Friday, December 4, 2015

Riding in the Chariot…or Pulling the Cart?

“Then the men…took two milk cows and hitched them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home. And they set the ark of the Lord on the cart, and the chest with the golden rats and the images of their hemorrhoids. Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh (back to Israel), and went along the highway lowing as they went, and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left. 1 Samuel 6: 10-12

 “Pulling the cart”
The Philistines had captured Israel’s Ark of the Covenant and were passing it from city to city placing it on display as they gloated in their victory in a recent battle with Israel. However, the sneering did not last long, for every city where they set the ark experienced a plague of rats and hemorrhoids. The Philistines finally had enough of these plagues and decided to send the ark back to Israel.

They placed it on a cart, along with a special gift of golden mice and golden hemorrhoids sent as trespass offerings to acknowledge the hand of God in their troubles. But to prove to themselves their plagues really were acts of God and not just coincidental, they found two cows that had never been yoked, hitched them to the cart, and sent them away leaving their calves at home. These cows, against their maternal instincts, and without human direction, walked away from those calves and pulled that cart toward the cities of Israel. They were being directed by the guiding hand of God. They went obediently, but “lowing as they went.”

 “Lowing as They Went”
The lowing represented their struggle at leaving their calves behind. This seems to describe certain phases of our own walk with God. There are times when obedience requires sacrifice and suffering. We obey and “pull the cart,” but “lowing” as we go. Lowing carries the idea of a deep sustained groan, and even has a note of sadness. It is a good picture of the internal struggle we often have to deal with when God is leading us to do something we would prefer not to do, something which may involve saying “no” to self.
In offering our services to God, we would love to “pull the golden chariot” and experience the glamor of riding in the glorious procession with everyone watching and appreciating our wonderful service and great work. But instead, we sometimes end up “pulling the cart,” which may contain golden mice and golden hemorrhoids. The cart represents a more humble place and one of potential suffering; and the only glory involved may be the ark of God’s presence that may be hidden from those who observe us as we pull the cart. The celebrity is with the chariot. The servant is with the cart. The one in the chariot is in the spotlight. The one with the cart is a spectacle. In the chariot you want people to see you. With the cart, you may be humiliated and prefer to be unnoticed.

 “The Seat…or the Cup?”
James and John asked for a “seat”, but Jesus offered them a “cup.” The seat represented position and honor; the cup represented suffering for Jesus’ sake. We want the glory of the “seat” (the position, the recognition), while Jesus may be handing us the “cup” of suffering for the testimony of Jesus, for the word of God, and sometimes for simply doing the right and godly thing. 
Often our initial motivation in offering ourselves to God’s service is to meet some inner, personal need for self-fulfillment. We think we are going to “pull a beautiful cart” that will make us look good, bring us recognition, and be full of beautiful contents. But God wants His purpose and His pleasure to take precedence over our need for fulfillment. The essence of godly service is not honor and preeminence but rather the life laid down. The Lord desires to mature us so that we are truly HIS servants, with a pure heart to please Him, do His will, and serve His kingdom purpose, rather than simply seeking self-fulfillment.

 “Suffering and Glory”
As His servants, we are willing to drive the chariot or pull the cart. We are willing to stand in the spotlight or sit in obscurity. We may receive the accolades of man, or we may see others get credit for our work. The attention we get may be the attention we don’t want.  Paul said that he and his fellow workers were put on display to be mocked and humiliated by the world.  In another place Paul was referred to as a “pestilent fellow” by those who rejected his message. He was offered up for God’s people. He was not celebrated as a celebrity but was cast into prison as a trouble-maker.

But in the midst of all this he experienced the glory of God. Many times Jesus appeared and spoke to him directly. He also spoke of visions and revelations of the Lord’s presence and of a visit to the third heaven. His life was definitely marked by the intensity that accompanies a genuine resolve to know and serve the Lord. Maybe we often do not experience the glory because we lack the boldness that brings both God’s power and conflict.

“They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on your right hand and the other on Your left hand, in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “…Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him “We are able.” So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized. But to sit on My right hand and on My left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” Mark 10: 37-40

Sunday, November 1, 2015

WAITING FOR GOD TO JUDGE

This particular article is an excerpt from a series of teachings on "Facing Conflict." Other chapters deal with mercy and forgiveness, which are a necessary accompaniment to this post and help the believer walk in faith, a balanced approach, and with godly attitudes during relational difficulties. While the believer must forgive and return good for evil, he still needs to be aware of the lessons taught in the following paragraphs--- that God is the Righteous Judge.      -Billy Long

God is the Righteous Judge.
Christians often have difficulty with the fact that God seems to delay in punishing those who hurt and offend us. We are glad for Him to be patient and merciful with us, but want Him to be severe and quick in rebuking others. We often refuse to forgive offenses because we feel God is too slow in administering justice. We fail to really believe He is the Righteous Judge. We think God is allowing us to suffer while our oppressors get away with impunity. But the scripture is clear— God deals with people in His own way and in His own time. Jesus was patient in His suffering because He committed Himself to the Father who judges righteously.

When we fail to recognize this, we fall prey to anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. When we really understand that God is the righteous judge, we leave room for God to deal with those who have offended us. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Romans 12: 19. We might add that He will repay when He is ready and in His time.

 God is Not Unjust Toward His Children.
Job, Jeremiah, and David felt, for a moment, that God was treating them harshly while allowing the wicked to prosper or be at ease. Elihu told Job, “…justice is before Him, and you must wait for Him. And now, because He has not punished in His anger, nor taken notice of folly, therefore, you open your mouth in vain and multiply words without knowledge.” (paraphrase of Job 35: 14-16).
Job was complaining because it appeared that God was allowing him to suffer while ignoring the foolishness and sin of others.  It can be frustrating to experience suffering while it seems the disobedient and foolish are given a “free pass” to ignore God with impunity.
Jeremiah prayed, “Lord, don’t let me die while you are being longsuffering and patient with those who oppress me.” (Jer 15: 15).  
In similar fashion David prayed, “Behold…the ungodly are at ease…but I have been… chastened every morning.(Psalm 73: 12-14).  David complained because the wicked seemed to prosper and go unpunished while he, as God’s servant, was chastised every day, and in the morning before he even had a chance to do anything bad. However, he gained understanding when he went into the Lord’s presence. There he saw the goodness, wisdom, and love of God over his life. He also saw the precariousness of the wicked who are deceptively “at ease” and unaware of their impending and inevitable judgment unless they repent. He therefore tells us not to envy the wicked who prosper. God will deal with them.

 We Must Wait for God to Judge in His Own Time.   
“When  I choose the proper time, I will judge.” Psalm 75:2
God sends judgment according to His timing after necessary processes are complete. During the interim waiting period, the innocent victim must cleanse his heart of bitterness and unforgiveness and wait patiently for God to act. He must not mistake God’s silence as absence or lack of interest. Evil men will give account to God.
“These things you have done, and I kept silent; You thought I was altogether like you; But I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.” Psalm 50:21.

Let Wheat and Tares Grow until Harvest
Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a field where an enemy sowed tares among the wheat. When the servants saw the tares they asked their master if he wanted them to gather up the tares. He replied, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will … gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” Matthew 13: 29-30

Harvest represents ripening and/or things "coming to a head." One of the weaknesses of human nature is its inability to wait on God. This is especially true in our attitude regarding people we think are deserving of punishment or correction. We must be careful how we remove “tares.” Church leadership especially needs to be spiritual, compassionate, and wise in matters of church discipline so that it does not act in an immature and unspiritual way in dealing with offenses and sin in the congregation.  To judge prematurely and recklessly is to risk pulling up wheat with the tares. Satan sows the tares in order to destroy. We must be careful not to help him by our impulsive, immature, and unwise reactions.

It takes courage to correct one another and deal with sin in the body of Christ. But it also takes wisdom, love, and maturity for it to be done properly.

Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for failing to pass judgment and deal with sexual immorality in the church (1 Cor 5), but also exhorted them to forgive and comfort the repentant one lest he be swallowed up with too much sorrow (2 Cor 2). Jesus commended the church at Ephesus for being diligent to test and judge false prophets, but also corrected them because in their zeal to judge they had left their first love (Rev 2:2-4). The church must not indulge and overlook sin, but it must also love and comfort those who repent and seek help. Peter’s exhortation speaks of God’s love and God’s call for obedience.
The Lord…is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 1 Peter 3: 9. Repentance is necessary to avoid perishing.

 Wishing the Fire Were Already Kindled
“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled.” Luke 12: 49. Jesus was aware of the iniquity and sin about Him. He knew judgment was inevitable and necessary. In sighing and crying over the abominations about us (Ezekiel 9:4), we often wish God would “kindle the fire” and deal with the rebellion of man quickly.  But like Jesus, we know judgment will come in the proper time. To accomplish the righteousness and purpose of our Heavenly Father, judgment must come in God's way, in God's time, and in the Spirit of God.

When God Arises
When God arises, issues are no longer left to the opinions of individuals. God judges and sentences based on the reality of where people and things actually are in His eyes. 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 proper and just 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 builder and the building.

When things become muddy, cloudy, and confused, when the enemy is entrenched and embedded in the fabric and seems invulnerable to attempts at being dislodged, when the tares and the wheat grow together and you dare not attempt in the flesh 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". The Day of the Lord brings a ripening for harvest---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.             

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Mrs Parker's Electric Paddle

We Knew It Was For Our Good
When I was a kid there was discipline and order in the classroom. Teachers could actually teach, and kids could actually learn. We had a healthy fear of punishment, and we knew it would certainly come if we deserved it.  All of us kids instinctively knew it was not abuse, but a justified response to misbehavior and rebellion, or an attempt to prevent us from doing things that were dangerous or harmful. We knew our parents and teachers (generally speaking) loved us and were trying to educate us and train us to be mature and responsible.
Mrs. Parker's Electric Paddle
In my third year of elementary school, we moved from the old, white, wooden schoolhouse into a new brick facility.  When I stepped off the bus onto the new school grounds, the word was going around that our principal, Mrs. Parker, had an electric paddle installed in her new modern office. None of us wanted to face that mysterious and unknown instrument. Whenever one of the boys was sent to the principal’s office to be disciplined, the rest of us would be waiting for him when he came out. “Did Mrs. Parker use the electric paddle on you?” we would ask. The response was always the same, “No. She used the regular old wooden paddle.” The fellows actually seemed relieved to have experienced only the everyday wooden one. However, Sonny Bellamy claimed to have seen the electric paddle on the office wall. Looking back as an adult years later he realized what he saw was only the building's electrical system's breaker box. There was no electric paddle. But the threat of it kept a few young men on their best behavior.

We had the Cedar Switch And We Were the Least Violent.
One thing that annoys me in our contemporary American culture is the way political agenda and political correctness are over-riding and over-ruling science and common sense. One example of political agenda over-ruling fact is in the arena of child discipline. Some sociologists said, “Spanking encourages violence and produces violent behavior in children.”  This statement seems ignorant of and oblivious to history and contemporary culture. My question is: “If that is the case, can you then explain to me why my generation that grew up during the 50s and my parent’s generation before me who grew up with the cedar switch at home and the wood paddle in the principal’s office at school were the least violent, while the generation that has grown up without corporeal punishment, especially over the last 30 years, actually is the most violent?”  The least violent generation were the ones who knew going to the principal’s office could mean a spanking. Classrooms were orderly and teachers could actually teach. By contrast, there are too many children in our current generation who have grown up in a permissive atmosphere with no fear of real punishment and with little respect for elders, parents, or teachers. When there are no real consequence for bad behavior, human nature in youth becomes arrogant, disrespectful, insolent, and potentially uncontrollable. The generation without proper discipline will lack self-control and will be the most violent.
So Now We Call the Police!
As a consequence, schools are now calling police to deal with kids over simple issues that in my generation would have been solved quickly and without fanfare by sending the child to the principal’s office for a spanking. “Bullying” is now a hot topic. The TV is full of psychological rationalizations and discussions about how to deal with it. Back in the old days, either the parent or the principal would discipline the kid, and that would be the end of the matter.  

A Bigger Problem
The real issue is broader than the need for discipline. It involves the character and integrity of people in our society. For a healthy generation the rod of discipline is an instrument of love used to train children and help them learn self-control by providing consequences for misbehavior. Parents should train children based on what is best for the child. The child should not receive the discipline because the parent is angry, but rather because the child needs to learn obedience, understand the seriousness of his disobedience, and gain self-control and maturity of character.
By contrast, a self-absorbed generation of parents without knowledge of biblical values have followed Dr Spock instead of the Bible. They have employed permissiveness instead of discipline, and bribery instead of the rod.
As a result they now live in frustration with unruly children who think they are the center of the universe, children who curse and use foul language at their parents, who kick and scream throwing temper tantrums in public because it got them their way at home. In this atmosphere parents are more prone to child abuse. The real problem is the absence of good parenting. Bad parenting and an epidemic of unruly and untrained children are symptoms of a society unraveling, a problem larger than the issue of discipline itself. The issue comes back to a culture that has laid aside God and Biblical values.

Blessed are the People Whose God is the Lord
Complacency is defined as the self-satisfaction accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers. Our society (at least those in charge of government, education, and media) laid God and the Bible aside, without thought of the real consequences. The “chickens” now are literally “coming home to roost.” The apostle Paul says that in the fierce society of the last days children will be “disobedient to parents” (see full list in 2 Timothy 3:1-5). He was referring to a prevalent mindset and tolerated practice. The prophet Malachi said, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”(Malachi 4: 5-6). These words tell us that the breakdown of the home and family is one of the marks of a society ripe for judgment…unless it turns to the Lord. Our only hope is for multitudes to give their lives to Jesus Christ so that His grace and blessings will once again fall upon us as a nation. Otherwise, we will one day wake from our complacency to find the “warning tremors” have turned into a major “earthquake.” In the Lord we can experience the joys God intended for family. The Psalmist said, "Your children shall be like olive plants all around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord."  Psalm 128:4.
“…that our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as pillars, sculptured in palace style; that our barns may be full, supplying all kinds of produce; that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; that our oxen may be well laden; that there be no breaking in or going out; that there be no outcry in our streets. Happy are the people who are in such a state; Happy are the people whose God is the Lord.”  Psalm 144:12-15

 

 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thanks For Visiting My Blog

I see I have many visitors from South Korea. Thanks for reading my blog. If these articles have been helpful to you, please consider sending me an email and introducing yourself.  My address is  blong8@sccoast.net

Thank you,
God bless you,
Billy Long

Sunday, May 24, 2015

USING BAD EXAMPLES AS EXCUSE TO AVOID THE GOOD

“If a cat sits on a hot stove, he will never sit on a hot stove again. But by the same token, he will never sit on a cold one either.” –Mark Twain
 
We fail to see the beauty and good purpose of a thing when blinded by prejudice, bias, and misinformation. Bad experiences often cause us to avoid even the good ones. Therefore, I am reaching out to those who have never done a biblical study of the Holy Spirit’s work and to those who have been “turned-off” by bad examples. I would encourage the reader to take another look at the subject from a biblical perspective rather than taking cues from negative experiences that often hinder our ability to see the pattern and examples given us by the first Christians in the book of Acts.
To remove common misconceptions we should look at the many clear and obvious Biblical examples of the Holy Spirit at work. When we stand before God, we will not be able to use other people’s actions as excuse for our inaction. The Lord will say, “You had My word, an historical example, describing how I moved and worked in and through My Church . Where was your hunger to experience My Presence?” –

DONT BE STUMBLED BY BAD EXAMPLES
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.
I could write a book listing the miracles I have witnessed and the ones I have been a part of. Reading it you would be pressed to believe in God and His desire to work intimately in the lives of people. But then I could also write another book about the times I was in “the deep” about to be swallowed up and close to losing everything. Reading this list of my failures and struggles, you might then say, “Where is your God?” We don’t have all the answers. We don’t always do everything right. We make mistakes, we stumble, but because of our hunger to know God and His intimate presence, we step out in faith, trust Him to teach us, and press on to grow in the things of the Spirit.
I could tell you of friends being healed through prayer and also of others dying in spite of it. I have friends who have experienced miraculous healings and friends who have been raised from the dead. Some have received immediate response to prayer, and others have suffered what seems an interminable wait as they call on the Lord daily for healing, help, or an “open door.” My experiences, however, do not change the truth. My success or failure does not change the reality of God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit. It is arrogant to think that something is not real if I have not done it or seen it. One man boasted that miracles were not real today because not one miracle had ever occurred in any church in his denomination. That statement is no basis for a theology denying miracles. It is, however, an indictment against his denomination.
The New Testament church knew both the reality of a Sovereign God and the reality of human weakness. They were not afraid of God’s presence, and they were not daunted by human weakness and propensity toward mistakes. The first apostles did not prohibit the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit when they saw abuses and misuses, but rather they provided instruction and wisdom. They did not quench or despise the working of the Holy Spirit, but rather proved all things and held fast the good.”

"IF YOU AVOID ALL EGGS YOU NEVER EAT A ROTTEN ONE...OR A GOOD ONE.
We should not use “bad apples” as an excuse to avoid all “apples.” Grocery stores and trees are full of good apples, and it is extremely rare to find a bad one. When I was a kid I found a worm in a peach taken from a tree in our yard, but it did not stop me from eating peaches. I found a rotten egg once when I was a child. It stank worse than anything I had ever smelled before or since. But I knew that it was an exception to the norm. Eggs are good, and so I continue to enjoy them as a part of my usual breakfast menu. I did not let one bad egg cause me to henceforth approach all eggs cautiously as if they might be rotten.
If you were to visit a church where people were swinging from the chandeliers or behaving strangely, would you then reject emotions and joy in your spiritual walk? Would you say, “These people are crazy,” and use this as an excuse to avoid any search for God? Or would you search for the reasonable Biblical pattern for worship and the healthy expression of joy and emotions? Would you read the Bible to find out what it really says or just assume that the “apple” or “egg” you found represented the norm for all “apples” and “eggs?”
The things that people usually fear in spiritual experience are not the true Biblical patterns, but rather the unreal “phantoms” they have created in their own minds as a result of prejudiced propaganda or experiences with bad examples which most likely were exaggerations or soulish aberrations of the true biblical model. For example, I have seen and heard some preachers that caused me to flinch, but the greatest portion of my experience is with the many stable, sincere, and gifted men of God who serve the Lord faithfully and wisely. The preachers we see portrayed on the typical TV show and in the movies are usually parodies or burlesque exaggerations of the real thing. Anyone investigating a spiritual truth or experience should go to the Bible first and see what is actually described there, rather than skipping the Biblical model and arguing against the distorted, the false, or the counterfeit they may have encountered. Our hunger to know God should cause us to wade past the stumbling blocks, go to His word, call out to Him, and search for the real thing.

THE SUPERNATURAL PRESENCE OF GOD IS A GOOD THING
This principal is especially true in the matter of the supernatural manifestation of God’s presence among His people. The problem is that people tend to approach the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit from an initial negative perspective. Rather than welcoming the potential of God’s wonderful presence supernaturally at work among us, they begin with a negative disposition seeing the working of the Holy Spirit as a necessary evil, as something from which to protect themselves. Their first response is not to hunger for the amazing, positive possibilities, but rather to assume a defensive posture with their primary focus on avoiding the abuses. They are so worried about the “bathwater” they don’t see the baby. The result is avoidance, severe regulation, or prohibition. We should not fear the presence of God. Jesus, in referring to the Holy Spirit, said, "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Lu 11: 11-13). To always expect the "scorpion" rather than the "egg" is an expression of unbelief and is a lack of confidence in God's goodness and in His ability to manage His church.

TAKE THE RISKS
This tendency to approach God's presence negatively with fear causes churches and Christians to remain in “safe” waters where the boat will not be rocked and where there is no need for discernment and risk taking. We don’t have to worry about the “bathwater” problem if we don’t have the “baby” among us. We don’t have to worry about “cleaning the stall” if we don’t have an “ox” in the barn. We don’t have to worry about a “rotten egg” if we just avoid all eggs. This fear causes us to miss out on the adventures of life. It keeps us from launching out into the deep and witnessing the supernatural presence of God at work.
The point here is that the church should not be ruled by the fear of misuse and abuse of spiritual things. The church should be secure and discerning enough to move out courageously and in faith into the wonderful area of God’s presence at work among us, not fearing the awkwardness and stumbles that are often necessary in the growth and learning process. We see this principal in the example of how Jesus trained the twelve disciples. He knew the mistakes they would make, but He did not “roll His eyes” and withdraw, but instead, He “rolled up his sleeves” and moved on with the full training program.
We should follow His example.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast that which is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-21.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


FRAGRANCE
My mom wanted me to drive her to the store to do some shopping. So I splashed some cologne on my face and went on ahead of her to the car and took my seat. She soon came out of the house and sat in the front seat on the passenger’s side and immediately began sniffing the air. I watched as she leaned forward and started checking the bottoms of her shoes. Turning to me she said, “Billy, check the bottom of your feet and see if you stepped in any dog poop before you got into this car.” I went through the motions of checking my shoes, but I knew it was the cologne. I never used that particular brand again.

Smells range from pleasing fragrance to repulsive odor. The sense of smell can strengthen our romantic attraction to someone we love or wonderfully enhance the pleasantness of a room. The sense of smell is vital to our enjoyment of good food, but also senses decay and corruption and warns us to discard that which is unfit for consumption. A bad smell can be repulsive to the point of producing nausea. The stench of a rotten egg or a dead rat hidden somewhere in your house is almost unbearable to human nostrils.

Fragrance or odor can indicate if you are clean or need a bath. My Uncle Thomas once said, “By the time you smell yourself, everyone else has been smelling you for three or four days.” The smell of your clothes tells people if you are a smoker, reveals where you’ve been— if you’ve come from a camp fire, a seafood restaurant, a friend’s musky house, or a smoke-filled bar. Dogs can detect the presence of poisonous snakes by the sense of smell.

The sense of smell can be vivid and strong and have deep effects upon us. I remember smelling the sweet odor of jasmine in bloom when I was a child walking barefoot along the dirt road behind our home. The smell of gardenias still transports me in memory to some of my earliest childhood visits to my Grandpa Willie Long’s house and to Aunt Maggie’s house next door. I remember Grandpa Tharon’s old spice, and the very intense and wonderful root beer smell that filled the air in Aunt Ida’s house when she boiled the sassafras roots I dug up for her.

The reality of fragrance and our ability to smell are more proofs of God’s existence. He is the first and greatest artist. The beauty we see in nature was first in the mind of God. He painted the flowers and gave them their perfume. The numerous fragrances that fill the air along with brilliant floral colors bring pleasure to our walk through a nature park profuse with flowers, but they cannot compare to that which awaits us in the age to come. The beauty of heaven’s paradise with its wonderful fragrances and sights are incomprehensible to the natural mind and are beyond our human language’s ability to describe. God has reserved some wonderful things that we will not experience until we stand in His presence in eternity. There is a God and there is a paradise, an Eden, a new heaven and a new earth for us to enjoy for eternity.

The Apostle Paul was given a glimpse and said he was not allowed to tell us what he saw, and even with permission would still be unable to express it. What we see, hear, smell, and taste in this life is only a glimpse of the panorama and glory to come. This life is only a very brief beginning.
I close with words from the old hymn that was inspired by Psalm 45:8.
My Lord has garments so wondrous fine.
And Myrrh their texture fills.
It's fragrance reached to this heart of mine,
With joy my being thrills.

 
 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Below is a series of short articles I posted on facebook, and decided to post here for visitors to read. You can scroll down below to read them. They are on the following subjects: 

Elements That Make Democracy Work
Brokenness
Facing Persecution
Pouring Your Heart Out Before the Lord
Advice to the Girl (Woman) Looking for a Good Man.

---Billy Long


ELEMENTS THAT MAKE DEMOCRACY WORK
Plato and other Greek philosophers believed that democracy is a bad form of government because it eventually degenerates to the lowest common denominator, resulting in a society governed by the rule of the uneducated, uninformed, morally weak, and self-indulgent masses. We see these trends today. People move from freedom to license and chaos that ultimately bring society under the tyranny of excessive government control and dictatorial rule. 
Plato and the philosophers were right in that democracy is a bad form of government— UNLESS it is held together by the following necessary ingredients that work to make it the best form of government, creating the most freedom and prosperity. .
A Democracy can only be sustained where the following elements exist.
1) a healthy self-restraint produced by moral character in the people. In our nation Judeo-Christian (Biblical) values produced this self-restraint that is necessary for a free and healthy democratic society.
(2) a strong and well-informed middle-class. A strong middle-class is necessary for the sustained existence of a democracy because it prevents the animosity and class warfare that fall on a people governed by either the very rich or the very poor. An informed public with moral fiber is least likely to be manipulated by propaganda and demagoguery.
(3) the authority of a governing document such as our constitution designed to keep the power of the government in check and protect the people from the arbitrary rule of men who would otherwise seek power and rule according to their own will. The constitution holds rulers in check by setting boundaries around their powers. It is sad that too many of our citizens do not realize the importance of our constitution nor the dangers (to our freedom) that will oppress us if we violate and trample this document.
We as a people should be aware that the violation and neglect of these three principles will erode and undermine our freedom, our peace, and our prosperity. Our nation has lived in the fruit of these values and is now in the process of weakening these very pillars that have made us great. We are already beginning to taste in small measure the painful consequences we will inevitably experience in full measure if we continue on this path.
Our hope is in God. Genuine Christians need to call upon the Lord and pray that multitudes will come to Christ.
“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
BROKENNESS
Psalm 51:17 “A broken and a contrite heart, Oh God, You will not despise.”
Brokenness is a subject that requires revelation to see the reality and depth of what is being discussed. It is a topic for which most people will only see the tip of the iceberg while the main body and substance will remain hidden. Therefore, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” --B L
The essence of brokenness is surrender and humility. It speaks of how we respond to God and to his leading and discipline in our lives.
Brokenness refers to a contriteness that is willing to die to self and its desires. The absence of brokenness is characterized by a stubborn and self-centered struggle to resist change, correction, and God’s rule. Our unbroken human nature can be compared to the wild horse that is unwilling to submit to the rider and the bridle. The spirit of rebellion is basically the desire to cast off the yoke of God’s rule, to go its own way, and to satisfy its own desires. Much stress and distress comes from holding to self and its interest and from the refusal to surrender, and “give up” before the Lord.
A broken person will surrender and allow God to take him in hand. He responds properly to God's dealings. Surrender means that a person has yielded to God's hand, God's will, and God's discipline in his life. He has become tractable and capable of being led, taught, and managed in the same way a horse is broken and no longer wild. Humility refers to the crushing of independent, rebellious self. It is a person's recognizing his own inability apart from God. Brokenness deals with independence, resistance, stubbornness, pride, arrogance, self-dependence, and the need for self-vindication. When a person is broken, he casts himself upon God and is freed from the need to prove a point, vindicate himself, or get his own way. He has learned the way of the cross. He has learned that, unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.
Brokenness affects our relationship with God and with others. It helps prevent conflict in some cases. Much conflict is protracted and drags on and on because of the failure of a person to simply “give up.” Much of our stress and distress would evaporate or resolve itself if we only knew how to take a deep breath, and simply “give up” and quit fighting in the flesh. An unbroken person will fight by means of his lower nature rather than using the spiritual weapons that are at hand but hidden.
Brokenness means that a person has humbled himself before God, confessed and repented of his sin. He walks in a meekness that trusts God to defend, to uphold the right and to judge the wrong. He walks in godly character and in God's ways to accomplish God's will during times of difficulty, affliction, stress, and injustice. Brokenness requires faith in the Sovereign God and a heart that has gone the way of the cross.

FACING PERSECUTION
Since the founding of America we have had the unique experience of living in a society that has enjoyed the fruit of the Judeo-Christian world-view, ethics, and values. This context has made it relatively comfortable for Christians. For the most part we have not been seriously persecuted.
This, however, has been changing over the last few decades, and the trend seems to be intensifying.
While Christians have been reluctant to face the battle out in the world, we need to be aware that the battle may now come to us. The spiritual forces that hate God and His word will also hate Christians. But to be more specific, they may claim to love God, but just hate Jesus Christ, and those who follow Him. That's why the Bible calls the end time "man of sin" the anti-Christ." As the western world tends to unite under some all-inclusive religious unity devoid of Christ, it will begin more and more to attack Christians personally and legally through the laws of the land, and thus attempt to silence the testimony of Christian who would share the good news of Jesus Christ and His Word.
We are in a spiritual battle. And Christians who have tended to retreat into the four walls of the church need to be aware that the world-system will attempt to make those four walls our prison in an effort to keep the message hidden away from the real world and the issues of the day.
Christians have tended to hide within the four walls of the church, but the truth is we cannot avoid the spiritual warfare that affects all of us in the real areas of life we face everyday. We will not be able to hide in church. The battle will come to us anyway, and at some point in time the only way to avoid it will be to deny the Lord either in word or actions, or to hide in one of the so-called Christian, religious institutions that will compromise and deny their very foundation in Christ and the truth of the Bible.
We, as followers of Christ, need to take our stand with the Apostle Paul who said, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation." Also he said, "It is given to you in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on His name but also to suffer for His sake."
POUR OUT YOUR HEART BEFORE THE LORD.
“…always laboring fervently for you in prayers…” Colossians 4: 12
There was a prayer chapel on the first floor of the men’s dorm at the college I attended. It was a small, carpeted room with an altar up front. I would often go there at night to pray. The fellows who went in there to pray usually left the lights off and sat in the soft light that passed through the stained glass in the door. I would sit on the wooden pews or kneel, but often I would lie on the floor.
It was there, during my freshman year of college, that I discovered a deeper level of intercessory prayer. I would begin to weep before the Lord, sometimes vehemently, as I cried to Him in behalf of various family members and other areas of concern. During these intense times of prayer, I was not able to speak much or say anything, but could only cry before the Lord.

I described this to one of my professors, and his explanation made a deep impact upon me. “During those times,” he said, “the Holy Spirit is working through you and leading you into a deeper level of intercession. Much is being accomplished through those prayers.” He then quoted the Apostle Paul who said, “…the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8: 26).
I learned that prayer is not just an exercise of the mind, but also an exercise of my spirit working together with the Holy Spirit, and sometimes it involves travail.
Prayer should include praise and thanksgiving; and It is often a time of joy and sometimes quietness, but these verses show us that there is also a place for passion and intensity. This does not speak of an emotional ritual, but rather a reflection of the genuine burden we have for those people and situations for which we pray.
“Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.” Hebrews 5: 7
“And being in agony He prayed more earnestly…” Luke 22: 44
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers…” Colossians 4 12
“Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
“Arise, cry out in the night…pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift up your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.” Lamentations 2:19

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ADVICE TO THE GIRL (WOMAN) LOOKING FOR A GOOD MAN

DON'T "SELL YOURSELF CHEAP."
If you sell yourself cheap you will not be treated as valuable. Men subconsciously believe the old saying: “You get what you pay for.” If it costs nothing it must be worth little. The average fellow who has not committed himself to biblical morality will usually fall into the lifestyle governed by the crude maxim, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk free.” So don’t sell yourself cheap. Be the priceless treasure you are. Make some guy pay the price for you to be his. A man who is rich in character and integrity will be lavish in his love and commitment to a woman of virtue.
But a man who “buys” what is sold cheap is himself impoverished of character. If you sell yourself cheap, you will attract only the stingy, self-centered, selfish, and immature “buyer.” There was a country music song entitled “I like my women a little on the trashy side.” It is interesting that he said “women” —and not “wife.” The song sends the subconscious message that the promiscuous man is looking for promiscuous women, but his tune changes when he decides he wants a good wife. He then switches to the old Charlie Rich hit, which describes the lady who reserves her sexuality for the sanctity of the marriage bed “behind closed doors” rather than flaunted in public.
VULNERABILITY ATTRACTS PREDATORS.
The lion chases the weakest antelope, or the young one straggling at the rear. Predators sense weakness, and human predators sense weakness of character in their prey. So it is important to develop strength of character. Grow in maturity and wisdom. Put away the childish teen attitude that looks for the “cool” guy. Everywhere I look I see young girls hanging out with boys or men who will probably make a good one-night stand or a short-term romance, but who in the long-run will leave the girl alone carrying the baggage and weight of the load he irresponsibly leaves behind. Don’t look for the fellow who is following the herd in all the latest looks and attitudes. Find a man who is pursuing a mature future, who will have a job, be able to provide, who can handle responsibility, and be faithful to one woman as long as he lives. Don't waste your time with the wrong kind of man. Build a relationship with a person who will be faithful to you and your children for life. “Mr. Cool” is fun for today, but he does not hang around for the long term. Even if he did hang around, you’d find yourself wanting to throw him out.
LIKE ATTRACTS LIKE.
If you live “in the gutter” you will not attract a mate who “soars in the clouds.” People unconsciously gravitate to people who are at the same level as themselves. They identify with and develop relationships with people who are of the same character, spirituality, and lifestyle. If you want a godly husband, you need to be a godly woman (and vice versa).
SEX OUTSIDE OF COVENANT SHORT-CIRCUITS RELATIONAL INTIMACY.
If you really want to be intimate, then don’t be intimate with a man who has not committed himself to you in the marriage covenant. Real intimacy involves heart to heart communication, personal relationship, and friendship in which a couple really gets to know each other. When a woman’s first approach is to give sex to the man, his focus and interest will remain there. He will not be interested in spending the time and energy to know the real person, to be truly intimate at the soul level.
A girl is deceived when she thinks she will catch a good life-time husband by advertising sex and using it as a lure. The man will settle for the sex and seek it out, but fail to press into friendship and really getting to know her. Men are not generally good at communication anyway, and when they are treated to sex outside of marriage, they lose their incentive to communicate at a deeper level.
When he wants to have sex, she feels “used” rather than loved.
DON'T SELL YOUR BIRTHRIGHT FOR A BOWL OF STEW.
Esau sold his birthright for a “mess of pottage.” He was tired and wanted food. He exchanged what would have been a great treasure and long-term blessing for some temporary relief. He traded his birthright for the pleasure of that which tempted him for the moment. He later regretted it when it was too late. Think of your future spouse as your “birthright,” something worth waiting for, something wonderful that God will give you. The pleasures of promiscuity and an immoral lifestyle are like the pot of stew. It is pleasurable for the moment, but will leave you empty and alone tomorrow.
FINAL THOUGHTS
Find a man who loves the Lord and who has a job or at least a clear plan for his future.
Be the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 and trust God to help you to meet the right person in God’s time.
if you think Jesus is asking too much of you now, just wait until the devil comes to collect later. The devil offers his pleasures up front and deceives you into thinking it is easy and free. He gives you a “pot of stew” now and helps you feel better for a moment, but then steals your birthright and leaves you destitute and suffering.
The Lord asks you to do the right thing now, knowing that His blessings and rewards follow the faith and obedience.
Trust the knowledge, wisdom, timing, and love of God. He is right, upright, and good.