Sunday, January 16, 2011

My Other Blog

Christians often fail to realize the real importance and necessity of prayer. Many remain at a shallow level in their prayer experience not realizing the depths that can be attained as they enter the presence of God. One of the mysteries of prayer is that people think they know what it is while in fact real prayer is probably one of the least understood of spiritual experiences. So many Christians have walked into the foyer and think they have experienced the whole house. Not only do they fail to actually enter the house itself, but they also fail to realize there are things to do in the house.

For those of you who are interested, I have begun a study on the subject of "Praying in the Spirit" on my other blog (The Secret Council).
Just click on this link:   http://councilroom.blogspot.com/
Billy Long

Saturday, January 15, 2011

He Would Have Passed Them By?

[Below is a re-print of an article I posted in June 2008. The story is full of spiritual implications, but I will point out only a few of them.    - Billy Long ] 


Mark 6: 45-52.
"Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side...Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by."


“He made His disciples get into a boat.”
The “boat” is significant because it represents a context from which we can not easily escape. The disciples, on that small boat in the middle of the sea, could not simply change their minds and walk away from the problems and issues at hand. They could not escape the process; they had to ride it out. The Lord desires to work deeply and significantly in our lives, but He knows that human nature wants to run from the fire and will attempt to escape if it has the option to do so. We would rather sin than suffer, and in the crunch we seek relief rather than the purpose and glory of God. We tend to be like the Psalmist who cried out, “Oh that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. Indeed, I would wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest.” It is interesting to note that a "successful" escape leads only to “wandering” and to “the wilderness.” Wandering gives the illusion of freedom, and the wilderness gives the temporary illusion of comfort, only because it is less intense than the crucible God designed for our change and growth.

This explains the boat. He places us in a class room (boot camp?) from which we can not escape, by-pass, or take the easy way out, at least not with integrity and righteousness. This is a good thing. It shows that God loves us enough to work with us in spite of ourselves.

“He made …His disciples go before Him.”
Jesus promised to go "before His sheep" when He sends them forth, but here He commands His disciples to go “before Him.” This seems to be in contrast to the promise, and when it happens to us we are tempted to feel alone and left to ourselves.

But the reality is the opposite. The psalmist, in his dark hour, feeling forgotten and forsaken, and crying out daily with sorrow in his heart, came to understand that God was actually dealing bountifully with him. Sometimes our darkest moments indicate God’s most intense presence rather than His absence. We must remember that the disciples, although in the middle of the sea in a storm at night, were not really alone. Miles away and through the darkness “Jesus saw them.” With Him there is no darkness nor distance. God may be out of our sight, but we are never out of His sight. He saw them and went straight to them. They were not ignored by God. To the contrary, the whole experience had been designed especially for them. They were getting special attention. As one story goes, we see only one set of footprints not because He is not walking with us, but because He is carrying us.

“He…would have passed them by.”
This sentence requires more discussion than can be done in this short space. It represents a principle that Christians often miss. While there is such a thing as Divine resistance which is accompanied by the absence of grace, there is also an area in our training where we encounter what appears to be Divine resistance but which is actually the Lord’s desire to stimulate us to aggressive faith and prayer, to provoke us out of passivity and apathy, and to move us to the assertive and determined action of obedient children passionate to do His will. It is a place where we work together with Him through intercession and patient endurance. How often do we let the Lord pass on by because we think that is what He wants to do? How often do we interpret His apparent reluctance as a genuine lack of interest? We think He does not want to engage us and so we back away, drop the subject, and let Him pass on by. It is clear that Jesus never intended to pass by that boat. His heart was with those men. They were the object of His special care and focus at that moment. We should take note and learn from this example.

There are other Biblical examples of God’s children pressing into Him when on the surface it appeared they were encountering resistance. The two men on the road to Damascus constrained Jesus to stay with them when He made as though He would have left them behind and gone on further. The Canaanite woman cried out to Jesus and obtained healing for her daughter after Jesus had given her three negative (almost offensive) responses (that would have caused most of us to turn and walk away). In wrestling with the Angel of the Lord, Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless bless me!”

I don’t fully understand this principle, but I do know that God wants us to “trouble” Him with things. Our quickness to let Him pass on by is not courtesy, but rather complacency, passivity, and spiritual laziness. Sometimes it reflects our low self-esteem. We think we are not worthy of His attention and help. But ultimately it reflects our lack of understanding of God’s love and desire to be involved in our lives.

“He made His disciples…go…to the other side”
Our destiny is the “other side,” which means we will make it through. We must not be afraid of the storm that comes on the way. Jesus will silence and still it as soon as its purpose is completed. The experience in the boat was to make them grow and to cause them to know Him at a deeper level. Peter even had the opportunity to walk on the water with Jesus at this time. So maybe our goal should be not simply to get to the other side, but to be at His side. Let’s not jump to the conclusion that the Lord does not want to be bothered, that He has better things to do. Let’s touch the hem of His garment and cry out to Him to abide with us. Let’s also cry out to Him as Peter did, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” We will find that He is not only present, but very present, "a very present help in time of trouble."

Biblical references for further study:

Mark 6: 45-52; John 10: 3-5; Luke 24: 28; Mat.15: 21-28; Gen 32: 22-32; Luke 11: 5-8; Lu 18: 1-5; Psalm 13; Matthew 14:22-32; Hebrews 10:19-23; Psalm 46:1.

Please click "comment" below if you would like to make a comment or share an insight, or you can email me at  blong8@sccoast.net  .

Friday, January 7, 2011

God's Purpose Will Prevail

[Below is a re-print of an earlier posting from Sept 2009. This article will encourage you to stand in faith trusting God in His power, wisdom, and love to be able to perform His will in your life as you surrender to Him in faith and obedience.]  -Billy


Seeing so many things that could discourage us and seeing the failures of God's people we are tempted to lose heart and faith and to think that there is no use trying. We have seen what we thought were the wrong people succeeding and the wrong people failing. Like John the Baptist we have seen the glory and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God!" Then we have sat in our "prison cells" and said, "Are you the one or do we look for another? Did I miss it?"


We have stood on the mountain top and cried out, "This is it!" And we have crawled on the valley floor crying, "Where did it go?" We have said, "Lord, I'll never leave you nor forsake you" and later denied Him before the rooster crowed. We have slept while others were in their Gethsemanes. We have had friends walk into our Gethsemanes and betray us with a kiss. We have seen churches fly and churches fall. We have been in the processes of God and were not sure whether we were being pruned or stripped, whether we were being purged and refined or burned and rejected. In our attempts at obedience we have at times stepped out in faith not sure whether we were stepping up or stepping off. We have been asleep in the boat during the storm and did not know whether to stand up and say, "Peace! Be still!" or whether to ask someone to throw us overboard to the whale.

In the midst of all of the situations above, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the eternal purpose of God was accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3: 11). Instead of being in the pits of unbelief because of our failures and that of others, we should rejoice that Almighty God will complete the church and bring forth His kingdom. Not one jot or tittle shall fail of what He has said regarding the church and His kingdom plan. Jesus, while hanging on the cross, gored by the "bulls of Bashan", bitten by demonic dogs, and "pierced by the congregation of the wicked" (Psalms 22) which surrounded Him on Calvary, could still, in the face of this, know that all things were accomplished and that the Scripture concerning Himself had been fulfilled. He thus could say, "It is finished!" (John 19: 25-30). How much more from His place of glory and authority at the right hand of the Father, even in the face of a hostile world and a stubborn and stiffnecked church, will He not again come to say in the proper time, "It is finished!"?

The book of Ephesians speaks of God's purpose, God's people, God's grace, and God's power. These are high and lofty elements; they represent the wonderful work of God. The book also deals with the nitty-gritty areas of life such as unity, godly living, spiritual warfare, the family, relationships, etc. Sooner or later God's purpose, power, and grace will prevail in the nitty-gritty, and God will reveal in His people just how much He really is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think (Ephesians 3: 20). He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (Philippians 3: 21). He will complete His work.

We have faith for the past and for the future—but we think God has trouble handling the present. We believe God controls all things. He controls the whole—but we think He has difficulty with the parts and the particulars. We believe He sets the boundaries of nations—but we think he has no control over the unreasonable and trespassing neighbor who has moved the boundary lines of our front yard. We believe, according to the scripture, that God will produce the glorious church, that He will succeed with the whole—but we think He is failing with the parts, with the individuals, that He controls the "whole" but not the "each." Obviously we must realize that to determine the boundaries of nations God must have power over the neighbor's small plot. To be God of history, He must also be God of the moment. To control past and future, He must control the present. He is God over all. He will complete His work and fulfill His counsel. Not one jot or tittle shall fail of all his good promises.

The apostle Paul experienced every type of evil from the hands of men, including attempts to destroy his life. He experienced grief from the failures of churches under his ministry. He was forsaken and rejected. He even suffered at the hands of the demonic messenger of Satan sent to buffet him. Yet in spite of all this, he spoke eloquently and with great faith concerning God's plan for the church. He trusted in God, in God's wisdom and power. Paul began the book of Ephesians with the phrase "Paul...an apostle by the will of God." Having experienced God's sovereign initiative and power, and having seen how it completely transformed him into God's faithful and passionate servant, Paul basically proceeded to say, both explicitly and implicitly in the book of Ephesians, that the church, the people of God, will also be transformed and made into the perfect man by the same will of God and by the same power of God.

God is building together a people into an habitation of God through the Spirit. That People is His heritage, His chosen possession, through which His great power and grace shall be demonstrated, through which the manifold wisdom of God shall be made manifest unto principalities and powers, and through which His life and image shall be reflected upon the earth. His kingdom shall come. He shall bring down all principalities and powers until His enemies are made a footstool for His feet. His glory shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Therefore, we should not be moved away from the hope (the confident expectation) of the fulfillment of all that is promised and proclaimed in the gospel. The Sovereign God is administrating times and seasons, each to its fullness, until all things are fulfilled in Christ. God's sovereignty, His power, His grace, and His wisdom are the backdrop and foundation for our faith and confidence. There is no place to sit down disillusioned with God, His purpose, His plan, or His church. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or think. No matter how discouraging our own experiences have been, God will succeed.

"Why are you cast down, O my soul?...Hope in God." Psalm 42: 11.
"according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord." Ephesians 3: 11.
"continue in the faith steadfast ... not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard..." Colosians 1: 23.