The Two Kingdoms Part II Kay Keith Peebles

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Blessed or cursed?  It’s a simple question with an easy answer.  Anyone would be crazy to desire to be cursed and yet many live under the curses of the kingdom of darkness without realizing how they arrived at that place.  Many people who don’t understand the two kingdoms think their current conditions are based on good or bad luck.  They are not based on luck or superstition; they are based upon our choices.  The Kingdom of God is established by laws and godly principles which ensure our success if they are followed.  God did not create His law to deprive us or bind us, He created it to thrust us into a lifestyle leading to eternal life.  The greatest blessing of all is God’s desire that we choose to abide with Him daily to ensure that outcome.  His blessing rests upon those who are consistently obedient to His Word.  One of those areas of blessing is God’s provision.  When we understand that the Lord is our Provider and we follow God’s principles of handling money, we will find blessing.

Our early years of marriage were challenged with financial ups and downs.  Soon after my husband graduated with his Master’s Degree and entered the workforce, a big recession drastically affected the oil, gas and building industries.  He was in land development and homebuilding at the time.  Our income decreased by thirty percent and we were hurting.  We had two young children and I was a stay-at-home mom working part time.  I learned to cut corners through that experience.  Outlet stores became my friend when my two children outgrew their clothing.  My husband and I attended church regularly, but we had not experienced a personal encounter with Jesus that changed our lives or lifestyle.  We heard of Biblical tithing for the first time in the midst of this difficult period.

Our church began a building campaign by selling bonds to fund the project.  A friend who knew the Bible gave a Biblical teaching on the tithe in one of our church financial meetings.  We are forever grateful he was willing to speak on God’s monetary truth to us that night.  Our giving had been far short of a tithe (10%) of our income.  It was more like a “token” or a tip.  Our eyes were opened to the importance of tithes and offerings (above the tithe), and the Word of God cut deep into our hearts.  We began to tithe with joy, and since then God has been our faithful provider.

Malachi 3:8-11 promises, “Will a man rob God?  Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’  In tithes and offerings [you have withheld].  You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, this whole nation!  Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you [so great] a blessing, until there is no more room to receive it.  Then I will rebuke the devourer (insects, plague) for your sake and he will not destroy the fruits of the ground, nor will your vine in the field drop its grapes [before harvest], says the LORD of hosts.”

The world (kingdom of darkness) does not understand the true joy of giving.  It is filled with greed, pride and selfishness.  Many give large donations for tax benefits and to draw attention to themselves by their big contributions which are not anonymous.   Plaques are erected and buildings are named in their honor.  They receive the world’s praise but not God’s.  The Kingdom of Light is not so.  “But when you give to charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  So that your deeds of charity may be in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret will reward you openly.”  (See Matthew 6:1-4).  When our love for God is perfected, we will die to ourselves, no longer seeking what we want or pleasing our fleshly desires, we will fulfill the law by obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We have learned through further Bible study, that our devotion to the Lord is closely connected to the money we give to God’s Kingdom.  Jesus taught His disciples “For where your treasure is, there your heart [your wishes, your desires that on which your life centers] will be also.”  Matthew 6:21.  We have never stopped tithing since that day 38 years ago, when we heard the teaching on the tithe!  We have learned that our giving beyond the tithe is not to be directed simply by the needs of others, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We have been blessed mightily and we have never lacked anything we needed.  Recessions have come and gone but our finances have been sufficient in each case, allowing us to continue blessing others in their time of need.  We are debt free and it is all because of God’s faithfulness to His promises.  Provision from the Lord is a major area of blessing that comes from being obedient to His Word.

God initiated many promises in His Word for all who believe in His Kingdom of Light.  His promises are conditional and the blessing and favor of the Lord are attached to our obedience of His Word.  When we reject His godly principles, we are associating ourselves with the kingdom of darkness and therefore become partakers of the curses that association entails.

Biblical obedience causes blessing in every aspect of our lives, but disobedience creates an unwanted scenario.  When the Lord God brought the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt he initiated the law.  His kingdom is established on laws which guide and direct us toward blessing, healing, provision and peace.  His statutes are for our protection so that our lives can prosper in all areas.

Deuteronomy 28 explains the results we can expect when we fulfill our responsibility to know and obey God’s law.  He begins with verse 1,  “If YOU will listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, being watchful to do all His commandments which I command you this day, the Lord your God will set you high above the nations of the earth.”  Verses 2-14 list all of the blessings God promises His people who will walk in His ways.

The rest of the chapter of Deuteronomy 28:15-68 contains the list of the curses which will fall upon those who do not follow after God and obey His commandments.  These curses follow those who belong to the kingdom of darkness (Satan, the world).  The Israelites failed to keep God’s law because they rejected His offer to abide in His presence.

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we now live in the age of Grace, but God’s law has not been nullified.  Jesus did not come to eliminate God’s commandments, He came to fulfill them making us justified as we grow and mature in our love for Him.  His obedience did not take us off the hook, it paved the way for us to follow in His footsteps.  Our focus can never be on our fulfilling the law by our own works, however.  That did not work for the Israelites and it won’t work for us.  Our focus must be solely to know Him and to abide in His presence consistently.  By doing so we establish a love and trust relationship with the Lord which enables us to hear and obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.  It is the Holy Spirit Who inspires, teaches, guides us into all truth and empowers us to obey God’s Word through our passionate love for Him.

The apostle Paul described the work of the flesh and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:16-23.  He began with a sober instruction, “But I say, walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance], and then you will certainly not carry out the desire of the sinful nature [which responds impulsively without regard for God and His precepts].”  “He also said, in verse 18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”  We must be able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit’s direction to be led by the Spirit of God.

How do we know if we’re walking in the Holy Spirit?  Paul describes our problem, “For the sinful nature has its desire which is opposed to the Spirit, and the [desire of the] Spirit opposes the sinful nature, for these [two, the sinful nature and the Spirit] are in direct opposition to each other [continually in conflict], so that you [as believers] do not [always] do whatever [good things] you want to do.  Galatians 5:17.  Paul then lists the works of the flesh which are evidence of the kingdom of darkness at work in one’s life.  (See Galatians 5:19-21)    Paul also lists the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23.  He explains that if we are walking in the Kingdom of Light, we will exude the fruit of the Holy Spirit.  “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.  If we [claim to] live by the [Holy] Spirit, we must also walk by the Spirit [with personal integrity, godly character, and moral courage—our conduct empowered by the Holy Spirit].”

There are two distinct kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness (death) and the Kingdom of Light (Life).  The first carries the weight of consequential curses and the second, the blessings and favor of God.  Every person has a choice of which kingdom they will follow.  It is impossible to habitually abide in both kingdoms and be saved.  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and mammon [money, possessions, fame, status, or whatever is valued more than the Lord].”  Matthew 6:24.

The greatest blessing and promise of God is that of our eternal salvation born out of our continually abiding in His presence.  It is imperative for us to understand the consequences of not being fully committed to the Lord and to His Kingdom.  The message of the Gospel is to turn away from the world and all its distractions so that we can fully trust in the Lord for everything we need, faithfully walking in righteousness.  We must work out our own salvation with the Holy Spirit surrendering to Him daily.  It is then we will reap the assurance of our soul’s final destination.  Jude, (half-brother of Jesus with James, Mark 6:3) guarantees us of our future hope, “Now to Him Who is able to keep you without stumbling or slipping or falling, and to present [you] unblemished (blameless and faultless) before the presence of His glory in triumphant joy and exultation [with unspeakable, ecstatic delight]–.”  Jude 24.

How we handle money is just one of the areas in which God confers the blessing or the curse.  Our outcome has nothing to do with luck.  It is directly related to the kingdom in which we choose to live.  Our loving, gracious and merciful God laid out the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience in Deuteronomy 28.  He gave His people the invitation to continually abide in His presence, which is absolutely the greatest blessing heaven affords us.  He then asked the Israelites to make their choice.  He told them one kingdom would give them an outcome of death (spiritual) and the other life (eternal).  He strongly encouraged them to “Choose Life”!  It’s a no-brainer.  Be blessed!

Nehemiah’s Legacy by Larry W. Peebles September 23, 2016

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Nehemiah’s Legacy   by   Larry W. Peebles   September 23, 2016   16.36

 

Our tour bus driver pointed out the left window and said “they are digging up Nehemiah’s wall.”  My wife and I toured Jerusalem, one of the world’s oldest cities, in the early 1990’s.  We were told a contractor uncovered part of what was suspected to be Nehemiah’s wall while digging a utility line.  We could see where they were digging in the middle of this busy city.  Construction on the utility line had been halted for many years, as excavation was conducted to research the wall.  We were not certain if what we saw that day was the wall, but by 2007 scholars and archeologists agreed and announced that Nehemiah’s wall had been discovered in the ancient city.

One would think the 2500 year old wall would not be that hard to find, but considering the number of times Jerusalem had been seized, attacked, changed hands and razed to the ground, the location of the wall had been lost.  Researchers had been looking in the wrong place under the wrong set of assumptions.  I read that there are now over 25,000 archeological discoveries that corroborate the Bible.  This would be another similar finding, evidence of the validity of the book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  Was Nehemiah’s legacy the wall, or is it something greater?  Let’s examine the story.

The setting for the book of Nehemiah occurred after Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered Jerusalem, carried off the treasures of the city, and had taken the people into exile.  This exile would last seventy years, as prophesied by Jeremiah.  During the ensuing reign of King Cyrus, Ezra was given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, but this effort was sabotaged by the local inhabitants of the city.  Less than twenty years later, under the reign of Artaxerxes, whom Nehemiah served as cup-bearer, men came to Nehemiah who had been to Judah and Jerusalem. They reported “Those who survived exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace.  The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and, and its gates have been burned with fire.”  (Nehemiah 1:3).  Nehemiah wept, mourned, fasted, and prayed.

His sadness was noticed by the King, who asked him what he wanted.  Nehemiah quickly prayed, described the plight of his homeland, and asked permission to return to Jerusalem “where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (2:5)

Rather than focus on the logistics of rebuilding the wall, which he obviously accomplished as evidenced by the ruins being discovered only recently, let us focus on the opposition he faced.  In looking at the opposition he overcame, we may find Nehemiah’s true legacy, as the obstacles and principles apply in our modern world.

Realize it or not, God gives us jobs to do–the unique reason and purpose for which each of us was created.  This purpose is our “wall to build”, so to speak.  It might be a job that will eventually lead an entire nation back to their homeland (with God).  The calling might be to lead some other great effort, or to build a great organization, a great family, or raise great kids.   It might be something less far-reaching, but no less important, such as leading an exemplary life by loving God and those with whom we come in contact, in accordance with the commands of God.  No matter the wall we are given to build, when we undertake something great, the opposition will likely be similar to that faced by Nehemiah.  These are the ancient tools of the naysayer:

  1. Doubt–Immediately after Nehemiah surveyed the situation and spoke to the people about rebuilding, the critics showed up. The criticism started with “Who said you could do this?  This is way out of your league. You cannot do this.” (2:19)
  2. Discouragement–After Nehemiah organized the workers and assigned sections of the wall for each to repair, the critics said they would not be able to build a wall from the burned heaps of rubble they had to work with.  (4:2).  He was told he did not have the materials-the required tools and resources.
  3. Ridicule–The critics said that even if the workers could build a wall from the rubble, it would not stand-if a fox ran across the top, it would fall.  The work would not last. His efforts would be wasted. (4:3)
  4. Worry/Suspicion–Nehemiah was told as the opposition grows, they will become more aggressive—they will attack. The opponents will infiltrate the work effort, and undermine it from within. (4:12).
  5. Distraction–As the work progressed, the opponents tried to distract Nehemiah away from his work.  They called him to come away to pointless meetings, when their real plan was to harm him.  He would not be distracted from his original mandate, and he would not give in to fear of personal harm. (6:2, 3).
  6. Accusation–Opponents accused Nehemiah of doing this for his own glory.  They said he was trying to build his own kingdom, and make himself the king. (6:5-7).
  7. Fear/Intimidation–Opponents said his life was in danger.  The best thing he could do for himself was run into the temple and hide for his own safety.  If he continued with his work, he would die. Nehemiah reasoned that the God who created and called him to do this work did not need to hide him in the temple to protect him.  (6:10).

Scholars and archeologists estimate the wall Nehemiah and his workers rebuilt was over two miles in length, encompassing some 32 acres.  It was 16’ wide in places, and estimated to be 8-10’ tall.  The wall was re-built in 52 days, including the gates.  With the walls secure, Nehemiah settled more new residents to occupy the city.   This would secure/ensure the lasting success of the effort. (11:1).

The work was finished; Jerusalem was saved.  What were the God-inspired keys to this success in overcoming the opposition?

  1. Nehemiah was sure of his purpose.  He had fasted and prayed, seeking God’s will in the matter.  After he knew what he was to do, he did not look left or right again.
  2. He was confident that whatever materials and help God provided would be sufficient.
  3. He was sure that whatever skills were required among the help would be present on the wall because God had provided the help.
  4. He ignored the criticism and the skeptics.
  5. He would not be distracted from what he knew God told him to do.
  6. He did not see the need to excessively defend himself from accusations or rumors.
  7. He did not fear, even for his own life.  He knew God had given him life, and God had given him this purpose.  The God who had called him into this purpose would not allow his defeat.  What good was his life if he left his God-given purpose unfulfilled?

Later in the book of Nehemiah we see he gave all the glory to God for what he had done.  More than the wall construction, Nehemiah’s legacy is the godly character he displayed in doing what he did.  Remains of Nehemiah’s wall tell us 2500 years later of a man who followed God with heart and determination, and prevailed against seemingly over-whelming opposition.

The Two Kingdoms Part I by Kay Keith Peebles

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Darkness or Light

How could I have ever liked those things?  Growing up in a small town in Texas I loved to go trick-or-treating on Halloween.  When I became an adult, I continued my fetish with the holiday.  I had a small ceramics business and made and sold lighted witches, shelf hangers, dishes, statues and other decorations depicting the scary ghoulish celebration.  I bedecked every room in my house like I would for Christmas.  I loved to go to costume parties, and I handmade costumes for my two children.  I went to church choir practice one Wednesday night dressed up like a witch. I had absolutely no idea the origin or the true culture of Halloween.  It appeared so innocent to me.

Soon after I began going to Bible Study I heard negative references about the holiday.  It surprised me because I had always considered it fun to participate in trick-or-treating.  I decided to do some studying on my own which provided information about the origin of Halloween, but I continued to excuse my participation in it.  I justified my feelings by giving the disclaimer- “I don’t believe in that stuff, I’m just having a little fun.”  It took several years for the Lord to influence me that I should no longer associate myself with that event.  One of the convincing experiences I had was at the last Halloween costume party I attended.  There was some drinking at that party and as usual, a few people became obnoxious.  I watched two different married people, one a man and the other a woman, take liberties with others of the opposite sex which were completely improper.  The Lord spoke to me, “People think because they are in costume wearing a mask they can act inappropriately and get away with it.”  I then realized they wore an invisible mask every day that hid the true motivation of their heart.  What I saw and heard turned my stomach and I walked away from participating in anything associated with Halloween for the rest of my life.  Having that resolve, I gathered all of my hand-painted ceramic pieces and smashed them with a hammer and threw them in the trash.

Something very peculiar began to happen to me as I renounced my participation with Halloween.  My spiritual eyes began to open so that I could see (perceive) things more clearly.  All the skeletons, witches, ghouls, goblins, spiders and vampires became ugly to me.  Rather than fun, I saw evil in them.  I began to see how they terrorized young children and celebrated things connected to death, gore and everything contrary to the life and joy of God’s Kingdom.  The darkness had clouded my perception of the holiday and everything it represented until I renounced it.  I discovered first-hand how darkness operates.  It clouds our discernment.

I continued doing more research on the subject and was shocked at what I discovered.    “In the Satanic Bible, Satanist Anton LaVey writes that “After one’s own birthday, the two major Satanic holidays are Walpurgisnacht and Halloween (or all Hallows’ Eve)”.”  (The History Channel, history.com)  Walpurgisnacht occurs in late April and is known as the night of witches, where witches and warlocks gather to celebrate.  (Wikipedia. com)  Many U.S. animal shelters halt the adoption of all black and all white cats until after Halloween to prevent animal torture because of the superstitions connected with the holiday.  (Daily Mail.com, Animal Welfare League)  I had no idea those things truly existed and were still practiced today.  I could no longer celebrate a holiday that had such dark beginnings and still practiced such demonic rituals. I have heard the testimony of some who were steeped in witchcraft but were saved and delivered by the love and power of God.  I knew there was/is a demonic spirit realm still active today and I wanted no part in it!  Many years ago God shut the door for me and my family from ever participating in that darkness again.

There are two kingdoms in the “spirit” realm today.  They are as different as night and day.  They are polar opposites that strongly oppose each other.  It is possible to participate in both, vacillating between the two, which is dangerous for those who are not aware of what darkness represents.  It is impossible to be neutral about either.  Neutrality feeds ignorance and ignorance leads us on a path of oppression, destruction and death.  Ignorance produces fear, but truth produces life and peace.

The two kingdoms are the kingdom of darkness (Satan, world) and the Kingdom of Light (God, Heaven) and they are as contrasting as their names.  That which is evil is practiced under the veil of darkness to “hide” its true meaning, activities and purpose.  The Kingdom of Light is established in truth, which brings everything into the light.  The light exposes all those things which are hidden and done in secret.  Darkness deceives and hides truth; but the Light of truth exposes the deceptions and lies of darkness.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined.”  Isaiah 9:2.  (See also Isaiah 42:6, Matthew 4:15 and 16.)

Darkness, referred to in the above scripture passage, is the Hebrew word #2822 “choshek” which means (lit) darkness, (fig) misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness:–dark (-ness), night, obscurity; according to Strong’s Concordance.  This meaning is the literal and figurative description of the kingdom of darkness.

Light, from the same scripture reference, is the Hebrew word #216 “owr” which means illumination or (concr.) Iluminary (in every sense including lightening, happiness, etc.):–bright, clear + day-light (ning), morning, sun.  Cross references listed above connect the Light to the Messiah, Jesus, Who was prophesied to come to earth to lead the people out of the darkness.  (See also verses 6-7 of Isaiah Chapter 9.)

There is a continual battle that rages between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of Light and the opposing agenda between the two kingdoms has intertwined with mankind throughout history.    Paul warned Christians that “Satan masquerades as an angel of light” to deceive the people.  (See 2 Corinthians 11:14). Emphasis mine).  This continual battle between darkness and light would be depressing if we did not know that it is the Light that overcomes the darkness!  John 1:4-5, “In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men.  And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it].”

John 1:9 states, “There it was—the true Light [was then] coming into the world [the genuine, perfect, steadfast Light] that illumines every person.”  He was speaking of Jesus Who is the Light of the world!

Those who choose to live in the Kingdom of Light, are charged to separate themselves from the kingdom of darkness and “walk in the light”.  “For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of Light [lead the lives of those native-born (the Jews) to the Light].  Ephesians 5:8 AMP. (Emphasis mine.)  It is truly amazing the more clearly we can see (spiritually) when we remove the dark areas in our life.  I could not see the darkness in Halloween until I quit celebrating that holiday.

Jesus declared in Luke 11:34-35, “The lamp of the body is the eye.  Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light.  But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.  Therefore take heed that the light within you is not darkness.”  This New Testament word darkness is the Greek word “skotos”, “#4655 Strong’s:  From the root “ska”, “to cover.” The word is used literally for physical darkness and metaphorically for spiritual, moral, and intellectual darkness.  The darkness arises from error, ignorance, disobedience, willful blindness, and rebellion.  Darkness is an evil system absolutely opposed to the light.”  Word Wealth, Spirit Filled Life Bible, NKJ.

The Light of Christ shines in the darkest places.  (2Peter 2:19).  No matter how dark it seems to get, His Light will shine brighter and will overcome the darkness!  Our Savior and Lord is no longer hanging on a cross.  He is seated in heaven having full rule and authority over all of creation.  He is described in the Book of Revelation Chapter 21:22-25.  “I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Omnipotent [Himself] and the Lamb [Himself] are its temple.  And the city has no need of the sun nor of the moon to give light to it, for the splendor and radiance (glory) of God illuminate it, and the Lamb is its lamp.  [Isaiah, 24:23, 60:1, 19]  The nations shall walk by its light and the rulers and leaders of the earth shall bring into it their glory.”  AMP.

The Light of Christ illuminates our understanding.  His Light exposes the darkness around us leading and drawing us to the Light.  Jesus is the living Word and the Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.  (See Psalm 119:105).  When we call upon His name, He will shine His light in the darkest places of our lives and deliver us from the fear and oppression of darkness.  All deception, fear and bondage is obliterated completely when we turn to His Light.

Our world may be filled with darkness today, but the Light is always available for those who believe in Jesus and call upon His name.  The darkness in this world will be overcome when each of us becomes filled with His Light and shine that Light wherever we go.  We are the carriers of His Light today.  May we reject all association with the darkness and let His Light shine!

Mending Fences By Larry W. Peebles

Mending Fences   by   Larry W. Peebles   September 9, 2016   16.34

 

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A wooden post in the split-rail fence had rotted through at the base.  It was located at the top of the retaining wall along the side of the driveway to our mountain home.  The fence would not be able to stop anything or anyone from going over the side of the retaining wall.  A dangerous and painful drop down the side of the mountain would result.  The post had to be replaced, along with the top and bottom rails on both sides of the post.  Because the rails were as old as the post, it made no sense to replace the post without also replacing the rails at the same time.  A trip to the lumber yard yielded the new post and rails, along with the bags of concrete needed to set the new post. About four hours of labor was required to dig out the old post, and properly set the new post and rails in place.  Not only did the new wood look better than the old rotted wood, but more importantly, the fence was once again solid, safe and secure.  The fence would now function as intended– anyone or anything that needed to be restrained from going over the edge of the retaining wall and down the mountain could rely on the strength of the fence to do so.  I had successfully mended the fence, and felt a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Farmers and ranchers rely on fencing to define their property and restrain livestock.  A fence around the perimeter of the property defines the boundaries of the ownership, and sets the shape of the property.  Cross fencing within the property defines smaller sub-sections called fields or pastures.  In one pasture the cattle are allowed to graze, but in another the cattle are kept out so the grass can grow.  In one cultivated field corn may be planted, perhaps beans in another, and in a third the field might lie fallow for a season so the soil can regenerate nutrients.  Cross-fencing aids in land management.  The cattle are fenced out of the corn field for obvious reasons.  For all these reasons, it is important to keep the fences mended.  This is especially true of the perimeter fence, where a damaged fence allows one’s cattle to escape into the neighboring property, and vice-versa.  If my fence is down, and my cattle eat the neighbor’s corn, I may owe damages.  While we all appreciate the value of good neighbors, it is said that good fences make for good neighbors.

It is probably for that reason the term “mending fences” has come to have another meaning.  It is an idiom that refers to repairing or improving a poor or damaged relationship.  Repairing a damaged relationship between neighbors (or friends and family members) is much more important than repairing a fence between them.

For the Biblical perspective, consider these twelve passages:

  1. Matthew 22:36-40- a Pharisee, an expert in the Law, tested Jesus with this question-“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?  Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets [the entire Old Testament] hang on these two commandments.’”  [Insert mine].   Who is our neighbor?  Jesus made it clear in other teachings that our neighbor includes all mankind (friends, family, loved ones and strangers, including our enemies-see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37).  Loving our neighbor is the opposite of selfishness.
  2. Ephesians 4:25-28- “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  In your anger do not sin.  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.  He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”  We must speak truthfully with our neighbor, deal with any issues that cause anger lest we give the devil a foothold, and we must share with neighbors in need.
  3. 1 Corinthians 10:24- “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”  This is in opposition to selfishness.
  4. Philippians 2:3- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  Again, this opposes selfishness.
  5. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-“Encorage one another and build each other up.”
  6. Galatians 6:2- “Carry each other’s burdens.”
  7. Romans 14:13- “Stop passing judgment on one another.”
  8. Colossians 3:13- “Bear with each other and forgive one another…as the Lord forgave you.”
  9. Hebrews 13:1-2- “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.  Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers…”
  10. 1 Peter 4:8- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
  11. Romans 13:9- “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
  12. 1 John 4:7- “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

These scriptures underlined the importance of healthy, mended relationships with everyone we call or should call neighbor.  There is also a great urgency in repairing a relationship.  The pastor of a church my wife and I attended years ago said something very wise, and for that reason I have never forgotten it.  He said life is short, yet we go through it very casually in terms of our relationships.  People come and go through our lives, and we are not intentional in telling them how we appreciate knowing them and what their friendship has meant to us.  We go on as though it is understood, and therefore do not speak it out.  After parting and going separate ways, it is often too late, and is permanently left unsaid.

I remember talking to him when we left the church because we were moving to another state.  He began with this piece of wisdom, then proceeded to tell me what specifically he liked and appreciated about me, recounting in some detail how my wife and I had gone the extra mile to make him and his family feel welcome and accepted when they first came to the church.   I was stirred to reciprocate, telling him the things I appreciated and learned from him.  It brought great closure to that period of time we were together in church, and I hope perhaps brought some encouragement to his ministry.  As I have moved on in other relationships, or when my neighbor has moved on, I try to find the opportunity to have a similar conversation with them.

But why wait?  Life is indeed too short.  Why wait until the end of a season to tell a friend or neighbor or loved one how much they have meant?  Why wait a single day to mend a misunderstanding?  Take the high road.  Take the initiative, be intentional and specific with your words, never quit trying, and find ways to show your love and appreciation.  Put words into actions, no matter how small.  It is a great feeling to mend a fence.  Great (mended) fences make for great neighbors.

A Clear View by Kay Keith Peebles

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Finally, we can see again!  We live in a mountain home and recently had some of our trees trimmed. We removed other trees that were diseased.  An untouched forest can close us in by clouding our view and eventually completely blocking it.  Removing dead or dying trees, trimming branches which are in the way and cleaning up broken limbs can lend us an entirely new perspective.  Removing undesirable brush which can hinder the growth or choke out the life of healthy trees is also necessary.  Forest management keeps the woods vibrant and optimizes its longevity creating a win-win situation for all.

We visited Yosemite National Park a few years ago after a lightning fire had burned hundreds of acres of land nearby.  We thought it was a tragedy until we learned that natural fires do a cleansing work to the forest and can be beneficial if they do not burn out of control.  They actually promote life rather than simply taking it.  Many of the national parks and forest areas do “controlled” burns which manage the undergrowth on the forest floor.  Low growing flora and parasites that multiply at a faster rate than other forest plants and trees can harm the balance of nature in healthy woodlands.

We live at an altitude of 2,800 feet which allows us a view at the heights where hawks, eagles and vultures soar.  The height gives them a vantage point to find their unsuspecting prey.  There are some disadvantages by only dwelling in the valley floor; it is hard to see clearly when surrounded by sixty-foot high trees.  The shade of the forest may cool the temperature by sheltering it from the hot sun, but the same trees can also thwart a refreshing breeze.  Perspective is limited and only allows us to see the small things in the valley.  Higher up on the mountain, our view enables us to grasp the big picture.

Our Christian walk, like living in the mountainous regions, is one filled with peaks and valleys.  While a mountain hike is exhilarating and renewing, much of the hard work and strength building happens when we transverse between the lowlands and the heights.  The valley keeps us focused on the work at hand but can cause us to concentrate too long on our individual needs and problems.  We can become weary with the day-to-day responsibilities of living, easily forgetting why we are here.  When that happens, we can lose light of the end goal we are trying to accomplish.

One of the devil’s effective tools used against us is a spirit of confusion.  When we lose our perspective, we are most likely being oppressed by that spirit.  Webster’s definition of confusion is:  misperception, mix-up or muddle.    Learning what it is and where it comes from gives us an edge over its influence.

“For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace…” 1 Corinthians 14:33a.  According to the Key Word Study Bible, confusion means commotion, tumult.  “And when you hear of wars and insurrections (disturbances, disorder, and confusion), do not become alarmed and panic-stricken and terrified; for all this must take place first, but the end will not [come] immediately.”  Luke 21:9, AMP.  In 2 Corinthians 12:20 confusion includes:  factions, quarreling, jealousy, temper, rivalry, divided loyalties, selfishness, gossip, arrogance and disorder.

James 3:16-17 explains, “For wherever there is jealousy (envy) and contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), there will also be confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) and all sorts of evil and vile practices.  But the wisdom from above is first of all pure (undefiled); then it is peace-loving, courteous (considerate, gentle).  [It is willing to] yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and unfeigned (free from doubts, wavering, and insincerity).”  AMP.  The beginning characteristics promote confusion and destroy peace while they muddy the waters of clear thinking and doing.  The characteristics that come from the wisdom of God promote peace and understanding.

James continues in verse 18 to explain the opposite of confusion.  “And the harvest of righteousness (of conformity to God’s will in thought and deed) is [the fruit of the seed] sown in peace by those who work for and make peace [in themselves and in others, that peace which means concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts].  AMP.

Confusion is a symptom of our spending too much time in the valley, and a trip to the mountains is the remedy for a “valley” mentality.  When we find ourselves stressed, overloaded and unable to sustain peace, we must change our perspective.

“I lift up mine eyes unto the hills; from whence cometh my help.  My help cometh from the LORD (YAHWEH) which made heaven and earth.  He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber.  Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper:  the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.  The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night.  The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil:  he shall preserve thy soul.  The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and forevermore.”  Psalm 121, KJV.  (Emphasis mine).

There are several references to the “mountain of the Lord” in the Bible.  Abraham took Isaac up to Mount Moriah when he attempted to sacrifice him to the Lord.  He was showing God that He worshipped Him above his only son, whom God had promised.   The Jewish historian Josephus recorded that Mount Moriah and Mount Zion were the same mountain.  There are prophetic Psalms which mention the “mountain of the Lord”.  “Yet have I anointed (installed and placed) My King [firmly] on My holy hill of Zion.  I will declare the decree of the Lord; He said to Me, You are My Son; this day [I declare] I have begotten You.”  Psalm 2:6-7, AMP.  (See also Psalm 76:1-2).

The Lord declared Jesus as the eternal King of all Kings and established His throne in Jerusalem upon Mount Moriah/Zion.  He will reign there at the end of the age during the Millennium mentioned in the book of Revelation.  Psalm 9:11 explained the Lord dwells in Zion.  In Psalm 20, the Lord promised to send us help from his sanctuary (in Zion) and support, refresh and strengthen us.  “GREAT IS the Lord, and highly to be praised in the city of our God!  His holy mountain.  Fair and beautiful in elevation, is the joy of all the earth—Mount Zion [the City of David], to the northern side [Mount Moriah and the temple], the [whole] city of the Great King!”  Psalm 48:1-2 AMP.

It is no wonder David was so victorious.  He not only knew the Lord, he knew where to find Him!  David believed if he called upon the name of the Lord God, He would answer him and deliver him out of the hands of all his enemies.  When death surrounded David, He sought the Lord.  When confusion plagued him, David cried out to the God Who was his refuge, his very help in the time of trouble.  He knew his breakthrough would come out of abiding in the presence of the Lord.

“Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all the day long.  Sehah [pause, and calmly think of that]!  Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.  Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.  They go from strength to strength [increasing victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion.”  Psalm 84:4-7, AMP.

When life became confusing, David sought the Lord.  We have an even greater blessing.  Mount Zion is a metaphor to us.  Although there is a literal Mount Zion and the Lord reigns from there, we have Mount Zion abiding in our hearts if we are children of the Lord God.  When we turn our gaze away from the “valley” of problems, and look unto the “hill of the Lord”, we find solace.  When we cry to the Lord, He will give us wisdom and direction.  He will give us strength and endurance.  He will supply us with hope and grace abundant for the tasks we must accomplish.

The valleys seem endless, but from the mountains we see their beginning and their end.  When we feel weak and weary from our journey, we simply need to look up.  Our strength and help comes from the Lord (on Mt. Zion).  On the summit, we can understand our purpose and the process.  We become less fearful and are assured that change is coming.  From the valleys the storms approach us unexpectedly.  From the mountain top the storms are seen from far away, and they alert us to prepare for what lies ahead.

God is calling us to come up higher.  “AFTER THIS I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven And the first voice which I heard addressing me like the [calling of] a “war trumpet” said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place in the future.”  We will never know what the Lord has in store for us unless we “come up” to the mountain of the Lord.

Living peacefully with our brethren and our families we are able to overcome the spirit of confusion.  “It is like the dew of [lofty] Mount Hermon and the dew that comes on the hills of Zion; for there the Lord has commanded the blessing, even life forevermore [upon the high and the lowly.”  Psalm 133:3, AMP.  We then can abide on the mountain top where we have “A Clear View”.