Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ralph the roofer is checking the hot asphalt temperature for the sixth time today.

Human nature does not always learn wisdom from experience, does it?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Isaiah 50: 4 “The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.”

Icy Hot or Preparation-H
Years ago a lady in my hometown was suffering from that “burning and itching sensation” that we hear about in TV commercials. She sent one of her children to the drugstore to purchase a tube of Preparation-H Ointment, which was placed in the tiny medicine cabinet above her bathroom sink along with other medicines which promise relief from various physical ailments.
Soon afterwards, her hemorrhoids began to “flare up,” and the pain drove her back to the medicine cabinet for the relief she so desperately needed. Reaching for the Prep-H Ointment she inadvertently took the Icy Hot instead. Icy Hot is a wonderful medication for muscular pain and various aches that need penetrating heat, but it was never intended for hemorrhoids. You can imagine what happened as she applied a very generous portion to the afflicted area.

Job’s Comforters
Truth, like medicine, is meant to be applied appropriately, especially when we are dealing with people’s lives. “Job’s Comforters” are people who are quick to give an opinion based on a superficial observation and without any revelation or true insight into the realities of the person to whom they speak. The first two chapters in the book of Job portray Job as a godly man bearing up under unbearably severe infirmities. Then his friends came and sat with him a few days. Job probably sensed what they were thinking and knew they were about to open a jar of “Icy Hot” to rub into his hurting wounds. As a result he cursed the day he was born. They had come to comfort him, but proceeded to add to his distress with their insensitivity, condemning words, and misapplication of truth. How often does this happen in our own lives!

Not in the Same Boat
It is not wise to make rash judgments against people based on outward circumstances. We need wisdom when we reach out to people in their moments of trial, so that our words are in season. We cannot tell what season a person is in just by looking at the “color of the leaves on his tree.” It is possible for two people to be in similar circumstances for opposite reasons, and it takes revelation to know why a person is where he is. Jonah was in his distress because of his disobedience. Job, in contrast, suffered because he was perfect, and God was pleased with him. Jesus was hanging on a cross among thieves and criminals, but he was there for a vastly different reason. “Job’s Comforters” cannot tell the difference; they swing the sword of truth without discerning the people to whom they speak.

What counsel would you give the two men I am about to describe? What would you say to the people who are with them? These two men are in two different boats. The boats are being tossed in a terrible storm at sea. Both men are asleep in his boat while everyone else on board in both situations are terrified that everyone is about to perish. What do you say to these men whose circumstances, in terms of outward description, are almost exactly the same? Well, one of these men is Jonah. He is there because of disobedience and must be thrown overboard. The other is Jesus. He is God and is about to teach His disciples a lesson in faith. A Job’s Comforter most likely would have taken his lesson from Jonah, looked at the outward similarities, and would have proceeded to throw Jesus overboard.

Truth and Love
Knowledge alone does not make a person spiritual, wise, or mature. Knowledge alone can produce arrogance and be used to inflict pain. With our knowledge we need wisdom and insight. And if you feel you are short on these, then just fall back on love. In many cases compassion, mercy, and love will prevent you from speaking foolishly and behaving unwisely when it comes to giving words and advice that might hurt people. Obviously there is a time for “open rebuke” and the “wounds of a faithful friend” (Prov.27:6). But too often people suffer from the insensitivity of a “Job’s Comforter” who brings in the Icy Hot for a pain it was not meant for.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Comfort for a Hurting Friend

[Below is a personal word that I recently shared with a friend who had been hurt by friends he loved and trusted. Obviously this word is not meant for everyone reading this entry, but there may be others of you to whom it will also speak. –Billy Long]

During my prayer time this morning I was reading about Jeremiah’s “perpetual pain” (Jer.15:15-21), and realized this word is for you. I know there are no simple answers or quick solutions to the grief and pain you are experiencing. But I think the Lord has given me a word that will at least give a little comfort until you complete this particular phase of your journey into the Lord’s purpose for you.

I believe the Lord did lead you in the path you took. It was not a mistake. He sent you there because he knew your pure heart and good insight would allow you to see the realities of the situation. He also knew that your integrity would cause you to speak up rather than sit silent. He knew it would be difficult and painful. He knew that you would question your own motives and search your own heart and wonder if somehow you had failed. He knew you would do this because the humble and obedient tend to examine themselves more diligently than the rebellious and self-centered who usually blame everything on others. He sent you to represent Him in sharing the insight and admonition that those around you needed to hear. Whether you realized it or not, you were, in a sense, a prophetic voice into the situation. Your wounds, therefore, are the Lord’s wounds, and you carry them for His sake. The scars on the prophets’ backs were badges of honor to be held before the Lord. Part of your healing will be to realize that your scars are from wounds received for the Lord’s sake. They will not be festering, disabling, sores that sideline you.

Jeremiah said, “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable?” Obviously this is what it feels like to you now and where you may be for a while. But ultimately you will not see these pains and bruises from the perspective of yourself, but as trophies borne as a result of obedience and being sent on a difficult mission for Him.

The thing you have been through may leave scars. But that is not necessarily bad. Jesus still carries the scars in his hands, feet, and side. They bear testimony to the work the Lord produced through His obedience. You will eventually thank God that He counted you worthy to be among those who suffer for Him in such a way.
Remember, it is no compliment when the Lord allows a person to have an easy life with no challenges. It is a great compliment and signifies the honor and confidence the Lord has in you when He gives you difficult assignments that don’t seem fair for you to have to bear. God requires more of those He loves. He asks more of those from whom he expects more. You have loved the Lord and have wanted to know and do His will. He has let you see reality. But Solomon said that with wisdom comes grief (Eccles 1:18). The more reality we see and the more insight God gives us, the more we will realize how “out of plumb” things are and how much “whitewash” rather than mortar is being used in the wall. Then when integrity forces us to speak up, we are attacked for pointing out the truth, even when presenting it humbly and in love.

So in summary. I know it will take a while to work through the pain, even as it was with Jeremiah in the verses referred to above. But when you see it in the light of what I have shared, you will let it take you to Jeremiah’s place of promise where the Lord ministers His grace, strength, and redemption.

This is not meant to be a cliché or quick-fix, but to encourage you to stand in faith until the Lord shines the warmth of His pleasure on you and rewards you with even more insight and spiritual substance as a result of faithful obedience and perseverance. As with Job, relief will come when God shows up and reveals Himself (as in Job 42) to celebrate with you your victory, and to reward you for passing your test while you were serving Him. If we see ourselves as His servants (i.e. we are serving Him and representing Him rather than ourselves) ultimately we will come through the fire without smelling like it. (Dan. 3: 24-28).