Thursday, June 27, 2013

today's devotional

No individual, or people, mock the God of the universe without consequence. Current judicial decisions in the land cast an ominous shadow, and likely signal a rush to ruin at the hands of the God whose standards are blatantly disregarded and mocked. Such is the historic example of God's dealings with His people.

"Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, after Ehud died. And the LORD sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor; and the commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. The sons of Israel cried to the LORD; for he had nine hundred iron chariots, and he oppressed the sons of Israel severely for twenty years." (Judges 4.1-3)

The people of God, as they were often prone to do, digressed into a culture of evil. The common punishment was oppression from a foreign nation. Amidst this heavy tyranny, the people recognized their sinful ways and cried out to Yahweh God. Through godly leaders and divine intervention, miraculous victory resulted.

Not to be confused with Israel, God's chosen nation (the church today is also His chosen nation), current government - and governments - are subject to the same punishment for disobedience. Violating God's principles always bears a consequence. Unless there is a heartfelt collective crying out to the LORD Yahweh, the pathway of evil and disobedience always results in judgment and destruction. Every major governmental power throughout the ages eventually fell from its pinnacle when God and His ways were blatantly ignored and mocked. Current government is not, and will not, be an exception.

"If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11.3) The question appears to be rhetorical. Time and again, national moral foundations have been systematically destroyed, and the people of God have been left to live personal lives of godly integrity, "so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (Philippians 2.15)

In a nation gone too far down the road of disobedience, the urgent need of the hour for God's people is that we take commitment and holiness even more seriously, and to issue a clear and urgent call to all who will respond to become citizens of God's government through His Son. 

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today's devotional

What do you value enough to passionately pursue? The ideal job? A college degree? Living in a certain state or area? A noble cause? Consider this call to passionate pursuit:

"My son, if you will receive my words And treasure my commandments within you, Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the LORD And discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, Guarding the paths of justice, And He preserves the way of His godly ones. Then you will discern righteousness and justice And equity and every good course." (Proverbs 2:1-9)

A wise father appeals to his son to make wisdom a high priority. Worthy of far more than half-hearted pursuit, words and phrases such as "incline ... cry ... lift your voice ... seek her as silver and search for her as hidden treasure" suggest passionate pursuit. Passionate pursuit of this wisdom is to know the Creator Father, and that which becomes the guardian of our steps, and the guide for our lifestyle.

Many of us live amidst the anesthetizing influence of affluence. Daily living is anything but a life and death struggle, and so we we free to indulge in the pleasures and pursuits affluence offers. As such, it is far too easy to dabble in things like justice, outreach, and spirituality, rather than passionately pursuing them.

"Buy truth, and do not sell it, Get wisdom and instruction and understanding." (Proverbs 23.23) May our Father kindle a burning passion within us for Him, His Son, and truth. May the wisdom that comes from above be our guide and protector, as well as the motivation for good and loving service.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Today's devotional

Vigilance is the need of the hour. Soldiers in war zones know full well that a moment's lapse can be deadly. As long as there is an enemy, and a state of war, there is a need for preparedness. 

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6.10-12)

On a few occasions, I've stepped off of a cruise ship on to a tropical island paradise. My only real sense of vigilance then was to watch my wallet and guard against any pickpockets who might wish to exploit American tourists. The scenario would be much different, however, if I were stepping into hostile enemy territory where bullets might fly at any moment, or lethal land mines lurked beneath the sand and soil. Any awareness of a battle and enemy would have made all the difference.

Reality is, we live in a land of war. The battle and enemy are hidden, but real nonetheless. Thus the need to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might". Vigilance demands preparation with armor, and an awareness of what we truly face. At any moment, we might face a "terrorist attack" - an assault in the form of persecution for our beliefs; ridicule from a friend, coworker, or family member; division and conflict within a harmonious relationship. Unless we are aware of the battle and the enemy, we are perilously prone to defeat. 

Battle paranoia will cause us to the see the war and enemy even in places and ways they do not exist. Naiveté', however, will cause us to be blissfully ignorant of the real perils around us. Convinced in our minds that it is safe enough to play near a rattlesnake will do nothing to minimize the danger.

The best battle preparation, to this writer's way of thinking, is personal vigilance, and active participation in a "spiritual platoon". In other words, personal immersion in the practice of prayer and Bible study, and active participation in an authentic  body of believers. Don't dare go the battle alone, or unprepared! 

The war is real, but winnable - "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." (1 John 4.4) Stand strong. Be prepared. Join forces with other soldiers. Watch out, but always look up. May the victory be yours today.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Today's devotional

Whom do you trust? If you've ever had trust betrayed, you are probably very selective. Nothing hurts more than unburdening yourself to a confidante who proves to be an unfaithful one. So, imagine deliberating selecting someone who would be the ultimate betrayer.

"Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me." (Psalm 41.9)

Although these words were spoken and written by King David, they found ultimate fulfillment in Jesus' betrayal by His disciple, Judas Iscariot. Handpicked to be part of His inner circle, Judas' dark deed remains even today the most villainous act of all time. Even with the foreknowledge of what Judas would do, Jesus did not hold him at arm's length throughout His intense earthly ministry. If this verse is indeed descriptive, Judas was a close friend whom Jesus trusted - one who knew His innermost thoughts and feelings. Thus, his treasonous act is all the more sinister.

One who was betrayed by a close confidante knows the pain we experience amidst our own betrayals. And ultimately, every friend will fail. Whether through whispering a private remark, or through neglect, friends ultimately disappoint. But, there is a Friend who is unfailing. Innermost thoughts and feelings whispered to HIm in a quiet room remain within His sacred trust. And, knowing firsthand the pain of betrayal, He sympathizes and supports as none else ever could.

"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4.15-16)

Whom do you trust? There is none better to trust than your High Priest and Savior, Who partners with you to bring the Father's mercy and grace in times of need. An old gospel song says it well: "have a little talk with Jesus". Take time today to find a quiet place, and unburden yourself of your innermost thoughts to the One who truly understands, and helps make available the abundant resources of heaven. It's the most helpful talk you will have today.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Today's devotional

What you do is none of my business. That's more cultural cliche' than biblical truth. Fact is, what you do IS my business; and vice versa.

"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6.1-2)

In a culture that highly values independence, the biblical mandate for intervention is uncomfortable at best. "Live and let live" just doesn't cut it in the body of Christ. Wayward family members are to be gently challenged by those in current positions of spiritual strength. But, the interveners must consider their own personal risk, because none are immune to the sins that others have succumbed to. Get involved in correction, but be careful.

Honestly, when was the last time you saw these corrective measures administered within your fellowship of believers? When was the last time you were personally involved, in either a corrective or redemptive capacity? If the response was a show of hands, I'm picturing none raised (well; maybe one or two hands). More often than not, we're likely to let each other do their own thing; even to their detriment. After all, who am I to confront someone else about their sin? There is plenty of blood on my own hands in the first place. Confronting someone else' sins just might force me to confront my own hidden sin. Do we really want that kind of honesty and transparency?

We're never promised that life in the body of Christ would be easy. But, too often we've made it that way. Sundays are safe enough, with our pleasant smiles and I'm-living-the-victorious-life persona. But, the true reality is that there's far more brokenness than even begins to meet the eye. So, why do we choose to agonize silently rather than risk transparency? Because the potential for more pain seems to outweigh the desperate cry for help.

I can count on one finger the kind of honesty that Galatians six, verses one and two, outline. But, I can tell you that healing, rather than more hurt, resulted when believers honestly partnered together. So, how about you and I take the risk of transparency, in hopes of real healing and authenticity? The risk will certainly be worth the reward.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Monday, June 17, 2013

Monday musings - June 17, 2013

What would you do if you knew you would not fail? If the outcome was assured, then the energy and effort expended would be confidently and tirelessly exerted. 

Joshua six records the famous battle of Jericho. The story begins with the assurance of a victorious outcome: "The LORD said to Joshua, 'See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors." (Joshua 6.2). The entire strategy for victory is then outlined:  "You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. Also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark; then on the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead." (Joshua 6.3-5)

The exciting part for the people of Israel was anticipating the victory on the seventh day. The difficult part was faithfully marching around the city once for six days: "Thus the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp; they did so for six days." (Joshua 6.14)

We live in similar circumstances. The victory is assured, and the strategy has been outlined. The victory is the triumphant outcome of the kingdom of God in the age to come. Jesus returns, we are changed and resurrected, and a perfect governmental system is inaugurated on planet earth. Meanwhile, the strategy is faithful Spirit living as humble servants, while we appeal to people with the gospel message (Acts 8.12). As we await the ultimate victory on the figurative seventh day, we faithfully march the other six days. 

What would you do if you knew you would not fail? Fact is, we will not fail in the venture we have partnered together in with Jesus. God our Father has also assured us that He will faithfully conform us to His Son on that day, as we journey through this age to that day. We WILL NOT fail. So, what does that do for your energy and confidence as you march today? Hopefully, it makes all the difference! 

Our marching orders are simply that we march. As with the Israelites who had the ark of the covenant on their daily march, we march confidently, knowing that God our Victor goes with us. We haven't arrived on the day of victory yet, but we see it now as if it had already occurred. The energy and victory of tomorrow reverberates today. 

March on, brothers and sisters. We know the outcome, and that last day's march just might be closer than we think.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Today's devotional - June 12, 2013

Granite is the stone of choice. Few substances are more suitable to help us remember people and places of significance. Granite headstones mark grave sites. Granite monuments are erected to remember famous people and places. The priorities of a culture are well represented by the memorials built.

"Now when all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying, 'Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from each tribe, and command them, saying, 'Take up for yourselves twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests' feet are standing firm, and carry them over with you and lay them down in the lodging place where you will lodge tonight.' ... 'Let this be a sign among you, so that when your children ask later, saying, 'What do these stones mean to you?' then you shall say to them, 'Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off.' So these stones shall become a memorial to the sons of Israel forever .' " (Joshua 4.1-3, 6-7)

Two stone memorials were erected that day. One set of twelve stones was placed right where the miracle took place: in the middle of the flooded Jordan river. The other memorial of twelve stones was built in a visible location: the first encampment after they had crossed. Two memorials were designed to remind God's people of God's mighty miracle, for generations to come.

We need memorial stones today, but perhaps not granite ones. We today who have experienced our Father's mighty deeds need to find ways to memorialize these things for generations to come. How can we convey and remind the next generation of His compelling call to salvation through His Son? How can we share His story of guidance, deliverance, and provision in our lives? 

May we experience His mighty power in our lives today, and be careful to preserve memorials of His deeds that serve as a compelling witness.

©Steve Taylor, 2013
Be sure to also visit http://thetruthrevolution.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Today's devotional - June 11, 2013

It's a bit ironic: kids can't wait to grow up, and adults long to be young again. The fact is, life is seasonal, and the seasons pass much too quickly. Somehow, almost overnight, I've passed from my teen years to being a grandparent!

The Psalmist challenges us with a realistic perspective of the brevity of life:

"Lord, make me to know my end And what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath." (Psalm 39:4,5)

Sometimes we get so caught up in the details of daily living that we don't step back to look at the big picture. Whatever we are doing today is more fleeting and transitory than we might imagine. 

It seems unlikely that David the Psalmist had a morbid fascination with death and in knowing exactly how he would die, but rather with seeing the scope of his life against the backdrop of eternity. He wanted the wisdom that came with seeing his life from God's eternal perspective. I want that too.

It's been said that no one, on their deathbed, lamented that they hadn't spent enough time at the office or job site. When the full measure of one's life is apparent, regrets are over lack of time with children, spouse, parents, friends, and in meaningful spiritual pursuits. So, if we correctly understand the gist of the Psalmist's words, life is best lived backwards - the end of life determining today's priorities.

Many people have big plans and dreams for Christian service. And, we easily pacify our conscientious with the thought of what we WILL do, rather than what we actually ARE doing. Will I still be alive next week to serve in that capacity at church I've been putting off doing? Will there be a tomorrow to begin reading the Bible and praying like I've been wanting? Is there time later today to call that friend or family member who is struggling with a problem? Will it be too late this evening to share my faith with an unsaved coworker or neighbor?

"Surely every man at his best is a mere breath." It is uncomfortable to think of life on those terms, but until we do there will be less urgency and focus in our lives. Time - and our lives - are like money: they are limited, and must be invested wisely.

We all have this moment. Savor it, and invest it in the things that count for eternity.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

I call it the divine boomerang. That which might be detrimental in our lives can be brought back around for our ultimate good.

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8.28)

Case in point: Joseph, who became second-in-command to an Egyptian Pharaoh, was initially sold by his brothers into slavery. He summed up the ultimate outcome with these words: "As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result" (Genesis 50.20)

Setbacks are mere stepping stones in our Father's plan for His people. Circumstances that the enemy seeks to use for our destruction "boomerang" back for good in the hands of our Father. Character, strength, and perseverance come from setbacks and brokenness.

Our Father has an absolutely amazing plan for His people: to ultimately propel us from adversity and setbacks, to make us like His Son, Jesus. "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8.29) With advance knowledge of all who would freely choose His Son as Savior, God has prepared, in advance, the plan to bring us into complete conformity with Jesus. Our ultimate destiny is to be just like His Son! Little wonder that Paul would go on to write, "What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?" (Romans 8.31)

The plan is on track, with no delays or unexpected crises to deter it. You and I are being conformed to the image of Christ. Every life situation, in the hands of the Father, is being used to mold and shape character. Sure, we can deliberately jettison the entire project through willful sin and disobedience, but so long as we stay humble and obedient, it's on track. God is so much "for us" that's impossible for anyone to be against us!

May these verses and truths give you strength and courage as you face whatever comes into your life today. Seeming setbacks may be discouraging, but do not lose sight of the fact that God is weaving all life events into building kingdom character in our lives.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Today's devotional - June 5, 2013

An elderly friend often comments, "if it doesn't ache or hurt, it's not mine". My favorite aging quote - from a popular television series a few years ago - is, "Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven't committed" (Anthony Powell). Aches, creaks, and groans are part of our shared experience as mortals, regardless of age. In fact, we live in a world of groaning, this side of the kingdom.

"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8.22-23)

The groaning of all created things and beings is more comparable to childbirth than aging. Being of the male gender, my experience with childbirth is only secondhand. Being at my wife's side during the delivery process of both of our children, however, gives me a keen appreciation of its agony. The aches and pains of aging pale in comparison to the intense pain of childbirth. 

Subject to groaning and the pain of childbirth because of sin, all creation and creatures long for release from this awful sentence. And, it will come with utter suddenness on the day of resurrection, at Jesus' return. Groaning and pain will cease at "the redemption of our body". 

In this present age of groaning, it is encouraging to know that God's Spirit groans for us better than we can: "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8.26). God's Spirit, internally present in the life of every believer, communicates on a subconscious level with our Creator, to convey what we can never verbalize. 

Likely there will be some groaning and pain in your experience today. As a Spirit-filled believer, there will also be a different form of groaning - a dynamic internal link with the Father. May that connection encourage you today as you await the ultimate encouragement - the coming resurrection, and the gift of immortality.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Today's devotional - June 4, 2013

It's not so much about what you know as it is about what you do with what you know. As such, we generally define wisdom as applied knowledge - bringing knowledge to bear on daily living.

"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1.8-9)

The greatest sourcebook of knowledge is God's word, the Bible. No library, no matter how extensive, begins to compare to this amazing book. No written material is more worthwhile to "meditate on it day and night". Important as this focus is, we have not done with it as we should unless we are "careful to do according to all that is written in it". The principle of "observe to do" is key in bringing God's word to bear on our lives. In so doing, He promises to "make your way prosperous, and then you will have success". His word applied to our lifestyle also is a source of strength and courage, as it brings His very presence into our lives continually.

Someone once said that God's word has not been tried and found wanting; it has largely not been tried. Throughout the ages, none have presented a compelling case discrediting the Bible as a sourcebook for living. All who have carefully sought to "observe to do" have found it to be an invaluable guide for living.

Trite as it may sound, the adage, "get into the word, and let it get into you", is the soundest advice ever given. Within its pages, you will find the One true God; His Son, Jesus; our true human nature; the gracious offer of salvation and immortality; and, the revolutionary message of the kingdom of God. When each of these great truths are read with the intent to apply, your life is transformed in ways you cannot imagine.

May you find the true prosperity, success, strength, and courage that your Creator and Father has for you in His word, as you make daily meditation on it your priority.

©Steve Taylor, 2013

Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday musings

It ultimately always works out. Maybe not exactly as we envision. Or according to our time frame. But, without fail, there is a solution.

"I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread" (Psalm 37.25)

The observations and insight of wise elderly people are well worth noting. Especially a wise, elderly, spiritual man who has been around the proverbial block. King David knew from experience that his heavenly Father always came through. He had seen it firsthand in his life, and in the life of the people in his kingdom. He also knew, from personal experience, the priorities of the people of God, who looked for His provision. Consider:

"Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it." (Psalm 37.3-5)

"Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land." (Psalm 37.7-9)

Trust ... delight ... commit ... rest ... cease from anger ... do not fret ... wait. These are all important priorities for those who truly trust in the LORD YHWH. The wicked will get their due. Those who prosper in wickedness are short-lived. Steady faith and confidence in our Creator will be rewarded; ultimately when we "inherit the land" (the coming kingdom).

We live in a world of injustice. There are many who lose sleep and develop symptoms of stress from fretting over the wrongs of this world. Such ought not to be the case with the people of God. The course of this age is deterioration from bad to worse. As someone has said, this present world is like a piece of rotting meat. The people of God, the salt of the earth, can slow its decay, but never stop it. So, rather than lament its demise, we seek to administer God's justice and mercy where and when we can. We "cultivate faithfulness". We serve the kingdom to come while we live in the world that is. 

God is a God of provision and mercy. He desires all to be saved from the destruction of this age, through His Son, for immortality in the age to come. He meets the needs of His people in this age, who have set their eyes, hearts, and minds on His coming age. He preserved and He provides. And He ultimately never fails. Is your trust in Him today?

©Steve Taylor, 2013