Hear it and Trust it…

We live lives full of emotion. There’s joy, pain, sadness, closeness, excitement, anxiousness, and a full range of other feelings we experience each day. They enhance our moods, tip the scales on our decisions, and often affect our sense of reality. Relationships are also affected by our feelings. One moment we can feel so close to someone, and the next feel as if we hardly know each other. This is something that used to greatly affect my relationship with the Lord. There were times when I greatly felt his tangible presence in my life. I saw him in the sunrise and the birds in the trees. I heard him speak so clearly and it made me feel so close to him. But other times I felt as if I were numb. Bland days of ricocheted prayers when my feelings of distance aroused doubt and confusion.

 

Have I done something wrong? Are you still there? Have I fallen out of grace? Do my prayers even bend your ear, God?

 

These are common responses to anyone who has lived off of feelings rather than faith. In fact, most believers go through these seasons that, to us, are such a struggle and yet are precious to God. These are moments when the Father swells with pride as he watches his child trust him despite circumstances, reasoning, or emotion. These are times when our faith is tested and we’re given the opportunity to come forth as gold. These are the real golden moments! But it can be hard. If a friend is standing in a room with your and says, “I’m right here with you”, It’s easy to believe because we see them and their presence is verifiable. It’s natural to literally and emotionally feel close to that person because we know they’re right there with us. If they walked around the corner and again remind us by saying, “I’m still right here with you.” We’d still believe them even though all we have to go by is their word. You hear them so you know they’re still there. Sometimes all we have to go by is God’s word. But let me assure you it’s enough. In those moments of doubt we can open his word, hear what he has to say, and build our faith. After all, the Bible tells us in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. When he says, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you”, he’s saying he’s right there with you. So in those moments when you can’t feel the Lord, open his word and listen to him. Take him at his word to build faith that feelings can’t shake. Let the very thing that’s precious to the Lord (trust in him) become precious to you. He’s right there with you!

Come to

 

Luke 15:17  And when he came to himself…

 

 

Years ago when I was living in addiction, my sister had a dream that pictured perfectly the state I was in. She saw a dingy, dark, dirt covered corner of a yard with a doghouse. This corner was in the shadows. I was in this corner. Beside me there was a chain but I wasn’t attached to it, yet was living as if I was. Broken hearted she called for me in desperate desire for my freedom. When she called, I walked forward just enough for her to see my face, then walked back into the darkness. She continued pleading for me to come. She cried and begged but I wouldn’t budge. I was lifeless and emotionless. I heard her voice but was unresponsive. She couldn’t understand why I would stay there when all I had to do was walk away from it. All I had to do was walk into the light and into the arms of family who loves me. But in the dark, dingy corner I stayed, among the chains and the filth.

 

This was my condition. I was living like a dog. I didn’t work. I lived with someone who fed me and wanted my companionship and tried to keep me happy by giving me a “treat” in the form of drugs everyday. Funny how a dog can be wild and unruly, but when you give them a treat, they’ll walk right into the kennel. I was living in a high-rise kennel and didn’t even realize it. Though I was living in what I considered to be “nice conditions”, the actual state of my condition was painted perfectly in my sister’s dream. For the truth is, even places that are appealing to the eye and look bright and clean can be spiritually filthy. A million dollar house can be a prison. A dream job can be a muddy swamp. And a high-rise condo in Dallas, through spiritual eyes, may be a dark, dingy, dirt covered corner in the shadows.

 

I honestly was bound by my addiction, but I wasn’t bound to the place that fed it. There was no chain holding me there. Why wouldn’t I leave it? Why was I separating myself from my family? I didn’t know who I was. There was more to life than what I was living, but every time I got a piece of it, it wouldn’t take long before I ran back to the shadows. Then if I came back to family, it was with my tail between my legs with no joy and full of fear and shame.

 

This is not a picture of my life today. I’m not living as a dog and I know my identity. I’m a mighty man of God because that’s who He says I am. I do serve a master, but I’m not his pet, I’m his child. This is because God gave me the courage to come into the light. Just like he allowed the prodigal son to “come to” himself. Through prayers and interceding and warfare that I may never know the true extent of… God gave me a “come to” moment. An awakening. A true view of my condition. And “come to” moments that are God given are not only so that you “come to” yourself… but the purpose is so you’ll “come to” Him! This takes courage. This takes humility. This takes reality, which is something people in this condition are not familiar with.

 

I believe this is not only the story of my life, but also the lives of many others. Many are living in darkness and filth. They have heard the call to come out and to come home and yet, despite the available freedom, they remain in the shadows. It’s a lonely place. It’s a depressing place. Let me assure you there is more to life. Let me assure you that whether or not earthly family is crying out for your freedom, you can know that you’re heavenly Father is. Jesus is calling. His desire is for you to run from that darkness and into his marvelous light. Run into the arms of Him who loves you! Your current condition doesn’t have to be your permanent condition. My prayer for you is that God will give you that moment today where you “come to”. Come to your senses. Come to reality of your condition and His position. Come to yourself, and most of all, come to Christ.

Ready to Forgive

 

Has someone ever wronged you and you wanted to be mad at him or her? You knew that you’d eventually forgive them, but not just yet. You wanted them to feel your wrath and you wanted to be mad. You weren’t ready to let it go. When they tried to talk to you, you responded with, “I’m still mad at you”.

You just weren’t ready to forgive!

 

We as humans are around this quite often. In fact, it happens so much, that if we aren’t careful, we may mistake God as one who carries this same characteristic. We reject him and his leading and have blatantly gone against his instruction. Then, though we are truly sorry and wanting to make it right, we figure we better wait a little while before we talk to him about it because we’re under the false believe that he needs some time to get over it. We think that maybe a little space will cause him to cool off, and then we can approach him when he’s ready to forgive.

 

The Bible tells us in Psalm 86:5

For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon you.

 

God desires us to be quick to repent. Not to sulk in it or to allow it to become the elephant in the room. He wants to talk about it. He wants to move forward. He’s ready to forgive. God paid the price to have a relationship with you and to remove the sin so that you could be close to him. When sin comes in, he desires that we get rid of it through confession and repentance so that it can’t separate you from him again. If you are in need of forgiveness today, go boldly into the throne room of the Father. He’s ready to forgive!

Open Book Test

I remember those days in school when the anxiety was high and the usually loud classroom was abnormally quiet. Test Day. All the time in class had built up to this moment. There’s worry in the air, mixed with a little bit of confidence, as the teacher stands in front of her desk with a stack of papers that make Mount Rushmore look small. Anyone who believes we’ve taken prayer out of school obviously hasn’t been there on test day. The five minutes before a test may actually have you convinced that you’ve been transported into a Sunday night prayer service. Some pray God will help them remember what they studied, while others pray He’ll help them with what they failed to study. Test days were intense for sure, but there’s one thing that always lightened the load. One thing that would cause us to celebrate. One thing that made even the most difficult test seem easy… The gracious act of allowing an open book! Open book test took the pressure off because we could find and double-check our answers even during the exam. The information was available to us to solve even the toughest problems.

 

When you graduate, it doesn’t take long to realize that our tests are far from over. We face them all the time. There are problems to be solved, questions to be answered, and lots of things we have to work through for the right outcome. A great thing about being a believer is that our teacher loves open book tests. In fact, He desires that you use it for every test.

 

The Word tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

 

All the answers are found in this book. So when you are tested, and you will be, rejoice in the fact that you aren’t left to figure it out yourself! In fact God’s word never fails us! Open the book! Search for the answers. Talk to the teacher! You’ll find that He desires your success.

Just Do It

 

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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.

 

At my work we have a workout room full of equipment available to the staff and residents. There are machines and barbells and dumbbells… and other gadgets I’m not quite sure about. But they’re there. They’re available for anyone who will use them. Anyone who has the determination and the discipline to get into better shape. It’s equipment that will help to get rid of that extra weight and strengthen the core. It’s equipment that will cause longer life and helps to condition the body for moments when that extra endurance is needed.

 

Not everyone takes advantage of this room full of equipment. Some walk in and others walk by. It’s available to all. In fact it’s a privilege, but only a percentage grasp it. Only a few reap the rewards of it. They are the few who are fit and toned. They are the few we call when we need help because we know they’ve prepared themselves for the heavy stuff. We know they can handle it because they’ve put the equipment to work, and it’s worked on them.

 

The word of God tells us that the Bible equips us for every good work. It’s available to us all. It helps us to get rid of the unnecessary weight and strengthens the core. It prepares us for the heavy things in life. It prolongs our life. It causes us to be healthier, happier, and conditioned for every good work. We see it in those who are called when someone needs help, because they’ve put the word to work and it’s worked on them.

 

But what if we never pick it up? What if we never get in but always pass by? What if we lack the discipline and determination? Then we’ll never reap the rewards! We’ll not be conditioned for the tough times. We’ll not have the answer for the friend who calls. We’ll not know the precious promises that pull us through the heavy times. We won’t be equipped for all the things we’re called to do.

 

If you’ve ever broken a workout routine then you know that picking it back up is not easy. It’s a challenge. It’s something you have to just do! If you’ve not been spending your time in the word of God, it’s time to jump back in. Don’t get spiritually heavy and out of shape! Don’t be unprepared for the good works God’s prepared for you to do. Just Do It Today!

Thank You…

I’m so grateful today to know the Lord. He is so good to me! Not only has he saved me and delivered me from my past and covered my sins in the blood, but he has restored my life. I can honestly understand the passage of scripture that says, I shall not want. I’m not lacking any good thing. He’s completed my life. He alone! I’ve found that being complete and content doesn’t require a wife, a lot of money, “stuff”, or anything else this world has to offer. He has made me complete. Now anything else is icing on the cake. Cake that has all sorts of ingredients mixed into it. Ingredients of trials along with sweetness, brokenness and stirring. It’s cake that has been through the oven, or as we like to say, “the fire”.  And because He did the mixing, He’s involved in it all. He’s been faithful. He’s caused all things to work together for my good, to show that He is good. And when people in my life taste the product of what He’s made, they can taste His goodness.

Thank you Father for your goodness to me. Thank you for your kindness. I pray that others will see you when they see me. I pray that others will want what I have, which is YOU!

Peace Like A River

Peace like a river

Isaiah 66:12

For thus says the LORD, “Behold, I extend peace to her like a river…”

 

When I went to college in Tennessee, one of my favorite things to do was to go up to the river with my friends. We would put on our swimsuits and take off our shoes and walk all over and even slide down the big rocks that the river had smoothed over.

 

There aren’t too many rocky places where you can walk barefoot without being injured. It’s dangerous. The rocks are sharp. It’s hard, it’s irritating, and you can’t run like you could on a smooth surface. But there’s something different about the rocky places that the river runs through. The same rocky place that was such torture to travel through becomes full of stepping-stones. That ground that hindered your walk becomes transformed into something you can now venture through with stride. That’s what the river does.

 

In the book of Isaiah, the word compares the peace of God to a river. What a beautiful picture of what this peace does to the rocky places in our lives. Sometimes life causes us to go into places that are rough. Even the will of God can require us to walk into situations that are difficult and potentially painful. Often the paths we take aren’t easy. They’re tough. The troublesome seasons, the scary seasons, the hostile environment, the stressful workplace, recovering from addictions, death, illness, finances, divorce, wayward children. We walk through things that could tear us up. These are the places where the peace of God is so irreplaceable in our lives. It allows us to continue on the course that we’ve begun. With the peace of God, these places lose their ability to trip you up and slow you down. The things that would prevent you from moving further due their threatening conditions can now be walked upon thanks to the river of peace. Yes, they are still rocky places, but they are rocky with a river!

 

The good news is this… This peace like a river is available to us as believers. Jesus said, “Peace I give to you. Not as the world gives.” He’s still giving it today. As a matter of fact, the moment you entered the family of God it was deposited into your very being. Galatians tells us it’s a product of the Holy Spirit. Grasp onto it today. Keep your mind on Him. Talk to Him and tell him what you need with a thankful heart. Ask God for His peace to smooth over the path in front of you through a divine internal, unexplainable tranquility that comes though your faith in His love for you.

 

Philippians 4:6-7

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

 

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep him in perfect peace,

Whose mind is stayed on You,

Because he trusts in You.

 

The Temple of God

The temple of God has always been such a special place. Intricately designed by God the father himself. In Exodus chapter 26, God gave Moses such specific instructions to follow when building the tent of tabernacle. The details are so exact that there’s no room for interpretation. It’s precise. It’s clearly spoken by the Lord, for the Lord, the way He wants it. -The way it needs to be. This goes here, that goes there. This is to be this color and this is to be the fabric…woven this way. I want this many of these over here, 7 inches apart from the 8th fold of the 17th crease of the 3rd side.

You get the point- it was specific!

Not only for the inside, but also for the courtyards which surround it.

Later when a new temple was being built in 1 Chronicles, God placed the instructions into David’s heart, once more to a tee. In both of these instances, God’s design was so elaborate and beautiful that nothing needed to be added. Nothing human minds could have conjured up would have made it more beautiful. On the same hand, nothing needed to be taken away either. Each piece was thought up, designed, and perfectly placed to the likings of the master designer of the universe! Who could argue? If there were any questions of, “Why is that there?” or “What is that for?” the builders could just simply say, “Because that’s the way God wants it.”

 

Since Christ Jesus came and purchased our very lives, the temple of God is no longer made of stone or woven threads.

1 Corinthians 6:19 -20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

 

You are a temple. I am a temple. And God still has specific instructions for his temples. This hasn’t changed. The temple is still God’s design. He’s still definitive on it’s interior and it’s surroundings. It’s designed with purpose and to His liking. And there’s nothing we could add that would increase splendor, and nothing we should remove or neglect that’s a part of God’s design. Honor God with your temple today. Guard it and be careful of what you bring inside. The Holy Spirit desires all of it! There’s no room for our junk. There’s no room for anxiety, or fear, nor is there room for any idols. Get into the word and be reminded of God’s instructions today. Make the changes he desires and if anyone has anything to say about it, you can respond with…” That’s the way God wants it!” What a high honor that He would live inside of us. What proof that we’ve been made beautiful by design through Him who loves us.

 

Chris Taylor

Equipped

There was a stay at home wife who kept trying to get her husband to get a good lawn mower. The husband was always so tired after a full day’s work that he kept putting it off. One day the wife who was fed up with the overgrown yard decided she’d try a new approach. She figured if she could make him feel guilty, he might get it done. So that evening after a long day of work, the husband pulls in the driveway to find his wife outside cutting the grass with a pair of scissors. He walks inside and comes right back out, then handing his wife a toothbrush he said, “don’t forget to sweep the porch when you’re finished.”

 

Of course this is humorous, but as crazy as it seems to visualize someone cutting a yard with scissors, there are many who aren’t taking advantage of the proper tools they have access to. Through God we’ve been given everything we need to live and to work for Him, yet sometimes we settle for our own methods. We use tools crafted by this world rather than tools from the creator of the universe. To put it this way seems so foolish, but it’s true. When a couple has marriage problems, they seek secular counsel, or a new spouse to better fit their needs. When someone struggles with identity, they try to find who they are through searching out what pleases them. When someone feels they’ve been wronged, they used the tool of retaliation. When someone needs freedom from addition, they try all types of tools, but they aren’t doing the trick. There are those who can’t get past a season of mourning because they’re stuck on the tool of anti-depressants.

Then there are others who use tools of persuasion and charisma combined with opinion to preach a message. Singers who use the tool of vocal ability alone to lead people into worship. Youth leaders who use only games and outings to train up warriors. These are examples of using scissors to mow the yard. There are powerful and effective tools ready and available to the believer.

Here’s the thing… we’ve got work to do. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The jobs have been assigned. You’ve been hired! You work for the greatest employer there is. You’ve been chosen to do the work angels could have been chosen for. To bring a message of hope To lead others to Christ. To heal broken hearts and homes. To be peacemakers. Some are to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelist, some pastors, some teachers, some encouragers, and the list goes on.

None of these things can be done without the tools that are required for the job. Using our abilities alone, without God’s power and provision is like digging a giant ditch with a spoon rather than a backhoe! You may see some results, but lack the power to really get the job done.

 

Here’s the great news! Whoever God calls, he also equips.

 

Well where are these tools? You most likely have one of them on your bookshelf, and you hopefully have the other in your very body. We have the power of the Holy Spirit and we have the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. Acts 1:8 tells us that the Holy Spirit gives us power. So here we have the equipment, and the power to understand and use it!

It would be crazy to have a shelf full of top-of-the-line tools, and yet proceed with faulty and unproductive methods. So grab ahold of those tools that God has provided for you! Use the manual. Take advantage of the counselor on duty. Receive the instructions and do the work!

 

Hebrews 13:20-21

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Shipwrecked… the course advised against

Acts 27:18-26

18 We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. 19 On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20 When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

21 After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.”

42 The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. 43 But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. 44 The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

 

Here in this story we find a group of men who are in the midst of a raging storm. The violent battering has caused much to be lost. It’s dark. The sun, although there, hasn’t shown itself for days due to the thick darkness of the clouds and the rain. All this damage and loss due to a detour that they were advised against by the believer on board. Yet in the thick of the storm, God sends a messenger, an angel, to remind Paul that there is still a purpose to fulfill and that he’s going to make it through this storm. Not only that, but he’s graciously been given the lives of all the men on board. ALL the men on board, including the slaves, are going to make it out alive. The ship will be lost, but what’s of value will make it out. The cargo didn’t make it. The method of travel didn’t make it. What they had put their trust in didn’t make it. What they had packed as provision didn’t make it. But their lives made it. Even the lives of the slaves were of value to God. (One of them happened to write most of the New Testament) But there was still a wreck. Those who knew how to swim were the first off. Then those who didn’t had to find something to take hold of so they wouldn’t drown.

This is a picture of our country today. We are in a ship that has believers, non-believers, agnostics, atheists, and slaves. Leaders of the ship have decided to take a turn totally against the advice of the believers. Totally against God’s direction and instruction, we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a storm. It’s raging. It’s causing damage and it’s causing loss. Yet there’s still hope because there’s still purpose. The promises of the Lord are still going to be fulfilled. The salvation of God isn’t about the ship, nor is it about the cargo… it’s about the lives. It’s about the free man and the slaves. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. And just like it was with Paul, we’ve graciously been given the lives of those around to keep them from death… to help them to shore. We may know how to swim because we’re trained and we’ve been in these deep waters before, but others are going to be looking for something to hold on to. There’s only one thing that can keep them from drowning! That’s faith in Christ Jesus. He’s the only way to life! He is the life. Focus on the lives, not the ship. Part of our purpose is to make known what God has declared. Speak hope and life so that those in the grip of fear and on the edge of death have something (Someone!) to trust in.