Growing Kingdom People – A Testimony and Prayer from Butch Peebles

A Testimony and Prayer from Butch Peebles

This week, our church family held a celebration service for Butch Peebles. Butch was a rough and tumble man who epitomized the phrase “one of a kind”. He was also a man after God’s heart. A few yeas ago, Butch was diagnosed with cancer. In this testimony and prayer he expressed his feelings as he faced the future:

The Day I Was Humbled

“Determined to face the diagnosis with faith, thankfulness, pride and dignity. Faith and thankfulness remain. Dignity stripped away and pride was replaced with humbleness.

O Lord thank you for this blessings. God bless the innocent that suffer worse than I, that are more deserving of your grace, and mercy. Prepare me to accept your destiny. It will be your will and not mine! Thank you for this opportunity to serve you in suffering. God thank you for the people that showed me so much love, empathy, and compassion. God forgive me for my pride, selfishness, lack of empathy, and my never ending lack of patience. Forever thankful Lord for your blessings. Thankful that it was you that took me down in love and not my enemies., Amen, your humbled servant. Butch Peebles.”

A Prayer on Monday

Just two days before he was killed in a tragic accident, Butch came to our church building to pour his heart out before God. After his visit he sent me this message:

“All I could think to do was get as close as I could to God!…Thankfully I did reach God and he did sooth me and made me able to breathe again.”

Today, Butch is breathing the oxygen of heaven. Indeed, God works most powerfully through those who walk humbly with Him (Micah 6:8).

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Growing Kingdom People – The Royal Writhe

The Royal Writhe

“How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension.” Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, will certainly be remembered for these affirming words following the birth of his first child. The “woman” on his mind is Duchess Meghan Markle, and his reference is most certainly to the birthing process.

Indeed, a woman’s willingness to endure the trial of childbirth is universally and historically acclaimed. Biblical authors use birth as a default metaphor when they want to describe a time of intense trouble or trial. A Psalmist once wrote of enemy kings who experienced “pain like that of a woman in labor” as they approached the intimidating grandeur of Mount Zi0n (Psalm 48:6). In a prophecy against Babylon, Isaiah wrote, “Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame” (Isaiah 13:8). And the Apostle Paul used childbirth to describe the state of a world in need of redemption: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22).

Such words!

“Terror, pain, anguish, writhe, aghast, flame, groaning and pain.”

“Writhe?”

Whew! How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension.

I suspect, if Harry maintains the same level of introspection in the future that is evident today, he will broaden his context. Yes, moms are amazing, but not just because they give birth, as incomprehensible as that might be.

“Writhe.” I can’t get that word out of my mind.

How moms serve and bless their children throughout their lives is beyond comprehension. Whether a mom adopts, fosters or births, the demands of parenting require heroic devotion. And the work isn’t getting any easier.

Loving moms commit their lives to the task of helping their children navigate the world, and preparing them for adulthood. I don’t mean to suggest they do it alone, and I am also aware some children are raised by fathers, grandparents or other guardians. But for my purposes here, I am focusing on mothers who pour themselves out for their children, and the honor they deserve.

Children come to us as mysteries. We may know a few things about them, whether they are a boy or girl, easy going or prone to discontent. Do they sleep through the night? Will they have curly or straight hair?

As our children grow many mysteries are revealed such as personality traits, natural giftedness and personal challenges. Perceptive Moms take note of these revelations as they emerge, and strive to prepare their children to take on the world.

I admire the nurturing process Moms pursue on behalf of their children. Mothers are talent scouts, career counselors, therapists, doctors and theologians wrapped up in one. And all of this before a child’s first day of school.

There are dark days too. Days when a two-parent home become a single-parent home. Medical tests that indicate the role of Mom is going to be a lot harder than expected. Financial struggles. A “falling out” with a neighbor. Car wrecks. Emergency room visits. A call from the Principal’s office. A call from the police station. The door slamming on its hinges and the words no mother wants to hear: “I hate you!”

“Writhe”.

It’s not just something that happens in childbirth.

And yes, Harry, you were most right. If anything, your comment was just a bit narrow. But then, people understand you were merely speaking in the moment. How any woman does what they do is beyond comprehension. Obviously, this is true of women in general, with or without children. But we get it, and I am sure Meghan loves you for it!

Now, we await a name. I personally believe “Larry Ray” would be quite royal.

“Hear, Hear!”

 

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Growing Kingdom People – Why Puppy Dogs Should Run for Public Office

Why Puppy Dogs Should Run for Public Office

My wife and I watch the evening news together. We have two traditions.

Before each broadcast we try to guess which stories will air. We base our speculations on various news releases we have heard throughout the day.

The second tradition is to anticipate the “puppy dog story” that invariably comes at the end of every broadcast. After twenty-five minutes of violence, scandal and destruction, it is nice to cuddle up to a positive story about something that makes people happy. And many times, the “puppy dog story” is about…

…a puppy dog!

Unless it is the recent story about an emotional support alligator some guy in Florida takes to schools and nursing homes. All I can say is, sooner or later an alligator is going to do what alligators do. I’m just glad no puppy dogs were around when the alligator guy was interviewed.

Puppy dogs are fun to be around. They are supportive, loyal and loving. When they are raised correctly, depending on the breed, they do well in social settings. And Puppy dogs seem to speak a universal language. Carry one with you into a crowd and he will be an instant hit!

Yup. Or should I say, “Yalp!” We love puppy dogs.

I have been thinking a puppy dog would make a great politician. Actually, in 1968, a group by the name of The Royal Guardsmen released a song called, “Snoopy for President”, promoting the candidacy of the famous Peanuts character. The chorus proclaimed, “Some wear the sign of the elephant and some wear the sign of the mule. But we’ll hold the sign of the beagle high and love will shine right through.”

See what I mean? Puppies always seem to make things better.

If a puppy dog served in public office, we could choose the characteristics we wanted in a leader by selecting the appropriate breed. If we wanted to “get things done” we could elect a working dog. I’m not sure who could fill the role of Surgeon General, but the Bible tells us about some dogs that licked Lazarus’ sores (Luke 16:21).  If we just knew what kind of dogs these were, we could sign them up.

In times of world conflict, a German Shepherd could stand guard over our communities, unless we were attempting to negotiate peace. In that case, a Labrador Retriever might be a better choice.

To avoid opening up any cans of worms, I will refrain from too many suggestions. I also realize puppy dogs grow up, and sometimes big dogs are not so cute and cuddly. But that’s that point! We can put a puppy dog in office and as they grow out of their cuteness we can train them to do their job!

A politician who responds to verbal and manual cues. Now that’s a thought that might just work!

Did I mention we could elect a Border Collie?

Ok.

Worms back in the can.

I merely believe if a puppy dog makes us all feel good after we watch the world come unraveled on the evening news, maybe a few of them in public office would have the same effect.

It couldn’t hurt.

And we would save a bundle on security. We could put a leash on our leaders and pretend they were pets. No one would know.

So many possibilities.

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Growing Kingdom People – Should Terrorism be a Matter of Prayer?

Should Terrorism be a Matter of Prayer?

Terrorism is senseless. While those who commit evil acts of violence against innocent victims might accomplish some of their immediate goals, their ideology of hate and oppression ultimately collapses. Or it is commandeered by others who propagate the same.

In the face of the senseless, it is easy for believers to adopt a fatalistic mindset and forget the power of prayer. Prayer often seems powerless against people who are bent on committing atrocities, regardless of the consequences.

Does it matter whether or not we pray for terrorist victims, or for acts of violence to be stopped before they occur? Do our prayers influence God, and do they actually help others? Or are we merely making ourselves feel better by taking our sorrow to the Lord?

I believe prayer does matter. Here’s why:

God hears our prayers, and in His wisdom, He might intervene and stop an evil act. I realize this possibility raises the question of why God doesn’t always intervene. However, we know He allows evil people to exercise their free will, while sometimes changing the course of events for His eternal purposes. We cannot possibly understand God’s will completely, but I am confident He factors in our prayers as they are one of the ways we demonstrate our willingness to participate in His plan. God listens to our requests and coordinates His design with our desires.

Our prayers encourage other believers who have been impacted by acts of violence. This encouragement goes beyond the knowledge others have that we are thinking of them. If believers who are suffering also trust in the God who sometimes intervenes, then they are pleased to hear of our petitions.

Our prayers move us to act as God’s ambassadors. The big events that occur around us are a result of countless smaller events. One loving deed we express toward a neighbor, could be the seed that stops hatred before it begins. God’s people travel extensively throughout the world, and our lives are always touching one another. We cannot predict how the providential hand of God might connect the dots and forever alter the future of a maimed terrorist victim, the family of someone who has been killed by terrorism, or even the terrorist himself. God’s providence often begins in our hearts when we ask Him to show us, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and His Word,  how we should respond to hate.

Prayer invites God to examine our hearts and strengthen our convictions. Hate produces hate, and if we allow Satan to gain a foothold in our lives, we can build walls between ourselves and people who remind us of the terrorists we see on TV. Hate only reinforces the isolation those who are different feel in our culture. Love overcomes isolation and gives the light of Christ an opportunity to shine in the darkness.

There are many others subjects believers must grapple with in regards to terrorism. Justice certainly has a place in the equation as we work through those in authority to punish evil doers. This too is a matter of prayer. We should also continue to pray for those serving in our military who place themselves in harm’s way to protect us. They must decide how they are going to address an evil threat in the fraction of a second.

We live in a dangerous world, and sometimes it is hard to see how God is working. But He is working, and I believe, outside of a supernatural intervention, most of His plans are carried out by His people.

His praying people.

There is a point to prayer.

Don’t ever stop.

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Growing Kingdom People – One Billion for a Cathedral?

One Billion for a Cathedral?

As I’m sure you are aware, “Notre-Dame de Paris” has suffered a devastating fire. It appears the iconic cathedral’s stone skeleton has survived, but it will take years and an estimated one billion euros to repair the damage.

There was a time in my life when I would have harshly judged those who wanted to dedicate such resources to the restoration of a church building. After all, the church is not a physical edifice. It is the Body of Christ, the redeemed. Christ is the Corner Stone and members of His Body are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5), bound together by a common grace.

Every church building in the world could burn to the ground and the church would still exist. In fact, as far as we know, there was no such thing as a church building until over two-hundred years after the church began on the Day of Pentecost. Some estimates place the number of Christians in the world by this time at nearly five million! Therefore, church buildings are not necessary for the work and growth of God’s kingdom on earth. Spiritual fruit is not produced with earthly materials.

I have not changed my mind about the biblical nature of the church, but I have grown to appreciate lavish church architecture. Here’s why: Throughout my life I have watched city after city construct multi-million-dollar complexes to serve professional sports leagues. I have seen rich oil kings build skyscrapers in the desert sand and space companies deliver payloads to the International Space Station. These kinds of human endeavors are exciting and I, for one, can’t imagine life without the thrill of space travel. But as people seem to find the money for expensive efforts that honor the human spirit, is it wrong to celebrate a costly building that symbolizes Christian devotion and worship?

Evidently, God didn’t think so, or He wouldn’t have given His people instructions for the construction of Solomon’s temple. Lavish doesn’t begin to describe the funds, material goods and craftmanship involved in this project.

I understand why the people of Paris are weeping over the burning of Notre-Dame. It has stood for eight-hundred and fifty years and has been a part of French history, through thick and thin. At times it has become entangled with the darkness of human reason, and at other times it was associated with religious corruption. But it has also represented hope when all hope seemed lost, and reminded the faithful of God’s presence in their lives.

Perhaps there is a place, after all, for extraordinary and expensive representations of the Lord’s church.

I say this with these qualifications:

A building dedicated to the Lord should be used for the Lord. If it becomes a club house for the personal pleasure of those who have already received grace, it is not serving its purpose. We must remember we are blessed to be a blessing, and an attitude of entitlement in the church runs counter to Christ’s command to go to every nation and make disciples.

A building should never be worshipped. Architectural style can be admired, and the talent and devotion of those who create should be honored. But the Lord doesn’t want us worshiping brick and mortar or praising the creation more than the Creator. We are to worship Him, and if a building makes it easier to gather for this purpose, and function as a light to the world, that is a good thing.

A building dedicated to the Lord’s work should be free of scandal. Illegal, unbiblical or unethical methods for raising funds should be avoided at all costs. It was, after all, the marketing of God’s grace to construct a church building in the time of Martin Luther that ignited the Protestant Reformation.

A building should be seen as a tool, not a magic wand. Some people put more trust in methodologies or human means than God’s power. They believe a building built to certain standards will equal success for the church. Certainly, we should use wisdom when it comes to building for God’s kingdom work. It would be impractical to construct a church building in America without climate control or enough technology to maximize the opportunities we have when people are within the walls of the facility. However, if we think a powerful church will emerge as a result of human effort, we are building on the wrong foundation.

Please realize, I am aware I have glossed over some important issues relating to the restoration of Notre-Dame. The motives of those who wish to revive the cathedral are not all kingdom-focused, and I do have some significant theological differences regarding the things that will be taught and practiced inside once the repairs are made.  It is also true a billion dollars could feed and clothe entire countries.  If I had a billion dollars to personally spend on ministry, this is where I would invest it.

It’s just that, as I have grown older, and have seen billions of dollars spent on secular causes, I have become less resistant to lavish things done in the name of Christ. It sounds very pious to criticize the church for spending too much money on tools for ministry, but it seems many of the critics always have plenty of money for other purposes. Even believers who balk at tithing to the church have no problem finding the funds to support expensive hobbies and interests of their own.

Church buildings are symbolic of God’s goodness, His message of grace to the world and the hope He gives us for the future. No, the church is not a building.

But obviously, buildings dedicated to kingdom work can create a connecting place between God and His creation. I can think of a lot less productive things people do with money.

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Growing Kingdom People – Lessons from the 737 Max

Lessons from the 737 Max

Three hundred forty-six lives have been lost due to an apparent software glitch on the Boeing 737 Max airliner. The tragic deaths of these unfortunate passengers have produced shock waves throughout the world. Why?

Obviously, when people die in airline crashes, we all take notice. Approximately 4.3 billion passengers used air transportation in 2018. This means, every day literally millions of travelers trust their lives to flight technology and the experts behind the controls.

But aside from our commonplace participation in air travel, we have also developed a high sense of confidence in the industry. Perhaps you have heard a speaker use the redundancy of onboard systems on airliners to illustrate the importance of strategic planning. You have also most certainly heard some say, “flying is still the safest way to travel.”

Indeed, it is, in spite of the 737 Max crashes.

Why then, do these events create such anxiety?

Perhaps we are shocked, not only by the number of those who perished, but also that the things we once believed to be true have been compromised. Why was there no redundancy in the case of the flawed computer program? What was it about the relationship between Boeing and the FFA that led Chesley Sullenberger to say they were too “cozy” with one another? Why were American airline companies so slow to ground the 757 Max when it appeared there might be a systematic problem?

Our trust has been broken. And it is going to take a while to regain it, even after the 737 Max airliners are repaired. In fact, I predict there will be a name change of some sort so passengers feel more secure.

This week, I was contemplating a New Testament verse about Jesus. The writer of Hebrews declared, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow.”

In what ways is Jesus the same yesterday, today and tomorrow?

He hasn’t changed His message. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He took on the form of a servant to pull off the greatest victory in history. Nothing has changed Jesus’ passion for us and His willingness to do whatever is necessary to save us.

Jesus hasn’t changed the “why” behind our redemption. We needed grace because we were sinner destined for hell. The words of Jesus teach us. His love fills us. But His grace cleanses us and makes it possible for us to experience eternal life now and forever.

Jesus is as powerful as ever. He can still move planets, mountains, nations and sinner’s hearts. His influence extends to board rooms and living rooms. On the final day, when all things are brought to a fitting conclusion, He will appear as the indisputable Victor. If Satan protests, it will be the last sound he makes before he is cast into a place of eternal punishment. And he knows his end. The only reason he continues to roar is in the hope he might take others down with him.

Jesus hasn’t been marginalized by our culture. I am aware there are statistics that suggest Jesus’ followers have a smaller imprint in America, relative to population. I am not doubting these facts. But Jesus hasn’t been reduced in His Lordship. It saddens Him that many have traded their devotion to Him for counterfeit gods, and that He has taken a back seat to other priorities. But Jesus is moving powerfully in people’s lives. When someone opens his or her heart to His grace there isn’t a force in the universe that can stop His redemption.

I trust Jesus.

I love people, but I don’t trust them with my soul.

And I work hard at not becoming too cozy with the Adversary.

Thank you, Captain Sully, for that insight!

Jesus is the “Redundancy of Redundancy”. The One who grounds anything that shouldn’t fly.

You can trust Him too.

“Yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

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Growing Kingdom People – God and the Championship Game

God and the Championship Game

A lot of prayers are offered to God during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Some are pious: “God, help my team live up to its potential, to play with good sportsmanship, and regardless of the results, to bring glory to your name.”

Some are manipulative: “God, if you help my team win, I promise to stop cussing.”

Some are self-righteous: “God, allow my team to win so the world will see that You honor those who honor You with their lives.”

And some are seriously misguided: “God, give us victory over those scumbags.”

I am not sure how God feels about basketball, although I am confident, He indeed uses it for His glory. But regardless of His interest in this, or any other organized sport, I know He knows something about championships.

One match up in particular was a true “Cinderella Story”. An epic contest involving the underdog and the big dog. A single elimination 16 seed against a 1 seed, that was bound to end badly for the people of God.

The favorite was a tall center named Goliath. The “soon-to-be-fed-to-the-buzzards” contender was a little point guard by the name of David. They met on a level piece of ground with two massive armies in the stands.

The Philistines put their hope in Goliath.

The Jews…

Well. We aren’t told, but it is possible they had one eye on their best route of escape. As soon as David fell, they needed to start running.

Really, really fast.

But God has a way of turning life’s odd on end. David grabbed 5 stones from a brook and faced down Goliath with nothing but a sling. Goliath laughed at him and mocked him, but David slung a stone at his forehead and as the children’s song says, “The Giant came tumbling down.”

There are lots of great stories that emerge in a tournament, and many life-lessons learned. One lesson is how our perspective changes once we realize we are strong enough to beat the opposition. There is an aura that surrounds teams that appear to be unbeatable. But when someone comes along and beats them, others are emboldened. Suddenly, what was once thought impossible is possible.

I realize there are limits to this principle. A squad of six-year old children, taking the court for the first time in a recreation league, are not going to match up well against an NBA team.

Well, maybe against…

Never mind. I’ll leave it there.

My point is that God isn’t bound by human ranking systems. He not only has the power to impact our outcomes, but also to use the outcomes He deems best for His eternal purposes. In other words, He can make us victorious when we appear defeated. And even when we are defeated, He can use our defeat to accomplish a victory.

No one could have appeared more defeated than Christ on Calvary, but He was actually on the verge of the greatest conquest in history. Three days later He would proclaim victory over sin and death, and the gates of hell would quake.

When a lesser ranked team beats a higher ranked team, they call it an “upset.” That’s because things didn’t turn out the way people thought they would. But is it really an upset when the rankings were upside down to begin with? When a 1 should have been a 16 and a 16 should have been a one?

God didn’t upset Satan at the cross. He just clarified the situation. Had Jesus remained in the tomb, that would have been an upset – the eternal Son of God destroyed by the god of this world.

Instead, He rose, setting the record and the rankings straight.

I encourage you to maintain an upside-down view of victory. Remember, Jesus said the first will be last the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). Our eternal success isn’t dependent on our own victory, but our decision to share in His.

The Goliaths that threaten to taken us down can be brought down with a single blow. But only if we remember who we are.

What He did.

And why it matters.

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