but that groups mountains with those who change their mind and change their attitude. Laws change, fashions change, and mountains change. The morals of a society change, its customs and even religious practices change, just like mountains. Friendships and relationships change. Nations and leaders of nations change. The weather-the wind, the seasons and temperatures change. Our human bodies and our personal appearance change. Interest rates and the stock market change. The facts of a trial change depending on who is testifying, the news changes depending on who is reporting it, and history changes depending on who is writing it. If all these things change, including mountains, is there anything that does not change? Is there anything that one can anchor to and depend upon? If a mountain is not rock-solid after all, then what is?

It comes down to one thing that does not change. God says in Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” When He says “I am”, He is repeating the answer to the question in Exodus when Moses asked Him His name. In Ex. 3:14 God said to Moses “I AM who I AM.” God is I AM, not I WAS, or I WILL BE. Because He is eternal and therefore exists outside of time, when He says I AM, it means He is constantly the same. From the eternal past, through today, and into the eternal future, God is (who He is). He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He is “the absolute being, independent of any cause, incapable of change, exceeding all duration, because He is infinite: Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8) [St. Thomas I, thesis XXIII, 1883]

He is the “first cause” of all creation. The theory of evolution is based on change; in theory species change or evolve into different species. It is a scientist’s attempt to explain creation without acknowledging a Creator. However, this is contrary to specific Scripture, such as Gen. 1:20-25, where seven times God says the birds, creatures of the sea, and various creatures of the land were each created “according to their kind”. Additionally, I Cor. 15:39 says “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another, and fish another.” Finally, those scientists who still ascribe to the theory of evolution have enormous difficulty pinpointing the “first cause” of life or creation.

I Sam. 2:2 says “there is no rock like our God.” Isaiah 40:12 says God “weighed the mountains on the scales, and the hills in a balance.” The good news is mountains may change, but He does not. He is the eternal, everlasting, almighty Creator of everything. According to Col. 1:17, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Jeremiah 10:12 says “…God made the earth by His power, and v. 16 says “…He is the Maker of all things.”

The good news of His constant, dependable, eternal character does not stop there.

For over 15 years, my wife and I ministered to kids in the Juvenile Justice System. One night, as I was preparing to talk to the kids, I asked the Lord what He wanted me to say. He said talk to them about license plates. My first thought was that making license plates in prison was what a lot of them would be doing for the rest of their lives if they did not change their behaviors. “What do you want me to tell them about license plates?” I asked. “Tell them what my personalized license plate would say” said the Lord…”if I had a car.” Out of genuine curiosity I asked “What would that be?”

He said “tell them my personalized plate would read: IM4U”. I AM for you. The Great I AM, the eternal one, the Creator of everything, is for you, not against you. Tell them He made you and He knows you by name. He takes great interest in your life, and He knows the plans He has for you. He wants you to know Him in a personal way. Tell them His attitude toward you (love) has not changed, no matter what you may have done. He will forgive you, and set your feet on the right path. His power and resources are unlimited to work on behalf of those who believe in Him and are submitted to Him.

What a simple yet profound revelation. The Ancient One, the Creator of everything, the One who still holds everything together, knows me and is my greatest support. The first cause of all life and creation, the Creator of the mountains, is willing to move mountains on my behalf. (Mt. 17:20). The One who created each of us from a distinct and personal blueprint laid down in the eternal past is with us today to guide us through every obstacle. The mighty mountains may change, but God does not change. Jesus promised in John 14 and 16 that when He left the earth He would send His Holy Spirit to comfort and guide us. For help in navigating that mountain, cry out to Him today. The great I AM is for you.  That will never change.

 

His Healing Presence by Kay K. Peebles

Experts say you can break a habit in 30 days. I have done it and it works, but healing brokenness in the heart is another story.

I have tried to mend a cherished broken china cup and was never able to glue it back together correctly. I wound up throwing it away, sad that its beauty was gone forever! A broken heart is much more precious and delicate than a china cup. Brokenness is a sin issue. It is either caused by someone else’s sin perpetrated on us, or our sin causing someone else to be broken.

The Israelites had to be deeply broken after 400+ years of slavery. They were the descendants of Abraham who had made covenant with God but had spent generations in slavery in Egypt with people who worshipped snakes, frogs, the sun, the Nile River… and Pharaoh himself. They were bound by a “slave” mentality, not knowing any other life when God broke them free through His power and Moses’ obedience.

I have heard taught that Moses could lead the people out of Egypt but could not get Egypt (its false religion and bondage) out of the people. It was NOT Moses’ job to get Egypt out of the people. It was Moses’ job to point the people to God for their healing and restoration and he did that very well by his personal example. Only God can heal our broken heart, but not without our cooperation and permission.

At the time of the Exodus out of Egypt, God was calling the Israelites to live in His presence. Exodus 20:18-21 “Now all the people perceived the thunderings and the lightenings and the noise of the trumpet and the smoking mountain, and as [they] looked they trembled with fear and fell back and stood afar off. And they said to Moses, You speak to us and we will listen, but let not God speak to us, lest we die. And Moses said to the people, Fear not; for God has come to prove you, so that the [reverential] fear of Him may be before you that you may not sin. And the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.” (AMP)

Moses sought the presence of the Lord and pitched his tent outside the Israelite camp so that he could dwell in the presence of God and intercede on behalf of the people. It was called the “tent of meeting” because he met with God there. God wanted a relationship with His people like He had with Adam before the fall. (Genesis 3). God was trying to draw all the people to His presence, the only place their hearts could be healed and transformed into His likeness, but they would not come.

Exodus 33:7-11 “Now Moses used to take [his own] tent and pitch it outside the camp, far off from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting [of God with His own people]. And everyone who sought the Lord went out to [that temporary] tent of meeting which was outside the camp. When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the door of the tent, and the Lord would talk with Moses. And all the people saw the pillar of cloud stand at the tent door and all the people rose up and worshiped, every man at his tent door. And the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Moses returned to the camp, but his minister Joshua son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the [temporary prayer] tent.” (AMP)

Joshua observed Moses, and saw his strength came from the presence of the Lord.  Joshua hungered for God’s presence also. He would come and sit outside the tent of meeting while Moses was inside. God touched Joshua and raised him up to stand in faith and lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Unfortunately, the first generation of those who left Egypt, who rejected God’s presence, died in the wilderness still bound by the idolatry of Egypt. They never entered the land of promise.

An idol can be anything that holds the attention, admiration and trust of someone or something above God. In modern day terms: pride, greed, fear of man which causes one to compromise God’s will, entertainment that contradicts Biblical parameters, self-centeredness, stubbornness, and drug (abuse) are a few examples.

In the wilderness, God showed the people He was their provision for all their needs. He did many miracles displaying His power to care for them and love them, but they refused to see and believe. Rather than acknowledging God Whom they held at a distance, they broke the covenant with Him and grumbled and complained, sinking deeper into idolatry. Today, we can see parallels in the church that closely relate to the Israelites in the wilderness, and that is why so many people are still unhealed and bound.

Some, like the Israelites, will not humble themselves before the presence of the Lord. Instead, they expect the clergy or their pastors to do all the work and bring the word of the Lord to them. If they continue standing “afar off” from God, they will fall as surely as the Israelites in the wilderness. God does not want us dependent on man, He wants us dependent on Him. Pastors are shepherds who lead the sheep to the Lord. We must not put them in a position to “replace” the Lord. In some cases, this has led to the idolatry of man. We cannot make idols of great men and women of God. They are to be a signpost directing us to God, not to themselves.

It is our right as blood bought, children of God to come before the throne of God, with humble hearts. He bids us to come into His presence but so few know what that really means. It is not something to be feared, but highly desired above all things.

Whether I am singing an anointed hymn centuries old or a current worship song, when I lose myself in that place of worship and feel His peace and intense love, I’m in His presence! It is a feeling of being overwhelmed, and yes, it does touch our emotions. The first several times I felt the Lord’s presence I was in worship at church. God honors the hungry and humble heart longing for Him no matter who it is or what they have done.

Now, when I am at home, studying His Word, praying, or glorifying His name I can feel that same presence begin to fall. His glory feels like the heaviness of a warm blanket upon me. There are times I find myself unable to speak or do anything and I become still in His glory. His presence is so wonderful I never want to leave. When I am broken and battered by life’s events, I find counsel, comfort and healing in His presence.

For all who come into His presence, God comforts us and surrounds us in His peace. Our fears and failures melt away in His affirming love and our hearts are mended. His presence is the place of revelation and confirmation; where answers come from the Wisdom of the Ages. It is like the scripture beckons us: “Be still and know that I am God….” (See Psalm 46:10a). (AMP).

His presence is the place where we go from knowing “about” Him to knowing Him! He reveals Himself, His character, to us and teaches us His ways. Like Moses, we come face to face with Almighty God but secure in a safe, loving atmosphere where the world is not allowed to enter. It is a place where the Word becomes alive and is written on our hearts. Exodus 33:17 “And the Lord said to Moses, I will do this thing also that you have asked, for you have found favor, loving-kindness, and mercy in My sight and I know you personally and by name.” (AMP) (Emphasis mine).

No matter what happened to you in life, His presence is the place of healing and hope. It is the place where His promises are affirmed and confirmed. It is the place where His calling is received. His presence is a place of joy unspeakable and it is a place where we feel more and more humble because the Lord of all Creation desires to spend time with us alone.

His presence is also the place where our humanity is exposed and His Holiness is revealed. It is a place where our motives are purified and our purpose is ratified. His presence is the place where our insecurities melt in His arms of strength and we lose sight of ourselves, while He is magnified.

God is calling His people to enter into His presence. We do not have the time to stand afar off like the Israelites did. His presence is the place to prepare us for what is coming in these last days. It is also the place for equipping us to stand strong and shine His light to a dark world.

We must seek His presence now, while He may be found. His presence is the place where we know Him and He affirms that He knows us by name. Dwelling in His presence is our destiny, on earth and in eternity. “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28a. (AMP)