Thursday, May 24, 2018

SELF-CENTEREDNESS

This article probably describes SOMEONE YOU KNOW. Interestingly, all the main points in the paragraphs below came to me while listening to a lady complain about her friends at church. She exemplified most of the principles discussed. —Billy Long

SELF-CENTEREDNESS
“Self-centeredness” and “selfishness” are two different things. A selfish person wants his own way, his own advantage, pleasure, and comfort without regard for others, and does not care how it affects others. A self-centered person evaluates and judges everything according to how it relates to or affects him, and is oblivious to how it affects others. A selfish person will deliberately hurt you. A self-centered person will hurt you and not realize it.

A self-centered person has great difficulty in relationships because he has inner struggles with what he assumes others think about him. He wonders what they really meant by something they said. Self-centered people only get along with people who are givers and those strong enough to bear with and indulge them. They are unable to edify others unless others are edifying them. A church will have difficulty building genuine unity among self-centered people. They give the illusion of unity during times when they are made the center of attention, when they are being ministered to, or served by others.

A self-centered person usually is comparing himself to others. This causes him to have problems with envy and low self-esteem or with pride and vainglory. He tends to judge the importance of his place and purpose by comparing it to that of others rather than looking to the will of God.

A self-centered person will have a distorted perception of the actions and words of others. He makes himself the center of every discussion, and makes erroneous judgments accordingly. This causes him to “read into” situations and project wrong motives and intentions onto others. He makes pre-mature judgments. He is blinded to reality because of his distorted perceptions, and is therefore easily offended and unable to see the other person’s point of view.
All of these dynamics make it difficult to communicate with him. He misses opportunities to love and be loved.

It is difficult to correct a self-centered person. He tends to shift blame and responsibility to others. While focusing on himself he amazingly cannot see himself. He never sincerely asks “What have I done?” or “What must I do?” His repentance tends to be self-pity rather than a real change of heart. Tears do not necessarily represent true repentance, brokenness, or honesty. Tears can indicate sincerity. But tears can also come from a distorted perception of reality. A person can cry because of a genuine sense of pain and grief, but might also be motivated by error and self-will, or frustration at not getting his own way or not getting what he wants. Tears are often used as a form of manipulation

Self-centeredness hinders relationships because it hinders love and our ability to discern and effectively reach out to those around us. It hinders understanding because it keeps us confused and oppressed with its distorted perspective. It hinders unity because it causes people to be easily offended through misunderstanding and by wrongly judging the motives and intents of others. It chokes out joy because it chokes out love. It is difficult for self-centered people to be truly happy.

Self-centeredness is a problem common to man. Isaiah spoke rightly when he said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to His own way.” Our only real hope for change is through the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. The historical cross is where Jesus died to deliver us from our sins. The way of the cross is where we gain victory over our self by laying down our lives for the Lord’s will and for others.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25).
My judgment is righteous because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30
Love seeks not its own. 1 Corinthian 13: 5

Thursday, May 17, 2018

MOMMA

In the South we address our parents as “Daddy” and “Momma.” These are terms of endearment and less formal than “Father” and “Mother.” Although my father drew close to the Lord in his latter years, My mother, Jessie Lois Long, was always the more spiritually zealous of the two. Momma was not shy about her Christian experience and was always ready to share her testimony or pray for anyone anywhere. Any guest in our home was a captive audience and was prayed for if he or she happened to mention an ailment or problem. Momma once prayed for a visiting insurance agent. He received his healing right there in her living room.

The family’s reputation was important to her. She was fearless when it came to sharing her Christian testimony or taking a stand for her faith, and it was important to her that no one in the family do anything that would appear to be a bad testimony or bad example for a professing Christian. I called her one night and told her that our church had a square-dance the night before. With a calm but concerned voice she said, “Whaaaaat? Don’t tell nobody!!”
She opened the home for prayer meetings and Bible studies and would invite her friends and neighbors. She was in no hurry for people to leave and would visit as long as anyone desired to stay. Daddy, on the other hand, at some point would get up and walk toward the bedroom, saying, “You all stay and visit as long as you want. I’m going on to sleep.” People were saved, healed, and filled with the Holy Spirit in those meetings over the years.

She especially wanted to encourage and befriend any young man who was called into the ministry. I received many phone calls telling me what a joy it was to get a visit from some neighbor who was now following the Lord, or who had stopped in to fellowship around the things of God. She also was my biggest fan and at times made me uncomfortable as she tried to function as my Public Relations Officer, telling folk what a good preacher I was etc. (When Momma went on to be with the Lord, my sister Eva took over that position).

Momma would often call and give me the latest community update. I did not have to carry on any conversation during these calls. All I had to do was listen, and say “um humm” every minute or so. I could have laid the phone down, walked over to the refrigerator to get something to drink, and then pick up the phone again without her ever knowing I had left the conversation. Then when she had completed her monologue or was interrupted by some other distraction, she would abruptly say, “Okay. I have to go. Good bye,” and hang up without giving me an opportunity to respond or say goodbye.

I often had to remind her to wait a few seconds before driving off too fast when she got in the car to leave the house. The cats needed time to move out from under the car or off the engine. But every time she started the car, she would immediately press the accelerator and speed off toward her destination. We lost a few cats that way, some lying lifeless on the carport, others dropping from the engine as she drove down the highway.

Momma had special mispronunciations for many words. She took us children to “Sinday” school. She gave the kids “Kripsy” Kream doughnuts. She read the “use” paper to get the latest “use.” As we were approaching Albuquerque, New Mexico on a trip across the United States, mama asked me if we were near “Albemarle.” I told her the correct pronunciation, and then later she asked me how far it was to “Abbaturkey,” She told me she was going to Jonna Faye’s to get a “primmanent” in her hair. Her sister, my aunt Nina Ree enjoyed listening to Jimmy “Swagner” and Jerry “Farewell.”

Momma was a faithful friend. I don’t ever remember her holding a grudge. She could get really angry or be offended and insulted by someone, and then turn around and show genuine compassion and friendship to that very person. Her desire was to serve the Lord and be a good testimony to her faith and to the Lord. The Bible says regarding the faithful wife, “Her children shall rise up and call her blessed.” We also were blessed.                  ---Billy Long

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

THE FIERCE SOCIETY

This article is meant to be a discussion of current times, not end times. I don’t want to get into theological debates around eschatology. Some emphasize the great falling away while others argue that the Gospel will conquer. There is often an element of paradox in spiritual truth. The Bible speaks of great evil and darkness while also speaking of the glory of God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Regardless of a person’s perspective on end times, it is indisputable that we are currently in a time of world-wide intensity, as seen in nature, politics, economics and sociological dynamics. Nations are filled with conflict and distress. Those that seem to be at peace are better described as being in a malaise (that vague sense of ill-being and debility that accompanies the onset of an illness). Even people who lack spiritual perception can sense the urgency of the times.
We are moving into an era of troubled people and troubled times, a time when the devil will be active and angry, but also a time when the glory of God will be upon His people. In the days that are coming, Christians should be spiritually alert, in prayer, and boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.  –Billy Long

The Fierce Society
By laying aside God, the Bible, and Judeo-Christian values our society is deliberately or unwittingly destroying the under-girding foundation necessary for a peaceful, stable, and prosperous society, and in turn is laying the grounds for an intellectually inferior, undisciplined, morally depraved, lawless, and fierce society.

2 Timothy 3: 1-3, and Romans 1: 28-32 describe the ultimate characteristics of a culture that rejects God and which is "given over" to itself and its sin. Paul says that the times will be “perilous.”   The Greek word is also translated “fierce” and is the same word used to describe the demoniac (Matthew 8:28) out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons. This man was exceedingly “fierce,” living among the tombs, naked, cutting himself, breaking chains used to bind him, and producing fear in all who came near. It is quite disturbing that the word used to describe this man is also used to describe times and the people that “will come.”

“This Generation”
Jesus, grieved at the society around him, gave three descriptions of “this generation.”  In Matthew 11: 16-19 He refers to “this generation” as sitting in the “marketplace” of reality, irrelevant and playing games while the real issues of the day transpire all around them. It is a picture of the church sitting inside its four walls and failing in its responsibility to be salt and light in the world.

In Matthew 11:20-24 he speaks of “this generation” that had access to grace, truth, and the presence of God like no other generation and yet rejected it.

In Matthew 12: 38-42 He speaks of “this generation” that wanted proof but rejected the very proof that was standing right in front of them.

In Matthew 12: 43-45 He warns us of “this generation” that knew God, like the man who was freed from the demon, but failed to follow-through in his walk with God. The demon came back with seven other demons more wicked than himself, and entered the man causing the last state of the man to be worse than the first. Jesus said, “So shall it be with ‘this wicked generation.’”

Serious Consequences
We should not take lightly the moral and social issues of the day and their consequences on our society. We should not think that the laws of the land are set apart into some neutral territory for which God is not concerned. More and more as we move into the ends of the age we will see an intensification in the spiritual warfare in the heavens. And it will affect our daily lives. Government will not just simply be the benevolent force that facilitates peace and order, but will become an instrument of godlessness that tries to control our lives and take away our prosperity and freedom, and at some point persecute those who follow Jesus and the God of the Bible. As we remove Judeo-Christian values from our laws, institutions, and daily lives, we will experience more and more troubles. A society that forgets God and turns to its various idols will become the “fierce” society that the Apostle Paul describes, a disintegrating society filled with selfishness, violence, immorality, unrest, and conflict.

A Fierce People
In the two paragraphs quoted below, we see the Apostle Paul’s description of a culture that turns its back on God, a society which God has “given over” to itself. He describes what we can look forward to if our nation continues its move away from God and His word.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come; For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such turn away…[they are] always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” -(2 Timothy 3: 1-5).

“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife deceit, evil-mindedness, they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. - (Romans 1:28-32).

“Arise, cry out in the night.”
Regardless of a person’s eschatology (study of end times) it is not difficult to see that our nation and the world are entering difficult times. Christians will agree, regardless of their theological perspective, that it is time to call on God.
It must start with the individual, with each one of us. The challenges of today also bring great opportunity for God's people to know Him and touch Him as they never have before. Christians may have been comfortable being lukewarm and complacent in the past. But I don't think that is an option for us in the days ahead. Peter, James, and John slept in the Garden of Gethsemane while Jesus agonized in prayer. They did not realize the hour that was approaching. I believe that we are facing an hour in which we must prepare ourselves by genuine commitment to the Lord, and by calling on the Lord. One of my prayers these days is that the Lord will prepare me and my household for the days that are coming. I also pray this for my neighbors.
There are many who are praying for and believing for revival to sweep our nation. A revival that captures the entire nation could bring about a wonderful kingdom of God peace that thoroughly saturates the culture. We can pray for that, but we must also prepare for what the first Christians experienced. They saw a great visitation of God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with multitudes being saved, healed, and delivered from the power of darkness. Whole cities were converted. But they also experienced great  persecution. We must pray and intercede for a thorough societal transformation, but also be prepared for persecution and trials similar to those of the early church in the book of Acts. 

 “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” (Lamentations 2:19).


“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14).


“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; But the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you.”  (Isaiah 60: 1-2).



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

A PERSPECTIVE ON GRACE, FAITH, WORK, TRAVAIL, OBEDIENCE, REPENTANCE


GRACE, FAITH, WORK, TRAVAIL, OBEDIENCE, REPENTANCE:
TERMS THAT STAND IN CONTRAST BUT NOT IN CONTRADICTION

A CHALLENGE FROM FRIENDS
I had four separate conversations with friends that caused me to have concern with some of the doctrinal trends that have been developing in the church over recent years.

One friend was telling me that, under the New Covenant, Christians do not have to repent. Grace has brought forgiveness and a believer does not have to “repent” of sins.

A second friend was telling me that the terms “obey” and “obedience” were part of the Old Testament Law, and therefore, not appropriate for the New Testament Christian.

A third friend expressed concern over my sermon entitled “The Blessing is Beyond Obedience” and that this message undermined faith.

On a fourth occasion a friend expressed a mild disapproval at my teaching on “travail and labor in Intercession.” His implication was that travail seemed to suggest “works” rather than faith.

The error in my friends’ approaches is that their positions rested on one facet of a Biblical truth overemphasized to the exclusion of other legitimate aspects. In formulating any Biblical doctrine, one should look at all the scripture verses related to the subject, those you like and those you don’t like, and then formulate a doctrine that draws a circle inclusive of all those verses. The whole Bible must be our foundation, not just one pet principle. Neither should it be only one facet of any one truth.

FAITH AND TRAVAIL
The following terms are inter-related: Grace, Faith, Work, Travail, Obedience, Repentance.
We are looking here at Biblical concepts that work together in harmony. These virtues are foundational aspects of Christian character and effectiveness.  They are perfectly compatible with each other and work harmoniously together. They may stand in contrast, but they do not stand in contradiction or opposition.
For instance, “laboring in prayer” does not contradict “faith in prayer.” The Apostle Paul speaks of praying with “all prayer.” This means there are many patterns in prayer. It can sometimes be a simple word of faith, ask and believe, or sometimes a more protracted supplication, or even intense labor and travail. All are done in faith; and we see all in the life of Jesus. He sometimes simply spoke a word of faith to get something accomplished. But then he also “offered up prayers and supplications with vehement cries and tears.” There is a place for both. Paul said that Epaphras “labored in fervently prayer.” The disciples could usually cast out demons with a word, but also encountered situations in which the demons came out ”only by prayer and fasting.”
Situations that require patience do not indicate a lack of faith. Hebrews speaks of “faith and patience,” (Hebrews 6:12). They work together.
Obedience does not mean salvation by works. By the same token, salvation by grace does not remove our need to obey, and salvation by faith does not remove our need to work. “Laboring in prayer” does not mean a works/merit mentality. Laborers are called into the harvest.  We labor, travail, fight in prayers in the same way as we labor in the harvest (Matthew 9: 38, John 4:38, Col.4:12).
Labor itself is not contrary to grace. Paul said that grace labors (1 Cor 15:10). We labor and work, even as Jesus did. It is part of our service. But we do not work to earn salvation, which is by grace through faith, and not of works.

OBEDIENCE
Grace does not remove obedience as part of the Christian’s life. Obedience is not just associated with law and rules, but in the Christian life obedience is a dynamic of relationship. Even in the New Testament we obey God, our Master and Lord. We obey Him and keep His word.  Obedience is an element of “relationship,” a vital expression of our walk with Jesus Christ.

Obedience existed before the law. While obedience is also associated with law, it exists apart from law. Obedience was a living and vital part of “relationship” long before there was the law. In our relationship with the Lord we obey Him, we obey His voice.
Adam “disobeyed” (Rom 5:19) before there was ever a “law.” He disobeyed the Father.
Abraham obeyed long before there was “the law.”  His obedience in offering Isaac was not to a law, but to a command or word arising in his relationship and communication with God.  Hebrews 11:8, 17.
The rich young ruler’s disobedience was not to law but was a refusal to obey a word arising in his relationship with Jesus. It is interesting that in this case it was easier for the young man to obey the law than to obey the voice of Jesus. The lesson is that in your relationship with Jesus, He might ask you a hard thing.

Jesus obeyed the Father. He was obeying His Father’s voice.  Hebrews 5: 8, John 8:55. (He was not “under law,” but nevertheless, His actions never broke His Father’s law). Like Jesus, we obey the Father and the Holy Spirit. Being led by the Spirit we fulfill the law, we do not destroy it.
.Hebrews 5:8-9.  “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which he suffered. And being made perfect He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him.”

Philip 2:8. “He became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.”
He was obeying the Father…not a law. Although the scripture prophesied that HE would go to the cross, yet there was no law that commanded Him to do this. He was obeying the Father, not a rule. Sometimes the voice of the Father asks us “to do” a hard thing, sometimes something more difficult than anything in the law.
Luke 18: 18-30.
The law did not tell the rich young ruler to sell everything and follow Jesus. But the voice of Jesus told him to do that. The young man testified that he had “kept the law.” But now was unwilling to obey the voice.
The law did not tell Abraham to offer up his son, but the voice of the Father did tell him. (The voice also stopped him). He obeyed the voice, that sometimes tells us to do “a hard thing.” To say “we are not under the law” does not relieve us of our responsibility to obey the voice of God. That voice will not allow us to do evil, and it will not always lead us into soft places and comfort.
The New testament is filled with verses using the word “obedience” and “command.” Peter’s writings alone include 10 sections of scripture using the word “obey” or “obedience” or “obedient.” The New Testament has commands and we are told to obey His Word.

REPENTANCE
Grace does not remove the need for repentance. The great commission commands repentance. Even Christians are commanded to repent when there is sin in their lives. I have a list of eighteen New Testament verses of scripture which speak of repentance. I list here only a few of them.
Jesus in the great commission told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel “Teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:20.
In Luke 24:47 He commanded that “repentance….should be preached in His name to all nations.”
In Jesus’ message to the seven churches in the first three chapters of Revelation he commanded them saying, “Repent, or I will remove your candlestick.”
The apostle Paul in his message to Athens said that God now “commands all men everywhere to repent.”

“Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect Law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:22-25


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

MY BOOK

If you are hungry to know more about how the Holy Spirit worked in the early Christian church, and if you are hungry to understand and experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit, you should order my book SPIRITUAL POWER FOR EVERYDAY LIVING. 
Go to my website at the link shown below to order your copy.

https://www.billylongministries.com/

The book clarifies many misconceptions and contains practical teaching with many examples and testimonies of the gifts at work. It is an excellent tool for teaching others about the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. ---Billy Long

A SWORD SHALL PIERCE YOUR SOUL

GOOD CHEER AND TRIBULATION

“You are highly favored…the Lord is with you.” Like 1: 28-30
"And a sword shall pierce your soul." -Luke 2: 35

A supernatural word from God does not mean your life will henceforth be easy and free of grief and pain. Sometimes, to the contrary, it may mean the suffering, hardship and tribulation involved in entering the kingdom of God and extending it into a hostile world system. The Apostle Paul’s commissioning word from God included the phrase, “I will show him how great things he must suffer for My sake.”
The angel Gabriel visited Mary telling her that she would be the earthly mother of Jesus. We celebrate these words at Christmas as we sing about the joy and wonder of it all, while often failing to recognize the perplexities that accompanied the fulfillment of that revelation. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song inspired by the subsequent word given to Mary by the elderly prophet who warned her of the grief she would someday suffer at Jesus’ crucifixion. “A sword shall pierce through your soul.”

Then later Mary must have wept with tremendous inner grief when she realized the price paid by those mothers in Ramah who lost their babies when Herod, overcome by the fear of One being born who might be a potential threat to his position, had all the male children two years old and younger put to death by the sword? What thoughts must have been going through Mary’s mind at that time? It was her child they were trying to kill. She pondered these things in her heart as she trusted God to answer the thoughts of those who lost their children.

Jameson, Faucet, and Brown in their commentary on Matthew 2:16-18 say eloquently what must have been God’s answer to these mothers: “O ye mothers of Bethlehem! methinks I hear you asking why your innocent babes should be the ram caught in the thicket, while Isaac escapes. I cannot tell you, but one thing I know, that ye shall, some of you, live to see a day when that Babe of Bethlehem shall be Himself the Ram, caught in another sort of thicket, in order that your babes may escape a worse doom than they now endure. And if these babes of yours be now in glory, through the dear might of that blessed Babe, will they not deem it their honor that the tyrant's rage was exhausted upon themselves instead of their infant Lord?”
Jesus died and gave His life that the Kingdom of God may come. And one day righteousness, peace, and joy will reign on this earth and the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. The lion will lay down with the lamb. The child will play near the snake, and there will be no hurt or sorrow. There will be no breaking in or breaking out, and no outcry in the streets. But meanwhile, as we proclaim the joy and salvation that is in Christ Jesus, we must be prepared for the spiritual warfare that is necessary in proclaiming God’s kingdom and seeing it extended into the lives of people in this present age. The apostle Paul who preached in the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit, returned to the new Christian communities strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and reminding them that we through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”(John 16: 33

Saturday, March 31, 2018

GREETINGS TO READERS FROM OTHER COUNTRIES

I am blessed that so many people from around the world have been reading my blog posts. I do appreciate your visits. 
There are many readers from South Korea, Europe, and other nations. Please send me an email and introduce yourself if you have enjoyed these posts. 

Write to me at broblong@gmail.com

Thanks so much. 
Billy Long