Friday, July 29, 2011

ADVENTURES IN SLEEPWALKING

Awake and Asleep At the Same Time
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, one night during my sleep I woke up in the air, shocked to realize I had just jumped off the bed. When my dad was a child he walked in his sleep one night and threw his bed mattress and sheets out the upstairs window shouting “Fire, fire!” while his younger brother, my uncle Norwood, watched and laughed at him.

It’s difficult to explain somnambulism to someone who has never experienced it. Sleepwalking is an unusual state in which a person is sound asleep and acting out his dream, sometimes getting out of bed and walking around. He is awake enough to navigate through his environment but still asleep and interacting with the imaginary delusions of his dream. I have done this many times in my younger days.

Running From the Wrecking Ball
A few years ago I attended a conference with a group of pastors. We rented motel rooms with double beds in order to reduce each man’s cost. My friend Ron was across the room fast asleep on his bed. I was asleep in my bed but having a vivid dream about one of those huge wrecking balls that demolition experts use to destroy buildings. It was about to be dropped from a boom that had swung out over me. In an effort to escape I stood up on the bed and leaped to the floor trying to get out from under it. But the boom followed me, and so I took a couple quick steps and jumped up onto Ron’s bed. I managed to step over him without stepping on him, but I woke him from his sleep as I danced over him in a panic, running from that ball which was still hanging overhead and following me around the room.

Ron yelled out, “Billy, what are you doing?” as he watched me jump to the floor and run around the motel room trying to get away from that demolition ball. I call out, “Ron! How do you make that thing stop?”

He had no idea what “that thing” was, but playing along with my dream, his immediate response was a clear and authoritative, “By faith, brother.” I immediately stopped in my tracks and said, “Oh!” And then very calmly lay down and went back to sleep.

The True Watchman versus the Sleepwalker
“All you beasts of the field, come to devour, all you beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Dreamers, lying down, loving to slumber.” Isaiah 56: 9-10

“Watchmen” are intercessors who pray and do battle in the spiritual realm in behalf of others. They are supposed to be awake, alert, and standing guard while others are asleep. From their position on the wall they have a clear view of the surrounding area. They are able to see an enemy approaching from a distance and blow the trumpet to give warning to those in the city.

"Dreamers" refers to watchmen who have fallen asleep on the wall and are failing in their responsibility to pray effectively. The literal Hebrew refers to those who are raving or talking in their sleep. Their anxiety, caused by their neglect of responsibility, oppresses them in their sleep and causes them to dream they are performing their duties. These watchmen, instead of engaging the real spiritual battle in prayer, are fighting phantoms in their dreams—while the real enemy slips in through the breaches in the real wall and devours the city.

“Be sober unto prayer.” 1 Peter4: 7
The “dreamer” or “sleepwalker” is an appropriate description of the intercessor who is not sober.
Sobriety is sound judgment rooted in a right spirit. It refers to the ability to stay in the realm of reality. We maintain sobriety by being spiritually awake, keeping our hearts right, and maintaining communion with the Lord. This is especially important for the intercessor.

An unhealthy disposition can distort our insight and perspective. A bad attitude will hinder our prayers. Sometimes in the midst of problems and conflict we allow our spirits to be overcome by anger, resentment, bitterness, hate, disillusionment, and despair. These can lead to confusion and the inability to see clearly. We begin to pray out of strife or we ask amiss. We speak “words without knowledge” as Job did, or “call fire down from heaven” as some of Jesus’ disciples wanted to do, or we simply pray erroneously because our wrong spirit has caused us to incorrectly assess a situation.

Our self centeredness will cause us to lose the kingdom perspective, and our prayers will tend to reflect self-interest rather than God's interest. Our prayers will be motivated by our wants and wrong motives rather than a heart for God’s kingdom and purpose. Under healthy conditions we “see through a glass dimly,” but with a bad attitude we add confusion and distortion. An inaccurate perception of God and life does not help our prayers.

When we cultivate our relationship with the Lord, keep our hearts right, and keep our spirits clear of ungodly attitudes, God lifts us up above the dust and clouds of battle and gives us the divine perspective. This is sobriety. Our "instruments" are working and we maintain the ability to follow them (as an airline pilot in the clouds at night in bad weather). With a good heart we are more inclined to have a good perspective on reality. But in those times when we cannot see, when we are disoriented and do not understand, a right spirit will help us to engage in effective prayer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

He Would Have Passed Them By?

[Below is a re-print of an earlier posting. The story is full of spiritual implications, but I will point out only a few of them. - Billy Long ]


 "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."    Mark 6: 45-52

“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 or training context 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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Bible Quiz: Just for Fun!

I have written a quiz to test your knowledge of the Bible. Choose the right answer(s) from the list below each question, and then read the Biblical reference to confirm your answer. You might enjoy taking the test. It's just for fun. But the Biblical references contain some serious lessons.
Billy Long


Gideon was…

1. A man who left Bibles in all the motels of Israel.

2. One of the judges who delivered Israel from the Midianites.

3. One of the neighboring kingdoms and a faithful ally of Israel.

Judges 6: 11-16

Lazarus was…

1. The city where Jesus lived.

2. A friend of Jesus who was raised from the dead.

3. A prophet who prophesied of Jesus’ birth.

John 11: 11-15, 12:1

The Apostle Paul was sent to…

1. North Dakota

2. The Gentiles

3. Jerusalem

4. Summer Camp

Acts 9:15;


While Peter was preaching in Cornelius’ household…

1. Everyone in the house mocked him.

2. Everyone in the house was filled with the Holy Spirit.

3. His sermon lasted so long a little boy fell asleep and fell out the window.

Acts 10:44-48


When the Lame man at the temple gate asked for alms...

1. Peter took up a special offering for him.

2. Peter and John healed the man.

3. Peter rebuked the man for turning God’s house into a den of thieves.

Acts 3: 1-9


When Stephen preached to the elders, scribes, and Sanhedrin council…

1. He was preaching a trial sermon so they could vote whether or not to hire him as the pastor of their church.

2. 5000 people were saved and baptized.

3. The people stoned him to death..

4. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.

Acts 7:51-60


Jonah was in the belly of the whale…

1. 40 days and 40 nights.

2. 3 days

3. Four score and seven years

4. No one knows the time or the hour

Jonah 1: 17


Ananias and Sapphira were…

1. Characters on a TV sit-com

2. The high priest and his wife

3. A husband and wife who lied to the apostles and dropped dead.

4. Gem stones that were popular in Israel

Acts 5: 1-14


Which two sentences are in the Bible?

1. Cleanliness is next to godliness.

2. Little children keep yourselves from idols.

3. Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.

4. It takes one to know one.

1 John 5: 21; Galatians 6: 7


Joseph and Mary went to Egypt because…

1. They wanted to visit with Moses.

2. They were warned by God to flee King Herod who wanted to kill the baby Jesus.

3. Egypt was a favorite summer vacation spot.

4. They went there to be taxed according to the Caesar’s command.

Matthew 2: 13


Which of the following is NOT in the list of miracles performed by Jesus?

1. He walked on water.

2. He healed the sick and raised the dead.

3. He turned stones into bread.

4. He multiplied fish and bread.

Matthew 4: 1-4


Which three of the following were NOT among the original 12 disciples?

1. Peter

2. Andrew

3. John

4. Larry

5. LeRoy

6. Barnabas

Matthew 10: 1-8


Which of the following books is NOT in the NewTestament?

1. Philemon

2. Titus

3. Hebrews

4. Gone with the Wind


What was Jezreel?

1. A Hebrew folk dance

2. A city in Israel

3. Ahab’s domineering and idolatrous wife.

1 Kings 21: 1


Sodom and Gomorrah were…

1. A wicked husband and wife who were turned into pillars of salt.

2. A famous brother and sister band who sang in the temple.

3. Cities that were destroyed because their wickedness was so great.

Genesis 18-19


Moses’ brother and sister were…

1. Aaron and Hur

2. Sharon and Hem

3. Aaron and Miriam

4. Todd and Luretha

5. Acquila and Priscilla

Numbers 12: 1-16


Balaam was…

1. A donkey who spoke English

2. A donkey who spoke to a man

3. A man who tried to curse Israel for money and was rebuked by a donkey.

Numbers 22-25


Jethro  was…

1. Uncle Jed’s nephew

2. Moses’ father-in-law

3. Half of the singing group “Homer and Jethro.”

Exodus 18:1