Wednesday, May 29, 2013

today's devotional - May 29, 2013

Perspective of the seasons of the year largely depends on where you live. In colder climates, summer is welcomed and savored after a cold, hard winter. Not so much so in the desert Southwest where I live: summer is the antitype of winter. The scorching, dry heat is endured until cooler temperatures return. Amidst the triple-digit temperatures, the common comment is, "but it's a dry heat". As such, shade provides immediate relief not experienced in humid climates. The Psalmist must have been familiar with that dry heat in the Middle Eastern desert region where he lived, for he wrote:

"the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life" (Psalm 36.7-9)

Desert dry heat is a type of object lesson concerning spiritual thirst and need. One of the first lessons I learned was that I was thirstier than I knew. Accustomed to sweating in hot, humid climates, I soon discovered here that I was losing considerable moisture through rapid evaporation. The common advice here is, drink water constantly, because you need more water than you know. And in that there is a spiritual parallel: we are more thirsty spiritually than we know. As such, God's people do well to "drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights. For with You is the fountain of life". 

Without an awareness of our spiritual need, we will not desperately thirst and long for a solution. I'm reminded of the Beatitudes of Jesus' Sermon On the Mount: all qualities of "blessedness" have something to do with brokenness and need. The one who has insight into his/her spiritual need is best positioned for refreshing and nourishing.

I'm thankful to know and serve the LORD God YHWH, who knows my true spiritual condition, and provides rather than accuses. His invitation to us is to come to Him, empty-handed and without pretense, and He will abundantly pardon and provide. He will provide refreshing from "the fountain of life", that will satisfy even the deepest thirst. His offer sounds much like His Son's offer to a woman at a well (John 4.14), but then that's another story ...

May we each fully face our need, and then turn to the only One who can fully satisfy - this day, and always.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Today's devotional - May 28, 2013

It's been said that we don't know what we don't know. In our limited understanding, there are vast amounts of information that we don't even know exist, much less understand the specifics of these areas. I suspect we can include our Creator in this realm: whatever we know about Him, we likely don't know what we don't know about Him. 

An ancient Greek people came up with what they considered an innovative approach: simply erect an altar to an unknown God. Sensing a deficiency amidst their plethora of so-called gods, they neatly covered the unknown with this generic altar. How little did they know about what (Who) they did not know! But, a spiritually insightful man named Paul attempted to open the door to the most important unknown.

"while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you." (Acts 17.23)

The remainder of Acts seventeen is a fascinating read as Paul declared the One true God, who cannot be contained in material temples; is near to all His creation; Who calls all people to repentance; and, Who has established a judgment day to be administered by His Son, whom He raised from the dead. A great deal can be known about this so-called "unknown God"!

Isn't our Creator Father worth more than to be consigned to an altar as "unknown"? Limited as our understanding of Him will be even after a lifetime of pursuit, is not the God of the universe worth knowing as fully as possible? Indeed He is.

The privilege we each have this day is to know more of the unknown about our Creator Father. My prayer and desire for you is that a deep hunger to know Him will stir a diligent and passionate pursuit. May the unknown become abundantly known by His people.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Today's devotional

The rantings of an insane man. At least, that's how it appeared. But, it was all a charade; this man was more sane than most. 

Many Bible translations preface Psalm 34 with the phrase, "A Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abilelech, who drove him away and he departed". Obviously this fake madman was anything but mad. Consider these stirring words:

"they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing (verse 10) ... The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry (verse 10) ... The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit" (verse 18) 

Few people more intimately knew the LORD YHWH than David, and these words reflect that firsthand experience. Hardly the words of an insane man! He personally knew His protection, provision, and attention. 

Another man, also once labeled crazy, wrote a verse to a hymn while living out his days in an insane asylum. His words reflect a similar knowledge of the LORD God as those of David: "Could we with ink the ocean fill, And were the skies of parchment made, Were every stalk on earth a quill, And every man a scribe by trade, To write the love of God above, Would drain the ocean dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole, Though stretched from sky to sky."

The most sane thing you can do today is draw near to the LORD who provides all good things, who is attentive to His people, and who is near to the needy. Seek Him earnestly today and fully experience His deliverance and provision.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, May 20, 2013

Monday musings

The right place at the right time. Few things are more satisfying and gratifying than knowing you are right where you ought to be, at exactly the right time. At how we get to that right place at the right time is sometimes an interesting adventure in itself.

"They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them; and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:6-10).

The apostle Paul partnered with a young man named Timothy, for the work of propagating the gospel. Very specific direction was given to them. They were prevented from working in one area, but clearly directed to another. And, as the story unfolds in the book of Acts, it is abundantly clear that where they served and worked was fruitful as only God could bless.

Does the Lord Jesus have specific locations in mind for our service? Based on this text, apparently so. If these verses are any indication, He has a right place at a right time for us.

My personal experience has been that of guidance to certain places at certain times. In every location of service, I've always sensed a clear leading to that place at that time. While all the specific details elude me even today, the calm assurance that I have been led each time is sufficient. 

You are where you are at this point in time for a specific reason. Take some time to consider who is near you that the Lord has planned for you to influence. And, if there is a sense of restlessness where you are now, perhaps it is the Lord's prompting to prepare you for service in another area. If so, a "Macedonian vision" (Acts 16:9) will make the details abundantly clear.

Some would say "the devil is in the details", but the biblical perspective is that the Lord Jesus is in the details, and is intensely interested in your life and service. Go forward in service with that confidence.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A reminder about hardship hardly seems like encouragement. Such a conversation can easily digress into a pity party. It's like the cynical saying, "life is hard, and then you die". How much encouragement is that?

"After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, 'Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.' " (Acts 14.21-22)

Be it never said that the apostle Paul preached and taught a "prosperity gospel". To encourage believers to continue in the faith with the truth that we must endure hardship on the road to the kingdom is more about reality than prosperity. No one could accuse him of misrepresenting the terms of the Christian life!

The gospel would be better served and advanced if we carefully pointed out the difficulty of the pathway to the kingdom. In a desperate effort to attract new attenders, many churches and pastors have substituted prosperity for adversity in the message. As a result, when adversity comes, disillusionment results. 

The goal of immortality in the age to come provides incentive to endure adversity in the present age. Knowing that the end result is worth the price to be paid today is what contributes to steadiness of faith today.

In fairness to the terms of the gospel, let me also lift up Paul words in Acts 14.22. Remain steady in your faith, knowing that hardship in this age is the price to be paid on the road to the kingdom of God. The world does not place a premium on our priorities, and will ridicule and even persecute us as we resolutely adhere to the goal and priorities of the coming kingdom and King. But, with eyes on the prize, we run faithfully. We refuse to be undeterred by obstacles and opposition. We embrace words such as these of Jesus: "But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved." (Matthew 24.13)

The kingdom walk is no cake walk. That's why believers band together for the purpose of encouragement (Hebrews 10.25); especially as the difficult days of the end of this age approach. We stand united, with our objective to "admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone." (1 Thessalonians 5.14)

"Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." May this truth help you honestly face life's experiences, deepen your faith, and draw you into close and encouraging fellowship with like-minded believers.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The wisest insight we can receive is to realize that our life really isn't ours to control. We might dare to think we are in control of our own destiny, but reality is, there is very little that we actually can control. 

"But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in Your hand" (Psalm 31.14-15)

Personally, that phrase, "My times are in Your hand", has taken on fresh meaning and perspective in recent times. I have a greater awareness of how quickly life can veer off in a radically different direction, and how little I can do to control those circumstances. Life in this age is nearly always in a precarious position, and it is only through our Father's grace and blessing that we have any sense of normalcy or security. And, even when normalcy and security quickly evaporate, our life and times are still in His hand.

Perhaps the sooner we realize how fickle and changeable life is, the sooner we develop more resolute trust and faith. So long as there is security and comfort in our lives, faith and trust will be minimized.

It seems that Jesus quoted a portion of Psalm thirty-one as He died on the cross: " Into Your hand I commit my spirit" (Psalm 31.5). The Psalmist's confidence in His Father was Jesus' confidence as He breathed His last. From cradle to grave, such can be our confidence.

"My times are in Your hand". Through seasons of adversity, prosperity, and everything in between, truly our times our in His hand. And, that which is securely in His hand can never be taken away. None is more powerful than our Father so as to take that which is in His hand. 

May we each find immense comfort and strength today in knowing and believing that our times are in His hand. Whatever our circumstances today, He knows and provides. 

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

You just never know how far your efforts will go. Great things can come from the most humble and unlikely beginnings.

"Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul." (Acts 13.1)

Some amazing things developed through this interesting group of men. Three of the group were considered prophets. Barnabas is well known as "the son of encouragement". Simeon, from the region of Nigeria, is thought to have been the same Simeon forced to bear Jesus' cross when He could no longer carry it to Golgatha's hill. Lucius, also from the region of Nigeria, was a prophet. And, then there was a man named Manaen, an important man brought up alongside the very same Herod whom Jesus appeared before on trial. And finally, Saul, who was considered a teacher, but not yet regarded as an apostle.

"While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' " (Acts 13.2)

The personal devotion of these men to prayer, fasting, and teaching became the springboard to a profound spiritual venture. Amidst their devotion came the prompting of God through Holy Spirit to designate Barnabas and Paul for a specific work. That work would result in an impact on the world of that day that is still felt to this day. Additionally, that work would give rise to the legacy of the New Testament of the Bible - nearly two-thirds being written through this teacher named Saul.

What might our prayer, worship, and devotion to our Master set in motion today? Would our intense devotion result in a clear call from God to a specific work by certain people? Could a life-changing mission be birthed through our personal devotion today? These verses in Acts thirteen provide a blueprint for such possibilities.

While much of the Book of Acts is an account of the unique and unrepeatable events of the birth of the church age, it also serves as prologue to the events of our day. There are patterns and principles for the people of God today. Spirit power can do amazing things, and launch far-reaching ventures. 

What will result from your devotion and service today? The exciting thing is, you just never know ...

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, May 06, 2013

Caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They faced a hostile army on one side, and a large sea on the other. The choices appeared to be death by dagger and sword, or death by drowning. Either way, death appeared to be the certainty.

"Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 'Tell the sons of Israel to turn back and camp before Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea; you shall camp in front of Baal-zephon, opposite it, by the sea.' " (Exodus 14.1-2)

The LORD God led the people of Israel to a position of danger. They didn't just find themselves there because of poor choices, or a faulty GPS in the hands of Moses. God LED them directly to this precarious position. Of course, we know what they didn't know. God was about to display His miraculous power and provision by parting the Red Sea through the hand of Moses. Through one mighty act, there was both deliverance and defeat of their enemy. 

The pattern seems apparent: if God once led His people to such a precarious position to display His power, He continues to do the same. So, that seemingly impossible situation you may find yourself in at the moment? He may very well have led you there to display His power and provision. 

Whenever I feel as though I'm between a rock and a hard place, my faith is bolstered through reading the summary of God's provision for His people of faith, "who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight." (Hebrews 11.33-34)

Sometimes we're between a rock and a hard place because of choices we've made. Thankfully, we serve a God who can rescue us in those circumstances as well. But, there are circumstances He directly leads us to so as to develop our character to make us fit for His kingdom. In such circumstances, the only sight and insight is faith, and we walk by faith until His deliverance and power is evident.

It's been said that if He leads you TO it, He will lead you THROUGH it. Such is the example of the people of Israel at the Red Sea. And, such will be the legacy of that proverbial rock and hard place He may have led you to at the moment. Follow in faith, and patiently await His abundant provision and deliverance. 

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Time. It's how we measure life, and life's events. There are time deadlines for projects and schoolwork. Appointments are set in calendars. Events last for specific periods of time. Some things exist or happen for a short time; others for a long time.

Time is irrelevant from the perspective of the Timeless One. But, we seek to measure His work and activity according to our timeline, and often that involves vast amounts of time.

"Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years. And at the end of four hundred and thirty years, to the very day, all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt." (Exodus 12.40-41)

Four hundred and thirty years. That's nearly twice the time the United States of America has existed. It's something that began in the late fifteen hundreds that ended today. So, imagine every generation in a particular region living and dying over that period of time, enduring a difficult and oppressive life. And yet, God was present and active in those times and events, bringing them to a conclusion according to His perfect timetable.

We easily look at "the signs of the times" and imagine that this period of human history is rapidly drawing to a close. And, perhaps (hopefully) it is. But, that conclusion may not come in our lifetime. Or the lifetime of our children. Or grandchildren. But, it is on track, and will conclude exactly as the Father has purposed.

The lessons are that we ought not to be presumptuous about time. Events do not march along as quickly as we think or imagine. But, time ought not to be wasted either. We live in a moment, and it may be the only moment of our mortal existence. So, we are called to make the most of the time (Ephesians 5.16).  Seize the moment. Seize the day. Invest in the lives of others. Invest in things concerning the kingdom of God. Don't be discouraged in good work and activity, because "in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." (Galatians 6.9)

Time is a gift. It is the gift of a few pennies from One who possesses countless billions and trillions. As such, these few must be wisely invested as prelude to the infinite immortality that wise stewards will be gifted with in the age to come. 

May you invest wisely and well today in that which matters most.

©Steve Taylor, 2013