Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Call it the great secret if you like. It is the one key that unlocks all the doors; the one thing truly essential in life. With it all things are possibilities, and without it noting is truly attainable. The great secret and key to life is simply this: childlike faith. There is no quality that can substitute for it, because "without faith it is impossible to please Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith is synonymous with the name, Abraham, in the Bible. Of him it is said, "ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Romans 4:3). And his faith was well-founded, because it says, "in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." (Romans 4:17). Did you catch those two descriptive qualities of God - "who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist."? If you consider none of the other qualities of Creator God, and only ponder these two qualities, you will not exhaust all the possibilities of all that could be through faith.

Join me in a little experiment: let's do some "creative imagining" through faith. If God can give life to the dead, and call into existence things that do not exist, what can He do in the areas of challenge in your life? Can He restore health? Can He produce needed financial resources? Can He provide the means to overcome emotional struggles? Can He truly make you into the person He desires you to be? Absolutely! To simply believe that He can give life to the dead and call into being that which does not exist opens up incredible possibilities.

The phrase, "calls into being that which does not exist", is especially fascinating; it aligns perfectly with the definition of faith given in Hebrews 11: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1). People of faith live life seeing the invisible; faith produces vision that sees that which others cannot see.

Writing about faith produces a spiritual adrenalin that pumps me up today. My focus is so easily upon that which is commonly called, "reality." That "reality" is negative, dangerous, destructive, and depressing. If you and I are not careful, we'll easily be convinced that this reality is the true reality, and miss the Invisible Reality. But, as people of faith, we do not see things as they are, but rather as they could be. We do not see the corruption of wicked governments and leaders, but instead see the perfect government system, led by an incorruptible Leader, and through faith we live within that system. Faith moves us to pray, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven", and truly believe that this prayer will be answered.

May the incredible power of simple faith unlock vast possibilities in your life today.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Radical Muslims and similar religions would force their system upon the world if they could. And, while all systems of belief desire that all people embrace their faith, what is the motivation? Is it about control, or compassion?

The prophet Jonah was given a message to share with the ancient city of Nineveh regarding impending judgment and destruction. Much to his dismay, the king and all the city repented and averted disaster.

God provided Jonah with a simple object lesson to demonstrate His compassion for these repentant people. As Jonah sat at a distance from the city, anticipating God's imminent judgment, "the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered." (Jonah 4:6-7). Jonah became extremely distraught over the destruction of the plant, which had provided him with shade. Jonah's feelings for this inanimate plant allowed God to drive home an important point about His compassion:

"You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals ?" (Jonah 4:10-11)

God, the Creator, has a vested interest in His creation. He has compassion on that which He has carefully worked to create. His heart is for their welfare. And, as with Jonah, He desires that His people have the same compassion for all people.

Here is where the story of Jonah gets intensely personal for us: do we have the compassion of God for others that Jonah lacked? Do we desire the growth of our church and faith because that would somehow justify our belief, or because we deeply desire the salvation of others? Bottom line: do we compassionately care about the true welfare of other people?

It is an absolute truth: every person we encounter today will either be in the kingdom of God one day or they will not. Every person is either lost or saved. But, do I truly care? Is my heart filled with the compassion of my Creator, or am I distantly apathetic to their true condition? Such questions stir my heart as I write, because I find too much of a kindred spirit with Jonah.

May the God of compassion fill our hearts with compassion that moves us to do something today about lost souls.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Monday, October 25, 2010

Words are powerful tools. They instruct, direct, encourage, discourage, and motivate. And they can carry such force as to radically changes lives.

"Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah ..." (Jonah 3:1), We're not told if the word of the Lord came in audible form, or as an inner impression, but the details are not important. The fact is, God's word came to bear on Jonah, his messenger, and Jonah went forth with it. And this word of the Lord was simple and to the point: "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." (Jonah 3:4). The response to these words was humble repentance by the inhabitants and leadership of a a major ancient city, Nineveh.

You and I have been given this same authoritative, life-changing word of the Lord that Jonah received. It's not the same message about the destruction of an ancient wicked city, but a message of both judgment and reward. This word is called "gospel", or good news. We might say that it is the word of the One who is the embodiment of the word - "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). The Living Word declared, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15). This simple message sounds little different from Jonah's message, but it is a message that continues to impact and change lives even today.

The word of the Lord has come to us in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, who also declares the word of God (Mark 1:15). We have the word of the Lord in both man and message and, as such, we have been enabled to impact the lives of people around us. The question is, who has He placed in your life to impact with the word? What name(s) come to mind immediately as you read these words?

The Living Word within us wants to speak the word of the Lord through us, He wants to use us to announce the presence of the kingdom of God and the urgent need to repent in order to enter it. That's it; pure and simple. Many have made it far too complicated, and relegated this urgent priority to the realm of learned Bible theologians. The Living Word simply wants to communicate through us the partial presence now of a coming kingdom, and call the responsive to repentance.

With Christ in us, we are now "the word made flesh". As the living word in the world, let's let the power of the word deeply impact the lives of those we encounter.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Truth be known, everyone has a certain amount of concern regarding the future. The possibility of adverse future circumstances always exists, and there is a natural desire to want to know what's coming and prepare. And there is precedent for specific information about the future being revealed for this very reason.

"Now at this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius. And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea. And this they did, sending it in charge of Barnabas and Saul to the elders." (Acts 11:27-30)

Most unpleasant future events are mercifully hidden from us until they arrive, but key events that affect the people of God, for which preparation can be made, are revealed in advance. Consider the great famine in Egypt that affected the people of God during the time of Joseph (Genesis 41). God revealed specific details through a dream so that wise preparations could be made. And the account we read in Acts eleven sounds similar.

I've often heard it said that "I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future." Well, there are time when He Who holds the future DOES reveal the future, so that the people of God can prepare.

Knowledge of Bible prophecy disturbs many, because the cataclysmic events of the end times threaten personal safety and security. What will become of the people of God as these horrific plagues and judgments are unleashed upon the world?

The famine in the days of Joseph and the worldwide famine predicted by prophets in Acts eleven indicate to us that God reveals specific details of the future so that the people of God can prepare. And this offers comfort and assurance as we face an uncertain future: God will somehow communicate to us similarly so that we can be provided for in perilous times.

A merciful and gracious God hold both today and tomorrow in His hands, and is far more concerned for our welfare and care than we will ever know. Live for Him and His kingdom today, and trust His plan and provision for the uncertain future that stretches out before us.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What can happen through prayer? Anything. An amazing series of events, clearly orchestrated by God, are recorded in Acts ten. But notice, first of all, how prayer was prologue to these dramatic events:

"Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray" (Acts 10:9) ... "Cornelius said, 'Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour'" (Acts 10:30)

Two men devoted specific times to prayer - one man prayed at noon, and the other prayed at three o'clock in the afternoon. This was, no doubt, a regular habit for both men. And, more often than not, prayer was simply a quiet discipline - until these two dramatic events. During Cornelius' prayer time one day, an angelic vision directs him to an encounter with Peter the apostle (Acts 10:3-6). And Peter is given a life-changing vision that involves Cornelius and a far greater plan of God than he had previously realized

So, what can happen through prayer? Anything. But, the practice of prayer is the important prologue. Days, weeks, months, and years of the quiet discipline of prayer serve as the backdrop for the most dramatic movements of God's Spirit and plan.

We may never participate in events as dramatic as we read of in Acts ten, but, as people of prayer, we have probably all participated in events more dramatic than we will ever know. Through disciplined prayer we have been directed to pray for an individual or situation, led to a conversation with someone hurting or lost without Christ, or prompted to take a particular action step. Prayer became the basis for something that may not be completely clear this side of the kingdom, but something Spirit-directed and life-changing.

If Acts ten teaches us anything, it teaches us that God works through people disciplined in the practice of prayer. Would Cornelius have ever had a life-changing encounter with Peter, and ultimately the Spirit of God, were he not a man of prayer? Would Peter have ever experienced the paradigm shift in understanding that salvation is for all people, and not just the Jews, if he were not a man of prayer? The answers are self-evident. Prayer was the critical backdrop against which God's Spirit moved.

Like Peter and Cornelius, may we each take specific time in a specific place for the habit of prayer. You never know what might happen then and there today.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Monday, October 18, 2010

The right place at the right time. You are clearly being carried along in circumstances beyond your control, and speaking words that have depth and impact that you could not possibly have planned and prepared through your own abilities. Such was the extraordinary experience of a man named Philip.

"an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, 'Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.' ( This is a desert road.) So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah." (Act 8:26-28)

It was the perfect set-up: Philip was squarely placed in the path of a man on a spiritual quest. He was directed to approach the man in the chariot (verse 29), and to dialog with him (verses.30-31). It became a life-changing conversation, beginning with insight into a passage from the book of Isaiah, and resulting in conversion and baptism (verses 32-38).

Wouldn't it be great to have similar experiences in leading other people to conversion? If it was this simple, we'd all be super-evangelists, right? With angels speaking directly to us, and giving specific instructions as to what to do and say, how could we go wrong? Philip clearly had an unfair advantage that we don't have. Or did he?

What we don't see in this amazing story is all that led up to it. Here is a man intensively trained for over three years by Jesus Himself. Here is man mightily empowered by Holy Spirit. And here is man with a burning passion for communicating the life-changing gospel. And these are significant factors that set the stage for the dramatic series of events we read about here. Perhaps it can all be summarized in this simple formula: preparation plus power plus passion equal opportunity.

Perhaps we will never be drawn into circumstances as dramatic as these, but I am convinced that this incident serves as a prototype of that which is readily available to us. The more we are prepared through study and understanding the gospel, surrendered to the power of Holy Spirit, and passionate to communicate this life-changing gospel, the more opportunities unfold before us.

How well do you know the true biblical gospel? Diligently study to know and master it. How available are you to the power of Holy Spirit? God's Sprit will mightily enable, but never override our reluctance to be used. And how passionate are your for communicating the gospel? Again, God's Spirit will not override personal reluctance.

God wants to orchestrate events in our lives that will lead to the conversion of others. But, He uses prepared, surrendered, and passionate people. May He find us to be such, and mightily use each of us in the conversion of lost people.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The most impressive people are not always the best educated. I've encountered plenty of wise and knowledgeable people who lacked the credentials of higher education. Add to that list a couple of fishermen.

"Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13)

My confidence easily evaporates in the presence of scholarly people, but such was not the case with Peter and John. The intellectual scribes, along with learned religious rulers, were "greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead." (Acts 4:2). This great truth was a serious threat to the scholars of the day, but it was a source of confidence and boldness to these untrained men who had been so radically impacted by it. And never have more confident and bold words been uttered:

"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead -by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.'" (Acts 4:8-12)

Peter's confident declaration resonated with that of One these scholars and leaders thought they had done away with only a short time before. Yet, within the words of this uneducated fisherman could be heard the authoritative voice of Jesus of Nazareth. No other explanation could suffice for what they saw and heard from these common men.

There are plenty of admonitions for us to be diligent in our efforts to understand the teachings of the Bible (I.e, 2 Timothy 2:15), but diligent study without an intimate encounter with Jesus, God's Son, is of little value. Jesus leveled this very indictment against these religious leaders: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me" (John 5:39). Bible study without an intimate encounter with the Son of God is an unprofitable effort. Until we have been taught by the Teacher, we have not truly learned.

The most profitable use of our time today will be in opening our Bibles as we sit at the feet of Jesus, expectantly awaiting His insightful instruction. May the resulting boldness in our words and testimony rock our worlds.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's a lesson in charity. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is offer financial help, when instead we have something to offer of far greater value.

The story is familiar to many: Peter and John, the apostles of Jesus, went to the temple in Jerusalem at about three o'clock in the afternoon. There they encountered a lame man, who was carried there every day so he could beg for money. On this fateful day he appealed to Peter and John, as he did to all he encountered, for a few coins to sustain him for another day. But he got far more than he bargained for:

"But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, 'Look at us!' And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, 'I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene -walk!' And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God." (Acts 3:4-8)

Perhaps I am wrongly skeptical of Peter's lack of financial resources but, regardless of what money he did or did not have that day, he had something far greater to offer. To paraphrase his words to the beggar, "I do not have the money to keep you in your present circumstances, but I do have something to remove you from them." And, based upon his response, the lame beggar was far more delighted with what they offered than what he asked.

It may be a stretch to see this story as specifically a lesson in charity, but it does offer an important principle. Each of us are often placed in similar circumstances, especially in a tough economy. Appeals for financial assistance come in the form of letters, emails, phone calls, and personal requests. While there is substantial biblical basis for offering financial help, have we been fully faithful if we don't offer similar help to that of Peter and John? Granted, we likely don't have the gift of instant touch to affect physical healing, but we do have essentially the same resource. As Spirit-filled kingdom citizens, we have the life-changing gospel to offer to those who need so much more than a handout to help with today's needs. The gospel offer should not necessarily preclude financial help, but financial help alone may be the cruelest act of charity.

There is a limit to the financial help we can offer, but there is absolutely no limit to the greatest help we can offer. May we be outrageously charitable with this gift of life today.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Monday, October 11, 2010

The business of government is probably dirtier than we will ever know. A friend who once took a government position in Washington quickly became disillusioned with the system, and considered it a miracle that any fair and decent legislation should ever be enacted. But, corrupt as the system might be, it pales in comparison to an oppressive dictatorship or ruthless regime. The good news is that corrupt government is destined to have its day in court:

"For the day of the LORD draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head. (Obadiah 15).

We often think of a coming day of personal judgment, but apparently a day of judgment upon the nations is to come as well. Those in positions of leadership and responsibility will be called into account, and will receive as they have given. Their shrewd, corrupt backroom deals will be brought into the light, and will be turned against them. True justice will finally be served.

The short Bible letter of Obadiah leaves us with this one encouraging and irrefutable truth: "And the kingdom will be the LORD'S." (Obadiah 21). Regardless of the land illegally or forcefully seized, it all eventually reverts to its original Owner. That really puts a perspective on territorial war and skirmishes, doesn't it? Psalm two summarizes it best:

"Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 'But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain. I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.'" (Psalm 2:1-8)

Knowing the eventual outcome of current political and government activity should be tremendously encouraging to us. The seething uproar of the nations of the world is not the least surprising, or unsettling. Such activity is deliberate effort to throw off the true government of God that ultimately will be firmly established.

Rejoice this day in the government that you truly belong to, and in the fact that it is destined to be established worldwide forever, without any true threat of coup or uprising. Above all, rejoice in the fact that it will be an absolutely perfect system of fairness and equality for all people - a government such as the world has never known! Live today as its citizens and ambassadors in a world in desperate need of this great government.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The simple challenge is to do the math. Children breeze right through it, but many learned adults never get it quite right.

"Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me." (John 8:17-18)

It should be as simple as 1+1=2, but the equation has been changed to 1+1+1=1. The testimony of our Creator Father is one, and the second testimony is that of Jesus, whom the Father sent into the world. But, sophisticated theologians have somehow made the Father, Jesus His Son, and Holy Spirit, all into one. The confusion is horribly confusing and restrictive, whereas the truth is liberating - "you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:32).

Getting the math straight is far more than a "doctrinal distinctive" for me; it's liberating truth that radically impacts my worship. I've never tried to worship my Father and Jesus my Lord as one entity, but I can attest to the simplistic beauty of honoring each of them for Who they are. I know that it is an absolute impossibility for sinful, imperfect me to approach Him "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see." (1 Timothy 6:16). But, through Jesus my Lord I "have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus" (Hebrews 10:19).

Truth liberates me to freely converse with my Savior who fully understands me and my weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15), and Who ushers me in to the great throne room of God my Father. Through Him I can stand where I would otherwise instantly perish in my imperfection. And I do not stand there in fear, but rather in liberating confidence. Covered and protected by my sinless Savior, I am a welcome guest before my Creator!

What we believe is important, but why we believe it is equally important. Demonic beings are in agreement with us theologically, but with a decidedly different response - "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder." (James 2:19) Truth leads to terror, rather than liberating transformation.

We will never truly know our Father until we know His Son, and I don't want to miss out on the incredible opportunity to know them both. Truth leads me to Jesus' testimony about Himself, and the testimony of the Father who sent Him (John 8:18). Taking their testimonies to heart in child-like simplicity is the most liberating thing I have ever done.

May you know the liberation that truth brings, and ever continue in that liberating truth (John 8:31)


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Coke museum in Atlanta, Georgia is a fascinating place. In additional to learning the history of one of the oldest and best-known soft drinks, visitors have the opportunity to sample a wide variety of flavors from around the world. The extreme range of flavors is a statement as to the diversity of thirsts by people worldwide. But, there is one drink guaranteed to satisfy all thirsts: "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'" (John 7:37-38)

There is a continual need to replenish our bodily water supply, but the "living water" promised by Jesus is so sufficient that it creates supply in place of thirst. No soft drink manufacturer has ever gone so far as to make such a claim, and likely never will. The success of their business is directly tied to perpetual, unquenchable human thirst.

The true identity of the all-satisfying living water is identified in the following verse: "But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." (John 7:39). This side of the resurrection of Christ, we are the recipients of these living waters in abundance. But, let me confess a tragedy I too often see: Christians who live as though scarcely a drop of living water has fallen into their lives. A sense of deficiency characterizes their lives - "I just don't know the Bible very well ...I could never share my faith ... there are habits I cannot seem to conquer ... etc." And yet the same Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead is an internal fountain of life in these people's lives! It's like sitting on a huge pile of money and not claiming to have any cash.

Jesus identifies the living water, the Holy Spirit of God, as both "Helper" (John 15:26) and "the Spirit of truth" (John 16:13). These descriptive words indicate specific areas of thirst that the living water satisfies. As we "go with the flow", we are equipped and taught in all essential areas. Through personal discipline in reading and studying the Bible, and devoting our lives to key essentials, the Spirit of God supplies all that is needed. We are not deficient in any way!

As those whose thirst has been abundantly quenched, may we bring the living water to all we encounter this day.


© 2010, Steve Taylor

Monday, October 04, 2010

Do you really know whom you say you know? Confusing question, I'm sure. As an example, I knew someone who claimed to be on a first-name basis with a famous actress. I was skeptical, but this individual claimed to have the actresses' cell phone number on his phone. The claim would have quickly been verified by simply placing a call in my presence.

This example is nothing compared to the claim that Jesus made: "For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." (John 5:18). Jesus' outrageous Sabbath healings alone were enough to incite the ire of the Jewish religious leaders of the day, but claiming Creator God as His literal Father was absolutely over the top. To borrow from my earlier example, if Jesus had God's phone number on His phone, then place the call and prove it! And that's exactly what He did repeatedly: provided proof of this unique relationship.

In spite of nearly two millennia of controversy and confusion, the relationship between Jesus and His Father is clearly described. Consider these statements:

"the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing ; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner." (John 5:19)

"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes." (John 5:21)

"the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish -the very works that I do -testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me." (John 5:36)

Never once do we see Jesus even remotely suggesting that He IS the Father, but that He is uniquely His Son - perfectly imitating and representing to us Him "who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see." (1 Timothy 6:16).

This uniquely intimate Father and Son relationship is on Jesus' heart and mind during the final hours before His arrest and suffering. He prays that all His followers "may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:21). How tragically ironic that His followers have been deeply divided for two thousand years over the relationship between Jesus and His followers! If truth in this matter could prevail, the world might truly "believe that You sent Me."

The pattern for our lifestyle is that we perfectly reflect and obey the Father as Jesus did and does. May our lives be so characterized this day.


© 2010, Steve Taylor