Do Not Be Afraid by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0522I hated those midnight walks alone. “Don’t be afraid” I kept telling myself; “you are almost there.”

A few months after turning 15, I had taken a summer job at the local theatre. The job did not pay much, but it was the only job I could find that would hire a 15 year old. My teachers and coaches wrote letters to the employer so they could justify an age exception. I passed my first interview, and then accepted the position of usher. My main role was to greet guests as they arrived, and to ask if I could assist them to their seats. It was essential to have seats in mind before asking someone if I could assist them, so I gathered available seats together by asking seated customers to move over one or two seats. I learned the importance of making the guest feel very special by escorting them to the seats I had selected, and presenting the seats as though they were exclusively saved for them. A small flashlight was used to light the way down the aisle for the customer, without interfering with someone else’s enjoyment of the movie. Having a few seats available for the late arrival was always a nice touch. Occasionally a noisy patron would have to be asked to please keep quiet for the sake of those around. The aisles and foyer were to be kept clean and free of popcorn and paper, while the front of the candy case was to be kept free of fingerprints and smudges. My summer job was in air conditioning. I wore a suit, and I saw a lot of my friends who came to the movies. The work was seven days a week, but only 5 ½ hours per day. One day the schedule was noon until 5:30, the next day 5:30 until 11 pm closing. Living a mile and a half from the theatre made it possible for me to walk to work and back home every day. It seems a shame, but the position of usher as I knew it has now all but vanished from the modern day movie theatre.

That summer of 1963, an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie entitled “The Birds” came to the theatre. The movie is still considered a Hitchcock classic. While it might be deemed tame by today’s standards, it was cutting-edge scary for the time. After watching that movie while working, the mile and a half walk home between 11pm and midnight developed a new level of fear within me. If the movie was not scary enough, the walk home was under the shadows of tall trees growing along the streets between the curbs and sidewalks. The trees blocked most of the light from the few street lights, providing plenty of hiding places for things that can frighten in the night. Residential security systems and leash laws were unheard of, consequently most family dogs slept untethered on the front porch. They were there to keep people walking by at night on edge and at a distance from the property. The more they growled and barked, the safer the family inside must have felt, but they were sheer terror for a 15 year old walking at midnight. I was never attacked, but was often terrified when the growling came from a dark porch where I could not see the dog. It was easier to take a long detour to avoid the dogs and the dark places that bothered me the most. By the time the movie ended its two-week run at the theatre, I had learned a manageable route home, but that whole scary situation became a major obstacle to overcome to keep my job.

Stepping out into the work force, winning the first job, and handling the responsibilities of the position was exciting, but also intimidating in ways I had not anticipated. Walking alone, I often talked to myself, reminding myself of what lay ahead in the next block, and how to navigate the upcoming part of the route home. My imagination had to be brought under control. Though I was not far from home and safety, this was all new and unfamiliar territory when viewed in the dark of midnight. I felt so vulnerable and uncertain. The walk at noon was no problem, because this was my neighborhood. Neither was the walk at 5:30. The only problem was the walk home at midnight. I had to remind myself that nothing had changed between the daytime walk and the walk in the dark. I do not remember praying, though it would have been a good idea. Looking back, I think every step home was a prayer.

When God speaks a word of instruction or advice, it is a good idea to listen. When He repeats that word, He is dead serious. When He says the same thing three times, and offers reasons for what He is saying, we must pay absolute attention, because He owes no one an explanation for anything He says or does. When He offers the explanation, we must study it until it becomes a part of us. Such is the case in Chapter 1 of the Book of Joshua. The children of Israel, who were the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had been freed from over 400 years of Egyptian slavery. Following their release, they had wandered in the desert for 40 more years. Moses, their leader, had died, and a new leader, Joshua, was preparing to take them across the Jordan River and into the land God had promised to them through a covenant going all the way back to Abraham and confirmed to Moses. They were entering an exciting time, but they were definitely stepping out into unfamiliar territory. The advance intelligence reports were mostly scary–fortified cities, giants that could not be conquered, and battles to be fought. Except for the few spies who gathered the intelligence, no one had actually walked this route they were about to take to finally get home. The people were in the dark on what lay ahead.

In the first nine verses of Joshua, Chapter 1, God tells Joshua three times “Be strong and (very) courageous.” Courageous (Hebrew-ames) means to be strong; to strengthen; to harden; to persist; to fortify; to be steadfastly minded. A simple definition of courage is that quality which allows one to do something he/she is afraid to do. In those same first nine verses of Joshua, Chapter 1, God gives Joshua the reasons he should be strong and courageous. These reasons not only applied to the children of Israel as they stood at the banks of the Jordan River, they applied to a 15 year old boy walking home alone at night, and they apply to all in these difficult and stressful times today:

  1. V.3- “I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses” [and Abraham-emphasis mine]. God’s promises are sure. When we step out following His instruction, every step is a victory moving forward. We win when we are doing what we were created to do or were called to do. We may have to battle, but we will be victorious.
  2. V.5- “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.” When we take a stand based on His word or instruction, the enemy or resistance will have to stand down.
  3. V.5- “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua had God’s promise that He would be there to “direct, sustain and assure success.” (NIV commentary).
  4. V.6- “…you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them.” Joshua’s leadership was a guaranteed success because God intended to fulfill His promise regarding the land they were about to enter. When we walk in God’s purposes, promises and authority, we are assured success.
  5. V.7- “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” God’s promise was conditional on their obedience to His laws. If they were obedient to the law, did not break the law, and did not create law that was contradictory to His, they would be successful wherever they went.
  6. V.8- “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” In order to keep God’s commands, they would need to thoroughly know God’s commands. This would require study and meditation day and night, but with this kind of dedicated approach and interest in His word, they would not miss this opportunity to prosper and succeed.
  7. V.9- “Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Anything that is difficult, or requires great courage, is easier if one does not have to face it alone. God is saying you will not face this alone; He will be there with you.

These promises from God still provide us with great comfort today. The road ahead may seem dark and scary. Opposition may be lurking in the shadows where it cannot be seen, and small troubles may cast a giant shadow. The attack appears it could come from any side at any time. The growl of the enemy might be intimidating, especially when he remains in hiding. Our imagination may run wild in anticipation of the worst possible outcome. We may find ourselves all alone on unfamiliar territory. We may have to take a stand on a seemingly indefensible position against overwhelming odds.

The courage to prevail under these real or imagined circumstances might come from these three bits of wisdom:

  1. Fear reproduces itself; fear stimulates fear. Being influenced by a horror movie did not help during the walk home at midnight. Break the thought pattern with Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
  2. The vast majority of bad/fearful things imagined never happen. Statistically speaking, the end of the world does not come all that often. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, love and of a sound mind.”
  3. Do not let the darkness impair or diminish what you know or learned in the light. Jesus says in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

We have good reason to believe God when He says “Do not be afraid.”

A Good Idea Part 2 by Kay Keith Peebles

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“To obey is better than sacrifice.” King Saul found himself in a very difficult position which he alone had chosen. He stood before the prophet Samuel having disobeyed the Lord because of the fear of man. (See 1 Samuel 15:24) He was about to hear what the Lord thought about his disobedience.

In A Good Idea Part 1, I told a personal story in which I had a “good” idea for solving a problem for a friend but discovered God had a better idea. I encourage anyone reading this to read/re-read that post of July 10, 2015. In that article, I discussed the problem with only using our carnal nature (our soul) which is our rational mind, will and emotions to make decisions. Our five senses can also interfere with decision-making. Emotions fluctuate and cannot be trusted while our senses only determine what sounds, tastes, appears, smells and feels good/bad. Therefore, our carnal nature is typically self-centered and self-gratifying. Because our carnal nature is sensory, it must be tethered to the moral and ethical guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Lord speaks to us through His Holy Spirit directly (rhema) and through His written Word (logos), which is a bridle (or a restraint) to our carnal nature. We will never discover our full potential or know and achieve the purpose for which we were created without the Holy Spirit’s direction.

I quoted the Romans 8:5-8 passage in that article and discussed how our natural soul (mind, will and emotions) and 5 senses are at enmity with God. They often contradict what God speaks which causes a hindrance to our hearing and obeying the Lord. I also listed several reasons that can cause us to disobey the Lord. They are pride, a need to impress others, selfish ambition, perceived expectations of others and insecurity. Most of these fall under the category of the fear of man. I call it a man-pleasing spirit. This is a spirit that puts people in bondage to man and can hinder them from living a truly godly life. This spirit feeds on a person’s insecurity, causing them to require man’s approval to feel good about themselves. It circumvents their ability to become completely secure in the Lord and causes them to struggle to hear and obey Him. The story of Saul’s disobedience to God is a tragic one which exposes the seriousness of being in similar bondage without submitting to God’s power of deliverance and redemption.

This story begins in 1 Samuel 15:1-3. Verses 2-3 state, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, I have considered and will punish what Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way when [Israel] came out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek and utterly destroy all they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.” See Exodus 17:8-16 and Numbers 24:20, to understand why God wanted to totally annihilate the Amalekites. Exodus 17:14 and 16 state, “And the Lord said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under the heavens. And he said, Because theirs is a hand against the throne of the Lord, the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

The Amalekites were the first people to attack Israel while journeying in the wilderness after their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. Their type of warfare was wicked and barbaric. The Israelites were not trained for war, they were not prepared for war, and yet the Lord caused them to prevail and defeat the Amalekites. However, they did not totally destroy them. The Amalekites were haters of God and became a continual threat to Israel. Because of their atrocities against Israel, the Lord demanded they be annihilated completely.  God gave that instruction to king Saul, who was responsible to execute the fulfillment of His promise to Israel while they were in the wilderness.

The Lord of heaven and earth is a Righteous Judge. He does not judge by outward appearance; He judges by the condition of the heart. The heart of the Amalekite was vicious and cruel. It is also not God’s nature to judge without giving the opportunity to repent. When the Lord God speaks, His words are weighed carefully. He does not judge rashly or recklessly. He speaks explicitly and His instructions are to be carried out completely. Isaiah 55:11 states, “So shall My word be that goes forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void [without producing any effect, useless], but it shall accomplish that which I please and purpose, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”

The Lord had sent His Word to king Saul through the prophet Samuel. Samuel was a proven prophet of God and Saul knew it was the Word of God Himself. 1 Samuel 15:6-8 “And Saul came to the city of Amalek and laid wait in the valley.  Saul warned the Kenites, Go, depart, get down from among the Amalekites, lest I destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites.  Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah as far as Shur, which is east of Egypt.  And he took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, though he utterly destroyed all the rest of the people with the sword.  Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them; but all that was undesirable or worthless they destroyed utterly.” (Emphasis mine) The Lord not only wanted the Amalekites destroyed, His judgment included all their resources which were also judged as vile.

Saul did not follow the Lord’s instructions to their fulfillment. Instead, he decided to spare king Agag and the best of the sheep, oxen, fatlings, lambs, and all that was good in his eyes, which was a direct violation of God’s Word! In this time period, victorious kings would often spare the life of the king they defeated to either become friends later or make them slaves as their personal trophy. Saul presumptuously obstructed the fulfillment of God’s promise to Joshua and the Israelites from coming to pass exactly as He had said. Saul and the people thought they had a “better” idea than the Lord. Their idea was self-centered and self-gratifying. King Agag would bring glory to Saul and the cattle would bring riches to him and the people. King Saul was responsible and held accountable before the Lord because the Word of the Lord was spoken directly to him. In 1 Samuel 15:21-26 we find the Lord’s response to Saul through Samuel, “Samuel said, Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim (household good luck images). Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king. And Saul said to Samuel, I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.    Now, I pray you, pardon my sin and go back with me, that I may worship the Lord. And Samuel said to Saul, I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” (Emphasis mine) Excuses do not exonerate. True repentance is a personal acceptance of responsibility as well as a change of mind and direction. Saul was not truly repentant, he was just appeasing Samuel and the Lord for being caught in his sin. I encourage you to finish the passage on your own.

God considers disobedience to His direct instruction comparable to rebellion and equates it with witchcraft. He also connects stubbornness with idolatry! In the world in which we live, the Biblical Kingdom lifestyle is rejected by the majority and there is intense pressure on the church to conform to the world’s standard instead of God’s. We are being called intolerant, bigots and haters of people and the day may come when we will face persecution for our beliefs like those in other countries of the world. The fear of man is one of satan’s greatest tools to cause God’s people to compromise or deny their faith in God and His Word.

Temptations to compromise God’s written Word and His spoken Word will always come. We must recognize the source of these temptations and hold fast to the Word of God. The Lord is calling us to inspect our lives to see if there might be any compromise in our hearts. If we examine our actions and our motives humbly before the Lord, we will begin to see if we, too have fallen prey to the fear of man even to a small degree.

The fear of man is usually at the source when we are manipulated by guilt, rejection, control, false praise, the silent treatment, outbursts of anger, tears, man’s opinion and pressure to name a few. We are truly free from the fear of man when we are not affected by any of those forms of manipulation, but only seek the Holy Spirit’s direction and affirmation for who we are and what we are to do.

Jesus knew who He was and was not yielding to the devil while being tempted in the wilderness. He never cowered or surrendered His authority when challenged by the Scribes and Pharisees. He did not use His emotions to get His way. Rather, He obeyed the leading of His Heavenly Father regarding everything He said and did, including His own death on the cross.

As the world becomes darker and more evil, the children of God are called to raise up the standard of Biblical morality and lifestyle while we point to the Lord as Savior and King. The church must take her lead from the Lord. He loves even the vilest sinner but will not tolerate their sin! The woman caught in the act of adultery was not condemned by Jesus but as she left Jesus, He said to her, “Go on your way and from now on sin no more.” (My Emphasis) (See John 8:1-11)

We must carry the Banner of Jesus Christ, teaching His Kingdom instead of tolerating the world’s kingdom. One who is tolerant of sin accepts the sin and makes it admissible. God will never accept and allow the world’s sin in His Kingdom. He is Holy and we are called to rise to the level of holiness in our hearts. Sin and holiness cannot co-exist in heaven.

We are God’s ambassadors, therefore we are to love what He loves and hate what He hates. We are to be like Him to the world. He dearly loves the sinner, but hates their sin that leads to death and eternal judgment. He gave his life so that we can all be redeemed from a life of sin, delivered from its bondage, and freed to live in His peace. Jesus invites us to become a citizen of His Kingdom which will never end.  Now that is a God idea!

Check the Water Supply by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0519If you are like me, you probably get a lot of unsolicited phone calls concerning your water. People want to test my water, filter and purify it, and run it through a reverse osmosis process. They want to sell me bottled water, or sell me some system to process the water. The system might be as small as a filter/pitcher that fits in the refrigerator, or as large as a series of tanks that sit in the garage and filter the water for the whole house. They seem very concerned about my health, hydration and possible contamination.

On my first trip to Africa, a small team of five from our Church visited churches in the Mt. Kenya region of central Kenya. We traveled through a number of towns and villages, holding meetings to encourage and strengthen local pastors and leaders. We made many friends, and saw all the remarkable sights of Kenya, including the unique animals. One thing I saw made a lasting and life changing impact on me. It concerned water.

In one small town, on a lunch break between the morning and afternoon leadership training sessions, we were invited to a church leader’s home for the noon meal. Our team was fed a delicious and abundant meal, as the Kenyans are wonderful hosts and a very giving and gracious people. Following the meal, I stepped outside in anticipation of boarding the van and returning to the local church for the afternoon session. The village where the home was located was tiny, with dirt streets and only a few buildings. What I saw as I waited to board the van I shall never forget.

Coming down the street was an elderly man, slowly driving a wooden cart pulled by a small donkey. The wheels and axle for the cart came from a wrecked vehicle, and the wooden bed was handmade. In the bed of the cart were a number of 50 gallon drums of water. The man pulled the cart up to a small concrete tank beside the road, and began to empty the barrels of water into the tank. “He’s bringing water to the village”, I thought to myself. Throughout Kenya, clean drinking water is rarely available. Everywhere we went, we were offered bottled water, the Kenyans drank bottled water, and bottled water was readily available. The locals knew to boil this water if it was used for drinking or cooking, although it could have been more for cleaning purposes. In any event, if the man did not bring the water, there was no other general water supply for the village.

Later, after returning to the United States, I was studying scriptures, and began to compare Ezekiel’s Old Testament vision of God’s river of living water (Ezekiel 47) with John’s New Testament vision of the same in Revelation 22. The two accounts are remarkably similar. God’s living water flows from His throne, out of the temple, and through the streets of the city of God. The water possesses tremendous properties. Everywhere the water flows there is abundant life, and fruit trees that produce year round grow along the banks of the river (of life). The leaves of the trees are for healing. With the similarities, one can easily conclude that Ezekiel and John saw the same thing in their separate visions. The water is real, in a supernatural sense.

Where does that water flow? Psalm 1:3 says “He [the man guided by the word of God] is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” [Emphasis mine.] Jesus says in John 4:13-14 “the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” If I am led by the word of God, the living water is available to draw upon, like the root of a tree growing along a river bank draws water, and should be flowing out of the believer like a spring of fresh water. Just as I am pondering that very conclusion, the picture of that old man and his cart came to mind, and I heard the Lord say “You carry the water to your village.”

It was both a confirmation and a challenge. It was a confirmation that indeed I can and do carry the living water. It was a challenge that I have the responsibility to spread the water’s tremendous properties through my village.

If as a born again believer in Jesus Christ I carry the living water he gives me, everywhere I go (flow) I should be spreading life, not death. With my words, prayers and actions, I should promote hope, courage and victory. By speaking His word into a situation, I should bring help instead of despair, assurance instead of fear, joy instead of gloom, wisdom instead of folly, and victory instead of defeat. My words should speak cool and refreshing into any situation that is hot and dry-about to explode. I need to be water on a brush fire-not gasoline. My words should be uplifting, not condemning. I am a thermostat, not a thermometer. I can change the climate/situation, not merely report on the conditions. My fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control–Galatians 5:22) should always and in every season be apparent to everyone around me. Finally, my words and prayers should promote healing-emotional, spiritual and physical. The source of my words of life goes all the way back to the throne of God.

My village is my sphere of influence. It is my marriage, my family, my church, my community, and my work place. I am to carry words, deeds and prayers that inject life into these places. I realize that the laws of this land and corporate policies are such that preaching the word of God in the workplace is prohibited, and may cost one his employment. But from my own experience I can say that fellow workers will watch how one conducts himself under pressure and stress. If one’s words still bring hope and encouragement under adverse conditions, and one’s positive leadership and actions bring success when failure was imminent, one’s fellow workers will ask the secret, and open the door to a conversation they initiated. This will lead to a situation where it is possible to spread around the living water of God.

The final picture the Lord gave me to complete the challenge took me back to my high school days. He reminded me of the sprinkler that was used to water the football practice field. This was a rotary type sprinkler, except it was about waist high, mounted on wheels, and was fed by a two inch hose. It was a mounted cannon, capable of spraying water sideline to sideline on the field, and only had to be moved a few times to water the length of the field. This sprinkler was powerful, and put out a lot of water. This is how the Lord wants His living water to flow from me. He is not interested in me sprinkling a bit of water here and there and pronouncing that things will be alright. He is challenging all believers to liberally and powerfully draw on and apply the living water that flows from them so that things will live, be refreshed, be cleansed, and be healed. He wants to see abundant fruit year round from the water source we are tapped into.

It is well understood that in the natural world, clean water is essential for life. Contaminated water can cause sickness and death, but living things can grow and thrive near a source of clean water. It is no different in the spiritual or supernatural realm. This supernatural living water of God is available to promote an abundant life. It will counter every tool of the devil intended to bring death and destruction. With this water, we can thrive and flourish. But God has chosen us to be the delivery system- we are to carry it to our villages.

You may remember the words of this old song:

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.

It makes the lame to walk, and the blind to see,

Opens prison doors, sets the captive free.

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me.

A Good Idea Part 1by Kay Keith Peebles

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I can fix this, I thought. Mike and Sandy were a young couple we were mentoring. They had been in our Sunday school class for almost 10 years. When they joined our class it was just weeks after their wedding. Through the years we watched their love for God grow and so did their family. Their extended family lived a two day drive from Tampa therefore, they were not able to see them as often as they would have liked.  We became surrogate grandparents to their children.

Being with them and watching their knowledge of God grow more and more over the years, we began to see the call of God on their lives. Around our eighth year as Sunday school teachers, I had given Mike and Sandy a prophetic word about the call of God on their lives for the mission field. That word confirmed what the Lord had already placed in their hearts. Some months later Mike was led by God to quit his job and do voluntary work for people in our church as well as others he knew needed help. They had two young children and a beautiful home but the Lord wanted to prepare them for the mission field which they would soon enter.

People would pay Mike by donation for his work. He was able to keep busy, but because expenses were greater than income, they began to reduce the amount of their possessions. Selling their home was first on the list, and some of their furniture came next. They rented an apartment until their mission school classes would begin in another state. Money was tight but they were standing on His Word and believing God for their needs to be met.

I was working at the front reception desk at the church one morning when Sandy came in for a Bible Study class. She was a little early, therefore she had time to tell me what had happened overnight. To save money, she would buy meat in bulk and cook a huge pot of spaghetti meat sauce and freeze it. She had been cooking her batch of ground beef the night before. When the meat was done it was about 10:30 at night. Sandy turned off the heat so the meat sauce could cool down enough to bag and put in the freezer. She fell asleep on the couch while waiting for the meat to cool down, but did not awaken until morning. Upon waking, she discovered the meat had sat out all night at room temperature.

Although Sandy was upset about what had happened, she said the Lord had told her the meat would be alright for her family to eat. She was going to serve it to them that night for dinner. My heart sank and my stomach began to churn at the thought of them eating that meat that had sat on the kitchen counter all night long. I can fix this, I thought. I decided I would go to the grocery store and buy her a 5 pound package of ground beef to replace what was “ruined”. It seemed like a good idea, the logical thing to do to help out.

A few hours later, my shift was completed at the church. I quickly headed to the car. My plan was to go to the grocery store and deliver the meat to them by mid-afternoon, leaving Sandy plenty of time to cook it for dinner. I was in prayer as I drove to the store and to my surprise, I felt the Lord was not pleased with my “good” idea. Why not, I thought, I have the resources to help out, and they are special friends. I remembered Sandy’s remarks about believing the Lord had told her it would be safe for them to eat. I shuddered to think about it. To be completely honest, I did not want them to have to do that. I did not even consider this was a God ordained learning experience for us both.

Not having a peace in my heart to buy the meat I asked the Lord what was wrong with replacing it. His answer was so powerful, I knew I had to let go of “my plan” to rescue them. First, He told me that I did not have the faith to eat the meat because He had not spoken the word to me. That word was for Sandy and when He spoke it to her, He had given her the faith to believe. Then He said He was using the incident to teach them to live by faith and not by sight. Their work in the mission field would require great faith on their part and they were in “faith” boot camp.

I was humbled completely and had to repent of pride for thinking I could “fix” their problem. The Lord had not called me to fix it, He called me to intercede for them as they stood in faith. The next day Sandy called with a miracle report. They had eaten the spaghetti meat and none of them had experienced any negative repercussions! That was my first lesson on “Good is the enemy of Best”.

Our soul (rational mind, will and emotions) and 5 senses constantly get in the way of God’s best for his children. The Bible says when we only live by natural thinking and feelings, we are operating out of the flesh. Man’s natural thoughts and feelings alone are at enmity with God’s will. For example, my desire to buy meat for Mike and Sandy was a selfish desire. It was based on pride. Sandy had told me that the Lord had assured her the meat would be fine and she had the faith to serve it to her family that night. I wanted to “spare” her from that. It was pride for me to want to do something differently than what the Lord had told her to do. It was also pride to be the one who “rescued” them from “disaster”.  Our carnal nature alone is predominantly self-serving and self-seeking without the direction of the Holy Spirit.  I am a good hearted person, but some of my actions have not always been rooted in God’s will. In this case, I was about to circumvent God’s plan to build their faith which was a critical lesson for someone going on the mission field.

Romans 8:5-8 teaches, “For those who are according to the flesh and are controlled by its unholy desires set their minds on and pursue those things which gratify the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit set their minds on and seek those things which gratify the [Holy] Spirit. Now the mind of the flesh [which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit] is death [death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter]. But the mind of the [Holy] Spirit is life and [soul] peace [both now and forever]. [That is] because the mind of the flesh [with its carnal thoughts and purposes] is hostile to God, for it does not submit itself to God’s Law; indeed it cannot. So then those who are living the life of the flesh [catering to the appetites and impulses of their carnal nature] cannot please or satisfy God, or be acceptable to Him.”

By using my carnal mind, I wanted to give Sandy and Mike what I thought they needed, fresh ground beef. God knew Sandy and Mike needed to learn to trust Him when their provision did not look like enough. Their trust in God’s provision was critical to their full-time call to the mission field. I learned another lesson that day. I have the heart of a giver which is a godly trait, but, giving that is not directed by the Holy Spirit can also be rooted in pride. My eyes were looking on a natural need while God’s eyes were looking on their Spiritual need.

When our service to the Lord and others is given out of our carnal nature it will only produce the flesh which is death. There are many fleshly motivations that can entrap us to serving in the wrong way: pride, a need to impress others, selfish ambition, perceived expectations of others and insecurity are a few.   When we serve out of our fleshly needs, we are serving for ourselves, not for the Lord and our service will become religious instead of life-giving. When our service to the Lord and others is Holy Spirit directed, it will bring life and light to those we serve and fulfillment to us while generating an eternal reward.

Jesus was confronted daily by thousands of people with serious needs. The Bible makes it clear, however, that He only did what His heavenly Father instructed Him to do. John 5:19 “So Jesus answered them by saying, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way [in His turn].”

All who have given their lives to the Lord are expected to serve others as a sign of their conversion. James, the brother of Jesus taught that true faith in God required works for our faith to be fully complete. We are to conform to Christ’s example, not that of ourselves or of someone else’s. James 2:21-22 states, “Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by [his] works when he brought to the altar as an offering his [own] son Isaac? You see that [his] faith was cooperating with his works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression [when he implemented it] by [good] works.”

Abraham was walking out in faith what he heard his heavenly Father instruct him. He did not decide to serve the Lord in any manner he wanted. Instead, Abraham did what the Lord had instructed him to do. Abraham’s works were an outflow of his faith which is what made him righteous before God. In the days to come it is imperative that we learn to hear the voice of God and follow His instructions.

Today, Mike and Sandy have been faithfully been serving the Lord in Thailand for 10 years.  Just as the Lord knew what Mike and Sandy needed to learn, we are all on a daily learning curve in our journey with the Lord. Human emotions and feelings as well as our rational mind muddy the waters of our obedience to God. They will also disqualify us from promotion and greater service to the Lord. Only Holy Spirit led service will bring forth God’s Light and Life to others. Our obedience to the Lord will produce a harvest of souls as well as restoration to those broken and discouraged.

Light and Life or death, it’s all determined by Who and how we serve. May we never serve carnally through our “good” ideas. Instead, may we serve supernaturally, through God ideas.

 

 

Mile Marker 22 by Larry W. Peebles

DSC_0519The final bit of advice from my friend was “You will meet yourself at mile marker 22”. He had encouraged me to try something really hard to challenge myself–run a 26.2 mile marathon. Even though I was in my fifties, I decided to try. I had been a runner all my life, starting in the eighth grade, and continuing through high school and early college. Through most of my adult life I continued to run for fitness. Most recently I had been running three miles three times a week. This would require considerably more effort, but if I did not try now, I would probably never do it.

My friend provided lots of good advice on what shoes and clothes to wear, especially for training in cold weather. He also advised me on what training schedule to adopt to run my first marathon. I was advised not to miss a day on the sixteen week training schedule designed to build up the mileage from my current level to a level adequate to allow me to finish a 26 mile marathon.  On the day of the race,  I was advised to not pass by the water stations on the course, and to eat the chunks of bananas and oranges provided for energy. Then there was this final piece of advice I filed away for future reference, as I did not know exactly what he meant. Turns out, mile marker 22 is a place we have all been at one time or another. When one gets there, he knows it.

The sixteen week training began, timed precisely to end with a 26 mile marathon in January in Florida. Day by day and week by week the distances on the schedule gradually increased. Each week ended with a long run, beginning with 5 miles, but increasing 1 mile each week until the long run for week 15 was 20 miles. Week 16 was a lighter schedule, intended to allow for recovery and energy storage for the marathon at the end of that week. Twenty miles was the longest distance possible for a beginner to run while training for a 26 mile marathon. To go any further would have broken the body down to a point it could not recover in time for the final event itself. As the distances grew longer, I found myself getting up earlier to allow time to train before going to work. The hardest part was getting up and putting on the running shoes each morning. It was also hard to run alone, but I could not find a running partner with which to train. I started the schedule running four days per week and resting three, but by following the schedule, soon found myself training five days and resting two per week. I was always thirsty and hungry during the day. I could eat anything I wanted in any quantity, and was still losing weight. In all, I ran 340 miles over the sixteen weeks of training for that marathon.

Please understand I am no elite marathon runner. Of the 3000 entrants who would run this marathon, only 50-100 might be considered elite. While several in that group might have a goal of winning the marathon, my goal, and the goal of the vast majority of the runners, was to finish or achieve a personal best time. I would clearly be happy to finish, as this was my first marathon.

The morning of the marathon the temperature was 35 degrees, cold for Florida. The forecast called for sunshine and warming into the fifties, so it seemed a perfect day to attempt a marathon. I was bursting with energy stored up in the final “light” week of training, and was in the best physical condition I could remember since competing in college track. I had no answer for those who asked how I would run 26 miles if the longest distance I had run in training was only 20 miles, but I knew I had followed the schedule and put in the required miles. I was confident the finish would take care of itself.

The start of the race was exciting with the gathered crowd cheering and the sunrise breaking over a beautiful sky. The first half of the race, 13 miles, was along the west coast line of Florida. The waters of the Gulf were beautiful, as were the homes along the road. The smell of salt water was refreshing and clear.   As I ran, I quickly warmed up and began to shed the extra layers of old sweat shirts and t-shirts I had worn to stay warm until the start of the race.  I took a cup of water at every mile break station, as well as an occasional banana or orange slice to keep up the energy. As we turned at the mid-point to start back to the finish line, I noticed a cool head wind that formerly had been to my back. The air temperature had not warmed all that much. Without my sweatshirt, I started to chill and stiffen. There was no extra energy in my body to stay warm, as the running required all the energy available.  At mile 16, I noticed an overall feeling of fatigue. By mile 18 I was feeling quite fatigued, and by mile 20 I had slowed my pace considerably as I approached exhaustion. By mile 21 I knew I had run further than I had trained, and was not sure I could finish. At mile 22, I remembered what my friend had said. A voice in my head was telling me to quit. I would have to deal with that voice to go further. I was about to be introduced to the person in my head. I was about to meet myself.

So we all know the mile 22 marker. We’ve all been there. It’s that place where one is not sure he can go any farther. It is a place beyond one’s familiarity, training or experience. The journey to that point has been so difficult, one is not sure he can take another step forward. The physical strength is gone. There is no more fuel in the tank, no more patience or endurance for the pain, and the reward for finishing is becoming increasingly difficult to remember or appreciate. The mental energy is also gone, and there is no help on the way. Quitting is actually becoming a logical and quite acceptable alternative. Without ever having run a marathon, one knows the mile 22 marker. I was numb and ached over my entire body. My mind was telling me if I kept going I could die. How could I possibly run four more miles?

After Jesus had fasted forty days, the devil got in his face and tried to tempt/persuade him to give up his destiny. Jesus pushed back against the temptation to give up his mission by quoting scripture. I’m not saying running a marathon is a spiritual experience, but there may be more similarities than one would initially think. I do know God often uses things in the natural to reveal and teach us His supernatural ways.

I also can’t say I had the breath or the mental capacity to quote scripture, as I could hardly breathe, but I did think about David, who “encouraged himself in the Lord.” Fortunately, these scriptures were already deep inside and available as a resource to defeat that voice telling me to give up:

  1. 2 Corinthians 10:5- “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” This speaks to the mental discipline necessary to push back against the limits in the human mind.
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:24- “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” In order to obtain the prize I would have to finish.
  3. Romans 5:3-4- “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Suffering for a little while longer, and continuing to put one foot in front of the other was the only hope I had of finishing.
  4. Romans 8:37- “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
  5. Matthew 19:26- “with God all things are possible”.
  6. Mark 9:23- “Everything is possible for him who believes.” I had to have the faith He would help me finish. He wanted to teach me something that would be very valuable.
  7. Philippians 4:13- “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Faith and perseverance would have to prevail over physical and mental ability if I was going to finish. My body was wasted. The strength to finish would have to come outside of myself. The training gave me a certain level of physical strength; but having those scriptures committed to memory beforehand gave me the strength to defeat the enemy speaking into my ear.

I did finish that race, one painful step at a time, over what seemed an eternity. Over the next few years I trained for and ran other marathons. Looking back, that training and testing was only groundwork for other challenges I would face outside the sport of running. It was preparation for more than one situation that would become so confusing, frustrating and tiring that only an answer from God would bring a successful conclusion. The spiritual lesson learned was that God is my ultimate source of strength, and He is there when the chaos is overwhelming. When I am in a crisis situation that goes beyond my own understanding, training, experience and ability, He is there to carry me over the finish line. Psalm 60:12 says “With God we will gain the victory.”

These scriptures helped me past the mile 22 marker. I hope they help you. I suggest you begin training on them by committing them to memory in advance of the trial.