Monday, October 31, 2011

Imagine going on a remote camping trip, only to realize you forgot to bring along food. Miles from civilization, your only option is to forage for food in its natural habitat. Except that there is very little vegetation in the desert wilderness you find yourself in. Starvation becomes a very real possibility.

Such was the situation the exiled Israelites found themselves in following their miraculous deliverance from Egyptian captivity. But, you know the story: God wonderfully provided sustenance from heaven during their forty-year wilderness wanderings. And, near the end of his life, Moses reminded God's people of God's miraculous provision, and the important lessons to be learned from it.

"He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD." (Deuteronomy 8:3)

The point? Don't let the provision detract from the Provider. The true food is the Provider, not the bread He provides.

This lesson was certainly not lost on God's Son. Amidst hunger pangs from a forty-day fast, in the face of the great tempter, these were the very words He used to deflect the first great temptation (Matthew 4:4). And, this no doubt factored in to what He taught His disciples to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Matthew 6:11). The model prayer is a reminder that the bread we must seek is that which only the Father can provide.

Jesus challenges us to consider that life is much more than the food and provisions we work so hard to acquire: "For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" (Matthew 6:25) His perspective - and the proper perspective - is best summed up in His words, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work." (John 4:34)

It is too small a thing to only live and work to provide three squares a day. When our primary focus becomes that of Jesus' - "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work." - it is then that we truly live. And it is then that the great truth of Matthew 6:33 rings true in our lives: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

May we today find and work for the food that is truly food.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

World peace. It's always been the elusive dream, as it still us. Government leaders have invested considerable time and energy to seek it. Some have sacrificed their political careers in the process. Mideast leaders have been assassinated because of their participation in unpopular peace treaties. Activist protestors have demanded it, carrying placards emblazoned with the readily-recognized peace symbol of the sixties. But, for all the talk and effort, world peace remains an elusive dream. And yet, the opportunity for it is only a prayer away.

"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: 'May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, And prosperity within your palaces.'" (Psalm 122:6-7)

There will never be world peace until there is peace in Jerusalem. And that peace cannot come until the Prince of Peace returns - Jesus Messiah. And that will not happen until the Jewish nation embraces their Messiah, whom they rejected two thousand years ago (Romans 11:25-27). So, we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and we pray for the conversion of these chosen people.

It is apparent that apocalyptic storm clouds are gathering that will usher in the final events of this age. A great financial tsunami disaster wave is rapidly approaching, which may well figure prominently in the great upheaval of nations and peoples predicted in Bible prophecy. The fragile world peace that exists today would be abruptly swept away as desperate hostilities erupted between nations. But, it will all be the storm before the ultimate calm; the peace that originates from Jerusalem to encircle the globe.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. The sooner Jerusalem knows true peace, the sooner it will be our reality as well. Pray for the peace of the Jewish people, that they might known and embrace their Messiah, Jesus (Yeshua), the only true Son of God. And pray that a people who know the significance of the phrase, "Abrahamic Faith", might be mightily used in this ultimate peace process.

May we truly be the peacemakers that Jesus desires His people to be (Matthew 5:9).

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's been stated that many people can withstand the test of adversity, but few can withstand the test of prosperity. Take an ancient king, Uzziah, as an example.

"And all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the place of his father Amaziah ... He did right in the sight of the LORD according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding through the vision of God; and as long as he sought the LORD, God prospered him." (2 Chronicles 26:1, 4-5)

So far, so good. A sixteen-year-old boy, under the godly influence of a prophet of God, rules righteously. And, as he does so, God prospers him. But, as is so often the case, the seeds of destruction are sown in success.

"But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense." (2 Chronicles 26:16)

"Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling." (Proverbs 16:18) For all the good that King Uzziah did, he lived out his last days in isolation as an unclean leper. Pride was his downfall.

The inherent danger of being used of God is that we can much too easily attribute His work to ourselves. We can begin to believe that what He is doing in and through us is what we are doing in our own strength and wisdom. Pride begins to rear its ugly head.

"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (James 4:6) Pride and humility work a bit like magnets. With God, pride is like the same polar charge: they strongly repel each other. Humility, however, is like polar opposites: they are attracted and drawn to each other.

The lessons from the life of King Uzziah are of the danger of pride, but also of the opportunity of humility: "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you." (James 4:10) May our Father find each of us to be humble servants whom He can strengthen and support as we live for Him today.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

This is top of the list; priority number one. If this isn't first, then nothing else much matters.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead . You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

In a phrase, know who God is, and wholeheartedly live for Him. But, it's not as simple as it sounds. For one thing, there is much confusion about one. Somehow one has become three-in-one. Without question, God and His Son, Jesus, are in the closest possible relationship. But, as a wise old sage stated, "one really does mean one." And, it was Jesus who framed the priority of this key commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), thus clarifying that His personal priority was subservient to that of His Father.

But, the real rub is what follows the simple mathematical statement about God: loving Him wholeheartedly. Apparently, an important key in this priority is making it central conversation in the home. The phrase, "teach them diligently", punctuates the priority. Church and Sunday School class dare not be left to instill passion for pursuit of the One true God; "you" (parents) are instructed to teach your sons in your house, in your travels together, at bedtime, and first thing in the morning. We make "H.C.I.L.G.M" bracelets and headbands (How Can I Love God More?), and we stencil this commandment on the front door and front gate.

I suspect there is not a single believer parent who does not have some regrets about their Deuteronomy six "home schooling". I certainly do. Unfortunately, the minimal discussion of God's great commandment is detrimental to both parent and child. Parents miss out of the reinforcement of this as a personal priority when it isn't discussed, and children certainly don't pick up on it if it isn't front and center in discussion. Additionally, the absence of this home discussion allows parental hypocrisy to remain unchecked and unchallenged. After all, who is more bluntly honest than a small child?

Whether young children are in the home or not, the opportunity to make the main thing the main thing still exists through conversation starters. Although not as memorable as W.W.J.D. bracelets, perhaps H.C.I.L.G.M can serve as a reminder to discuss God's key commandment in the home with whoever is present. Stimulating and challenging discussion regarding priority commandment number one is a great start in making it a greater reality in our lives.

So, H.C.I.L.G.M today?

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I live in a valley, completely encircled by mountains. On a clear day (which is rare because of air pollution), it is possible to see mountains whichever direction you look. They serve as a type of fortress for us valley-dwellers.

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber." (Psalm 121:1-3)

Significant things have happened on mountains, and will in the future. God met with Moses for forty days on a mountain. Noah's ark came to rest on a mountain following the great worldwide flood. Elijah the prophet confronted and destroyed false prophets on a mountain. Jesus preached His most radical message on a mountain. He was transfigured before two of His disciples on a mountain. In the coming kingdom, worshippers will go up to the mountain of the LORD.

The mountains I can so easily see remind me of my help that comes from above. My Father, the maker of heaven and earth, is my helper. He guards my steps, and stand eternally vigilant.

How is it possible to navigate life's problems and challenges without reliance on the One true God? How very helpless and hopeless the non-believer must be in the throes of trouble!

The journey of life is a picture of someone walking along a perilously narrow mountain path with a gaping chasm on either side. One slight misstep results in tragedy and death. But, the God who is ever vigilant has promised to not allow our foot to slip. Challenges and difficulties will come, but He will save us from ultimate disaster.

Perhaps your journey seems especially perilous today. The uphill climb is exhausting, and the vertical drop on either side seems alarmingly close. Be assured that your Father, as you place absolute trust in Him, is planting your feet on sure and safe ground as He directs your steps.

The advice given to someone on the heights, afraid of the altitude, is to not look down. Look up. "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains". The true God, Father of our Lord Jesus, is over all and above all. He watches and guards the steps of His children.

So, walk confidently as you walk in faith this day. Let peace flow through your heart and mind as you set you sight above, where your Father is. Surely He will provide all the help you will need this day - and every day.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A well-known elderly evangelist enjoyed unprecedented access to at least nine United States Presidents. Although he never held political office, his power of influence was significant. As a trusted advisor and confidante, he impacted important decisions.

Influence is commonly defined as "the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others." This power of influence is clearly exemplified in an interesting historic narrative found in 2 Chronicles 24. Here we read about a seven-year-old boy named Joash who became king (verse 1). We read that "Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest." (verse 2). Notice if DIDN'T say he did right all the days of his life; only during the lifetime of a priest named Jehoida.

Notice verse 17: "But after the death of Jehoiada the officials of Judah came and bowed down to the king, and the king listened to them." In short order, the king was influenced to abandon forsake the true and living God and worship false gods. Tragically, King Joash even murdered the son of the prophet Jehoida when the Spirit of God moved him to speak out against their sinful ways (verses 20-22).

Never underestimate the power of influence - for good and for evil. There are those we have allowed to influence us. It is imperative that we we carefully and prayerfully determine if the influence is for good or for evil.

We each have a sphere of influence. There are those around us who are attuned to our opinions and thoughts. As such, our influence is a sacred trust; we can use it constructively, or abuse it for evil.

Jesus exemplified influence. A close look a the gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - reveal that Jesus' greatest impact was the influence of his life upon those closest to him for three and a half years. We call that influence, "discipleship", and it is indeed a powerful force. It is deliberate, intensive influence in pouring one's spiritual priorities and disciplines into the life of someone else.

I've spent most of my adult life in church pastoral ministry, and I have come to realize that my greatest impact and influence has not been from the pulpit or in the classroom, but in the lives of those I have walked most closely with. Informal conversation, and engaging together in spiritual activities, seems to have thus far made the greatest difference.

Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is about making disciples. It's really not as hard as we might think. It ultimately is exerting the power of influence over those most receptive to us such that they become dedicated followers of Christ who will do the same with others (2 Timothy 2:2).

Assess the influence you have been allowed with others. Determine to focus your spiritual passion and priorities such that they can be caught and taught by those receptive to you. Allow our Father to use the mighty power of influence to serve his kingdom purposes in and through you.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

I grew up during an era of optimism. The space race was on then during the sixties and seventies, and the pervading attitude was that ingenuity and hard work could accomplish anything. The thinking was, if it was possible to put a man on the moon, then what else could be accomplished? Certainly simple and mundane economic and environmental challenges could easily be met and solved.

Fast forward thirty to forty years. Gone is that optimistic, can-do attitude. Moon missions are distant memories. Manned space exploration is even gone, now that the Shuttle program is retired. Economic woes are both persistent and global. Environmental concerns (ie, global warming) seem ominously greater than the ability to solve. Optimism has given way to a general hopeless malaise.

Hope shines brightest when times seem darkest. It has personally been refreshing and rejuvenating to have intensely explored biblical hope in a recent series of sermons. The consistent theme that has been apparent to me is that there IS something better in the future, and it is worth living for today. I find a renewed sense of optimism, not because of human ability to solve problems, but because of divine ability.

I remember a song we sang one year in our Bible college choral group entitled, "In That Great A-Gittin' Up Morning". It was an optimistic Negro spiritual based on resurrection hope. Oppressed Negro slaves, enduring unspeakable hardship, composed and sang songs of hope as they went about their burdensome daily labor. In the simplest terms, they viewed resurrection hope as the "gittin-up" day when the sleeping dead would awake to an unimaginable blissful new life. Reminding themselves in song of better times ahead sustained them in the agony of slavery.

A couple of decades ago the power of positive thinking was the latest rage; possibility thinking, it was called. In retrospect, I believe it was more humanistic than biblical; more closely following the philosophy, "if you think you can, you can; if you think you can't, you can't". Optimism, with no foothold in reality, is merely positive, wishful thinking. That's where biblical hope has the decided advantage; it is the unwavering confidence that God will ultimately do exactly what He said He would do. And what He will do is infinitely greater than our mortal minds can grasp.

I've concluded that hope is not simply a topic of intense focus in teaching and preaching; it must be the pervading tone of our conversations, lessons, sermons, and ultimately, lifestyle. Something and Someone better IS coming, and this is worth living for today. Work, school, and routines are easily mundane. But, biblical hope breathes life and energy into what we do and who we are.

As I shared yesterday, the apostle Paul's prayer has special significance in terms of more fully grasping the implications of what God has promised us: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18)

Praying for heart and head insight for us as we seek to better comprehend our bright future.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The right thing is rarely the easy thing (dare I say it is never the easy thing?). Every fiber of human nature within is bent on the wrong thing, so doing right is a colossal struggle. The apostle Paul well stated the dilemma: "the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want." (Roman 7:19) Who cannot relate to his epic struggle?

The secret to doing the right thing is not greater determination. No one can sufficiently will themselves to do the right thing; something internal is necessary. Consider these words:

"How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD; Teach me Your statutes." (Psalm 119:9-12)

The secret to doing right is God's hidden word in the heart. As we notice from the words of the Psalmist, this is no casual encounter; it is diligent pursuit. Wholehearted pursuit is evident from his words. "Treasuring" God's word in one's heart means that its intrinsic value has been considered and embraced. A priority is established based on value.

Christians are considered to be "a people of the book", but it's fair to ask just how much "of the book" we are. Perhaps the most poignant example is the church attender I once knew who placed their Bible in a particular place where they could pick it up each Sunday; it was never taken home during the week. This person respected the Bible as God's word, but did not value it enough to diligently search its pages daily.

Honestly, what value do we truly place on God's word? Time and energy spent with it is the true test. Treasuring it, or hiding it in our heart, is the secret to Christian lifestyle. It will become abundantly clear, in moments of temptation, just how much we have valued His word and hidden it in our hearts. His word in our heart becomes God's voice in our head to direct our lifestyle. Internalizing God's word allows it to become our "God conscience". Without it, there is no amount of human determination sufficient to overcome the temptation to sin. Our efforts to do the right thing will always translate into the wrong thing without God's word in our heart.

Determine today to assess the value of God's word. Many, if not most of you, have already determined that it is immensely valuable. But, if you honestly realize you are only a casual, occasional reader, let me challenge you to view it as your survival guide in a perilous world, and eagerly devour it as though your life depended upon it. Because it does.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Several years ago, an exasperated co-worker complained to me, "you're making more work!" I later recognized that I was making a particular task more complicated than it needed to be, and adding an extra work load for the both of us.

When we fail to fully cooperate with our heavenly Father, we also make unnecessary work. Far too often, with great difficulty, we exhaust ourselves exerting our own energy, when His mighty strength could easily have done the job.

"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Our Father is vigilant in His search for those who are wholeheartedly loyal to Him. It is these He earnestly desires to "strongly support". In other words, He is not only favorably disposed toward them; He is ready and willing to bring His full resources to assist them.

The promise easily overshadows the condition. His strong support is base on an important condition: "those whose heart is completely His." That's the real kicker, isn't it? It sounds similar to a promise made by Jesus: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) The challenge is in seeking the kingdom FIRST, and having a heart that is COMPLETELY His.

Honestly, aren't divided loyalties the challenge? A controversial statement by a well-known Christian psychologist often haunts me: "most Americans want the good American life with a little Jesus overlay". Sadly, this statement is truer than most of us want to admit. Give me the "good life", and then I'll be able to serve faithfully and effectively. Except, it never works that way.

I've seen more new Christians than I can count start out with a zealous commitment and boundless energy; determined to win the world to Christ and re-enact the Book of Acts. More often than not, however, things of the world eventually crowded out their zeal and determination. They became like the thorny soil (Jesus - parable of the sower and seed - Matthew 13): "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (verse 22)

Truthfully, I'm not exactly sure what wholehearted commitment looks like. I'm thirty-eight years into the process of learning it, but I'm certain I have not arrived. But, I'm encouraged to pursue radical commitment, because therein lies the strong support of my Father (2 Chronicles 16:9). So, if you and I can grew just a bit more in that commitment today, we've stepped closer to the mighty strengthening that our Father reserves for those "whose heart is completely His." And I desperately want and need that.

As our Father looks "to and fro" today, may he find us, not trying harder, but yielding more.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). Nothing is as patently false as the well-worn saying, "sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never harm me". Physically wounds eventually heal, but wounds from words often last a lifetime. Conversely, the positive power of words can impact for a lifetime as well.

A child was once told by a teacher in grade school he would never amount to anything. These "death words" factored in to his drive for business success to prove the teacher wrong. These words could have easily created a severe self-limiting prison that hindered initiative and vision.

A legendary technological innovator, who died recently, apparently credited an elementary school teacher with providing crucial encouragement that became a key factor in his success. These words brought life in the critical developmental years of a child.

I'm basking in some rich encouragement today that came in the form of cards and notes from a caring congregation. And the wonderful thing about written encouragement is these can encourage many times over in the future. I have a special file folder entitled, "encouragement", that contains notes and cards I've received over the years (it just got considerably thicker since yesterday!). Many times, during the dark times in my life, I've opened the file and sought out the refreshing encouragement that these timeless notes and cards bring.

Yesterday we considered Hebrews 10:25 - "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." People who find encouragement in the hope of immortality in the coming age do not withdraw from one another, but rather increase their efforts to encourage others as the fulfillment of hope approaches.

Death and life are the power of the tongue. How desperately we need those life words! And there are no more life-giving words (literally) than the words of the Bible. It has rightly been called God's love letter to us. And in them we ultimately find the life that God offers through His Son, Jesus: "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me" (John 5:39).

These daily thoughts come to you with the sincere desire that they might encourage you. You who are of the family of God have an incredible hope to be pursued in faith, and expressed in love for one another. My heart of compassion goes out to you today to encourage you to firmly grasp your hope, pursue it steadfastly in faith, and love one another deeply from your heart as you await its fulfillment.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

When things seem the worst, God's provision and help is the most dramatic. That's been my experience; I can't begin to count the number of times I've been at the end of my rope and desperately needed some kind of emotional, spiritual, or physical miracle. And, in those desperate hours, a perfectly-timed phone call, visit, email, financial gift, or scripture verse provided ample evidence to God's sensitive provision. Such was the case today when I read these extremely timely and appropriate words:

"From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place. The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:5-6)

I'm certainly not at the end of my rope as I read these words today, but they are especially encouraging amidst a bit of an emotional challenge. In other words, they provided a well-timed pick-me-up. They reminded me that I have been heard, and placed "in a large place". They remind me that the LORD God is literally "for me" - favoring me. As such, is there truly anything that anyone can do to me that is detrimental from an eternal perspective. Absolutely not!

I've been a pastor long enough to know that at any given moment, at least one person I am in contact with is enduring a time of distress. In the times we live in, I'm confident that many today are enduring distress. As such, these words of reassurance from our Father in Psalm 118 have special meaning.

Approximately five times we are reminded in this Psalm that, "His lovingkindness is everlasting", or 'His love endures forever". The pathway of life leads us through both prosperity and adversity, but God's lovingkindness remains a constant. Prosperity is not necessarily an indication of His blessing, nor is adversity the result of His curse on us; His love endures always for those who fear Him.

Far be it that I should "rain on your parade" if today is a day of rejoicing, but if today has more in common with the rain than the parade, then Psalm 118 is His well-timed encouragement to you. Take verses five and six to heart, in particular. Print them out. Tape them to your fridge, bathroom mirror, locker, desk, lunchbox, or computer. They are His personal words to you, to remind you that you are no less favored today than yesterday, or tomorrow. If your heart is for Him, His heart is surely for you.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

If you've been waiting for God to speak to you, then this is it. Here is what He has to say to you today:

"the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work." (2 Chronicles 15:2,7)

While these words were actually spoken by a prophet of God named Azariah to a Jewish king, Asa, they directly speak to each of us. The LORD God is with His people as they seek Him. But, to forsake Him is to be forsaken by Him. So, find strength and courage in knowing that there is benefit in serving the one true God.

Honestly, aren't these words spoken through Azariah just what we need to hear? The easiest thing in the world is to wonder if God is indeed with us. As Azariah said, He is "with you when you are with Him". When your heart's desire is for Him, be assured that He is with you. And, of course, the opposite is true. As a stern warning, never forget that He forsakes those who forsake Him.

And there is "reward in your work". Ever feel like you are the only one trying to serve the LORD? Ever wonder if it really matters? Time to 'fess up: I've asked those questions more times than I care to count! I've succumbed to the "Elijah complex" as I'm sure you have ("I have been very zealous for the LORD ... I alone am left" 1 Kings 19:10). While everyone else seems to be partying down in the world, we feel we're the only ones rolling up our sleeves and doing the kingdom dirty work. Except ... deep down, we know that's not really true.

So, the two key watchwords for the day are, "seek", and "serve". If we seek Him, He will let us find Him. If we serve Him, He will faithfully reward our service. All in due time.

Our Father places a premium on steady faithfulness. I have the greatest respect for elderly servants of God who have stayed the course, through thick and thin, and continue with resolute determination in their service and devotion. These are the tried and true ones. They have had every opportunity to turn tail and run amidst adversity and opposition, but they have stayed the course. They are beacons of hope to novices in the faith. Many, even though now sleeping the sleep of death in the dust of the ground, still speak by their example. And I earnestly desire to emulate their example.

God's word to king Asa is His word to you and me. Listen, and really hear them. Let them sink in to the depths of your being. Claim them as promises to sustain faith and hope.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, October 03, 2011

This Monday finds me musing over the many devotional thoughts I've written and shared over the years. I began writing in January 2006, and was reviewing one of the first ones I wrote and shared. Likely you haven't read this one, so I'm including it today for your consideration.


You've been to the doctor and heard the dreaded news that you need heart bypass surgery. But you decide that maybe your heart problem could be cured by buying a new set of clothes. Your reasoning is that if you looked better on the outside you might be made better on the inside.

While we dismiss this "self-diagnosis" as a ridiculous solution to a serious problem, it is a fitting illustration of a common approach to spiritual problems. It's so much easier to "put on a happy face", try harder, and clean up our act. It's much harder to get down to the real "heart problem" that causes us to do the things that we know are not pleasing to the Lord.

The religious leaders of Jesus' day were entirely focused on the outward appearance. Jesus said of them, "Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: `THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. `BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.' (Mark 7:6,7)

However strongly we protest the actions of these they-should-know-better religious leaders, we would have to admit that we are not immune to the problems that plagued them. It's deceptively easy to place a priority on external performance while neglecting inner spiritual vitality. Deeds and actions are much more observable "spiritual barometers" than the inner disciplines of Bible reading and study, prayer, and intimate communion with both our Savior and our Father.

Accountability is the only real remedy for artificiality. It's initially uncomfortable to be bluntly honest with a Christian confidante about your true spiritual condition, but the prayer and support of a like-minded brother or sister reaps - literally - eternal rewards.

Cosmetic remedies for internal maladies make no more sense that new clothes when heart surgery is needed. May we each look closely and carefully at our true condition, and boldly seek what we need to become all we can be as Christ's disciples.

©Steve Taylor, 2011