Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The best is not always the best. What appears to be good superficially can be rotten to the core. Discernment and wisdom are crucial in making an accurate assessment.

Abram and his nephew, Lot, had reached an impasse. Both men had been enriched by Yahweh God, and the land they lived in was stretched to capacity to provide for their burgeoning livestock. A decision loomed, and Abram graciously allowed Lot the priority of choice.

"Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere - this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah - like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar. So Lot chose for himself all the valley of the Jordan, and Lot journeyed eastward. Thus they separated from each other. Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom." (Genesis 13:10-12)

Lot chose territory that resembled the beautiful Garden of Eden, with the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in the midst. Abram was left with the land of Canaan, no doubt a less productive and appealing territory. But, we know the fundamental difference between the two areas chosen - Lot's territory was destined to become the land of judgement, while Abram's land was the land of promise. The lush, fertile land of Lot's choosing harbored peril and danger, while Abram's land was at the center of God's blessings.

We daily face "land choices". Deliberate choices are made each day as to the territory where we will live and work. We either choose the enemy's territory - where judgment and destruction ultimately await - or, we choose the land of blessing, where God is actively working. The challenge is to carefully discern the territory. The enemy's domain can look deceptively appealing and lush, whereas God's territory can appear forsaken and barren. Outward appearance can be dangerously deceptive.

Choose this day. Carefully survey the terrain. Look beyond outward appearances, and seek the land of blessing. Partner with your Father, and live today in the land of faithfulness and promise. In so doing, be assured that you are living and working in the land destined for the coming kingdom of God.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Every day is a journey into the unknown. The pathway may look familiar, but who knows what experiences will come our way? Comfortable routines may seem predictable enough, but there is a random element in daily living that holds the potential for surprise - either pleasant or unpleasant. Life is best lived as a faith journey.

"be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham ... So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer ...Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us ... in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." (Galatians 3:7, 9, 13-14)

Faith identifies us with Abraham, the man of faith. We know his story: God called him to an unknown destination, and promised him innumerable descendants while he was yet childless. Few people have had to reach in faith as much as Abraham. But, God was pleased to consider him a righteous man as He looked at his simple and steadfast faith.

God's Son, Jesus messiah, is Abraham's descendant - the ultimate faith promise. Through Jesus and His sacrifice, the blessings of Abraham are richly extended to us, as is the dynamic Spirit of God. We are completed, forgiven, and empowered through faith.

Today's unknown journey need not be one of fear, but of confidence through faith. If God's rich promises to and through Abraham are freely given to us, what is there for us to fear and dread today? What obstacle is truly insurmountable?

Praying that your journey today is exhilarating as you face it with the confident faith of Abraham.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It is said that "he who laughs last, laughs best". It's also said that he who laughs last didn't get the joke, but that's another story ...

The meaning of this pithy statement is that the initial laughter of one who thinks they have prevailed may be premature. When the end of something has come, the one who has prevailed has the satisfying laugh.

Laughter takes many forms. There is the laughter of delight, and there is mocking, disbelieving laughter.

"Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, 'Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'" (Genesis 17:17)

Abraham's laughter was followed by Sarah's when she received this news: "Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'" (Genesis 18:12)

There is an interesting comparison and contrast between Abraham's laughter and Sarah's. There are no comments or questions concerning Abraham's laughter, but the angelic messenger delivering the news to Sarah questioned her private reaction: "Why did Sarah laugh?" (Genesis 18:13) His searching question - "Is anything too difficult for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14) - reveals that Sarah's laughter was that of disbelief, whereas Abraham's laughter was apparently that of delight. Abraham delighted in God's outrageous act, but Sarah laughed with doubt.

Those of us who live by faith get the last laugh. Few things are more outrageous than God's plan to take a team of obscure misfits in the world, and entrust them with leadership of the world under the jurisdiction of His Son. Many would laugh in disbelief that you and I would serve in the "cabinet" of the coming world ruler. But, as children of faith, we are privileged to laugh last in delight at the assurance that God will do the outrageous thing He has promised.

As you live and serve today, may others take note and ask about the delightful laughter that characterizes your demeanor.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, January 23, 2012

If ever you had an audience with an important government ruler, what would you say? Likely you would get to important topics rather than nonchalantly talking about weather or sports.

You have such an appointment today. An open invitation is given to converse with the greatest and most powerful ruler of all. In fact, this ruler has no equal, or superior. And, I commend these words as a pattern for your conversation:

"Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name." (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)

In your appointment with Yahweh God, acknowledging His character and greatness is first priority. The purpose is not flattery, but familiarity. If you were headed to a job interview, would you dare go without knowing something of your potential employer? Of course not! You credibility and sincerity would be in question. Such as it is in your appointment today with your Father: knowing something of His character and nature indicates genuine interest, and serves as a bond of connection with Him.

Familiarity with His priorities is also vital. For this reason, Jesus taught us to pray, "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". In addition to familiarity with God's character and nature, it is an urgent priority that we be concerned with His agenda. What kingdom work is He about today, where you are? Where does He desire to recruit workers, and for what? These are key priorities for those who seek to pursue the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37).

Of our Creator Father, "it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone." True greatness and strength are found in Him. The One Who is supremely great and powerful has the capability to provide strength and greatness to those whom He would touch. The greatness of being a humble servant of the king and kingdom is worthy of requesting, as well as the strength to serve.

We have a divine appointment today. May we know Him whom we seek, and may we willingly serve His kingdom purposes.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

More often than not, He is the God of eleventh-hour solutions. Obviously He could act sooner, but He usually chooses later.

"By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive , even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE." (Hebrews 11:11-12)

God certainly could have made Abraham and Sarah parents at a much younger age. The agony of uncertainty could have been avoided altogether. So, why the delay? Was God slow in seeing the predicament, and in providing help? Were that the case, then His words through the apostle Peter would be nullified: "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness" (2 Peter 3:9).

God's delays are by design, not distraction or disinterest. They serve faith's purposes, not human timetables. The phrase, "by faith", is especially punctuated when we see God's great design. Sure, He could provide sooner, but would faith be best cultivated and matured in the short-term?

Patience and faith work hand in hand. James reminds us, "be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near." (James 5:7-8)

God certainly could have created an almost immediate growth cycle - a seed is planted and, moments later, a crop is ready. But, the extended cycle of planting, growth, and harvest serve as a metaphor for patience and faith.

Many languish in the cycle of life between planting and harvest. Perhaps growth is evident, but it is not fast enough or great enough, to our way of thinking. If only we could see the full fruition! We are so easily result-driven, whereas God is process-driven. His priority is the development of character and faith; we seek a tangible result.

May we focus more on God's process this day than our desired results. May we see the value of the journey, and let God's Spirit best cultivate the character that He desires, that makes us most fit for His Kingdom.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Age is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Society may tell us we are too old or too young for certain things, but how definitive is popular opinion? The ripe age of ninety-nine isn't too old, from the perspective of the only One who really matters.

"Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, 'I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.'" (Genesis 17:1-2)

At ninety-nine, Abram was the father of thirteen-year-old son, with another soon to be on the way. This "faithful father" (Abram) was renamed, "Abraham" ("father of a multitude") at ninety-nine. The great El-Shaddai (God Almighty) implored Abraham to "Walk before Me, and be blameless." This elderly man had made plenty of mistakes in his lifetime, but God drew this man with a heart of faith close to Him and counted his faith as righteousness (Genesis 15:6). The completion of his faith was to walk with integrity before the God of all possibilities.

Whether nine, twenty-nine, or ninety-nine, this is the time to walk blamelessly with God Almighty. Through Abraham, the man of faith, God establishes a covenant of life with us as we come in faith to Him. Today is the day, regardless of age, that He wants us to walk faithfully with Him.

The priority of the day is to consider what a faithful walk with our Father really means in our personal experience. How would He have you walk faithfully with Him? Does your present path coincide with a walk with Him, or will a choice be forced? Where will He take us in our walk as we walk in faith with Him?

May this day be a wonderful day of fellowship and intimacy with our Father as we walk side by side with Him on the journey of life.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

A water wall in my office provides the soothing sound of water trickling down over rocks into a reservoir. It is an especially comforting sound for those of us who live in the arid, dry desert land of the Southwest. Here we are reminded how precious and living-giving the limited resource of water really is. And, if we are spiritually attuned, we see that water is a rich spiritual metaphor.

"For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants; And they will spring up among the grass Like poplars by streams of water." (Isaiah 44:3-4)

There is nothing so truly refreshing as God's Spirit. It flows into our lives like a cleansing and invigorating morning shower. It turns a dry and dusty soul into nourished and productive soil.

According to God's words in Isaiah forty-four, His Spirt would create a legacy. The offspring and descendants of the present generation would spiritually flourish: "This one will say, 'I am the LORD'S '; And that one will call on the name of Jacob; And another will write on his hand, 'Belonging to the LORD,' And will name Israel's name with honor." (Isaiah 44:5).

The refreshing blessings of Holy Spirit flow down from the Only true God: "I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me." (Isaiah 44:6) Jehovah, Yahweh, alone is God. It is He whom we must specifically seek. A wife can call out for one called, "husband", and many might answer! But, there is only one by name who is truly her husband. Similarly, we can call out for, "God", but there are many so-called gods (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). The God whom we seek is one - Yahweh, the I AM.

The One who alone provides true refreshing and life is our Creator Father. He alone is worthy of our pursuit, and richly rewards those who wholeheartedly seek Him. May it be our great ambition today to better know the One who nourished and refreshes, and truly gives life.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

There is just no way around "faithing" it. Trying harder to be a good person is commendable, but without faith it will never work.

"if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? 'ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.'" (Romans 4:2-3)

Trying harder earns no one bragging rights with God. He's not impressed with our efforts, because they amount to nothing more than a pile of stinking, dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). In God's court, a "not guilty" plea will never cut it; He knows the facts. Best we can do is throw ourselves before the Judge and beg for mercy. And that's where faith steps in; God is rich in mercy through His Son toward those who come in humble faith.

"BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED. BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT." (Romans 4:7-8; ref.Psalm 32:1-2). Who wouldn't want to stand before God uncondemned? What a tremendous relief to be found "not guilty" by the ultimate court!

"For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Romans 4:16)

Abraham leaves us a legacy of faith and grace. He believed God for that which he could not see, and God graciously overlooked his sinful faults. Through similar faith, we too are recipients of God's grace. Abraham's faith has made a deposit in the bank of righteousness "for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Romans 8:24).

We haven't actually seen the resurrected Christ any more than Abraham saw the promised land in his day, but our faith is the same as Abraham's, and we are assured that one day faith will be sight.

Keep on "faithing" it today. Grace and mercy are there in abundance for us, as we travel on to the unseen kingdom.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

There is power in simplicity. Often things are complicated by unnecessary focus on peripheral, secondary issues, while the main thing is lost. Getting back to basics is essential.

"Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)

Abraham was surrounded by complex problems and circumstances. He was literally called to an obscure journey to an undisclosed location; promised an inhabited land as an inheritance; and declared to be the father of innumerable descendants as a childless, elderly man. The challenges were enough to keep anyone awake at night! But, amidst seemingly insurmountable odds, "he believed in the LORD; and He (Yahweh) reckoned it to him as righteousness." Abraham simply chose to take the LORD God at His word, and God chose to "credit his spiritual bank account" with righteousness. Simple faith overcame all obstacles.

There is power in the simplicity of faith. The easiest thing to do, amidst obstacles and challenges, is to rely on our own power of reasoning. Sit down, figure it out, and then act. Abraham - as we learn in the Genesis account - tried that, and fathered a son whose legacy today is the ongoing Middle East conflict. Better that he had fully comprehended the truth of Proverbs 3:5,6 - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight."

The lesson and legacy of Abraham is that simple faith in the LORD God is always the solution. But, this faith is not what is so commonly called, "blind faith". It's a look-before-you-leap faith that carefully evaluates circumstances and "counts the cost". It's an eyes-wide-open faith that realistically sees, and knows what is needed from our Creator.

I would be willing to bet that you and I today face circumstances that challenge faith. We are well aware of what God desires and has promised, but the pathway there seems obscured by insurmountable obstacles. The faith challenge to "let go, and let God" seems incredibly difficult. But, simple faith is what moves the mountain, and propels us to the promise.

Paying the bills. Sharing faith and truth. Managing marriage and family conflict. Serving the kingdom. Faith is the factor in each of these. Take God at His word, with child-like faith and simplicity, and anticipate what He will do in and through you. May faith be our focus and victorious factor as we live for Him today.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012

Just what does God want from us anyway? Rivers of animal blood from sacrifices? Mindless obedience and compliance? Perfection? Probably more anguish and anger has resulted from faulty notions of God's requirements. And yet, understanding what He wants isn't that difficult.

"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. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD And righteousness from the God of his salvation." (Psalm 24:3-5)

Clean hands. He's not talking about washing after work and play, but rather hands that have not participated in evil deeds. A pure heart. He wants first place, and unswerving love and loyalty (see Matthew 22:36-40). He wants passionate pursuit of truth, so as not to lift up our "soul to falsehood". He wants honest vows, promises, and pledges.

The God who owns it all (Psalm 24:1) desires that which He is entitled to. He created us for His pleasure, and to be our pleasure. He wants to know us, and for us to truly, personally know Him. We are designed for relationship with Him.

As humans, we thrive on relationships. While some prefer more solitude than others, none of us truly thrive in life without meaningful relationships. And this is an inherent indicator of God's ultimate purpose for us concerning Him. We cannot truly thrive in this age aside of an enriching relationship with our Creator and Father.

It is Jesus, God's Son, who modeled the relationship that our Father desires, and established the basis for it through His sacrifice. Hebrews 10:19-22 describes what Jesus' sacrifice has done, and implores us to "draw near".

May those words - "draw near" - be our priority today. However that works, and whatever that looks like in your life, choose it as your priority. Nothing will be more enriching and fulfilling than walking in intimate relationship with our Creator, through His Son, Jesus the Christ.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Stories of victory amidst incredible obstacles always fascinate me. Defeat seems certain, and yet somehow victory is won. Perhaps that's why Abraham is such an outstanding example and encouragement. Notice what a man named Stephen - destined to become the first Christian martyr - said about him:

"He gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot of ground, and yet, even when he had no child, He promised that HE WOULD GIVE IT TO HIM AS A POSSESSION, AND TO HIS DESCENDANTS AFTER HIM." (Acts 7:5)

God promises Abraham the land of modern Israel, but he didn't receive so much as a foot of ground in his lifetime. God promised Abraham innumerable descendants, but he was childless in his old age. Talk about obstacles to faith!

The biblical definition of faith is this: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1) Faith sees the unseen. Undoubtedly, Abraham operated by this kind of faith; he saw as reality that which did not exist. And this is the faith we are called to.

It's difficult for me to imagine that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 6:5) when the wicked and arrogant have such a stranglehold on it. A vision of the age to come is often dimmed by tears at the heartache and disappointment of this age. And yet, faith sees that which is to come when human vision cannot see it.

We live much of our life as though it were the bottom of the ninth inning and there are two outs. Faith holds on and sees the victory when so-called reality shouts of defeat.

May we be Abraham people. Amidst circumstances that shout defeat, may we see the unseen victory that is ours in faith. May we confidently move toward that which others cannot see. May faith move mountains in our lives, and move us toward the reality of the kingdom of God that we are called to declare and demonstrate to an unbelieving and cynical world.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

It all would be a moot point without decisive action. All the rich promises that extend to us today would amount to nothing had one man not stepped out in faith.

Genesis twelve records phenomenal promises made by God to a man named Abram, and to us: "I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 12:2-3). Abram, destined to be renamed Abraham, would be the father of the faithful. The amazing nation of Israel would come forth from him, and the Savior of all - Jesus the Christ - would be his descendant. The richest promises ever made by God were made to Abram, but based on one important condition: action. "Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father's house, To the land which I will show you" (Genesis 12:1). To receive, Abram had first of all to go out.

You and I know the story: "So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran." (Genesis 12:4). We read these words in God's authoritative source book, the Bible, because Abram did as he was called to do.

I consider it a tremendous privilege to be associated with a body of believers who embrace the phrase, "Abrahamic Faith". Galatians 3:29 ties believers in Christ to the promises made to Abraham, as we read in Genesis 12 and other passages. The implications for resurrection, future reward on earth, and the nature of Abraham's descendant, Jesus, become abundantly clear in light of Galatians 3:29. But, like Abram, they are of little value unless acted upon in faith.

The faith of Abraham involves decisive action. Far be it that Abrahamic Faith be reduced to a mere theological distinctive. It involves embracing the promises, and stepping out in faithful action. It involves the risk of new land and territory - stepping out into the realm of nonbelievers who desperately need the gospel, and going forth in kingdom-enlarging ventures. It is allowing God to "bless the families of the earth" through us as we go out into the unknown in faith.

What is the venture of faith God is calling you to? What unknown is He calling you to, where His richest blessings await? The call to "Go forth" rings as loudly and clearly in our ears as it did with Abram. We know what his response was. What will yours be?

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, January 02, 2012

You and I were created for an incredible purpose. We may live all our days in relative obscurity, and our work may be mundane at best. But, our ultimate purpose is far greater than where we live and what we do. We were designed for an intimate relationship with our Creator Father.

The first man, Adam, was accustomed to walking together with God in "the cool of the day" in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). Since that time, God has initiated relationship and covenant with many faithful people down through the ages. Through His Son, Jesus, we enjoy the privilege of the closest possible relationship with Him. So, doesn't it make sense to better understand and marvel at the Creator Father who desires this kind of relationship with us?

Consider these words as you grow in awe of Him: "O LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with splendor and majesty, Covering Yourself with light as with a cloak, Stretching out heaven like a tent curtain ... He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind; He makes the winds His messengers, Flaming fire His ministers. He established the earth upon its foundations, So that it will not totter forever and ever ... He made the moon for the seasons; The sun knows the place of its setting. O LORD, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions ... They all wait for You To give them their food in due season. You give to them, they gather it up; You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good. You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire And return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the ground." (Psalm 104:1-5, 19,24,27-30)

Descriptive as these words are, they don't begin to capture the essence of the One who desires to be captivated by us. A lifetime isn't enough for those who will ultimately "expire And return to their dust", when our breathe goes back to Him. The prospect of resurrection life is dependent upon this God who has created all, and gives life and sustenance to all He has created. Knowing and loving Him is the highest priority and privilege.

Sadly, many people speak vaguely of this God who desires to be known. He is far more than a higher being; more than the "In God We Trust", heralded on this country's currency. He is Yahweh, Jehovah, the I AM. He calls Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - dead men destined for life again in the coming age through His promises. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus, with whom He is immensely pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5). He is worthy of our passionate pursuit, because it is eternal life to know Him, and His Son (John 17:3).

Knowing ABOUT our Father is a far cry for personally knowing Him. May the great adventure of our life be that of discovering firsthand the amazing Father who has created us for relationship with Him.

©Steve Taylor, 2012