Light of the World by Kay Keith Peebles

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It was so dark, I could not see my hand before my face.  Beneath the veil of a black, clouded and moonless sky, God taught me an amazing lesson.

When our son was in his early teens he was active in Boy Scouts.  One year he was awarded a very special honor by his peers.  It was the Order of the Arrow.  We travelled west of Dallas to a Boy Scout campground for the ceremony near a lake.  The topography was high for that part of Texas and we were near the precipice of a canyon.  The sky was shrouded with clouds and once the sun went down, it became pitch black.

We were escorted to the top of a hill where the scouts had a campfire burning.  Along the way we walked on a path of exposed tree roots and rocks.  My husband walked ahead carrying a flashlight.  Back then flashlights did not have the LED brightness of those today.  Our flashlight produced a soft yellow glow which only illuminated a small area at my husband’s feet.  I was walking in the rear and had no flashlight of my own.  I had to watch his every step as the light revealed what was on the ground beneath my husband’s feet.  By the time I stepped where he had been, it would be totally dark.

I carefully navigated the path focused on the light ahead of me.  As I was walking, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, “My Word is a Lamp unto your feet and a Light unto your path!”  I had a graphic picture of His Word guiding me.  The looming darkness obscured hazards beneath my feet while hiding the path upon which I needed to walk.  The light illuminated only the next step ahead.  At first, I was a bit fearful because I had to trust the light before me.  Soon, however, I became sure that the light was a guide to my safe arrival to the campsite.  It kept me from stumbling and falling on the dark, lonely hillside.

It would have been the same 2,000+ years ago before the birth of Jesus.  The voice of God through His prophets had been silent for 400 years because most of the people had turned from the Lord.  Only a remnant remained faithful.  Sin was rampant, much like our world today.  Darkness had covered the earth.  It was the kind of darkness that caused hopelessness, fear, and an oppressing dread of the future.  It was at that time the Light of the World exploded into the darkness; His star was pointing the way to the stable in Bethlehem.

The Bible encourages us that when sin abounds, the Grace of God abounds all the more. (Romans 5:20).  I believe that it is because God knows the pleasures of sin are only temporary.  Eventually one recognizes that sin creates bondage.  It is a cruel slavery that robs us of our peace and fills us with fear, guilt and shame.  That bondage, however, exposes our need for a Savior.  Feeling condemned by our own guilt and shame, we discover that we are not alone; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23).  The Light of the world shines on our brokenness and points to our hope, the Savior.

The star of Bethlehem led the shepherds and wise men to the place where the Light of the World lay.  Jesus’ birth was celebrated by all of heaven and the starry hosts singing over His manger.  The glory of God would be revealed in the earth when the fullness of time would come for the Savior to show God’s love to the people.  Jesus displayed to the world the Love of God through His forgiveness of our sins and the Power of God through healing and delivering all who were bound.

By His death on the cross, Jesus proved the profound unconditional Love of God for all mankind.  By His resurrection, He demonstrated the fathomless Power of God to set us free and empower us to follow in His footsteps.  Millenniums later, we find ourselves still able to experience true freedom through the forgiveness of our sins and deliverance from the bondage of sin.  Two thousand years later, we can still celebrate His birth with joy and peace knowing He still lights our path and guides us to safety.

There is no true peace without God and there is no true freedom without the Savior.  The Word of God is as true today as it was when God spoke to Moses.  All those who call upon and believe in the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Acts 2:21).  Those who seek Him shall find Him, when they seek Him with all their heart.  (Jeremiah 29:13).  Becoming a disciple of Jesus is the most exciting adventure of a lifetime.  Heaven opens up the realities of God, proving His Word is Truth, transforming His disciples into His image as we seek to know Him and His ways.

Heaven desires to invade the earth, but God is seeking those who will believe and walk in faith to see His peace established in the earth and His love pervading in every heart.  As He lights the believer’s path, He desires us to illuminate others by revealing Him.  We do so by allowing His light to shine through us to the lost and broken.

His light shines on our path as we seek Him.  It leads us to not only be healed and freed from our bondages, but to testify what God has done for us so that those we meet can also be free.  It leads us to bear the burdens of others just as He bore our burdens for us.  It leads us to reveal His Glory to others as He did for us and to love the unlovable as He loves us.

His Light dispels all darkness.  His Light reveals all things that have been hidden.  His Light exposes that which is false and illuminates that which is truth.  His Light will carry us through the darkest nights and give us victory over our greatest challenges.  His Light gives us the courage to keep moving, and the faith to trust in Him. His Light assures us of His constant companionship and the greatest of loves.

We celebrate the Light of the world because no matter how dark our world becomes, His Light will show us the way home if we will trust Him to guide our footsteps.  The darkness cannot overpower the Light.

May all see His Light and allow Him to lead them to peace and safety.  Jesus truly is the Light of the world!

Living Paycheck to Paycheck by Larry W. Peebles

 

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How well I remember those days of living paycheck to paycheck. Money was tight in my family when I was a young boy growing up. Dad and Mom bought only the necessities, and were careful in budgeting for them. They took care of what they had, trying not to waste anything. They were products of the Great Depression. They had seen shortages and total lack. They had gone without.

Clothes were always handed down between my brothers and cousins. Many were hand made. Some of my favorite shirts were made from flour and feed sack prints. Mom kept our clothes clean and mended. These were the days before fashion pressures came along, so jeans could come from Sears. When the knees of the jeans wore out, they became summer shorts.

My Dad had to quit school to help support his large family, which included eleven children. He finally finished high school (after I was born) by GED, a government benefit program for soldiers coming home from WWII. I still remember him attending night school and studying at home to finish his HS degree. He worked hard and was a good provider and father. My mother worked hard also, but we seemed to always be behind the income curve.

Friday payday meant a family trip to the grocery store. Mom bought the items on her list so we would be supplied until the next time, being careful to set back a little money for milk and bread in the interim. We were sure to run out before the next payday. My brothers and I could never predict when, but we behaved in the grocery store because on certain occasions we might get a nickel treat at the end of the shopping trip. After groceries were unloaded, Friday payday always meant a good home-cooked meal.

I look back on those days and smile. God provided, we survived, and I appreciated the life lessons from those times together as family. I learned the value of being thrifty, the importance of saving all you could put away, and the importance of being grateful for what you have. When my wife and I started our lives together, we were working college students on a very modest budget. We started a tradition of “Friday payday, eating out day”, and found our favorite low cost home-style restaurant. Forty six years later, we still smile on those days.

God never intended we should live paycheck to paycheck, especially when we run out of pay before the next check. There are many other things we see today He never intended. In Leviticus 26: 1-12, God clearly lays out our reward for obedience, just like Mom rewarded me and my two brothers for good behavior in the grocery store. In these twelve verses and in simple format, He gave five requirements, and then gave five rewards for meeting those requirements. That sounds reasonable and fair. God said in verses 1-3 that if the children of Israel would 1) worship Him (not idols), 2) observe the Sabbath, 3) reverence the sanctuary, 4) follow His decrees, and 5) obey His commands, these would be their rewards:

  1. “I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land.” (v.4, 5). This is clear that if we follow the conditions God sets forth, the work of our hands would be productive year round, and God would bless this work with timely rain. We would never go hungry. Elsewhere the Scriptures say He is the Lord of the Harvest. He provides the seed for sowing, rain in due season, and He provides the increase. We must plant, and we must harvest. He will bless the work of our hands, but does not bless our sitting around on the seat of our pants. His best for us is that we will produce abundantly.
  2. “I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.” (v.6-8). These verses are particularly appropriate for these times, when fear and terror are in the news, and our nation is being torn apart by attacks from within. This does not have to be so. The conditions for this reward of protection and victory are grounded in the worship of and obedience toward God.
  3. “I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you.” (v.9). When God looks on us with favor, we succeed where others have failed. We prosper where others have floundered. We are selected where others have been denied. We have influence where others have been ignored. We bear fruit, and multiply or flourish. In no way does this suggest we should be just getting by. We should always have more than enough. We are blessed so we can be a blessing, but if there is not enough, how can we bless anyone?
  4. “You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. (v.10). This verse says the prior year’s harvest will last, and there will even be some leftover when the new harvest comes in. There will be excess to save or give away. The last paycheck will not be used when the next paycheck arrives. We will not have to live paycheck to paycheck. Just when we thought this was a new phenomenon, a modern saying, a contemporary problem, we find the Bible has already spoken about living paycheck to paycheck. This was never God’s plan. It is not His best for us. It is conditioned on worshipping Him, not the idols of this society, and obeying His decrees.
  5. “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (v. 11, 12). His best for us is that we would never have to face the unknown alone. God is always near us, as He is omnipresent. He is everywhere at once. However, under the conditions He gives above, He will seem nearer than ever before, as He says He will walk among us, as God walking among and alongside His people. He will not walk among us if we are worshipping the idols of this day and age such as money, clothes, houses and cars, to name a few. He does not obligate Himself to walk among us if we are not obeying His laws. He does not dwell among us if we choose to ignore Him, or to consult Him only when we are desperate or we find it convenient.

So we have five conditions for five rewards. Given that God gave these conditions to Moses thousands of years ago, it is very interesting that these rewards are critically needed today. We search high and low, and we consult with governments, attorneys, financial experts, self-help gurus, and counselors looking for answers to today’s problems. God also gave us the answers thousands of years ago. We do not have to live in need, fear or worry, nor do we have to live paycheck to paycheck.

Hope by Kay Keith Peebles

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A phone call changed my life. It was a normal day with the typical everyday activities when the phone rang. My cousin from Texas called to ask me to join her family on a mission trip to Honduras. My heart leapt at the thought of going with them on my first mission trip. I felt an inner witness of God’s approval but I needed my husband’s agreement since I would be gone 8 days and there would be expenses for airfare, lodging and food. He didn’t hesitate saying yes and I immediately began preparing to go.

A Spanish teacher began teaching a class at our church within a week after I signed up to go to Honduras. I learned the basics of proper pronunciation of the language and received a Spanish/English New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. The Bible enabled me to locate a scripture in English and read it to someone in Spanish. It was a huge blessing for me since I did not fluently speak the language. Our missionary guide provided translation for those of us who did not speak Spanish when we needed to give a testimony or speak to a group.

Having been a soloist for many years, I prepared some songs in Spanish which I sang during several of the services we held. Being able to pronounce the words properly made it possible for me to minister to the people even in song. Many of our meetings were in open air venues because our worship and music would draw in people that were curious and just happened to be in the area.

I was able to give my testimony in the schools and talked with people on the streets but by far, my most exciting opportunity came at a Honduran maximum security prison. We rode in a van at least an hour outside of San Pedro Sula through a pineapple field, to the base of a mountain. The dirt road created clouds of dust as we pulled up to the gate of the prison. Several guards were standing near the gate, shirts unbuttoned because of the extreme heat. They carried long rifles and watched our every move. They had on dark green military style shirts and pants and wore black lace up boots that were covered in dust and worn by time. It was intimidating to say the least. Our leader, fluent in Spanish, explained our visit and soon the gate was opened so that we could enter in. I was deep in thought about what I might say to these men to encourage them.

Guards stayed with us as we made our way to the meeting room. We passed cubicles of small rooms jammed full with bunk beds. There were no doors on the rooms. Open latrine trenches flowed through the entire complex leaving us visitors holding our breath as long as possible as we meandered through the maze of dwellings. The prisoners were free to walk around in designated areas. All were thin and many gaunt in their appearance. Their hair and teeth looked unkept and their clothing was dingy and worn. Looking at the faces of the men, I could see hopelessness in their eyes. It was easy to understand why. They were prisoners and the government wanted them to know they would not enjoy any privileges while serving their sentences. I could hardly bear to be there for the time of our ministry and I could not imagine a life sentence in such a place. The heat and humidity were oppressive and nothing but dirt and cement surrounded their existence.

I wondered what I might be able to say to the inmates to encourage them. I was a 40 year old middle-class mother from the U.S. and nothing in my life could connect with these men in this Central American prison. At that moment, the Lord spoke to my heart, “give them hope”. Excitement filled my heart as I began thinking of my testimony of hope and sharing the love of Christ with the men. Instantly my mind journeyed back to a year when I felt hopeless and thought there was no way out. I was 15 at the time, having been sexually abused by an extended family member as a young child. I felt broken, isolated, unloved and abandoned. The teen years brought more rejection and one night I decided that the best thing I could do was to end my life. I thought I was a “problem” for everyone and it would be better for me to just disappear. I took multiple pills from my mother’s prescription bottle and added some over-the-counter meds and went to bed. Although I was violently ill through the night I woke up in the morning and pretended nothing had happened. My head was still reeling from the night’s trauma, but I arose and went to church with my family. After two attempts in a six month period, I realized God must have intervened because I did not die. I believed He must have a plan for my life. I vowed to never attempt to take my life again.

As I shared my story, I sensed a connection with these hopeless souls and I was able to explain that our hope is in God. Leaving them with a few scriptures, I gave the microphone to our pastor who preached a powerful message of God’s love and deliverance. At the end of the meeting he gave an altar call and approximately 50 men came forward to receive salvation. We were also able to pray with them to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. The room was electric with the power of God and in Christ, there were no differences among us. We celebrated the entire way back to our hotel for what the Lord had done that day.

Hopelessness isn’t limited by economics, gender, race or any other measures by which we might judge. It is able to erect a stronghold in the lives of those who have come to the place that appears to have no rescue or remedy. It is that place where one may be surrounded by people but still feel utterly alone. It is a place that feels like the tiny prison cells I saw. It has walls that seem to be continually creeping in, making the space tighter and tighter until there’s no room at all. It is a black hole that appears to offer no possible escape. Hopelessness drives its victims to a place of giving up. Had God not intervened in my life, I would not be writing what you are reading today!

David, in a similar state of mind wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, “[What, what would have become of me] had I not believed that I would see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living! Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope for and expect the Lord.”

David knew what I have learned: with God, all things are possible! The love of God is our remedy for hopelessness. No matter what we have done; no matter who we have become, the Lord loves us. The love of God will sustain us, heal our brokenness, and make us new. His love transcends our failures and supersedes our destructions restoring life and light. Our perspective changes, our joy arises and hope fulfills what we could not accomplish on our own.

Hope, according to the New Webster’s Dictionary means: “A desire of some good, accompanied with a belief that it is attainable; trust; one in who trust or confidence is placed; the object of hope.”

Although Abraham was 89, far past fertile years and with no offspring, God promised him descendants that would be as the stars in the heavens or the sands on the seashore. That seemed impossible, except Abraham believed God at His Word! Romans 4:18-22 encourages, “[For Abraham, human reason for] hope being gone, hoped in faith that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been promised. So [numberless] shall your descendants be. (See Genesis 15:5). He did not weaken in faith when he considered the [utter] impotence of his own body, which was as good as dead because he was about a hundred years old, or [when he considered] the barrenness of Sarah’s [deadened] womb. (See Genesis 17:17 and 18:11-15). No unbelief or distrust made him waver (doubtingly question) concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong and was empowered by faith as he gave praise and glory to God, Fully satisfied and assured that God was able and mighty to keep His word and to do what He had promised.” (Emphasis mine).

God’s love for Abraham empowered him to believe in the impossible. “Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails…And so faith, hope, love abide [faith—conviction and belief respecting man’s relation to God and divine things; hope—joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation; love—true affection for God and man, growing out of God’s love for and in us], these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a, 13) (Emphasis mine).

Hope is not a denial of our circumstances. It is established on God’s love for us and His promises to us as His children. It does not matter whether our prison cell is in a desolate place in Honduras or in a mansion in a large city suburb. God’s hope inspires our soul to believe in God. It fuels our faith in His power and His promises to intervene on our behalf. Hope changes our perspective and opens our heart to God possibilities! Hope is alive and creates life. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

As we celebrate the Christmas Season, may we never forget the miracle of hope God placed in Mary’s womb. He is the God of miracles and no situation is too difficult for the hope of God to fulfill. When we hope in Him, our joy will be complete. When we rejoice in Him, our faith becomes substance which produces life in our heart and situation.

Hope in God, Who is good. Trust in God, Who is faithful. Believe in God, Who is able and you will discover your reason for living.

Defiant by Larry W. Peebles

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“Resist the devil and he will flee from you”, says James 4:7. What does that mean? How do we get the victory over the devil, the one who comes to “kill, steal and destroy” (John 10:10)? We know he wants to kill the soul of every human so that we cannot spend eternity in heaven with our Creator. He does this by crushing the body with sickness and discouragement. He uses worry, fear and oppression to torment the mind. He literally hates humankind to the point he will use all tools at his disposal to create misery, despair and doubt. The Bible says he “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Should we avoid him at all costs? Should we cross the street and pass by on the other side, as we would a sleeping dog?   Should we ignore and hope he goes away? It is interesting that 1 Peter 5:9 also says we should “resist him, standing firm in the faith.” This is the second time we are told to “resist”, so that is a great place to begin to look at how to defeat the devil.

The Greek word for “resist” in both the James and 1 Peter passages above is anthistemi. Strong’s definition (#468) is “to resist, oppose, rebel, withstand-stand up against, stand your ground.” This is not a passive resistance-it is very much an active resistance. This is not a sit-in or a protest march where we might carry signs with clever and catchy phrases. The level of resistance called for in this definition requires one to be much more active. It must be intense enough to cause the devil to flee.

As I struggled to find the word to adequately define the level of resistance necessary to overcome the devil, I heard the Lord say the word “defiant”. Defiant means “boldly resistant or challenging”. Defiance means “1. a daring or bold resistance to authority or to any opposing force; 2. an open disregard or contempt; or 3. a challenge to meet in combat or in a contest.” For purposes of this article, we can disregard the meaning involving resistance to (proper) authority, because Christians are admonished to “submit…to every authority instituted among men…whether to the king….or to governors…” -1 Peter 2:13-14 (Certain deletions for emphasis). We will focus therefore on that part of the meaning concerning resistance to any opposing force.

The movie “Unbroken” tells the true story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic distance runner in 1936 who was captured by the Japanese in WWII and sent to a POW camp in Tokyo. The officer in charge of the camp decided to try to break Zamperini. Because he was famous world-wide as an athlete, if the Japanese could brutalize Zamperini enough to coerce and record anti-American statements from him, it would prove to be valuable propaganda for the war. He was treated inhumanely and beaten, but he would not cooperate with anti-American statements in return for leniency. He defied his captors. His unbroken spirit and his faith in God ultimately brought disgrace upon the commanding officer of the camp. Louie was released from the camp when Tokyo was bombed at the end of the war.  He returned home, married, and had two children. In 1988, Louie ran a leg of the Olympic Torch relay for the winter games in Japan. He sought out and forgave all the prison guards. Only the commanding officer refused to meet with him.  Louie was totally and finally victorious in a situation designed to crush and destroy him. He refused to submit or bow to the enemy. At great cost he resisted and stood his ground. He was defiant. Paul recognized God’s power to sustain in times of defiance and said “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4: 8, 9)

Various forms of the word “defy” appear several times in the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17, Goliath had first challenged Israel with these words in v. 10-“This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” Goliath was a powerful nine ft. tall giant. He had boasted that if any man could defeat him, the Philistines would become their slaves, but if he defeated that man, the Israelites would become the slaves of the Philistines. According to v. 11, “all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.” In verse 24, after Goliath had shouted his usual defiance, the Bible says “When the Israelites saw the man [Goliath], they all ran from him in great fear.” [Emphasis mine.]

This troubled David greatly. God and His people were being insulted. He asked King Saul’s permission to fight the giant. Though David was only a boy pitted against a seasoned warrior giant, Saul granted permission. David defied Goliath when he accepted his challenge in combat. He rushed into action. In verses 45 and 46, we read “David said to the Philistine, You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.” David accepted the challenge, defied all odds, and did exactly what he said he would do. The war propaganda being put forth by the giant, intended to belittle and shame the Israelites, came to a sudden end. With God’s help, David stood up, put up, and the enemy came down. Not only was the giant killed, but the army of Israel routed the Philistines and won a great victory that day.

Moses defied Pharaoh and the Egyptian army at the crossing of the Red Sea. Pressed between the Red Sea and the advancing army and chariots of Egypt, Moses told the Israelites the Lord would deliver them, and the army they saw today they would never see again (Exodus 14:13). His bold stance and prediction defied logic. There appeared to be only two possible outcomes: drown in the Red Sea, or be crushed by the greatest army in the world at that time. There was no way out. Moses told the people to disregard the army. In verse 13, “Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” Further disregard is shown in verse 14 “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Moses did not challenge the Egyptian army to a contest; he boldly predicted there would be no contest. He dared the army to continue to advance believing that if they did so, they advanced at their own great peril. His actions depicted defiance at its highest level.

Make no mistake. God is the Deliverer, and the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:57 “Thanks be to God. He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” There are also other tools we are told to use to defeat the devil and his works, such as prayer and fasting. At the same time, we cannot discount the attitude of defiance when battling the devil. When we defy the devil we are actively expressing and living a Godly attitude that says by faith:

  1. You cannot beat me, because I cannot lose.
  2. You cannot win, because I cannot be defeated.
  3. Your boasting is noise in the wind; I boast in the Lord.
  4. My Lord Jesus Christ will hand me the victory over you.
  5. You might bend me, but I will not break.
  6. You might bruise my heel, but I will crush your head.
  7. You might seem to overwhelm, but nothing is bigger or more powerful than my God.
  8. If you persist in these continued attacks against me, you do so at your own great peril.
  9. You better back off while you still can.
  10. My (Daddy) God can whip you and your whole army of demons.

Shake your fist and declare these things. Resist the devil and he will flee. Be defiant.