That Our Faith Would Not Fail

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked permission to sift him like wheat but that He was going to be praying for him, that his faith would not fail. (Luke 22:31-32) Then Jesus gave Peter a picture of what it would look like to follow Him. He said: You’ll be taken places you do not want to go. You’ll have zero control. When Peter asked if the others would have it that bad, Jesus answered: None of your business and not your problem! You must follow Me. (John 21:18-22) Whew. Those must have been some life altering moments for Peter. And like a few other life altering moments for Peter that I can call to mind from Scripture, I fit in his shoes quite well. Stepping out, sinking. Demanding, head lowering. Zealous, unfaithful.

What can we take from these encounters of Jesus with Peter when we ourselves have a crisis of faith, a mountain ahead we just don’t want to have to climb?

1) We can take from these conversations a realization that we ourselves may be in the process of being “sifted”, meaning when it’s over (this particular circumstance and this earthly life), some of who we are will be left and some of who we are will be gone, thrown out, dead. Satan intends the sifting for our pain, in hopes our faith will fail, but Jesus intends the sifting for our benefit, so that we are refined like gold. It hurts. There are cancers being cut out of us. He sees what we cannot, and if we are to be His vessels here to show His Kingdom to the world, there are things in us that simply cannot remain.

2) We can see this unbelievable truth right along with the first: Jesus Himself is interceding for us. And He is interceding to the Father on our behalf, praying that our faith would not fail. He is the leader of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! Is He praying we will get everything we’re wanting? Is He praying our answers would come quickly and easily? I don’t see that here. I see His concern is our perseverance and character. I see His concern is our encouragement and an ability to keep going even when our plans fail and our hearts break.

3) We can see while our relationship with the Lord is incredibly enriched by community, there is an element of this relationship that is naked, alone, face to face, “just you and me here now”. We can’t worry about the size of other people’s mountains, callings, or pain. We can’t worry about the magnitude of other people’s success, riches, or ease. If we have given our lives to the Lord, they are just that: His.

It’s a death, a real death, to realize these things. We’re dying to self, to immaturity, to trying to make things true just because we want them to be true, not because they’re scripturally sound. It’s not taking on bitterness or apathy, it’s taking on the yoke that we chose in accepting Christ, the yoke that is only easy and light once we lose our strong opinions and absolute need to be in charge.

By His Spirit, we have joy in the journey, yes, even this leg of the journey. By His Blood, we have peace and friendship with God. By His dwelling in us, we have resurrection life that is the very breath in our lungs. Friends, in whatever mountain you’re climbing, whether you chose that mountain and now see how impossible it is to climb, or whether you are going through a trial you did not choose at all, I want to tell you this:

Whatever you have lost and whatever you feel you lack, you do have what you need to make it through.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor the future, any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in ALL creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.” (Romans 8:35-39)

#HowToBuild: Standing Your Ground

One of my favorite shows used to be ALIAS! Awesome music, Jennifer Garner kicking butt and saving the world, and of course I can’t leave out it was one of the first shows where the writers decided it’s not really necessary to leave a dead person dead! So an important character dies, but somehow they are back in Season 4. Love it! But anyway…

On that show, there was an evil man named Alvin Sloane. Time after time, he was always showing up with manipulation and just enough truth to get his lies accepted by his co-workers. Mr. Sloane wasn’t genuinely trusted by the third season or so, but there were times the CIA needed to use his expertise anyway and he would be in the brainstorming room giving suggestions. In one particular scene, they were discussing a problem and he piped in with his suggestion rather strongly, and the heroine, Sydney Bristow, who especially was aware of his ability to trick people, said: “Excuse me, you have no authority in this room.”

Remember that.

We are waking up every morning to an opportunity to walk in the flesh or walk in the Spirit, right? Like it or not, and actually even believe it or not, we are also waking up to the presence of both light and darkness, Jesus and the enemy of our souls. If we are in Christ, we have His presence around us and His Spirit within us. We can awaken to it and acknowledge it, by worshipping, digesting His Word, praying…or we can do nothing and sink deeper into the flesh, which is more Satan’s playground than we like to think.

He’s having a blast wreaking havoc in us and around us when we have chosen to stay in the flesh, yet he never actually had the authority to do that. He does it simply because we didn’t tell him not to. We have to stand our ground.

It may look like a sudden sense of confusion, or a sudden line of thinking that brings you back to an old habit or addiction. It may be frustration and anger that just takes you by surprise, and you can’t believe you’re feeling and acting so ugly. It may be a habitual thing or an acute thing, but it’s negative, harsh, unforgiving, or fear-filled.

In those moments, I don’t always realize it is the enemy. And of course, sometimes it isn’t directly the enemy. Sometimes we have a process to work through to get where we need to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But thank God, it’s not always a big long process! Sometimes it’s just as simple as recognizing what is going on. Whether someone is coming at us with one of these negative, irrational, overreacting emotions or we feel it rise up in ourselves, we are the ones with the authority in the situation, not the enemy. The name of Jesus makes the enemy flee! He can’t fill us, he can’t control us, and he knows it. He can only make suggestions that turn to thoughts that turn to feelings that turn to words and actions and habits and sin!!! We must know his schemes but also his gaping weaknesses.

Speaking, singing, and praising the name of Jesus makes the grip of the spirit of fear, confusion, bitterness, unforgiveness, laziness, lust, and anger loosen. We don’t have to stay in that place, abused and oppressed. With the knowledge that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can know our place of authority over the enemy.

Here are some further scriptures on this, and just in writing this, I am so spurred on to ask the Holy Spirit to help me be aware when evil, un-peaceful, and divisive spirits are at work so that I can choose to not go along with them. We need a new normal, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that new normal is recognizing what is going on in the unseen and standing our God-given ground!

Ephesians 4:17-5:21

Colossians 2:13-15

James 4:7-8

1 Peter 5:6-11

Matthew 4:1-11

 

Our Words

So…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a sports person. I don’t play, I don’t watch, I don’t care! I don’t understand the rules, and if I was on the field or court, I would be the one who gets hit in the head with the ball or runs the wrong direction. I was lucky enough to marry a non-sports person as well, so we’re just blissfully ignorant together. But something we didn’t think about was that we would have offspring, and those offspring might actually want to play sports.

Enter 9 year old, 4 ft. 10 in., sweet and sparkly Selah Taylor, playing basketball for the first time ever.

After the first couple of practices, I knew it wasn’t going to be the experience I had hoped for her. I had hoped she would get on a team of kids who wanted to just have fun playing, learning the game, taking turns in the different positions, etc. I’m such a girl, I guess? I don’t know…I still don’t think I was entirely crazy with those hopes! What she ended up with instead was a team of very close friends, all guys, who had known each other forever and apparently had been playing basketball forever as well. Then there were three beginners tagged onto the group. Two of them were girls, and the other was a shy boy. You can imagine how this has played out. They have equal playing time, and that’s about the only positive thing I can say! The crowd goes wild when the same boys play after play after play drive the ball down the court single-handedly for a lay-up, or maybe a pass to their friend. Maybe once a game, a newbie will accidentally get the ball. Usually, they don’t know exactly what to do with it, they may dribble a little too high and lose control of it, they may break a rule, they may run to the opposite goal. It’s like they’re thinking, “Oh, wow, this is what a basketball feels like!” and by the time they’re done with that thought, someone has stolen it. And the worst thing that I sensed from the beginning is some of the adults who are “encouraging” their children from the sidelines or even the bench. This “encouragement” comes in the form of belittlement and phrases like, “What were you thinking?” My sensitive heart beats out of my chest. The kid’s face is red and he’s trying not to cry. No one does anything.

Okay, so all of that was to set up the story. This blog isn’t going to just be a bunch of complaining. I know God is doing something in me, God is always doing something on a deeper level and as I dig, there it is! I needed these truths and reminders, and this lovely basketball season was just the way for God to show me.

1. Sometimes our kids will do embarrassing things. Maybe its a sin they commit, bad behavior in a public place, or maybe their skill level in a certain area will be low! We’re watching them, we’re seeing the disappointment others may have in them, and it hurts. We don’t want them to feel ashamed, and quite frankly, we don’t want to feel ashamed. But I think God is saying to parents, to me, that if my self-confidence is so low as to care what others think of my child, I need to spend some time with Him remembering what matters, remembering my identity and who I am is wrapped up in who I am in Christ, not what I do or have to show for myself here on earth. Only when we remember that, and nail that down, can we teach our kids to do the same. We need to be bold and extravagant in our encouragement to our kids so they can hear what God wants to say to them about who they are! Also, they can accomplish great things, but they are also going to fail… a lot! We need to show them how to do that gracefully, with a firm grip on how much they are still loved and exquisitely designed for great purpose. So there’s a pit in my stomach on that basketball court. I don’t know that I want my daughter to get the ball. Who will be mad at her when she messes up? Maybe some parents, maybe some kids? Well, who cares? I love my daughter and I’m proud of her for trying. Anyone who thinks we are silly for still being happy after a mistake is missing out on some very good living.

2. If that embarrassment or frustration at our children leads to saying belittling things to them like: “What were you thinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Are you ever going to get this?” or “You drive me nuts”, we are flat out bullies. We’re standing over these little people and saying in essence the most ridiculous thing in the world: “Why aren’t you as good at this as I am?” We have 30 extra years on this earth! We may have gotten better at cracking eggs and solving math facts, but apparently we haven’t matured in character in all that time if this is how we’re acting. I am so convicted about this! That father at the basketball game made my heart hurt, and while I’m very sorry for the little boy, I am glad I could see my own wrong so clearly.  I’ve asked forgiveness and God is giving new phrases that are kind and patient: “It was so cool how you learned that concept, I know you’ll be able to get this one, too!”, “One day, we’ll look at this book and it’ll seem so easy!”,  or “Let’s dig deep and do our best, but if we don’t get it today, it’s ok!” Again, sometimes our frustration toward our kids isn’t even about them and our hopes for their improvement, it’s about us. I’m not any better than that dad. And we all have the daily moment-by-moment choice to be who God is calling us to be in the relationships we have with others, especially these little people.

We have the power to change the atmosphere and the atmosphere for future generations. We will either pass on the ability to gracefully make mistakes or pass on a policy of being harsh or ignoring failure completely. We will either pass on self-confidence and a deep sense of significance given to every creation of God or perpetuate the belief that we “are” as good as we “do.” We will either pass down kindness, security, and patience which sure does go a long way in helping a person of any age learn anything, or pass on the nerve-wracking demands that never gave anyone character or quality of life.

For anyone who is learning this and wants to pray with me…

Lord Jesus, You always spoke with kindness and love. Even when you corrected people, You spoke to their heart in a way that still cherished them as a creation of God and always let them know they had a safe place in You if they would be willing to leave their sin behind. You do not look at us as we deserve. After all of our sins, but also failures and things we aren’t good at, You look at us directly, in the eye, and just love us so much. Thank You! Help us receive this love and acceptance so that we can easily and freely give it to others!  I acknowledge my behavior as sin and I ask Your forgiveness for the times I have said things and acted in ways that were not loving and accepting. I have been frustrated, embarrassed, and at my wit’s end over this particular person and situation… Please forgive me. I will go to this person and ask their forgiveness… Holy Spirit, will You be like an alarm clock in my heart, warning me when I am beginning to think and feel in an ungodly way so that I will stop and not allow myself to do any more damage. Lord, I seek complete and total freedom forever from this attitude and way of interacting with this person/these people. Give me a new way to think of them and speak to them, in Jesus’ Name. You are so powerful and the only way I can be changed, and I praise You!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

#HowToBuild: Intro to New Blog Series

Some time ago I wrote a blog that mentioned how I’m re-learning this truth: “Build yourself up in your most holy faith…” Jude :20

How often I forget that just like my physical being needs continuous nutrients, my spiritual being needs continuous nutrients as well! So, what are those nutrients? How does one get to a deeper level, a more life-giving place, with God? And the even bigger question: How does one continue with that growth in a steadfast way, rather than the roller coaster ride most of us are accustomed to?

There’s a lot to explore here, but I do know this: It comes down to a daily decision. A daily choice. And that’s no one’s choice but our own.

For today…will we choose to turn our faces toward the Lord and do the work necessary to abide in Him?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream that spoke exactly to this and it really amazed me! I dreamt I woke up and the very first thing I did was go into a garage that was connected to my house (I don’t really have a garage but in my dream, I did.) I opened the door and saw two cars. One car was already warmed up for me. The engine was already purring. It looked like I wouldn’t have to think about it, do a single thing for it, in fact it seemed as if I wouldn’t even have to drive it but that it would drive me!  The other car was cold. It was on E. The battery was barely hanging on and would need a jump. Which did I have time for? Which seemed the most attractive? Which was easier to hop in and start my day with?

I woke up knowing exactly what the Spirit of God was saying to me, and oh how I needed to hear it. I could choose to walk in the flesh all day, which is always warmed up and ready to go, and let my natural (read: ungodly) responses to people and life rule my mind, mouth, attitude, and actions…or I could choose to pause for a little while and let my heart and mind be renewed and transformed in the presence of my Savior, a work that is His work but that I have to ask for and acknowledge my need of.

So this is just a picture of our choice. It’s just spelling out the simple truth that loving God, embracing His love for us (being changed by this gift), and being able to show His love to others don’t just happen spontaneously. No, we shed the garments of the flesh, and we put on the garments of righteousness. Not just on the day of salvation, but everyday, through confession of sin, prayer, worship, being in the Word of God, putting on our spiritual armor, being in fellowship with other believers, obeying, using our spiritual gifts, and many more practices that refresh, remind, and revive. I used to be so aggravated that I would wake up to a battle every morning. I would go to bed peaceful and in love with Jesus and wake up as fleshly as flesh can be. I still do. The difference is that now I expect this! Take that, Satan! Now I know that battle will be there, and it stands as my opportunity to consciously choose to walk in the Spirit instead. Amen!

For the next month or two, I want to write a series of blogs talking about how to “build yourself up in your most holy faith.” I have been the victim of the enemy for so long, in emotional and mental battles, in morning misery, in thinking I should be better, be stronger, live closer to the Lord…But now I know the truth. #1, it’s not just me!! #2, the Word of God clearly details how we can be strengthened for those battles, no longer a victim, no longer caught off guard. So, what I’m writing about is elementary, the blog titles will not wow anybody, but still, many of us including myself need to hear these truths and walk in them in a consistent manner in order to see the victory we long for, to be the people who will bring His Kingdom ways into this day, and to have the joy that should characterize a child of God!

Today’s blog is the introduction to the series, and we’ll jump into specifics, in no particular order, soon! I also have some songs I’m writing that I would like to include in these series, so I pray that the Lord will speak these magnificent truths through my very small offering of words.  The first song I want to share to go with this series is We Come Out Shining. This is on the CD Who We Are While We Wait available at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lyndsaytaylor3 or iTunes.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

Finding Peace and Purpose in Our Battles

I have been really silent for over a month. Not just on the blog, but in my home and my relationships. I’ve texted with some friends but have had days where I only said a few sentences. I just feel quiet, and my mind and heart are full of pause. They are also full of prayers.

Some friends I know and love have had loved ones pass onto eternity, as always, in a quick and shocking way.

Some other friends have had little ones in the hospital, hurting and scared.

Some have had surgeries, new medications, life on hold and upside down.

I have had an extremely hard time with fatigue through the summer, then the whole month of September was on the couch or bed due to an urgent health matter (which is healing and going to be fine).

Battles both literal and figurative raging around the world.

You can see why the pause, and why the prayers.

Here are some of my thoughts in the silence:

*There is peace in surrendering what we wanted the journey and outcome to be. If we can bow to Him, there is peace there in that humility.

In this wellness battle, I have peace because I know that I know that I know that God gives both the sunshine and the rain. He is sovereign over my life, every single aspect of it, from how I feel to the day I die. To me, any thing less than this would mean God is less powerful than the enemy, than the world, than me. I feel safe in God’s hands, and if He is not freaked out by the difficulties in our lives and the limits those difficulties put on us, then I won’t be either. I gave Him my life. This is where my talk meets my walk.

*He isn’t asking more of us than we can give.

In this past month, I also came to grips with the fact (again) that if God actually wants something out of me, He’s going to supply everything I need for that task or I am in no way required to do it. I tend to fill up my calendar with good things as soon as I feel well, then the sickness comes and I feel terrible in more than just physical ways…guilt, confusion, weariness, stress. The Lord is freeing me (again) to only serve with the strength He provides and take joy that my life and accomplishments belong to Him, not me, so how much or what I do isn’t really “mine” to worry about. It’s His. He’s slowing down the pace for me because I needed intervention in that! 

*Where do I place my trust? In my supplements and self-discipline?

Number One, I trust Jesus for my righteousness. I say that because I sometimes think, “If I was more perfect, if I was more disciplined, if God didn’t have to ‘teach me a lesson’ (I don’t believe that by the way)”, then I wouldn’t have this recurring health condition that seems to hinder my life.  False. Jesus alone covers me with righteousness and right standing with God. I don’t have to do extra, in fact, doing extra would nullify my faith in the work of Grace! May that never be so! I’m on God’s “good side” because of Jesus, period. Number Two, I trust the Holy Spirit for my power to produce fruit, because any good that comes from my life (sick OR well) is from Him. And Number Three, I trust my Father for my safety. In the palm of His hand, I can know nothing comes my way that He did not allow, and because He is good, I want what He wants. I’m all in with Him, all in. If I trust Him with my children, my future, my home in Heaven, I must trust that if He wanted things to be different in my body and life right here and now He would bring that desire to fruition! He’s my Abba.

*When I’ve done all that is in my power to do for wellness- in wisdom and knowledge, prayer and praise- I can rest and enjoy the life that has been given to me.

In our wellness battles, we always have things to be thankful for. Personally, I’m thankful I don’t have to work a full time job. I’m thankful I have a husband, precious and somewhat self-sufficient daughters ;),  a great church, and so many friends that I keep leaving people out accidentally when I’m asking for prayer support! I’m thankful I have a quiet home and a fairly simple life. I’m thankful that the ministries I’m involved in are not overwhelming but peaceful and completely powered by the Lord. Not being able or allowed to do the many other things I am saying no to actually open the door to things I forget are so important. Right now, that’s relationships. Sitting down for more than 5 minutes with people. Hearing God’s heart in prayer instead of running down a quick list. Do you know how hard it is for me to just sit still and snuggle with my kids? It’s a challenge, and I think that’s sad! While God allows this trial in my life, I pray that I learn how to do that and not let a day go by where I refuse that gift.

Someday the Lord will deliver us from our battles, in one way or another. That relief will be sweet. But until then, I want to make sure that I realize there is no waiting to live. His Presence, His will, His relationship with us, His daily mercies, the things and people He has put in our laps…that’s all NOW regardless of our various trials. There is no waiting to be in His will, waiting to be thankful, waiting to be free, waiting to live. It’s now or never!

The Cross

stock-footage-christian-crosses-on-a-hill-at-sunset

I will never, ever, ever, ever stop singing about the Cross.

And let me tell you why.

The Cross was the one act in history that made a sinner like me holy. When Jesus willingly died to pay for my sins and all my failures, rebellion, and just plain lack, the veil between me and my Creator was torn in two. When He laid down His natural born rights of Son for that short time, I was given a robe of righteousness, a seat at the table, a friendship with God. It’s like we swapped places. And why? Because He loved us and wanted to invite us in the family. He called out to the beggars on the street, the ones who had nothing to offer back to Him, which quite frankly is you and me. Jesus obeyed His Father even unto death on a Cross so that His Sonship could exponentially grow, being granted by grace to anyone who would take it.

Sometimes we wake up from a wonderful dream, like a dream where all kinds of problems were solved…but we wake up to reality and realize the turmoil hasn’t been resolved at all.

With the Cross though, the story is true. Our debts really are paid. Our prayers really are heard. Our Father really does see us as sons and daughters. Our Brother really did give His life for us. Eternity in Heaven really does await. The Spirit really does comfort, teach, and remain in us for every minute of every day that we will recognize His presence. The goodness is real. Our minds and bodies and emotions have trouble reveling in it, it seems, but that doesn’t remove the reality that the goodness of the Cross is real.

I need the Cross, friends. I am a mess! There have been times in my walk with God where I didn’t think of myself as a mess much; I thought of myself as quite a good little worker bee for Jesus. I knew I was saved by grace and not works, but being the independent, ambitious person I am, my focus was more on myself and what I was doing for the Kingdom than on the Cross and my extreme gratefulness for it. (So sorry to whoever was around me those days!)

But by His grace, He relieved me of my pride and confusion.

I’ll never forget the day–Selah was about six weeks old–I was an exhausted, burnt-crispy minister mess. I remember saying to God, “You know what? I have been serving You so much, and it feels like I am never going to get where You want me to be and do all I think I’m supposed to do. I give up!!” I had planned to be a full time missionary and that had fallen through. I was serving in various ways at church, but having a newborn baby and a chronic illness that very few people seemed to understand (or have compassion about) was making me literally unable to do anything for anyone outside my home. I felt like a complete failure for the Lord. I hadn’t even considered giving up being who I thought He wanted me to be for Him…but when the thought crossed my mind, it sounded so good. To finally not expect the impossible out of myself! I’ll never forget that moment.

This is going to sound funny and weird, but I actually said to Him, “I give up trying to be on Your special team of people You call to do Your work. I don’t know what that means for my future and all I thought You said we were going to do, but I give up trying. I trust that You have forgiven my sins and love me, and that’s all I’m going to worry about right now. I’m letting go of all that other stuff.”

I feel like God breathed a sigh of relief, because I finally got it. I didn’t know as I prayed that prayer that I was “getting it”, not at all actually. I was heartbroken. I was saying goodbye to an entire way of life, really the only way I knew to be. But I was saying hello, automatically, to being Mary weeping at her Lord’s feet, just saying thank you for taking someone so unhelpful and so unworthy. When we become ruins, it really is a gift. I am convinced that being a Christian is mainly about receiving. Any giving is because we first received anyway.

As my kids are older and I feel better most of the time, the Lord has allowed me to “minister” again, but it doesn’t mean to me what it used to and it is powered by thankfulness for the Cross.  I live in ruins, I live in knowing I can’t do it, I live in giving up trying to be something awesome– and I pray that transparency and weakness simply gives Christ room to shine through.

The Cross. It’s always there, when everything else falls apart and when we don’t know anything else for sure. We can always come back to the Cross.

 

Bring Back the Wonder

Phoenix_sunrise

We all have days where colors are brighter, every word has meaning, and we want it to stay just like this forever…

Then we all have days where we feel grey, discontent, just old and done. Our callings feel less sure, our blessings feel more like burdens, and our joy is slipping through our fingers.

It’s a really beautiful thing to have a God thatwants to take these realities and help us with them.

It’s a really beautiful thing to have a God who is waiting for us to ask Him to make life new again, to make all these components of life come alive once again!

So let’s pray for this together–

Our Father, Lord, Friend, Helper, Great Resurrector,

In our bodies–our getting out of bed, our walking, our talking, our eating, our work and our play– please bring back the wonder of it all like only You can.

In our homes–our calendars, our finances, our family table, our conversations, our dreams–please bring back the wonder of it all like only You can.

In our marriages and relationships–our helping, our praying, our giving, our supporting, our listening, our loving–in this privilege of partnership–please bring back the wonder of it all like only You can.

In our parenting–their faces, their noise, their character, their hearts, their schooling, our pivotal role to play in their walk with You–oh Jesus, please bring back the wonder of it all like only You can.

In our ministries–on the street, in the store, to the Body of Christ within and without the Church, to the poor and the broken and the lost, in prayer or in physical action–please bring back the wonder of it all like only You can.

Come make it holy, because it is. Come make it precious, because it is. Come make it meaningful, because it is.

Amen.