Monday, December 15, 2014

My Other Blog

Visit my other blog to read articles I have posted on prophetic ministry in the New Testament Church. This series discusses the gift of prophecy as it was practiced in the early Christian church. Just click the "God's Presence With Us" link in the margin to the left of this paragraph.

Billy Long 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Icy Hot

(This article is a repeat of an earlier post, and many of you have read it before. But it is a good follow-up to the previous post just below it. It continues our study on "Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth."  -Billy Long)

“The Lord has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.”     Isaiah 50: 4
Icy Hot or Preparation-H
Years ago a lady in my hometown was suffering from that “burning and itching sensation” that we hear about in TV commercials. She sent one of her children to the drugstore to purchase a tube of Preparation-H Ointment, which was placed in the tiny medicine cabinet above her bathroom sink along with other medicines which promise relief from various physical ailments.

Soon afterwards, her hemorrhoids began to “flare up,” and the pain drove her back to the medicine cabinet for the relief she so desperately needed. Reaching for the Prep-H Ointment she inadvertently took the Icy Hot instead. Icy Hot is a wonderful medication for muscular pain and various aches that need penetrating heat, but it was never intended for hemorrhoids. You can imagine what happened as she applied a very generous portion to the afflicted area.

Job’s Comforters
Truth, like medicine, is meant to be applied appropriately, especially when we are dealing with people’s lives. “Job’s Comforters” are people who are quick to give an opinion based on a superficial observation and without any revelation or true insight into the realities of the person to whom they speak. The first two chapters in the book of Job portray Job as a godly man bearing up under unbearably severe infirmities. Then his friends came and sat with him a few days. Job probably sensed what they were thinking and knew they were about to open a jar of “Icy Hot” to rub into his hurting wounds. As a result he cursed the day he was born. They had come to comfort him, but proceeded to add to his distress with their insensitivity, condemning words, and misapplication of truth. How often does this happen in our own lives!

Not in the Same Boat
It is not wise to make rash judgments against people based on outward circumstances. We need wisdom when we reach out to people in their moments of trial, so that our words are in season. We cannot tell what season a person is in just by looking at the “color of the leaves on his tree.” It is possible for two people to be in similar circumstances for opposite reasons, and it takes revelation to know why a person is where he is. Jonah was in his distress because of his disobedience. Job, in contrast, suffered because he was perfect, and God was pleased with him. Jesus was hanging on a cross among thieves and criminals, but he was there for a vastly different reason. “Job’s Comforters” cannot tell the difference; they swing the sword of truth without discerning the people to whom they speak.

What counsel would you give the two men I am about to describe? What would you say to the people who are with them? These two men are in two different boats. The boats are being tossed in a terrible storm at sea. Both men are asleep in his boat while everyone else on board in both situations are terrified that everyone is about to perish. What do you say to these men whose circumstances, in terms of outward description, are almost exactly the same? Well, one of these men is Jonah. He is there because of disobedience and must be thrown overboard. The other is Jesus. He is God and is about to teach His disciples a lesson in faith. A Job’s Comforter most likely would have taken his lesson from Jonah, looked at the outward similarities, and would have proceeded to throw Jesus overboard.

Truth and Love
Knowledge alone does not make a person spiritual, wise, or mature. Knowledge alone can produce arrogance and be used to inflict pain. With our knowledge we need wisdom and insight. And if you feel you are short on these, then just fall back on love. In many cases compassion, mercy, and love will prevent you from speaking foolishly and behaving unwisely when it comes to giving words and advice that might hurt people. Obviously there is a time for “open rebuke” and the “wounds of a faithful friend” (Prov.27:6). But too often people suffer from the insensitivity of a “Job’s Comforter” who brings in the Icy Hot for a pain it was not meant for.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Balanced Spiritual Diet

His word was good, but it seems to be his only word.
I was listening to a very well-known TV preacher who was, in his usual way, giving a wonderful message about how God wants to bless His children, help them to succeed, and “be all they can be.” His message was good, but something troubled me about it.  Then I realized what bothered me. It was not that his word was bad, but rather that it was his only word. He seems to feed his flock one philosophical principle while omitting other important facets of God’s word.

No one truth can be our foundation.
The whole Bible must be our foundation. We must not take one truth and lay it as the foundational principle upon which we set the Bible and all our philosophy. We err and open ourselves to distortion and even potential deception when we make any one doctrine or truth to be THE foundation, and then try to interpret all other truths and doctrines through that filter. The whole Bible must be the foundation for our belief system. Making one particular truth to be our foundation will “black-out” all verses and legitimate truth that might seem to contradict or be other than our “pet” doctrine.
Your “pet truth” may be good and have its place in nourishing the Christian to balanced growth. But when you try to make it THE foundation by itself and the standard by which you accept or reject all other Biblical truth, you will automatically end up ignoring, rejecting, or discarding other necessary and genuine facets of Biblical truth. You will find yourself avoiding necessary and good Bible verses that convey truth necessary for balanced growth and proper understanding of the complex and often perplexing and paradoxical experiences of life.

Don’t Leave out the “others.”
For example, Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter and lists many heroes of faith. Verses 32-38 describes two groups of believers whose faith carried them through vastly different and contrasting categories of experience. The first group (verses 32-35) by faith subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, out of weakness were made strong, turned to flight the armies of aliens, and received their dead raised to life again. The second group (verses 35-38), referred to as “others,” were tortured, not accepting deliverance that they might obtain a better resurrection, had trials of cruel mocking, and scourging, chains, and imprisonment. They were stoned, slain with the sword, and afflicted. This chapter makes it clear that everyone in both categories obtained a good testimony before God in that they all acted in faith.
So, therefore, I cannot make my foundation to be only the faith that gives me what I want and always makes me comfortable. I have to set the whole Bible as my foundation which presents to me the faith that moves mountains, heals the sick, and raises the dead, but also which gives me strength to face and endure various trials, persecution for Jesus’ sake, and the tribulations that come with the spiritual warfare in proclaiming the kingdom of God on this earth.
  
“Therefore, I will remember you from the land of the Jordon (valley) and from the heights of Hermon.”  Psalm 42:6
To be fully trained we must have an obedient heart and be faithful from the valley pit to the mountain peak and everywhere in between.  
We are encouraged by those who have lived the full range of experience, who have known the glory of the miraculous presence of Jesus, and who also have been tempered and seasoned by the fires, testing, and disciplines of obedience over time.
 I am encouraged and strengthened by those who can speak eloquently of the mountaintop and yet richly of the valley, by those who can encourage me in my valley without despising me for being there, and who can rejoice with me on my mountain without envying my experience.

The Bible speaks of faith for success, healing, and answered prayer. It also speaks of faith for endurance and tribulation. The truths don’t contradict each other; they speak to different aspects of reality. They don’t balance each other, but rather together they balance you. There are a number of other Biblical examples I could give that illustrate the fact that the whole Bible must be the foundation. Every truth and principle must have its place. God has designed it so we cannot divorce the truth from HIM who is the truth and who spoke it. We need the Holy Spirit to help us “rightly divide the word of truth” that we may apply it properly. While we are blessed by our favorite and current revelation we must not neglect or deny the rest of the Bible.

“For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20: 27

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SELF-CENTEREDNESS

This article probably describes SOMEONE YOU KNOW. Interestingly, all the main points in the paragraphs below came to me while listening to a lady complain about her friends at church. She exemplified most of the principles discussed. —B Long

SELF-CENTEREDNESS
“Self-centeredness” and “selfishness” are two different things. A selfish person wants his own way, his own advantage, pleasure, and comfort without regard for others, and does not care how it affects others. A self-centered person evaluates and judges everything according to how it relates to or affects him, and is oblivious to how it affects others. A selfish person will deliberately hurt you. A self-centered person will hurt you and not realize it.

A self-centered person has great difficulty in relationships because he has inner struggles with what he assumes others think about him. He wonders what they really meant by something they said. Self-centered people only get along with people who are givers and those strong enough to bear with and indulge them. They are unable to edify others unless others are edifying them. A church will have difficulty building genuine unity among self-centered people. They give the illusion of unity during times when they are made the center of attention, when they are being ministered to, or served by others.

A self-centered person usually is comparing himself to others. This causes him to have problems with envy and low self-esteem or with pride and vainglory. He tends to judge the importance of his place and purpose by comparing it to that of others rather than looking to the will of God.

A self-centered person will have a distorted perception of the actions and words of others. He makes himself the center of every discussion, and makes erroneous judgments accordingly. This causes him to “read into” situations and project wrong motives and intentions onto others. He makes pre-mature judgments. He is blinded to reality because of his distorted perceptions, and is therefore easily offended and unable to see the other person’s point of view.
All of these dynamics make it difficult to communicate with him. He misses opportunities to love and be loved.

It is difficult to correct a self-centered person. He tends to shift blame and responsibility to others. While focusing on himself he amazingly cannot see himself. He never sincerely asks “What have I done?” or “What must I do?” His repentance tends to be self-pity rather than a real change of heart. Tears do not necessarily represent true repentance, brokenness, or honesty. Tears can indicate sincerity. But tears can also come from a distorted perception of reality. A person can cry because of a genuine sense of pain and grief, but might also be motivated by error and self-will, or frustration at not getting his own way or not getting what he wants. Tears are often used as a form of manipulation

Self-centeredness hinders relationships because it hinders love and our ability to discern and effectively reach out to those around us. It hinders understanding because it keeps us confused and oppressed with its distorted perspective. It hinders unity because it causes people to be easily offended through misunderstanding and by wrongly judging the motives and intents of others. It chokes out joy because it chokes out love. It is difficult for self-centered people to be truly happy.

Self-centeredness is a problem common to man. Isaiah spoke rightly when he said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to His own way.” Our only real hope for change is through the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. The historical cross is where Jesus died to deliver us from our sins. The way of the cross is where we gain victory over our self by laying down our lives for the Lord’s will and for others.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life form My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25).
My judgment is righteous because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30
Love seeks not its own. 1 Corinthian 13: 5

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hope: Seeing Beyond My Current "Moment"

This is a re-print of an article I posted a couple years ago. The purpose is to renew faith and hope and to strengthen the believer to overcome 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

Sunday, August 3, 2014

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

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Our Disposition in the Face of Persecution

My purpose here is not to instill negative attitudes of hostility, fear, and defeat, but to encourage believers to cultivate a genuine walk with the Lord Jesus and be prepared to stand courageously in faith and love during adversity. We must listen to the words of Jesus and emulate those first believers who experienced extraordinary grace enabling them to display exemplary behavior in the face of great persecution. We see in them no signs of hate, bitterness, or even discouragement. They were as amazing in their suffering as they were in their power.   -Billy Long

The verses below describe what our posture as Christians should be during persecution.  

Rejoice and be glad; Count it as an honor
John 16: 33
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 

Matthew 5: 10-12
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

1 Peter 4: 12-14
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.”

Acts 5: 40-42
And when they had…beaten them, they commanded them that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. So they departed from the presence of he council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

Forgive
Acts 7: 58-60
And they cast him out of the city…and they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin,” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

1 Peter 2: 21-23
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

Persevere and endure
Acts 5: 42 (40-42
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.  

Acts 14: 19-21
They stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe. And…preached the Gospel to that city and made many disciples.

Worship and praise
Acts 16: 22-25
The magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he pt them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Appointed to suffering: Realize it is somehow necessary (in the mystery and wisdom of God)
Philippians 2: 29
For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.

1 Peter 2: 21
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example.

Rev 6: 9-12
And when He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white rob was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow-servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.”

Jeremiah 15:2; Rev 13: 10  “those appointed to be killed”
These two verses of scripture are of the same construction in Greek  (Jeremiah verse in Greek Septuagint, and Rev in Greek New Testament).

Acts 9: 15-16
He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

Commit yourself to God the Righteous Judge
1 Peter 2: 23-23
Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously.

1 Peter 4: 19
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

2 Timothy 1: 12
For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Stand in faith to pass the test (Sometimes it is a test)
Rev 2: 10
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Lu 22:31- Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail.”

Be courageous, Do not fear
Rev 2: 10
Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

Philippians 1: 28
And not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God.

2 Timothy 1: 7-8
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.

Do not be ashamed
2 Tim 1:7-8
Therefore, do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.

1 Cor 4: 9-16
For I think God has displayed us, the apostle, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake…we are weak…we are dishonored! To the present hour we bouth hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.  I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. ….Therefore, I urge you, imitate me.

Commend yourselves as servants of God
2 Corinthians 6: 4-10
But (contradicting what is usually expected of people when suffering) we commend ourselves as ministers (servants) of God: in ….
Being a “servant of God” you do not represent yourself, but are his ambassador. You do not react in a self-centered and self-serving way, but show yourself as His servant.

Maintain personal Integrity (so the enemy cannot justifiably assault you for corruption)
Daniel 6: 4-6
So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.”

1 Peter 4: 15
But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.

Love not your life unto death.
 Rev 12: 11 
And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Acts 20: 22-24
And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulation await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Persecution is sometimes related to judgment beginning at the house of God.
1 Peter 4: 14-19 (v.17)
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God….Therefore, let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Remember and pray for those who are suffering persecution for Christ’s sake.
Hebrews 13: 3
Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.

1 Corinthians 12: 18,26
But God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased….And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Conclusion
Most of us feel weak and unable to live up to the standard presented in the verses quoted above. I must, therefore, remind the reader that God will give grace as it is needed for those who call upon Him in faith and who sincerely follow Him with their whole heart. The writer of Hebrews tells us that "out of weakness they were made strong." Some, by the grace of God, were enabled to work wonders and do great exploits. "Others," were given grace and strength for suffering. Our Lord will give us what we need as the occasions arise.
And what more shall I say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others, were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, slain with the sword. they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented---of whom the world was not worthy..."  Hebrews 11: 32-40


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Enraged and Gnashing Their Teeth


“Wild Beasts”
“I have fought with wild beasts at Ephesus.”  -1 Corinthians 15:32
 There are wild beasts that cannot be tamed or domesticated. They don’t recognize kindness, soft words, or loving speech. If you speak softly to a crocodile or tell him how much you love him, he will still eat you. If you are nice to a rattlesnake, he will still bite you. If you bring honey to a grizzly bear for her cubs, she will kill you.
Animals can be brutal and savage. They have no capacity for compassion and will kill with no regret or guilt.
The apostle Paul said that in the last days people will be brutal and times will be fierce.  “Fierce” describes the people as violent and hostile. “Brutal” describes them as cruel, savage, unreasonable, and acting on a physical and emotional level with no compassion or care for others.    
The term Paul used to describe the times is the same term the Gospels use to describe the man out of whom Jesus cast a legion of demons. He was fierce and savage, could not be tamed or controlled. He broke chains and cast them asunder, and lived wild among the tombs (Mat 8:29; Mark 5:4). This is descriptive of Satan’s goal for man. Man in this state becomes a willing tool in the fight against God and God’s people. The Apostle Paul was resisted and assaulted by those whose anger and hostility caused them to behave like wild beasts. They became instruments in the hands of the “messenger of Satan sent to buffet.”

When the World is enraged against Christians
“The world will hate you.”  John 15: 18-21
 There are growing forces in our nation that seek to remove God and biblical Christianity from our culture.  These forces, given the opportunity, will eventually persecute Christians with the same intensity we have witnessed in other nations. The Bible and Judeo-Christian values in the founding principles of our nation produced a society in which Christians have been relatively comfortable and unthreatened. However, as our culture lays aside biblical values and removes God from its institutions, government, and education, it will begin more and more to despise Christians and hate them because of their commitment to Jesus Christ as the only way to God, and because of their stand on moral issues as taught in the Bible. During the Roman persecutions Christians were called “haters of mankind” because of their disapproval of and refusal to participate in cultural immoralities that were prevalent at the time. There are forces in our culture now moving in that direction.  Just as the devil has historically created an irrational and unreasonable hatred toward the Jews, he will also stir up and fuel the same unreasonable and intense hatred toward those who follow Jesus. 
We will find ourselves in a social context where those who hate us will not be placated nor appeased. We will not be able to cause them to like us, no matter how much we love them or try to make our message palatable.
 The following verses show us how determined and intense can be their hostility toward God, His Word, and His people.

Exceedingly Enraged.  Acts 26:9-11
Before he met Christ, Paul was “exceedingly enraged” against Christians and “persecuted” them. “Exceedingly” means “beyond what is required or necessary,” and implies extreme and zealous behavior. “Persecute” is from the Greek root word “to chase” and  implies an aggressive pursuit. It was not a simple “I don’t like them, and if I happen to stumble upon any of them, I’ll punish them.” No, it was not casual. It was an aggressive and impassioned hatred accompanied by a legally authorized pursuit in order to imprison and/or kill. The devil seeks to instill this type of attitude and behavior in those who do not know God. We are seeing signs of it in American culture today.

Gnashing With Their Teeth.  Acts 7: 54, 57
The Psalmist said that the wicked gathered, attacked him, and gnashed at him with their teeth. Luke tells us the mob that stoned Stephen cried out with loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him gnashing their teeth. Gnashing is what happens when people are in torment, or controlled by anger and hate, or in an attack mode. The term is attributed to beasts that snarl and gnash the teeth as they attack their prey. In humans gnashing of the teeth also implies a frustration that is intermingled with the hate. It is frustrating and foolish to fight God or his people. Jesus said it is like kicking a pitch fork, and I will add “with bare feet.”

David said that that his persecutors were like lions, men whose passions were set on fire in their attempts to destroy him.
“My soul is among the lions; I lie among the sons of men who are set on fire, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.  -Psalm 57:4.

The Psalmist prophesied that those who crucified our Lord would be like wild animals in their desire to destroy Jesus.
Many bulls have surrounded me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled me. They gape at me with their mouths, like a raging and roaring lion. ..for dogs have surrounded me… But You, O Lord, do not be far from me; Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion’s mouth and from the horns of the wild oxen!” -Psalm 22: 12-13,16,19-21.

The book of Revelation describes the devil as a dragon enraged and making war against those who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“And the dragon was enraged…and went to make war with…the rest of her offspring…who have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  -Revelation 12: 17

Why are the nations angry?
The Gospel of the kingdom proclaims God’s rule as well as His love. The nations are angry at God because they are deceived, and because they do not want His rule. Rebellion hates authority. Although God is love, He is also absolute power and authority. In Ps 2 the nations are angry because they reject His rule and want to be free to do their own will. In Revelation 11:17-18 they are angry because He has taken His great power and imposed His reign, which in this case also means judgment on rebellion and wickedness.  
Man going his own way in rebellion will resent the message of the kingdom of God. He will even reject the idea of God’s love. So how do we communicate the kingdom of God to a culture in which there are so many who are hostile to it. As Christians we must have faith that our communication when done in wisdom and love will reach those who are really looking for God. And we must also be prepared for those who will hate us and reject the message no matter how it is packaged. But still, there are those searching and waiting for the good news. May we boldly and wisely proclaim the risen Lord Jesus to a world that so desperately needs a savior, whether they realize it or not. May we remember the words of Jesus: “A servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they will also persecute you, if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also.”


Saturday, January 25, 2014

A War-Zone Not a Theme Park

“And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Rev 12:17.

The Kingdom of Heaven Suffers Violence
And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.  Matthew 11:12.
But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying, “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we mourned to you, and you did not lament.”  Matthew 11: 17.
The verse quoted above describes the intensity that occurs around the Kingdom of God—the aggressiveness of those who seek it, and the violent resistance of those who reject it. The second verse compares the religious world to children sitting in the marketplace playing games rather than engaging the realities occurring around them. It is a picture of typical Sunday morning church-goers’ failing to recognize they are participants in a spiritual war. Taken together these verses urge us to put on our spiritual armor and be prepared to face an enemy who is angry and hates us. There are no non-combatants in this fight. We must be prepared for the realities of the spiritual warfare moving across our nation.

“Hey! They’re using real bullets!”
There was a science fiction movie entitled “West World” in which people went to a theme park, a realistic old wild-west setting equipped with androids that interacted with the visitors. The tourists, wearing six-gun and holster, would walk through town and visit the saloon, and be challenged by one of these human-like robots to a gunfight in the street. All the guns had blanks, and the robot was programmed to lose the fight. It was a game, just a fun activity.
But on one occasion, the robot went rogue, put live ammunition in his pistols, and actually shot the tourist. The shocked tourist was not expecting a real fight. Falling to the ground, he turned to his friend and said, “He’s using real bullets!” 

Preparing for the Realities
In this age of video games, TV, and fantasy football, it is easy for Christians to forget that we are in a spiritual battle. We think the music will play, the friendly robot will pretend to shoot us and then fall down when we pretend to shoot him. We think the bell will ring “game over” and we can put another quarter in the slot and start again. But we are in a war-zone not a theme park.
 In upcoming days contemporary Christianity in America will be forced to define itself by its true spiritual life rather than superficially by its style. In our culture Christians often look for a church by shopping around for their favorite group, the one they will “enjoy” the most, the one that “meets my needs.” This pattern has fallen upon most of us because of our easy and comfortable culture. But in the days ahead, we will be forced by the upheavals in our society to follow the example of the early Christians and live at a deeper spiritual level rather than following superficial religious routines. We will find ourselves in a battle with a spiritual enemy who genuinely hates us and who inspires his followers to hate us.

Garden Snakes and Copperheads
My dog used to enjoy catching and eating snakes. She would come running into the yard with a snake hanging out of both sides of her mouth with its body flapping around with each of the dog’s steps. Her prey had been limited to garden snakes, black snakes, green snakes, and rat snakes, all of which are harmless. The dog had never met a bad snake, and I knew she would one day run up on a copperhead, moccasin, or rattlesnake. Her approach to snakes would change drastically after that.
Then one day it happened. As I drove into the yard I was met by the dog, her snout swollen up as big as the rest of her head. She had come upon a Copperhead thinking she could kill and eat it as easily as she had done so many times with other snakes. It bit her on the snout. The dog now had a better understanding of what was at stake.  

 “For the Days are Coming”
Seeing the women lamenting for Him as He was being led to Calvary, Jesus turned and warned them of their own impending distress that would arrive less than forty years later when the Romans besieged Jerusalem in 70 A D. “Weep not for Me,” He said, “but weep for yourselves and for your children, for the days are coming….” Luke 23: 28-29.   
Jeremiah, facing a similar time in Israel’s history, spoke these words. “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children…” (Lam 2:19).
 These sobering exhortations are appropriate for our generation. It is a time to watch and pray, to lay aside lukewarm and empty religious routine and walk with the Lord in genuine and real relationship and fellowship and be prepared for the days that are coming.

Be Strong and of Good Courage
The devil is an aggressive enemy. He does not just passively dislike us; he is angry and enraged and will transfer that sentiment into his followers. He will use all means possible, including religious organizations, government and law, to resist the kingdom of God. 
The purpose of this post is not to instill negative attitudes of hostility, fear, and defeat, but to warn believers of difficult times ahead and to encourage Christians to cultivate a genuine walk with the Lord Jesus and be prepared to stand courageously in faith and love in the face of a world system that hates us because it hates God’s rule. We will bear witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ knowing that persecution has never been able to prevent or destroy the Kingdom of God and His people.
“If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the word hates you.”  John 15: 19
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  John 16: 33

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I appreciate all the visits to my blog from so many of my friends, and visitors whom I have never met. I would like to get an idea who my readers are and where they are from. Please consider sending me an email and introduce yourself. It would be great to hear from you. My address is blong8@sccoast.net.
                                                 Thanks
                                                 Billy Long

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Heed the Tremors Before the Big One Hits : The Fierce Society- Part 6

[Below is a reprint of an article I posted in March 2011. I believe it is appropriate for this series and speaks to us today. ---Billy Long]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it possible that God may be trying to get our attention?

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

“If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”   2 Chronicles 7: 14.