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)