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