Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What is God worth to you? It would be very easy to quickly come up with the "right" answer, but take a minute to honestly think about it. Is He worth more time than you've been giving Him? Is He worth greater focus on His presence? Is He worth taking time to be silent in His presence for a half hour or an hour a day? Is He worth spending time diligently reading and studying His word? What is He personally worth to you?

"Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array." (Psalm 29.1-2)

"Ascribe" very simply means to give, provide, grant, permit. In essence, it means to give our Father His due. And that's the heart of worship: to attribute worth. According to the Psalmist, He is due "glory and strength ... the glory due to His name." He rightly deserves a place of honor, and credit for His immense and mighty deeds. He name - YHWH - deserves to be revered and remembered, so that He is not confused with other so-called gods.

To "Worship the LORD in holy array" is more about character than putting on our Sunday best clothes. He desires clean hands and a pure heart, and is honored when His people walk before Him and worship Him in the integrity of godly character.

So, what is God worth to you? I can only answer for myself, and what I give to Him of time and energy. A thorough and honest assessment of my life indicates He may not be worth as much as I pretend that He is. Not that I want to guilt myself into greater devotion, but rather an honest assessment becomes a springboard for greater love and devotion. 

This verse serves as the great standard for attributing to God that which He deserves: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Romans 12.1) The challenge, then, is in how that works out in the daily activity of life. 

We are called to "ascribe" to our Father that which is due Him. May we freely and gratefully do so today - and every day - in response to all He has done for us.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, April 29, 2013

Coaches are often accused of playing favorites. I was the reason for that once. Being left-handed, one of the tallest kids on the team, and a fair ball handler, I played first base regularly. The cause for the charge of favoritism was that the coach just happened to be my Dad.

Some would say God plays favorites. Case in point: He picked the Jews to be His chosen people. Fortunately, He didn't pick them to be His ONLY people. Through a series of miraculous events, Jesus' disciple, Peter, got the point in terms of divine favoritism: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." (Acts 10.34-35)

A devout man, Cornelius, found favor with God, and became a recipient of His Holy Spirit (Acts 10.44). Prior to this, the endowment of Holy Spirit had been confined to God's, chosen Jewish people. But, having been enlightened, Peter proclaimed the truth that God is not a God of favoritism. The humble, sincere seeker is welcomed by Him, regardless of ethnicity. The apostle Paul would later be inspired to state it clearly: "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." (Galatians 3.28)

Nothing is more liberating and enabling than to know that sincere seekers are "welcome to Him". Many have the erroneous belief that they have to "clean up their lives" and become "good enough" in order to come to God. But, if it is based on merit, none qualify (Romans 3.23). Faith in the perfect sacrifice of God's Son, and a sincere love and desire for the Father, are key conditions. 

Most of us carry the load of unworthiness with us daily. Who isn't painfully aware of their own inadequacy and sinfulness? But, one of the fundamental lessons of the Bible is that our Father accepts the sincere seeker, "warts and all". Many of the giants of faith (Hebrews 11) had serious character defects. The lesson, then, is that there is hope for us all - regardless of background. 

My prayer for each of us today is that we might not look so closely at the defects of our lives that we miss the God of grace and acceptance. With passionate hearts, may we seek the One who is relentless in His pursuit of us through His Son. 

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If it's based on ability, we're in a lot of trouble. Even the most talented person is woefully inadequate for the task of doing God's work and will. Fortunately, the key requirement is AVAILABILITY, not ABILITY. 

"Now it came about on the day when the LORD spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt, that the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'I am the LORD; speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you.' But Moses said before the LORD, 'Behold, I am unskilled in speech; how then will Pharaoh listen to me?' " (Exodus 6.28-30)

Whether Moses was overly modest or realistic about his speaking abilities, God's call must surely have seemed infinitely beyond his limited abilities. And it was, as it is our abilities. But, his inability was not an obstacle:

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh that he let the sons of Israel go out of his land.' " (Exodus 7.1-2)

The call was based on God's provision, not natural ability. God would make Moses to be "as God to Pharaoh". The words he was to speak were "all that I command you". 

Moses serves as an example of what God calls each of us to. Speech impediments, and other limitations, are no obstacle to the God who gave us our tongue and our being. As has been said, He doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called. Such as He did for Moses, and He does for us.

What mission has He called you to? I've never met a believer who didn't exhibit some form of call or passion for God's work. But, I've met plenty of people with Moses-type excuses about speaking inability, lack of knowledge, etc. Again, He doesn't call the qualified; He qualifies the called. If He has given you a passion and a calling, He will surely provide the resources and abilities. But, step number one is being available - ready and willing to take the first step of faith that will require His full resources for success. 

Are you fully surrendered and available, or hesitant and taking inventory of your inabilities? God powerfully used Moses, and He can powerfully use you. Today is the day to take a decisive step in the direction of the call He has extended to you.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013

Patience has never been my strong suit. Some would say this is typical of firstborns, but seeking to justify natural behavior just doesn't cut it in the spiritual realm. Patience, as the saying goes, is a virtue. More accurately, patience is essential:

"Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD." (Psalm 27:14)

Waiting can be the very thing that tries patience. It can easily lead to impatience, discouragement, and even despair. But, the Psalmist reminds us that true waiting is designed to build strength and courage.

When waiting leads to impatience and discouragement, the key problem may well be with our perception of our Father. Such negative thoughts are indicative of a perspective that our Father is inattentive and limited in His ability to act. With such an anemic view of the Almighty, waiting leads to worry.

Resolute faith in a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing draws us to wait expectantly for His solution in His time. Delays are not necessarily denials, but opportunities for the development of faith and character - qualities He prizes most highly. 

"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13)

Godly waiting never loses sight of the kingdom of God. Too often, our perspective is His intervention in this present age. We pray and seek healing for a loved one who is sick, and easily lose sight of the possibility that His healing plan is resurrection at the return of Christ. In our impatience, we seek conditions of the kingdom that are reserved for the age to come, rather than this present age. 

Waiting for the LORD is more about process than results. So often we seek tangible answers and intervention, when His greater priority is preparing people now for His kingdom to come. Waiting, then, is about coming alongside Him in intimate relationship, and learning more of His will, ways, and character. As such, we do develop strength and courage based on a more accurate understanding of our amazing Father.

"Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." (Psalm 27:14)

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Making your case for impeccable character before God seems anything but wise. Who doesn't have glaring flaws that our perfect Creator could point out? Nevertheless, David the Psalmist did just that:

"Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in my integrity, And I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth." (Psalm 26.1-3)

There is a strong urge to disagree with David's lofty words. And, we know that later in his life he was guilty of the horrific sins of adultery, covered up by murder and deceit. But, in these words, is he making a case for his sinlessness? He speaks of a walk of integrity, and trust, but stops short of claiming perfection. As one who would be labeled "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13.22), the course of his life is set on His Creator and Father, imperfect as he was.

It is said of Abraham that "he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15.6) This man, as imperfect as David, also had his heart set on his Creator. Although his life - like David's - was characterized by many missteps, the endearing qualities of faith, trust, and undivided loyalty gained favor with Yahweh God.

The question that begs to be asked, in light of David's words, is, "Do I have a genuine passion for my Father?" In my weakness and imperfection, do I long for fellowship and connection as David did?

Perfection, aside of through Christ, is unachievable. But, it is a faith gift to those who diligently seek the Father. So, again, the question challenges us: Do I have a wholehearted passion for my Father? Does passionate pursuit guide me, rather than an obligatory list of do's and don'ts? 

May our hearts resonate with David's words in the twenty-sixth Psalm, and may the sacred romance be more greatly kindled in our lives today.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

It happened during the day shift, at work. It was an otherwise perfectly ordinary day, as mundane as any day on the job. But, then there was "the incident", and nothing was ever the same again.

"Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up." (Exodus 3:1-2)

The Creator of the universe orchestrated a dramatic breakthrough to Moses as prelude to a specific call to service. After four hundred years of oppressive slave labor, the time for deliverance was at hand. The call of the God of the universe from a burning bush would launch Moses on the path of deliverance.

"The LORD said, 'I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their task masters, for I am aware of their sufferings.' " (Exodus 3.7)

God's call to Moses was not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of his oppressed people. The God of deliverance - at just the right moment, in the right way - was about to set in motion a chain of events that would lead to the deliverance of the people of God. And, how reassuring to hear, 'I have surely seen the affliction of My people ... I am aware of their sufferings.' 

Might the God of the universe show up at your workplace today? Stranger things have happened! If so, this God who sees the afflictions of His people, and is aware of their sufferings, just might call you to serve in some capacity as a deliverer. As His ambassador of grace, He would use you to comfort and encourage those around you whose need is desperate. And, He would also call you to lead them from bondage to freedom in the land of promise - the kingdom of God. As I'm often reminded of from the cover of our weekly church bulletin, "Bringing kingdom wholeness to human brokenness as we await kingdom fullness at the return of Christ." The God of deliverance has called His people to bring kingdom wholeness to human brokenness in its many forms.

Expect an encounter with your God today, whether at work, school, or home. And, anticipate a call to alleviate the affliction and suffering of others. Anticipate a call to be a deliverer through the ultimate deliverance of the message and truth of the kingdom of God. "Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The right thing done the wrong way results in the wrong thing. Such as it is with doing God's work: His work done your way does not have a good result.

"Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand." (Exodus 2.11-12)

Relieving God's people of an oppressive burden is a noble cause. In fact, that was the very plan God had in the works for them through the man, Moses. But, taking matters into his own hands and committing murder hardly served God's purposes. A long period of time lapsed - approximately forty years - before the dramatic burning bush call came, and God's plan and timing unfolded.

The lessons and application for us are abundantly clear: God's plan, done the wrong way and at the wrong time, is a recipe for disaster. His plan must be done His way, and in His time. 

Sometimes our presumptuous actions on His behalf betray our view of an anemic and inattentive Father. His seeming inability to get the job done presupposes that He needs us to do it, so we roll up our sleeves and forge recklessly ahead. Or, the crisis looms and He hasn't acted, so He obviously doesn't really see the situation clearly, so we act on His behalf. 

The wise writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that "There is an appointed time for everything." (Ecclesiastes 3.1), and that "He has made everything appropriate in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3.11) There is wisdom in discerning the season and time for the plan of God - His plan, His way, in His time.

Perhaps you have a strong impression of something to do with His will in your mind. The greatest temptation, however, is to act presumptuously your way and in your time. His will is often like a seed planted in a field or garden: it must grow and come to fruition in its time and way.

May He give you wise insight into His will, methods, and timing, and may you be at peace with the careful unfolding of His plan.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Firstborns are notorious perfectionists. We easily obsess with doing things right at the expense of doing the right things (there is a significant difference). And, the relentless pursuit of perfection is a recipe for discouragement, because the goal is almost always elusive.

Sometimes God seems like the ultimate perfectionist, with impossibly high standards set for those who would seek Him. But, is this standard of perfection what He truly desires from us? What exactly does He require of seekers?

"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. No, He's not hung up on dirt under our fingernails, but hands that have not participated in evil deeds. And, 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. 

This God of perfection doesn't demand perfection from His seekers, but rather the simple sincerity of faith and truth. Perfection is what He supplies through the sacrifice of His Son (an impossible human achievement). 

"Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?" Who may have relationship with Him? The answer is far more simple and attainable than many realize. He simply implores us to come, forsaking wicked deeds, with wholehearted sincerity. Nothing is more enriching and fulfilling than walking in intimate relationship with our Creator, through His Son, Jesus the Christ. Take the decisive step today to passionately pursue the God Who wants your heart and life.

©Steve Taylor, 2012

Monday, April 08, 2013

Good can easily become the enemy of the best. The rub is, it's not so easy to know the difference. Fortunately, a band of men once saw this conflict, and wisely resolved it. 

The Book of Acts records the phenomenal growth of the first-century church. Along with the rapid growth of the church came burgeoning people needs. In particular, widows who depended on the church for daily meals (this was before the popular "Meals On Wheels" program today). Jesus' original band of apostles provides oversight and leadership for the fledgling church, but its growth threatened its future. Tending to the needs of its membership stretched these men beyond their ability to serve. And so, when the widow's meals on wheels crisis loomed, a meeting was called and a decision made:

"So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, 'It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. Therefore,brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom,whom we may put in charge of this task. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.' " (Acts 6.2-4)

Now, it would be easy to label the apostles as arrogant for being too important to tend to menial tasks, like waiting tables. But, the decision was a matter of expediency, not pride. These men had a unique role to fulfill with prayer and the ministry of the word. Others could wait tables, but there were no substitutes for this work by these men. Were they to neglect this foundational work, the entire movement would digress to a socialistic humanitarian program. 

There is an important lesson and application here for every follower of Christ. Humble service is vitally important, but not if it supplants the disciplines of prayer and Bible study. The 'good' of service easily becomes the enemy of the 'best' - prayer and Bible study. Fact is, all of these are needed, but in the right priority. The needs of service, prayer, and the ministry of the word led the first century church to an important division of labor. And so it needs to be in our lives: prioritize the key disciplines of prayer and Bible study, and then build service atop these. When there is an imbalance or deficiency in any of these, everything suffers.

Good can easily become the enemy of the best. Are you carefully making the best your highest priority, and fitting in the good around it? May God give you wisdom as you grapple with this key question.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It definitely explains many things, like governmental posturing and aggression: "by the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of our father David Your servant, said, 'WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE, AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS? THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND, AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.' " (Acts 4.25-26)

In the face of opposition, the early church clearly understood the true heart of the issue. Drawn to Psalm two, they recognized that rulers and governments are aligned against Yahweh God and His Christ, and thus the people of God. A state of war exists, and hostilities can quickly and easily break out. 

In ancient times, Daniel both interpreted dreams and dreamed dreams pertaining to present and future governments. Each was visualized as a type of beastly animal - an appropriate representation of human government. Make no mistake: "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one." (1 John 5.19) 

What's a believer to do? Live in terror at the ghastly potential of wicked government? The admonition of Jesus to be "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10.16) seems applicable. Live above evil motives and behavior, but cast a wary eye toward government that can quickly turn against the people of God. And, pray that it does not do so (1 Timothy 2.1-2)

There is wisdom in knowing why things happen as they do in the world. Present upheaval is caused by nations and governments seeking to usurp the One true God and His Anointed Messiah. 

This mortal struggle between the systems of the world and the Kingdom of God will not be alarming to those whose true allegiance is to the Kingdom of God. And the surest way to place our allegiance with the government of God is to seek its priority today: "Your kingdom come. You will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33).

The nations are in turmoil because they are at war with the kingdom of God. We are at peace amidst the turmoil because our citizenship is in the kingdom through Jesus our Lord.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

It's rarely easy for the people of God. Throughout history, the tide of popularity has many times quickly turned against God's people. But, through both adversity and prosperity, Yahweh God has always been a faithful source of strength and deliverance.

"Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation. But the sons of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly, and multiplied, and became exceedingly mighty, so that the land was filled with them. Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, 'Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.' So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor." (Exodus 1.6-11) 

A generation of blessings and prosperity in a foreign land gave way to oppression and opposition under a new government administration. The favored people of God became a feared people. And yet, God's presence and blessings remained. Events were being orchestrated that would bring a man of deliverance - Moses - onto the scene. 

We live today in uncertain times. The threat of new hostilities by anti-God governments, and the passing of ungodly legislation, all cause concern for God's people. How quickly a peaceful coexistence in the world can change, as it did with God's people in Egypt so long ago. But, most assuredly, God's plan for deliverance is well underway.

Moses, the deliverer of the people of God from Egypt, would later declare: "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him." (Deuteronomy 18.15) That prophet we know to be Jesus the Nazarene, God's Messiah and Deliverer - Someone well worth listening to and following. And, as history draws to a close and ominous times for the people of God unfold, the plan for deliverance is as sure as ever. The King and the kingdom are on track!

Take courage today, family of God. Whatever opposition or oppression you may be facing is destined to give way to deliverance, either in this age or the age to come. Like God's miraculous plan through Moses, deliverance is in the works and on track. Stand strong and faithful as you anticipate His plan and timing. 


Monday, April 01, 2013

Few things appeal more to us than the story of victory in the face of certain defeat. History is replete with examples, but none quite so dramatic as a time when death was turned to life. The story begins with the agonizing words of a man in death's throes: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" (Psalm 22.1). 

Many will immediately recognize these as the words of Jesus on the cross but I, for one, believe these words are much misunderstood. On the surface, they sound like the words of someone bereft of connection with the living God. But, these were deliberately quoted words from a Messianic Psalm, designed to connect the One on the cross with an important prophecy. Those who were intuitive would also see the connection with verses that followed: "They pierced my hands and my feet ... They divide my garments among them, And for my clothing they cast lots." (Psalm 22.16,18)

Those who were especially perceptive would also see that death would not be final. A promise that followed would indicate ultimate victory: "For the kingdom is the LORD'S And He rules over the nations." (Psalm 22.28) 

While the agony of death by crucifixion is unfathomable to us, those haunting words - "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" - were not uttered by One truly feeling forsaken by His Father, but One who wanted to make certain that His experience was identified with Psalm 22. And, that Psalm reveals both the suffering of God's Messiah, and the ultimate triumph of the kingdom of God. 

Many of us can identify with those haunting words in our times of distress, but we do well to also identify with the kingdom triumph found in this Psalm. The reminder is powerfully important: out of the ashes of discouragement and defeat comes the triumph of the kingdom. Even death does not win, as the resurrection of Jesus reminds us. His resurrection is a prototype of ours, and prelude to the coming kingdom victory. 

This day undoubtedly holds some experiences that are discouraging and defeating. But, the One who identified with and exemplified Psalm 22 shows us that kingdom triumph is destined to prevail amidst our discouragement and defeat. Cling to that promise, and live victoriously in and for the One who makes it so.