Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Who isn't concerned about the future? The list of concerns, ranging from material to health needs, is almost limitless. And, for all that concerns us, there is nothing more reassuring than these words:

"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)

"I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread." (Psalm 37:25)

Embedded in this wonderful Psalm of assurances are specific promises concerning inheriting the land:

"those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land." (Psalm 37:9)

"the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity." (Psalm 37:11)

"The righteous will inherit the land And dwell in it forever." (Psalm 37:29)

"Wait for the LORD and keep His way, And He will exalt you to inherit the land" (Psalm 37:34)

These land promises are kingdom promises. They are echoed in the Beatitude of Jesus, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). So, if I delight in the LORD, and He gives me "the desires of my heart" (Psalm 37:4), my ultimate desire will be from the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:33). And it is my focus on this wonderful age to come upon the land I now live in that brings ultimate peace and contentment where anxiety and worry would otherwise prevail.

Not for a moment would I suggest that a kingdom focus is guarantee of a trouble-free life. Jesus realistically stated, "In the world you have tribulation" (John 16:33). A kingdom focus does not provide a worry-free life, but rather the perspective that minimizes trouble in light of our ultimate destiny. As such, the apostle Paul - who saw much hardship and suffering - could say, For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17). What an amazing statement!

This day will no doubt bring challenges to us all. But, the promise that we are destined to inherit the land offers the perspective that puts present-day trouble in focus. Keep your eyes on the prize.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A popular commercial poses a question regarding how much you can save on car insurance. The answer is always given in an absurd, rhetorical question like, "Is it smart to have a snowball fight with pitching great ..." So, the rhetorical question before us today is, "Is it ever smart to think we can outsmart God?" At least one person thought so, and we might dare think the same in more subtle ways.

King Saul was given explicit orders from Creator God: destroy a city of enemies and take no hostages or possessions. Apparently he thought himself wiser than God: "But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly ; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed." (1 Samuel 15:9). To make matters worse, he lied to Samuel the prophet about his obedience: "Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD." (1 Samuel 15:13).

In timeless words that echo down today, Samuel succinctly summarized God's expectations: "Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22).

The problem with Saul was that he presumed to know better than God. He rationalized and reasoned in his own mind concerning the will of God. And Samuel bluntly indicted this wayward king with the consequences of his actions: "For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king." (1 Kings 15:23).

The moral of the story is that God really DOES know what is best, and requires unquestioning obedience to His word and will. We are in mortal danger the moment our personal wisdom begins to question and doubt God's word. In such moments the questioning voice of Satan can be heard as it was in the garden of Eden: "Indeed, has God said ...?" (Genesis 3:1).

The sins of Saul creep in to our lives when we presume. We presume to know what is best for our lives, so we make plans and seek the overlay of His blessings afterwards. We presume upon our own wisdom, so we forge ahead with the day's activities, without humbly seeking wisdom in His word and prayer at the start of the day.

"Father, spare us from the sin of presumptuous decisions and lifestyle. Humble us such that we dare not think to decide without searching your word and praying. Bring us to our knees in utter humble obedience, instilling in us the knowledge that Your ways are higher than our ways, and Your thoughts are higher than ours. Find us to be people ready to hear and follow, without question - this day, and every day."


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Monday, March 28, 2011

A nameless wise sage has stated, "Things have a way of working out". Given the perspective of time, challenges and problems run their course and we adjust our lives accordingly. Ultimately, for the child of God, His purposes prevail.

"As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive." (Genesis 50:20)

The tragedy and triumph of Joseph's life is as dramatic as any. This dreamer of dreams knew the bitter heartache of slavery, imprisonment, and alienation in a foreign land. But he also knew the triumph of power, wealth, and influence. Ultimately, with his humbled brothers bowing at his feet, he rightly framed his life according to the perspective of God's purposes. His words are echoed in similar words from the pen of the apostle Paul: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

The greatest example of all of evil used for good was through the unjust treatment of God's Son. The apostle Peter stated to those responsible for Jesus' death, "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him." (Acts 3:13). Much like Joseph's statement to his brothers, Peter declared that God has brought about good through the evil intended for His Son.

None of us will go through life without some unjust treatment. Regardless of our innocence, there are those with evil intentions against us. And few things are more difficult to shoulder than unjust treatment. The words of Jesus - "bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28) - seem unattainable in such moments. And they are, aside of the aid of Holy Spirit and the perspective so well stated by Joseph: "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result".

Unless we frame our lives from the perspective of of the greater purpose we serve in the will of God, we will be prone to dismay and bitterness. Our unjust pain will be pointless unless we gain the perspective that the evil done against us is being used of God to bring about good.

Although I pray God's blessings upon you today for a day of blessing and fulfillment, realistically I know that this day will likely hold at least some injustice. Ultimately, I pray that He open your eyes to the good He is doing with any evil brought against you.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Present-day calamities have many people wondering if there is a God in charge who knows and cares. The ever-perplexing question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?", seems much in focus these days.

"The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; From His dwelling place He looks out On all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all, He who understands all their works. The king is not saved by a mighty army; A warrior is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a false hope for victory; Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness, To deliver their soul from death And to keep them alive in famine." (Psalm 33:13-19)

The Psalmist assures us of the LORD God's care and attention. He "fashions the hearts of them all", and "understands all their works." His eye is on "those who fear Him". And most reassuring is the promise that He will "deliver their soul from death And ... keep them alive in famine."

The theme of famine seems to pop up regularly in my reading lately. Earlier this week I read about God's provision for His people through Joseph, as recorded in Genesis. Recently I read about God's forewarning of a great famine through His prophets (Acts 11). Few things are as frightening as the prospect of serious food shortages - a very real threat in times of environmental change amidst a vast global population. But, God provides for His people even in these dire circumstances.

While present-day events have a certain prophetic ring to them, it would be presumptuous to label them THE last-day events. But, if there are, anyone with a fundamental knowledge of the Book of Revelation knows that end-time events include widespread death, disease, war, and famine. So the major concern is, what about the people of God? Will God protect and provide for His own?

Be reassured from Psalm 33. The LORD looks down from heaven today as He always has, and always will. He sees and understands. His eye is on those who fear Him; He is especially attentive to His people. While He has not promised to deliver His people from death, He promises to deliver our "soul" from it. In other words, He promises to deliver His people from final judgment and destruction.

We live in times of epic change and upheaval, but the God we serve is ever constant in love, protection, and provision.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's a story that starts well, but ends badly. There isn't the slightest hint of the tragedy to come with this leader as we read about his promising beginning.

"Now there was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Becorath, the son of Aphiah, the son of a Benjamite, a mighty man of valor. He had a son whose name was Saul, a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel ; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people." (1 Samuel 9:1-2)

Here was a leader among leaders, or at least so it appeared. Outwardly, he was a man who fit the bill for leadership perfectly - tall and handsome (notice that we are reminded of his good looks twice). But, we know what's coming - a serious character defect eventually leads him away from faithfulness to God and ultimately to a tragic death.

In stark contrast to this description of a tall and handsome leader of men is a prophetic description of the Messiah, the Son of God - "He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." (Isaiah 53:2). Now, if you were doing the job interview for the leadership position, which man would you pick? If I were a betting man, I'd place odds on the tall handsome man getting the job. Statistics prove that tall, good-looking people most often land the best jobs.

Samuel the prophet, whom God used in the selection of king Saul, would later be commissioned to select Saul's replacement. Having been directed to a particular family, he began sizing up (literally) the brothers as he sought to determine the one whom God had called. In the process, the LORD God reminded Samuel of an important truth: "God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7).

You and I can never change the biological cards we've been dealt. We can spend a lifetime lamenting our stature and/or looks, but we cannot change them. These outward characteristics may cost us (or gain us) popularity and business success. But, these things are neither an advantage or disadvantage spiritually. The one thing God truly notices - the heart - is something we indeed have control over. We have the power of choice in determining if our heart is pure and devoted to God, or if it corrupt and abhorrent in His sight.

Jesus promises "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 5:8). Cultivating a heart for the God who sees our hearts is the privilege and opportunity before us this day.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Monday, March 21, 2011

A leading news magazine poses the question, "Apocalypse Now?" A recent series of natural disasters and political upheavals have many people pondering the biblical message concerning end-times events. And, amidst it all, followers of Christ wonder about future security and safety. This much is certain: God has a record of providing for His people amidst perilous times. Take, for example, Joseph. Betrayed and sold into slavery by his own brothers, his imminent demise proved instead to be God's provision for his family and God's chosen people. And the day came when God's plan and provision was abundantly clear.

"Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?' But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Please come closer to me.' And they came closer. And he said, 'I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 'Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.'" (Genesis 45:3-8)

It is presumptuous to believe that God will always protect individual believers from harm; Hebrews eleven and the multitude of martyrs down through the ages testify otherwise. But, the collective group of God's people have always been preserved. Holocaust was averted in the times of Queen Esther, and every other genocide that has been plotted against the people of God. And the precedent for the preservation of the people of God began with Joseph and the divinely-inspired plan to survive a seven-year famine.

Acts eleven indicates that God raised up prophets to warn His people of a world-wide famine, much as He provided during similar times through Joseph. These examples should encourage us to know that God will forewarn and prepare His people for any future major cataclysm that would threaten his people.

We live in times of upheaval and change that threaten security and safety. But there is a ring of prophetic significance in them for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. While others are gripped with fear and anxiety, we instead are resolute in faith and hope as we await ultimate deliverance.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The scenes of devastation and loss are truly heartbreaking. A current natural disaster is but the newest face of the brokenness of this present age. A flood of tears, beginning with paradise lost in Eden, continues to flow unrelenting today. But, a day is coming when they will cease.

"Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning." (Psalm 30:5)

No matter how bright the sun shines, we still live in a world of darkness this side of the kingdom of God. Weeping is all too characteristic of our times, whether in response to natural disasters, or the heartache and disappointment of loss.

The death and resurrection of Jesus is a picture of the weeping at night that gives way to the shout of joy in the morning. Jesus' dead body was hastily taken from the cross and hurriedly buried with the approach of night. No doubt there was much sorrow and crying that night. But, the morning of the first day of the week brought incredible shouts of joy when His followers encountered Him risen from the dead. And these events set the precedent for the shouts of joy in our future. Nighttime weeping will give way to daytime shouts of joy.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth ... And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes'" (Revelation 21:1,3-4)

It's not enough that crying will cease in the age to come; God Himself will tenderly put an end to the flood of tears by personally wiping every tear from our eyes. Little wonder that the Psalmist could say, "For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime" (Psalm 30:5). Preceding the tender scene of God wiping tears from our eyes is an awful scene of judgment and destruction of the wicked. But - praise God - that scene only lasts a moment. Our all-loving Father is not the sadistic torturer who subjects the wicked to endless agony, as some believe, for rather consigns them to merciful consuming destruction. And, following that moment of anger, His "favor is for a lifetime" - a lifetime longer than you and I can begin to imagine now.

The tears may flow today because of present pain, but we do not "grieve as do the rest who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We know that we are destined to shout for joy in the morning!


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Great breakthroughs come in the darkest hour.

"word from the LORD was rare in those days, visions were infrequent. It happened at that time as Eli was lying down in his place (now his eyesight had begun to grow dim and he could not see well), and the lamp of God had not yet gone out" (1 Samuel 3:1-3)

What a dismal picture! Sin and disobedience hindered the word and vision of God, and an elderly priest with dimmed eyesight was a fitting illustration of the spiritual darkness of those days. These were the days preceding the extinguishing of the flame of the lamp of God. Spiritually, the scene was about to fade to black.

But, amidst this depressing darkness was the flicker of a flame of hope. A young boy named Samuel was chosen to hear the voice of the LORD. After three missteps in hearing God's voice, Samuel was instructed by elderly Eli to declare, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." (1 Samuel 3:10). And he listened, and God instructed. And from that time on, "Samuel grew and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the LORD." (1 Samuel 3:19-20).

No matter how dark the times or circumstances, God will not be silent. The sin and disobedience of the majority will not silence God's voice when it is most desperately needed. He will find those who are obedient to convey the authority of His word.

Our world today needs Samuels. As His obedient people who are "ministering to the Lord" (1 Samuel 3:1), we need to be ready to hear His authoritative voice in our service and devotion to His word. We need to live, study, and serve with a sense of expectancy, that this might be the moment when His word breaks through with fresh clarity and authority. We live in an age of unprecedented political and social unrest, and epic natural disasters. End-time darkness is creeping over the land; "the lamp of the LORD" appears to be going out. But we have the privilege of hearing and declaring the good news of the bright future of the kingdom of God at this desperate time. In fact, the good news has never shone brighter than in this present darkness.

We are the modern-day Samuels. May we be eager to hear the voice of the LORD: "Speak, for Your servant is listening." And, may we be ready to respond faithfully in declaring both His message of coming judgment and bright hope for those who will respond.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fame may be fleeting, but sometimes so is obscurity. Who can imagine being elevated from prisoner to second-highest government leader? Such was the case with a man named Joseph.

The exciting story is recorded in Genesis forty-one. Pharaoh, high government leader, had two troubling dreams one night. His cupbearer, who himself had once had a dream which was accurately interpreted by Joseph, reminded Pharaoh of this incident. Joseph was hastily called from prison to hear and interpret Pharaoh's duel dream. His initial exchange with Pharaoh reveals much about his character and his worthiness to be elevated as he was:

"Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.' Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.'"

So, Joseph accurately interprets Pharaoh's dreams, and quickly outlines a wise plan of action based upon God's revealed truth. Divinely-given wisdom was immediately evident, and Pharaoh elevated Joseph to second-in-command. What an incredible series of events!

Life is ripe with dramatic possibilities for each of us when we walk in obedience. At any given moment the spotlight of fame or fortune could shine on us. But, we may very well live out all our days in relative obscurity. For the child of God, it makes no difference; the key is faithful devotion no matter what the circumstances.

Joseph was destined for greatness. A prophetic dream in his youth revealed his date with destiny. But, the journey to greatness was anything but easy. Through the extreme trials and challenges of his young life, his character was shaped and forged to prepare him for his ultimate destiny.

Whatever circumstances may come into our lives, we can be assured that they ultimately are preparing us for our great date with destiny - rulership with Jesus in the coming kingdom age on earth. As circumstances form character and produce humility, we are thus prepared to inherit the earth at the return of Christ.

May you see the value in today's life-shaping circumstances as you prepare for your destiny with Christ in the kingdom of God.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wait carries too much weight for many people. Who wants to wait in traffic when the urgent need is to get to the store for some new clothes? Who wants to wait endless seconds for the microwave to heat up dinner? Life is too short; why wait?

Much of the weight we carry in life is due to the fact that we don't wait. Consider:

"Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

I would not for a minute disagree with the Psalmist concerning the priority of waiting; the problem comes when I DO try to wait. Why is it that every imaginable distractive thought floods my mind in those moments of waiting? Or, why does a stack of papers suddenly need to be rearranged, or a pencil sharpened? Waiting on the LORD easily becomes an opportunity for meaningless distraction.

The Psalmist said, "When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.'" (Psalm 27:8). the Psalmist turned his full attention to the face of the LORD when the LORD called upon him to wait and to seek. Through spiritual and mental determination and discipline, he chose to let nothing hide the face of the LORD as he waited upon Him.

I have trouble picturing the face of the LORD. After all, it was the LORD God who said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!" (Exodus 33:20). In my mind, I see a bright light when I seek to see the face of the LORD; facial features are indistinguishable. But, this image of the LORD's face is sufficient to focus my thoughts upon Him as I wait.

Few things - especially in our age - are harder than waiting. And yet, it is only through waiting upon the LORD that we find strength and courage (Psalm 27:14). An uncertain economy, health concerns, family and/or marriage problems, and our own mortality will certainly drive us to despair and fear if they are our focus. Through patient waiting in the presence of God, and seeking His face, we find the courage and strength to overcome and cope.

Difficult as it is to kick our busy minds into neutral, take time today to bask in the refreshing quietness of a time of waiting before the LORD. The weight of your world can wait while you wait upon the LORD.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Unfortunately, not all love stories end with, "they lived happily ever after". One woman was married for only about ten years before her husband died. And, in those days, there was no Social Security pension or provision, so life as a widow was difficult. But, the story ultimately has the happiest of endings.

The story of Ruth is well-known to many. She was a Moabite woman married to a Jewish man until his death. Rather than choosing to live in her homeland after his death, her deep affection for her mother-in-law was strong motivation for Ruth to follow her (Naomi) back to her Jewish homeland. Her resolute stand and statement indicates much about her character: "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God." (Ruth 1:16).

How much Ruth knew about the One true God is unknown. No doubt she had learned something of Him in her ten years of marriage, but ultimately she saw something attractive and compelling concerning Him in her mother-in-law. And this set her on the road (literally) to a future marriage, and ultimately placed her in the genealogy of Jesus.

Perhaps the great lesson here in the short story of Ruth is the potential impact on someone else as we exhibit the character of God in our lives. Ruth's destiny was largely determined by the example of godly character; such that she would determine that "Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."

What an awesome privilege to influence someone to make the people of God their people, and the One true God their God! And such opportunities abound for each of us daily. We may never know just how closely others are looking at our lives, and finding our faith attractive.

May the powerful presence of the Father in your life be magnetically attractive to all you encounter today.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Monday, March 07, 2011

Who has time for starry-eyed dreamers? Pragmatists "get-r-done" while dreamers imagine what could be done. But, I wouldn't be composing these thoughts on a computer, which you will read on one via the internet, if it weren't for dreamers. Without dreamers, we'd be living on a primitive world, devoid of technology and industry.

"Then Joseph had a dream ..." (Genesis 37:5). Joseph's dream was not the stuff of wild imagination; his dream was God-given. In fact, as God always does, He confirmed it with a second similar dream (Genesis 37:9). On the surface, these two dreams were a picture of pure arrogance: Joseph disclosed that he was destined to rule over his family; even his father and mother. And these would indeed have been arrogant dreams, except for the fact that they were God-given and destined for fulfillment.

Now, Joseph's journey toward the dream destiny was anything but a cake walk. In short order, the journey toward slavery and hardship would begin. But, God's dream was still Joseph's destiny: the day would arrived when Joseph's family would bow before him as an exalted government ruler in a foreign land.

It's easy to make too much or too little of dreams. Some people see a revelation of God in every nighttime dream. Truth be known, some dreams are stimulated more by a late-night snack than the Spirit of God. But, sometimes God chooses to reveal His plan and purpose in the idle nighttime mind, as the Bible attests through numerous examples.

Dreams and visions are the stuff of the Spirit in these last days (Acts 2:17-18). But, sorting nighttime imagination from God-given revelation requires a strong dose of spiritual discernment. Many a dreamer has gone to a fanatic extreme with the mistaken notion that their vivid dream was God-given.

The revelation and plan of God may very well be embedded amidst the bewildering imaginations of your nighttime mind. Linger over that dream that seems to have a ring of divine authority to it. Weigh and measure it carefully according to God's revealed word, the Bible. Be certain that His dream will never violate or void His written word. And, if that dream clearly has the credentials of His authority, ponder it carefully, and act on it fully. If the dream is His dream, then follow it to its divinely-appointed destiny. And anticipate that the people of God are destined to be blessed and provided for through it, even as Joseph's family was.

Who has time for starry-eyed dreamers? Apparently our Father does, and we do well to listen, discern, and act upon the dreams that have the full marking of His authority.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Picture yourself at the imposing security gate to a stately mansion. You push the intercom button and ask permission to enter. The voice you hear asks your name, and for your stated business, and qualifications for entering. Satisfied with your answers, the heavy security gate opens and free access is granted.

"Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood And has not sworn deceitfully." (Psalm 24:3-4)

"Access granted"; such welcome words. But, who really is worthy to be granted access to the "the hill of the Lord", and "His holy place"? Not me, for sure. My hands aren't all that clean, and my heart is far from pure. Perhaps I haven't lifted my "soul to falsehood", but I've shrunk back on promises more often than I care to count. No, looking back on my life I know there is plenty to merit the words, "access denied". But, here I am in the throne room of the Almighty, and I suspect someone let me in with their credentials.

"Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." (Hebrews 10:19-22)

It's just as I thought; I have no business being here, but Jesus waved His credentials at the security detail and granted me full access. It's as though He took His security clearance badge and pasted my picture over His, granting me the access that only He should have. And so here I am; in front of the Creator of all, with His undivided attention as I pour out my heart and mind before Him. Access granted, indeed.

I will never cease to be amazed at the privileges afforded me in the rarified air of God's dwelling place, and I pray that you do not either. There is plenty of dirt on our hands, and guile in our hearts, but our sordid lifestyle is not what earns us access. It's the perfect security clearance of our Savior, Jesus, that lets us in. And the more we live in gratitude of this amazing grace, the greater the desire to wash our hands more thoroughly, and focus our hearts more fully.

Access granted. May we freely use the access we've been granted to cultivate a relationship with the One we would dare never approach with our own credentials.


© 2011, Steve Taylor

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

It was the ultimate family conflict. The remaining eleven tribes of Israel gathered to mourn the loss of their family: "So the people came to Bethel and sat there before God until evening, and lifted up their voices and wept bitterly. They said, "Why, O LORD, God of Israel, has this come about in Israel, so that one tribe should be missing today in Israel?" (Judges 21:2-3).

It's a long and involved story as to how the tribe of Benjamin was destroyed in war because of unfaithful and immoral conduct (see previous chapters). The fact remained, a great family loss had occured, and the loss was lamented.

Families are complicated. They can be the source of great fulfillment and joy, as well as the greatest pain and agony. No one knows us better than our family, and therein lies the potential for both fulfillment and frustration. Few relationships are more fulfilling when we are in harmony, but the agony can be indescribable when we are not.

Who we are is largely determined by biological family, but our ultimate identity is with the family of God. Jesus radically redefined family by declaring that those who do the will of God are true brothers, sister, and mother (Matthew 12:50). And what great joy there is when there is unity in doing the will of God.

None of us exist to ourselves; life is defined by family connections. This is ultimately true spiritually: we are defined spiritually by our spiritual family. As the apostle Paul said, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals.'" (1 Corinthians 15:33). Choose spiritual family association wisely, and participate actively. The church clan in the spiritual family you associate with has tremendous potential for good or harm. We essentially become like those we most closely associate with.

No Christian is an island. The most impossible task of all is to seek to live the life of a disciple of Jesus all alone. We each desperately need a spiritual family for our fullest spiritual development. Rejoice in your spiritual family. Actively participate for your good and that of your spiritual family. If you aren't' connected to one, take action to do so; either form one or join one. Wisely choose those of similar faith who will kindle a fire for faith, truth, and love.


© 2011, Steve Taylor