Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thank You

I am grateful for all of you who visit this site, and especially those of you who visit on a regular basis. I now have visitors from all over the United States and from many countries around the world. I would enjoy hearing from some of you and getting to know who you are and where you are from. It would be a great blessing to me if you would write me at the email address below and introduce yourself. Thank you so much.

Billy Long    blong8@sccoast.net

Friday, June 24, 2011

“My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me.” Daniel 6: 22

“Then King Darius wrote: To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth…I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure…. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6: 26-28

“…I was delivered out of the mouth of the Lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4: 17-18

“The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” Psalm121:7-8

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16: 33

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident...For time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock."  Psalm 27: 1-5

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Some Thoughts to Clarify the Previous Two Posts

A good friend presented some questions after my last two posts. Below are some thoughts to help clarify some of the points I discussed.

I have re-read my recent posts dealing with God’s judgment, and I am comfortable with what I what I presented, given the context in which it is given.

The first motivating thought in my post is that there is a God, as opposed to the Atheist who thinks God does not exist and that He is irrelevant to earth’s events, and as opposed to the deist who thinks God simply walked off and left us to ourselves. There is a God who manages the affairs of earth, and we must acknowledge and call upon Him.

When I say “nothing is out of His control” I am saying that nothing is “out of control,” that is, God is not helplessly standing by watching.

I would not make a blanket statement saying bad weather is God’s judgment. The weather is like everything else in life, some of it is good, some of it is bad, some of it is a blessing from God, some of it is an attack from the devil, some of it is Divine judgment, and some of it is simply mystery. I do not say that people who are experiencing bad things are being judged (See my “Icy Hot” post), although sometimes bad things do indicate reaping and judgment. But I would also add that sometimes bad things happen to innocent people like Job. But we should not be afraid to face the fact that God does at some point send judgment on iniquity.

Life is too complex to blame everything on God or on the devil. Discernment and compassion are necessary before we start making presumptions and judgments about other people. But I do feel that our nation is headed into judgment unless there is a national repentance or a sufficient amount of intercessors to stand in the gap  (Gen 18:16-33; Ezekiel 22: 30).

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. That is God’s first approach, and He is patient and longsuffering with His kindness. But when we do not respond to His kindness, there does come a time when He disciplines His children to help them along (See “Goodness and Severity of God” post). There also comes a time when the judgment of God does fall on a nation or people when iniquity reaches its fullness.

My opinion is that we would be a bit arrogant to think that our nation does not deserve judgment. It is this awareness of potentially impending judgment that awakens and stirs the intercessors to arise, pray, and stand in the gap. If we see no potential for judgment, then we see no urgent need to “sigh and cry because of the abominations” as Ezekiel said in chapter 9.

I believe in the “Goshen principal” (Exodus 10: 22-23; Zephaniah 2: 3) in which God hides and protects His people. I pray that my household and God’s people will live in “Goshen” in the days ahead. But I think also that there are times that the righteous may suffer to some degree along with the rest when judgments fall on a nation. Daniel and Ezekiel both were taken into captivity with Israel; and there must have been some righteous people in Israel who went into captivity with the others. If an economic crisis hits our nations, we will all feel it, including the church. Although, I think the church should ask for and believe for the “Goshen” experience.

I do see pestilence, sword, famine, etc as instruments of God’s judgment in scripture, and that He used them on Israel and other nations.

I think a “plague” can be a judgment on a nation in a general sense, but not necessarily on the individuals. For instance, an epidemic of AIDS might be judgment on a nation in general as a result of its rampant promiscuity, but not necessarily a judgment on every individual with AIDs since many innocent people have contracted the disease.

The “Euroclydon” post speaks to the same audience in our nation that Amos or Joel spoke to in their books. So I do believe God sends judgments, and I do believe sin will bring judgments. But I don’t believe everything bad is a judgment of God. I do think the topic is too complex to cover all the bases in a short post.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Merciful God, not Dispassionate Nature

In a recent posting (see below) I suggested that God is trying to get our attention. The calamities and natural disasters that have been occurring so frequently and intensely should cause us to fall on our knees and cry out to God for mercy and turn to Him in repentance and faith. In the late 1800s there was a major earthquake that hit Charleston, SC. People in the Longs community 120 miles away from Charleston were unfamiliar with earthquakes and many of them rushed to my great-grandfather’s home to find out what was happening. They responded by reaching out to God in prayer. Over the following decades they gathered every year at the little country Methodist church on the anniversary of the earthquake and thanked God for His protection and mercy. They acknowledged God and turned their hearts toward Him in that hour, and continued to do so for years afterward.

When I listen to the news and hear of the intense natural disasters, severe earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, fires, floods, hurricanes, in addition to all the economic disasters that appear to be coming, I prefer to believe in a personal God calling us to repentance than to think that the earth is on its own and going crazy and out of control with “no one at the wheel.” If these things are simply nature, then we are in big trouble with no real solution. Man has no power over nature gone awry, but He can call upon a merciful Heavenly Father who is able to save us. Divine judgment, even though fearful, at least implies a living and personal God. Otherwise, we are at the “mercy” of cold, impersonal, and dispassionate nature.

God is real and involved in history and in the affairs of earth. I cannot believe that He is sitting idly by and indifferent to all that is transpiring. The Bible says that He administrates times and seasons, each to its fullness, with a view toward eventually summing up all things in Christ. This means He is involved in the affairs of mankind. He determines the boundaries and times of nations, and not one sparrow falls to the ground without His knowledge. Since God loves the world so much that He sent Christ to die for our sins, we must know that He is involved in the affairs and management of earth itself, and His involvement implies and necessitates action on our part.

Gather yourselves together, yes, gather yourselves together...before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the Lord’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you! Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth… Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger.   Zephaniah 2: 1-3

Now learn of the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—even at the doors! …But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.  Matthew 24: 32-39

And is shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Acts 2:25

"And Then Came Euroclydon!"

[This post accompanies the article posted above.  -Billy Long]

“When the south wind blew softly, supposing they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea they sailed close to Crete…but not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon…and all hope that we should be saved was finally given up.” Acts 27: 13-14.

The above verses describe the journey taken by the ship on which the Apostle Paul was traveling as a prisoner to Rome. The journey began peacefully with a warm, calm wind and beautiful weather. But then came Euroclydon, a tempestuous storm that destroyed the ship, and which would have taken the lives of all who sailed on it, had not Paul been there to hear from God and guide them to safety. A peaceful start followed by the storms of disaster is also illustrated in the examples that follow.

The prophet Amos lived in Judah, but was sent by the Lord to the northern kingdom of Israel. The nation was in idolatry and going through empty religious motions in their walk with God as they experienced a false sense of security bolstered by a time of prosperity and national optimism. The “south wind was blowing softly” and in their complacency they were “at ease” and unaware of the judgment of God that was looming on the horizon. “Euroclydon” was coming.

The prophet Amos warned them as he proclaimed “the end has come.” But in their self-satisfaction, comfort, and prosperity they did not believe him. Nevertheless, within 40 years the Assyrian army invaded and carried them away into captivity. The southern kingdom of Judah remained, but the northern kingdom of Israel was no more.

A little over a hundred years later the prophet Joel spoke to the kingdom of Judah. The nation was experiencing a great economic crisis caused by plagues of “chewing locusts, swarming locust, and crawling locusts.” These creatures had invaded the land like an army and had devastated the economy, stripping trees and crops, laying bare the vines and fields, cutting off the wine, the grain, the fruit, and the oil. The water brooks had dried up and the land mourned. The people thought the worst had come. But into this context the prophet Joel stood up to proclaim that the current devastations were only warning “tremors” compared to the real judgment that was to come if they refused to repent and turn back to God. The big “earthquake” was the Babylonian army that would later invade and carry them away captive.

We as a nation have lived in relative peace, plenty, and prosperity. We have been secure thinking we were exempt from the troubles that plague the rest of the world. For us “the south wind has blown softly.” But recent national and global events have created a sense of apprehension and fear. We have seen how helpless we really are in the face of the power and fury of nature. 911 reminded us how vulnerable we are to human wickedness and to those who have malicious intent towards us. We witnessed hurricane Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, the earthquake in Hatii, plus other catastrophes and strange weather and natural phenomena that have taken multiple thousands of lives. These events came suddenly and ferociously upon people who for the most part were at ease and not suspecting any danger. Even now we see conflicts and distresses around the world, governments gone crazy with spending and debt, and the ominous clouds of severe global economic crisis. For the first time in contemporary history, Americans realize that these plagues can come to our own doors. For the first time we have the sense that our government itself will also be helpless to aid us.

We have “sailed” with the warm “south wind blowing softly,” and in that place of prosperity and security we have as a nation turned our back on God, laid aside His written word and the godly values taught in it. We have called evil good and good evil. We have honored the wicked and persecuted the righteous. We have killed more than 60 million babies in the womb, and rejected God’s word regarding morals and lifestyle. We have continued in our religious ritual without stopping to really touch the living God our creator and Lord.
Is it possible that God may be trying to get our attention?

In his storm at sea, the Apostle Paul arose with a word from God that saved everyone on his boat. Maybe the church in this season should touch God in the same way, and arise as a light in the darkness and speak a word of salvation to a generation that is beginning to feel the insecurity of a threatening storm.

“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.