From the Mouth of Babes: How One Mother’s Heart Encouraged Mine

When it comes to friends, God has really outdone Himself in my life. Although most of them live miles and miles away from me, my dearest friends are some of the smartest, most talented, most beautiful, most loving, wisest, most godly, kindest, sweetest, bravest, most wonderful women on the planet. Most of the time I wonder how on earth I came to deserve them because they are just so darn amazing.

One friend, in particular, holds a very special place in my heart because I have never – and I mean never – met anyone with the heart of compassion that beats in her chest. Kara and I have been through so much together. We were in the same orientation group at our undergraduate Alma Matter and became instant friends. We’ve lived together, watched each other get married, been pregnant together, laughed together, cried together, lost and found contact with one another, forgiven each other, blessed each other, build each other up, and become sisters over the course of one of the most important friendships of my entire life. In addition to all of this, watching her raise her children has blessed my heart in countless ways. Her faithfulness and attentiveness to her daughters is a joy and an inspiration. To say I love this woman is an understatement.

True to form, my sweet Kara wrote a post on Facebook yesterday that was saturated in Christ-likeness, tenderness of heart, love, sincerity, and genuine praise for our good God. In sharing her mother’s heart, she was able to bless my own (and many others’) in an intensely impactful way.

So, without further ado, here is Kara’s post (and soul-blessing photo) about a trip she and the girls took to Papa’s seminary campus yesterday…

“We went for a walk around campus this morning. We have never paid much attention to this statue or ever talked to Em about it. She saw it, pointed at it, and without any hesitation yelled, “Jesus!!” Colby and I looked at each other like, “Did you tell her that? I didn’t!” We went to go look at it and Em took off running, excited to see Jesus. Colby asked her which one she thought was Jesus. I thought she would for sure point to the one sitting. He is taller and seems bigger. But Em immediately knelt down, put her small, sweet hand on Jesus’ forearm and said, “Jesus.” She didn’t stop looking at Him until we left. The sweet faith of a child is something amazing to behold. This isn’t the first time Em has known more than she has been taught about Jesus. I am in awe that God has somehow, inexplainably, supernaturally blessed her with a knowledge and love about Himself. It gives me hope and reminds me how much God loves her, but also how much He loves me. To witness His guidance in my little baby’s life despite my failures shows me His grace and mercy in a way I so needed during this season.”

I’m so glad I got to share a little bit of my Kara’s heart with you all. Just by being herself, she sharpens and encourages me in ways I will never be able to fully express.

God bless you, Kara, and may He continue to use your babies to grow and nurture you, just as your friendships grows and nurtures me.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor (and her precious Kara),

The Taylor of All Trades

Glimpses: Just Enough Faith for the Day

As many of you know, I’ve been on a year-long weight loss journey that I’ve been cataloguing daily for the past 3 months. It’s been slow but it’s also been sure. Although I did write a post explaining the motivating factors for me having started this journey, I want to go on the record: this has been the hardest transformation I have ever attempted and I struggle with staying faithful to it often.

Sure, losing lots of weight and learning how to eat in a completely new way poses many challenges, but that’s not where the battle is truly waged, not for me anyway.

No, the real battleground is in the heart. It always has been. And it’s scope is much more far-reaching than the size of clothes I wear or the interesting ways I’ve had to learn to make food work for me.

These are symptoms of the issue, but they’re not the issue itself.

The real issue is discipline, a heart condition which has but two orientations: self or Christ.

Just as our words can be used as a gauge for what’s really going on in our minds, so too is our physical form a gauge for our orientation toward God concerning discipline, stewardship, and faithfulness.

Many of you know that my favorite theological concept is redemption, especially as depicted in the life of Hosea and his wife, Gomer (Hosea 1-3). So pivotal has this concept  been in my life, that I recently got a tattoo that simply says, “redeemed.” As I was looking at it yesterday, a day when I was having a particularly difficult time seeing beyond anything other than the nagging migraine growing in my right eye, I was struck by a very sobering question: redeemed…for what?

Scripture is very clear about the necessity of Christ’s sacrifice in allowing the unregenerate heart to move through the four stages of salvation: 1) acknowledgement (of sin, its consequences, and one’s position therein), 2) repentance (away from sin and toward Christ), 3) confession (that Jesus is God), and 4) faith (in God’s ability to forgive, save, justify, and sanctify). This is the most important, beautiful, history-altering Truth that lowly man can ever know.

And it doesn’t stop there!

God’s gift of salvation is the most important thing in all of life, ever, and its implications encompass every single aspect of our lives.

For what have we been redeemed? For the glory of Christ – that His sacrifice on the cross which effects for us a position of acceptance before a holy God might influence everything we think, say, and do.

Being redeemed means that our souls have been bought back by the salvivic blood of Christ from the very pit of hell, a debt which could only have been repaid with our lives and which we could never have satisfied by our own merit or as a result of our own striving (works). Now, because of salvation, our debt has been paid, death’s grip on our soul has been broken, and we are now in receipt of the myriad blessings accorded to all God’s children, not least the sanctifying power of God which allows us to experience victory over sin’s vices and temptations.

And this applies to every single aspect of our lives. In all things we are to bring glory to God because we are thankful to Him for doing that which we could not. Our responsive love should be immense, complete, and very, very purposeful.

In my case, responding to the conviction that my life lacked discipline meant confessing to God that I had been woefully abusing my physical form and carelessly engaging in food consumption without a single thought as to how that might reflect on Him.

Once I realized that my body, my temple, was a poor representation of all that Christ bore for MY sake, I couldn’t live in a state of slothfulness or negligence any longer. I HAD to change and the only way that was going to happen was if I called out my own sins, repented of them, surrendered them to Christ, and begged Him for the strength to overcome them.

And He has been faithful to do just that! His goodness and grace have rained down on me in infinite measure, allowing me to accomplish a level of discipline which is Christ-centered rather than self-centered. My attempt to attain discipline is not for the sake of my own success, it’s so that everything I am can represent Who Christ IS in the truest possible way.

Do I maintain this perspective perfectly? No, I don’t. But I have learned this: the days I have the hardest time maintaining discipline are the days my focus is farthest from the cross.

But my lack of steadfastness doesn’t change the fact that God is always faithful. He is sure though I am feeble, as He proves time and time again.

Many of my days are marked by a dedication to that which I cannot see – God’s strength despite my weakness.

And then, suddenly, I see glimpses…just enough faith for that day. Just enough hope to get me through. Just enough grace to keep me grounded and moving in the right direction.

I’m in a phase of life where these glimpses are linked to something that others might consider trivial, vain even.

But you know what? I can’t dictate or control the way others view my journey and I don’t believe God would want me to. I am called to honor Him in every single thing I do, and, right now, that involves a very specific journey: my weight loss journey.

PADweightloss comparison_day 7 and day 104

This set of images depicts one of the glimpses that keeps me going – after all this time and hard work, I am seeing actual progress. Knowing that changes ARE occurring gives me just enough faith to keep at it for this one day. Tomorrow, another glimpse will get me through, and then the next day, and the next.

The fact of the matter is that God is faithful. In fact, He is the generative source of all that faithfulness is or can be. To be faithful myself is to put on Christ, to BE a CHRISTian in both word and deed.

For this reason I am thankful for my journey. Thankful for the heart behind it. Thankful for what it means in my life and how it is growing me. But most of all I am thankful for salvation. I am thankful for my Savior and for the fact that I have been redeemed for His glory.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

Miscarrying at the Foot of the Cross: God’s Sovereignty in the Midst of Sadness

My story is not unlike the story of many women. The pain of losing a baby is not unique to me. I am not the first woman to miscarry and I won’t be the last.

But just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s easy. And just because I share this story, doesn’t mean it isn’t painful to recount. I would guess there are many women who still mourn the lives that never were, and that’s probably not something that ever really goes away. Not if you believe, as I do, that human life is a miracle every single time it happens – regardless of size or age.

Psalm 139: 13-16 provides a beautiful explanation of why miscarriage is such a sorrowful event:

13  For You formed my inward parts;
      You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14  I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
      Marvelous are Your works,
      And that my soul knows very well.
15  My frame was not hidden from You,
      When I was made in secret,
       And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16  Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
      And in Your book they all were written,
      The days fashioned for me,
      When as yet there were none of them.

When we lose a child to miscarriage, we are losing a whole person. A whole, eternal soul whose earthly days, although few, have been numbered from the beginning of time.

So even though miscarriage occurs quite often (in 10% of all known miscarriages for women under 40 and up to 33% of all known pregnancy in women over 40, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), it is a loss that is just as real as the loss of any other loved life.

So if you’ve lost a child to miscarriage and thought – even for a second – that your sadness is illegitimate, just know that it’s not. If Scripture is True (and it always is) the gift of life is a divine miracle that is preciously near to the heart of Almighty God. In Jeremiah 1:5 He states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” God’s eternal plan – which was written in eternity past and unfolds before us according to the perfection of His timing – always included the life of your precious baby, even if that child never grew larger than a lima bean. 

That was the case with our most recent pregnancy. We were so excited to welcome our fourth child into the world and were eagerly anticipating the blessings and challenges that newborn lives represent. As far as pregnancy detection goes, I usually know VERY early on that I am expecting because I am extremely regular. In addition to a consist monthly cycle, I had been taking pregnancy tests for a couple months because I knew that we were unofficially trying. As with all my pregnancies, I found out that I was expecting VERY early – around week four, just as I was anticipating the start of my next period. When it didn’t come, I knew I was pregnant. I bought a shirt that said, “THIS IS MY LAST ONE, SERIOUSLY,” and I was elated to be able to “gift” the news to my husband on his birthday. He took the news…um, well, the way any hard-working-man-who’se-hardly-ever-home-and-already-has-three-children-under-five would. A little shocked, a little worried, and a lot happy.

Like clockwork, I began to “feel” pregnant two weeks later. Nausea, raw meat aversions, increased appetite, exhaustion and fatigue, the works. As far as I could tell, this pregnancy was progressing exactly as it was supposed to. I’d had my pregnancy confirmed by my doctor and was excitedly awaiting my first official prenatal appointment and ultrasound which were scheduled to occur at around 10 weeks gestation.

But a few days before that appointment I turned to my husband and said, “I think something’s wrong.” As I thought about it, I realized I had stopped feeling pregnant. My nausea had disappeared and I hadn’t been feeling nearly as tired as I usually did at this point in my previous pregnancies. But Andrew, ever the rationalist, said, “Don’t worry. We won’t know what’s going on until we see the doctor.”

And that’s how we found out we’d lost our baby. Since it was our first prenatal appointment for this pregnancy, when we saw the doctor, he asked us the normal battery of questions – When was the start of your last period? How many pregnancies have you had? Any complications with your previous pregnancies or deliveries? And so on. After he’d finished asking all of his questions, he finished with, “anything you’d like to add?” And so I told him that I was concerned because I had been spotting the entire pregnancy – which was very abnormal for me; I’d never spotted with any of my other pregnancies – and that I thought something might be wrong.

My first clue should have been that he ordered an immediate ultrasound. Usually I have to wait two-three weeks before an opening, but 20 minutes after we saw the doctor, were in the ultrasound room. I’ll never forget how beautiful I thought that little alien was. All head and torso, with the smallest, sweetest little arm and leg buds. Just a perfect, precious person that was mine. My heart was so full of joy and o, how much I loved that child already. Andrew was sitting with our other three at the foot of the bed, and the only thing written in his features was pride. A life had been granted by God and we were ecstatic.

But our joy didn’t last long. I waited for the tech to let us hear the baby’s heart beat, but instead, she asked, “And you started your last period August 6th?” I thought it was an odd question because tech’s usually receive that information from the doctor, but I said, “Yes, the 6th.”

Her response should have been my second clue. “Hmmm,” she said. “The baby is measuring a little small for 10 weeks. More like eight weeks. I’m going to get these images upstairs and see what the doctor wants you to do.”

That should have been my third clue. Seeing doctors quickly is not our provider’s strong suit, and we’ve never seen the same doctor twice in one day within an hour’s time. But that day we did. The tech told us that the doctor wanted to see us immediately, so we headed back upstairs.

When he came in, the first thing he said was, “I have bad news about the baby. It’s small. It measures at eight weeks, but it should be measuring at 10.” Looking back, I feel like such a dunst. When he said that, I immediately thought he was going to tell me that there was something wrong with the way the baby was growing. I somehow thought he was going to tell us that they were able to see developmental abnormalities or physical handicaps or something like that. Not once, not even for a second, did I think he was telling me that my baby was dead. But he was.

“The tech wasn’t able to detect a heartbeat, and because of the size, we can tell the baby stopped growing two weeks ago.”

He kept talking, but I couldn’t figure out what he was telling me. “What?” I thought. “What is he saying? I…I don’t understand what he means.”

And then the hammer dropped. Suddenly I put two and two together and realized that someone whose heart wasn’t beating couldn’t be alive. This baby that we’d prayed for, that we loved so much already, that was so very wanted and precious and joyfully expected, just wasn’t going to come.

My heart was broken.

The doctor kept talking about what had to happen next. Natural passing. Medicated passing. Surgery.

I wasn’t listening. I was crying.

I think he realized we couldn’t process what he was saying, so he said he’d give us a minute to think and talk and then come back.

When he left Andrew and I sat in silence and cried.

Shiloh

We named our baby, Shiloh Lael, meaning, “Gift of God, Belonging to God.” That little life had been gifted to us, but the Lord chose to grant that eternal soul admittance into Glory before ever having spent one moment outside my womb.

We were devastated, but we were grateful. It was a stark reminder that none of our children belong to us. They all belong to God every moment of their lives, both their earthly and their eternal ones.

It doesn’t mean we don’t or wouldn’t deeply mourn the loss of them. Rather, it means we rest in the knowledge that every moment of their waking lives is intimately known by the great I AM, and we can trust that His will is best for them, whether or not it causes us pain along the way.

And, in this case, our pain was complete.

The days following the death of our baby were filled with fervent prayer. I had decided against a D&C because something about it rubbed my conscience the wrong way. Even though Shiloh was dead, the procedure seemed too much like an abortion for me to feel comfortable undergoing it.

And so I “hit the books.” I researched every alternative method to a D&C available to me, and settled on natural labor inducers, such as vitamin C, cinnamon, and intense physical activity.

I’ll never forget how much like real labor my miscarriage was.

I was standing in the kitchen making dinner for my three other children when my water broke.

Liquid rushed down my leg and pooled around my feet. And, because I was miscarrying, blood began to pool on the floor as well.

Not knowing what to do, I made my way upstairs and ran a bath. I called my husband and he made arrangements to come home. Since it was going to be a little while before he arrived, he called our good friend Julia and she rushed over to help with the kids while we waited for Andrew.

Within minutes the contractions started.

Now, I’ve had three babies, so I know what real labor pain feels like. It’s the most hideous thing on the planet. This was not like that. This was real, but it was significantly less intense than the kinds of labor you go into when you are birthing a 7 pound baby. On a scale from one to 10, if live births are an 11, this pain was closer to a 4. It was painful, but it was manageable.

Over the next 5 hours I contracted and bled and collected every single piece of tissue I could. I wanted to see, to really see, my baby. I wanted to hold Shiloh in my hand and know that I had done everything in my power to keep my baby whole. More than anything, I wanted closure.

It never came.

Although I did collect a great deal of tissue, nothing I collected looked like a baby.

When we took the tissue to the doctor the next day, he assured us that the white, brain-matter-looking tissue was our baby.

He explained that since it had been three weeks (by this point) since the baby had died, Shiloh’s body had begun to break down already and wouldn’t have been recognizable as a baby this late in the miscarriage process.

We had no other choice. We had to trust him.

What happened next is the reason I am writing this post.

After showing us exactly which tissues would have been Shiloh, our doctor turned toward the trashcan, opened it, and, as if our baby was nothing more than a soiled exam glove, moved to throw Shiloh away.

I immediately stood up and yelled, “wait!”

I explained we wanted to keep the baby and was surprised when he asked me why.

Did I really have to explain why burying our baby was a significant part of this process?

Shiloh was a real person. Someone who was once alive and now was dead. We were going to honor Shiloh’s death just as we did the passing of any other loved one. Shiloh wasn’t trash. Shiloh was a human being, our fourth child, an eternal being whom God knew before the very foundations of the earth were laid.

That’s what our sorrow was all about. When a child is conceived, a whole person comes into existence, regardless of how many earthly days that life has been granted.

We were grieving the days we didn’t have with this precious little life. We would never be able to kiss our baby’s forehead or count 10 perfect fingers and 10 perfect toes. We would never hear our baby laugh or watch our baby take a wobbly first step. We would never dry our baby’s tears or encourage the dreaming of dreams. Our baby wasn’t called to spend time on this earth and we were grieving all the moments that were never meant to be.

That kind of grief doesn’t just go away. It never just disappears.

Sometimes, when I’ve had a chance to just be still, my mind turns toward Heaven and I think of Shiloh…of how much I love my precious baby and how much I am looking forward to seeing him or her when God calls me Home to Glory.

I am convinced I will know my Shiloh when we meet in Heaven and that the part of me that is Shiloh’s mom will finally be made whole.

But even if that isn’t true. Even if Heaven isn’t about wholeness, that doesn’t change the fact that God is good all the time and His will is perfect in all things.

Miscarrying Shiloh was one of the hardest trails God has ever asked Andrew and me to face. It brought a sadness to our hearts that will likely resurface many times throughout our lives.

But even in our sadness, we see God’s goodness. We don’t know why Shiloh was called home so soon and we don’t know how we will survive another devastation like this, should we be called to it.

But we do know one thing: God’s grace is sufficient.

Because of our loss, our understanding of God’s character has been deepened. We have found an endless vault of peace from which to draw, and our dependence on the Lord has increased in ways we never could have imagined.

Our love for and understanding of one another has matured and our hearts have experienced unity in a way that is altogether new.

Miscarrying Shiloh has brought us to the foot of the cross, and in that we are able to take joy.

We serve a loving Master. One Whose grace is immeasurable and in Whose perfect will we take refuge.

We can’t think of anyone more perfect to care for our precious Shiloh than the One who loved our baby first and wholly.

He who cares for Shiloh cares for us, and by that Truth, our hearts are mended.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Walking By Faith, Not Sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)

It’s a verse we’ve heard a million times. It’s a Jeremy Camp song we’re singing at this very moment. It’s a cliche we’ve heart from every Christian we’ve ever known in any number of situations. But how do we make it our own?

2 Corinthians 5:7 states,

For we walk by faith, not by sight.”

 

Think about your day. Think about how it starts. Faith is what allows you to shower without the fear that your roof is going to collapse. Faith is what allows you to get in the car and drive to work on the assumption you won’t get into an accident. Faith is what allows you to gas up your car because little 1’s and 0’s say you have “money” in the bank. Faith is what keeps you sane, what grounds you, what gives you the freedom to live this life free of the crippling kinds of fear that could prevent you from getting out of bed every morning.

In truth, we are all people of faith. We believe in things because we have to. Faith is what gives our lives meaning and stabilizes our thoughts and actions. It is what centers our worldview and permits us to function in community with other human beings.

This doesn’t mean we are all of the same faith, or even that our faith system is correct. It just means that, at the end of the day, we couldn’t function in this life if we didn’t have faith.

So what does it mean for a Christian to live by faith and not by sight?

The most practical implication, of course, is that we serve a Master Who cannot be seen. Who God is, how He works, what He is…these things cannot be verified by practical observation.

But doesn’t this verse mean so much more than that?

I think the key here is the idea of walking. This is the basic mode of human mobility. Once we learn how to walk as infants, we build up muscle memory, and, before long, it ceases to be something we have to choose to do movement by movement. Although we make conscious decisions about the direction in which we are going to walk, the actual act of walking no longer requires slow, calculated dedication on our part.

Faith is like walking in this way. How you walk in the Faith is determined not so much by the big, concentrated efforts you make to faithfully serve God when stretching trials come, but by the way you handle your heart and mind in the days, weeks, months, and years leading up to those moments – your “faith memory” you might say.

Have you ever wondered why it seems like you are never able to pass the tests God gives you? Have you ever gotten to a point where you think you’d be better off not living a life of faith because it’s just too hard or too much or too demanding? Have you ever wondered if you’ll ever get to a point where you don’t fight God’s will so that you can learn things the easy way (instead of the hard way) for once?

Speaking from experience I can confidently say that those are the questions asked by people who haven’t been diligent in building up a solid “faith memory.” When trials come, you haven’t sufficiently strengthened your “faithing legs” so all that they can do is buckle. You fall, not because the trial is too difficult or God isn’t gracious enough. You fail because your faith is not strong enough.

A strong faith, one that is able to withstand the weight of even the heaviest trial, is a faith that is practiced, strengthened, and memorized daily, hourly, minutely even.

What kind of faith are you building up? It’s an easy question to answer because all you have to do is ask what you are putting into your heart and mind.

Do you spend most of your time in front of the TV or in the Word. Do pray a lot or do you just think about praying and call it a day? The songs you hum mindlessly, what are their lyrics focused on, the things of God or the things of the world? Do you practice loving others in your heart and mind before interacting with them, or do you just hope you’ll be up to the task of dealing with relational conflcits if and when they arise?

The point is, walking by faith isn’t just choosing to believe in something or someone you can’t see. It’s about living a life that is dedicated to mediation on God and His Word on a daily basis so that whatever He asks of you, you are willing and able to do obediently, immediately, and joyfully.

How are you walking today?

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

That For Which the Christian Heart Groans (2 Corinthians 5:4)

I gotta say, I am LOVING my time in 2 Corinthians! God is teaching me so much and I am blown away by how much I am learning in a book I know I’ve read a hundred times in my life.

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 5:4 and reads:

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality  may be swallowed up by life.”

This chapter is heavily laden with analogies which perfectly explain reality.

So let’s break this one down:

  • We who are in this tent: Here, Paul is talking about our mortal, earthly bodies (as he explains in v. 1). I have no doubt he chose to call it a tent because tents are notoriously portable. They are not meant to be permanent, they are a place holder for something better, firmer, sturdier. They are also of far inferior quality compared with the things they emulate (houses or buildings), and they are limited in their capacity to function in the way something permanent can. Our bodies, our tents, are finite, inferior, less sturdy, and less desirable than the alternative, which will be explained in just a second.
  • Groan: When I think of groaning, I think of despair. I think if deep, deep sorrow, or guttural, compulsive aching. I believe that’s the idea Paul is going for here. As beliers we have an eternal prospective. We know what we are working toward and for Whom we are living. We know this world and our bodies are finite and, when we compare the two, we long for Heaven rather than Earth – especially now that the days are so evil. To say that we groan is to say exactly what is felt sincerely in our hearts – we deeply, deeply ache for Heaven because we know it is the place where our Truest Love lives and we desperately long to be with him there.
  • Being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed: As believers, our lives are very weighty. No single choice we make is free of spiritual consequence, nor is any train of thought or emotion. So, as we long to see Christ and enjoy His presence, we are (or should be) burdened by many things. First, our sin. It should burden us greatly when we sin because it hinders our relationship with God from being what it can and ought to be. Second, we are burdened with a desire to put on more of Christ that we might be able to stand in His presence and be acceptable to Him there – something that will only happen when we die or are resurrected. We are simply giddy within ourselves at the thought of being able to worship at the actual feet of our loving Savior, and are burdened by the fact that we are here on Earth and unable to do so. Third, we are burdened by the lack of holiness we are able to attain in this earthly life and wish to put on more of it if at all possible, to be “further clothed” by Christ’s righteousness, to its very fullest extent. Because of the Fall, we simply cannot be sinless. Until God accepts us into Glory, we are bound in this unacceptable form, beholden to effects of sin which we, as children of God, hate to our very core. Be we long to be acceptable to Him and so ache to be further clothed by His holiness.
  • Being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed: But of all the things we are burdened by, there is one thing by which we are not: a desire to be “unclothed.” In Paul’s analogies, this means that we have no desire to take off the righteousness with which Christ has graciously covered us. We have (or should have) NO desire to be adorned by anything other than the blood of Christ, that beautiful, purifying, washing, cleansing, whitening blood of the Lamb. Everything else with which we can be clothed (anything outside of the perfect will of God) is hideous by comparison. Why settle for a knock-off when we have been gifted the real thing?
  • That mortality  may be swallowed up by life: Again, this speaks to our eternal perspective. We know our end. We know what’s waiting for us when death calls our name and our first life passes away. We fear not the Devil or any of his threats. We hold fast to the Truth, knowing that the only end that awaits us is an eternal one in Glory. When Christ rose from the dead, He obliterated sin and death, swallowing up mortality by life, eternal life. “Where, O death is your victory. Where, O death is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55).” And that’s just the point. Death has no sting, not for the true believer! We don fear death because it has no power over us. The only power at work in our lives, both temporal and eternal, is the power of God – AMEN!

How blessed are the promises of God! How joyful we can be because we are His!

And if you’re not sure you are His, don’t worry! The gospel is a free gift to all, and God is eager that you should accept it (please click here if you’d like to know more about salvation). You need only ask, His arms are open!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Proper Perspective Produces Endurance (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

Life is hard. Things happen that we can’t control and don’t understand. Maintaining our Christian testimony for Christ’s sake is fraught with temptations, set-backs, willful disobedience, discouragements, misunderstandings, and persecutions. Being in community with and serving alongside other believers can be draining, difficult, demanding, and disheartening. Health issues humble and humiliate us as they expose and accentuate our weaknesses. And certain trials seem to stretch us beyond even our most rooted breaking point.

As Paul addresses common issues faced by believers in the church at Corinth, he acknowledges the fact that discouraging circumstances are normal, but having proper perspective is the only way to overcome the discouragement itself.

2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 states:

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Age and infirmity, physical limitations and decreased stamina – these are all inescapable consequences of time; but they don’t have to and shouldn’t define our perspective.

Rather, we should constantly be reminding ourselves that the most important, impactful, and lasting changes are the ones that occur on the inside.

More so than that, we need to understand that change will occur whether or not we pay attention to it. You will either grow and mature in Christ – through the reading of the Word and sincere prayer, or you will grow in the direction of any of the sinful bents to which our sinful hearts are so easily inclined: bitterness, anger, contentiousness, unkindness, laziness, doubt, cruelty toward others, the list goes on and on.

If we are not actively seeking to grow and mature in the things of the Lord – by understanding that what we think, feel, and believe has eternal ramifications, not just temporal ones, then we will, by default, be growing in that which is approved only by Satan himself.

So, yes, life is hard. Trials aren’t fun. Challenges are, well, challenging. But what are they when we view them in light of the Cross? What are they when we choose to view them through the lens of sanctificion rather than inconvenience. What are they when we see in them that which is ever-faithful: the perfect and perfectly timed will of God?

How do we overcome hardship? How do we break free from the bonds of doubt and discouragement? By renewing our minds day by day in the refreshing Truth of God’s revealed Word and by learning how to pray effectively so that our petitions may be acceptable to the Lord.

There is no hurt too big for God to remedy, no pain too deep for God to heal, nothing so broken God can’t make it whole.

Trust Him. Sincerely surrender it to Him. Refuse to cling to it. instead, replace it with the Truths of Scripture. Meditate on what God’s Word is teaching you as often as you can. Purposefully apply those truths with fervor and dedication. In this way, and only in this way, will you pursue a proper perspective that renews your spirit day by day.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

The Definition of Prayer by John Bunyan

I recently started reading books from the Puritan Paperbacks series and I love them! In truth, they are changing my life.

I’ve been a Christian – a member of the church – my entire life. So grounded is my theological base (I say this not out of pride, but to provide context) that I take countless doctrines for granted – often admittedly thinking there is nothing more for me to learn on countless foundational concepts.

One of these concepts is prayer. I could smack myself thinking about how pridefully I have considered myself an expert on prayer when, really, I know hardly anything at all.

In his book, Prayer, John Bunyan defines prayer this way:

Prayer is the sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God. 

How powerful is that?!

If you have not read this book yet, I strongly recommend that you do. I am learning SO much about prayer as I read it.

From this definition, Bunyan breaks down each portion individually and explains them in great detail.

One of the most impactful implications of this definition, for me, is that to pray properly we must pray in keeping with the will of God.

That might sound like a no-breainer, but I hadn’t really thought of it that deeply before.

Praying God’s will entails a few things:

  • Knowing God’s will through the frequent reading of and deep study in His Word
  • Knowing what to pray by echoing prayers provided in Scripture
  • Not praying in selfish ways so as to convince ourselves our prayers are being either answered or denied, but rather praying that the Lord’s will be done and that He would show us How to pray in keeping with His will
  • Humbly admitting that we do not know how to pray as we ought and sincerely asking the Holy Spirit to make intercession on our behalf

There is so much more that could be said, but I’ve been meditating on these key aspects of prayer for weeks now and they provide fresh conviction each day.

Take a look at your prayer life – is it in keeping with what is expressed as true prayer by Bunyan?

If not, I would, again, encourage you to pick up a copy of Bunyan’s book and allow it to challenge your prayer life as it has challenged mine.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

Grace Produces Gratitude (2 Corinthians 4:15)

As we study Paul’s interaction with the church at Corinth, 2 Corinthians 4:15 provides a very poignant message for us:

“For all things are for your sakes, so that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.”

In this verse, Paul reminds the Corinthians that the instructions he is providing are for them and for their well-being.

He acknowledges that grace is something they do well and that their evangelistic efforts are not fruitless. As they show and share grace to more and more people, the result is thankfulness.

Those who receive God’s grace through salvation and through the lives and love of His elect can have only one response: thankfulness.

Have you ever been there? Someone shows you grace in such a way that you are humbled by their care for you. You are so encouraged, built up, healed, helped, or affirmed by their words or actions that you can’t help thanking them with everything you have.

The sincere showing of grace does that to people. It stirs in them the compulsion to be grateful, first to the person showing them grace, and to God for blessing in that special way.

And Paul goes on to explain that God is glorified by gratitude.

A thankful heart is an amazing testimony of God’s character and worthiness. Nothing turns the world off to Christianity more than miserable Christians.

Are you a miserable Christian? When things happen that you can’t control, do you grumble and complain or do you thank the Lord sincerely for the fact that He is still in control and that His sovereign plan is perfect in all things?

Is living the Christian life a drudgery to you? Are you downcast as you make choices that honor God but alienate you from people who hate Him?

If you are not a thankful person, it shows. And if your testimony for Christ isn’t one of grace and gratitude, I would implore you to take the time TODAY to search your heart and find out why.

If nothing else, we have something the be abundantly grateful for every minute of every day: The redemptive work of Christ on the cross that secured salvation and eternal unity with God for us, something we were utterly unable to do – either through will or wills – for ourselves (for more on salvation, click here).

May God be praised for the ultimate act of grace that gives us cause to be grateful every moment of our lives!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:10

2 Corinthians 4 is full of timely wisdom for me.

As you all know, I am currently three weeks into a weight loss journey that will last one year. My goal is to lose 100 pounds in 12 months, and I document my progress daily.

One of the things that confirmed the need for this kind of change was 1 Corinthians 9:27, which states:

“I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

The stark contrast between my life of laziness and self-worship and what is depicted by Paul in this verse shocked me into action, literally.

And, as I keep saying, God’s timing is unfathomably perfect because as I continue my study of 2 Corinthians, this theme is reinforced over and over again.

2 Corinthians 4:10 states:

“Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

2 Corinthians is all about what it means to cultivate a solid testimony for the benefit of fellow believers as well as for the furthering of the Gospel before those whose souls are perishing.

When I realized my lack of self-discipline could potentially disqualify me from having a legitimate testimony and ministry both in the church and in the world, I begged God to show me how I could make significant and immediate changes for His glory.

Although 1 Corinthians 9:27 provided the “how” concerning my desire to have a blameless testimony, 2 Corinthians 4:10 provided the “why.”

Why is it important for us to live a life of self-discipline? Why is it important for us to take care of our bodies and ensure that we keep them strong and healthy? Why is it important for us to have a blameless testimony before men?

Because our bodies are a representation of God’s eternal, redemptive plan – that breathtakingly beautiful message of Salvation that was determined by God before even time itself existed.

As we walk, and talk, and think, and move, and breathe, the body of the true believer carries in it the very person of God. The Holy Spirit within us is the living presence of God Himself, only able to reside in our hearts because of Christ’s work on the cross.

Note: If you want to learn more about salvation or are unsure you understand it, please click here

In His resurrection, when Christ defeated sin and death once and for all, He empowered us to overcome those besetting sins that would jeopardize our testimony for Him in this world, sins like slothfulness, or gluttony, or laziness, or lack of self-discipline, or any number of other “respectable” sins.

So when 2 Corinthians 4: 10 says “that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body,” we need to take that seriously.

Is being overweight a sin? No, i don’t believe so. But are surrendering to the temptations of laziness, self-worship, comfort loving, and fear sins? Yes, yes they are.

As odd as it may sound to some, the first thing I had to do when I set out on this journey was to ask God for His forgiveness. For decades I had been stewarding the body He gave me poorly and, in so doing, limited my ability to “manifest the life of Jesus.” 

To be a slave to anything other than Christ is to diminish His reflection and to dishonor His Name.

That is something I could no longer choose to do. Once God shows you your error in such a blatant way, it’s hard to do nothing. And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Is He doing that in your life today? Is there something He is convicting you to do or change or improve?

Take heart! There is nothing He has asked of you that He expects you do accomplish alone. Repent of your sin, surrender your limited abilities to Him, study His Word, depend on Him in sincere prayer, and DO what you know He is calling you to do.

Don’t resist Him. Don’t put it off. Don’t live one more moment in willful rebellion against Him.

His greatest desire is for your good – trust Him as He leads you away from that which keeps you from His perfect will.

And know that you’re not alone. We are all in process and we are always in need of God’s grace to sustain us as we seek to honor Him in everything we think, feel, say, and do – and in the ways our body represents the work of Christ on the cross (either well or poorly).

I’ll be praying for you (even if I don’t know you) because you and I are exactly the same: sinners saved by grace, ensuring  that “the life of Jesus may be manifested in our body,” and, in His power, fulfilling the chief end of man – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:7-9

Today’s post centers on 2 Corinthians 4: 7-9:

  • But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 
  • we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 
  • persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed

There’s a lot here.

For starters, the “treasure” that Paul is talking about is the ministry of the Gospel, the sharing of it with unbelievers, and the encouragement by it with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

The “earthen vessels” are us. Our bodies, our time on this earth, our finite human existence. Though the mystery of God’s eternal, redemptive plan is far beyond the comprehension of our limited capacity to grasp it, God still allows us to glorify Him by being the “vessel” through which His plan is carried out.

As we continually surrender to the Will of the Lord and obey His command to live our the Gospel message in our everyday lives, we manifest His power to others. Everything we say, think, do, and feel is a reflection of God’s power and we affirm – both with our words and action – that we can claim to glory for ourselves in the process. The power at work is God’s, not our own.

The next two verses are a comfort to anyone undergoing trial or persecution. Life, in general, is not easy. Add to that the fact that God has chosen to call us His own, and it gets harrier still.

The Christian life is marked by all of the normal struggles of human existence, relationships, professions, finances, children, etc., but it has an additional set of trials as well – the plethora of moral and ethical considerations that dictate the way we handle all of those things.

Our standard, of course, is Scripture. But, as we are well aware, not everyone appreciated God’s perspective. Not everyone loves Him. Not everyone loves those who love Him. And, very often, Believers suffer because of Him.

This, my friends, is a blessed place to be. For with every trial is given an even greater grace:

  • Afflicted, but not crushed – No matter how we are hurting (physically, mentally, spiritually, relationally, emotionally), there is not hurt too great that God can’t or won’t save us from being crushed under the weight of it. The God we serve is strong enough to shield us from the crushing pressure of every kind of trial in existence.
  • Perplexed, but not disappearing – Our  understanding is finite. We cannot see the future nor understand the whole of God’s design for our life and the lives of others. Natural as it may come for us to question God’s design, never ought we to despair over it. Never are we to doubt God or rage against that which He has, in His perfect sovereignty, deemed best for us. We may not understand God’s will, but we must not ever doubt it.
  • Persecuted, but not forsaken – Though the men of this age hate you, hurt you, beat you, berate you, lie about you, ruin you, or even kill you, the only Being that matters most is the one Who will NEVER forsake you. However dire your circumstances are, you are never alone. However insurmountable the task, God will empower you to complete it. However broken the situation, God is mighty enough to make it whole. Whatever evil man devises against you, the God of your salvation will never turn His back on you. Your peace and vindication rest safely and securely in the hand of God, and so do you.
  • Struck down, but not destroyed – The worst any man can do in this life is kill you, and yet, he can’t even do that without God’s say so. The God of Heaven and Earth, the Mighty Creator of all things, is the keeper of your body and soul. And even when the time comes for your body to be sustained on this earth no longer, if your name is written in the Lamb’s book of life, your soul is preserved by God for all eternity. No man can ever kill your soul. And, if you are His, God will never forsake it.

In the midst of a trial? Don’t worry, God’s strength will keep you from being crushed.

Struggling with not understanding God’s plan for your life? Don’t worry, resting in the truth of God’s sovereignty will keep you from disappearing.

Persecuted by evil men? Don’t worry, the only Being that truly matters loves you will the love of ages and He will never forsake you.

Wounded, broken, and dying? Don’t worry, if you are a child of God, your soul is preserved in mighty hand of God for all eternity.

Worried you might not be a child of God? Wondering if these promises apply to you? Don’t worry! The Gospel is freely available to all who seek it. If you would like to become a child of God, but don’t know where to begin, please take a look at this great resource from Dr. David Jeremiah and feel free to contact me with ANY questions you might have after you have done so:

Walking Down the “Romans Road” to Salvation . . . .

  • Because of our sin, we are separated from God.
    For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Romans 3:23)
  • The Penalty for our sin is death.
    For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ!
    But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  • If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins!
    For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.  (Romans 10:13)
    …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

To receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, pray this prayer:
Lord Jesus, I’m like everyone else – I can’t make it through life on my own. I’m imperfect. I’m prone to sin. I have come to realize that there’s nothing in the world I can do to make myself acceptable to You. But I know that You have loved me so much that You were willing to submit to the cross and die on my behalf. That’s a grace so amazing I cannot understand it; I can only accept it. And I do. I accept Your free gift, and I know that from this moment on, I am saved. I am a child of God. And I give the rest of my life to serving You and experiencing the joy that only You can offer. Fill me now, dear Lord, and raise me to walk in the newness of life. I thank You and praise You! Amen.

Now that you are a “new creation” in Jesus Christ, the road ahead will be full of life-changing experiences. Growing in knowledge and understanding of the Bible and your Christian walk with God is essential for your spiritual growth.

Here are some ways that you can grow as a Christian:

  • Study the Bible.
    The Bible will guide you through life and answer life’s questions.
    Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
    Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
  • God desires to meet your needs!  Make prayer a part of your daily life.
    So He said to them, “When you pray, say: our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Luke 11:2-4)
  • Be part of a local church.
    And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:11-12)
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)
  • Fellowship with other Christians.
    And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works; not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24, 25)
  • Be baptized.
    Baptism identifies you with Christ.
    Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus. And passing through, he preached in all the cities till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:35-40)
  • Share your faith with others.
    Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:8)
    Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)
    But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witness to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

If you would like to part of a local church, but don’t know how to find one, IFCA International (Independent Fundamental Churches of American) is a great resource to use. Just take a look at their “Find a Church” database and input your location information into their search menu.

And, again, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions – there’s nothing I love more than talking about my Savior!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:1-2

Today I’m in 2 Corinthians 4.

As I mentioned previously, the Lord is refining me very specifically when it comes to my Christian relationships, especially concerning issues of Christian liberty and theological disagreements.

Being in 2 Corinthians has been such a blessing because in it (and 1 Corinthians) Paul addresses exactly that: issues in the church (amongst the body) that cause disunity and contentiousness.

I talked about Paul’s explanation of how important it is to forgive, comfort, and restore an errant brother or sister in the Lord here, and 2 Corinthians  4:1-2 provides a great follow up. It reads:

 

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. 

But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the Word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the Truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 

What I find most interesting about verse 1 is that mercy is the cure to a despairing heart, which means having a heavy heart in ministry is recognized by Paul [and by God] as a very real possibility.

Paul wouldn’t remind us that mercy is the cure to a heavy heart if there wasn’t the possibility of a heavy heart to begin with.

Have you been there? Losing heart as you faithfully serve the body? It’s not a long shot to assume it happens with a fair bit of regularity – we are but human, and the pews of our church are filled will sinners in process. On this side of heaven, the church will never be perfect because its people aren’t perfect.

Maybe you are losing heart right now. Maybe you are feeling the strain of disagreement with a brother or sister in Christ. Maybe you are tired or weary or worn. Maybe you have been hurt or maybe you have hurt someone. Maybe you feel unappreciated or taken advantage of or have realized a certain ministry isn’t working well for you or your family.

Believers lose heart in ministry for any number of reasons. What’s important is that we realize the only solution to our weariness is the abundant mercy of God which He freely lavishes on us when we:

  • Renounce the hidden things of shame (confessing and repenting of willful, persistent, and/or respectable sins).
  • Not walk in craftiness or handle the Word of God deceitfully (sincerely seeing God’s wisdom as you spend time in His Word and in prayer so that any representations you make of the Truth – either in word or deed – are sound; never cherry-picking verses to meet your own needs or to get your way; humbly imparting biblical wisdom to others without harshly judging them if they do not agree with you).
  • Manifesting the Truth (God is the generative source of Truth, and God is Love. To manifest the Truth is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love others as you love yourself. Do you know what the Love of God looks like? Do you know how to lavish it on others? You might think you do, but the only way to KNOW God’s design for love in the church is to know God Himself. Study Him, cling to Him, pray to Him, be with Him, and sincerely beg Him to grant you His wisdom in this area. After all, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom).
  • Commending ourselves to every man’s conscience (realizing that convictions are not one-size-fits-all and that there is a significant difference between the principles of God – hard and fast commands that leave no room for alternate interpretation or dispute – and personal preferences – behavioral choices that fall under the umbrella of Christian liberty. And if disagreements exist as to what those gray area interpretations are, being self-righteous and judgmental is the opposite of God’s design for the church. Rather, love one another in unity and learn to understand one another’s perspective, even if you don’t or can’t agree with it. And, by all means, if your brother or sister holds a conviction that is more “strict” than yours, never encourage them to defy their conscience. Support their efforts to live a righteous life before the Lord, and forgo that which your Christian liberty affords you – for THEIR sake.)
  • In the sight of God (at the end of the day, everything we say, think, do, and feel is seen by God. Are you able to say that you are blameless before Him, especially concerning your relationship with fellow believers in light of Christian liberty and differences of conviction?)

There’s no denying that being in relationship with others – especially other believers – can be difficult. Relationships are hard and require hard work.

The good news is that God is there to equip us with His perfect, abundant, providential, and lavished mercy so that if and when we lose heart our ministry to others doesn’t suffer.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

2 Corinthians 3: 5

I’m in 2 Corinthians 3 today.

Remember how I keep saying God’s timing is perfect? Well, it still is.

2 Corinthians 3:5 states:

Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.

Talk about timely!

I’m on this huge journey right now and some days I can’t imagine how I’ll ever stay faithful or keep at it or press on.

And that’s exactly right. On my own, I’m not sufficient. I don’t have what it takes to be faithful, or loving, or kind, or patient, or forgiving, or joyful, or anything at all.

The first step on the path to humility is admitting – and sincerely believing – that.

I can do nothing worthy of praise outside of God’s equipping and so I need to beg for it daily and depend on it in the same way I depend upon the air to keep me breathing.

May God be praised that He is big enough to carry all our burdens so that we don’t have to? Our job is to trust in, rely on, and faithfully obey Him. He’s in charge of the rest!

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades

 

“My Burden is Light”: Two Opposing Responses to God’s Will for Your Life

I’m in the little years. As I write this, my oldest is four and a half, my middle child is about to turn two, and my youngest is 10 months old. All three of them are huddled around me right now, and I have a feeling it’s going to take quite some time to get this article written.

 

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One of my adoring fans. He must be involved in the writing of this post, he MUST.

In the past, I have often considered my children’s needs, which, as all mothers know can be relentless and unforgiving at times, to be demanding interruptions of the most mundane nature. Interruptions which inhibit productivity, disrupt functionality, and, most egregiously, deter me from reaching MY goals.

We’ve all been there. Weary of the incessantness of the requirements of motherhood on our time, body, intellect, heart, mind, soul, strength, and every ounce that’s left of our dwindlingly independent selves.

If this is how you feel today, I’m here to encourage you to recognize that you are holding onto an incorrect perspective of God’s design for your life and to provide an alternate perspective that is in keeping with the Truth of God’s Word.

But before I begin, I want to be very frank: this article is going to hurt a little bit. It’s going to prick your pride and defy your sense of entitlement. It’s going to call your sin out for what it really is, and will very likely offend you, especially if you’re the kind of mom that needs her insecurities coddled and her self-love justified. After all, you do so much for so many people so often, shouldn’t I, a mother who’s walking in your shoes and knows your struggles all too well, be the first person to validate, approve, and affirm you?

The short answer is: no.

If I love you, I will tell you the Truth…God’s Truth. I won’t share only those parts of Scripture that today’s world deems appropriate, nor will I shy away from holding up the mirror of Truth against which no false image of you can stand. This article is going to be the kind of mirror that shows you how ugly your selfishness really is, that shows you all your wrinkles, and lumps, and spots, and imperfections. But guess what, that’s the very best, most loving gift I can give you. Because once you realize how ugly you are, how weak and flawed you are, how desperate and needy you are, once your sin repulses you and your heart is broken before the Lord, THEN His beauty can shine through you. It is only when you empty yourself of YOU, that God’s perfect, sovereign, comforting, timely, FULFILLING will can be experienced. So, take heart. This article is going to hurt you, but only so that it can help you.

To begin, I’d like you to image two types of luggage with me. The first type is what I’ve dubbed The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack. This backpack is large, heavy, full of tools and supplies, and self-contained. It has a finite amount of storage and gets heavier every time you add something. If you want to add something, often times you have to remove something else and it requires an expert understanding of its contents. The only way to add or remove things is through the top – because the bottom of the backpack is made of impenetrable, leak-proof steel – and you are the only person able to do the adding or removing. It isn’t good for much besides hiking and you would feel out of place lugging it around in any other setting.

The second type of luggage is very different. I call it The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. It is light-weight, has an inexhaustible amount of internal storage space (just like Mary Poppins’), is flexible, travels well, is virtually invisible, its contents freely funnel out the bottom and can be utilized by everyone exposed to it, and it is capable of receiving input from many sources, not just one.

As you can tell, the first type of luggage is not the “good guy” in this scenario. And yet, this is often the type of luggage we carry around with us – spiritually speaking. We wake up one day, look behind us, and stagger beneath the weight of an enormous burden we feel utterly ill-equipped to bear. We are exhausted, our feet hurt, our back aches, our spirit is low, our self-esteem is shattered, and every time our husband, or children, or parents, or friends demand something of us, we have to find a way to make room in an already overly-stuffed backpack. To do this we need to ditch something that’s already in the pack, and, to our shame, that something is usually our time with the Lord, in prayer, or some other Godly pursuit. Over the years, we have amassed a huge store of Biblical Truths, tools and supplies that are meant to equip us for the path we have been called to tread, and yet, so often we don’t know how to apply those Truths, and so we cannot reap their benefits. We trudge along under the weight of our burden, selflessly serving our families, ministering in our churches, faithfully fulfilling our various obligations, clinging to the expectation that at some point during the day we will be able to shed our burden, put some distance between it and ourselves, and arbitrarily grant ourselves the respite we have so rightfully earned. We draw ourselves a bath, droop lifelessly into that much-needed, muscle-relaxing warm water, close our eyes, and exhale deeply.

“Ahhhhhh,” we think to ourselves. “This me time is JUST what I need.”

And then, seconds after we embark on our glorious, self-pampering detox journey…WEEEEAAAAAAAAAHHHH! One of our littles begins to scream. Our eyes bolt open, the serenity of the moment is hurtled into oblivion, and we leeringly make our way back over to our backpack, donning it ruefully – it and all its daily, weekly, monthly, yearly demands.

Technically, the tools we need to handle our disappintment graciously are in the backpack. Even the tools we need to honor God and bring Him glory in this (or any other) trial are stowed away somewhere within its labyrinthian interior. But we’re exhausted. We’re beat. The last thing we want to do is wage a war we can’t fathom winning with a behemoth bag that does little more than break our backs every waking moment of our lives.

And so we ignore God’s Truth, ignore His help, ignore His will, and we simply…trudge on. A frown marks our every feeble attempt at joyful faithfulness, and the truth is, we’re fooling no one. Not even ourselves. In this perspective, honoring God is miserable and we are miserably failing as we attempt it.

Is this you? Is this how you feel as you struggle to live this life well? To look after your husband, children, and home well, day in and day out, without so much as a word of appreciation? I’ll be honest with you, this perspective is what marked my life for many, many years – marriage and motherhood only fanned the flames of this incorrect view of God’s will for my life. And I’ll be even more honest with you: I have often looked at God, pointed my finger at Him obstinately, and blamed Him – BLAMED Him! – for being the one who put that burden on my back in the first place. At times I have been so angry at God for filling my backpack with tools and supplies that I didn’t know how to use, couldn’t access when the need arose, or felt ill-equipped to master. In addition to that, I have accused Him of cramming relational, monetary, physical, familial, emotional, professional, and health issues into my backpack when neither my will nor my legs were strong enough to bear them.

Regardless of how much empathy I feel for those of you viewing God’s will this way; as easy as it would be for me to tell you that your perspective is justified and you deserve to feel discouraged or downtrodden, that simply will not do. Why? Because to view God’s will for your life in this way is to sin against Him by calling Him a lair, something that it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be.

Matthew 11:28-30 says:

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The context of these verses in chapter eleven is Jesus condemning the cities to which His prophets had paved the way for His coming, and yet they still chose to refuse Him. John the Baptist had been heralding the coming of Christ for years but it wasn’t until Jesus began His miraculous ministry that some cities began to repent. Even then, with visible proof of Christ’s power, with eye-witness experiences of the very Truth of God’s Word, there were still cities that refused to repent and honor Jesus as the prophesied Savior.

After Jesus condemns and curses the flagrant rebellion of these cities, He expands His message to all those who would hear Him. He preached the Truth about His ultimate will for their lives, juxtaposing it with the pharisaical, works-based religious system that had blasphemously taken up residence in His house. Jesus was making it very clear that true dependence on Him, true repentance from sin, and true submission to His will looked vastly different than what people had come to view as devout religiosity under the pharisaical system. The false religions operating at that time were contingent upon “right” behavior, not sincere faith. They were man-centered, not Christ-centered. They lacked absolution because they were based on finite principles, whereas Jesus’ Truth was (and is) based on the inexhaustible well-spring of that which Almighty God expresses about Himself: that His “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

To view His will in any other way is to call God a lair, and to call God a liar is to sin. Worse still is how easy it is to justify this sin and minimize its egregiousness in God’s sight. If you are viewing God’s will for your life as an exhausting, tedious, demanding intrusion on your personal plans, one that drains and discourages you, you are making yourself the center of all your pursuits. If you are prone to feeling sorry for yourself or contentiously punishing your husband and/or children for not appreciating all you do, you are engaging in self-worship, which is also a sin against your holy God. God alone is God, not you, not your pride, not your needs, not your desires, not your aching joints, not even your well-meaning ministerial or evangelistic endeavors. Nothing and no one is God, but God, and to defy this Truth is to defy God Himself.

That’s the bad news.

But there is good news and it is exactly what Jesus is talking about in this passage – the Good News of the Gospel.

When Christ is explaining His plan of redemption He is pointing out the fact that even the most valiant efforts of decent human beings to achieve salvation count for nothing when all is said and done. His Gospel, however, is a liberating one. No more toiling to attain that which is humanly impossible. No more wondering if your works are sufficient to secure a place for you in Heaven. No more worshiping at the alter of self-justification or toiling fruitlessly toward an uncertain end.

God’s Will for Christ’s life was to do away with all of that. So perfect was this plan, and so perfectly submitted to it was He, that Christ didn’t even pray for an alternative option. As John Bunyan writes in his book, Prayer:

“As the Spirit is the helper and the governor of the soul, when it prays according to the will of God; so it guides by and according to the Word of God and His promise. Hence it is that our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did make a stop, although His life lay at stake for it. ‘I could now pray to my Father, and He should give me more than twelve legions of angels; but how then must the Scripture be fulfilled that thus it must be (Matthew 26: 53-54).”

That is, Christ knew that God’s plan for His life was perfect and He had fully submitted Himself to that Truth, so much so that, even though He could have, He surrendered His ability to ask God to protect Him against those who sought His life. And may we praise His name forever because of it! If Jesus hadn’t willingly gone to the cross to suffer the separation from God that our sins warranted, if He hadn’t died our death, and if he hadn’t defeated sin when He rose again, we would have no other option but to carry the heavy burden of works-based righteousness and there would be no hope of relief from it.

But the cross abolished such a painstakingly uncertain system and that’s what we have to understand when we live our lives daily. We are not fighting this fight alone. We are not toiling in vain. We are not loving and looking after our families to no avail. Living in the center of God’s Will, and doing so joyfully, is a “yoke that is easy” and a “burden that is light.”

But it does need to be said that living for God and serving our families as an act of service in His Name is still a burden in that it must be carried out, it must be done. But the difference here is that we are not the one carrying the burden, Christ is.

Christ’s work on the cross has forged for us everything we need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), and, in our analogy of the luggage bags, this would be The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch. This small, light-weight, piece of “jewelry” is the blessed consequence of Christ’s perfect power to defeat sin and death on our behalf. And when the most dangerous of perils is overcome already, all the rest of life and living is an easy burden to bear.

But first we must admit to ourselves that living out our lives faithfully for the glory of God cannot be done without the Spirit’s enabling, whether that be wifing, or mothering, or nursing, or lawyering, or teaching, or any other calling. We can take no self-pride in that which we accomplish for God because it is only through God that we can accomplish anything at all in the first place. And when admit that we are capable of nothing, we make room for Christ to work marvelously in and through us to accomplish everything.

As Paul exclaims in Galatians 2: 20-21:

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”

And, so, we “bind truth around our necks” (Proverbs 3:3) and use it as the foundation for not only all that we do, but also for all of the ways we respond mentally, spiritually, and emotionally to what we do. God’s yoke is easy to carry because we are not the one carrying it. Christ carries it for us and equips us in every way to do that which pleases Him most. The necklace we wear is a seemingly insignificant trinkets, one that many people can’t even see (because they are blinded by sin or hatred of God), but one that is endlessly able to contain Truth after Truth after Truth from God’s Word, just as did Mary Poppins’ bag. And as that Truth funnels down into our hearts, it guards our every word, thought, and action, prepares us to respond rightoeusly in the case of every eventuality, gives us grace as we humble ourselves before God (James 4:6), and blesses everyone with whom we come into contact.

We have no need of shuffling things around to “make room” in our neckerpouch when new demands for our time, wisdom, affection, attention, etc. come our way because the focus is not on the task, it is on Christ. The task, in essence, is not an issue at all. The only issue is our heart before the Lord. As we “seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33),” whether that’s food or clothing or healing or clarity or companionship or blessing or encouragement or any other thing. As we faithfully spend time in the Word and in sincere prayer, God remains true to His promise “never to leave us for forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).” In Him, all things are bearable. Because of Him, no illness or conflict or trial or worry or fear can ever beset us – IF WE SUBMIT TO HIM AND SURRENDER TO HIS WILL.

Yes, it’s true that The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch is a bottomless, unfathomable, expanding, treasure trove of God’s Truth, wisdom, grace, peace, mercy, love, joy, help, healing, comfort, provision, protection, and countless other of His blessings, but none of them can be accessed if one does not humbly submit her will to the Lord so that He can bestow this special grace upon her.

Our loving father is eager to bless us and teach us and heal us and help us, and His resources for doing so are infinite. But sin and pride will disable Him from being able to lavish them upon us if we are stubbornly determined to do this “life” thing our own way.

Admit it, you know exactly what I’m talking about and: 1) you have either already learned this lesson and can attest that Christ’s Word is True, 2) God is trying to teach you this lesson and you keep resisting Him, heaping destruction on your own head time and time again, OR 3) you are sick of resisting Him, sick of the struggle, sick of being and feeling overwhelmed all the time, and are finally ready to confess your self-worship to God, surrender to His will, and start living under the light yoke of God’s perfect plan for your life, rather than fabricating an unnecessary and untrue version of God’s will which is entirely works-based and not at all in keeping with what God has said is True of Himself.

How much time are you spending in God’s Word? How often do you pray? How sincere is your “religion” when you are alone? If you do not know who Christ is, you cannot pray in His Name for God’s Will to be perfected through your life. As Bunyan states:

“The man that comes to God by Christ [in prayer] must first have the knowledge of Him; ‘for he that cometh to God must believe that He is (Hebrews 11:6).’ This Christ, none but the Father can reveal (Matthew 11:27). And to come through Christ is for the sinner to be enabled of God to hide Himself under the shadow of the Lord Jesus, as a man hides himself under a thing for safeguard.”

Isn’t that a humbling thought?! In our hearts, we want to please God, but even the desire to pray for such a thing is a gift from God. Even the ability to pray effectively at all is the work of Jesus Christ and not ourselves!

Why do we think God’s burden is heavy? Because we and we ALONE are making it so. Doing anything to please God without first humbly admitting that you cannot do it without Him is an exercise in futility. Why, then, would you choose to view His will as The Hiker’s Steal-Bottomed Backpack, when, in reality, it is The Mary Poppins Funnel-Bottomed Neckerpouch, a beacon of Truth that does all of the heavy lifting for you and requires but one thing of you:

FAITH.

Oh that seemingly elusive element of Christianity that is the foundation of who we are and yet is so easily thwarted by sin.

Are you feeling neglected? Unappreciated? Hurting? Aching? Stewing? Fuming? Despairing? Complaining? Distancing yourself from your husband and/or children? Flailing? Drowning? Cursing? Defying?

If you are, there is but one path you must take: repentance. Humble yourself before God and admit that you’ve been trying to live this life your own way and for your own glory, but have had the gaul to do so in His Name. Confess that you have been self-worshiping and clinging to an incorrect view of His will for your life, even as you have been serving tirelessly so that His Name can be glorified. Read and meditate on the Truths included within this article and refuse to view God’s plan for your life as a heavy burden. Put on a correct view of God’s sovereign will for your life and praise Him for it. Learn how to thank Him for every demanding need presented by your husband, your children, your family, and your friends because you recognize that they are being used by God to strengthen your faith, grow you, mature you, humble you, and help you.

God loved you enough to allow His own Son to be killed on your behalf so that you wouldn’t have to carry the burden of the punishment your sin requires. Can you not also trust that the daily burden of living this life for His glory is one that is light because He carries it for you?

Learn from Him through the reading of His Word and in sincere prayer; Glean wisdom and understanding from godly men and women; Set an example of faith for your children; Have peace that surpasses all understanding. And most importantly: recognize that Jesus Christ is the foundation for all of these things and the reason why God’s “yoke is easy and His burden is light.”

Until Next Time My Friends,

S. Taylor

The Taylor of All Trades