Saturday, April 13, 2013

PaPa's Miracle

Tharon Hardee was my maternal grandfather. The grandchildren called him Pa Pa.  He loved to play the banjo and was well-known for playing at square-dances all around the area. The photo below was taken sometime around 1950.  Below is an article that I posted last year. I think it will be  beneficial to those of you who are new visitors to my blog.  -Billy Long                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
The Pretending
In 1964 PaPa was in his seventies and a member of the church, but living a life inconsistent with his Christian testimony. I was 15 years old at the time, and remember sitting in Pa Pa’s family room and listening intently as my mother, her sisters, and brother expressed to him their concerns about his eternal soul.

“Daddy,” they told him, “we are worried about you and are concerned that you are not walking with the Lord as you know you should.”
“Why, Jesus is my all in all,” he responded emphatically, and acted surprised that they would question his behavior. He was not ready to admit the truth about where he was, and it seemed that the discussion had no apparent effect. He continued his life doing the things he knew were displeasing to the Lord.

The Stroke
A few months later on a Saturday evening while I was at my weekend job of steaming oysters at a local seafood restaurant I received word that Pa Pa had had a stroke and was in critical condition, and that I should go immediately to Loris Hospital where the family was gathering. I entered the emergency room just as they were pushing him down the hall. As his bed was rolled past me he looked up at me with distress in his eyes and with heavily slurred speech said, “Billy, pray for me!” This cry told me that in his heart he knew the reality of what his children had been trying to tell him. Facing death, he had to also face the truth.
“Okay, Pa Pa,” I said as they rolled him past me and on to treatment.

He was in the hospital for about three weeks, but finally recovered enough to be sent home. He was alive, but the stroke had left him unable to walk. The family decided I should sleep at my grandparents home at night in order to help my grandmother care for him. I would lift him up off of his bed every morning and literally carry him to the little cot that had been placed in the family room where he would remain all day. In the evenings I would go back to his house to resume my duties helping my grandmother. How well I remember going over to that little cot each night, lifting him up and carrying him in my arms, and placing him in his bed where he would sleep for the night. This routine went on for about two weeks.

The Miracle
Then one Saturday his nephew Carl came by to pray for him. He read 2 Chronicles 7: 14, and the verses leaped from the pages almost like an audible word from God to my grandfather. Every word seemed to be a word directly from God. They described him perfectly, stating the problem and the solution. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Carl read the scripture, said the prayer, and then left. Pa Pa, sitting alone on that cot with those words echoing in his heart, looked up to the Lord and took Him at His word. He repented and turned his life over to the Lord in that very moment.

A few minutes later, my mother received a phone call from my grandmother saying, “Jessie Lois, Tharon wants you to come here now.” When Mama and I walked in, we saw Pa Pa sitting on his cot crying. With tears streaming down his cheeks, he looked up and said, “Lois, the Lord has restored to me the joy of my salvation,” and then after a pause, he continued, “And I think He has healed me, too.”
Mama then shouted, “Well, get up, Daddy!”
He immediately arose and began to walk. He was crying and laughing at the same time, and rejoicing in the overwhelming knowledge of God’s forgiveness, joy, and healing. I still remember him walking out the back door and circling the house a couple times with arms lifted, praising and thanking the Lord for his healing. My mom and I immediately called the rest of the family to tell them of the miracle.

The Testimony
Pa Pa was a new man after that. I remember being with him when friends from his past who had not heard of his transformation would come up to him and make some crude comment or some reference to his past life. He would get a very serious and stern look on his face. “I don’t do that anymore,” he would say, and then explain to them that he was walking with the Lord now and that his life had changed. I watched him love the Lord and walk with the Lord until the day of his death about two years later. Whenever I would visit him during those two years he would always ask me to pray for him and with him before I left. Often at night I would sit with him and read to him from the Bible. Those are precious memories. I had witnessed his years of hypocrisy, and then had the joy and privilege of witnessing his wonderful healing and the transformation which came to him when he faced reality and was honest with himself before God. We can all learn a lesson from this.
“But...the good ground are those who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patient endurance.” Luke 8: 15
“Behold, you desire truth in the inward parts…” Psalm 51: 6

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Struggle to Find Comfort

This article is a re-print from last year. I am posting it again because there are so many who need to find the comfort that only our Lord can give.     Billy Long

"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

Friday, April 5, 2013

Handling Mistakes and Failure

This post is a reprint of a past article. I think there are many of you who will be encouraged by it.  -BL

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 that your faith would not fail..." -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 [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.