Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Can You Do?

This week of remembering the events of 9/11/2001 has been accented with stories of heroes, as it should be. We need more heroes.

Men who care about their kids more than themselves are heroic. Moms who sacrifice their own desires for those of their husbands are heroic. Ministers who bravely and clearly declare truth for the sake of the gospel and the church when it is not popular are heroic. Teenagers who stand up and scream “No!” to moral compromise are heroic. Businessmen who operate with integrity and bosses who treat employees with dignity are heroic.

We watch Dr. Phil occasionally and one of the things that he often says to people is, “You need to be a hero for…” A hero is one who risks or sacrifices the self for the sake of someone else. The hero is one who covers you in a downpour, who steps in front of the assault, who throws you clear of the falling piano, who helps you grieve when that is all that can be done.

There is a group called Carbon Leaf that I want to recommend. My daughter Hope gave me their new CD, Love, Loss, Hope, Repeat. One song on the album is called, "Block of Wood," a song about a family that has fallen apart and he is just trying to be a hero. The chorus says,

“If the fire, if the flood
Burns the tree and thins the blood
If your tears don’t wanna dry

I can help you cry
Through the night
Through the night and day
I can’t take your pain away
But I can help you cry”

Peter, writing about our heroic Lord said this,
He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;” (1 Peter 2:22-24).

Jesus the Christ left us an amazing example. You can be someone’s hero today. Sacrifice yourself for the sake of another, even if all you can do is help them cry.

telemicus out

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Many of you know that I turned 47 last week. It was uneventful in every way. I think 47 is a level spot on the side of the hill. It's really yet to be seen which side of the hill I'm on. I think we never know till our time is done... but I figure I gotta be closing in on half way. It seems odd that I would be rethinking my life and work at this age.

On that day they call my "birthday" I was attending a writers conference. It was a huge amount of information in a short period of time. I made a commitment to my family this past January 1st that I was going to use this year to make a decision about my life and work. This is what I've decided.

I am hoping that I will be able to use the balance of my life in the work of writing and speaking as a way of life and ministry. As most of you know, I have been writing since 1989, but have never tried to publish anything. I hope to change that this year. Since starting I've written 3 books, hundreds of devotionals, a few articles, one book for teens and a childrens book.

So at 47 it comes down to this... I have a lot still to learn and to say. If the Lord grants it, I would like to serve him in this way. For now, I hope you'll still stop by and join me here each week. Perhaps there will be something useful. Remember me in your prayers.

47... but leaning on 46.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Love the Lord - Part 4

Last Saturday, in the middle of the night, Rhonda screamed. Not a word, it was one of those terror filled girl screams. (Yes, living with Rhonda is an adventure.) I was standing on the floor before my eyes were open. She was crying and screaming, “Someone is in here.” I still couldn’t see anyone, but surmised that she had been dreaming. Crawling across the bed to where she was, I held her and told her that it was only me and no one else was there. We were both shaken. I realized that in that moment of chaos – I was prepared to fight.

I’m no fighter. I’ve never been hit and have never hit anyone. I don’t even think I’m tough. But if you try to harm someone that I love, you will find that I will do anything within my power to support, protect and defend them. (I’m sure you are the same.) Even now in America, people are divided about the Iraq war, but if a foreign army came to our shores, you would see a unity unimagined by our enemies. Love doesn’t sit back – it steps up. Love holds nothing back, but gives all that it has. Abraham Lincoln spoke to this when he wrote in the Gettysburg Address,

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion…” The question becomes, “In your love for Christ, would you give your last full measure of devotion?”

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

To love God with all of your strength is to love him to the last drop of our blood. It is to fight the good fight. It is to finish the course, to keep the faith. It is to follow Christ, not at a distance, but in triumphs of ministry and the stoning of persecution. It is to deliver his message with power and boldness and to wrestle in prayer in cold lonely nights. It is to keep going when the Lord compels us and all others are saying we should rest. It is to rely on the strength of the Master when our strength is gone. It is to surrender even our weakness to be a conduit of God’s power. It is to obey Christ's royal law even to the point of death. To love God with all of your strength is to follow him to the cross, never relenting until eternity.

telemicus out

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Love the Lord – Part 3

I drive a 1990 Plymouth Laser. It’s a nice little sports car with a strong engine. It can go fast. I’ve had it for about 8 years. I’ve put about 10 or 11 alternators on it in that length of time. (I know!) The first time I replaced it, the job took about 6 hours. (Have I told you how much I hate working on cars?) Now, I can take it off and replace it in an hour. I know the procedure very well. I like, enjoy and am grateful for my car despite the problems that come my way because I own it.

In the prayer before his crucifixion, Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent,” (John 17:3). During the course of my life, I’ve met a few famous people, but I really don’t know any of them. We don’t hang out. They don’t come over for dinner or invite me on their vacations.

Knowing God is not only something we can do, it’s something we’re supposed to do. Yes, its work. It does take time. There is real effort required. Relationships must be cultivated. Do you have any friends that you really like, but they never call you? You are always the one who calls. And they’re always glad to hear from you, but you’re not on their list of people to call and connect with. Do you suppose that God feels that way about you? Is He the one who is "waiting by the phone?" Sometimes I think we treat God like the words of a country song I heard about, “If your phone ain’t ringin, its me.” Tell me… How are we ever going to know God if we won’t invest the time and effort required? The more we know him, the deeper will be our understanding and our love for him. This is what he seeks.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment is, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

To love God with all of your mind is to love him with knowledge and understanding. It is to know his word and allow it to inform the course of your life. It is to allow the word to discipline, correct and instruct your life. It is to know Father and the nature of his love. It is "to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowships of sharing in his sufferings." It is to be acquainted with and lead by the Spirit in - the walk of life, the study of scripture, the ministry of God’s people and the depths of our faith. It is to understand mysteries of suffering for Christ. It is to know the Presence of God in the darkest hours of our lives. To love God with all your mind is to know him and love him beyond the pain that will come your way because you follow him.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Love the Lord - Part 2

During the summer when I was 15 I got very sick. Due to a severe frontal sinus infection, I was having severe headaches and was unable to keep food down. I lost a lot of weight and was very weak. It was the first time that I had ever been really sick in my life. The Dr. prescribed some strong meds and I eventually began to feel better. I don’t know when it happened, but one morning I woke up and realized that I was well…healthy.

According to E. Stanley Jones, holiness is “spiritual health.” The Hebrews writer said, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord,” (Hebrews 12:14).

In our walk with God, there is too much attention given to spiritual sickness, that is to say, the presence and power of sin in our lives. Will redeemed people ever stop saying things like, “We’re all sinners” and “We all fail everyday.” Nonsense! We who are in Christ are the redeemed children of God. We have a testimony to demonstrate to the world, to our enemy and to our selves that we are forgiven, saved, and adopted into the family of God. We have received the indwelling Holy Spirit so that we might live holy lives and that we might love the Lord with a healthy soul. So enough already with the talk of sin and its power.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength,” (Mark 12:30).

To love the Lord with all your soul is to love him in holiness or “spiritual health”. It does not regard the sickness of sin above the health of redemption. It does not minimize the ugliness of sin, but takes refuge, rest and joy in the power of Christ over sin. It does not empower sin by making resistance the focus of life, but keeps a deep love of God as the focus of life. To love God with all your soul is love him beyond your sin and failures. To love with all your soul is to display holiness as the condition of your life. It is to know and acknowledge that you are spiritually healthy because of him and to express your love by living in holiness - being spiritually well...healthy.

telemicus out

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Love the Lord – Part 1

Over the next four weeks, I’m going to do a series of articles that speak to the “Greatest Command.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard a sermon or lesson that attempts to put feet on this passage. We all know the passage, but to express the meaning of it is difficult. I’m not saying I’ve figured it all out, but I think I’ve learned something that might help us have a better handle on understanding it and more to the point, doing it.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30

Jackson Browne wrote a song called Sky Blue and Black. It’s a song about a failed relationship. The guy knows he blew it, but there is no undoing the damage. But he offers this statement.

If you ever need holding

Call my name, I’ll be there
If you ever need holding
And no holding back,
I’ll see you through
Sky blue and black

This is the cry of a man who lost real love. He and wants her to know that if he ever gets another chance, he’ll be different. He says, “If you ever need holding and no holding back.” This is the key to loving with all your heart. The love Jesus is talking about is an undivided, no holding back love. The love that a grandma feels when she hugs so tight you feel you might pass out. It’s the love that a child demonstrates when they want to kiss you over and over again.

To love the Lord with all your heart is to love him with a pure or “undivided” heart. The undivided heart is not torn between the old life of sin and the new life of redemption. It does not look back with nostalgia, to those days that were, and thus nullify the future. It does not regret the life of ministry with a yearning for the secular. To love the Lord with all your heart is to love him with no holding back, beyond your old life and your old way of living.

telemicus out

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Fellowship of Suffering

I’m doing some work right now on the life of Peter. The more I learn, the more I like him and the more I’m impressed with his maturity in Christ. In John 21 when Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, 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. Follow me,” (John 21:18-19) he was asking him to follow in suffering.

When we look at Peter’s life from Pentecost until his death, we see a change in his heart. Despite being arrested, being flogged, (that’s an easy word to write and perhaps read, but it was a brutal, evil practice,) and being threatened to stop talking about Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles rejoiced that they were worthy to suffer. Over and over in the scriptures we see Peter face the burdens of following Christ with a glad, loving heart.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” What is it to share in the fellowship of his sufferings? It is acknowledging the suffering while recognizing he is with you. It’s oneness with him in the midst of it. It’s walking in the dark with the acute awareness of his Presence.

Suffering for Christ moves us away from being self centered. It moves us from sinful and toward sinless. We seem to work at avoiding suffering, and while that is human nature, it robs us of opportunity to fellowship with Christ. I’m not saying we should go looking for misery. But in following Christ with a whole heart we will encounter the struggles and sufferings that God would use to bless us. Peter wrote, “Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin, (1 Peter 4:1).

What attitude? The attitude that accepts the blessings that come, with and through suffering for Christ. In verse 2 he says that suffering helps the disciple to “not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Suffering for Christ is not simply persecution, it is joining Christ in the struggle to live as a believer in a world and culture that is set against the things of God. Arm yourselves with the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings. It will change your heart.

telemicus out

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Closeness of Loss

Friday 5:15 a.m. I got up, showered and went to the office.
2:30 p.m. Left the office and ran errands.
4:00 p.m. Arrived at home and began the process of removing the alternator and power-steering pump from my old car. For the record, I hate working on cars, but it had to be done. Rhonda brought me cold drinks and set up a fan to keep me cool. She also held the flashlight generally helped out in every way she could.
9:00 p.m. Finished the task and made a Taco Bueno run to get a late snack for the family.
10:30 p.m. Hit the shower again and got ready for bed.
11:30 p.m. Laid down with Rhonda for much needed sleep.
11:35 p.m. Got a goodnight kiss from Rhonda and hit the full relax mode.

11:40 p.m. Rhonda sat up abruptly and said, “I’m gonna be sick!” She ran to the bathroom and was very much sick. I got up and went in to get her a drink of water and a cool wash cloth. She was standing and bending over “the bowl.” She said she was dizzy and her chest was burning. I told that was normal and to get down on her knees. She did that and said, “Something is really wrong with me.” She then passed out and slumped over to her left side against the wall. I laid her down on the floor and she was out…but breathing. She sat up and then passed out again and slumped back to the floor several times. I continued to try to figure out what was happening. I left her to get the phone.

Saturday 12:00 a.m. I dialed 911 and asked for an ambulance. I gave the operator the information she asked for and went to get Brittany. I got some clothes on and continued to try and keep Rhonda breathing and still.

12:15 a.m. The paramedics arrived and began working on Rhonda. She was mostly unresponsive. Her blood pressure was very low, about 80 / 50. She was blue. She was making a lot of noises, but not making words. We were very concerned.

1:00 a.m. Arrived at the hospital and was told to sit in the waiting room. Rhonda’s mother arrived and we began the work of waiting.
3:00 a.m. We were called to the E.R. to speak to the Dr. He told us what was happening to Rhonda, but he said, “The scary thing is that we cant figure out why. She is a very sick young lady.” He told us that they were going to keep working on it, wait for the CAT scan results and then if nothing changed move her to ICU. We returned to the waiting room to wait and pray.
6:00 a.m. Called to the E.R. again. We were told that the CAT scan was clean and they were moving her to ICU. Rhonda’s blood pressure was being maintained artificially and they were trying to re-hydrate her. Her oxygen level was too low and her lungs were not working well.
7:00 a.m. We were called in the ICU room and told that she was stable and they were giving her something to make her sleep. They were going to run additional tests. I went home to tell the kids what was happening and get a nap.
11:00 a.m. Rhonda was moved to a regular room. At noon I returned to the hospital to talk with the Dr. and sit with Rhonda. She looked a lot better but was still hooked up to a lot of tubes and machines.

Sometime in the evening we saw the Dr. and he explained what he thought had happened. He explained that it was a combination of issues that caused Rhonda to get sick, pass out, her blood pressure to drop and her oxygen levels to plummet. She was able to come home on Monday afternoon. She is resting and recovering.

It was a close call. Had someone not been there she might not have made it. Remember to appreciate the relationships you take for granted. It may not always be so. In the course of a normal Friday where everyone was feeling fine we experienced the closeness of loss. We are grateful that Rhonda is ok. But more than that, we are more appreciative of how quickly loss can come close.

telemicus out

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Lady in the Water

I would like to encourage you to see a film. I’ve heard a number of people pan Lady in the Water. The critics are WRONG. It’s a film about a bedtime story. But there are characters that are interesting and believable who reflect reality in the midst of fantasy. Cleveland Heep is the Superintendent for an apartment building. He lives in a cottage just to the side of the pool and courtyard. In the course of the film, he meets Story, the lady in the water.

The movie is about finding purpose. Story is a 'not human' lady from “the blue world” who live beneath the pool. She needs to return to her home, but she requires help. Cleveland is a man suffering in his own world. It is his nature to help people. He is a good and noble man. Through his efforts to help Story, he finds his way back to his own life and heart.

If you’ve ever been in the place of hurting so badly inside that you wish you could disappear. If you’ve ever earnestly prayed that Jesus would return to alleviate your strangled heart. If you’ve been lonely and yet worked at secluding yourself at the same time. If you’ve known that you had something to say that needed to be heard but couldn’t get a hearing. If you’ve ever felt abandoned by God and wondered if he cared about you anymore. I want to encourage you to believe that you have reason to hope.

The early disciples considered it an honor to be considered worthy of suffering. If you are a child of God, difficult times will come. It has always been thus. The struggles we face, whether on the inside or from without, always pass through God’s hands. All of the disciples faced difficult times and the dark clouds of the heart. Jesus himself felt abandoned in his darkest hour.

God is there. When Cleveland Heek intercedes for Story, (not praying to God, but interceding nonetheless,) he finds himself. Our struggles in life and disciplines, (not punishment,) from the Lord do not mean that we’ve lost favor, they are proof that he is with us and for us. They are the beckoning of his love, the force of his truth and the assurance of his presence. As David said, “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you,” (Psalm 63:3). In the dark times, respond by serving others and genuinely express your soul’s love for God.

telemicus out

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Vacation Historical Markers

This past week our family took a vacation. It was packed with activities, sights, friends and unforgettable experiences. It was Caleb’s first ride on a plane, and Hopes first that she could remember. We visited the Gateway Arch, the Mississippi River, (thanks to “Ranger Boring” we wont soon forget that,) a couple of Museums, the St. Louis Zoo, Six Flags, rode in a Limo and spent our share of time in the hotel pool. We shared warm days, good food, and a lot of laughs.

We also visited Kirksville, the town where I spent my teen years and it was, for me, a real joy. Caleb and I walked on the field where I played high school football and I told him some stories of games and plays that stand out in my mind. We looked at the houses where my family lived and talked of the people who lived around us. We looked at farmland and talked about soybeans, hay and corn. It was glorious!

When we were at worship on Sunday morning, I showed Caleb where I stood and proclaimed God’s word for the first time. I was called into the service of God during those Kirksville years, when I was 15. Though we were visiting with friends, when no one was looking, I visited that place inside me that remembers the past and wonders about the future.

It’s important that our kids know that we have a heritage of faith. We should share with them our spiritual heritage. The Lord told his people, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, 'What do these stones mean?' “…These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:5-7).

Our vacation was fun for our family, but it also served to remind me and to show my family where I came from spiritually. Have you shared your spiritual roots? Have you introduced them to people who taught you and built your faith? Have they seen you honor those people? Have they seen that you value your own spiritual heritage? Before they’re too old, show your kids the markers about those people and times that gave you your spiritual life. It is a blessing from God.

telemicus out

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Crying for a Savior

Well, the Boy and I went to see the new Superman Returns movie last week. We gave it two thumbs up. There were some things I liked and some things I didn’t, but overall it was a good, (what you would expect,) Superman movie.

In this movie, Superman returns after a five-year absence. While he was gone, Lois wrote and article titled, “Why the World doesn’t need Superman.” He finds Lois Lane on the rooftop of the Daily Planet and this exchange takes place.

Superman: I read the article, Lois.
Lois Lane: Yeah, so did a lot of people. Tomorrow night, they're giving me the Pulitzer.
Superman: Why did you write it?
Lois Lane: How could you leave us like that? I moved on. So did the rest of us. That's why I wrote it. The world doesn't need a savior. And neither do I.

Superman asks Lois to go with him and he takes her on a flight high above the Earth. He stops and says:
Superman: Listen...
Lois Lane: I don't hear anything.
Superman: I do. I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn't need a savior, but every day I hear people crying for one.

We who know the Savior have the ministry of sharing the love of the Father with a world that cries for a savior everyday. Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows," (Mat 10:29 -31).

Yes, the world is a mess. People have turned to their own selfish ways and have no regard for God or the things of God. But not all people. There are those who know that God made them for more. They would love to believe that they are worth more than many sparrows. “They need a Savior, but who’s gonna to teach them, who’s gonna reach them with the Father’s love?”1

It’ll have to be us.

telemicus out

1 from "Savior" by Michael English

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Because He First Loved Me

I can’t answer all the deep questions of life. I’m not deep enough or smart enough to sort through the creases of my own heart, the hidden motives, the strangling fears, the righteous indignation and the sin that hounds me each day. There is nothing that I have to offer that explains the questions that we wrestle with in regard to God and life. But the one thing that I have come to believe in the last five years is that nothing is sure except the love of God. Everything we know of him screams that he loves people, not just saved people, but lost people too, (Romans 5:8).

I don’t think we should ever count on our "understanding" of scripture over the undeniable truth that God loves us and has made every effort to express that love to us. Love's ultimate expression is Jesus Christ. When the hard times come, when the questions come, and the crushing disappointments of life come, the only thing that we can absolutely count on is the Love of God. God’s love doesn’t mean that all things will go our way; it means that we trust God even when things don’t go our way. Jim McGuiggan wrote: “The biblical Story urges us to believe the best and to trust until the drama has run to its final conclusion. It entreats us to trust that the one who created us in love is working for our everlasting blessing.”1

The Psalmist wrote:
“To the One who remembered us in our low estate
His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies,
His love endures forever.
and who gives food to every creature.
His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.”
Psalm 136:23-26

I know that I don’t love God and my Savior Jesus as I should. The failures of my life are not failures of faith, they are failures of love. I tell God on a regular basis that I’m sorry my love is so weak. I trust that he understands and loves me in my weakness. As Rich Mullins said in one of the last songs that he wrote: “I cannot explain the way You came to love me... Except to say that nothing is beyond You.”2

telemicus out

1 Jim McGuiggan – The God of the Towel pg.17
2 Rich Mullins – The Jesus Record - Nothing is Beyond You

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Who Says You Can't Go Home?

This past weekend we went to see “Cars.” I think it was a good movie. It teaches, among other things, care for others, sacrifice of self, the cost of selfishness, the danger of neglect and it demonstrates a noble heart. Lightening McQueen is a fast young racecar. He is arrogant and proud. When he spins his tires and prepares to peel out with lightening speed his catch phrase is, “Ka-chow!” But life slows him down, humbles him, teaches him, and changes him.

On a trip to California for a race, he gets lost and ends up stuck in Radiator Springs, a small town on old Route 66. Radiator Springs is a town that the interstate passed and the world forgot. In this little town there happens to be a girl named Sally, (there’s always a girl). Sally is a hot, light blue Porche 911. Sally loves Radiator Springs.

The movie has a sub-theme that is about the “good ole days” when people took drives “low and slow” simply for the joy of the drive. It places value on the restoration of things that have been neglected. It reminded me of the small town in Missouri where I spent my teen years. I walked all over that town in the course of five years. I miss those times. Life was simpler, slower, and more lived in the present.

David had an experience of nostalgia one day. Tired and weary from fighting the Philistines, the old book says, “David longed for water and said, "Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”
(2 Sam 23:15). Three of his great warriors heard him says this and so they fought through the enemies lines got him a drink and brought it back. David couldn’t drink it. The water was too valuable to drink because of the effort it took to get it. So he “poured it out before the Lord.”

Lightening finally made it to California for the race, but Radiator Springs still owned part of his heart. He had changed and in that change he didn’t simply make himself better, he made those around him better. His heart changed in the course of time and that little town had a lot to do with it. Kirksville, Missouri will always be special to me - just as David loved water from the well in Bethlehem. Towns have a way holding on to us. Jon Bon Jovi says, “Who says you can't go back, been all around the world and as a matter of fact There's only one place left I want to go, who says you can't go home.”


telemicus out

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Living Water

One night, many years ago, I had a dream that I will never forget. I was running at White Rock Lake. It was a warm day. The sun was bright and the colors on everything were like that scene from "What Dreams May Come". As I jogged, I was looking forward to reaching the spot by the spill-way where there is an old water fountain. I couldn’t wait to reach the fountain because I had been running so long and I was so thirsty. I approached the hill leading to the top of the spill-way, I could see the water fountain up ahead. But when I reached the fountain and walked over, it was “guarded” by three brightly colored snakes. One on the front and one on each side. Each time I moved to get around them, they moved to prevent me from reaching the water I desired so much.

The water represents my relationship with God. Not simply the time I spend in reading, reflecting, and learning His word, not just spending time in worship and adoring Him and his Power, not reveling in the depth of his love, but all those things that represent my personal relationship with the Father. The snakes are the activities of the enemy, and myself, that distract me, keep me too busy, drag me into fleshly pursuits and prevent me from engaging in the relationship I have with God.

The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). I realized sometime this week that, while I’ve been reading a lot and studying “about” God things, I’ve not spent much time with him. I’ve not purposely abandoned him, but I’ve allowed other things to keep me from him. So I committed myself to get back to spending time in worship, adoration and growing in God's word. If you find yourself thirsty today, slay the serpents and enjoy a retreat at the fountain of living water.

telemicus out

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

In the Land of Usable

On most Monday afternoons around 5:30 you’ll find my Dad and me at Starbucks sharing a Venti Mocha and an hour or so of talking about life and God’s role in it and our role in Him. It’s really about growing and learning who we are in our relationship. It’s sweet.

This week the subject came up of being used by God in the Kingdom and why some who seem useless are used while some that seem very useful are not used at all. I think that each of us is in one of three places in terms of service to God and his Kingdom. We are in Useless, Usable or Useful.

If we are in Useless, we are not listening, not growing and not productive. This place is often busy and engaged in religion. In Useless, ministry crowds out God and his desire to refine, develop and mature us. Useless is like an old western movie set. Everything looks real and productive and even happy. But the reality is, it’s all a facade. This is where Saul was prior to the Damascus Road.

If we are in Usable, this means we are “in training”. God has our attention and we are actively involved in the process of hearing him and growing through his work in us, but we are not ready for the work he has in mind. Usable is a lonely place. Friends often resent those who go there. There is a temptation in Useable to think we are ready for the work God has in mind. This is where Paul was during his trip to Arabia.

If we are in Useful, we have learned from God. We’ve spent the time to hear the instruction of the Sprit and to grow in our love for Christ. We are ready for the work God has prepared for us. Useful is a peaceful place.* In it, we are content. We are not concerned about pleasing people or fighting battles.

Paul understood this when he wrote to Philemon about Onesimus, “Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me” (Philemon 1:11). Onesimus was useless as a slave, he became a Christian and son to Paul and became usable. Paul sent him back to Philemon as useful. If you find yourself in Useless, stop resisting God and leave that place now. If you are in Usable, thank God that he considers you worthy and be diligent to learn from him until you're ready. If you’re in Useful, then you’re doing well. Press On.

telemicus out

* It was pointed out by my brother in law that being useful for God can get you killed, like the prophets and the Lord. While this is true what I am wanting to speak to is peace with God. Knowing we are in his will, and productive in his Kingdom is a place of great peace. There will be battles, but they will be his and not our own.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Christians - The Real Mutants

Well this last was a big weekend. It involved a home project with Rhonda, a Desperados playoff game with The Boy, and the new movie, X-Men - The Last Stand with a couple of the kids. The home project, a deck addition, was completed. The Desperados destroyed the Georgia Force (more like a Georgia playground shovers). And the X-Men, well lets talk about we mutants for a minute.

After the movie we talked about how each mutant was “gifted” (or cursed,) with a different mutation. In The Last Stand, there is a boy who is a mutant and his mutation or “gift” is that he nullifies the mutation in any mutant that gets close to him.

If the mutations are a negative thing, then this boy represents the cure for being a mutant - thus the plot of the movie. Concerning this anti mutant boy, my daughter said, “He’s like Jesus.” Exactly. He takes the thing that separates us from wholeness and restores us. Well that set me to thinking even more.

What would your mutant name be? The big name Christians would get cool names I think. Max Lucado might be Scripto. Billy Graham could be Thunder. Brennan Manning would just be Deep. Me… well Id be called - mutant #5670496-2-498875.

In this world, we Christians are like mutants. We assemble; we are different in many ways. We are uniquely gifted and often misunderstood. Some are filled with “holy hatred” some are understanding and compassionate. Some love the non-mutants, others look down on them for being “lesser.” Some don’t want to be involved; others want to change the world. Some of us say stupid things before a national audience while others love and serve the non-mutants in the name of our Lord without notice.

The greatest command is to love the Lord. To share the Message is one expression of that love. Yeah, we’re a bit weird… the world probably sees us as mutants, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Display to the world the peace of being in Christ. Live a life that is worthy of your calling. Serve others in the name of our Lord. Glory in the love of our Father and the Holiness that makes us all like Him.
Join me fellow mutants.

telemicus out

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What Did You Sign Up For?

Life is difficult. Being a Christian doesn’t make it less so. It might make things harder, but it doesn’t make it easier. It certainly makes life better, but not easier. Those who sell the Christian life as the way to ease and comfort are mistaken at best and lying at the worst. Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

We’ve been watching the Dallas Mavericks for almost a month in the playoffs. They beat down Memphis in four, and they went the distance against the dreaded Spurs. I’ve been trying to teach The Boy about believing in your team no matter what; and the importance of never giving up even when things look bad.

After game six someone asked the Mav coach Avery Johnson if he feared going to play game seven. He said, "Fear going to play a seventh game? That is what we signed on the dotted line for. You just don't sign when you make every shot. You sign up for adversity too, and that's why we are all here."

Well sure, that’s true of basketball, but even more its true of the Christian walk. Yes we have the benefit of peace with God through Jesus Christ, we have the added bonus of the continual cleansing of our sins. We have the peace of the Spirit, present in our lives and the comfort of his guidance in life and understanding the Scriptures. We have the fellowship with Jesus in life and ministry. We have someone to worship who is altogether worthy and who lifts us to be better people than we will ever be on our own. And these are only the beginnings of our blessings in Christ.

Our baptism (signing on the dotted line) is a surrender unto death. It accepts certain realities. One of those realities is what Paul called, “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Phil 3:10”). So, to blend what Paul said with what Coach Johnson said: When we come to Christ we don’t just sign on for all those good things mentioned above, we sign on for the fellowship of sharing in adversity with Christ, and that’s why we are all here.

telemicus out

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Choosing Slavery

I run a bit. I don’t run long, I don’t run far. Certainly don’t run fast. I’m trying to work up to about 45 minutes 4 times a week. I’ve got a ways to go. But that is what I am committed to. My only reason for running is health. I want to keep my weight under control and my fitness at a comfortable level. But I have a serious problem. I live with a liar.

When I come home, he is waiting in my closet. He tells me, it’s too hot, too windy or too late. He tells me I’m too sore, too tired or too busy. He tells me there are other priorities that need my attention. He tells me about my dog that needs to be played with, my kids who need my time and my chores that never end. He also hangs out in the kitchen. He tells me I want food when I don’t need it. He tells me I need ice cream every day. He cares only for the joyful images in the moment of indulgence. He never looks at the life mural that displays the trail of consequences.

So what do I do with this man. He is my old self, the flesh. The one I rejected a long time ago. I've made him my slave. He will do what I say, when I say it. He does not have control over me. I have control. On occasion, I let my guard down, but it’s not the norm. I don’t want you to misunderstand. I don’t hate my self or my body, but he is a liar.

Paul said, "Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize" (1 Corinthians 9:26-27).

I’ve decided that this verse is important in my struggle against the flesh. The flesh is here and a part of me. But he is my slave. I will beat him into submission in order that I not be disqualified for the prize. You may struggle with the flesh too. Don’t allow it to run your life. Every time you hear one of those lies, remember Paul’s words, “I beat my body and make it my slave.” In the end, you’ll be happier and a better servant of Christ.

Monday, May 15, 2006

His Mother Spoke Up

In Luke chapter 1, we read the story of the birth of John the baptizer. You’ll recall how the angel appeared to his father Zachariah to foretell the birth and how he was made to be mute because he did not believe. When John was born they took him to be circumcised on the eighth day and that is when he was to be named. Verse 59-60 say, “…and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John.”

I had the honor of growing up in a home with a strong spiritual leader. Dad was a Christian man for most of my memory. He was a minister in all of my growing up years. He lead by example, by words and a strong hand.

Mom was never big on that whole, “Wait till your father gets home” business. If a thing had to be dealt with, she dealt with it. Not always in the same way, but deal with it she did. On occasions when mom felt that dad was over the line or off the mark, she spoke up. When my older sister or I was setting a poor example for our younger siblings, she spoke up. Even today, though I am a grown man, if I’ve been in the wrong, she speaks up still.

Mom is not overbearing. She is not pushy. She is not even assertive. But when it is right and needed she has always spoken what needed to be said. So I’m grateful for a mom who has that most excellent balance of being in proper submission in her heart and enough of the spirit of Elizabeth to speak up when God’s cause demands it. The world was blessed when John’s mother spoke up. I’ve been blessed because mine did.

Thanks Mom.

Love, Michael

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Simplicity of the Gospel

This Blog is not deep. It’s not that I’m shallow or never think deep thoughts or wrestle with complex issues. But, I have passed the time of enjoying theological battles. I want to encourage people to live better lives for Christ’s sake. We cannot reach the world by proving that this pastor is shallow or that one is a fraud. Allow God to deal with his own servants. He is able to lift them up or take them out.

I’m a simple man. I think most Christians are simple people (theologically). They don’t need to be able to argue transubstantiation; they want to know how to raise their kids or keep their marriages together. They’d like to be better people and if ministered into it, they will become better followers of Christ. They are capable of learning new and deeper things and of maturing in their walk with God.

I’ve listened and read a lot of the “deep guys” bad mouth and talk down the ministries of some prominent Christian pastors because they are preaching a simplistic feel good gospel that doesn’t call people to the deep things of God. They criticize them for not presenting the full demands of the Gospel. They write off these purveyors of the “shallow gospel” of pop psychology and feel good religion as almost apostates (that means one who abandons their faith). This way of judgment is wrong.

I encourage you to read the book, A Simple Path by Mother Teresa. It’s real and practical and while you’re not looking, it gets you deep into the real call of God to participate in a Gospel that is about ministry to real people, and a love for God and Jesus Christ. The Gospel has always been about God’s desire to save man through the message of Jesus. His message was to love God and love others. The legalists and judgmental don’t know this message. They talk of grace while citing law and fuming judgment.

I have on my bulletin board a bumper sticker that is white with black letters. It says, “Generic Christian.” I’ve had it for years. It reminds me that we are not about anything but that which is Christ centered. So pardon me if these articles don’t get too deep. I write each week to encourage who ever might stop by to think nobler thoughts and to live in such a way as to make a difference in the world, for Christ sake. If you need to be yelled at or beaten down, I can send you some sites that will do that. In the mean time, I will continue to encourage through the simple message of the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What Forever Is For

This past weekend I took my wife and my parents to see Michael Martin Murphey in concert. Many don’t remember him but he had a couple of number one songs in the 70s and 80s. These days he sings mostly songs about cowboys and the west. This concert was held in a little town called Linden in east Texas. The theater looked like an abandoned building on the outside. The parking lot was kind of like a pasture. But inside, everything was nice, clean and modern with a country feel. Very quaint. It seated about 400 so we were close and the sound was great.

As you know, if you know me at all, I am NOT a fan of country music. But I’m a fan of good music with a good message. Michael Martin Murphey has both. I’ve seen some good concerts in my life… Springsteen, Rich Mullins, Paul McCartney, John Denver, Journey and others. This one ranks among the best. After the show we stayed around for the fireworks show and got to meet “Murph”. His friends call him that.

One of Murphey’s hit songs is called “What’s Forever For.” The chorus of the song says,

“So what's the glory in living
Doesn't anybody ever stay together anymore
And if love never lasts forever
Tell me, what's forever for.”

Well on Tuesday, Rhonda and I celebrated our 26th wedding anniversary. It hasn’t been easy. But we haven’t had the hardest road either. We’ve had all the normal ups and downs. Had days we were more in love than is good and days we were willing to walk away and forget the whole thing. But I think what makes any marriage work is the work of love. It’s hard work! You’ve got to do things you’d rather not do, listen to things you don’t want to hear, go places you don’t wish to go, and say things you don’t want to say. For anyone to stay with another person for life, the work of love has to be done.

You might think that calling love - work takes the romance out of it… no way! It’s very romantic to fight through the struggles together and when the day is won, to look at your bride and know that the enemy of your life together has been vanquished yet again. There is no romance like victory romance. (wink wink). Love does last forever and in the final analysis, love is what forever is for.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

In Praise of Old Guys

Last week my son Caleb and I attended an event in Dallas called the “Quarterback Bowl.” It was held in Reunion Arena. It was a flag football game between local radio station personalities from “The Ticket,” a few unknown folks, and a group of former Dallas Cowboys. One team was quarterbacked by the Hall of Fame, three time Super Bowl winner, Troy Aikman. The opposing team was led by Hall of Fame, two time Super Bowl winner, Roger Staubach.

I must note here that Troy is just a few years out of retirement. He is only 39 years old. Roger on the other hand, is in his early 60s. On his team, Troy had Michael Ervin, Daryl Johnston and Jay Novacek. Roger had, Drew Pearson and Herschel Walker. By all that makes sense, Troy’s team should have won in a walk. But it didn’t go that way. Roger was… well… Roger. He scrambled, dodged and threw the ball on target. Short or long, Roger’s throws were on the money.

The next day the radio guys asked Roger if he would play again next year. He said that they should get some of the old Pittsburgh Steelers to come down so he could "even the score" with them. After all these years, he still has a fire in him to settle the score with an old rival.

The old guys won the game! I loved it. You see, I’m old enough now that I get called old by my kids. A while back the little girl at McDonalds tried to give me the “senior discount” – yeah I took it!

When I was looking for a youth ministry position, I was asked all the time about being too old for youth ministry. It’s not always a silly question. I’ve know guys in their 20s who were too old for youth ministry. It’s a matter of heart. My hero in youth ministry, Buddy Mills, is over 50. He belongs in the Hall of Fame if you ask me. Those who think we might be too old to work with kids wouldn’t think of telling the guys from Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones or Paul McCartney, “You guys can’t relate to teens today you’re in your sixties.” Ridiculous!

I read about an old guy who still had it well into his later years. I named my son after him. I’m looking forward to meeting him someday. Caleb was 85 when he said, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day” (Joshua 14:11-12). So let’s hear for old guys who still have a passion for life, love, battle, football and the Father’s business.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Teenage Cool

In the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes, there is a surly character named Limbo. He is an ape that is sort of a slave trader dealing in humans. While trying to make a sale of a human child he issues one of the most memorable lines from the film…

“The young ones make great pets. Just make sure you kill them before they mature. Believe me, the last thing you want is a human teenager running around your house.”

I was in Spaghetti Warehouse when I saw it. It was a large wooden Indian standing on a pedestal. The Indian has its hand raised as if saying “How!” The hand is about 8-9 feel in the air. I was sitting at the table and I saw this lanky teenage boy walking along. Totally unselfconscious, he jumped in the air and gave the wooden Indian a big “high five” and then kept right on walking. He was not aware that anyone was watching him. That is teenage cool.

What kind of teenager do you suppose Jesus was? On one hand, I would think he was one of the cool kids. Very popular and well liked. On the other hand, I think it’s more likely that he was a bit of a loner; too serious, too religious, too grown up. I know he was smart and wise. But cool, I’m not too sure about that. I mean, I don’t know if his peers would consider him cool. But this one thing I know; cool is not in trying.

Being real is of greater value than having a reputation of being cool. Peter said of Jesus, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:22). Jesus was real. Being “uncool” is real. As Lester Bangs said in Almost Famous, "The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you're uncool." If you know a teenager the most you can offer them is to be honest and accepting. They can spot fake a mile away. You don’t have to be cool if you love them. And if you love them, you’ll be the coolest. It’ll be neat… Dawg!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Noblest Heart

I do not mean to trivialize our King or the redemption he purchased with his own blood. But if you’ll permit me, I would like to draw an analogy. In the movie, A Knights Tale, William Thatcher is found not to be of noble birth. In fact, he is the simple son of a simple peasant.

William stands in stocks in the town square. While being abused and mocked by a crowd, the son of the King comes forward. He stoops to have a conversation with William and notes that William is loved by his men. He says something like, “If I knew nothing else, that would be enough, but you lean in when you should withdraw.”

On a night when it was clear that we were not worth saving, the Son of the King leaned in. On a night when everyone abandoned him, the Son of the King leaned in. On a day when he could have called 10,000 angels the Son of the King leaned in. When he could have come down from the cross and saved himself, the Son of the King leaned in.

In the movie, the son of the King stands and pronounces to the crowd that William is nobility. His word is the final word and as such is “beyond contestation.” William is made noble by the actions of the son of the King. The same thing happened to us.

We were born into a sinful world. We had no righteousness of our own. We had no right to claim anything but the rightful consequences of our sinful lives. Yet the Son of the King stooped down, lifted us up and declared us to be nobility. "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" John 1:12.

I think one of the most moving scenes from the movie, The Passion is when Christ is carrying the cross and he seems to be embracing it, not so he can carry it, but in adoration of it. He loved saving us! That is leaning in.

There is no nobility on Earth like that of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. He truly has the Noblest Heart.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Invisible Touch

In 1986 the band called Genesis released an album called Invisible Touch. The title cut from the album is, on the surface about a girl. But it’s not a complimentary song. This girl is irresistible and then, destructive. Look at these lines.

She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
She reaches in, and grabs right hold of your heart
She seems to have an invisible touch yeah
It takes control and slowly tears you apart.

I think we’ve all known people with this personality type. These are nice people who, on the surface are endearing and charming, but the more you get to know them the more toxic you realize they are.

As I was doing some research last night I read a story written by Mother Teresa in a little book called, Loving Jesus. She is describing their work with people who have leprosy. When a mother who is leprous has a child, it is born clean and does not have the disease. If the child is not exposed by direct touch, then it will be safe from this horrible sickness. So they tell parents who are leprous that they must give up the child for their love of it.

Mother Teresa describes one scene this way. A mother and father who were both leprous had a baby boy. This happened when it was three days old just before it was taken from them.

“They put the baby between them, and each one looked at the little one. They extended their hands toward the child, and then they would pull back. They made gestures, wanting to kiss their child, and again they would pull back. I cannot forget the deep love that father and mother had for their little child.”

Jesus said, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing" (Matthew 6:3). Just as these parents had the love of an invisible touch, so our service should as well. Their love compelled them to not touch their own child. We can demonstrate love with the care of touch. But we should also understand that there are many in the world today who need to know the Love of Christ and it can only be expressed to them through an invisible touch. An invisible touch of service compelled by love.
Loving Jesus - Mother Teresa pg. 95

Thursday, March 30, 2006

A "LOST" Mystery

I really have only two T.V. shows that I am wholly committed to. "LOST" and the greatness of "24"! I’m really intrigued by "LOST". Brittany (my daughter) and I watch the show together each week. We’re not purists in that we didn’t see the entire first season. So I’m no authority on the characters or plot.

"LOST" is intriguing because of how all the lives intertwine. If you watch you know what I mean if you don’t… well please stay with me, there is a point to all this. The reason that people say things like, “It’s a small world” is because it is remarkable how often seemingly random events throw unlikely people together. For example, did you know that Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth, saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln some time after the younger Booth killed Robert’s father Abraham Lincoln?

Strange, random things like this happen all the time. Perhaps not with the same concentration as on the "LOST" island, but they do occur more than we would expect. When these oddities occur in the lives of Christians they are often called “God things.” “God things” are those events that work to God’s purposes, (as we see it) that are too mysterious to have been created by mere chance.

But there are two things that bother me about this. First, we shouldn’t trivialize God to the extent that we think he cares enough about us to help us find the perfect fabric for the drapes in the guest room, but he’s not particularly inclined to help starving children or heal a mother of three who has cancer. Second, I know we are God’s children and he does care about us. But our love for Him should reflect, not the self interests of trivial things in our lives, but His interest and the things that he said matter in our lives.

I love the mysteries in "LOST". But more than that, I love the mystery that is the spirit of Jesus Christ displayed in the lives of noble, ordinary people (Colossians 1:27). Your life is intertwined with other lives today and you don’t know what God is doing on the other side of your life. By displaying the noble heart of our Master, you call those other lives to a higher place. Perhaps the mystery is that our lives, as trivial as they may seem to us, are really to keep others from being "LOST".


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Road Trip

As is the custom at our house, last week we watched a movie together. This week the movie was Elizabethtown. We liked it, but it’s kind of dark for the first 20 minutes or so. The main character of the movie, Drew Baylor played by Orlando Bloom is preparing to commit suicide because his career has taken an incredible, unredeemable dive. It’s at this very moment that his sister calls to tell him that his father has died while on a trip to visit family in Kentucky.

Drew had always planned to take a Road Trip with his dad, but life got busy and he never did. On the flight to Kentucky to handle the arrangements of his father’s death, he met a flight attendant named Claire played by Kirsten Dunst. He was the only passenger on the flight and so there was a good deal of conversation. She drew a map with directions for him to find Elizabethtown and included her phone number on the paper with the map.

Drew finally finds Elizabethtown, and one night during his stay, desperate for a person to talk to, he called Claire. They talked all night. They agreed to meet and watch the sunrise. A friendship evolved and then a relationship. In the course of talking Drew promised that he would take at least some of the trip back to Oregon as a Road Trip. When it was time to leave Claire gave him a large scrap book with a detailed Road Trip with pictures, narrative and even music.

The Road Trip was for him an experience of closure, healing, joy and self discovery. On the sign for Elizabethtown, there is a phrase that appears underneath the name. It says,

“A Heck of a Place to Find Yourself.”

I like the play on words, but even more, I like that people find themselves. Usually in the last place they look. You see, there comes a time when we all need a Road Trip. A time alone in the car, with your music, your volume, your path, your bathroom breaks, your food, your laughter, your singing, your dancing, your prayers, your schedule, your self.

It’s really easy to lose your identity as a person while pursuing a life. We can forget who we are, what our purpose is, who the really important people are and why life matters. Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25) Perhaps Jesus wasn’t talking about taking a Road Trip. But I recall a passage in Matthew that talks about the “…narrow road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
It’s time for a Road Trip.

Michael Taylor

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Evidence of the Boydom

This morning I got up like most days and got ready for work. I went into the kitchen to get my cereal bar. It was setting on the breakfast table. Just a couple of days ago a full scale battle involving two armies and a police force took place on this very table. I don’t really know what the battle was about, how the battle ended or who won…

Our boy is named Caleb. He is 10 years old. I call him “The Boy” or sometimes just "Boy". He’s the only one we have so it works out fine. Abraham said, “I and the boy will go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” (Gen. 22:5) And Tarzan called his boy, "Boy". Caleb is the kind of boy everyone would like to have. He’s kind and courteous, smart and articulate. He reads more than most adults. He loves sports. He is fiercely competitive. (Gets that from his mom.)

Right now he is in crises mode. He is primarily a football fan and specifically a Dallas Cowboy fan. Yesterday they released his favorite player Keyshawn Johnson. The rumor on the street is that Dallas will sign T.O. Caleb sees this as possibly good for Dallas if Owens can get his life together. He told me the other night, “I prayed for T.O. last night; that he would get his life together.” This is his heart.

…back to the battle of the breakfast table. The green army was fighting the brown army but I don’t know who the good guys were. And I’m not sure whose side the police force was on. This morning, they were all gone. The battlefield was clear. No bodies, no debris. Then I saw it. In the string that lifts the mini-blinds on the window next to the battlefield, a single brown soldier hangs as the only reminder of the epic battle that took place here. This toy soldier doesn’t tell us who won the battle. But it does tell us one thing… this is the kingdom of a boy – a “Boydom”.

For all who live in a Boydom you know it’s a great thing. These little pieces of evidence, like hanging soldiers in blind chords, remind us of the greatness that lives in the heart of a boy. I’m grateful for having been a boy at one time myself. But more than that, I’m thankful for the boy that rules of our Boydom. He will be a strong man of God someday I’m sure… but for now… He is “The Boy” and I love him.

Michael Taylor

Special thanks to "The Hope". She took the pic and sent it to me at work.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

And the Oscar Goes To...

Last Sunday night our family watched some of the Oscars. We noted that the dresses were decidedly less “hoochie” than in years past. We were hoping that “bm” would be shut out and it almost was. We were able to cheer for Narnia and Kong in the technical awards and for Reese Witherspoon for Walk the Line (greatness).

I didn’t like the little speech by George Clooney who said, “I'm proud to be part of this academy, proud to be part of this community, proud to be out of touch.” It reminds me of the verse that says, "…many live as enemies of the cross of Christ… and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." (Philippians 3:18-19) There is no doubt that sometimes Christians have been their own worst enemy in regard to what some so called leaders have said. We haven’t always handled well, delicate issues like AIDS. What I’m wanting to say here is that there is a need for godly wisdom as it relates to being out of touch on both sides of morality. And Christians are the only ones who have access to that kind of wisdom.

We live in a time when “stars” think they are the end all of humanity. They express moral judgment on the entire world based on their brand of politics or their "enlightened" amoral existence in the “out of touch” reality that is Hollywood. Even Jon Stewart took advantage of the Oscars to "poke fun” at Hollywood by saying, “A lot of people say that this town is too liberal, out of touch with mainstream America, an atheistic pleasure dome, a modern-day, beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah, a moral black hole where innocence is obliterated in an endless orgy of sexual gratification and greed. I don't really have a joke here. I just thought you should know a lot of people are saying that."

Well he wasn’t nominated this year, but I’d give another Oscar to Sir Anthony Hopkins simply for what he said recently in a London magazine. Of his new movie, The Worlds Fastest Indian, Hopkins said, “No sex or violence, and that's refreshing.” Speaking of the attitudes that some of his colleagues display he commented, “I can't get caught up in the self-importance. People bow to your every wish and you forget where you come from and what you're doing. - It's a job, like any other, so don't make a big deal. Be polite, treat the crew with respect and don't think you're different.”

Sounds like the “Best Actor” I’ve heard in a while. As you know, I love movies. They are (or can be) the parables of our day. Go read Jim McGuiggans piece on Shrek and Jesus. You’ll see what I mean. I really like it when one of the Hollywood crowd just gets real and speaks what is right and true. And it’s a bonus when the one who says it is a Knight.

Michael Taylor

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Are You Asking the Right Question?

A while back I went to see a not totally lame movie called I-Robot staring Will Smith. In the movie Dr. Alfred Lanning is murdered and Will Smith’s character, Detective Del Spooner, is the investigator working the case. He finds an interactive hologram device that was created by Dr. Lanning to guide him through the investigation. Spooner asks this hologram questions and at certain points in the process the response programmed by Dr. Lanning to Spooner is, “You’re asking the wrong question. Program terminated.”

The apostles were in a discussion with Jesus one day. He had been teaching them about forgiveness. Their response was, “Increase our faith.” To this Jesus said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, "Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." (Luke 17:6) It wasn't so much the wrong question, it was the wrong request. Consider Jesus’ next statement,

"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'?
Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"
(Luke 17:7-10)

How does this fit? I think there are several things for us to learn from this exchange. First, it is not how much faith we have, it is in whom we have faith that matters. Second, don’t expect the Lord to do in you what you are responsible for. It was not Christ’s responsibility to increase their faith, it was their responsibility to do what they were told. It is not the Lord’s place to solve our problems, it is our responsibility to solve problems according to His will. Finally, Jesus was teaching his disciples to recognize who they were in relation to him. There is a danger in being too familiar with the Lord. As we like to say, “Jesus ain’t your homeboy. He is the Lord.” And when we have done what we were told we should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”*

Michael Taylor

* I know that Christ makes us worthy, this does not nullify the truth they needed to hear and it goes for us as well. He is the Lord.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Gold Medal People

My family is enjoying the winter Olympics right now. We watch some of it each day I think. You wont believe this, (I wouldn’t believe it if you said it) but we even watched “curling” last Sunday. I accidentally cheered when the American rock slider guy made a great shot. I was slightly embarrassed.

I love when people demonstrate a noble heart. We were watching couples ice skating last week and a Chinese couple (Zhang Hao and Zhang Dan) was going through their routine when Zhang Hao suddenly dropped his partner while doing a high lift. She crashed to the ground and landed on her knees. She tried to get up but fell back to the ice. Zhang Hao tried to lift her but she couldn’t keep her feet. He helped Zhang Dan over to the side. The music stopped and she was about to leave the ice when something happened.

It was like she came to herself and said, “No way! I came here to compete and I will finish this.” Zhang Dan gathered herself and skated back to the center and they finished their routine. They did the lifts, jumps and footwork as planned. No more falls or stumbles. When it was over, she cried. But she finished out of sheer will. I was proud for her. They didn’t win the gold medal, even with the fall they won the silver. But Zhang Dan's heart deserved gold.

There are a lot of people in the world who are good people: Gold Medal people. Those who endure illness without complaining are of this heart. People who face chronic pain but bear it bravely are of this metal. Those who work hard at marriage when it is far from good, these are gold medal people. People who try and try and get slapped down by the cruelty of life only to get back up again and keep trying. These are the gold medal people.

No I’m not saying they’re always holy or righteous or saved. I’m simply saying that they display in their character that part of their soul that is still God imprinted. Any goodness demonstrated by a human is a reflection of God no matter the kind of person they are. There is no goodness in the world that is not God created. Even those who turn their backs on God are made in his image.

I know a few gold medal people. And may I say here that Jonathan and Carolyn Taylor (my mom and dad) are of this heart. They never made it to the Parent Olympics. Dad wouldn’t even try out. But they are godly upright people who do their best to love their kids and grandkids, serve their God, share with others and love each other in the process. So in case I never said it before, I think they deserve a gold medal for being of noble heart and teaching me to love that about others.

Michael Taylor

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Where’d All the Good People Go?

I’ve become a fan of Jack Johnson’s music. Its sort of a mellow, fun, island music with guitar and a nice touch of steel drums. Very cool. He also has some words that are good and carry some worthwhile ideas. May I recommend a couple of songs; “Break Down” is a song about slowing life down and enjoying it for a while. Another song I like is a cut called, “Good People”. This is a song about seeing the television and wondering, “where’d all the good people go?”

In the chorus Johnson says,

"Where'd all the good people go?
I've been changing channels
I don’t see them on the TV shows
Where’d all the good people go
We got heaps and heaps of what we sow."

Yes there is some good on the tube. There are some good people in the world and some who are doing good things. But don’t we have too much appetite for the bad? (Look at that last line from the chrous again.) I don’t have enough cynicism in me to believe that everything is bad and getting worse. I want to fight through my cynicism and see the good people being and doing what is good. Paul wrote, “[Jesus Christ] who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14)

The phrase “what is good” appears 6 times in the three chapters of Titus. Give the book a quick read and you’ll see that “doing good” is thematic in the letter. I read a piece by Dr. George Sheehan some years ago where he described a man out for a jog on a beautiful morning. He sees a man painting on the eve of his house. So the jogger yelled up to the painter, “Do good!” Without looking up the painter yelled back, “Intend to.” To which the jogger yelled back, “God’s watching.” Again the painter responded, “Hope so.”

My encouragement is that, as Sam the Brave says in The Lord of the Rings, “there is some good in the world, and its worth fighting for.” Believe in the goodness of God in the world. Don’t buy into all the bad we hear or observe. The noble heart does good, believes good and even fights for good. I know everything isn't good. But He who is good is present in everything and He is the redeemer of all things.

Michael Taylor

George Sheehan – Personal Best 1992
Jack Johnson – In Between Dreams 2005

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

How Far You've Come

Did you see the commercial during the Super Bowl broadcast where there are two doctors standing at the side of a patients bed? A fly is buzzing around them and one Dr. picks up the shock paddles and zaps the fly. The fly falls onto the chest of the sleeping patient. As the Dr. leans over the man’s chest to look at the fly the wife and daughter enter the room to hear the Dr. (still holding the paddles) say, “Well, that killed him.” It’s commercial greatness!! But the perception of the wife and daughter was not reality.

The phrase “perception is reality” has popped up on more than one occasion in the last week. I think this idea is a truck load of rotten squid. Perception is perception. While we can perceive a thing accurately, our perception is just that. Perception means, to see (or understand) a thing from a certain point of view. We all see the world from our own perspective. But our point of view should not be held as "reality" simply because we see it that way. More to the point, we should not look at others and decide that, from our perception, they are lacking in some way.

When we look at another person on the journey toward Christ likeness, it is not our perception that matters. The scripture says, “Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4) Our responsibility is not to evaluate, but to encourage, to support; to bear the weakness that may be present. No, of course we should hold those close to us accountable for their actions provided the relationship permits that.

If we are being developed by the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives then we must accept that same process in the lives of others. We are yielded and responsive on different levels in regard to this. Some of us are hard headed and some are hard hearted. Some are open and teachable and some are broken and pliable. Paul wrote, “…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) Just a few verses later he reinforced this idea saying, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (2:13)

I’ve come to love the music of “The Wallflowers”. While Jacob Dylan is not the poet that his father is, I think he is a better performer and does have meaningful things to say in his music. In a song called, “How Far You’ve Come”, the writer says this;

It's ok to believe that you're not good enough
God is not angry, not blind, deaf or dumb
He knows how far you've come

I think he is onto something. It’s to our Master that we stand or fall. And this is true of everyone else. On the journey toward Christ, reality is what matters. Jesus’ perception is the only reality. “God is not angry, not blind, deaf or dumb, He knows how far you've come.”

Michael Taylor

Note: The song "How Far You've Come" is from the Rebel Sweetheart album.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Work of Decay

Last Sunday we did something that I had never done before. Our family and some friends visited a church in our community. No, of course we’ve visited other churches before, but not like this. We were told it was a congregation that was “racially diverse” with “energetic worship”. Their worship was certainly energetic and once we arrived, they were diverse.

It felt very strange. There were a lot of people looking at us and you could tell that they weren’t sure why this little band of white folks showed up. But the worship was great. The people of the church were sweet, warm and friendly. It was really a cool experience.

The guest preacher spoke from John 11, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. But he spoke from a perspective that I had never considered. So I want to share it with you because I really think there is some value in this. But I want to give credit where it is due. I don’t know his name but God does. So if this gives you a reason to be grateful, throw the props toward that brother.

When he spoke of the tomb he said that the stone was placed over the opening not to keep Lazarus in, but to keep some other things, (thieves, wild animals etc.,) out. And then he drew this analogy. He said that Jesus had tarried so that through the death of Lazarus the glory of God might be seen. “Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"” (John 11:40) Then he asked this question. Has God placed you in a tomb for some reason? Has he placed a stone over the opening to keep well meaning family and friends from coming to your rescue before he has finished doing the “work of decay” in you? He said, “There are some things in you that need to die. You keep wondering why you can’t seem to make any progress, but God is still trying to knock off some aspects of our character, (dead things) so that HIS glory can be revealed in you.”

That brother’s message really spoke to me, for I’ve been in that tomb for a while. I’ve wondered why I couldn’t seem to make any headway. I felt for a time that God had given up on me. But really, He placed a stone over the tomb and he has been doing the work of decay in my life for a good while.

Last week after my posting called “Is the Gospel Set Free”, my little
brother sent me a note that said, in essence, “The way you,ve always been is not in line with what you’re saying here. What gives?” I sent a note back saying, “Yeah, you’re right. I’ve been wrong - a lot. I think I’m finally seeing what God has been trying to work out of me for a good while now.“

So when you see someone change in a significant and better way, perhaps it’s God’s “work of decay”. I’m grateful for this work and I’m praying that he moves the stone soon.

Michael Taylor