Sunday, December 22, 2013

LEADERS NEED LISTENING SKILLS

The failure to listen when someone comes with a problem or complaint.
Discipline yourself to listen.  Prov. 18:13

Do not interrupt the person before he has finished.  Let him share all that is in his heart.  People, need to "drain" themselves of what's on their mind and in their heart.  If you interrupt him before he finishes communicating his ideas, his mind will still be on his own issues and he will not hear or be able to listen to you.

It is easy to formulate answers before you listen to the question or the complaint. But even if you have revelation, even if you already understand, it is still important not to interrupt before the person has spoken all he needs to say.
             
To speak before a person has finished is to risk being guilty of presumption, error, misjudgment and condemnation.

Usually people do not go directly or immediately to the heart of the matter. They start at the periphery and work their way the root issue. Therefore, if you answer too quickly, you are only dealing with peripheral aspects of the issue.
           
People become very frustrated if they feel you have not heard them or if you have not given them opportunity to share their heart.

When a leader speaks too quickly and forms a judgment without listening adequately, the person approaching him may become intimidated and close up.  He will become frustrated and withdraw feeling that he cannot talk.  The person may "drop the charges" but leave confused, questioning his own discernment, questioning what is reality--but still with an inner sense that things are not really resolved.

Pastors should listen because the person may have a valid criticism.

 A Pastor should develop the ability to make people feel comfortable and free to communicate.  Learn to help people open up and share their heart.

Be quick to hear, slow to speak.  Do not let your first response be to defend yourself or to attack the other.

After the person has said everything he has to say, then a leader should evaluate and make a response.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE
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?”

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.”

I have experienced the church in its glory as the people of God abounded in their love for one another with the presence of God among them so real it was like heaven itself. Then on the other hand, I have seen church people bite and devour one another and leave the brothers and sisters bleeding in their wake. All of us have seen people of God who truly represent godliness and right living, but we also know of those who have stumbled through sin and hypocrisy. We have seen the church demonstrating the wisdom of God, and then watched as she behaved in an embarrassingly foolish manner.

Christians gasp in shock at these anomalies, and the world uses these inconsistencies as an excuse to deny God and to mock the church. We should not be too surprised. The New Testament writers address these very issues. None of this was foreign to the early Christians. They knew both the reality of a Sovereign God and the reality of human weakness. The high priest in Zechariah chapter 3 stood before the Lord clothed in filthy garments (representing the sin and failure of God’s people whom he represented). The enemy was there to accuse them. But God shut the mouth of the accuser by saying, “I have chosen them, and that settles it.” God is Sovereign and He has chosen us. This should give each of us hope. Remember the words of the old hymn: “I hear my Savior say, ‘Thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness, watch and pray. Find in me thine all in all.’ ”

It is easy to be critical, but we need to guard our attitude towards the church. She is the apple of God’s eye. And even with her faults, God loves her and will one day present her to Himself as a bride without spot or wrinkle, a people upon whom His glory rests. We should not use her faults as an excuse for our own disobedience, but rather as an inspiration to “labor fervently in our prayers that she may stand fast, perfect and complete in all the will of God." (Colossians 4:12).

We should recognize the realities and problems, but intercede and pray with a heart for God’s plan for the church rather than “pointing the finger” with a judgmental and condemning spirit. The apostle Paul said, “Who are you to judge another man’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Yes, he shall be held up: for God is able to make him stand.”

The purpose of God will be accomplished not because we are worthy, but because HE is worthy. Instead of falling back because of our failures, we should rejoice that Almighty God will complete His plan for His people, and will bring forth His kingdom on earth. Not one jot or tittle shall fail of what He has said regarding the church. If Jesus, while hanging on the cross and facing the agony of death could in that hour say, “It is finished.” (i.e., all things are accomplished and the scripture is fulfilled here today. John 19:25-30), how much more, in the face of our weaknesses and failures, from His position at the right hand of the Father in heaven will He not be able to accomplish His plan and purpose. The eternal purpose of God was accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Its outworking and realization will be fulfilled because He is God.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What's Happening?

“What’s happening?” 
I remember my two-year old grandson in his mother’s lap sick with a high fever and in pain. With eyes red and face wet with tears he cried out to his mom and me, “What’s happening, what’s happening?” The anguish in his little face and voice was heart-wrenching.  Overwhelmed with compassion for the child I laid my hand on his head and prayed for him. The Lord healed him almost instantly as he lay in his mother’s arms. 
His cry made such an impression on me that I have at times imitated him as I have approached God in moments of grief, pain, or perplexity. If my grandson’s cry so deeply touched my heart, I knew that my cry would also in the same way touch the mercy and compassion of our Lord.  And so, I have on occasion looked up into the face of Jesus and cried like that child, “What’s happening? What’s happening?”  
He does not always let me know what’s happening. But I know He is always there. I take comfort in God’s incomprehensible love for us His children. 

“But Zion said, The Lord has forsaken me, and my Lord has forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yes, they may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have graven you on the palms of my hands.”  Isaiah 49: 15-16.

“His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeks Him.”  Lamentations 3:23-26

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An Unusual Miracle

An Unusual Miracle

“And God worked special miracles by the hands of Paul.”  Acts 19:11

We live in a 2-story house. There is an air-conditioning unit for upstairs and one for downstairs. Last year our upstairs unit went out and had to be replaced. This was an expensive undertaking and beyond our means at the time, and we were grateful for the Lord’s merciful provision that came when we needed it.
Then this past June the downstairs unit quit working. I was at my desk upstairs when Laurel and our daughter Mary called up to me saying it was getting hot downstairs. We discovered there was no cold air coming through the vents.
We had two different Heating and Air technicians look at it. The diagnosis was that the Freon had leaked out, and that the unit needed to be replaced. That would be a huge expense. We did not have the funds to replace it. The service tech, therefore, informed us that we could get a temporary repair that would cost about $1900, but which would not have any guarantee beyond another year. We did not have the money even for the temporary fix.
So we began the summer with family and friends downstairs having to suffer and endure the heat. We were advised to run the air-conditioning upstairs, but only the fan downstairs. The fan would help circulate the air. But of course, it was circulating hot air, especially on these 90 degree summer days.
It became a regular part of our daily prayer life to ask the Lord for provision so we could get that air-conditioner fixed. Then this past weekend we experienced a miracle, an unusual miracle. Laurel went downstairs to the kitchen Monday morning and noticed that the air-conditioner was running on “fan” as usual, and the downstairs was hot, as usual.  She went back upstairs for a while and later returned downstairs to find that the air-conditioner was turned to “on” and that the house was cooling.  She made inquiry into who had turned the air-conditioner on and found that no one had touched it.  Laurel, our daughters Mary and Claire, and I were in the house, and not one of us had touched it. Now it was turned on and cooling the house better than it had before.
It was a miracle. “Someone” had fixed the air-conditioner. We had gone to bed the night before with it hot and running on “fan.” Now it was filled with Freon, turned “on,” and working better than ever and cooling the whole downstairs. We have been enjoying the cool house this week and thanking the Lord for his mercy and kindness to us in this matter. We acknowledge Him and give Him the glory. May this be to the praise of the glory of His grace.
The early Christians were accustomed to God’s intimate and miraculous presence among them. It was normal for them to witness lives changed by the power of God, healings, supernatural prophetic words, casting out demons, etc… But they also experienced what the Bible calls unusual, extraordinary, or special miracles. At Jesus’ instructions the disciples found a coin the mouth of a fish. He multiplied food. Paul shook a viper off of his hand and was unhurt. Prison doors opened for the apostles and chains fell off their hands and feet. Philip was caught away by the Holy Spirit and moved instantly from one location to another.
I heard a missionary share how he had been protected by angels sent from God to watch over him one night when he was travelling alone and followed by thieves who had planned to rob and kill him. One of them later asked him, “Who were those large, armed men who stood around your camp that night?”
There are other unusual and extraordinary miracles throughout the Bible: miracles of food, provision, protection, supernatural guidance, and healings. We also are entering unusual and difficult times in our nation. I believe we will once again need God’s active presence and help as we navigate the troubled waters in our society. As the darkness grows, so will the glory of God upon His people. These are days in which to reach out to God and expect Him to fulfill Jesus’ promises to manifest Himself, be with us, work with us, and confirm His word with signs following.


Monday, September 2, 2013

LOOK AT YOUR NOSE

LOOK AT YOUR NOSE

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” -Genesis 1:1.

Life is infinitely too complex to have come into being randomly and by itself. There are so many interdependent systems that are necessary for the existence of life on earth; and the degree of refinement, accuracy, and perfection in the coordinated performance of all these operations necessary for life are too complex to exist apart from design. They are independent yet dependent and interdependent, and their functions must be exactly precise and with perfect timing. These dynamics testify to the existence and reality of God.

I see the reality of God in many simple, subtle, and yet so obvious aspects of life that we often take for granted. For example, look at your nose. It is located in a most beneficial and practical place on your body. The nostrils point down so you don’t have to cover them to keep rain from falling into your sinuses. It is just above your mouth so that the sense of smell can work together with your sense of taste to help you enjoy your food. I can think of other more unpleasant places your nose could have been located. Your ears have their own little “satellite dishes” on the sides of your head to help capture sound. Your eyes are in recessed sockets to help protect them. They are located in the front of your head so you can see where you are going. Your feet point in the same direction as your eyes. The size of our moon, its distance from the earth, the tilt of the earth’s axis, the distance of the earth from the sun: If you change any of these in the smallest degree you will end life on earth. This is also true of the numerous systems that operate in the human body: Skeletal, circulatory, reproductive, pulmonary, muscular, neurological, etc.
Life is just too orderly to have come into being without design. Everywhere you look you see evidence of design. The necessary interacting, interdependent, and coordinated operations of the systems required for life, from biological to geological to astronomical are so exact and precise that it is impossible for life to have developed on its own by chance.

And what about sex? I could rest my case on that point, but will continue my thoughts. Male and female. In terms of species development the world could not have seen reproduction without the complete and fully developed male and female. If you could have reproduction without these, then there would have been no need for male and female. So how could this have possibly evolved---two separate systems made to be completely separate and absolutely compatible, and yet totally interdependent with neither being able to carry out the reproductive function without the other? There would have been no births, no reproduction without fully developed reproductive systems. “SOMEBODY” had to design this, and it had to begin fully functional.

This law of “irreduceable minimums” eliminates the possibility of evolution. Scientists have discovered that there is no such thing as a “simple cell” to start with. [Just get a scientist to explain the complexity of the DNA in any single cell]. I recently saw a documentary on TV in which a scientist described the complexity even in the single-celled amoeba. Too many complex, separate, yet interdependent systems have to be in operation at the same time for life to exist. If you eliminate any one of them, life would cease to exist. In other words, for life to exist, all of these systems would have to be created simultaneously.

Evolution is a very awkward and yet convenient way for people to try to avoid God. Evolution itself is foolish, but if you do away with God, evolution is about the only thing you are left with to explain how we got here. So the very concept of “evolution” is a product of intellectual “devolution,” i.e., what you arrive at by default when you reject the reality of God. A few years ago I was reading a book in which the author had recorded his conversation with a prominent evolutionist. The evolutionist told him, “We did not evolve from anything. Life is too complex to have evolved, but I prefer to believe in evolution than to believe in God.”

I prefer to believe in God. It is more comforting to believe in God, that there is a power beyond and greater than our comprehension who created us as finite beings with limited capacity to understand the created universe, and who created us with no capacity within ourselves to comprehend or grasp the infinite realities beyond our created universe, but Who also desires to introduce us to Himself and take us beyond what we see and know. As the Bible says, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love Him."

If there is no God, then we face the most depressing prospects, a meaningless procession of people heading into an eternal oblivion. But there is a God and this gives us hope for eternal life. The very issues raised in the paragraphs above echo the words of the psalmist who tells us that the heavens, the earth, and all creation testify to the glory and existence of God. This means that there is more to life than this life. This is only the beginning, not the end. To see and understand this, one must look up to the One who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Lord who brings us to the Father.

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him." -Colossians 1: 16.

"For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. -Romans 11: 36.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." -Romans 1: 20.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse of heaven His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." -Psalm 19: 1-4.


[You can go to the comment page to write a response by clicking "comments" below, or you can write me an email atblong8@sccoast.net ].

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Resurrection is Real: Otherwise, What is the Purpose? -by Lowell Peterson

Here is a very significant article for our times, written by Lowell Peterson, my good friend since college days. He is a great writer and gives us an important lesson. With so many strange "voices" in the air these days, Lowell calls us back to simply believing the Bible, that it is a true and accurate historical account of who Jesus is and what He did for us.    --Billy Long 

Do I actually believe in the literal Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Am I gullible enough to think that this itinerant preacher really defied all laws of science and common sense to come strolling out of a sealed tomb after being declared dead, following the savagely brutal execution of crucifixion and lying in grave clothes over the weekend? My God in heaven! I believe nothing else! Nothing else matters! Not my own existence, not this sad, pathetic world where confused, lost people slaughter each other for the fun of it, where children are enslaved into human trafficking, where “the best lack all conviction and the worst are full of passionate intensity"! 

 I love my friends. There are some guys I have hung around with for over 40 years, ever since our college days, who have grown more “sophisticated” with age and more cynical about theological dogma. Some have embraced the warm, fuzzy collegiality of Bishop Spong who would tell us that the more fabulous Bible stories are exactly that – something much akin to fairy tales that include an inspiring moral. The essential thing is the moral; the story is just an effective way of communicating and remembering the moral. So, in Christianity, the vitally indispensable thing is the Sermon on the Mount, the lessons Jesus gave us to motivate ethical living and loving our fellow man. All the rest of it, whoppers like a Virgin Birth, healing miracles, substitutionary atonement, literal Resurrection, all that stuff, is just a medium for telling the story. Belief in all that sideshow fluff is optional so long as you get the real gist of the tale – be a wonderful, kind, compassionate human being. 

 But then, why would this same Jesus throw in the line that, without Him, we can do nothing? Why would the predominant message of the entire Old Testament be that we fickle, vacillating, self-centered human beings aren’t capable of living out the law of doing good without the supernatural assistance of a living Savior? Why would the writer of a third of the New Testament and one of the most profoundly effective writer/preachers of all time not merely suggest but vehemently insist that, if God did not, quite literally, raise Jesus from the dead, then all else is vanity? Where is there any victory in just trying to be a decent human being against the tide of moral depravity “if we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only”? And why would St. John, the very epitome of the message of a love that conquers all, bother getting himself exiled to Patmos for the benefit of merely a pleasant story such as the one he tells in the 21st chapter of his gospel: Early in the morning, on the day after this merely metaphorical Resurrection that symbolizes the hope of inner rejuvenation, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not recognize it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved [this same John] said to Peter [who later suffered his own crucifixion in defense of such fairy tales as this], "It is the Lord!" And Peter got so overly enthused that he ripped his clothes off, plunged into the sea and swam ashore to run to an illusory image of Jesus, a mere phantom, we suppose. When the rest landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread . . . Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Come and have breakfast~! This mere ghost, this mirage of their overwrought imaginations invited them to eat a meal! This is stunning. It seems so unspiritual, so ordinary. Why didn’t Jesus say, “Hey, I’ll meet you guys at the temple. I need to pose for a stained glass window.”? Because life in Christ continues … “Jesus did not vanish into mystical spirituality, becoming one with the cosmic vibration. Jesus has a body, and it's His body. His wounds have been healed, but the scars remain—not gruesome, but lovely, a remembrance of all He did for us. His friends recognize Him. They share a bite to eat. 

This is our future as well—our lives will be healed and we shall go on, never to taste death again.” (John Eldredge) Without the promise, the hope and the certainty of the Resurrection, all else is mere ornamentation. Looks and sounds pretty, but has no power to redeem or transform a life. Only the living Jesus can do that.

Monday, August 19, 2013

ADVICE TO THE GIRL LOOKING FOR A GOOD MAN

Here is some advice to the young girl who wants to find a good man. There is a lot I could say to the men, but I'll save that for another posting.  -Billy Long

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.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

This article is a re-print of a post from the past. The message is very important and worth presenting again for those who may have missed it on my other blog.--Billy Long


"I've Worked All Day. It's Not Fair!"

"The last will be first, and the first last.” Matthew 19: 30; 20: 16.

“The apostle Peter answered and said to Him (Jesus), ‘See we have left all and followed you. Therefore what shall we have?’” Matthew 19:27.

“And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”Matthew 20: 9-15.

The first verse (Matthew 19:27) quoted above is a statement made by the apostle Peter, a devoted and obedient follower of Jesus. The second quote (Matthew 20: 9-15) describes complaining laborers who felt they were not adequately compensated. To both of these Jesus said, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.” This statement, though difficult to understand, basically expresses God’s right of ownership and decision-making over our lives as His servants.

“Hey, it’s not fair!”
The workers who worked all day complained because those who worked only the last hour were paid first and received the same amount as those who worked all day. The reverse order of payment and the equal pay for unequal work hours exposed the hearts of those who worked longest. Their grumbling was rooted in self-centeredness, wrong motives, and blindness to the heart and character of the landowner. His kindness to the late-starters was being interpreted as mistreatment of the all-day workers. This illustrates man’s tendency to despise the riches of God’s goodness when it is poured out on others. In our short-sightedness we become envious and think we are deprived.

God’s economy is not limited to this temporary, natural age. His rewards are both now and in eternity. When we in our short-sighted self-centeredness judge God’s goodness and wisdom only by what we see in time (the temporal, natural perspective) we do seriously err. Men’s hearts are exposed when they judge God by the “wage and hour” mentality. Such attitudes reflect self-centeredness, lack of spiritual perception, and blindness to Jesus Himself and to the Sovereignty of God.

“But I was being good when they were being bad!”
I had friends and acquaintances who were still rebellious teenagers when I was seeking God and preaching the gospel as a young boy in high school and throughout my college years. These men now have significant and thriving ministries while I sit in relative obscurity and in what has at times felt like relative failure. I had to deal with a subtle jealousy regarding this, but have come to the place where I genuinely rejoice in God’s blessing over the lives and ministries of these friends and acquaintances.

It is God’s prerogative to bless whom He chooses based on His wisdom and purpose. He is Sovereign ruler over the temporal affairs of man. He chooses and apportions, and we must trust Him with how He disposes and rewards. We must rejoice when God blesses others. We praise the Lord when we are “hidden in His quiver” while others are being used in the spotlight.

Peter: “Lord, what about that man?”
Jesus: “What is that to you? You follow me.” John 21: 21-22
We should not make value judgments about ourselves by comparing our lot to that of others, or by judging our place in God according to how He treats other people. This leads to pride and arrogance if our lot is better, or to envy and jealousy if our lot is worse. In any case, it leads to erroneous thinking. God deals with each of us according to His own purpose and wisdom. He does not operate on the “fairness” principal. He does according to what is right and necessary according to what He has purposed in Himself.

Worker: “But I have borne the burden and the heat of the day!” 
Jesus: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” Matthew 20: 12-13.
It is common for people to feel they have not received adequate compensation or reward for their labor and efforts. We must remember that our labor is not in vain and that our just reward is with Him (Isaiah 49: 3-4). It might also be good to ask ourselves if we really have born the heat of the day? I may have worked hard, but still it is a matter of perspective. To the lazy man every way is hard, and to the self-centered person every task is an inconvenience and sacrifice. Often the ones who complain the hardest are those who do the least.

When we have done everything we should do, still we have done no more than was our duty to do in our relationship with God. Do we think we have given so much? What do we have that we did not receive? We have nothing that did not first originate with God. He is the source, the means, and the end. He is the center- not us. And we owe Him everything, including our lives.

“Take what is yours and go your way.” Matthew 20: 15.
The complaining workers received “what was theirs” but were sent on their way. They walked away not knowing the future blessings they had forfeited, and they were of no further use to the Master. They were grasping for wages rather than looking to the rewards that come with the Master’s favor. Instead of focusing on the meager and limited portion we think we have earned, we should humbly serve and look to the loving Master who plans to pour on us by grace a bountiful supply from the riches of His storehouse, a supply greater than anything we could ever earn. We do not want Jesus to “give us what is ours” and then tell us to “go our way.” We do not want Him to “give us our request, but send leanness to our soul.” (Psalm 106: 13-14). It would be the greatest loss and the cause of the deep regret to take what is “mine” and yet lose Him and the blessing of intimate fellowship with Him. He rewards faith and obedience. He Himself is our exceeding great reward.

“I have served all these years, and you never did that for me!” (Luke 15: 29.
We should rejoice when others are blessed. God does not detract from nor rob from me when He shows goodness to others. It is an evil heart that assumes God’s blessing on others represents something taken from me. The elder brother in the prodigal son story was not motivated by love. He was envious, and was probably afraid that the Father would take away some of his inheritance and give it to the prodigal brother who had returned empty-handed after wasting his own. In his comments on these verses Bob Mumford said, “The Father has unlimited wealth and increase. He would be able to restore the prodigal brother without ‘taking away’ from the elder brother.” But in any case, we should be willing to sit in a humble station and rejoice when God blesses someone we think does not deserve it? It is not proper to begrudge God’s benevolence shown to others or to think we deserve it more. We should not forget what the Father said to the Elder brother. “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours” (Luke 15: 31).

“They complained…” Matthew 20: 11.
The workers acted like they were part of a union organized to protect themselves against management. God is the Sovereign Master who actually loves us. We don’t have to negotiate for our benefits. He has already given us all things in Christ. We serve Him knowing that in His great love, knowledge, and wisdom He is acting for His purpose and our good. It is our self-centeredness that makes us complain and charge Him with inequity. When we make ourselves the center (instead of God and His purpose), we darken and distort our discernment, our interpretation, and our understanding.

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong.” Mat. 20:13
God’s ways are infinitely higher than ours. He acts according to His will and purpose which are based on His perfect and complete knowledge and upon His incomprehensible wisdom and goodness. We humans are foolish to charge Him with evil. The prophet Daniel said that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He pleases.” (Daniel 4: 25). The apostle Paul said so eloquently, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!” (Rom 11: 33). We should daily join the biblical writers who said, “Praise the Lord, for He is good.”

Billy Long

For further study see Matthew 19: 27-30; Matthew 20: 1-16; 20: 20-28; Luke 15: 25-32

Saturday, July 20, 2013

An Encouraging Word from a Friend


I recently sent out a letter to Christian friends requesting that they pray for me, for the Lord’s direction and guidance in my life, and that I would fulfill that which was in God’s heart when He called me into His service. I received many gracious and encouraging responses. The article posted below is from a dear friend, Bill Barnette. I am posting his word to me because it is an encouraging word, and because Bill is a servant who has remained faithful to the Lord during the good times and the difficult times. –Billy Long


An Encouraging Word from Bill Barnette
Brother, as always it is great to hear from you. I want you to know that you are prayed for daily and at times hourly. I know the depth of your cry, the passion of your longing, and the brokenness before God, the Father. I too share similarly such. I have always respected, admired, and listened to you and your counsel through the years. Thank you for being a faithful servant of the LORD Jesus Christ. May I share with you a word of encouragement?
There are several lessons God has shown and taught me over my ministry experience (though I know you probably already know these, it may be a good reminder.)

1. God revealed to me that when the battle seems overwhelming, walls are closing in, and the tempter's voice is louder than the soft voice of the Spirit, stop and pray this simple prayer: "LORD, please alert the prayer warriors." Billy I cannot prove it scientifically, but within a nano-second there is a shield placed around me, a peace floods my soul, and strength arises within. I know and believe that when I pray that prayer, people all around the world are dropping to their knees to pray, intercede for me though they do not know me. You may have in the past been one of those people. Maybe this will be of value to you. It has for me and many others I have shared this with.

2. The ministry God has called me to over the years has not proceeded as "I thought" nor as "cultural Christianity measures" or "as others deem of value." I know I have some unanswered "Why's." But one thing I know— God has called be beyond personal circumstances and situations. My call was one of being faithful during the good times of ministry and the difficult times of ministry. I know the same is true for you. I have longed for the harvest of ministry efforts, the daily presence of the power of God, and the rivers of living water.  There has been one thing through it all that I know is truth: it's not the "starting but the finishing that matters." Through the years no matter what, I have continued seeking the Lord, being faithful to do all that He has commanded, while waiting with tears. I'm not sharing something with you that you have not set a standard for me and others to follow. I just wanted to remind you of the faithfulness of God and to continue being that faithful servant.

3. I will be the first to confess to you that I would love to be at a place of ministry among a growing group of people, watching them grow, seeing God move in their hearts, etc. But that is not where I am, and where I am I am thankful because He is there. As time moves on, there is a sense of urgency and shortness of time. I truly believe the time is drawing nigh for the people of God. Apathetic, motionless, unresponsive, luke warmness worship abounds in the body and I sense the call deep with my heart for the body to return to…
 …its first love (Rev. 2: 4), 
 …the authority of God's Word (Rev. 2: 14-15, 20-22),
 …being broken in our hearts and repenting of our sins (Rev. 2: 5, 16, 22,      
 …expecting Jesus to return (Rev. 2:5, 10, 16)
 …faithfully living out worship daily in our lives! (Rev. 2:25)

Thank you for being faithful in all you say and do!


Bill Barnette

Monday, July 8, 2013


A Parable:The Bald-tail, Nubby-butt, Plucked Peacock

I strutted around thinking I was really something, pleased with myself as I showed off the tail-feathers of my talents and abilities.

Then the Lord gently spoke to my heart as He placed His finger on certain areas of my life, and asked me to humble myself and obey His leading.

But I closed my ear and did not listen. So He quietly plucked a feather.

I did not notice the plucking, and so went on in my sense of self-importance.

Soon He returned, and placed His finger again on the area of my heart that He wanted me to surrender.

Again, I ignored Him.

So He plucked another feather. And I, unaware of it, continued on my way.

In His lovingkindness and patience He continued to visit me and point out the area of my need. But I kept strutting around in my self-satisfaction.

Then one day, my tail-feathers were all gone.



But amazingly, I kept strutting about thinking I was as beautiful as ever.

 When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth. Surely every man is a vapor.    Psalm 39: 11

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Appreciation of Praise

Praise can be quiet reverence speaking silently from the heart, but should also include outward expressions of exuberant and joyous enthusiasm. It is not simply a feeling or ritual, but is an act of worship in which the human spirit expresses itself through voice and body to give thanksgiving, honor, and glory to God. Praise should not be limited to inner silent thought but should be an expression of the whole person verbally and physically reaching out to God. We should have the same enthusiasm for God that fans show to their sports teams. Why should we “make the rafters ring” for a ball team but remain lifeless and frozen when we approach God?

We see many various expressions of praise in the Bible. We see the children of God lifting their hands and voices in praise. We see them dancing before the Lord, clapping their hand, leaping for joy, and singing songs to God, sometimes a cappella and sometimes with every form of musical instrument. We hear them reciting to the Lord all His wonderful deeds and mighty acts. We see the people spreading palm branches before Jesus as He makes His triumphant entry into Jerusalem.

Worship is not a cold solemnity we call reverence, but a living and joyous expression of honor and love to the living and very present God before whom we stand and to whom we lift our voices. It should not be a passive audience listening to a worship team on stage, nor just a collection of people worshiping as isolated individuals, but a body of believers joined as one, as a family, to make one sound rising to God as a beautiful symphony.

Praise is more than warm Sunday morning songs we sing prior to the sermon. It is the people of God dynamically entering the presence of God and touching Him with their spirits and pouring forth love and honor to Him, and in turn experiencing the presence of God that inhabits those praises. Like prayer it is also a means by which God allows His people to be dynamically involved in the release of His awesome work upon the earth. This is evident in many of the Psalms and in the praise paragraphs that are interspersed throughout the book of Revelation. Praise is an acknowledgment of the King and His coming kingdom. No wonder Jesus said, “If these were to keep silent, the very stones would cry out!”

“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thundering, saying, ‘Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!’” Revelation 19: 6.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gift of Avery

"Oh dear Lord, what is wrong with my precious grandchild? " This was Linda Hatcher's cry when she realized her newborn grandchild had a serious affliction. Read her story below as she shares with us how she reached out to the Lord and how He answered her prayers.
Linda Requard Hatcher is a friend of mine from college days. She wrote this story to express her gratitude to Jesus Christ for His wonderful presence and help in time of need.
Thanks, Linda. What a beautiful story of God's grace, peace, and presence.  I am sharing this story because you said you want to "bring Him glory far and wide."    -Billy Long
The Gift of Avery
By Linda Requard Hatcher
A bright shaft of sunlight welcomed me to the window and warmed my face. Spring blossoms peeked out of their buds across the lawn. What a lovely April day. A car door slammed, and I moved to the front door and stretched it wider to catch the first glimpse of the excited couple approaching. My daughter, Becky, and her husband, Ferris were finally home. And, when my daughter turned the corner of the house, my arms flew open.
"Hurry!" My feet danced in place. "I can't wait another minute."
The flannel bundle Becky bore wriggled in her arms, and my heart did a flip flop. A sigh escaped my lips as my chest rose and fell with a grandmother's pride. A fifth grandchild… Avery Lynn. Hadn't I relocated near my daughter for this moment? Between a newborn and an active toddler, she needed me. After being widowed, how I longed to be useful.
Avery's tiny features mirrored those of her mother's as a babe. So sweet… But when I lifted her higher and the blanket slid down to her shoulders, my breath caught in my throat. Her skull was like a coconut—too small and underdeveloped. The top of her head appeared darker than her face and across her forehead ran a deep ridge.
Oh dear Lord, what is wrong with my precious grandchild?
Craniosynostosis, a condition gripping our baby girl and challenging her future, served up daunting prospects. How would God provide healing?
Becky and Ferris began searching for medical help. We all sought to understand this condition which held our newborn hostage. What was craniosynostosis? What were the treatments available? Did other families face this challenge, and were there groups to support us on this road filled with surgical options and difficult decisions? Avery had no soft spot (fontanel) on her head, and the skull sutures over both her ears were fused shut.  Without a surgical correction, her growing brain would have too little room to expand, risking brain damage and making her head distorted.
Becky and Ferris traveled to a consultation with doctors at Arkansas Children’s Hospital more than an hour away. The news was heart-wrenching as the specialist described a long, extensive surgery which the baby would not be strong enough to undergo until she was 10 months old. A blood transfusion from the mother would be necessary, and there would be risks involved in opening the cranium.
The news hurled me onto my bed in prayer. I grabbed my Bible and thrust it open in desperation.
God hear my cries for help…
My gaze fell to a verse in Proverbs 10:6 (NIV). "Blessings crown the head of the righteous." With this specific promise in mind, I searched the concordance for references to "the head" in the Bible. I combed the Scriptures for verses to jump off the pages and into my believing heart. His comfort came.
Jesus was crucified on a hill shaped like a skull and named Golgotha meaning skull. He was pierced in his head as his captors forced a crown of thorns to his brow. Oh how Jesus suffered in his skull. I even found strength in the description of the Levitical priests. God had prescribed the priests wear elaborate headwear made of white linen as they went about their duties. He was able to care for the heads of His saints.
The Lord’s presence cloaked me. A supernatural peace enveloped my heart, and I envisioned my baby girl in some sort of white turban God would somehow provide. When I stood, the burden I carried for Avery rolled from my shoulders. God took my fear and heartache and made them His own while promising me joy was to come.
The first miracle came when we heard about a support group for parents of children with these birth defects. The group, Children's Cranio Facial Association, offered testimonials from other families faced with my granddaughter’s same heartbreaking condition. Again and again, the name of a medical group in San Antonio at the University hospital drew my attention. This team was seeing great success with an endoscopic alternative to the full open dome cranial surgery. I read with keen interest about this team headed by Dr. David Jimenez, a distinguished neurosurgeon who was operating on young infants using endoscopy before the fused bones had time to harden. So my children and I investigated the possibility of Avery seeing this San Antonio group of specialists. With approval from my son-in-law’s insurance company, a few photos of Avery, and medical records—she had her first appointment and was approved and scheduled for this corrective procedure.
How faithfully our Father God cared for Avery and our family. We received a generous care package from Cranio Care Bears, a loving network of families with like challenges. We learned that the Cranio Facial Association would help underwrite our traveling expenses to and from the hospital, for the initial surgery and follow-up care. Friends from St Andrew's church in Little Rock organized a garage sale to defray the expenses in going so far for our medical care.
One of our former pastors who now leads Grace Fellowship Church in San Antonio learned of the upcoming surgery. His wonderful church folks readied meals for us and prepared to babysit Avery’s three- year- old big brother during her surgery and hospital stay. Ronald McDonald House, located near University hospital, welcomed the family to stay with little expense.
On and on, provisions presented themselves as we walked out this adventure in faith. Our own Fellowship Church of Arkadelphia encouraged us with prayers and traveling money. God blessed every detail of our Avery’s medical journey.
 The musical mobile above the hospital crib played a soothing tune while little Avery recuperated in her white turban of bandages. She smiled and cooed at the mobile, and I wept at home as I watched the video of our brave girl. Thanks to our wonderful Father's grace, Avery joys in a future and a hope.
A year later, our precious gift takes her first tentative steps in my direction. "Come on, baby, walk to me. You can do it." Her clear plastic helmet is sporting a red gingham bow that matches her seersucker sundress. I am secretly thankful she has this sturdy headgear during this season when she takes falls daily, learning to walk. Becky strides through my door to retrieve her child from grandma. "Only three more weeks with the helmet, Mom. Can you believe it?" "Well, yes I can sweetheart. I saw that white turban when I first prayed for God's help." The Lord crowned Avery's head with blessings. I did not realize that would mean three different helmets that have guided her cranial expansion into beauty we will never take for granted.