Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October 31,2017

We are called to watch. That doesn't mean we are passive observers, but rather diligent guardians. "Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me." (Ezekiel 3.17)

It's not an easy role, but it certainly is an important one. What God has revealed to us from His word, we relate to His people. Often His word is encouraging, but there are also sober warnings. We bring "the whole counsel of God" to bear on our lives, and the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, that's what we signed up for when we agreed to become disciples through Christ.

A specific "watchman role" falls upon elders and pastors, but that role also extends to us all. If we care about our lives, and those we love in the body of Christ, then we diligently watch according to His word. Nothing would be more unloving than to fail to bring spiritual correction and counsel to bear on the life of someone veering from the path of life.

God's word is to be applied as well as read. That why it says, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."(2 Timothy 3.16-17) 

Watch out for yourself, and one another, with His word. We need to care enough to encourage with it, but also confront lovingly when needed. We are called to be diligent watchmen, for the good of His people. 

©Steve Taylor, 2017

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

October 25, 2017

What does God look like? If He directly revealed Himself to you, how would you put it into words? That's the challenge in what we read in Ezekiel 1.

"Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God ... (the word of the Lord came expressly to Ezekiel the priest, son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and there the hand of the Lord came upon him.)" (Ezekiel 1.1,3)

What Ezekiel saw is described in detail in the following verses. We're left to try and visualize what he describes, and it may sound more like science fiction than fact. But, we will miss the main point if we bog down in the details; we'll miss the proverbial tree for the forest. The fact is, on a certain date and in a specific place, Creator God revealed Himself to a man named Ezekiel. God initiated an encounter to call and commission a man for a very important work.

The same applies to us. He reveals Himself to us through His Son to change, call, and commission us (read Ezekiel 2.1-5). His Spirit enters us at conversion (Act 2.38). As we are instructed through His word, we come to terms with His call to take His message and truth to a people who desperately need to hear.

Ezekiel's encounter and call is ours as well. A careful reading and study of Ezekiel 1 and 2 are important as we consider who He is, and what He calls us to do.

©Steve Taylor, 2017

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

October 24, 2017

They are three vitally important verses:

"Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time." (Acts 3.19-21)

We are called to "repent and return." Agree with God concerning sin in your life. Regret the error of your ways, and return to Him so that your sins may be "wiped away;" erased and forgiven. This is all done through faith in the sinless Son of God, who has paid the price for our sin. God will then send Jesus to us: now, through the inner presence of Holy Spirit, but ultimately in the future at His literal return. Notice:

"whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time."

Seated now at our Father's right hand, Jesus remains there "until the period of restoration of all things." A future age is coming in which all that is damaged and broken will be restored to perfection. That includes us. Aging, weakening, frail mortal bodies will be replaced with perfect, limitless ones. Broken emotions and mental conditions will also be replaced with perfect ones. And, the earth will be returned to its paradise splendor, as it was in the beginning.

These three verses are the salvation plan in a nutshell. They are "the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ." (Acts 8.12) May they encourage us as we take them to heart, and may we freely share them with others.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017

It's not about how well you begin, but how you continue. Many runners at a track meet or marathon start out with their best energy, only to become winded and lag behind or quit before the race is finished. Endurance is the key.

"If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8.31-32)

I've seen new believers, wet from the waters of baptism, bristling with spiritual energy and determination to make a difference for Christ and the kingdom. Sadly, some quickly faded because the experience of that moment was the only real energy they had. Those who were wiser devoted themselves to spiritual disciplines and allowed God and Christ to mature them. These continue to run the race with endurance.

There is no substitute for continuing in the word of Christ, which is also the word of His Father (John 5.30). Unless we incorporate His words into our lives, we will not endure long as His disciples. We cannot profess to be His disciples if we are not increasingly becoming familiar with Him through His words! And doing so is not burdensome, because we come to know and experience liberating truth.

Honestly, how much time are you spending reading, studying, and knowing Christ's word? Hopefully we can each answer in a positive way. But, if we know we are inadequate in this area, now is a good time for a mid-course correction. Today can be the day that we resolve to truly continue in His word, know the truth, and be liberated through it. This moment affords each of us a wonderful opportunity to develop endurance that will carry us to the very end of the race, with no reason to be ashamed.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

October 17, 2017

Like many men, I'm not one to ask for directions. I've stubbornly driven miles out of my way because of my refusal to do so. But, I'm hoping I'm not as stubborn about spiritual directions as I am with driving.

"Set up for yourself roadmarks, Place for yourself guideposts; Direct your mind to the highway, The way by which you went." (Jeremiah 31.21)

In essence, make certain to not take a spiritual detour. In moments of spiritual victory and progress, set markers and guideposts to remind you of them. Visualize the circumstances, your mindset, your priorities and activities at that time. It's a bit like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs as you walk into the forest, so you will find your way back again.

None of us are immune to spiritual detours. We travel the road of spiritual vitality, but we veer off on a side road that takes us away from that vitality. Prayer, Bible study, service, and Christian fellowship diminish the further we drive away from the highway of spiritual vitality. But, we can return if we've set markers and guideposts.

Today is a good day to assess the highway we're traveling. If we're on the right path, set markers to guide us back when we detour. If we're not on that highway, look for the guideposts to direct us back.

Real men (and women) really do ask for directions.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

October 11, 2017

Choices seem obvious when clearly seen in the light of what they truly are. No one would make a bad choice if they saw it as exactly that: a bad choice.

"For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2.13)

A disastrous decision had been made: to reject a fountain of refreshing water for the back-breaking work of digging a cistern that would never hold water. Why would anyone do such a thing? Perhaps because the choice was not so obvious as God clearly revealed.

I consider myself a fair do-it-yourselfer at home. My thrifty nature drives me to tackle projects that enhance our home while saving labor costs in hiring the work done. But, I've learned that hard way that some projects are better outsourced. Amateurs can sometimes spend more in time, money, and mental anguish than hiring a professional in the first place. And so it is with spiritual enrichment: turning to the true source, the "fountain of living waters," makes immeasurably more sense than trying to be a spiritual DIYer.

Jesus once made a similar offer to a woman who trekked daily to a well (John 4.7-26): abundant living water always, or the daily task of seeking water that never truly satisfied. The choice seems obvious. 

Each of us face a similar choice each day. May we wisely choose, and be abundantly blessed and refreshed.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October 10, 2017

Seeing supposedly is believing. "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." (John 4.48)

Who hasn't longed for some convincing sign or event? Something tangible and undeniable that would forever ground faith and belief? But, signs are worthless against an attitude of unbelief. If unbelief requires a sign or miracle, then it will never be overcome even by the greatest miracle. Simple faith must prevail over skepticism.

Abraham is respected as the epitome of faith. "Then he believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15.6) Basic faith preceded the unfolding of great and miraculous things.

The second recorded miracle of Jesus involved the faith of a man whose son was mortally ill. He implored Jesus to come and heal His Son, but instead heard these words: "Go, you son lives." (John 4.50). His response is instructive: "The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off." He believed, and then saw a miracle.  Believing was seeing, not the commonly-assumed opposite.

A faith attitude sees amazing possibilities. It sees the miracle of bold empowering to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News of Jesus and the coming kingdom. It sees perseverance and godly character formed in our life as we yield to Spirit power, and devote ourselves to disciplines such as Bible study, prayer, service, and fellowship with like-minded believers. It sees victory over negative and destructive habits.

Demanding that a great sign or miracle overwhelm our unbelief is an exercise in futility. Seeing is NOT believing, but believing truly IS seeing. As we open eyes of faith, tremendous possibilities unfold before us. 


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

October 4, 2017

There are two great qualities in short supply in the world today: grace and truth. A society that is increasingly polarized and hostile extends precious little grace to one another. There was a time, in the not-too-distant past, when differences were cause for debate rather than division.

Truth also seems to be in short supply. Where can we find factual, objective information? Media outlets largely have a responsibility to their corporate owners and interests rather than truth.

Thankfully, both grace and truth are found in abundance in and through God's Son: "
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth ... For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." (John 1.14,16-17)

Grace is defined as unmerited favor. Who doesn't want that? Wouldn't it be great to received by everyone we encounter with undeserved favor; to be loved and liked just because people have a disposition to feel that way about us? The good news is that we find exactly that by God, through Jesus.

And we also find "the whole truth" in Him. Not shaded and jaded commentary on truth, but the real deal. Liberating truth. A no holds barred revelation of everything our Father wants us to know. All the facts pertaining to life and a God-pleasing life (2 Peter 1.3)

We've got it all in Christ. Full favor and facts. Abundant acceptance and forgiveness. The whole story; no details lacking.

As recipients of this abundant grace and truth, maybe we ought to extend it to others. The world becomes a better place through people of grace and truth, as we await the great kingdom of grace and truth at the coming of Christ.


Tuesday, October 03, 2017

October 3, 2017

The effects of tragedies and disasters hang heavy over the world today. Suffering from natural disasters and profound grief from all-too-often mass murders increasingly characterize our times. How thankful we are that an ancient prophecy predicted the ultimate triumph of God's Son. 

"Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted ... Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand." (Isaiah 52.13,15)

The "big picture" is apparently obscured from the eyes of the leaders of the nations of the world. The most wicked of them speak of Jesus with contempt. But, a day is coming when the powerful and influential will stand silent before King Jesus. They will entirely see and understand what they now see and understand partially. Oh, that today would be that day! But, as we await the ultimate outcome, we are entrusted with a vital and precious mission:

"How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, And says to Zion, 'Your God reigns!' " (Isaiah 52.7)

The good news of the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8.12) is that personal peace can be realized through forgiveness of sins, as we await world peace at the return of Christ. As we partner with God our Father, and Jesus His Son, we are the gospel in motion. Our feet take it wherever opportunity allows. We are active and progressive in this work.

In spite of conditions in the world today, God's plan triumphs. With that confidence, we enthusiastically take His word to the world. May we be an army of gospel-bearers today.