Tuesday, August 13, 2019

August 13, 2019

Deception is nothing new, but there will be increased efforts to deceive the people of God in the last days. Jesus states: 
“And then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ’; or, ‘Behold, He is there’; do not believe him; for false Christs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance.” Mark 13.21-23 
I remember well, in 1982, the bold headlines of major newspapers around the world: “The Christ Is Now Here.” The premise was set forth that the long-awaited Jewish Messiah,  the Buddhist Maitreya, the Islamic Iman, the Krishna, and Jesus were really all one and the same, and He was now here among us, ready to be publicly revealed. Bible students, of course, saw this as something sinister and deceptive, rather than our long-awaited hope. 
One is coming, among many imposters, who will be far more deceptively effective. He is described in 2 Thessalonians 2.8-10:
“that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. “
The best way to avoid deception is to be very familiar with truth. It is those who have “the love of the truth” who will be saved from deception in the last days. To love truth is to be a firsthand student of the Bible, led and directed by God’s Holy Spirit. That means not taking teachers and preachers at their word alone, but carefully investigating their messages under the magnifying glass of personal Bible study. No matter how impressive the credentials of the Bible teacher, God’s sincere, Spirit-directed believers have all the needed tools available to ferret out truth firsthand from the pages of the Bible. Due diligence is required (2 Timothy 2.15).
I’m thankful that I know many people who take truth-seeking seriously. Their priority is to know, live, and love truth, and be vigilant against deception. They will stand strong amidst the increasing tide of deception. A greater concern is for those marginally familiar with truth. Those whose source of spiritual nourishment is largely through devotional thoughts, and lessons and seminars by well-known teachers, are at greater risk. While these may be adequate supplements, they can never substitute for first-hand Bible study and application. 
The burden that motivates what I have shared with you is that which the apostle Paul placed on Timothy: “O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you.” 1 Timothy 6.20. As those who choose to receive and read these thoughts, my burden is that you ever stand strong for what is true and good, and avoid deception at all costs. 
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8.31-32
May you thrive in the liberating freedom that comes from continuing in the word of truth.


Tuesday, August 06, 2019

August 6, 2019

There is a recurring line in an old television comedy that goes, “missed it by that much!” (referring to the slightest miss). Sadly, there are those who have come close to making a faith commitment to Christ, but never actually followed through. They were/are so close, but yet so far away. To be almost a Christian is to be totally lost.

A religious leader once asked Jesus to summarized the greatest commandment. “Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one Lord; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12.29-31.

Observing how wisely Jesus had answered, the religious leader responded: “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Mark 12.32-33 

This man stood on the threshold of the greatest breakthrough of all. “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” Mark 12.34

He was not far from the kingdom of God, but He also was not within it. Before him stood the King of the kingdom, and all he had do was accept in faith that Jesus was and is the Messiah, but there is no indication that he did so.  Almost persuaded, but lost.

One of my greatest concerns is for some regular churchgoers I see nearly every week. My concern is that they are good people, but not saved people. Aside of a commitment to Christ, signified by water baptism, they are like the man who was “not far from the kingdom of God.” Close, but not close enough. So close, but oh so far away.

Many times I have pleaded from the pulpit to be certain of a decision. Do not leave life’s most important decision to chance! One either belongs to Christ, or they are destined for destruction in the lake of fire on judgment day. There is no other alternative or option. Saved or lost; in or out.

We can give all the right answers, but the gift of immortality and life in the coming kingdom on earth is based, not on right answers, but right decisions.

How tragic that we would hear from Jesus one day: “you were not far from the kingdom of God.” So close, but yet so far away. Nearly saved, but totally lost.

Have you responded in faith to the call of God through Jesus? You can be more than “not far from the kingdom of God”; you can be safely within through Jesus. Be sure today … while you can.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

July 23, 2019

Sports talk was a key factor in winning my Dad to Christ. Two pastors, who were also sports enthusiasts, found common ground with my Dad, which eventually led to his conversion. 

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.”1 Corinthians 9.19-22

Paul’s passion for those without Christ and salvation is abundantly evident in these verses. The interests of others was his priority so as to find common ground to reach them with the gospel. Whatever it took, Paul was willing to do so that “I may by all means save some.”

It is easy for Christians and churches to have the mindset that non-christians should come to us on our terms. With church doors wide open they can come, sing songs, hear what is often called, “church-ese” language, and be exposed to the gospel through teaching and preaching. It all may be more confusing than evangelizing. How much better to adopt Paul’s approach and seek out the lost on their terms. 

Jesus declares that we are be the “salt of the earth”(Matthew 5.13) Salt does little good in a salt shaker; it’s designed to be shaken out to have contact with that which it would flavor and preserve. Paul’s approach in becoming “all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some,”is this “salt approach.” This does not involve compromising ethics and morals to do so, but seeking common interests in conversation for greater gospel goals. 

We are challenged to make the interests of others our interests so that we may gain opportunity for gospel sharing. May this be our priority and focus as we go about our daily activities.


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

July 16, 2019

Extreme faith moves us from our comfort zone into the adrenalin-pumping, risky unknown. The prospect of failure is very real, but the potential for success overrides the fear of failure.

 “When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.” Mark 2.1-4

Four faithful friends brought a helpless man to Jesus, whom they unwaveringly believed could restore him to wholeness. But the path to restoration was blocked by a thick crowd of people. Both daring and resourceful, these four men created a path to Jesus where one did not exist. Chopping a hole through someone else’s roof, they lowered their lame friend right into the presence of Jesus. Receiving more than bravely hoped for, this man was forgiven of sin as well as physically healed. 

What do we believe so strongly that we are willing to bravely risk? Do we believe enough in the restorative power of God through Jesus that we risk sharing the gospel? Do we believe enough to faithfully pray for the miracle of spiritual and physical healing? Do we believe enough to chop holes through proverbial roofs to bring people into the presence of Jesus?

 You’ve likely heard it said, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” In the realm of faith, this is especially true. If we do not risk acting in extreme faith, we will never know what God through Christ can and will do. Noah knew, as did Abraham, Moses, and countless other men and women of faith. It was their extreme faith in action that set them apart from those who sat idly by.

 Extreme faith is risky, but the rewards for those who “believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11.6) far outweigh the risk.

 May extreme faith move us to the daring venture of acting upon that which we resolutely believe. 

Steve Taylor 

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Hope for Uncertain Times

To hope is human. We seem to be hardwired for hope - even the most pessimistic of us. However deeply buried, there is at least the slightest inkling that things just might get better. Some people brim with a sense of hope. They exude optimism because they are hopeful. Even against the backdrop of the general malaise that seems characteristic of our times, there is something within us that wants to reach forward to better times. We want to believe things will get better, but we are hard-pressed to point to any tangible and clear evidence to support such feelings. The reality check of economic uncertainty, military crises, violent natural disasters, and social and racial upheaval casts a gray shadow over our optimism. Our general hopefulness is a state of mind, rather than a fact of life.
It is important that we set forth a working definition of hope. HOPE IS CONFIDENT EXPECTATION OF SOMETHING BETTER IN THE FUTURE. Hope without a foundation is mere wishful thinking.  Real hope, however, is based on specifics. It confidently expects very tangible things in times to come, and visualizes the roadmap to realization. It is so real that we can touch, taste, see, smell, and feel it! 

Read about Hope for Uncertain Times at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NWPDT28

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April 23, 2019

What God says He will do, no matter how long it may seem to take from our vantage point. A great reassurance of that fact is found in these verses: 

"Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him ... Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”Genesis 21.1-2,5 

Few stories seem more outrageous, or dare we say - unbelievable. But, the facts are verified. An elderly couple in their extreme old age DID have a son born to them, and the genealogy of Jesus can be traced back to them and this son. In essence, our very lives hinge on this fulfilled promise. 

God's timing is everything. Promises made are promises kept and fulfilled, no matter how long it make seem to take. The phrase, "at the appointed time," speaks volumes. What God promises and does, He does "at the appointed time." 

Many have wondered why Jesus has not returned to planet Earth yet. It's been over 2,000 years; perhaps He's not coming back at all. Remember that this event is also scheduled by our Father "at the appointed time." And who knows just how close we might be to that appointed time?

We can live confidently, patiently, and expectantly today, knowing that all is under the jurisdiction of God's appointed time.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

April 16, 2019

You likely have seen the recent first-ever picture taken of a black hole in space. Actually, the image looks a lot like a glowing donut approximately 55 million light years from earth - a nearly incomprehensible distance. It is a discovery that has generated considerable enthusiasm among the scientific community as they seek to know more about the origins of the universe.

What I find significant about it is
 this: "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge." Psalm 19.1-2 

The significance of this historic black hole discovery lies in the message it is sending. It is yet another testimony to the magnificence of its Creator. It ought to invoke the response best summed up in a 
well-known hymn: "O LORD my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed." (How Great Thou Art")

The greatness of discoveries such as this famous black hole is in what we do with them. If they lead us to know and revere their Creator more, then they have been immensely valuable.