Sunday, December 23, 2012

An Adventure in Faith

[The following article is longer than usual. But the reader will find an interesting story of how the Lord spoke and provided "manna" as Laurel and I took a wonderful trip of faith.  --Billy Long]

“Let me not be ashamed.”
During the latter part of 1972 Laurel and I were living in South Carolina. We were preparing to drive to California to attend her sister’s wedding but had only enough money for one-way. We sought the Lord and felt very strongly that the He wanted us to make the trip. However, I did not want to be irresponsible and embarrass myself by being stranded in California and having to call on family or friends for finances to return home. So we prayed and began our journey with peace and faith knowing we had heard from God. The Lord would provide for the trip back, and we were excited to see how He would do it. We agreed that we would not tell anyone of our need, but would simply pray and trust the Lord. This would give greater proof that God was leading us.
As we drove toward the west coast, I prayed two verses of scripture every day and throughout the day. Those two prayers were directly from Psalm 25.
“O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed.” Psalm 25:1
“Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.” Psalm 25: 20

The Lord’s Promise
We arrived in California, attended the wedding, visited with Laurel’s family and our friends from the church there. Soon it was time to return home. We had no money and I was getting nervous. We told no one about our situation, and no one knew our “pockets were empty.” So one night after everyone went to sleep at Laurel’s parents’ home, I went downstairs and began to pray. “O my God, I trust in You, let me not be ashamed. Let me not be ashamed, for I put my trust in You.” I also told the Lord that I had to leave the next day. After spending some time praying, I opened my Bible to Isaiah 53 and read to the end of the chapter. Then suddenly I felt a very strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. And in my heart I heard Him say, “I am about to speak to you.” So I very carefully looked at my Bible and began to read Isaiah 54. The words in verse 4 leaped out at me like an audible voice:
“Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; Neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame.”
I began to rejoice, praise, and thank the Lord. He was assuring me that Laurel’s and my prayers were being answered. He was going to provide, and I would not be put to shame.

The return trip begins
The next day, Laurel’s sister Mary gave us $50 as a “thank you” for a gift we had given her the year before.  We were grateful to the Lord for this provision and drove across the California desert feeling like Israel on their journey across Sinai. The Lord was going to provide on this trip the same way He provided for Israel— “manna” one step at the time, as it was needed.

Our first stop was in Phoenix, Arizona. We spent the night with friends who were on the board of regents at Oral Roberts University. I told Laurel, “They are wealthy. The Lord will probably tell them to give us a gift for our trip.” We did not tell them we needed money. They provided us a place to stay and wonderful fellowship, but no gift. We enjoyed the visit and departed the next morning with the little bit of money we had left over from the $50 received from Laurel’s sister. The Lord was not going to send help from where we expected it. He was going to do it His way.

On to Lubbock
Our next stop was Lubbock, Texas. We had dear friends there and they were expecting us to visit them on our way back home. We drove into Bud and Doe Housour’s yard with only a couple dollars in my pocket and a quarter tank of gas in the car. We visited with them a couple days and had Thanksgiving dinner with them. I was sure they were going to ask me to speak at a meeting or at church, and I would receive an offering. But they did not. So the night before we were to leave, I went into the closet to pray after everyone else had gone to sleep. I reminded the Lord that we needed funds to resume the travel, and that He had promised I would not be put to shame. Once again the Holy Spirit came into the room in such a powerful way and reassured me of His provision to come. Once again I rejoiced in faith knowing He was going to provide.

The next morning, Laurel and I loaded our suitcases and got into the car to drive off. We only had the couple dollars and the quarter tank of gas. But we were trusting the Lord. Bud had already left for work and Doe was saying goodbye. As I put the car into reverse and started to back out of the driveway, she stopped me and said, “Billy, Bud said to give this to you. He thought it might help you out on the trip.” She handed me a 20 dollar bill. I thanked her and told her it would help more than she realized. She had no idea that we were leaving her home with only that $20 and the other $2 in my pocket.

On to Baton Rouge, then to SC
As we drove past Dallas I called a cousin thinking we could visit with him, but he was on his way out of town. So we kept driving. Our next stop was Baton Rouge where we were to visit with George and Toya Anding who were dear friends from my first year in college. When we arrived at their home I had less than a couple dollars in my pocket and about a quarter tank of gas left in the car.

As we unloaded the suitcases, George said to me, “Billy, I know it’s none of my business, but how are your finances on this trip?” I looked at him and said, “George, the Lord has led us in a very unusual way. I have about $2 in my pocket and a quarter tank of gas. His face lit up and he began to praise the Lord with a couple enthusiastic “hallelujahs.” He proceeded to tell me that he and Toya had been praying for us a couple days before we arrived, and that Jesus had spoken to them. With a big smile George said, “He told us to give you this when you arrived.” He then handed me a check that had already been written for $145.

Laurel and I rejoiced and thanked God for this provision. It was sufficient for the remainder of our journey. It covered the cost of gas, one night in a motel, and food to eat. God was faithful.
We arrived home with a fantastic testimony of how God had led us, how He had spoken to us and provided for us one step at a time along the way. We learned a great lesson in faith and obedience.

Lessons to consider
I must say here that we don’t recommend anyone presumptuously attempt to do what we did. We had a very clear word from God at the time and knew He was leading us. Faith is a response to God’s word and to knowing His will and direction in a matter. We are able to act in faith when we know the Lord has spoken or made His will and plan very clear. We should not try to create an adventure in faith by presumptuously attempting to do something foolish. But rather, we cultivate our relationship with the Lord Jesus, study His written word, fellowship with Him in prayer and worship, and be prepared to walk as He leads us. Adventures in faith may be in arenas totally different from the trip Laurel and I made. Since that time we have had many adventures in our walk with God. We have faced hard times and strange times. We have been on the mountain top and trudged through the valley floor. We have experienced great success and also what seemed to be great failure. But through it all we maintain our walk with Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

The one thing that was so real to me during that trip of faith was the special sense of Jesus’ presence with us. The goal is not simply to do great things, but to know Him and His presence. From that special place we will know the reality of God’s word to Jeremiah— “Call unto Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” Jeremiah 33:3. The adventure is in walking with Him.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pursue Love and Desire Spiritual Gifts

“Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 14: 1

So many people approach the subject of the manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit from a purely doctrinal or analytical point of view. To do this is to miss the real significance and wonder of it all. A person’s ability to fully appreciate the magnificent gifts and tools the Lord has placed in his hands depends on the depth of his vision and motivations. What a person sees determines what he reaches for. What a person desires (and why he wants it) determines the passion and enthusiasm with which he pursues it.

The apostle Paul covered the issues of desire and motivation when he said we should “pursue love and desire spiritual gifts.” When we move in the manifestations of the Holy Spirit we are expressing our hunger for God’s active presence among us and we are showing our love and care for those around us. Jesus healed people because He was moved with compassion. We will move in the gifts of the Spirit as we are moved with His compassion. The gifts therefore are instruments of God’s love. I pray for the sick because of God's compassion for those who suffer. I want to move in prophetic insight because there are people who need an encouraging word from God. I want to have a word of wisdom because someone is perplexed or confused and asking God for direction. I want to see miracles because so many people are facing impossibilities and need the “waters to part.” I want to pray in the Spirit because it strengthens my prayer life, strengthens my spirit, and helps release my ability to move in the other gifts of the Spirit, which will in turn touch others with the compassion, presence, and power of God.

When we speak of spiritual gifts, we are speaking of the presence of Jesus Christ working among us. We are not necessarily focusing on the spectacular and the dramatic, although these do occur from time to time. But mostly we look for those unobtrusive and often unnoticed acts of the Holy Spirit working in the background and which flow among us as life and grace, quietly, yet deeply touching and blessing the lives of those around us. It is those daily, obscure, and non-spectacular acts of obedience that strengthen the church. It flows out of the individual’s desire to be used of God, and his willingness to reach out to people with love and compassion. It is to these that I direct you.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

When God Arises

When God arises issues are no longer left to the opinions of individuals. God pronounces sentence or blessing based on the reality of where people and things actually are. That which is of God will be blessed; that which is not of God will be judged. Saul and his house will fall in battle. Eli will drop over dead. The earth will open and swallow Korah and all that are with him. Shemei will face the sword of Benaiah. Alexander the coppersmith will be delivered to Satan to receive his just wages. The plaintiffs, the defendants, and the prosecuting attorneys will all have eloquently stated their cases, but God will arise to judge. All of them will be silenced together as He gives the verdict. The builders will be dwelling in the structures they have built. Then God will arise sending the storm to expose the nature of the building material down to the very foundations to test the building and the builders.

When things become muddy, cloudy, and confused, when the enemy is entrenched and embedded in the fabric of life’s complex situations and seems invulnerable to attempts at dislodgement, when the tares and the wheat grow together and you dare not attempt to pull up tares lest you inadvertently injure and pull up wheat— It is at this time that God will arise. He will come and bring things "to a head" or to harvest. The Day of the Lord brings a ripening---wheat for the barn and for bread, and tares for the fire.

When God arises, He manifests and approves that which is of God and that which pleases Him. He also manifests, exposes, and judges that which is not of God and that which displeases Him. When God arises His enemies will scatter and wickedness will melt before Him. But the righteous will be glad and rejoice exceedingly, for in His presence is fullness of joy to those who love Him.

God may seem silent, but He is never indifferent or "gone." He observes, He is involved, and He will work all things together to the council of His will and purpose. There will come a day when in heaven they will sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of saints!
Who shall not fear You,
O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy,
For all nations shall come and
worship before you,
For Your judgments have been manifested."     Revelation 15: 3-4

Friday, November 23, 2012

Jesus Is In This Place

It was the summer of 1969. I was 20 years old. My friend Larry Rodeffer and I had just finished our second year of college at ORU and were preaching revivals during the summer in Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. On this tour we held a series of meetings for 9 nights in my home community of Longs, South Carolina. We used the Ebenezer Methodist church building. Though thriving and growing now, it was abandoned with no congregation at that time, but in good condition and maintained by a family who who hoped to see church activities revived again someday. Larry and I were granted permission to use the facility for our meetings.


The little church building was filled almost to capacity with about 80 people attending our meetings nightly. The atmosphere was electric, and people came expecting to see the hand of God at work. Larry and I preached the Gospel, sharing the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was raised from the dead as Lord of all. We proclaimed that He had sent the Holy Spirit as His living Presence among us to reveal Himself. “He is here now to save and to heal,” we proclaimed. Great faith arose in the hearts of the people, and the presence of God moved over the congregation.

One Baptist lady, Mrs Bertha, came to the meetings with a very serious back problem. She complained that she was unable to do any gardening or housework because of the affliction. She stood before me praying silently and expecting something from God. I asked Jesus to touch her and laid my hands on her head. She immediately raised both of her arms straight up toward heaven, began to cry with joy, and started dancing. The Lord had instantly touched her and healed her back. She later told me how she went home from that meeting and began the next day doing garden work and house work with no pain.

As I walked into one of the meetings I saw a young man seated and wearing a back brace. He had been in a car accident and had broken his back. As I walked past him, he looked up and said, “I’m expecting God to heal me tonight.” I responded, “If you’re expecting it, you’d just as well get ready for it,” as I walked on up to the platform. When I finished preaching, Ernest came to the front for prayer. When I laid my hands on his head he began to cry saying, “I’m healed! I’m healed!”. He then went outside, removed the back brace, and began bending over and twisting around. He was healed. He went to his doctor in Loris, SC who confirmed the healing.

There were other testimonies of God’s intervention in the lives of people during those meetings. One lady was healed of psoriasis. Another was healed of a tumor. Larry and I were just 20 years old at the time and were moving in a child-like faith. We simply expected God to show up.

Great grace was present to bring forth faith in the people, and we rejoiced to see lives touched and changed. But the greatest joy of those days was the strong sense of the presence of Jesus Christ. It was as if He was physically walking among us. In one of the meetings I turned to see a little six-year old girl standing to the side and softly crying. “Are you okay? What is happening?” I asked. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “Jesus is in this place. Jesus is in this place.” He was revealing Himself, even to the children.

I remembered the words of Jesus, “The world will see Me no more, but you will see Me…. And he who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14: 19-21). “

Monday, November 5, 2012

Jesus Touched the Children



“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them….And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”  Mark 10: 13-16

 Claire
Claire was 8 years old. She had two problems that troubled her—an embarrassing problem of bed-wetting and a wart that had been on the bottom of her foot for over a year. She had heard her brother Reuben’s story about the doctor cutting a wart from his foot and she did not want that. She determined in her heart that she would wait for Mahesh Chavda to visit to our church and let him pray for her.
Claire, along with our other children, had come to love and respect Mahesh. They had heard him tell stories of the many healings that had taken place in his ministry around the world. And  we had friends who had experienced healings in his meetings. Therefore, little 8-year old Claire decided that Jesus would heal her when Mahesh came to minister.
She entered the meeting with a child’s faith. She went up for prayer and the Lord touched her. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, the wart disappeared overnight and was completely gone the next morning, and she never wet the bed again.  

Leah
Leah was 7 years old. She was trying to go to sleep but began to cry, saying, “Daddy and Mommy, my tummy hurts!”  Laurel and I prayed for her but the pain intensified and she cried even harder. Finally I turned to Laurel and said, “We need to take her to the emergency room.”  Still in tears, Leah yelled out, “No! I don’t want to go to the hospital. Pray for me. Jesus will heal me.”
So Laurel and I laid hands on her stomach, and prayed in Jesus’ name. The pain instantly and completely left. Leah suddenly became very calm and relaxed.
I leaned over and kissed her and said, “Leah, wasn’t that nice of Jesus to touch you and take the pain away?” 
She, with eyes half closed and ready now for sleep, peacefully and quietly said, “Yeah. ‘Cause if He didn’t, He would be in trouble.” I laughed under my breath and marvelled at the simple faith of a child.   

Matthew
Parents know how frightening it can be when their infant children get the croup. The croup is marked by episodes of harsh, hoarse, and dry coughing accompanied by difficult breathing. Our son Matthew was less than 2 years old and had developed a bad case of it. We were at a Bible Study-prayer meeting at my parents’ home. Matthew began to cough. His face turned red, and his breathing was difficult. My cousin Bootsie said, “You need to take him to the emergency room.” We considered this, but on the way home, faith rose in our hearts. I turned to Laurel and said, “We are going to lay him in his crib and pray over him until he is healed.” Upon entering the house, we laid him in the crib and prayed over him in Jesus’ name. The Lord touched him and he was healed the minute we began to pray. The cough was instantly and completely gone. He lay there quietly consuming his bedtime formula, and fell into a restful sleep for the entire night. When he awoke the next morning he had no symptoms at all. He was healed.

A Neighbor’s Child
 As I was leaving a friend’s house one day, He and I passed his five-year old son playing with some toys on the ground. As we discussed other things, the father showed me some sort of bone growth that was on the back of the child’s head. It was just a little smaller than half a ping-pong ball and had been there for years. The doctors had told him it was nothing to worry about. It would not harm the boy, but was simply unattractive and inconvenient. My friend and I did not focus on the child but continued our conversation.

However, as I talked with my friend, I very casually laid my hand on the back of the child’s head a couple times saying, “Lord, bless him.” Again I said, “I know it’s nothing to worry about, but Lord bless him anyway,” as my friend and I went on with the conversation about other things. Then I drove away feeling guilty that I had not taken time to pray an official and “real” prayer over that child. Instead I had only said “Lord, bless him” in passing as I talked about other things. 

I was surprised a couple days later when my friend called to tell me that the child’s growth had completely disappeared. The Lord had healed it in response to a simple “Bless him” prayer. 

 “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” Mark 10: 24

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The article posted below is a reprint from December 2009.   -Billy Long

Disobey and Have a Party


“And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands (the idols)…”   Acts 7: 41
“And…he…made a molded calf…and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”  Exodus 32: 4-6
“It is…the sound of singing I hear….He saw the calf and the dancing.”   Ex 32: 18-19.

The above verses show that we can disobey the Lord and still have a party---at least for a while. One of the problems with human nature is that it so often loses sight of both reward and consequences. When we get caught up in the temptations of the moment or in what we want right now, we forget that there is a reward for faith and obedience, and a consequence and reaping for evil and disobedience. And so like Israel, we make our “golden calves” and have a party.

Moses had gone up the mountain to meet God face to face and to receive the commandments and the laws for Israel’s life as a nation. The people became impatient, discontent, perplexed, and maybe bored during the 40 day wait while Moses was on the mountain. They felt that God was taking too long, or maybe Moses was dead. So they decided to make their own gods. This would liven things up a bit and provide a more cheerful atmosphere. It would help them to feel better. And so they made an idol and “rejoiced before it.” They were singing, dancing, and feeling good. It actually appeared to be one of their happiest moments since leaving Egypt. Sounds like something wonderful, but what a fleeting deception! 3,000 people died as a result of this egregious sin.

The enemy of our souls is so very deceptive.  He hides in our idols and pretends to offer so much. And we foolishly rejoice in those idols because they indulge our flesh and allow us to do as we please. They help us to feel better by providing a quick momentary fix. They help us to temporarily drown our fears, and to forget our deeply troubling thoughts and unanswered questions. They appeal to our selfishness and our self-centeredness. They appeal to and feed our rebellious nature while keeping us distracted from the one true God.

God calls a person to surrender now, and to pay the price of obedience up front. It may mean self-control, waiting, sacrifice, suffering, and doing the right thing when we would rather do something else. The cost is now, but the rewards will surely follow. The blessing is beyond the obedience.
The enemy, on the other hand, offers all the “good stuff” up front. He offers pleasures and “what you want” now. He makes you think it’s free or at a discount, and with no waiting. As a result, many have eaten at his table not realizing the horrible price they will inevitably pay. If you think God is asking too much of you now, just wait until the devil comes to collect later. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Cat and the Rat

The Cat at the Door
When I was just a kid we had a yard cat that should have been out hunting mice, but instead, was always sitting at the screen door meowing and whining plaintively, “begging” for someone to let him in the house. “Meow, meow, meow!” he cried. Translated into English this means, “Let me in. Feed me, pet me, help me, comfort me, make me happy. I want to go inside where it is comfortable and safe. I don’t want to face the world outside.”

My Dad hated for a cat to sit at the door begging like that. So he pushed the door open, and shoved the startled cat out onto the carport. As he walked past he said, “When I get back, I am going to haul you off to the shopping center.” He fully intended to get rid of the cat.

The Fight
About an hour later, I heard a commotion beside the corn barn at the edge of our back yard. I turned my head in time to see about 15 or 20 squawking chickens flapping their wings, jumping in the air, and scurrying in every direction to flee the water hole that had formerly been a mud-wallow for a few hogs. And among those chickens I saw that cat in the middle of a back-flip somersault a couple feet in the air. I ran over to see what was happening and found the cat locked in mortal combat with a large wharf-rat that was as big as the cat. Most of us have seen how a cat will often toy with a mouse, playfully tossing it into the air until he is ready to eat it. In this case, however, the rat had tossed the cat into the air.

I watched this battle until the cat finally killed the rat. He crouched over his prey and maintained a firm grip on the dead rat as he looked up at me with blood flowing from a big cut running across his entire face. His expression almost seemed to say, “I did it! Thank God I’m still alive!” He then proceeded to eat as much of the rat as he could. A couple other cats wandered over and joined the feast. There was rat to go around, and rat left over.

When my dad learned of this event he decided to keep the cat. There was no trip to the shopping center, and the cat’s lifestyle changed dramatically after that. It was as if he had understood my dad’s threat to “haul him off.” He never again sat whining at the door, and every few days he would drag up a dead rabbit, or rat, or bird and lay it on the carport, as if to say, “I’m still on the job.” The cat, with that ugly trophy scar across his face, stayed with the family a few more years until it died of old age.

The "Door" of the Church
As Christians we tend to be like that cat. In our focus on self it is easier for us to “sit at the door” of the church seeking our own comfort and self-fulfillment, rather than facing the tasks and challenges associated with reaching out to people in the real world. We often fear getting involved in the spiritual battle that is involved in the advancement of God’s kingdom.

Contemporary culture surrounds us with things that look good, sound good, taste good, and feel good, things that are fun. We want to do what pleases us--- DVDs, movies, TV, Music, video games, sports, and various amusements. We don't want to face what is difficult, demanding, and tedious. We often expect rewards and fruit when there has been no effort or labor. And then we carry this over into our walk with God, expecting Him to bless us, help us, comfort us, etc, without our enlisting to serve Him and His purpose. We want the blessings of the kingdom without the travail and labor involved in the spiritual walk. We avoid anything that causes discontentment, inconvenience, adversity, or pain. We subconsciously think everything in our spiritual walk should be fun, convenient, and focused on “me.”

We expect our meetings to entertain us and not be unpleasant. We want positive messages that do not challenge us. This tends to produce a large crowd of superficial and shallow Christians sitting as spectators enjoying the performance up front. It seems that the multitudes are not attracted to depth and substance but to glitter, show, and celebrity. They run to the latest thing, the newest thing, and to what gets the most PR. They go after the latest trends and those things that feed their fancy. Church becomes either a buffet or fast food which makes us “fat,” rather than the family meal which provides real nourishment, strength, growth, and spiritual substance.

A crowd is a good thing when it is made up of real disciples who want to know and follow Jesus, but a crowd is not necessarily a good thing, when the self-centeredness of the people is indulged, and when they are not confronted with truth nor helped to see themselves or the purpose of God. I believe that the Lord does want to bring us in and set us on His lap and embrace us with His love and kindness, but I also think He wants us to quit sitting at the “screen door” and to boldly face the challenges and “giants” that await us as we conquer the land with the message of the kingdom of God. Otherwise, as one friend of mine said, "I'll see ya'll at the shopping center next week."

“I have fought the good fight.” 2 Timothy 3: 7

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tribulation and Good Cheer


"..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 under two years of age put to death by the sword. What were Mary's thoughts, knowing that others had lost their children when it was her child Herod was trying to kill? The realities would have been very difficult to understand and even harder to explain.  She must have pondered these things in her heart as she trusted God to comfort those who had suffered without knowing why.

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)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

When Disillusioned by People and Life

[This article is Part 2 in in the series on Disillusionment. Scroll down to read Part 1  -BL]

DISILLUSIONMENT
The term "disillusionment" means to be freed from illusion and no longer be misled or deceived. Disillusionment can be helpful because it forces one to face reality. It is beneficial to see truth and be freed from misconceptions, but the term also has a negative connotation when it describes one who has been enlightened to some disheartening reality. It refers to the disappointment that accompanies the enlightenment, to the paralyzing effect that it can have on a person's will to act, and to the discouragement that comes with discovering the disappointing truth about someone in whom hope and trust were placed.

Disillusionment becomes a problem when a person does not respond to it correctly, when he overreacts and becomes overwhelmed by it. If it is not handled in the grace of God it can cause one to become cynical and bitter, to quit trusting people, and even to question God. Disillusionment, taken to an extreme, causes people to enter into another form of illusion— seeing only the negative and the bad. It is good for a person to see reality, but he who sees no good is no longer in reality and has moved from naieve idealism to the misconceptions and deceptions of skepticism and cynicism.

The person who is disillusioned needs to be encouraged to believe that truth and integrity do exist, that not everything nor everyone is false. He must be encouraged to learn from experience and grow in discernment so that he is not misled again. He must hold to the good and discard only the bad. He must stand in faith and walk on in obedience.

Psalm 73
Whether a person is disillusioned because he has been genuinely disappointed by some hope, or because his heart has perverted his perceptions of reality, his answer and deliverance are in the presence of the Lord. David saw the wicked prosper while the people of God suffered. He saw the ungodly appear to sin with impunity while he himself was chastened every morning. His first reaction was to feel his efforts at righteousness had been in vain. What he saw troubled him, and his reaction to it grieved him deeply. It was all too painful— until he went into the presence of God. He would have given up had he not sought the Lord.

It is at Jesus' feet that we gain the right perspective. It is there that we get our bearings and reference points. We present our hearts for cleansing, open the Bible and see what God's word says. The “dust” of life’s complications combined with the flood of negative input into our minds can harden our hearts and cause our understanding of the simple words of scripture to dim and fade from our spirit. Our answer is to sit at Jesus’ feet with God’s word and listen to the Holy Spirit. David did this, and his conclusion was, "I have put my trust in the Lord God."

"I went into the sanctuary [God's presence]...then I understood."  Psalm 73: 17


Monday, August 20, 2012

Disillusionment: Part One

[This article is the first in a series of postings on the subject of "Dealing with Disillusionment." -Billy Long

The Narrow Perspective
To have an accurate understanding of truth as God sees it, we must look beyond ourselves and our moment. We must see God’s purpose beyond our own comfort and pleasure. Disillusionment comes from a narrow and self-centered perspective, from making judgments based on ones limited "now" experience and current moment rather than faith in God and his power to fulfill His will and plan. Sometimes He gives us immediate victory and keeps us from harm and trouble, but other times He may allow us to suffer persecution, adversity, and hardship. Our circumstances may change, but God and His plan remain fixed and inexorably moving forward.

Mark Twain’s Mistake
Palestine, before the renewal of Jewish settlement during the late nineteenth-century, was virtually laid waste and its population in acute decline. Mark Twain visited the Holy Land during that period and seeing its desolation and the absence of the Jewish state, proclaimed, “See, this proves the Bible is just another book”. But had he lived until 1948 and beyond, he would have seen the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel and the reappearance of the “land of milk and honey” with the desert blooming. He would have realized what a tragic mistake he made by judging the bible based on his own limited and short moment in time.

We make the same mistake in our own lives. We become discouraged and disillusioned when we draw conclusions based on our own personal and immediate experience without considering God's overall long-term plan and His sovereign power to fulfill it. There are many periods in history when God’s people might have given up had they based their hope in what they saw and experienced at their given moment. We must never assume God has or will fail. Time and patience will always prove God to be true, faithful, and well able to accomplish His purpose.

Examples in Biblical History
As we survey the history of God's people in the Bible we have the advantage of having the whole story before us. But if we could set ourselves down anywhere into that history, we might experience any number of places where we would be tempted to be overwhelmed with despair and disillusionment. Here are a few examples.

The bondage in Egypt
You might have been disillusioned had you lived among the suffering Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the 400 years of bondage. You would have been tempted to think God had forgotten you and the whole nation. Living in what seems to be interminable grief and waiting can very easily produce a very negative and wrong theology unless the heart is fixed in God—no matter what.

Time of the Judges
You might have been disillusioned if you had lived in Israel during the time of the Judges. After having seen the glorious conquests, order, relative purity, and strength under Joshua, you would now have witnessed a nation of confusion, perversions, and subjugation that occurred on a regular basis throughout that period of Israel’s history. Were it not for the recurring emergence of Holy Spirit anointed judges, you might have been tempted to think God had forsaken the nation.

The Divided Kingdom after Solomon’s Glory
You might have been disillusioned had you lived through Solomon's glorious reign when Israel was at its height of peace, security, power, wealth, reputation, and prestige, and then later to see the kingdom divided into two third-rate nations fighting each other and harassed by their neighbors.

The Captivity
You might have been disillusioned had you lived during the revivals of Hezekiah and Josiah which tantalized hopes of strength and stability, only to see the nation at Josiah's death come briefly under Egyptian domination, then under Babylonian bondage, then on to captivity.

The Return
You might have been disillusioned had you been among those who witnessed Israel’s deliverance from captivity, expecting her to rise to power as God’s people, only to see her rise to a very disappointing stature compared to her former glory and then continue in subjugation to Greek and Roman domination during the 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments.

Jerusalem’s Fall
You might have been disillusioned had you known the bustle of Jerusalem and the grandeur of its temple when Jesus walked its streets, and yet within a couple generations witness its complete destruction. How disheartening it must have been that within a hundred years of Jesus’ first advent the Jews were not even allowed in the city except once a year.

Look at Church History.
The church’s history has often been as discouraging as Israel's history. Consider the dark ages with its corruption, ignorance, and cruelty. Look at our own contemporary examples. Consider the church splits, broken relationships, moral failures in leadership, foolish behavior, embarrassing antics, and other discouraging situations that have been on display to us and the world.

Our Response
The Bible makes it clear that in spite of Israel’s failures and Satan’s attempts to destroy them or cause them to stumble, God was able to preserve the nation of Israel and in the fullness of time bring forth Jesus Christ our Lord to bring redemption to mankind. Our Sovereign God has and is administrating history and the future to the fulfillment of His plan. His dominion is forever and His kingdom stands strong, inexorably moving toward the consummation of His eternal purpose. Israel’s “ups and downs” and “in and outs” never hindered the plan or kingdom of God. The same fact holds true for the church, for me, and for you.

If we stand faithful to God’s word and ways, and persevere with patient endurance in faith and hope, we will ultimately see the rewards that come in God’s time. Our experiences may seem inconsistent with what we expected and may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, from wonderful to painful, from clear insight to the perplexity of looking through the glass dimly. But in all these we must stand in faith and know that God is God, that He loves us and has a plan for us and for the world, and that His kingdom purpose will be fulfilled. The land may be parched “today” as Mark Twain saw it, but “tomorrow” it will be a fruitful and fertile land of milk and honey overflowing with the bounty of God’s kingdom. And those who say “today” that God has failed will “tomorrow” look back and see how foolish they were to doubt the Almighty and Wonderful God our Heavenly Father.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Psalm 42: 5

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Struggle to Find Comfort

“In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.” Psalm 94:19.


Refusing Comfort
“Then Jacob tore his clothes, put sackcloth on his waist, and mourned for his son many days. And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him; but he refused to be comforted, and he said, ‘For I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning.’ Thus his father wept for Him.” Genesis 37: 34-35
"Refusing comfort" refers to the state in which the loss or pain is so great and final that there seems to be absolutely nothing that could possibly heal the hurt, relieve the pain, or replace the loss. Jacob found himself in this condition as he experienced heart-wrenching grief over the loss of his son Joseph. No one was able to comfort him. No words could relieve or console him.

Genuine and Not Superficial
To a person in such grief the idea of comfort often seems like an empty and futile promise. Consolation is viewed much like the consolation prize which is usually given to the losers of a contest. The "consolation game" is a contest for those who have lost early in the tournament. Likewise, a person in the intensity of his pain often tends to view attempts at comfort as being merely the "consolation game" or the “consolation prize,” a substitute for the real thing, a shallow and superficial attempt to make him feel better,

This, however, is not what the Bible means by “comfort.” God's comfort is real and genuine, not imaginary or illusory." It is supernatural and comes from and with God Himself. There is a depth of reality and glory and a supernatural quality in genuine comfort which makes it substantial. It represents real healing rather than a mere superficial "second prize."

In God Himself
Job could find no comfort in words, rationalizations, or in sweet thoughts from friends. He, like Jacob, found that there are times when the anguish, the loss, the disappointment, and the hurt are so great that nothing will comfort because nothing can change what has happened. He also discovered that it is difficult to find comfort in the midst of so many unanswered questions, when there is suffering without explanation and understanding. The great question “Why?” sometimes stands between us and our comfort.

In these times our comfort, relief, and hope is in God Himself, not in ideas, words, or in anything that could be said. Our comfort comes only in God, in the revelation of His presence, in seeing Him and His eternal perspective. He comes to us Himself and brings a comfort that is supernatural and beyond comprehension. It is interesting to note that Job, with the confusion and questions that must have been swirling around in his head, posed none of them to God during the Divine visitation. Seeing the Lord brought a supernatural revelation and understanding that needed no further explanation.

God’s Visit Makes the Difference
Before God visited Job, no one could comfort him for the loss of his children and reputation. No one could soothe the pain of his boils nor answer any of his questions. But all of this was resolved when God came to him. Job arose in joy and relief as he looked into the eyes of the Eternal. Any questions he may have had were answered in the supernatural touch and in the revelation of God Himself. Once Job resolved his situation between himself and God, he was then able to receive comfort from and be comforted by his friends.

From Job and Jacob we learn that comfort does not usually come instantly but rather follows certain processes such as the normal time needed for grief, as well as the time required to take care of necessary spiritual transactions between us and God. We need to realize that God loves us, that He desires to reveal Himself to us and bring us into His presence to receive enabling power by His grace. He may come to us in our private prayers, He may reach out to us through the love and touch of a friend or through fellow Christians. He may allow us to grieve for a while, but He will not leave us bereaved and desolate. He has sent the Holy Spirit to be His Presence with us to strengthen, encourage, and comfort. (John 14: 16-18)

“…It was too painful for me---until I went into the sanctuary.” Psalm 73: 17


“I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you…” Job 42: 5


“…in Your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Ps. 16: 11

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation…” 2 Corinthians 1: 3-4

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poems from Experience

[A reprint of some poems I posted a couple years ago]

Just for fun I decided to include some poems I wrote. The first two I think are quite witty. The first one I wrote in response to mine and Laurel's kidding about my tendency to repeat myself too much. The second one I wrote in response to my struggles to change in areas that would improve my role as a husband. The other poems are of a more serious nature and share some spiritual insight gained from experience and Bible study.


Vain Repetitions
My emails will say hello, communicate, and engage.
They may even dazzle you with eloquence and prose.
Expert tools of grammar will be utilized on each page.
But no trite phrases, and no repetitions. No. None of those.
Your heart will be warmed by thoughts so expressed
In simile, metaphor, hyperbole, and other additions.
But in the end you surely will have confessed
The thing has a glaring absence of those redundant repetitions.
His heart and mind are drawn with words
Telling revelation, his schedule, truth, and no fiction.
Impressing that pretty lady with things he’s heard,
Messages fresh and new, but no nasty repetition.
You can trust what I’ve said, you can trust what I wrote.
Repetitions are over, in the past, no longer to offend.
You can believe the truth of this note.
Repetitions are gone. As proof I’ve said it again.

A Husband’s Struggle to Change
The apostle said he had the privilege to “lead about” a wife.
I guess I’ve been trying to do that all my life.
But still I’ve had to deal with pain and strife
of only being able to be “about to lead” a wife.
I think about it and study on it which is what I usually do.
But the problem is being able to actually follow through.
And it’s not like I’m trying to learn a lot of something new.
I’m having trouble nailing down a few.
I look pitiful after failing a few tries,
She looks frustrated and rolls her eyes
Still I manage to give a little surprise
When occasionally I stand to the occasion and arise.
But It seems my progress is only brief
Enough to give hope but not relief.
Such little faith is beyond belief
What can I do to prevent such grief
But now after so much time has flown,
Through labor and grace I have finally grown.
Significant fruit from seed that was sown.
Thank God my wife did not leave me alone.

JOURNAL ENTRY: SPRING 2004 INSPIRED BY JOHN 12: 24-25.
The fires were hot and the waters were deep.
Would I drown or be consumed?
But I had forgotten how grace is reaped,
and life in Jesus resumed.
The weapons that pierce and cause us to bleed
and lay us in mourning and gloom,
No matter how fierce, still they cannot pierce
the pain and wall of the tomb.
For in that dark place, the light of His face
will show mysteries before unseen.
And all the bad will remain in the grave
while we are raised redeemed.

JOURNAL ENTRY: 6/30/99. INSPIRED BY JOB 29:1-6; ISAIAH 49.
Held in deep contempt, and stabbed by eyes of scorn,
Heart broken and rent, with dignity stripped and shorn,
The honor that was meant, to others has been borne.
But God's favor is not spent; why should I then mourn?
He has not changed His intent nor the reason I was born!
Laid aside and forgotten, no one calls for me.
Bereft of my begotten, none upon my knee.
But He shall lift His hand, and a banner shall the children see.
They shall fill the land, and they will come to me.
For God's favor is not spent; why should I then mourn?
He stands by His intent and the reason I was born!

JOURNAL ENTRY: SPRING, 2004 INSPIRED BY MAT 13:31-32; DAN 4: 10-12.
A tree stood before me thick with limbs and leaves all green.
Its branches were home, shelter, and food to birds and smaller animals unseen.
Its whole being, as if signaling to God, waved in the breeze.
And quietly shouted, "The kingdom of God is like these."
It is home, provision, and protection. It is God's rule, His love and care
to all who follow Him, love Him, and build their nests in there.

Billy Long

Friday, July 13, 2012

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

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Running From God

“But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord... ” Jonah 1: 2

Jonah was instructed by the Lord to warn the wicked city of Nineveh of impending judgment. He did not want that task. He was afraid the city would repent, and God in His mercy would withhold the judgment they deserved. Jonah, therefore, decided to run away.
He boarded a ship headed to Tarshish, a city located on the far west end of the Mediterranean Sea, probably in Southern Spain near Gibraltar. To sail past this point would be to enter the vast unknown Atlantic Ocean. Jonah was going to a remote location that represented the point farthest from and most opposite to where God was sending him. He was fleeing the purpose of God and the very presence of God.

“Asleep”
Jonah went down into the ship and fell asleep. Usually a person running from God is unable to sleep very well, especially during a storm. Generally speaking there is no rest or peace to the wicked, but Jonah was able to sleep. He slept to escape his guilt and to avoid praying. He could not pray as did all the others on board who feared for their lives. He was in rebellion and he knew what God would say. He was trying to forget what he had already heard. So he avoided calling upon God.

"Throw me into the sea"
Jonah probably saw death as a means of continued disobedience, just another, yet final, step in avoiding Nineveh. He probably assumed he could repent, die, and go on to Abraham's bosom. So he landed in the water thinking he would drown and be out of his misery. But instead he was swallowed alive by the whale.

“Expelled From God's Sight”
Jonah "woke up" to realize that he was not dead, but in a very dark, remote, and frightening place. As the whale descended into the depths, Jonah came to the realization of what it really means to be expelled from God's presence. He had been hurled into the deep like a stone and felt himself falling to the bases of the mountains. The mighty waters covered him with an intensity of distress. Jonah cried out in horror thinking he had been expelled from God’s presence.

Sometimes the greatest discipline God can mete out is to give us a heavy dose of the very thing we claim to seek in our rebellion. An appropriate judgment upon those who "flee from God's presence" is to be "expelled from His sight".

In reality, however, Jonah was under the discipline of a loving, yet determined, heavenly Father who had not forsaken him, but was allowing him get a taste of what he was asking for while simultaneously being placed back on track toward Nineveh.

The wicked mistakenly think it will be a relief to get away from God, but it is a most awful terror. It is a cold, hopeless, and fearful place. How relieved Jonah must have been to discover that he was still alive and in the hands of God, and to know that he had not descended into Sheol in his rebellion.

A Whale: A Rebellious Person’s Gethsemane
Jonah intended to burn his obedience bridges when he embarked upon that ship to Tarshish. During Solomon's time ships from Tarshish came to Israel only once every three years. Therefore, it is obvious that Jonah was trying put himself into a situation in which it would be impossible to change his mind and in which God, even if He should forgive Jonah, would be unable to send him back anytime soon.

Jonah was to learn a hard lesson. If we deliberately burn our “obedience bridges” behind us in an effort to make obedience impossible, God can still make a way, a very uncomfortable way, to get us back on track. A person may think he is safe from the will and purpose of God as he sails far out onto the blue Mediterranean Sea. But God sends a storm…and then He sends a whale. Many who tried to run from God have found themselves traveling via "whale belly.” Once Jonah got onto the boat there was no easy way out and no easy or comfortable way back. But there was a way. He had to marinade in whale-belly enzymes for three days. He would definitely return to Israel a lot more tender of heart.

A “whale” is a very uncomfortable circumstance which God uses to return us to His will while giving us incentive not to run away again. A whale is also a place for a second chance, a door to restoration that otherwise would have been impossible. A “whale’s belly” can be a rebellious man’s Gethsemane—a place where even the rebel is willing to pray “not my will, but thine be done.”

The Goldfish
Like Jonah we cannot escaped the presence or the call of God (Ps 139: 7-12; Romans 11: 29). His incomprehensible mercy and steadfast love will follow us to the ends of the earth (Ps.23: 6). God's word will overtake those to whom He speaks (Zech I: 6; Prov. 13:13). He may give us room to run…but we will meet Him in the way. If God was so persistent with Jonah who was genuinely trying to flee, how much more will He work to apprehend and help those of us who desire to obey but yet struggle in the valley of decision.

And for those of us who are determined to flee, it is foolish to think we can succeed in escaping and hiding from God. It is like the goldfish that decides to run away from home. He has nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. But why would we want to run from and hide from such a wonderful God who loves us so much? In the blindness of our humanity we fail to see the awesomeness of His love, power, and wisdom. He is good. His way is right and best. We should embrace Him and His plan for our lives.

“You have hedged me behind and before,
and laid Your hand upon me…
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your Presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And your right hand shall hold me.” -Psalm 139: 5-10

A Loving Hand and a Cedar Switch

(Below is a re-print of an article I posted last year.   -Billy Long)

“Therefore, consider both the goodness and severity of God…” Romans 11: 22


A tricycle and a cedar switch
I had a tricycle when I was four years old. Daddy told me I could ride it around the yard but never to go near the highway. But temptation came, and I figured it would be more fun and easier to ride my tricycle on the hard pavement than through the dirt in our yard. So I decided to ride it across the highway and visit the country store across the street. Away I went pedaling my little tricycle and making my way across the busy highway. As I rolled up to the front door of the store I suddenly felt a hand gently grab my arm. It was Daddy. He had broken a small, limber cedar switch from a little tree in our front yard. It did not harm me, but it stung my legs as he gave me a “switching” all the way back across the street to our house. We were a sight to behold as I “danced” across the road with Daddy’s right hand flicking the little cedar switch against my bare legs, his left hand holding mine while I held the tricycle with my other hand. I learned that the pain of discipline outweighed the pleasure of disobedience. I never rode that tricycle into the street again.

I knew instinctively that my father was disciplining me for my good. He was protecting me from dangers of which I was unaware. I could have been killed on that highway. Our heavenly Father deals with us in the same way. His severity does not denote a lack of love, but proves His desire to protect us from peril and to save us from the harm that sin and foolishness inflict upon us.

The parent and the coach
When a young athlete makes a mistake that hurts the team, he receives two very different but necessary reactions. His parents tell him, “It’s okay, you’re a great player; you’ll do better next time.” The coach, however, scolds the boy telling him he needs to focus and work on this particular area of weakness or be prepared to sit on the bench for a while. The coach's rebuke is necessary for growth and improvement. The parents' mercy encourages the young man and prevents him from losing heart. God deals with His children in the same way. He is kind, but severe when we need it. His steadfast love gives us hope and encourages us to persevere. His severity provokes us to obedience and helps us overcome our weakenesses.

“Consider the goodness…of God”
The first Bible verse that I memorized as a child was John 3: 16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” The first song I learned was “Jesus Loves Me.” This truth is paramount to our understanding of God. He loves us with an incomprehensible and steadfast love. It preserves us when we would fall and holds us when we would flee. It woos us when we go astray and receives us when we return. His goodness leads us to repentance. It also causes Him to be patient beyond our comprehension. God's kindness is demonstrated in the longsuffering and forbearance He shows to a world in continual rebellion against Him and to His people who are often complacent and unfaithful.

“Consider the…severity of God.”
I serve the Lord because I love Him, but there have been times of weakness and vulnerability in my life when I remained faithful to the Lord because I fear His judgment. I do not want to forfeit rewards when I stand before Him, and I do not want to die lost and enter eternity without Him. The writer of Hebrews says, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Nevertheless, it is God's love that holds me.

God’s discipline and even His judgments are acts of love designed to bring us back to Him when we don’t have grace to respond to His kindness. His discipline strengthens us to obedience. His wrath (and judgment) is an ultimate effort of love to get our attention and turn our stubborn and rebellious hearts back to Him when we go astray. The "rod" of God administers grace to enable my obedience when I might be too weak to respond simply to His love.

A chest pain kept me out of trouble.
I was not spiritually aggressive during my eleventh grade year of high school and my spiritual idleness made me vulnerable to temptation. On one particular occasion I was making plans to fall into some mischief, but awoke with chest pains on the morning of the “evil day.” I immediately decided not to go through with my plans. I was afraid I would die and go to hell. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “Your friends might be able to do that, but I will not allow you to.” The fear of God preserved me when the weakness of my flesh was, for the moment, stronger than my resolve to obey. I thank God for His discipline which helped save me from a foolish decision in that hour.

Conclusion
God disciplines us because we are His beloved children. Discipline is part of His program for helping us to grow, mature, and be what He desires us to be. It is an aspect of grace, a manifestation of the love and wisdom of God in dealing with human nature. It is for our good. It corrects (makes right) those who need to be adjusted and punishes those who refuse the correction.

There are two Bible verses that on the surface seem to stand in contrast, but which are actually and truly compatible.
"Praise the Lord for He is good and His mercy endures forever." 2 Chronicles 5: 13; 20: 21
"Let us...serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire." Hebrews 13: 28-29
God loves us, but He does have a "cedar switch," and will use it when we need it.

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." Hebrews 12: 5-6

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The two articles posted below are re-prints from earlier postings. I wanted our newer visitors to have an opportunity to read them. Both articles deal with how the Lord reveals Himself supernaturally through the Church by the Holy Spirit.  -BL

The Lord Reveals Himself by the Word of the Lord

“But if all prophesy (speak by revelation), and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” 1 Corinthians 14: 24-25

The verses quoted above indicate that the Lord moved among the early Christians in a very supernatural way in giving revelation, discernment, and insight to His servants as they reached out to people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would like to share with you three examples of this happening in my own life.

A fellow on a plane
A few years ago the Lord gave me a word for a fellow who was sitting across the aisle from me on an airplane. Awkwardly I turned to the young man and said, “I am a Christian, and sometimes the Lord shows me things about people so I will know how to pray for them. The Lord has shown me that there are issues between you and your father that need healing.”
The young man looked at me with a blank stare and said, “No, not really. There is nothing going on between me and my father.”
“Well, okay,” I said apologetically as I leaned back in my seat wondering if I had made a mistake. But the impression was so strong that I turned to the gentleman again and said, “Sir, I don’t mean to bother you, but I feel very strongly that there is a problem between you and your dad that the Lord wants to minister to.”
“The fellow looked at me and said, “No. there is no problem between me and my father, but there will be if I ever see him again!”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
In a very somber tone he replied, “He abandoned me and my mother when I was a little kid, and I haven’t seen him since.”
“Hmm, “I responded, “Don’t you suppose THAT is the issue the Lord wants to minister to?” I could see the light come on in his mind as he looked at me and said, “I guess you’re right.” I told him that I would say a special prayer for him. I also prayed that the Lord would use that experience to show him that there is a God who knows and cares about him.

A lady on the plane
On another occasion on a return flight to Raleigh, NC I was seated beside a lady who was flying into Columbia, SC. As the plane was about to land in Columbia, I prayed quietly to myself, “Lord, this lady is about to get off the plane, and I have not said anything to her about You. Is there anything special I should say to her?”
Suddenly the Holy Spirit gave me a name. [This is the only time this has ever happened to me]. I turned to her and said, “Who is Frank?”
Suddenly her expression froze and she stared at me speechless with her mouth open.
I continued, “Sometimes the Lord shows me things to pray for people and I think the Lord has shown this to me for your sake. You can tell me. Who is Frank?”

She very sheepishly mumbled quietly, “Frank is a friend of mine who is having marriage problems.”
I responded, “And Frank is coming to you for comfort, isn’t he?”
With mouth still open and still staring at me in shock she just shook her head and whispered,”Um hum, yes he is.”
I then told her that the Lord loved her and had a plan for her, and wanted to reveal Himself to her, but the enemy had placed this temptation and stumbling block in her path to distract and lead her away. I encouraged her to go home and find a quiet place to sit and talk to God, to seek Him and get to know Him.
Immediately the plane was at the gate, and this lady got up and walked away still in a daze. I thought to myself, “She will go home with a fresh realization that there is a God who knows her and cares about her. Maybe she will look to heaven in faith and know that He is there and that He is listening to her.”

I-95 Roanoke Rapids
I was having breakfast with a pastor friend of mine at a motel restaurant on Interstate 95 when I noticed a gentleman sitting alone at a table across the room. I turned to my friend and said, “Sam, you see that man over there. He is going through the pain of a divorce.”
When Sam and I finished our breakfast I noticed the gentleman was still at his table and decided to go to him. I walked over to his table and said to him, “Sir, my friend and I are pastors. When I saw you sitting here, the Lord showed me that you are going through the pain of a divorce, and I would like to pray for you.”
The fellow stopped eating and looked up at me with sadness in his eyes. “I am in the middle of a divorce right now,” he said.
I told him that the Lord loved him and wanted to deliver him from the things in his life that helped cause the divorce. He responded, “I am from New England, and I am on my way now to Florida to get help for these very things.”
I gave him my card and told him I would be praying for him.
About a week later I received a letter from him thanking me for reaching out to him. He shared how our meeting that morning had encouraged him. His faith was strengthened and his hope renewed because he was made aware that there really is a God who knows him and cares about him.

Conclusion
The purpose of the supernatural in the church is not for show or theatrics. It is simply the presence of God at work. It happens when the people of God are moved with compassion and allow the Holy Spirit to work through them to encourage, strengthen, heal, comfort, and touch the people around them. God speaks and acts to reveal Himself.

“For the Lord revealed Himself…to Samuel by the word of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 3:21

My Preacher is so Annointed He Pure Foams at the Mouth!

How do we expect people to act when they are being used by the Holy Spirit? A fellow once said to me, “My preacher is so anointed he pure foams at the mouth.” That is a strange one, and I am thankful that the Lord does not expect us to do that. So what style do we use in our presentation?
The Spirit-filled Harvard professor very calmly walks up to someone and in a very dignified and stolid voice and says, “This is what the Lord is saying to you, Your canines will develop acariasis and become acaudal.”
A backwoods farmer then walks up to the same person and in a very emotional and enegertic manner says, “Thus saith the Lord. Thy dogs-uh will become infested with ticks and lose their tails-uh.”
The fact is, these men said the exact same thing, but each one spoke out of his own personality and style. The Lord’s word was in the content while the style represented the individual vessel.

I want to share three examples below that show us that we can be ourselves and not have to act a certain, expected way when we are being used by the Holy Spirit.

A Casual word that was supernatural
I was visiting a church in Lexington, Kentucky a few years ago. The morning worship service had ended and people were standing around the auditorium talking and enjoying the fellowship of friends and family. I happened to notice two girls standing on the other side of the auditorium. I was acquainted with one of these girls from a singles conference at which I had recently spoken. I knew that this young lady would one day make some man a good wife, and so I decided to walk over and, in a light-hearted and humorous way, encourage her.

I crossed the auditorium and went up to these two young ladies. As they turned to me I said, “There is a crazy man out there!” They both reacted with surprise and said, “What?” I responded by addressing the unmarried girl with these words, “You are going to make some man a fine wife, and there is a crazy man out there for not having already snatched you up and married you!”

I was expecting her to respond with a laugh, but instead, her eyes filled with tears. I said, “What’s wrong? What did I say to make her cry?”
Her friend then explained to me the conversation they were having just before I walked up. The single girl was sad because her fiancĂ© had recently broken off their engagement. She was depressed and questioning herself wondering why he had ‘dumped’ her. As they stood there she had asked her friend, “Is something wrong with me that he would not want to marry me?” The friend had responded, “No. There is nothing wrong with you. He’s crazy!.”
Then, “out of the blue” and totally unaware of the situation and their conversation I walked up and said, “There is a crazy man out there.”

I believe I was sent to encourage her. However, I was completely unaware of the significance of what I was saying until the friend explained to me how my words confirmed what she had just said moments before.
I was just simply trying to encourage someone based on what I had seen with my natural eyes. I was not trying to be spiritual or do anything special. The timing, however, made the word supernatural.

A Short word that was supernatural
During our first year of marriage Laurel and I were part of a church in southern California. It was composed mostly of young people and had sprung up during the Jesus Movement and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that was taking place at that time. Multitudes of kids were coming to know the living reality of Jesus Christ and His presence in the working of the Holy Spirit. One thing that stands out in my memory of those days is the hunger for God that was demonstrated in the lives of those kids. They took their Bibles with them almost everywhere, they always had pen and paper to take notes during Bible study, and they all wanted to be used by God in some way.
I remember on one occasion I was about to teach a Bible study to a group of about twenty or thirty of these kids, and was silently asking the Lord to confirm my direction for the teaching that night.
Then one of the boys stood up. I knew he was about to share what he thought would be a prophetic word from the Lord. He said, “The Lord wants us to watch and pray.” He then paused and stood there silent for a minute hoping to add something more significant. But that was it. He had nothing else to say and so he sat down dejected, and a little embarrassed thinking he had failed.

I then stood up. “Our friend has just given a short, simple word telling us to watch and pray. He does not realize how the Lord has just used him. He has not only shared a word to which we should all take heed, but also, without knowing it, he has given a word of confirmation to me. I was just now asking the Lord to confirm the teaching I am about to give. My text for tonight is Matthew 26: 41, ‘Watch and pray…’ My Bible was opened to that verse and my eyes were on those very words as our friend was saying ‘The Lord wants us to watch and pray.’”

A miracle of healing in response to hardly a prayer
As I was leaving a friend’s house one day, He and I passed his five-year old son playing with some toys on the ground. As we discussed other things the father showed me some sort of bone growth that was on the back of the child’s head. It was just a little smaller than half a ping-pong ball and had been there for years. The doctors had told him it was nothing to worry about. It would not harm the boy, but was simply unattractive and inconvenient. My friend and I did not focus on the child but continued our conversation.

However, as I talked with my friend, I very casually laid my hand on the back of the child’s head a couple times saying, “Lord, bless him.” Again I said, “I know it’s nothing to worry about, but Lord bless him anyway,” as my friend and I went on with the conversation about other things. Then I drove away feeling guilty that I had not taken time to pray an official and “real” prayer over that child. Instead I had only said a “Lord, bless him” in passing as I talked about other things.
I was surprised a couple days later when my friend called to tell me that the child’s growth had completely disappeared. The Lord had healed it in response to a simple “Bless him” prayer.

So what is the lessons here?
While there are often unusual and strange occurrences during great visitations of God’s presence, it is important for us to know that generally speaking we can move in the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit in the normal conversational tone of everyday life. How else can we approach the average person in the world with the reality of Jesus Christ? We can be ourselves, we don’t have to act strange or change our voice. This is one of the keys to moving in the Holy Spirit on the job, in school, on the street, and out in the market-place. You don’t have to walk up to people and shout. You don’t have to say ‘’God-uh” or “yea, yea, thus saith the Lord.” You can be emotional or non-emotional. You can be enthusiastically zealous or you can be quiet and reserved. The key is to be genuine and real. The supernatural is not what you do, but rather what God Himself does. Sometimes God’s work is seen as obviously and patently supernatural. Other times it can be hidden and unnoticed because it is defined by the context and timing and may be significant only to those to whom it is directed.
When we care about people and reach out to them in a real and genuine manner, we will see God at work. And, as in the examples given above, we may find out later that He was at work when we were not aware of it. We may be able to say as Jacob did, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

"That Way I Can Kill the Whole Bird With One Stone."

This is a reprint of an earlier post. This one is just for fun.   -BL


Just as truth can be stranger than fiction, reality can sometimes be funnier than jokes. Therefore, I try to keep track of unusual things I hear people say. Below is a list of word-abuses that I have heard over the last few years. These friends and acquaintances did not realize they were corrupting a word or using the wrong word. The following sentences were spoken in earnest.

A fellow told me he did not want to sound self-defecating.

A second cousin told me her sister had an infection in her influfial tubes.

One man said he suffered from sick-as-hell-anemia.

The hospital had to place a lady’s husband in contentious care.

Another man was in there with a brain hemorrhoid.

A fellow told me a family member had immaculate degeneration.

One man said he had problems with his heart rhythm, but the doctors had decided not to install a space-maker.

A friend told me, “While I am in town, I’ll go by and pay the fine and also return Joel’s guitar. That way I can kill the whole bird with one stone.”

This same fellow was explaining to me why he quit his job. Up to this point he had endured a few things that had bothered him about the job, but when his boss embarrassed him in front of the other employees that was the thing that broke the camel’s straw.

A fellow was suffering from digestive heart failure.

A gentleman told me that he had been reading in the book of the prophet Jackariah.

I actually heard this on TV one evening. A man who was in prison for life was being interviewed by a TV news anchor. When asked to compare the inmates of today with those who were incarcerated with him twenty years ago, he replied, “Years ago there was a certain code of conduct among the prisoners. But today these men coming in here are all messed up. You know, the criminals of today just aren’t raised like criminals used to be.”

In describing Mary’s and Joseph’s engagement, a preacher on the radio said that Mary was be-throught to a man named Joseph.

A fellow told me his brother had phosphate cancer, but he over-ed it.

When I asked a friend if any other churches took part in the conference his church had sponsored up in the mountains, he replied, “There was one local church there that dissipated with us."

A construction worker told my friend that he had to go pick up his workers conversation check.

My cousin who is a nurse just shared these with me. A patient told her he had a history of roaches of the liver. Another patient said he was going to have a buried enema. Another said the nurse had given him a depository to help his bowels move.

A fellow came to work one morning and told my friend, "My wife's arthritis is so bad we can't even have intersection."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

FAILURE?

[Many of you read this article when I posted it in October, 2011. I am printing it again here because it is an appropriate follow-up to the previous post dealing with "Handling Failure."   -Billy  Long]


“And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’” Matthew 11: 2-3

“Did I miss it?”
Sitting in a dark prison awaiting his execution John began to doubt himself, his message, and his work. “Are you the One or do we look for another?” he asked Jesus. He wanted to know if he had wasted his life in a pointless and now painful exercise in futility or if he had genuinely heard God’s voice and accomplished a legitimate and divine task. Jesus responded by giving him honor and calling him “more than a prophet.”

We too are often faced with inexplicable and unexpected turns in life that cause great perplexity and bring us to the verge of despair. We forget the significance of our purpose in God and do not see the hidden fruit of our labor. During these times we must not necessarily trust our sense of failure. Perceived failure may not be real failure.

Flawed, but Succeeding
David completed his course and served the purpose of God in his generation (Acts 13: 36) even though his life was not perfect. There were instances of failure and stumbling, yet he still went on to fulfill God's plan for his life. David's example shows us that God, while not condoning sin and irresponsibility, does factor in our mistakes, failures, and short-comings. He is not surprised. "He knows our frame; He remembers that we are but dust" (Psalm 103: 8-14) and so extends great mercy and abundant grace.

A Matter of the Heart, Not a Matter of Competency
There are Biblical examples of those who actually failed in God's service, but their failures were indicative of heart problems rather than competency issues. King Saul is an example. He was disqualified and removed from the throne, not because he lacked skill at being a king, but because he did not have a heart to obey the Lord (Acts 13: 22). He failed at obedience and faith, and he refused to surrender to the will of God. The issue comes back to the heart. A person who is rebellious at heart will fail and then use his failure as an excuse to disobey even more. A person who has a heart after God may stumble but will get back up and persevere in his attempt to please God and do His will.

A Graceful Thoroughbread, a Bucking Bronco, and a Swayback Mule
God is the ultimate judge of success and failure. In one phase of ministry I felt I was riding a graceful and beautiful thoroughbred. In another phase I was riding a bucking bronco, tossed and thrown. A third situation felt like sitting on an old sway-back mule that could barely stand up. The first seemed to be a success, the second was a partial success and a partial failure, while the third started off slow and then gradually tapered off, a failure by human standards.

But things are not always as they seem. Man and God do not always esteem things the same, and the mysteries of His will are not always known to us. Therefore, we should do our best, but let God be the judge. Sometimes we succeed in God's plan while failing in our own, while at other times we fail in our own while succeeding in His. What we think is failure may not be failure at all. The same is true for success. Our goal should be to please the Lord and leave the results to Him.
"Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 15: 58

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Handling Mistakes and Failure


Peter's Examples

"Get thee behind me, Satan"   -Matthew 16: 16-17, 22-23

We learn through our mistakes if we remain humble, teachable, and entreatable. At one moment Peter received a great revelation from the Father; the next moment he was influenced by the enemy. In one moment he was praised for his insight; the next moment he was rebuked for speaking without knowledge. Experiences such as these helped Peter to grow in discernment. If Peter and the other disciples had to learn through their mistakes, how much more should we expect to do the same? Instruction and discipline are the way of life. We should not be surprised and ashamed when we need them.

"Lord, let us build three tabernacles..."   -Luke 9: 33

Peter stood in the glory of God and, even there, spoke foolishly. The Father had to silence him and move Peter's focus back to Jesus. It is a mistake to think a person is infallible just because he has been in the glory of God's presence. Experiencing the miraculous and the supernatural does not guarantee that a person's every thought, idea, and response is accurate. God uses imperfect vessels. Likewise, if God uses a person in one area, that does not make him perfect or an expert in other areas. Once again Peter learned from his mistakes.

"Lord, bid me come."    -Matthew 14: 24-31

Peter was nervous about taking the risk. Therefore, he did not say "Let me come" walking on the water, but rather, "Command me to come." The clear commission removes the fear. At His command we can go forward in faith. And even if we, like Peter, begin to sink we can still rejoice that we were going to Jesus in faith as opposed to staying safely in the boat with those who never fail but who never accomplish anything either.
When Peter began to sink, he did not drown in failure but called out, "Lord, save me!" God is more pleased with those who stumble attempting to walk on water than with those who remain safely in the boat.

"I have prayed for you..."   -Luke 22: 31-34, 60-62

Jesus did not rebuke Peter for the denial that was to come, but rather encouraged him and prayed that he would respond properly, repent, and come through it in faith rather than giving up and quitting. Jesus wanted him to come through the situation strong and able to strengthen others.

Your ability to strengthen and encourage others does not come from your never failing, nor does it come from your always being strong, but rather from your ability to break and "turn again," to repent and appropriate grace when you have failed or have sinned. Don't let faith fail when you fail.

"The Lord turned and looked at Peter" at the very moment Peter was denying Him. Considering the context, this is one of the most precious sentences in the Bible. The sovereignty and love of God are revealed in this glance. That look was not one of condemnation, but of mercy, acceptance, and encouragement. God had providentially orchestrated the events of Jesus' trial so that Jesus would be able to turn and look at Peter at just the right moment. That glance came at the perfect time to encourage Peter and remind him of Jesus' words— "I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren."

"...What diligence it [godly sorrow] produced in you,..."   -2 Corinthians 7: 8-11

What will you do with your shame? Just be embarrassed, or be broken and turn to the Lord?
Often people are humiliated but not humbled. We must find godly sorrow and not the "sorrow of the world." Worldly sorrow can be a form of self-centeredness and rebellion. It causes us to wallow in self-pity, to remain in the pit, and to stay stubborn before God. Godly sorrow causes us to arise, to depend upon God's mercy, and to appropriate His transforming and enabling grace.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

LOOK AT YOUR NOSE

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” -Genesis 1:1.
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." -Romans 1: 20.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse of heaven His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." -Psalm 19: 1-4.

Life is infinitely too complex to have come into being randomly and by itself. There are so many interdependent systems that are necessary for the existence of life on earth; and the degree of refinement, accuracy, and perfection in the coordinated performance of all these operations necessary for life are too complex to exist apart from design. They are independent yet dependent and interdependent, and their functions must be exactly precise and with perfect timing. These dynamics testify to the existence and reality of God.

I see the reality of God in many simple, subtle, and yet so obvious aspects of life that we often take for granted. For example, look at your nose. It is located in a most beneficial and practical place on your body. The nostrils point down so you don’t have to cover them to keep rain from falling into your sinuses. It is just above your mouth so that the sense of smell can work together with your sense of taste to help you enjoy your food. I can think of other more unpleasant places your nose could have been located. Your ears have their own little “satellite dishes” on the sides of your head to help capture sound. Your eyes are in recessed sockets to help protect them. They are located in the front of your head so you can see where you are going. Your feet point in the same direction as your eyes. The size of our moon, its distance from the earth, the tilt of the earth’s axis, the distance of the earth from the sun: If you change any of these in the smallest degree you will end life on earth. This is also true of the numerous systems that operate in the human body: Skeletal, circulatory, reproductive, pulmonary, muscular, neurological, etc.

Life is just too orderly to have come into being without design. Everywhere you look you see evidence of design. The necessary interacting, interdependent, and coordinated operations of the systems required for life, from biological to geological to astronomical are so exact and precise that it is impossible for life to have developed on its own by chance.

And what about sex? I could rest my case on that point, but will continue my thoughts. Male and female. In terms of species development the world could not have seen reproduction without the complete and fully developed male and female. If you could have reproduction without these, then there would have been no need for male and female. So how could this have possibly evolved---two separate systems made to be completely separate and absolutely compatible, and yet totally interdependent with neither being able to carry out the reproductive function without the other? There would have been no births, no reproduction without fully developed reproductive systems. “SOMEBODY” had to design this, and it had to begin fully functional.

This law of “irreduceable minimums” eliminates the possibility of evolution. Scientists have discovered that there is no such thing as a “simple cell” to start with. [Just get a scientist to explain the complexity of the DNA in any single cell]. I recently saw a documentary on TV in which a scientist described the complexity even in the single-celled amoeba. Too many complex, separate, yet interdependent systems have to be in operation at the same time for life to exist. If you eliminate any one of them, life would cease to exist. In other words, for life to exist, all of these systems would have to be created simultaneously.

Evolution is a very awkward and yet convenient way for people to try to avoid God. Evolution itself is foolish, but if you do away with God, evolution is about the only thing you are left with to explain how we got here. So the very concept of “evolution” is a product of intellectual “devolution,” i.e., what you arrive at by default when you reject the reality of God. A few years ago I was reading a book in which the author had recorded his conversation with a prominent evolutionist. The evolutionist told him, “We did not evolve from anything. Life is too complex to have evolved, but I prefer to believe in evolution than to believe in God.”

I prefer to believe in God. It is more comforting to believe in God, that there is a power beyond and greater than our comprehension who created us as finite beings with limited capacity to understand the created universe, and who created us with no capacity within ourselves to comprehend or grasp the infinite realities beyond our created universe, but Who also desires to introduce us to Himself and take us beyond what we see and know. As the Bible says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him."

If there is no God, then we face the most depressing prospects, a meaningless procession of people heading into an eternal oblivion. But there is a God and this gives us hope for eternal life. The very issues raised in the paragraphs above echo the words of the psalmist who tells us that the heavens, the earth, and all creation testify to the glory and existence of God. This means that there is more to life than this life. This is only the beginning, not the end. To see and understand this, one must look up to the One who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Lord who brings us to the Father.

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him." -Colossians 1: 16.
"For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. -Romans 11: 36.