Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A cold and lonely man, facing the consequences of poor parenting skills. This is the picture of king David, near the end of his life, as portrayed in 1 Kings one. Hardly a fitting picture of this man after God's own heart, characterized by feats of bravery and faith.

"Now King David was old, advanced in age; and they covered him with clothes, but he could not keep warm. So his servants said to him, 'Let them seek a young virgin for my lord the king, and let her attend the king and become his nurse; and let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may keep warm." (1 Kings 1:1-3)

In spite of having numerous wives and concubines, this unusual arrangement made to keep elderly king David warm seems to indicate a lonely man who has not achieved genuine intimacy and oneness in even one marriage relationship.

"Now Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, 'I will be king.' So he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen with fifty men to run before him. His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, 'Why have you done so?' And he was also a very handsome man, and he was born after Absalom." (1 Kings 1:5-6)

One phrase is especially telling: "His father had never crossed him at any time by asking, 'Why have you done so?'" In spite of David's superior fighting skills and fervor for His walk with God, he apparently was sadly lacking in parental skills - at least with one son.

So, is this portrayal of a cold and lonely man, lacking in parental skills, designed to degrade his character? Hardly. It is an accurate picture of a flawed man who enjoyed the favor of God throughout his lifetime. And lingering on this fact should bring encouragement to us all. After all, who of us cannot point to at least some failure in marriage, parenting, or relationships in general? If these failures become our focus - and God's - then there is little reason for optimism and hope. But, the fact that God's blessings rested on David in SPITE of these failures is rich encouragement for us.

I've lately come to especially appreciate the fact that God has not preserved a sanitized record of the lives of His faithful people. A common characteristic of the record of the lives of Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, and so many others is that we see them "warts and all". We may idealize them in our minds as we interpret what we read, but God's biblical record is raw and unrefined. Imperfect people whom He blessed and used.

Sadly, too many people never pursue a vibrant walk with their Father, through His Son Jesus, because they just don't feel they are "good enough". And yet the biblical record is abundantly clear that God works with and through imperfect people.

I write these words today as one who stands in grace, not personal piety. His overwhelming grace provides the motivation to pursue an intimate walk with HIm through His Son. In my weakness and imperfection I find purpose and hope as I pursue the kingdom, my King, and my Father. May you find the same in abundance.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Some people suffer in silence while others find renewal in it. One of life's great secrets is learning that we are renewed through times of silence.

"My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken." (Psalm 62:1-2)

Few times in history have been more tumultuous than the times we live in. Apocalyptic warnings, economic crisis, great earthquakes, Middle East political turmoil, and historic Midwest tornadoes have unsettled many, physically and emotionally. As the world seems to be coming apart, so are many people who tie their security to the world's stability. And the people of God are not immune unless they find strength in silence before their Creator.

As the Psalmist states, "My soul waits in silence for God only", I picture the solitary figure of Jesus alone on a mountaintop at night, seeking solace in the silence with His Father. If our Savior saw the priority of prayer and silence before God, how much more should we!

How very difficult times of silence are, however. My mind is so cluttered with the activity of the world that times of silence are a great struggle. My times of silence are largely spent lassoing the wild horses of random thoughts. Precious are the moments when my thoughts are so subdued that I am calm enough to sense the presence of my Father in the room. But how very refreshing these silent moments are! In them, I am physically improved, with lower heartbeat and respiration. But, more importantly, I am emotionally and spiritually healthier because I am fixed on my God, and experiencing peace that surpasses understanding. In those moments, "He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken."

I strongly suspect that most believers have little experience with times of silence and solitude. Prayers times are more often than not marked by frenetic and urgent requests for intervention and aide. Our minds, and even bodies, strongly resist such efforts to engage in silence when our frantic schedules demand that we be busy every moment. We cannot comprehend how times of silence can provide true purpose and provide energy for the work that otherwise would not be found.

I am certainly no master of times of silence, but I know that I find renewal and steadiness when I devote myself to such times. Elusive peacefulness is attainable in such times, and the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits are satisfying beyond description. A sense of intimacy with my Father, as I come into His presence through and with His Son my Savior, is realized in ways otherwise not attainable.

Perhaps you are willing to try an experiment in silence today. If silence before the LORD has not been a habit, then fifteen minutes will seem like an eternity. But, try waiting in silence for fifteen minutes today. The majority of that time will be spent lassoing your random thoughts, but if you succeed, the breakthrough in silence will be worth the effort. And, the renewing silence will provide incentive for extended times in the future - a half hour, forty-five minutes, an hour.

"My soul, waits in silence for God only". May we find the refreshing silence that the Psalmist knew so well.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Days of breakthrough and victory. Perhaps they don't seem to come often enough, but they do come, and they are cause for celebration. A negative habit is finally broken. Financial discipline literally pays off. A communication breakthrough occurs with our spouse, children, or parents. It is a watershed moment when trials and challenges give way to victory.

The twenty-second chapter of 2 Samuel is prefaced with these words - "and David spoke the words of this song to the LORD in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul." (2 Samuel 22:1)

Absolute victory! Plagued with setbacks, defeat, and humiliation, there came a time when the LORD God provided the ultimate breakthrough and victory for David. His victory party was a song of celebration to the God who had protected and vindicated him. The tone of his words reflect humble confidence in his Creator Father:

"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies." (2 Samuel 22:2-4)

Victory through deliverance should be celebrated. Perhaps we are not surrounded by enemies bent on our death, but destructive habits that enslave us are equally harmful. Through our Father's intervention and deliverance, we should celebrate those breakthroughs over alcohol, tobacco, or drug abuse, or over negative emotional patterns and/or physical behavior. When those hard-fought victories come, pull out all the stops and celebrate the God Who delivers!

Victory benchmarks are vital to faith and confidence in future victories. The God who delivered in the past will deliver in the present and future as we remain resolute in faith in and trust of Him. What He has accomplished in the past provides precedent for victory today and tomorrow. That's one of the great purposes of the record of God's mighty works in His people's lives, as recorded in the Bible: "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." (1 Corinthians 10:11)

I pray that today is a day of victory such as David enjoyed. If not, however, I pray that a past victory provides optimism and encouragement as you look to His deliverance to come.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 21, 2011. This was the much-publicized date for the so-called rapture of the church. It's now May 23rd and we're still here, and the world appears pretty much the same as it was on May 20th.

Rarely has there been such a media frenzy over an apocalyptic prediction as there has been over this one. Students of church history will note the similarity between this event and the famous prediction by William Miller in the mid-1800's. And perhaps a comparison of those times and the times we live in provide insight into the opportunities that exist for us today.

The mid-1800's saw the gathering storm clouds of the United States Civil War; times which were no doubt viewed as anything but normal times. This era provided a fertile breeding ground for public fixation on a convincing apocalyptic prediction. And perhaps the inordinate amount of attention given to this current apocalyptic prediction is a revealing reflection of the mood of our day. These are certainly not "normal" times. Believer and non-believer alike is keenly aware of the string of natural disasters as well as the worldwide economic crisis in the past few years. Secular media has even openly pondered the significance of these events with titles such as, "Apocalypse Now?". Little wonder that a convincing date-setter with significant finance resources could garner such attention!

These days and weeks following this current great disappointment will be very telling. Will it be ho-hum, business-as-usual, or will a heightened sense of expectation remain? Do we stand on the threshold of of a new era of cynicism and skepticism, or of eager anticipation and preparation?

Some people lament the latest apocalyptic deadline as discrediting all of Christianity. And yet, much publicity was given to those who denounced the error of date-setting, based on Jesus' words that "of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew 24:36). Perhaps the ultimate result of the current end-time prediction will be much like that of the mid-1800's - it is wrong to set a date, but it is not wrong to anticipate that this event will come, and that preparations should be made.

Recent events have given the non-believing skeptic yet one more reason to dismiss the faith and truth of the Bible. But, the words of the apostle Peter have never been more relevant, if the skeptic is willing to listen: "Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.'" (2 Peter 3:4-5). If they would listen, they would find a truth regarding the gathering apocalyptic storm cloud that would jolt them into preparation and anticipation: "but by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men." (2 Peter 3:7).

Two days removed from the so-called beginning of the end, we can accurately so it was not so. But, we are reminded that these are not "normal" times, and that the blast of a great trumpet has never been closer. Although May 21st was not a pivotal date in the plan of God, perhaps it was in the conscience and awareness of a world perplexed by the events of our times. And, perhaps this has been a pivotal date for the people of God who now see their mission and hope with greater clarity. I pray this is the case.

We will never be lacking for date-setters and charlatans. But, if they help remind us that time is short, and that gospel opportunities are limited, they will have served a greater purpose. Because this much we know: He IS coming back, and we believe the day to be soon. We have this moment to prepare, and prepare others. Carpe diem. Seize the day.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

None of us likely know what it's like to have someone in hot pursuit, ready to kill us if they find us. But, we may know what it is like to have someone with a murderous mental attitude toward us; mentally desiring harm and not good. Animosity towards us, even if not a real physical threat, takes an emotional and spiritual toll.

There was a time in King David's life - before he became king - when he was hotly pursued by King Saul and thousands of soldiers, intent on his destruction. With several hundred loyal fighting men, they took refuge in a cave to evade capture and death. Hunkered down in a lightless subterranean pit, David's faith and confidence are reflected in these words:

"My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows And their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Your glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; My soul is bowed down; They dug a pit before me; They themselves have fallen into the midst of it. My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises!" (Psalm 57:4-7)

An underground cave is the next closest thing to a grave, and for David this cave of refuge must have felt in many ways like a grave. He was in a place of danger; discovery by his enemies was a very real possibility, and death would be certain. And yet his focus is on God's glory and status among the people of the earth. Although his "soul is bowed down", his heart is steadfast. The prospect of praise is on his heart and mind.

We can likely relate, at least figuratively, to time spent in a cave. Circumstances threaten. A crisis looms. We feel cut off from the land of the living, isolated in a dark cave mentally and spiritually. Despair easily seeps from the darkness and in to our souls. Where is God in the darkness? Will we be forever swallowed up in this cave of darkness?

There are no satisfying pat answers when we find ourselves in these figurative caves of darkness, but David's words reflect realism and hope. We clearly acknowledge the reality of threatening circumstances. We focus on God's reputation and work. We maintain steadiness of heart through confident faith. We anticipate future praise.

Beyond David's cave experience were rich years of kingly leadership. So it is with us - our future holds the prospect of royalty as co-rulers with Christ our Lord in the coming kingdom of God. Therefore, the watch word for this day and time is "steadfastness". Stay the course. Bolster faith from His word. Savor your hope. Victory is ultimately ours through Jesus our Lord!

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Distraction is deception's close ally. The easiest way for deception to trick us with the counterfeit is for distraction to turn our attention away from what is essential. Determined vigilance is essential.

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have on your behalf and for those who are at Laodicea, and for all those who have not personally seen my face, that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this so that no one will delude you with persuasive argument ... See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." (Colossians 2:1-4,8)

The plan is incredibly simple, but perhaps the problem arises out of its sheer simplicity. God's plan - His mystery (something once hidden but now revealed) - is that we each live in vital relationship with His Son, Jesus. God has reserved His wealth of understanding and wisdom for this relationship, for He has "hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" in Him. All that God eagerly desires us to know of Him is found through Jesus His Son. Jesus is the Teacher who literally open our minds to understand the Scriptures even as He did the first disciples (Luke 24:45).

Perhaps it is our desire for things more complex that leads us away from God's simple plan. In our restlessness we are seduced by other things that take the rightful place of relationship with Jesus - books, entertainment, philosophy, even "religion". Such was the problem with the churches at Colossae and Laodicea that Paul writes to and prays for: they had moved from relationship with Christ to a legalistic system of "do's" and "don'ts".

I'm not likely to return to the old system of animal sacrifices and grain offerings, but I can easily worship at my own altar of "righteousness". A good way of reading and studying the Bible and praying becomes the only way. I all too easily become a rigid wine-skin that no longer flexes and stretches with the dynamic new wine of relationship with Christ. Rather than bending and stretching, I resist and risk loss.

There is much "philosophy and empty deception" that is packaged and promoted to subtly take the rightful place of relationship with Christ. Much of it even looks and sounds "Christian". The only way to avoid its deception is a vital relationship with Jesus in which He opens our minds to Scripture and reveals the Father to us.

It really is that simple but don't overlook the value of God's "mystery" because of its simplicity. May you live today and each day in awe of the power and effectiveness of God's simple plan.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Some people would say the devil is in the details, but in reality God is. Exodus twenty-eight contains a detailed description of God's "dwelling requirements", and they are extremely detailed. He required an ark of certain dimensions and materials, angelic figures, rings, poles, a table, and a lamp stand. Down to the most minute details, God gave specific instructions. And all this is prefaced by one key directive:

"Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8)

Now, I'll be the first to admit my lack of understanding regarding all of God's exacting details and requirements. Why would He care about almond blossom lamp holders, and pure gold hammered pieces? I don't know. But, I do know that He is a God of incredible detail. As Creator, look at the intricacies of His creation. What is more detailed and complex than our human bodies? It is these complex creations that He has ultimately chosen for His dwelling place:

"Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16)

God truly is in the details. Through Christ Jesus His Son, He finds a holy place for His presence to reside in the complex and intricate bodies of believers. And, He is intimately involved in the details of His people's lives. Nothing escapes His notice; nothing is too unimportant for Him to overlook.

"Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Find a quiet place and a quiet time today to ponder the God of intricate details. He is in the details, and wants to make you profoundly aware of His presence and participation.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Watershed moments. Times when everything hangs in the balance, and the outcome is anything but certain. I've always been intrigued by the stories of such moments in the lives of famous people.

There was a time when king David was a fugitive in an enemy land, without certainty that he would ever be allowed to leave. Looking back today, we know the outcome. But in that watershed moment, when all hung in the balance, what did he think and do? Psalm fifty-six, written during that uncertain time, records his thoughts for our understanding and encouragement.

"Be gracious to me, O God, for man has trampled upon me; Fighting all day long he oppresses me. My foes have trampled upon me all day long, For they are many who fight proudly against me. When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me? All day long they distort my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil. They attack, they lurk, They watch my steps, As they have waited to take my life." (Psalm 56:1-6)

Be it never said that David wasn't a realist. He candidly describes the desperate peril he found himself in. Desperate times called for desperate measures, as 1 Samuel 21:10-11 record - the historic background for this Psalm. But, David's optimistic faith shines brightly amidst these times - "In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?"

Are these times of uncertainty for you? Is there some crisis looming, or some desperate situation that threatens safety and security? Such times bring the true character of our faith into focus. Do we falter in faith, and surrender to despair? Or do we assess our situation as David did - "What can mere man do to me?"

In one such watershed period of time in my life a few years ago, I found a greater faith than I thought possible. The reality of a particular promise of Jesus became my stronghold, and continues this day to hold special meaning. The perspective of promise redefined the true nature of those circumstances.

Present circumstances, no matter how threatening, will not deter us from entering the kingdom of God at the return of Christ. Our destiny is immortality, and exalted status in the age to come. Like David who would escape threatening circumstances to go on to be Israel's king, we too will escape today's perils to go on to be kingdom citizens and high government officials in Jesus' coming government. Therefore, may our perspective be the same as David's: "In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid."

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Let's hear it for those who care enough to confront. It's easy enough to say kind things to our friends and family, but true friends speak the truth in love - the easy things and the hard things.

The story of king David's sin is well-known to many - an adulterous affair, and the murder of the adulteress' husband. Psalm fifty-one records his confession and penitence, but these words would not exist were it not for a gutsy and faithful prophet named Nathan.

It is recorded in 2 Samuel twelve that Nathan broached the sin subject with David through a parable of a rich man and poor man, and a little lamb (2 Samuel 12:1-4). It was a story of grievous injustice which provoked king David's outrage - "Then David's anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, 'As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion." (2 Samuel 12:5-6).

But then comes the clincher: "Nathan then said to David, 'You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, 'It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. I also gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.'"

While we can appreciate Nathan's boldness and honesty as God's representative, we may not easily appreciate the risk he took. The very real possibility existed that David could have struck him down in his presence, and continued to hide the sordid details of his sin. But, through Nathan's boldness, David was able to respond and repent: "Then David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the LORD.'" (2 Samuel 12:13)

Caring enough to confront. Are we like Nathan, or do we have Nathans in our life? We desperately need to be and have such people. When the danger of spiritual disaster looms, will we confront, or will a friend confront us? Are we content to watch a wayward brother or sister continue on the path to disaster, or do we care enough to intervene and confront?

Thank God for Nathans. Rare is the person who owns up to sin without confrontation, so precious is the person who cares enough to risk confrontation for the good of someone else. If you are veering in a sinful direction, may God place a Nathan in your life to confront. And, may He use as to be a Nathan to someone near to us if the need exists.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

Promises are made to be broken. Some wise sage understood reality when he uttered these words. Much as we might try and wish otherwise, promises, more often than not, are made and broken. New Year's resolutions are rarely kept. Lifelong marriage vows are not always so. Appointments are not always kept. Loans and mortgages are defaulted.

Promises made to God are far more serious. Many desperate souls have made absurd promises in a time of crisis and peril, only to be quickly forgotten when the crisis is past. Better to have not promised than to have made a rash promise.

"Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!'" (Exodus 24:3)

Sounds good, so far. But, anyone with a basic knowledge of Israel's history, recorded in the Bible, knows that the promises were broken - not once, but repeatedly. These blatant promise-breakers incurred the wrath of God.

The lessons are not that we should be promise-shirkers, but rather that we be people who carefully count the cost of commitment. Jesus says, "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?" (Luke 14:28). Count the cost before you make the promise.

I, began the Christian life a lot like I began married life - idealistically and unrealistically. Emotions easily obscured reality. Thankfully, through the grace of a loving wife and loving God, I've survived both and held true to the promises. But both the Christian life and married life have brought reality checks. Living according to the promises is not without challenges.

In Exodus twenty-four, there is mention of an unusual and somewhat bizarre action by Moses: "Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.'" (Exodus 24:8). Moses took the blood of sacrificial animals and sprinkled it on the people.

Thank God; the blood of our sacrificial lamb covers us amidst our promises and covenants. While there is high probability that we will fail in our promises, there is a far greater probability that the blood will cover our failures and allow us to live in His grace. May we seek to live faithfully today as we rejoice in the covering of grace.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How do you handle sin? That's probably not in the top ten conversation starter questions, nor probably ever will be. This question is far too personal for any of us to want to address, but it is vitally important.

Honestly, my sin tactics are primarily to deny or diminish. This many years in the Christian life, I find it much too easy to deny that I'm capable of sinful thoughts and actions. This is deadly dangerous. And equally dangerous is my tendency to diminish the severity of sinful thoughts and actions. After all, goes my reasoning, it's not that bad, is it?

Perhaps the most legendary sin of all was King David's adultery with a woman named Bathsheba, and the subsequent murder of her husband. This man after God's own heart had effectively shipwrecked his life spiritually through this disastrous series of events. Even worse was the fact that he denied and diminished these grievous sins.

Confronted by God's prophet, Nathan, this rebellious sinner - who still had a heart for God - sought a clean heart: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:10-12)

This repentant sinner's response is the ultimate pattern for every sinner. It is interesting that we nowhere read of his specific confession regarding the sinful acts he was guilty of, but rather of the root cause. His great need was for a clean, pure heart, and a steadfast and willing spirit. Simply addressing the act of sin would have been insufficient; addressing the root cause was essential.

For far too long, I addressed sinful acts in my life rather than the root cause. Guilt heaped higher and higher as I found myself before the throne addressing the same issues. But, how very helpful it has been to learn from David's example and address the root cause. Like highly polished brass, it is much too easy for my heart to become tarnished and unclean through worldly affections that war against God. My spirit is easily given over to things of this world that are much too enticing. My loyalties are divided; I seek to serve two masters.

There is no end to the cycle of confessing specific acts of sin, receiving forgiveness and mercy, and then succumbing to the same sinful actions again. But, there is hope when we, like David, address our sinful nature. As such, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9).

Too often we allow sin scars to remain for sin episodes long forgiven by our Father. May we find true liberation today, and live victoriously in the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and sacrifice.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A well-known comedian once humbly stated that he didn't deserve an award he had just been given, but then quickly added that he had arthritis and didn't deserve that either. I'm not certain as to how deserving or undeserving we are of misfortune, but I'm certain we are all undeserving of God's incredible, amazing grace. Consider king David's response to it:

"Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, 'Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far? And yet this was insignificant in Your eyes, O Lord GOD, for You have spoken also of the house of Your servant concerning the distant future. And this is the custom of man, O Lord GOD. Again what more can David say to You? For You know Your servant, O Lord GOD! For the sake of Your word, and according to Your own heart, You have done all this greatness to let Your servant know. For this reason You are great, O Lord GOD; for there is none like You, and there is no God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.'" (2 Samuel 7:18-22)

Sure, we often sing of God's amazing grace in church services, but when was the last time you really sat down and considered it in your own life, as David did? Why would God have even the slightest regard for His lowly creation? And yet He cares enough about each of us to know our thoughts from afar, and He is fully aware of all the days of our lives, even before we came into existence.

I've lately spent time thinking about my journey through life, and how amazing it has been thus far. I've been spared certain dangers and temptations. I've been graciously blessed with a wonderful wife and family. I've been given far more of the good things in this life - possessions, travels, comforts - than I could have ever imagined at a young age. I've been blessed with wonderful relationships and meaningful service. Like David, I cannot help but state, "Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?"

If there is a greater sin, I believe it would have to be the sin of ingratitude. Failing to ponder God's blessings and guidance in our lives must surely be grievous to Him. But, how very blessed we are when we recount His grace and guidance in specific ways, and what joy we bring to the Father when we do so.

It is a good day to reflect, gain fresh appreciation of grace, and savor His blessings and guidance this day as we move forward. May we also be a source of grace and blessings to others as we do so.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, May 02, 2011

Idolatry seems like an absurd sin. Why would anyone want to substitute a crude wood or stone statue for the infinite living God? And yet this very habit proved to ultimately be the downfall of the people of Israel, God's chosen. Time and again, they blatantly disobeyed by doing that which God expressly forbade:

"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." (Exodus 20:3-6)

The LORD God demands exclusive worship and obedience, because He alone is deserving. Besides, it makes little sense to substitute worship of a creation for worship of the Creator. Except that this is the easiest thing in the world to do.

Idol worship is anything that supplants the rightful place that uniquely belongs to our creator Father. Given that definition, idolatry becomes much more personal and pervasive. We may not be guilty of taking carving tools or hammer and chisel in hand, but the probability is high that creation has been substituted for the Creator in our lives. Technological and recreational creations are the modern equivalents of wood and stone idols.

Now, it's not this writer's intent to heap burdensome guilt upon all who read these words, but rather to create an awareness of that which easily substitutes for our true love and loyalty. It's enough that the Christian life is easily reduced to 'do's' and don'ts' - obligatory standards that drain away joy and vitality. The hunt for modern-day idolatry is really about purging our lives of anything that robs us of the joy and vitality characteristic of undivided loyalty and love for our Creator. Purging our lives of idolatry, then, is not duty-motivated but rather love-motivated. Why would I want anything to stand in the way of loving the LORD my God with heart, mind, soul, and strength? (Matthew 22:36-37)

A vital relationship with Jesus Christ is the best antidote to idolatry. If He is the way, truth, and the life, and "no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6), then He is the best idolatry preventative available. Working in perfect harmony with our Father, He thus is able to state: " "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3).

I abhor the idols that so easily compromise my loyalty to the Father through His Son. But, if I am to obtain victory, it will be through passionate love for my Father that leads to decisive action.

May love for the Father lead each of us to purge our lives of the idols that rob us of the vitality of an uncompromised relationship with Him.


©Steve Taylor, 2011