Wednesday, December 19, 2012

There is an old saying, "in the darkest night shines the brightest star". The last days of this present age are undoubtedly characterized by the darkness of wickedness and spiritual blindness. Against that backdrop shines this bright promise:

"In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south ... In that day there will be no light; the luminaries will dwindle. For it will be a unique day which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but it will come about that at evening time there will be light. And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one. " (Zechariah 14:4, 6-9)

Night is destined to turn to the brightest day. In a very specific location, on a predetermined day, God's Son will reappear on the earthly scene to usher in the ultimate age of light. this age of light will also be an indescribable age of life - living waters will renew a ravaged earth, and those blessed with the gift of immortality will celebrate its rebirth, even as we savor our new life. 

The pathway to this promise of a bright future involves a lengthy process. Combining the forces of His resurrected ones, a millennium will be required to accomplish the task. "When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15.28) The ultimate light to come is when our Father Himself takes up residence on planet earth.

Against the backdrop of the present darkness of this evil age, some are wondering if the people of God can truly make a difference. A rising tide of evil seems a formidable foe, but these are the mere death throes of a system destined for destruction. With shattering suddenness, the light of Christ's return will dawn, and the true age of enlightenment will commence.

We live in dark days. But, that darkness offers unprecedented opportunity for the children of light. Never has our light shined brighter. And, the more we focus character and truth in our lives, the brighter still that light shines. 

As another saying goes, "it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness". The darkness of this evil age is lamentable, but the people of God focus on the light, not the darkness. Until the true light dawns, we shine His light, and reflect the promise of the age to come. 

The Kingdom IS coming. You can list it in your appointment calendar, and live in anticipation of it.

Working, looking, and listening for a trumpet blast.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the face of impending massacre, these words made all the difference:

"Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's." (2 Chronicles 20.15)

"You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you." (2 Chronicles 20.17)

"put your trust in the LORD your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed." (2 Chronicles 20.20)

Against incredible odds, and almost certain annihilation, God's reassurance and directives to His people turned defeat into overwhelming victory. Don't surrender to fear and dismay. Don't worry about the battle, which is not yours to fight. Face down the enemy, and let God bring victory. Trust fully in your Father, and the words of His prophets. 

There is not a single believer who is not facing overwhelming forces. The mass of humanity is bent on a direction that is in radical opposition to the realm of God and the kingdom of God. That places each of us in a battle of staggering proportions, in which defeat is certain. Yet, it is against this backdrop that God does what God does best. This epic David-versus-Goliath struggle is ultimately His, and dare not be fought with our own minuscule resources. The priority is to "station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf". Our role is stand; His is to fight to battle. 

Praying that these words will be a strength and encouragement in all you face today.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, December 17, 2012

The senseless, tragic murder of innocent victims at the hands of crazed gunmen has become America's national nightmare. Having reached the so-called "tipping point", passionate voices call for real change. No doubt there will be increased dialog on such things are gun control, mental health, and violence in entertainment in the days ahead. All will be, at best, cosmetic solutions to a real problem.

Underlying these hideous crimes and acts of violence is a spiritual problem that no secular society would dare address. It involves addressing the true nature of evil, and outlining biblical pathways to real solutions.

The lines between mental and spiritual health are easily blurred. Modern medicine systematically categorizes all such maladies as mental and emotional, and prescribe chemical remedies, to the enormous profit of mega-pharmaceutical corporations. Spiritual problems are thus overlooked, as are spiritual solutions.

The uncomfortable possibility to be addressed is that of demon possession, and satanic influence. Is there a devil? Is it possible for individuals to be overwhelmed and controlled by evil influence aside of human tendency? Such questions are not easily addressed, but must be considered amidst a rapidly growing series of mass murders. 

The gospel narratives (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) contain numerous incidents of demonic exorcism at the hands of Jesus. Is this merely imagery for mental healing, or were external evil forces involved? 

Perhaps the most poignant biblical example of the external influence of evil is Jesus' betrayer, Judas. Few words are as chilling as these: "And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve." (Luke 22.3) This incident became the "tipping point" for the ultimate sinister act: the betrayal of the sinless Son of God by one of His inner circle. 

Is it possible that such external evil influence is a factor in modern mass homicides? If so, how does it come about? What conditions and habits are conducive to such influence and even possession?

It is almost certain that the questions and issues raised here will never receive serious consideration in this modern society. But, the people of God do well to consider such things in order to live wisely, and face the nature of our true war (Ephesians 6.10-17). 

The greatest priority amidst the dark backdrop of our times must certainly be to live and propagate biblical truth, and genuine love. These words of Jesus are especially instructive: "Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold." (Matthew 24.12) The challenge is to be a rare community pocket of unconditional Christian love, acceptance, and forgiveness in the last days. And, to "let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 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." (Hebrews 10.24-25)

We will never counteract the rising tide of evil in the last days, but we can be bright beacons of hope and love who hold out precious, life-saving truth. And, by better understanding the true face of evil, we can lovingly counsel and assist those who are its victims. 

These are times for the people of God to especially live wisely, represent truth fully, and love fervently from the heart.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The idea of world peace is appealing, but current evidence suggests we are a long way from it. In spite of the lofty ideal that is foundational to the United Nations - "they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war" (Micah 4.3) - very little progress has been made. The tendency to war appears to be a hopeless human addiction.

Make no mistake: the only true solution to the problem of war is genuine knowledge of Yahweh God. Until there is a true hunger to know Him, we will never purposely remanufacture instruments of war into instruments of agriculture, and cease military training and preparedness (Micah 4.3). The attitude that precedes this remarkable era of peace is summed up in these words: "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD And to the house of the God of Jacob, That He may teach us about His ways And that we may walk in His paths." (Micah 4.2) 

Honestly, I sometimes wonder how much I really know (and want to know) my Father. Sure, I regularly read His word and pray, but is true passionate hunger really there? And, if I am to truly know Him, it can only happen through knowing His Son ("I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." John 14.6). Passionate pursuit is the pathway to peace - individually, and internationally.

It's encouraging to read that a day is coming when "peoples will stream" to "the mountain of the house of the LORD" (Micah 4.1) to passionately pursue knowledge of Him. Today there is more "streaming" to malls, sporting events, and theme parks. Passion for pleasure overshadows genuine passion for the Father. 

So, how are things between you and your Father, and His Son? Does a fire burn within that drives you in passionate pursuit? Are you driven to learn His ways and will?

A Keith Green song serves as a prayer for renewed passion: "Oh Lord, please light the fire, That once burned bright and clear. Replace the lamp of my first love, That burns with holy fear."

May passion be so kindled that we relentlessly pursue the LORD, and His will and ways.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Severe drought, mega storms, tornado outbreaks, rising ocean levels, global warming. There can be little doubt that nature is not 'normal', but are God's people to blame? At least some would say the solution is within their grasp. Consider:

"if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This verse has been popularly promoted as "God's promise for national blessings". Coupled with the previous verse -  "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people (2 Chronicles 7.13) - it certainly seems to reference nation and land. The question is, what nation and land? The land of the free and the home of the brave? Perhaps, but primarily the "land" of the people called by His (Yahweh's) name. The territory of God's people, the realm of His universal church, is the main focus.

That much being clarified, the bright promises of 2 Chronicles 2.14 might well be called God's "4-3 Plan" - if we'll do four things, He will do three things. If we, His people, will: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray; (3) seek His face; (4) turn from our wicked ways, then He will: (1) hear from heaven; (2) forgive our sin; (3) heal our land. Four key conditions, and three great promises.

The "land" of the people of God involves lots of things; whatever our lives touch - work, school, home, marriage, church. If all is not well in our "territory", then God's prescription is the remedy.

Things not going well at work? Struggling with schoolwork? Is there tension and conflict in the home? Lack of communication and love in your marriage? Not excited about your church experience and involvement with kingdom work? A "yes" answer to any of these should draw us to God's "4-3" prescription in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

God wants to hear, forgive, and heal our territory. He wants to be actively involved with us in restoring healthy work places, schools, homes, marriages, and churches. He will do what He alone can do IF we will partner with Him through His important conditions. Humility, passionate prayer, decisiveness concerning wickedness - qualities indicative of wholehearted response - are absolutely prerequisite to the promises.

Laying the blame for natural disasters at the feet of the people of God hardly seems reasonable. But, such phenomena can serve to remind us of the need to recommit ourselves to God's important priorities in 2 Chronicles 7.14. These four essentials are always the need of the hour. May we commit to them fully, and experience His blessings abundantly.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, December 10, 2012

Is gratitude a cause or effect? Are "blessed" people especially thankful, or does thankfulness contribute to a blessed life? Consider these words from a man who had both considerable blessings and considerable troubles:

"I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High." (Psalm 9.1-2)

It really comes down to the proverbial half full/half empty glass - perceived reality is largely the reality of one's experience. The ungrateful person focuses on the negative, while the grateful person focuses on the blessings. 

The 'attitude of gratitude' isn't an option for believers; it's an imperative: "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5.18) God's express will for His people is that they maintain a thankful attitude and outlook amidst all circumstances ("IN everything"; not FOR everything", as some mistakenly believe). 

Some choose to focus daily, during the month of November, on thankfulness. Other keep a daily "gratitude journal". Whatever tool we choose, the priority is on cultivating a thankful attitude. 

It seems no coincidence that people I've known over the years who have lived extremely long lives have this in common: a positive, thankful attitude. From my non-medical, non-scientific vantage point, it appears that attitude is a key factor in longevity. 

Taking our cue from the Psalmist, proclaiming our thankfulness to others is crucial in cultivating the 'attitude of gratitude' ("I will tell of all Your wonders"). So, how about this for a bite-size challenge today: purposely express one specific area of thankfulness to one individual. Chances are, you'll not just stop with one.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

World peace and prosperity - anybody opposed to that idea? Of course not; how could anyone reject something so great and beneficial? Yet in spite of the appeal of this great goal, the actions of human history indicate a propensity to do otherwise. Peace and prosperity are personally appealing, but gaining them through aggression seems to be the tactic of choice historically. It's a strategy destined for dismal failure. Another, more radical approach, is imperative.

What if there was an absolutely certain pathway to world peace, as well as true ecological and economic health? What if there was a sure-fire plan for true healthcare reform? Who wouldn't be on board with that? Well, the fact is that these are the facts, and it's surprising that more people aren't enthusiastically embracing this revolutionary plan.

"The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the desert will rejoice and blossom ... the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the desert. The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water" (Isaiah 35:1,5-7)

This future earthly paradise can be realized through only one means: the direct intervention and leadership of God's Son in human government. Another will precede Him as a type of "Christ", and will only compound the current world's woes. The plan can only work with the right man at the helm, and the proof is found in what He already did to typify this future work (Matthew 11.3-6). 

THE reform of all reforms is on its way. No other plan is worth investing wholehearted time and energy in than this one. In fact, if we don't give it our all we don't get it at all (Matthew 16.24-25). The revolution of the ages demands our absolute loyalty.

The cause of the revolution is not easy. Weary servants of the king and the kingdom will find these words reassuring: "Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble. Say to those with anxious heart, 'Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.' " (Isaiah 35.3-4) 

Stand strong, faithful servant. You are part of the greatest reform and revolution the world will ever see. No cause is more worthy; no struggle more noble. We can anticipate warm welcome and rich reward if we overcome. The night is nearly gone, and the fullness of the kingdom is just around the corner!

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Imagine being given a signed blank check and told to fill in any amount you want. Would you fill in an amount with two, three, four, five, six, or even seven digits? An even more generous offer was once made by the God of the universe to a fledgling ruler of His people.

"In that night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, 'Ask what I shall give you.' " (2 Chronicles 1:7) 

If we were Solomon, our heads no doubt would have been reeling with possibilities. Since there were no limitations to the offer, what could be requested of the God who Himself was without limits? Surely there would be need for time to sleep on such an offer. But, it appears from the Scripture text that Solomon was ready with a nearly immediate response:

"Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?" (2 Chronicles 1.10)

Solomon's immediate response was so well received that God granted Him the wealth, honor, and fame that he could easily have primarily sought. It sounds very similar to the "bonus" we can expect to receive from our Father when we seek the primary thing: "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6.33)

God's gift of wisdom and knowledge to Solomon was, and is, unparalleled. But, this same God has a generous predisposition to all His children: "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:11)

The real kicker is seeking that which is truly good. In spite of our sincerity, we can be seriously misguided in what we seek. Seeking mega millions in the next lottery, even with the intent of being benevolent with winnings, could thoroughly corrupt us if granted. God alone knows the ultimate outcome of that which we seek.

I've determined that the safest requests are those clearly outlined in the Bible. For that reason, I have the utmost confidence in praying the model prayer (Matthew 6.9-13). We can't go wrong is asking God to honor His name, and advance His kingdom on earth as in heaven. Seeking "daily bread", proportionate forgiveness as we forgive others, and deliverance from temptation and evil, are spot on. 

God graciously extends a generous offer to us today. What will you choose to seek? Consider the ultimate good, seek it earnestly, and passionately pursue it with your Father today. 

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, December 03, 2012

Modern technology allows us to aim a computer tablet at the night sky and see the names of stars, planets, ad constellations displayed on the screen as we look at them. Impressive as that is, it is still surpassed by simply lying on the ground and looking up at the vast celestial night display. Unfolding before us are myriads of heavenly objects beyond ability to number or name. 

"When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!" (Psalm 8.3-9)

The vastness of the night sky reminds us how minuscule we are in this nearly limitless sea called the universe. And yet, Yahweh God notices far more about us than we will ever know. And, this infinite God cares deeply for His Son, the son of man. He has been created a little lower than our Father, but He is crowned with glory and majesty. Our Father has designed His vast creation to be subject to His Son's rule, placing all things under His feet; even as we are reminded in Psalm 110.1 - "The LORD says to my (David's) Lord: 'Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.' "

It is a good thing to be a student of God's word, the Bible. But, it is also important to be a student of God's creation. When both our coupled together, we are left in awe of His creation and His plan. Like the Psalmist, we cannot help but exclaim: "O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!" 

May you be filled with wonderment and awe today as you ponder His word and creation.

©Steve Taylor, 2012