Author Archives: Bryan Taylor

Let us share with reckless abandon!

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As I sit in Thailand, I am once again amazed and reminded of the power of God’s Spirit to bring change, reform, and restoration. The energy and life of the Thai, Lao, and Myanmar people is incredible. There is absolutely no question that they love God and truly desire to give their lives in service to Him.

Pastor Chad teaching in Thailand

Pastor Chad teaching in Thailand

But there is something that strikes me to the core of my heart. I was talking to Pastor Ed about the mission of humanity to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth and he made one statement: “We have to take the gospel to people every day, because people are dying here every day.” This statement sticks with me, because it seems to easy to forget about the fragility of life. We often think that we have time to wait and waste, but that is not the case. We are engaged in a struggle for life and death – especially in the spiritual realm.

And, if you do not believe that, let me describe our situation last night. Pastor Chad is sharing about the early church in Acts and how the disciples were faithful to the mission to share the message of Jesus to the world. Literally, in a matter of years following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, there are thousands of new disciples all over the ancient world. Disciples have gone into Africa; disciples have gone into India; disciples have gone up into Russia; and, disciples have gone over into Europe. As we sit and hear this message of the disciples’ faithfulness, you can just see the excitement building in the room. By the end of the message, the people are clapping, praising the Lord and exuberant over their chance to continue sharing the good news.

But Pastor Ed stands up after Pastor Chad sits down. And as he looks at everyone, you can see the tears watering his eyes and he begins to speak with a cracking voice. He says, “In Acts, the Holy Spirit kept Paul from going into Asia. But, I think that God is telling us that it is now time to take the gospel of Jesus to all of Asia.” And in a heartbeat, the people started praying for the whole continent of Asia. In that moment, I heard the cry to God on behalf of the Asian people. Almost everyone’s voice was praying aloud for their people, their villages, and the unreached people groups in Asia. And all I could do in that moment was cry. I just stood there and cried. And I am still crying.

People around the world are dying every day and most of them have not heard of Jesus or have heard about him and rejected him. It is time for us to rise up and start taking the message of hope to people who are in desperate need of salvation. People may turn away from you; people may choose to ignore you; and, people may even get angry with you. But that does not diminish the enormity of the task before us.

Your mission, if you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus Christ, is to spread the message of hope that comes through him. You may think to ignore the command, but I must insist that you think carefully about where God is calling you to minister. Let us take the message of Jesus to the nations with reckless abandon!

On behalf of the many who still have yet to hear, I thank you.

 


A God Who Is Relational

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Have you ever stopped to consider how you think about God? Recently, while reading a book on the names of God, something struck me. It is very easy for people to believe in a distant, all-powerful God, while also keeping Him at a distance. It is another thing entirely to believe that God cares for you and desires to be close to you. One is believing in the “concept” of God and the other is believing that God loves you and wants to have an intimate relationship with you.

When we hear of names like Yahweh and Jehovah in the Bible, it can be difficult for us to visualize what those names were intended to convey. The name of Yahweh (otherwise known as Jehovah), as with many other Hebrew names, was given to Moses for a very specific purpose: to proclaim that God is the “self-existent One.” Nothing His creations could ever do would change who He is as God. He is not dependent upon anything in nature or the cosmos in order to survive, because He is the One who will be whomever or whatever He needs to (or decides to) be.

But, He also reveals Himself to Moses as the intimate One. Yahweh desired to dwell among the people of Israel. He wanted to be with His creation in order to develop a relationship with His people. He did not intend to be distant and un-related. And, that same concept bears out in the New Testament when we see the introduction of the name of Jesus. This new name, “Yahweh Saves,” reminds the people that Yahweh is ever-present with His people and exists in the person of Jesus. How amazing is that?! God truly desires to be with His people, and yet, many of us are only thinking about God when we need something from Him.

This week, try to connect with God without needing something from Him. Talk to Him, engage with Him, and listen to Him as you intend to deepen your relationship with Him. In the same way that we cannot develop a deeper relationship with other people without conversation, we also cannot get to know God without conversation. See what happens when you converse with Him!


Try not to contort your face

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I was recently in a Bible study group that was talking about one of the gospels. As we were discussing the character of Jesus, I asked, “How would we respond if a prostitute walked into our church on a Sunday morning?” I was curious to hear the responses, because we don’t often acknowledge the tension that exists between what we “think” we would do and what we “actually” do. In response, one of the students said, “We would probably be disgusted.” And, I think that’s a fair assessment.
The prostitute walking through the doors of our church would look out of place. She wouldn’t be dressed “appropriately” and she probably wouldn’t know anyone. When people would see her I’m not sure why would be able to keep their faces from contorting into a disgusted look. I’m fairly certain that it would catch me off-guard. How would you respond?
I’m reminded of John 8, in which the woman caught in adultery is forgiven by Jesus. It amazes me that Jesus doesn’t spend time beating her down over her sin. In fact, He quickly acknowledges her sin and then offers her a new direction for life. That’s it.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
I wonder to what extent we encourage people to leave their life of sin and move on in Jesus. I think our face probably says it all. We act surprised when people bring their sin to church, as if we’ve never done anything wrong. The look on our face probably says, “What on earth are you doing here?” But…isn’t “here” (at the church) the best place to point them toward Jesus?
I think we should consider the faces that we give to people. I’m not asking or suggesting that you be dishonest with your face. Instead, I’m asking you to think about the face that you give to people when they do something that displeases, disappoints or disgusts you. When you give that face, is it your prerogative to give it? How else can you use your face for others? Can you encourage them with it? Can you set them at ease with it? Can you mirror Jesus’ love and convictions with it?
People are going to walk through our doors. Some will agree with us and some with disappoint us. Try not to contort your face.

Theology on the Run

I often think back to the New Testament church with thoughts of care, wonder, and amazement. What must it have been like in those first few decades with Jesus gone? How long was it before they even called themselves “the church” and what did daily life look like? I try and answer these questions as I read through the New Testament, but the reality is that we only know what we can read in the text. So, as I was pondering questions like these and wondering what else I would have liked to have seen in the text, I heard someone make a statement about the theology of the New Testament. He said, “The theology of the New Testament can be called a ‘Theology on the Run’. They were figuring things out as they went, helping people as they learned what they were doing.”
And honestly, has that concept changed? For anyone who has tried to lead or participate in ministry, you know that it’s messy and that you are trying to figure things out along the way. You go into things with plans, but those often get tossed out the window as you are presented with a new problem and a new solution to find. Half of ministry is trying to figure out what to do while you are already doing the other half of ministry – loving on people.
But, somewhere along the way, the church started to think that it had “arrived”. We started caring less about people who don’t know Jesus and caring more about our parking spot at church. We started giving less attention to the missions work, because we recently shared a missionary’s blog post. At some point, our focus became inward, we stopped running, and started sitting in comfortable chairs. Beloved, we may have lost sight of the true vision of the church: to be “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) With that vision comes the great responsibility to dive right into the middle of sharing the Gospel message of the risen Savior, Jesus.
That may be scary and that may be uncomfortable, but if we have that mindset, then we probably forgot the first half of the verse I just mentioned. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” We have been EMPOWERED to spread the church to the ends of the earth – yes even in your neighborhood. I’m not at all disputing whether you have been empowered, but I am saying that you haven’t yet turned on the light switch. PG&E has been turned on, but we are content with using candles in the dark.
Instead of hunkering down in fear, let us boldly reach beyond our comfort zone and reconnect with the vision of the church. You may have to figure things out on the run. You may also receive scorn and persecution, but I guarantee that you will be empowered by the strongest power that man has ever known. This week, I encourage you to think about someone to whom you can share the message of Jesus. And then, after you have thought and prayed about it, I encourage you to actually share the message of Jesus with them. Take a risk to see how God will help you to figure things out on the run.

I’m a Recovering Glutton

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Last Sunday, Pastor Chad had an interesting quote toward the end of his sermon. He said, “The next time you go to write about someone’s problems online, write about your own; it’ll be a greater testimony anyway.” So, with that in mind, I figured I’d share my problem. I’m a glutton.

I find it hypocritical when we bash murderers, rapists, drug addicts – even liars – but never talk about how gluttony is ruining the lives of so many people. Since it happens to be my problem, I think it’s appropriate to speak out about it. People wonder if the Bible talks about gluttony, and it does. In the Old Testament, gluttony is mostly contained in the Proverbs, as in, “drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23) But, when you fastforward to the New Testament, you will mostly read lists that talk about self-control. Take, for instance, 2 Peter 1:5-7. We are encouraged to grow our faith with such elements as virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. So, when we think about the way in which we live our lives, we are told that self-control should be a primary part of our spiritual development.

Now, I’m a recovering glutton, which means that one sniff of cheddar cheese nachos, one pass by a BBQ joint, or even one look at a bag of Doritos and my heart starts racing. I get excited and then remember that I no longer have to be possessed by a problem that hurt me for quite some time. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! During certain holidays, it is extremely difficult to not fly off the band wagon. However, I have been encouraged to think about gluttony in a new light. People who indulge in overeating are people who are not exercising self-control. In fact, they will probably spend more time acting out in laziness and not being productive for the kingdom of God.

Rather than focusing on these negative aspects of the issue, I’d rather encourage people to think about their witness for Jesus Christ in this world. When people see you, do they see someone who is lazy, without self-control, who cannot seem to practice what they preach? Or, do they see someone who is loving, compassionate, full of the Spirit, who knows what it means to live life in moderation and bless those who are less fortunate? On the one hand, I see people playing right into the hand of our critics who say, “Those Christians aren’t any better than the rest of us.” On the other hand, I see an opportunity to show the world that we are actively striving to work out our faith under the guidance of God’s Spirit.

So I encourage you to think through your daily diet. Maybe you have struggled like I have. Maybe you just think it’s not a problem. But, maybe you have an opportunity to show Christ to those closest to you. How will your eating habits affect that testimony?


I’m ready for a vacation…from life!

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.” 1 Peter 2: 12

Have you ever just been tired of life? With summer upon us, you may be thinking, “It’s time for vacation! I can’t wait to leave town.” In fact, you may even be thinking, “I’m ready for a vacation from life!” We all, at some point or another, get burned out and find that we just need a break. In fact, breaks are not bad things. God gave us the Sabbath for a reason; and then, He gave us the Sabbath year and Jubilee! He gave us these things, because He knew that we would grow tired in our struggle with life.

When Peter writes to encourage the exilic Jewish Christians, I think he had some notion of what it meant to want to escape life. He was the one that had walked with Jesus for 3 intimate years of ministry and then denied him at the end of it. He was the one on fire for the Messiah, zealously defending his every move, but was no where to be found when things got rough. And, he was just one of many who would eventually find that living for Christ would lead to his death.

Peter writes to encourage oppressed Christians who are trying to fly under the radar of Rome’s military. He writes to encourage them: in the midst of your suffering, let people see God through your actions! Life has been hard and may even get harder, but don’t give up in the midst of your weariness. You are here to glorify God with your life, so allow others to see Him in you.

So with school out, vacation coming up, and you thinking about escaping town, remember that you don’t get to take a vacation from life. Take time to rest and rejuvenate. Take time with family and friends. Remind your children of their importance in your life. And, remember that even the unbelievers are curious about how you will face the next day.

Live such a good life, that although someone may not know Christ, they will see him shining through your daily actions and words and decide that God should be praised because of you.


How have You Changed the Earth?

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Recently, I was sitting in class when a thought dawned on me: “We were created to be stewards of this earth.” This is a thought that has come before and it is a thought that has similarly been dismissed. The thing that stuck me this time is that we have spent a lot of time talking about being stewards, but we may not actually be stewards.

In Genesis 1:28, God said to mankind, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” While I can see how “ruling” over the earth sounds fun, tough, and manly, I believe the text is indicating that we are to “guard” the earth. Put in that light, it seems very easy to rule out our guardianship, because we have been destroyers instead.

Please don’t mistake me – I’m not a lobbyist for green peace. But, I do have a question that I think every Christian should answer. How have you changed the earth? For that matter, how have you attempted to guard it lately? We are called to partner with God in His creative power, adding life not death to this world. I challenge you to consider how you can participate in this partnership with God. He has created you to guard the earth!


Mike Row, Dirty Jobs, and God

Mike Row, Creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs

I saw a recent quote from Mike Rowe (creator of Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs) that spoke so clearly to our issue of motivation in America: “Stop looking for the ‘right’ career and start looking for a job. Any job. Forget about what you like. Focus on what’s available. Get yourself hired. Show up early. Stay late. Volunteer for the scut work. Become indispensable.” What struck me about this is the idea that many Americans are waiting for the perfect job – the perfect life, the perfect car, the perfect everything – without making any effort at a job they can do “right now.” The waiting mentality defines us and stops us from reaching our true and full potential as humans, let alone Christians.

I think back to the Exodus story and wonder if Moses ever thought that he would be the leader of millions of Jews. He complained to Yahweh and said, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” In our contemporary setting, I imagine that coming out as, “God, I can’t do this job, because it’s not the right fit for me. I’m not sure that I am capable of accomplishing what You’ve asked of me, so would You provide something a little easier?” Moses even asked Yahweh to send someone else, but received anger instead. God was not content with Moses to sit on the sidelines. Instead, pushed Moses out of the nest and used him to accomplish one of the greatest tasks in Israelite history!

Yet another man who had great potential was Jeremiah the prophet. Many people quote Jeremiah 29:11 as their life verse, but we are quick to forget that Jeremiah was timid and scared. When Yahweh called him, Jeremiah’s response was, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” I can just imagine God’s response: “AAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!! C’mon Shelly! Stop being a sissy lala!” One would think that if the God of this universe was calling you to do something, He would also equip you with the skills to do it. But, over and over the biblical texts express our human fears before the calling of our God.

We are afraid to move forward. We become stuck in the rut of our current life and forget that an all-powerful God is there to guide us through life. The God that revealed Himself as, “I will be what I will be,” is able to sustain us, provide for us, and do anything necessary to see us succeed. So, what is the missing key ingredient?? Us!

You have amazing potential as a creation of God. Allow Him to mold and shape that potential so that you blossom into the person that God has created you to be. At times, that will seem excruciatingly difficult. In other moments, you will feel completely at peace and blessed. All the while, there is one promise that you can always hold on to: God will be with you.

So start working now. Work out your faith. Get to work in your job. Work hard for your marriage. Work well in everything that you do! The reward of being a faithful worker will be more than you could ever have imagined. As the Lord is faithful, so I also encourage you to remain steadfast and faithful. (2 Thess. 3:3)


Don’t Settle for Defeat before You Get Started

I was recently having a conversation with my Pappy. As we were talking about the talents that people have, I was surprised to hear something so profound, and yet so simple: “Bryan, people don’t know they have talents, because they’re too lazy to start trying.” In that moment of silent surprise, I realized the extent to which we are missing out on our full potential; we don’t try and are therefore defeated before we even start!

As we begin this new year, my challenge is that you would realize the potential that you have in Christ and live up to it. Consider Paul’s encouragement to Timothy: “Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry…[For] I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:5, 7) As Paul was finishing up his ministry (and life), his encouragement to Timothy was for steadfastness. Timothy already knew what God’s calling was upon his life, but he needed the reminder to hold true to that precious calling.

In a world that challenges us to be lazy and undisciplined, I say, “Swim upstream!” There is no one that can hold you back from your calling in Christ Jesus, except for you. Christ has already promised that there will be hard times for his followers, but you can also rest assured in the peace of his comforting words: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

When you set your course for 2015, make sure it is pointed directly toward Christ. He will enable you to fulfill your God-ordained purpose in life and he will bring you in close to the Father. Let’s not settle for defeat before we get started. Rather, let us fight the good fight and bring glory to our God, who is worthy of more praise than we could ever consider or imagine. Run your race this year and finish strong!