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.