Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Nothing is more valuable than an authoritative source of information. The news media is adept at locating reliable information sources because their credibility is at stake. Unreliable sources result in loss of their reputation.

We have the utmost reliable lead on valuable information: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Non-Christian religions claim to have an inside lead on truth, but Jesus alone has "cornered the market" as the only accurate communicator of God's truth. Note it well: God has no other avenue for conveying life-changing truth. There are helpful concepts and philosophies in other religions, but Jesus alone is the true purveyor of God's unchanging truth.

I sometimes wonder how clearly I grasp the resources available through Jesus Christ my Lord. The account of His earthly life - recorded in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John - make it abundantly clear that His grasp of divine truth was nothing short of revolutionary. And this same Jesus is available through the medium of Holy Spirit to instruct and clarify today as He did then. The only requirement is that you and I sit humbly at His feet, and give attention to study and reading of the word of God.

There has been great confusion for far too long as to who Jesus really is, and what His relationship is with our Creator Father. Hebrews one does much to clarify and enlighten, if studied with an open mind. He is a created being ("begotten" - v.5; "firstborn"-v.6); the highest of all God's creation. He has been "appointed heir of all thing" (1:2). He fully resembles His Father (1:3), and is destined to be the ultimate victor over all His enemies (1:13).

Many today testify that the most liberating, enlightening revelation has been to clearly see Jesus as He is so well described in Hebrews one. This has opened their eyes to see, understand, and apply Scripture as never before.

May we most clearly see Jesus for Who He truly is, and benefit from the valuable, authoritative truth that He is uniquely qualified to bring.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

An old American folk song was entitled, "This Land Is Your Land". The basic message is true, but in ways the writer probably never imagined.

"Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." (Genesis 26:3-5)

Abraham's son, Isaac, was clearly told by God that "this land is your land". The modern-day land of Israel would be the inheritance of Abraham's innumerable descendants, and all the earth would be blessed through them. And all this because Abraham was a man of faith and obedience.

People of faith in Christ - regardless of ethnicity or nationality - are those descendants. Galatians 3:29 is a rich promise: "if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." Thus, Israel - indeed, the whole earth - is ours to inherit one day. "This land is your land".

Amidst the territorial wars and greedy land acquisition, it's easy to forget that we ultimately get it all. When the last war is fought, and the last drop of blood shed, the meek will step forward to inherit the earth under the authority of King Jesus.

When you consider your destiny, what does that do for your perspective on life's issues and challenges today? Nothing more powerfully frames life than this ultimate outcome. And, it's imperative that nothing deter us from the pathway that leads to this destiny.

It's much too easy to "major in minors" as we live out our lives. Socio-political reform and action usurp efforts to evangelize and make disciples. We try, as someone has said, "to clean up the fish pond", rather than to fish for men.

One of the most helpful guiding verses for me has been this: "No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier." (2 Timothy 2:4) Our ultimate allegiance is to the One who will rule the land we expect to inherit, and the agenda of this commanding officer is all that matters.

This land IS your land. May we serve well under the leadership of our King and Commander this day.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

The captain of a large, modern cruise ship made a fateful decision. Sailing much too close to an island, the ship struck a reef, tearing open a large section of the hull. Lives were lost that tragic evening, due to to an unwise decision by one in a position of authority. Be assured that the One in charge over us would never make such a foolish decision.

"The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice" (Psalm 97:1)

Our Commander has an awesome legacy of power, might, and provision. "Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him And burns up His adversaries round about. His lightnings lit up the world; The earth saw and trembled. The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth. The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory." (Psalm 97:2-6)

I'm reminded that patience and peace are based in an unwavering confidence that God is in control. The Psalmist vividly describes this God who indeed is in control, and his description bolsters our faith in His jurisdiction. Like the Psalmist, we assert: "For You are the LORD Most High over all the earth; You are exalted far above all gods." (Psalm 97:9)

With calm confidence in His wise and loving control, may this be our response: "Hate evil, you who love theLORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.Light is sown like seed for the righteous And gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones, And give thanks to His holy name." (Psalm 97:10-12)

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm guessing that your closest friend is someone who "gets" you better than anyone else. You know, that person who seems to be able to look right into your brain and understand your thought process. Sometimes this special friend even seems to know you better than you know yourself (a little scary!)

The common stereotype of Jesus is that He isn't that kind of person. Church tradition teaches that He is "fully God in human form" - Creator God in skin; bristling with all the power of the universe. Temptation and sin aren't even remote possibilities. He couldn't possibly begin to relate to your struggles and thoughts.

The historic Jesus is a far cry from the Jesus of church tradition. Note this descriptive picture:

"In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation" (Hebrews 5:7-9)

This human, emotional Savior is appealing. He knew the depths of human emotion and experience that characterize our existence. Through humility and suffering, He was perfected so that He might become a true source of help.

Whatever the depths of our human experience, they are never deeper than what our suffering Savior experienced. For over thirty years, He lived and experienced the full range of human emotion and temptation. And, without once succumbing to their allure or agony. He uniquely got it right, on our behalf.

Who doesn't need a confidante and counselor who truly understands us? We have one, and you don't need an appointment. In fact, you can have an appointment this very minute; right now. His calendar is free, and the door is open. Lay out your life in honesty before Him. He will hear and understand, and bring the full resources of our Father to bear on your need. No need to read another sentence; you've got an important appointment waiting.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's the tale of two nations. And, while it's ancient history, it is also tomorrow's news.

The story begins with a woman having a difficult pregnancy. Her husband sought the LORD for understanding regarding her circumstances. His answer was both cryptic and prophetic:

"Two nations are in your womb; And two peoples will be separated from your body; And one people shall be stronger than the other; And the older shall serve the younger." When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them." (Genesis 25:23-26)

Twins names Esau and Jacob became the fathers of nations. Jacob was later renamed Israel by God, and a modern-day nation bears his name. Esau's descendants settled in the region of modern-day Turkey, which may also include modern-day Iran and Iraq, as well as other northern Middle Eastern regions. These details shed light on the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict.

While God has blessed and favors the Jews, ultimate blessings and destiny are not genetically determined. A gracious promise is extended to Jew and non-Jew alike to become part of God's blessed progeny: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise." (Galatians 3:27-29)

An ancient story of a woman pregnant with twins explains current events but, more importantly, it's a story that links us to future hope and current blessings. As adopted children of a Jewish carpenter, we stand in good standing with the Creator of us all. May we savor and share our rich heritage and hope.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

How do you describe the indescribable? Your best description of the most beautiful sunset you have ever seen will never begin to portray its reality to someone else. Words sometimes are severely limited and inadequate.

How would you describe God? If you actually saw Him, what words would begin to describe Him? No task could be more difficult, and yet a man named John was inspired to leave us with a word picture of His majesty.

"Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold,a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. And He who was sitting was like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. Out from the throne come flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; and before the throne there was something like a sea of glass, like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind." (Revelation 4:2-6)

Awesome as this description is, it pales in comparison to the Reality being described. But, how very blessed and privileged John was to have seen this incredible sight! At the least, the inadequate word description should be so appealing as to stir a hunger within us for a similar encounter.

The most basic message of the Bible is that our Father has often initiated encounters such as John the apostle experienced on a lonely island called Patmos. Men such as Moses, Elijah, and Isaiah - to name a few - had radical, life-changing encounters with the Holy One, per His initiative.

It is said that religion is man's effort to reach God, whereas Christianity is God's effort to reach man. Those who are in Christ are uniquely positioned for a radical encounter with the Father. Through faithful study of His word, and time devoted to being alone and still in His presence, we can live expectantly of such an experience.

We are each called to echo the praise of the angelic beings surrounding the throne of our Father: "HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME ..."Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created." (Revelation 4:8,11)

Freely participating in His praise is the gateway to a life-changing encounter with our Creator and Father. May our free and deliberate personal worship this day usher us into the very presence of our Father.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

It was far from a glamorous job, but it was good pay for a young teen. Where I grew up, farmers often hired young people to cut corn out of soybean fields. Crops were rotated for year to year and, invariably, last year's corn would grow and threaten to diminish productivity of the current soybean crop. Pulling out the corn would do at least as much damage, so we were employed to comb the fields with poles with cutter blades to cut down the unwanted corn.

Change scenes from a soybean field to a wheat field. A mixed crop is growing: wheat, closely interspersed with "pseudo wheat" called tares - a weed resembling wheat. This mixed crop is the result of malicious over seeding by an enemy of the farmer, and the farmer's servants are preparing to root out the tares.

"he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, 'First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.' " (Matthew 13:29-30)

This simple story is one of Jesus' profound parables, which He clearly explains: "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels." (Matthew 13:37-39)

The sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one coexist on planet earth. As sons (and daughters) of the kingdom, we know that a day of harvest is coming. Vindication and justice will prevail. Until then, there is wisdom in knowing the ultimate outcome, and in assessing reality. Those who are sons of the evil one will continue in their evil ways, while the destiny of the sons of the kingdom is to "SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43)

Keep growing and shining today, kingdom brothers and sisters. Stay nourished in the good soil of the word of God and the Spirit of God. The day of harvest is closer than we think.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Consider the power of words. They can cause war, or express worship. Build up, or tear down. Establish character, or destroy reputations. Support truth, or advance lies.

Proverbs fifteen contains a series of contrasting "wisdom morsels"; largely comparing and contrasting the righteous and the wicked. Especially prominent are wise statements regarding speech:

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, But the mouth of fools spouts folly (verses 1-2) ... The lips of the wise spread knowledge, But the hearts of fools are not so (verse 7) ... The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly (verse 14) ... A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word! (verse 23) ... The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things" (verse 28).

James three is an excellent passage to consider alongside these words of wisdom about words from Proverbs fifteen. The tongue - our speech - is challenging to tame, because it vents what resides in our hearts and minds. Thoughts may appear hidden within, but eventually our speech reveals our inner thoughts - whether good or bad.

There is wisdom in guarding our words, but greater wisdom in guarding our hearts and minds. That which we allow our minds to ponder in thought is expressed in our words. For that reason, we do well to make certain that we serve our minds plenty of healthy "thought food". Could anything be more beneficial than to become a form of "living word" - God's word (scripture) "made flesh" in and through us?

The Psalmist states, "Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You." (Psalm 119:11) If our words are determined by our inner thoughts, what could be better than that both be a spring of life, bringing true refreshing and life to others?

May our words bless others this day as they flow from the abundance of God's word and truth in our thoughts.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, March 05, 2012

In God we trust. This phrase emblazons every piece of currency minted by the United States government. Good as it sounds, the question begs to be asked: Which God? Is this God in whom we trust the god of the Christian? The Jew? The Hindu? The Muslim? The Mormon? The pantheist? Unfortunately, it isn't specified.

Faith in God is easily proclaimed. Celebrities and politicians often testify to their faith in God, but we're left to ponder just which God they believe in. It would be simple if there weren't so many options. As the apostle Paul stated, "there are many gods and many lords" (1 Corinthians 8:5). But, he states: "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (1 Corinthians 8:6).

A man named Nehemiah, a respected jewish servant in an Iranian (Persian) government (ponder the irony of this in light of modern-day events), declared something similar to Paul in public prayer: "You alone are the LORD. You have made the heavens, The heaven of heavens with all their host, The earth and all that is on it, The seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them And the heavenly host bows down before You." (Nehemiah 9:6)

There is wisdom in sorting out the gods so that we can be certain we know the One True God. He is respectfully addressed as the LORD - a substitute for His personal name, YHWH, of which there is some uncertainty as to how to pronounce. Without question, He is known to His children in Christ as, "Father". Perhaps nothing is more touching or personal as this supreme privilege: "but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba (Daddy)! Father!" (Romans 8:15).

Many fear the God who will one day mete out destructive judgment, and rightly so if they do not know Him through faith. But, those who know Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Messiah, can echo Nehemiah's words: "But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" (Nehemiah 9:17)

I want to know the real God; the authentic One among many so-called gods. I want to savor the privileged status of being His child in Christ, and to bask in His luxuriant grace, compassion, and kindness. A heart's desire to do so is the first step in conversation and communion that richly provides assurance, comfort, and encouragement from this One True God. May we each be responsive to such opportunities this day.

©Steve Taylor, 2012