Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Not tomorrow, next week, or next month. Not even an hour, minute, or second from now. Right now. Today. It's life's most important decision, and it must be made this very moment.

"choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

An elderly man, reflecting back on a long journey, issued the call. He recounted how the journey of faith began with Abraham, and had now culminated with his descendants entering the promised land; future home of the coming kingdom inheritance. Prominent in the journey was the legendary act of God in parting the Red Sea, and providing miraculous deliverance and provision along the way.

But, as they stood on the soil of the promised land - enjoying victory over their enemies, and the bounty of the land - the time for decision had come. Before them was the land of a people who had served false gods, and the temptation to serve them was very real. Remembering the journey of faith was prelude to decisiveness in the moment.

The parallels are obvious. Every child of God has taken a journey of faith. Yahweh God has been in the details - providing deliverance, preventing tragedy, and supplying needs. But the past is prelude to the decision to be made today, right now. Choose THIS day. Not tomorrow; not next week. This is the moment of choice.

Perhaps your confidence is in a past decision. Maybe it was made at age seventeen, like me, or twenty-seven, or even eighty-seven. But, yesterday's choice is not necessarily today's choice. False gods beckon, and sometimes we listen - and obey. Yesterday's choice, then, is no guarantee of today's choice. 

"As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." It's a personal choice as well as a family choice. We have discussed it with spouse, children, parents. Together, we've agreed to sign on the line; to stand up and be counted. It's me as well as we.

I've always made it a point to sleep on important decisions. I've never bought a car or house without a night of rest between the decision and the commitment. And this one is no different. It's a choice to consider before closing your eyes in sleep at night. It's a firm decision to be made in the waking morning hour. 

This day I choose Yahweh and His Son, Jesus. That's my intention for tomorrow as well, but this moment is as far as my decision can be made.

The moment is now, and the choice is yours. Choose deliberately, and wisely. But choose. Your Father awaits your answer.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's not show and tell, but know and tell. And, it's the prescribed plan for you and I as much as it was for a man in ancient times.

"He said to me, 'Son of man, take into your heart all My words which I will speak to you and listen closely. Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' " (Ezekiel 3.10-11)

Here is a great formula for every follower of Yahweh God, and His Son. It is imperative that we take into our hearts "My words which I will speak to you and listen closely." We have nothing of significance to show or tell anyone if we have not carefully integrated God's word into our lives. It's of utmost importance hat we get in to His word, and let His word get in to us. But, that's not an end in itself. As with Ezekiel, we are commissioned to "Go to the exiles, to the sons of your people, and speak to them and tell them, whether they listen or not, 'Thus says the Lord GOD.' " We take His word, first of all, to the rest of the family of God, to encourage, challenge, and stimulate. His word becomes witness, whether it is received or not. 

I'll let you in on a little secret: these daily writings are somewhat self-serving. You see, they begin with what God's word has said to me, and these writings are a means of reinforcing that message. If you benefit, then there is a double blessing. But, they begin with the basic question, "What did His word say to me today?" From there, the challenge is somewhat like Ezekiel's: "Go to the exiles ..." And, in essence, every believer is an "exile" in this age, awaiting the liberation of the age to come.

So, Ezekiel's call and challenge is really the same for all of us: what has God said, and what does God have for us to say to His "exiles"? Basically, that message is that we live as close to His word as possible, and faithfully use it to benefit His family. The apostle Paul summed it up well: 

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) 

Our most profitable pursuit this day will involve God's word in our life, and in the lives of His people. So, let's make it specific and tangible: What is one key truth He desires to impress upon you? And, what is one specific task He has for you concerning His word and His people? By grappling with these two key questions, we will have made good progress in obedience this day.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Mountains amaze me. I live surrounded by them, and my eyes are daily drawn to their majestic peaks. Each day seems to present them in a different light, and so the novelty of the view is always captivating.

"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. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, Nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever." (Psalm 121:1-8)

Mountain vistas serve as a daily reminder to lift my eyes even higher - to my Creator. Even more firmly established than the ageless mountains, my ever-vigilant Creator will prevent His children from slipping off the pathway to His kingdom. As a shade and defense, He protects and preserves us from ultimate harm.

The appeal of a mountain peak is incessantly alluring. Mount Everest, the world's highest peak, once attracted only the rarest of adventurers. Today, an ever-increasing crowd treks to its perilous peak for an unprecedented view of the world below. Is the drive and desire to ascend this great mountain, and other lesser peaks, in reality a desire for an encounter with our Creator? Certainly, biblical accounts of divine encounters on mountaintops abound. 

Mountaintops remind us that there is a perspective above and beyond the routine of our daily lives. And this is vitally-important. Unless we encounter our Creator in a "mountaintop experience", we will not truly see life's priorities. Such encounters punctuate the key priority to "seek first the kingdom, and His righteousness" (Matthew 6.33). 

It is worth noting that Jesus spent an entire night in prayer on a mountain before selecting His twelve disciples (Luke 6.12-16). We can only image how disastrous the decision might have been had it been made presumptuously. Surely, His example strongly appeals to us of the need for mountaintop experiences with our Creator if we are to effectively be about kingdom work!

We may not have the opportunity today to literally go up a mountain for a rendezvous with God, but we do have the opportunity for a mountain-top experience. May the Lord lift you up to the heights and draw you close to Him as you seek Him today.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It's a better deal than half-off Saturdays at Goodwill. The only thing better than a good deal on clothes and shoes is not needing to buy them at all.

"I have led you forty years in the wilderness; your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandal has not worn out on your foot." (Deuteronomy 29.5)

Moses, from the perspective of a lifetime of service to God and the people of Israel, here reflects on his experiences. Noting a forty-year run on clothing and shoes is pretty amazing, but this is incidental compared to real point.

"You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 29.6) In addition to God's miraculous preservation of clothing and shoes, He also provided daily nutrition in the form of manna. Removed from the normal dietary staples of bread and wine, the whole point to the provision was so that they might "know that I am the LORD your God." Sadly, the lesson had not been learned, as Moses stated earlier:

"Yet to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." (Deuteronomy 29.4)

Those who should have seen and known failed to do so. And, this legacy continues to this day. But, these stubborn Israelites haven't exactly cornered the market on disbelief; countless numbers of people have witnessed God's miraculous provision and failed to acknowledge such. We are not immune to the same misstep and mistake. 

Perhaps the greatest sin (if there is such a thing) is that of ingratitude. God's provision and preservation can easily be overlooked if we don't have "a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear." Humbly attuning our senses to develop an awareness of God's daily activity is certainly a key priority in pleasing and serving our Creator Father. 

We've been preserved and provided for that we might gratefully be about our Father's business. His kingdom priority and agenda ought to be foremost with His grateful people. May it be so today.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This one is for young people. It's for all those who don't think they know enough yet, or haven't had enough life experience; those waiting until they are more mature to serve the LORD. 

"Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.' Then I said, 'Alas, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth. But the LORD said to me, 'Do not say, 'I am a youth,' Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak.'" (Jeremiah 1.4-7)

Jeremiah may well have been a teenage prophet. Apparently concerned that his age was a detriment, he sought to beg off his divine appointment on the basis of inexperience. But, God's answer offered the utmost encouragement, and should for each of us as well - regardless of age: "everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak." 

As someone has well stated, God's call is not about ability, but availability. It is God who sends, and God who equips. When He impresses upon you His mission, age and inexperience are empty excuses, because His supply richly accompanies His call.

The apostle Paul stated it so very well: "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." (1 Timothy 4.12) Young people, don't dare let anyone dismiss you because of your youth! For those who might try, shame them with your godly example.

Some of God's greatest work has been done with and through young people. Jeremiah was a young prophet; Timothy was a young elder and evangelist; Jesus' mother, Mary, was likely a young teen mother. 

Whether young or old, God's call and promise to Jeremiah is applicable to us all: "everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak." Let's listen up, and stand ready to go, do, and speak as He directs. 

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

The realm of speculation and theory hardly seem the place to anchor your life. Unproven philosophy and religion are too often accepted as infallible guides. Why not instead base your life on the sure thing?

"Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven. Your faithfulness continues throughout all generations; You established the earth, and it stands. They stand this day according to Your ordinances, For all things are Your servants." (Psalm 119.89-91)

There is some debate regarding the infallibility of the Bible. Granted, there are some peripheral issues with verses that may not have been included in the earliest manuscripts, and some mistranslation of words from the original languages to English. But, key truths are crystal-clear and indisputable. As the Psalmist testifies, "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven". The record of the Bible is not an imperfect document undergoing "tweaking" by our Creator; it is the surest word of all time. As such, I appreciate its own testimony:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3.16-17)

God's word is His "servant" to train and equip His servants - you and I. As we are grounded in His faithful word, His unending faithfulness is richly extended to us. We are established, even as the earth is forever established (Psalm 119.90). Our lives are anchored in the sure thing.

I've seen plenty of fickle fads come and go in my lifetime. More than one has offered a fast-track to true spirituality; an "insider secret" in getting to know our Father. These have been more about slick marketing than a genuine desire for truth and the true welfare of the body of Christ.

The sure word of God, coupled with heartfelt prayer and a genuine desire for growth, is the only workable formula. It's a matter of getting into His word, and allowing His word to get into you. As someone has said, God's word has not been tried and found wanting; it has largely not been tried. 

Let's go with the sure thing. Delve today into His word - forever settled in heaven - and mine the riches that are there to transform your life. 

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Things are often different than they appear. A cursory examination of things can easily lead to a wrong conclusion. And, that wrong conclusion can completely overshadow the real truth. Case in point:

"Do not say in your heart when the LORD your God has driven them out before you, 'Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,' but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is dispossessing them before you. It is not for your righteousness or for the uprightness of your heart that you are going to possess their land, but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God is driving them out before you, in order to confirm the oath which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 9.4-5)

In God's grace and provision, He chose Abraham and his descendants to be recipients of His special blessings. In His grand scheme, He arranged to provide those blessings through the wickedness of godless people. In other words, His judgment on wicked people became the means for Abraham's descendants to inherit the promised land - modern-day Israel. Note: it was not the righteousness of Abraham's descendants that merited earning the land, but the wickedness of its inhabitants that prepared the way for them to receive it through grace.

The real lesson here is that God is faithful and good, and His people are not. But, those whom He covenants with He deals with in grace and mercy. As such, we stand in high place places and enjoy abundant blessings. But, we dare never think that our righteousness earns that favor.

Today's take-away is this: marvel at His abundant grace. Through His Son, He shows incredible favor to each of us. Savor this privilege. Recognize that even His judgements on the wicked are means for our blessing, as they were with Israel. 

Rejoice in His grace, and live in such a way as to administer it to those who are responsive.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Who doesn't grieve over broken things? Whether a broken marriage or family, special friendship, death, or loss of health or income, we are all affected at some time by brokenness. The key is in how we handle it.

"And it came about in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, that wine was before him, and I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. So the king said to me, 'Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.' Then I was very much afraid." (Nehemiah 2.1-2)

A man named Nehemiah, a cupbearer to a powerful king, was dismayed at a disturbing report concerning the condition of his people and city (Nehemiah 1.4). As a man of faith and prayer, his lament was directed through prayer to the One True God. But, his sorrow was obvious as he served the king one day. In short order, he blurted out his concern and burden for his people and city, Jerusalem. What follows is nothing short of miraculous:

"Then the king said to me, 'What would you request?'" (Nehemiah 2.4) Imagine having access to someone powerful and influential, such as the President, and hearing this question! In essence, a blank check is offered by the world's most powerful man. Nehemiah's response is indicative of his spiritual condition:  "So I prayed to the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 2.4)

This ancient story of a man named Nehemiah is interesting, but it is also ultimately applicable. Some form of brokenness is a burden to each of us. We can pessimistically lament this reality, or optimistically bring it before our Father in fervent prayer. If we choose the latter option, we can anticipate help from the True King - 'What would you request?' From that point on, we can anticipate abundant and miraculous provision. 

I'm reminded of a great promise from my King, Jesus: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5.3) Blessed are the broken. Those who are broken, and lament brokenness (Matthew 5.4), are in the best possible position to humbly seek wholeness. The coming kingdom of God is the realm of true wholeness and healing. The King may make provision for partial wholeness in this age, but we can be certain that He is fully set on it in the age to come. And, He is leading His people today in the pathway that leads to the wholeness of the coming age.

As we face the reality of brokenness, may we view it with eyes of faith, undergirded through faithful, fervent prayer. And, may we live expectantly of the King's abundant provision.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, August 06, 2012

After an eight month journey through space, an SUV-sized spacecraft successfully landed on Mars. Its mission, we are told, is to explore the red planet for two years to determine if life has ever existed there. Perhaps some evidence of life will be discovered, but it's doubtful there will be any indication of humanoid life for this simple reason:

"The heavens are the heavens of the LORD, But the earth He has given to the sons of men." (Psalm 115.16)

The earth alone is the habitation of God's highest creation. Not only has God given it to the sons of men now, but it is His plan and will to give it to us forever in a renewed form. When Jesus echoed His Father's will by stating that the meek "shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5.5), He really meant it! "Pie in the sky when you die" misses the point and plan entirely. Besides, "The dead do not praise the LORD" (Psalm 115.17). The dead sleep in the dust of the earth, awaiting resurrection and the final restoration of planet earth to its creation perfection.

I've been privileged to visit some beautiful places on planet earth. Beautiful as the soaring mountains, emerald-green oceans, and lush forests are, their true beauty is dimmed in this sin-stained world. We cannot begin to imagine the beauty and majesty of the restored earth in the coming age. Thus, we are inspired to say, as did the Psalmist:

"But as for us, we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forever. Praise the LORD!" (Psalm 115.18) 

Our true Creator, Yahweh, alone deserves praise and blessing from His people for what He has done, and will do. May His works and promises stir you today to true, heartfelt praise.

©Steve Taylor, 2012