Like a Palm Tree

Psalm 92:12-15

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD. They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”

 

There’s a reason we see palm trees by the beach. They are meant to withstand the storms and the hurricanes that tear other trees apart. They bend (bow) without breaking. They aren’t filled with fear at the sight of trouble because they were made to withstand such winds and waves. They continue to flourish. They continue to grow.

 

The Bible tells us that the righteous will flourish like a palm tree. We’re rooted in Christ and we’re planted in his house. We still face trouble and we still see the storms, but we bow so we don’t break. Circumstances that devour others don’t uproot us because we’ve been made to withstand even the roughest storms. We continue to grow. Our nearness to God causes us to flourish.

 

If there’s a storm in your life, don’t fear. Some storms he calms and others his strength allows us to endure. When it seems too much and you feel like you’re going to break, bow down before the maker of the wind and the waves. Remember, even when we bow, he is always upright! He’s always stronger. Find your refuge in him and trust that he won’t fail you! Proclaim today that the LORD is upright, that he is you’re Rock, and that there is no wickedness in him!

 

Despite the storm…You’re going to flourish, you’re going to remain green, and you’re going to bear fruit.

 

-Chris Taylor

Clean

Clean

Written by Chris Taylor

 

Isaiah 1:18 – “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be like wool.”

 

Today I spent some time visiting with the locksmith who had come to fix the front door at work. He told me several stories and shared his memories of my workplace, which used to be a nursing home where his mother had lived. After sharing a lot of his own health conditions, he told me that he and his wife had quit smoking after 40 years. When I asked him if he felt better, he responded quickly with a YES!

 

He went on to tell me that many things had changed since he gave up this habit. He knew it was something that he needed to give up but never knew all of the benefits it would bring when he did. He could taste his food. Some foods he didn’t like anymore, and others he now enjoyed that he didn’t before. He could breathe better, sleep better, and felt more confident about his health. He also told me that his wife began to wash everything in the house. They didn’t realize that the walls had become brown. They also rediscovered that their drapes where actually white, not yellow.

 

I thought, wow, what a picture of what Christ does to our lives when we turn from sin. First we bring Him our issues, our sins, and our habits and He not only changes us, but he cleanses us. The word says that He washes us white as snow. Even when we knew things weren’t clean, we see it even more when we experience the newness and brightness we have through Christ. Then there are things we used to enjoy that lose their luster, and things we didn’t like that are now pleasant. We can breathe with the breath He’s placed in our lungs, sleep peacefully, and feel more confident about our eternity knowing that our sins have been washed white!

 

I’m thankful for the reminder of God’s changing and cleansing. I’m grateful that He allowed me to see the true condition I was in before He washed me clean. If there’s an area in your life that needs to change, take it to God. Take the steps and allow Him to cleanse you. Allow Him to bring you into a newness that you can’t currently imagine!

First Hand Testimony

First Hand Testimony

By. Chris Taylor

 

There’s nothing like hearing a story first hand. Working with men who are finding freedom from addictions, I hear a lot of testimonies that really stir up my spirit. You can feel the fire burning inside as these men tell of the goodness of God and how his word is so true. They tell of promises in the word they’ve held onto and how those promises became reality to them. I can, and do, share several of their stories, but the impact is so much greater when it’s heard directly from the lips of the delivered! There’s a power flowing from the true faith that comes from experiencing and knowing that this really happened. There’s power in your testimony.

 

I imagine this power as I read the story of the two disciples met by the Lord on the resurrection day. (Luke ch. 24) They were blinded to who He was and they were downcast due to the recent events and the uncertainty they felt as to what was going on with His body. Jesus came and walked along with them as they discussed everything that had been happening and He questioned them to hear their take on the situation. As they begin to explain everything that had taken place, we quickly realize that not only are they blinded to who’s walking beside them, but current situations and confusion have blinded them from God’s word. They’d heard it several times, but now that things look hopeless, they’ve forgotten the promise. They were focused on the trouble, when the greatest triumph is standing beside them. Then Jesus, calling them foolish, reminded them of all the things the prophets had spoken. He reminded them of the suffering that had to take place before the glory. Then He began to open up the scriptures to them concerning everything that was written about Him all the way back to the time of Moses. They had no idea that they were hearing a first hand testimony! Later He reveals Himself to them and they see clearly that it was Him all along. When He disappeared from them they ask each other (vs. 32), “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the scriptures to us?” They’re hearts where burning because they were hearing this from the Master Himself. A first hand testimony.

 

Sometimes circumstances, fear, and confusion blind us, just like these two followers of Christ. We may even miss the fact that He is right here with us, in us. Our minds get focused on the trouble rather than the triumph. That’s when we have to remind ourselves of what God has said and what He’s promised. We look at what the word says concerning Him and how that relates to us. Then, as we read the word, it begins to burn inside of us because we have His Spirit living in us that brings the word to life in our hearts. The word IS the first hand testimony of every believer! He want’s to remove the blinders today so that you can see that victory has already been won. Remember today that the word isn’t just a book or a man, this is your life story. Share the victory today. Focus on the triumph today!

Ministry

My view of Ministry

By Chris Taylor

 

Ministry is a word that includes so many things. Many think of the Pastor of their church when they hear this word. Some think further to encompass things such as prison “ministry”, children’s “ministry”, music “ministry”, homeless “ministry”, or ladies’ and men’s “ministries”. The list could go on and on because there are so many forms and so many types of people who need ministered to. In fact we all need ministered to. This is why ministry is so special and essential to the Christian life.

 

Every believer in Christ is a believer because of ministry. Someone had to share the good news of the gospel in order for it to be believed in. Ministry is leading people to Christ and then making disciples of them so that they can do the same. In Matthew chapter 28, verses 18-20, the word says Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 

In these three verses, there are several things Jesus has instructed his disciples to do. The first is to GO and to MAKE disciples. He’s calling his followers to not only find others to “save”, but to make disciples of them all over the world. Not just Israel, not just Jews, but also every nation. What great news that everyone can receive what we as believers have been given! So how do we do this? It’s more than saying Jesus loves you and passing out a track. It’s more than just telling someone about Jesus and then leaving them to figure the rest out on their own. It’s more because it’s ministry. Part of ministry is the follow up. It’s living life together as a family… God’s family… Christ’s body! It’s the making of the disciple. It’s time invested, it’s gathering in confession and prayer and study. It’s teaching them what the word says so that they can grow in Christ and in faith. It’s baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I think most people know these things from this famous passage of scripture. I also believe that everyone should be obeying these commands given to these 11 disciples, as we are all disciples of Christ.

 

To the ones who are called into the very sacred place of leadership, I believe there is something much deeper that strikes the heart when we begin to think of the word ministry. I know it does with me. For me, Ministry is the purpose I was created for. It’s a burden for other people that is heavy. It’s a place of standing in the gap for others. It’s a passion for others to know what has been done for them and what is available to them. This passion leads to aspects of ministry that others don’t see. Aspects such as intercession, when you take a person, group, culture, or country before the Lord as if you are the only one who is going to plead with God for them. Aspects such as fasting, when you show through your actions that there’s no thing the body craves that could be worth more than what it is you’re seeking from God.

Ministry is loving others the way Christ has loves us. Ministry is not for wimps because really loving someone could be an event in the Olympics. It can be difficult. It must be selfless even to the selfish. This is ministry to me. It’s constant communication with the LORD so that you’re always prepared to give the Biblical answers to the questions asked. This communication is through prayer, study of the word, and listening to the Living God who still speaks. It’s being a leader and follower at the same time. It’s the life of a servant. It’s carrying concerns and finding ways to meet needs.

If you want to see my soul smile, say “Ministry”. There’s no greater joy than watching true ministry affect the life of another. So when asked my view of ministry… I would have to say it’s loving others in a way that leads to the fulfillment of what the Lord has asked us to do in his word.

 

I will hold YOUR hand

I will hold YOUR hand

 

Isaiah 41:13

For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand,

Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

 

As a daddy and his little girl where walking through the busy city, the father said to his daughter, “I need to hold your hand.” The daughter responded by saying, “No Daddy, let me hold your hand.” The father informed her that she would be much safer if he held onto hers, but she insisted. So the girl wrapped her little hand around the pointer finger of her daddy and they continued down the sidewalk.

It didn’t take long for the child to stumble, and sure enough, down she went. As the father reached down to pick her up, he gazed into her tear filled eyes and gently said, “If you let me hold your hand, I can keep you from falling.” The little girl then placed her hand into the strong hand of her father who was able to hold her up each time she would have fallen.

 

What a picture of what our heavenly Father does for us. We’ve all had those moments when we feel as if “we’ve got this”. We think we can handle the task and we decide to do what only God can do best. But even when we try and fail, God is gracious to help us back up and to take hold of us. When He’s holding us, there’s nothing that can take us from His hand. Today, listen to the Father as he reminds you not to be afraid. He’s got your hand and is able to keep you from falling.

 

Jude 24-25

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.

Time to build the Temple

Haggai 1The Message (MSG)

A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: “The people procrastinate. They say this isn’t the right time to rebuild my Temple, the Temple of God.”

3-4 Shortly after that, God said more and Haggai spoke it: “How is it that it’s the ‘right time’ for you to live in your fine new homes while the Home, God’s Temple, is in ruins?”

5-6 And then a little later, God-of-the-Angel-Armies spoke out again:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.

Think it over.

You have spent a lot of money,

but you haven’t much to show for it.

You keep filling your plates,

but you never get filled up.

You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,

but you’re always thirsty.

You put on layer after layer of clothes,

but you can’t get warm.

And the people who work for you,

what are they getting out of it?

Not much—

a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.

That’s why God-of-the-Angel-Armies said:

“Take a good, hard look at your life.

Think it over.”

8-9 Then God said:

“Here’s what I want you to do:

Climb into the hills and cut some timber.

Bring it down and rebuild the Temple.

Do it just for me. Honor me.

You’ve had great ambitions for yourselves,

but nothing has come of it.

The little you have brought to my Temple

I’ve blown away—there was nothing to it.

 

The message in this chapter hit me like a ton of bricks. The people have made time to work on everything for themselves but left the things of God in ruins. It wasn’t time for that yet, they said. It wasn’t time to make God’s temple beautiful. Instead, by their deeds, they declared it was time for them to get their own homes, and businesses, and personal lives all perfect. Their investments of energy, money, and time were spent completely on themselves. When God spoke to Haggai, He asked how it could be that it’s the ‘right time’ for you (God’s people) to live in your fine new homes while the Home, God’s Temple, is in ruins.

 

Then He asks the people to do something… Before He commissions them to begin working on the Temple, He asks them to really think about the outcomes of their choices. To really look at their priorities and their efforts compared to the rewards. They didn’t add up. They were working hard for little harvest. They were spending a lot with little to show for it. They were eating and drinking but never full. They were bundling up but never warm. Where was everything going? Why was the effort so much greater than the return? Has it not crossed your mind yet that this isn’t working out well? Yes you’re living in your nice home that you’ve built… but nothing is blessed.

Then God states the reason…

 

9-11 “And why?” (This is a Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, remember.) “Because while you’ve run around, caught up with taking care of your own houses, my Home is in ruins. That’s why. Because of your stinginess. (The Message Bible)

 

The NASB puts it this way…

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “[e]Consider your ways! Go up to the [f]mountains, bring wood and rebuild the [g]temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld [h]its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of [i]your hands.”

 

God gives us two purposes for the temple in this verse. To please Him and to glorify Him. It wasn’t right for the people to care first about supplying for themselves and making themselves comfortable. If it’s not time to make God’s temple beautiful now, then when will it be time? The answer is NEVER, IF you keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll always need more. You’ll never be satisfied. You’ll never be warm. You’re money will always be in a bag with holes. You’re time will always be spend trying to make things work for yourself.

God knew that the only way to stop this madness was to get them to take a hard long look at their lives. Look at the lack. Look at how the ground isn’t giving up a big harvest. Look at how the sky has withheld the rains. Look at the drought on everything. All the things you rely on require things that God controls. He controls the rain. He controls the increase. Without Him in the picture, would be like trying to type a paper without the computer plugged in. It’s toil in vain. Then He told them to get to work on the temple. Make it the priority. When they obeyed, the word says that God stirred up the spirit in them.

 

Many things have changed since the Old Testament. The temple is no longer a building, but a body. You’re body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and God is still calling us to work on the temple. It should still be the priority. And yet, just like the people in the days of Haggai the prophet, we make time for everything else. People say it’s not time for the things of God. We work hard to live in nice houses and to be successful. We make sure we’re at work everyday but can’t make it to church. We get all wound up if we are late to lunch and yet our souls are starving for spiritual food. The temple lies in ruins. We bring everything into it that pleases us, and yet what about what pleases HIM? We drink from all types of places and things to satisfy our thirst. We add layer over layer of things to make us comfortable and warm inside but still feel the chill. We can name the starting line up for our favorite sports team and yet can’t memorize a few scriptures. We spend and spend but what do we really have to show for it at the end of the day? We’ve left something out. Something has got to change.

 

God desires for your temple to do the same two things He desired in the old testament… To bring Him pleasure and to glorify Him.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NASB)

19 Or do you not know that your body is a [a]temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from [b]God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

 

Is that a picture of your life? Is that a description of your temple? Are you glorifying God with your body and your life? Are you pleasing Him? Have you made time for everything else? It’s time! He’s asking you today to take a long and hard look at your life… have your personal interest taken precedence over the things of God? He’s asking you today to make Him number 1. His temple, where He dwells and moves and speaks, should be one of the most splendid things in your life. Consider it well and watch God stir up the spirit within you as you begin honoring Him with the temple.

Clean Slate

Isaiah 43:25

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a clean slate? A fresh start? Ever wondered what it would be like to have a do-over? What if the way you lived today determined the kind of person you are? Not last year, not last week, not even yesterday, but today.

So many of us carry the weight of past failures and mistakes that a clean slate just seems too good to be true. We can’t forget. We feel the need to remember. We feel the need to punish ourselves. We don’t deserve to move forward.

This mentality is not a heavenly one. God desires to forgive and to remember it no more. How much more could he prove it than by sending his own son, Jesus, to die so that you can obtain this kind of forgiveness? What a high cost He paid so that we can be forgiven and move forward with newness. So with that in mind… confess and let go of those things that are holding you back. Live today as if this is the day that defines the person you are! Every word, every choice, every thought… let them declare loudly the goodness of God in your life.

Traveling Light

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith

 

A couple of weeks ago I went on a cruise with several of my friends. 7 days and 7 nights of fun, food, friendship, beautiful destinations, and memory making. My friends and I decided to carpool from Paris, TX to Galveston. We loaded up the cars with our luggage and the last to arrive was my friend Stormie. She’d never been on a cruise before, so when she showed up with only one suitcase, I wondered how in the world she was gonna make it all week.

So we arrive and it’s time to get from the car to the boat. Stormie rolls her bag to the luggage check-in with no problem. Then I realize as I begin unloading my bags from the car, that there’s no way I can pull all of my luggage alone! I was gonna need an army. I had multiple pieces of luggage. Large and bulky luggage. All of the sudden, it clicks…. I may not have needed everything I packed for this journey. I was overloaded. I hadn’t even left room for anything I might buy on the trip. The crazy thing was that as the week went on, I found I hadn’t packed enough of the essentials. I had 8 pairs of shoes but not enough underwear!

Sometimes in life we think we need to bring along things that really aren’t necessary. We load ourselves down, which slows us down, and cause others to pick up our excess that shouldn’t be there in the first place. Then we add all these “extras” such as being on the praise team, community service, group bible study, baseball, social media, etc… these things are great unless we end up leaving out essentials such as personal prayer and devotion time or family.

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 12 to throw aside not only the sin that ensnares us, but also every un-necessary weight. We do this so we can run to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. It’s hard to move fast with a bunch of baggage. It becomes a struggle to even get from one place to the next.

So what do we do? We focus on the essentials. Spend time prioritizing and getting back to the basics. What’s slowing you down? Is there really room and time for all the things you’re trying to pack in? Is there room for all the things God’s gonna give you on the journey?

Do you love Me? Follow Me….

John 21:18-19New International Version (NIV)

18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

 

Wow, what a statement. What a hard truth to swallow. Just after confessing his love for Christ and receiving his mission of feeding the sheep…this independent and vocal disciple hears from the mouth of Jesus that his life isn’t going to be the life he was used to. Things he did his own way will no longer be done the same. He no longer has a say in everything. He no longer calls the shots. There’s going to be some persecution. There are going to be battles. There’s a worldly end that may not be pleasant, but a heavenly beginning that will never end. Without this love for Christ, he couldn’t have accepted this mission. This is the same man who denied the one he loves 3 times…Yet, without his failures and repentance, and the gracious forgiveness of God, he wouldn’t have been as prepared for this high calling. But because of his deep love for Christ, he accepted and was extraordinarily used for the kingdom.

 

Jesus is asking you today… “Do you love me?” We are in times of great persecution and the attacks on the church are everywhere. From the courthouse, to the schoolhouse, to the home. Other religious groups are murdering believers, but as believers, we can hold fast to a great ending and beginning all rolled into one. It’s our faith in and love for Christ, along with the power of the Holy Spirit, that compels us to follow him. Will you follow him today?

The Burn Pile

 

Hebrews 12:29

for our God is a consuming fire.

 

Fall! I love this season. The leaves changing color… Thanksgiving… Enjoying the cool weather outside… Drinking pumpkin spice lattes with my friends as we enjoy each other’s company… Pulling out those sweaters and jackets and going to pumpkin patches with my family… It’s a special time of the year for sure. Of course the season got it’s name for a reason. FALL…The falling leaves. Not only do they change their color, but they are released to the ground so the tree can grow larger and the roots can grow deeper. Healthy trees drop their leaves. It’s what they do. But once they drop, it can become quite the mess.

 

Where I work (way out in the country) we have lots of trees and of course lots of leaves. If they aren’t raked up a couple times a week, the mess becomes a monstrosity. What we’ve learned to do is to throw them on the burn pile. We take it to the fire. The fire consumes the leaves and they no longer have the ability to smother the yard, harbor insects, or camouflage the walkways.

 

So it is with things that God graciously helps us to remove from our lives so that we can grow. He brings us to new seasons in our lives where change comes and there’s a difference in the atmosphere. We could try to hold on to the “leaves”, but that would be unhealthy. So he sends the wind of his Spirit to remove them. But that’s not the final step. When these things are brought to the surface of the ground, we can’t just leave them there. They become thicker and begin to cover up the pathway and the healthy grass. Left un-dealt with, they cover up other things that could damage areas of the yard. Areas like the family, the work place, your relationships, and your heart. They even have a tendency to blow over into the neighbor’s yard and cause frustration.

 

So what is the solution? Take them to the fire. The word says that God is an all -consuming fire. When the things that need to be removed are revealed and you’re left with the choice of what to do with them, don’t leave them lying around. Get rid of them. Take them to God and allow him to do what he alone can do. We can leave them there on the fire until it looses it’s ability to smother your life, harbor things that cause damage, or make the pathway difficult to see.

 

If you’re having trouble letting go, consider this…It would be crazy for a tree to hold it’s leaves that no longer have life in them for fear of being exposed. This action would cause it to forfeit the new growth that’s coming in the spring. It would be just as sad for us to do the same. God loves our willingness to let go and get rid of the dead things because there’s a new season ahead. There is new life and growth and being exposed before God always leads to Him covering us.

 

Ecclesiastes 3

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven