Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Continuously hitting our head on a brick wall is both pointless and painful. Resisting our Father and His ways is similar. Far better that we should know Him, praise Him, and participate with Him in His will and ways.

"Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation. His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very day his thoughts perish." (Psalm 146:1-4)

Government leaders daily make the news, and generally in a negative way. Corruption and greed lead to disappointment, anarchy, and ultimately revolution. And yet, lasting reform is elusive. There is no "salvation" in mortal man, who is ultimately destined for death in the truest sense of the word. All will one day "give up the ghost" (cease breathing), as well as cease thinking. Why trust, then, in mortal leaders?

Better that our hope and confidence should be in the LORD Yahweh, the only true God. "How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the LORD his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free. The LORD opens the eyes of the blind; The LORD raises up those who are bowed down; The LORD loves the righteous; The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked. The LORD will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 146:5-10)

True help and hope is with our Father, and His plan. As an active advocate of the poor and oppressed, He desires to bring us alongside those He has compassion for. A godly heart will be drawn to the hopeless and hurting, for it is with these that the Father is working. Little wonder that Jesus, His Son, would declare the blessedness of the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemaker, and the persecuted.

A cynical sage once said, "the more I know people, the more I like my dog". Perhaps he was dyslexic, because it is God who is to be preferred to mere mortals. Humans and human plans are sure to disappoint and fail, but there is a God who never has and never will disappoint. A choice to trust Him, and follow Him in His compassion for the helpless and hurting, is a sure pathway to true purpose and peace.

Know and praise Your Father. Become intimately acquainted with His Son, for this is life (John 17:3). Serve those who are hurting, because you will find both the Father, and His Son, Jesus, there. In these ways, we come to better understand, live, declare, and demonstrate the kingdom of God.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Picture yourself on the deck of a sinking ship. It's ultimate demise is clearly evident and imminent, as is apparently yours. But, a lifeboat is available, with a space left for you. What choice will you make? Kind of a no-brainer. Or is it ...?

"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments ... So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days." (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19-20)

God extends a life and death offer to all people. And, make no mistake: it is a clear choice of one or the other that we each must definitively make. His offer is gracious, but it is absolute. A choice must be made.

Astoundingly, many choose to remain on the proverbial sinking ship. The enemy's deception is to convince many that this present world system is not a sinking ship, but spiritual insight proves otherwise. We are reminded that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), and the evil one's fate is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).

Life and prosperity is far more appealing than death and adversity, but the real challenge is to see that this is the choice. Given that information, no one would choose the latter.

It is imperative that we face each day seeing the clarity of the choice, and choosing wisely. Then, as the people of God, we are called to clearly represent these choices to those He places in our pathway today. The choice for them will be equally obvious when the options are abundantly clear.

May we abundantly experience life and prosperity today as we consciously choose His plan (Matthew 6:33), and may we be faithful in extending His options to others.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

If ever you are at a loss for words, here is a suggested topic of conversation. In fact, if ever you wonder what your Creator and Father would have you talk about, here it is:

"The LORD is gracious and merciful; Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works. All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations." (Psalm 145:8-13)

The LORD Yahweh is characterized as gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and kindly loving. His goodness is abundantly evident in all creation. And those who fear and reverence Him freely praise and thank Him. And they are drawn to declare and discuss a subject near and dear to Him: "They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations."

God's kingdom is the primary subject of discussion and declaration by His people, or at least it should be. Not surprisingly, God's kingdom was the central focus of God's Son. Every parable (i.e., Matthew 13) taught something concerning God's kingdom. Jesus both began and ended His earthly ministry declaring and explaining God's kingdom (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 1:3). It was His primary purpose: "I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose." (Luke 4:43)

If the people of God "shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom", then they need to be intimately familiar with the subject! It behooves every kingdom citizen to know the fundamental truth of the subject, and firsthand experience the presence and power of the kingdom that is to come, and which has partially arrived in this age. It is a topic too big and important to neglect! Until we know this vital subject, and seriously grapple with how Jesus demonstrated and declared it, we have not truly grasped God's "big idea" and plan. Basically, we don't know anything until we know God's kingdom.

May we, His people, freely and gladly declare His power, and the glory of His kingdom, and commit ourselves to being lifelong students of this most important subject.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Some would say it was "off the wall", but in truth it was atop the wall.

The setting is ancient Jerusalem, late fifth century B.C. The city had been sacked and destroyed years earlier, and its inhabitants captured and exiled. Nehemiah had been instrumental in rebuilding the ruined walls, and the time for dedication and celebration had arrived. Note the narrative:

"Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres. So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem ... Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two great choirs,the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall ... The second choir proceeded to the left ... Then the two choirs took their stand in the house of God. So did I and half of the officials with me ... And the singers sang ... and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar." (Nehemiah 12:27,28,31,38,40,42,43)

It's easy to visualize this great top-of-the wall celebration. Two great choirs, in ornamental robes, process left and right atop the wall. They converge, and a great singing and worship celebration commences; so joyous that it "was heard from afar." The surrounding countryside reverberated with joyful praise!

Psalm 66:2 admonishes us to "Sing the glory of His name; Make His praise glorious." Our God, Yahweh, is deserving of praise and worship reminiscent of the praise of two great choirs in the days of Nehemiah. There is nothing better than the combined voices and efforts of God's people in exuberant praise!

Singing may not be your forte. Praise isn't synonymous with music; it can be expressed in a multitude of ways. The key factor is a heart swelling with gratitude to our Father Yahweh for what He has done.

May we reflect on His great acts of mercy, provision, and deliverance in our lives, and be guided to "top-of-the-wall" exuberant praise from the heart.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gratitude necessitates expression. Whether a simple, "thank you", a grateful gesture, or a generous act, gratitude motivates expression.

A people living in a land of promise were called upon to express their gratitude in a specific way: " "Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put it in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name."

Simply put, the people of Israel were to bring the first portion of their abundant harvest as an offering to the God who had brought them to the land of promise. The first fruit offering was closely associated with the fulfillment of God's promise.

There is another very significant mention of first fruits in connection with God's promises: "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." (1 Corinthians 15:20) A promise is in process of being fulfilled, and a gratitude offering been given. The land of promise is the coming kingdom on a new earth, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is associated with a vast, abundant harvest in the land of promise. In other words, the fulfillment of promise is just around the corner!

You and I who are born again believers in Christ are part of a great crop about to bear fruit in the land of promise. Jesus is the first fruits from among the dead - the precedent for a vast number of dead believers who will rise up out of their graves one day.

As we await the complete fulfillment of what began with Christ's resurrection, we want to experience the great power of His resurrection: "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." (Philippians 3:10-11) Like Paul, we want to be closely associated with the great power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, and His suffering and death, so that we will be positioned to attain resurrection from the dead ourselves should we fall asleep in death before His return.

My prayer for each of us today is that we might more fully experience dynamic resurrection power as we live for Him today, and anticipate the fulfillment of hope at His return as He makes the earth the land of promise, the kingdom of God.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

He was hidden in a cave, expecting to be found and killed at any time. Relentlessly pursued by the enemy, the end was potentially moments away. Where does one's thoughts turn in those dark, desperate hours?

The cave refugee in focus here is not on overthrown Middle Easter despot dictator, but rather King David of Israel. Psalm 142 records the prayer of this man of God, hunkered down in a damp, dark cave.

"I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD; I make supplication with my voice to the LORD. I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, You knew my path. In the way where I walk They have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul. I cried out to You, O LORD; I said, 'You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living. Give heed to my cry, For I am brought very low; Deliver me from my persecutors, For they are too strong for me. Bring my soul out of prison, So that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me." (Psalm 142:1-7)

Mingled with desperate thoughts and concerns is an abiding sense of faith and hope. With no certainty of rescue, David's thoughts are of his ultimate deliverance by the God who had made great promises to him. And, we know the rest of the story - he was delivered to see many more years, and God's great blessings.

There are plenty of times when we are figuratively holed up in a cave, surrounded by threatening circumstances. Adversity and opposition threaten to consume us, and the short-term outcome is anything but certain. But, these times of trials are the school of spiritual learning and growth. Faith is sharpened; true priorities brought more clearly into focus. When our Father seems most distant, and His voice silent, we truly walk by faith, and not by sight.

The record of the Bible is condensed such that we easily think God spoke frequently to men of old such as David and Abraham. But, a careful study of their lives and times reveal that there were many years of silence and faith. Such as it is with us: there are rare moments of clarity, but there are large stretches of time when we walk in unseen faith. Uncertainty and adversity threaten, but faith sustains us when our God seems most silent and distant.

The call is for us to live our lives expectantly, as David did. "You are my refuge, My portion in the land of the living ... The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me." Whatever the short-term prospects are for our lives, the long-term prospects are bright and promising beyond our ability to imagine. Let us live hopefully and expectantly amidst uncertain times as his people today.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Remorse. Regrets. Who doesn't have a long list of them? If only life afforded an endless supply of "do-overs"!

The dilemma of reading and hearing God's word is that it all too often incites painful feelings of remorse and regret. Confronted by God's perfect standard, our personal failings quickly provoke guilt. But, it is never God's intent that His word leave us to helplessly wallow in guilt.

Nehemiah eight is an account of a great gathering of the people of Israel to hear the law of God read publicly. A wooden podium was constructed for the reader (8:4), so that he might be better seen and heard by the vast crowd. These words describe what happened: "Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, "Amen, Amen!" while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground." (Nehemiah 8:5-6) Verse eight tells us that the readers "read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading."

God's word penetrated the hearts and minds of the listeners, and profound grief over their disobedience resulted. Nehemiah and the other readers implored the people to refrain from sorrow because, "this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (verse 9) Chapter nine records the events of a later solemn day of confession and fasting - when profound grief was appropriate - but, the day of hearing God's word was to be a holy, joyous occasion.

God's word is to be heard and received with gladness and joy. Later, as we linger over it and allow it to fully penetrate our hearts and minds, a response of confession and grief over sin is appropriate. But, it is to be received with joy because "the joy of the LORD is your strength."

Who doesn't need joy and strength? Life in a fallen world easily robs us of both. Reading, hearing, and studying God's word - individually and in groups - is the source of both joy and strength.

Need some incentive to get in to the word of God today? This is it: it is your source of joy and strength. On its pages your will encounter your Creator, through His Son, and find abundant joy and strength for the trials and challenges of life.

May His word be a delight to you today as you devote yourself to reading and studying it.

©Steve Taylor, 2011

Monday, December 05, 2011

Stick-to-itiveness is rarely celebrated. In a bygone era, a lifetime of faithful labor with a company was celebrated with a gold watch and well-wishes for a long and happy retirement. Today longevity is a liability. A resume' with an extensive list of short-term company stints shows initiative and drive, and is rewarded with yet one more career move.

I've been with the same "company" for a little over thirty-eight years now. I have no desire for a change; I'm perfectly content right where I am. In fact, any so-called promotion would ultimately be a demotion.

"If we endure, we will also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2:12).

In the company of the committed to Christ, longevity is truly rewarded. Endurance is the key criteria for governmental responsibility in the cabinet of Christ. Those who persevere will find ultimate purpose in the plan of God known as the kingdom of God. The overcomers will be a vital part of best government the world has ever seen.

A recent timely conversation reminded me that the Bible is very specific about what those who endure in this age can anticipate in the age to come. The Old Testament prophets provide descriptive imagery of lush vegetation, housebuilding initiative, prosperity, peace in the animal world, peace among the nations, and personal health - to name a few. If endurance is motivated by "keeping our eye on the prize", the more we familiarize ourselves with "the prize", the greater the endurance incentive.

Today's task may seem far from glorious - to keep on keeping on. But, there may be formidable obstacles for you to overcome to just keep on keeping on. The pile of debt may be climbing. Job stress may be almost to the breaking point. Tension at home may be nearly unbearable. Peer pressure may be so great that caving in is a very real possibility. Keeping on keeping on may seem like a major stretch today. But, "If we endure, we will also reign with Him". When it's all said and done, no one will regret enduring. The only regrets will be from those who didn't.

As those whose eyes are set on the kingdom prize and goal, these words are a timely admonition: "admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone." (1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Stay the course. Help those who have veered from it, and encourage those tempted to quit. Endure. And inspire endurance. "do not grow weary of doing good." (2 Thessalonians 3:13)

©Steve Taylor, 2011