The Thorns

In 1973, Martin Cooper unleashed something that would change the world. The device cost almost $4000, weighed 2.5 pounds, and was 10 inches long. It only worked for 25 minutes before it stopped, so you had to be patient. That device is what we now call the “cell phone.” It litters the landscape of restaurants, churches, libraries, and families. When Cooper turned 92, the BBC interviewed him. He was startled what his little invention caused. The co-host claimed her phone took up about 5 hours of her day. Cooper was stunned. “Do you really? You really spend five hours a day? Get a life!” While the device can be a blessing, it comes with a different price tag. It snags your attention and blocks out life. Jesus warned about the things in life that got that close. Luke 8 tells the story of the four soils. Only one has potential, while the other three create problems. Of the thorny ground, Jesus said: “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14, ESV) Anything that becomes a preoccupation chokes the spiritual life out of people. It is something to concern us. The next time you pick up your phone, check and see if it has thorns. It may choke you. -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2023-02-16T13:55:57-06:00February 16th, 2023|Blog|

The Wicked Bible

In 1631, King James published a Bible that many called the “Wicked Bible.” It was the first printing of the King James Version. It contained over 3 million characters that had to beg handset. Mistakes happen. But one was worse than the others. In Exodus 20:14, it should have read: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” But the printer left out the word “not,” which resulted in a reading of “thou shalt commit adultery.” So enraged was King James he ordered every printed copy hunted down and destroyed. Today, eleven remain in existence. That kind of translation creates a stir. The text’s translation in people’s lives doesn’t get much attention. We omit “nots” many times. In our lives, we allow for lies, grudges, gossip, and fits of rage. It’s not that the Bible condones it. We merely omit that from our behavior. The printer who printed the wicked Bible was punished with fines and prison and was disgraced. But those who omit God’s word in their life pay for it in eternity. If your life translated the Bible, how would that version read? -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2023-01-13T12:15:29-06:00January 13th, 2023|Blog|

Snake Oil Salesmen

Do you use snake oil? When Chinese laborers came to the United States to work on building a transcontinental railroad, they brought their culture with them. In their medicine cabinets was a “snake oil” made from the oil of Chinese water snakes. They used it to relieve arthritis and other joint pains. It seemed to work. Clark Stanley became the Rattlesnake King when he had a rodeo show with an exciting demonstration. He held up a rattlesnake and threw it and boiling water until the fats rose to the surface. He bottled the skimmed oil and started selling it. He went on to produce a “miracle drug” called snake oil. The problem was that federal agents seized a “snake oil” cargo and found it contained no snake oil. However, it did contain chili peppers, turpentine, and camphor. From that time, anyone who sells a product that makes big claims that don’t work is called a “snake oil salesman.” Jesus warned about spiritual peddlers of snake oil. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, ESV) They market spiritual views that distort God’s word and direction. They promise good lives with little obedience. It’s all snake oil. It is nothing but snake oil if it doesn’t come from God’s word. -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2023-01-09T11:27:36-06:00January 9th, 2023|Blog|

The Threshold

This day bought the ritual of getting out a new calendar in pre-digital days. The old year came off the wall, and a new, fresh calendar took its place. It was a physical reminder that we cross a threshold from past to future when a year begins. Even for people who do not believe in resolutions, there are fleeting thoughts of how you want your life to be in the new year. We get this picture from Julius Caesar, who messed with our calendar. He added two months (which he humbly named after himself—July and August), and he renamed the other months. The first month was January, after the Roman god Janus. He had two faces, one looked backward, and the other faced forward. In reality, the name was apt because Janus meant “doorway.” We cross a threshold. But it is not only on January 1st do we cross a threshold. God always places us in front of a door we can open or close. Joshua challenged a new generation to stand at a threshold and make decisions. He told them: ...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15) So we stand in front of a new year, a threshold to the life you will live this year. Will you cross the threshold God has placed before you? -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-12-30T08:42:11-06:00December 30th, 2022|Blog|

The Stones

The religious culture convinces us the church is a great organization to entertain, promote political agendas, and feed the egos of the guy at the front. In God’s mind, a church is built not with brick and mortar. People make a church. The church has the poor who may not eat. Others never think about food. The poor and the rich share pews. You find teachers, drug addicts, and those who wrestle with their demons. This mix is for a reason. Just ask Henry Bacon. The great work of this obscure architect tells a story. A majestic monument stands at the west end of the reflecting pool in Washington, D. C. opposite the capitol and perpendicular to the White House. It is to the great emancipator, Abraham Lincoln. Bacon built the monument with his beliefs as much as the stone. Most statues and monuments are made from stone from a single quarry. Not the Lincoln Memorial. On the terrace level, the marble came from Massachusetts. The upper steps and outside façade are Colorado marble. Tennessee provided the marble for the floor of the chamber. Indiana limestone comprises the interior walls and columns, while marble from Alabama makes up the ceiling tiles. And the statue of Lincoln came from a Georgia quarry. Such was the design for Bacon wanted to emphasize something Lincoln’s conviction. The nation was a union, not individual states. Many are one, as the American slogan says. No wonder God made his church like this. From Pentecost, slave and master alike would worship together, as would men and women and Jew and Greek. Jesus died for them all. Peter would reflect on this strange construction. “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5, ESV)  So, you have your place alongside those redeemed by the blood of Christ. All so different and yet all so saved. A union--out of many, one. -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-12-06T19:17:35-06:00December 6th, 2022|Blog|

The Community

Scott Legried swerved to avoid hitting a puppy. It may have saved the puppy, but it almost cost him his farm. Legried was left with a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, and seven ribs. Two bones in his back were cracked, and he had a concussion and a collapsed lung. Doctors said it would be months before he could get on his tractor. He had something else wrong. He had a crop of soybeans he would not harvest due to his injuries. Word spread, and 18 farmers rolled tractors down his lane into his fields to harvest the entire soybean crop. When the corn comes, they will come back. Legried said, “I am lucky to live in a community where people have always looked out for each other.” So are we. When the Lord instituted his church, he did it to win the lost, but that was only one part of the story. The other was to create a community where Jesus’ care flows through the members. Paul described this band of believers: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.” (Romans 12:13–16, ESV) When one hurts, all hurt. And all come to the aid. Aren’t you glad for the community? -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-12-06T19:15:28-06:00December 6th, 2022|Blog|

Life is Short

How short is life? Ask Peter Craigie. Craigie was an Old Testament scholar and author of many books and commentaries. In one, he wrote of life’s brevity. Life is extremely short, and if its meaning is to be found, it must be found in the purpose of God, the giver of all life. He believed that recognizing life is short is a starting point to “achieve the sanity of a pilgrim in a mad world. “ He was writing the first of a three-volume set of Psalms when he wrote those words in 1983. But two years later, a car wreck ended his life. He was only 47. The Bible emphasizes that our life is a vapor, a mist that vanishes quickly. That is why Moses counsels: “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Take stock of life. It slips through the fingers like sand in a fist. Recognize that you may never finish what you want, but if you complete what God wants you to do, it is a good life. So live life fully, even if it is not long enough. -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-09-29T15:35:04-05:00September 29th, 2022|Blog|

A Father’s Voice

Imagine you go to the eye doctor, who asks you to read the chart. There is a large “E” at the top. To do so, it must be four times larger, about half the size of the wall. You cannot read it. Now, imagine skiing with that kind of vision. Would you? Fifteen-year-old Jacob Smith does. His vision is four times higher than “legally blind.” How can he ski? His brother helps him to the top of the hill. Then, he carries a two-way radio that brings his father’s voice, and that voice guides him down the mountain. Jacob must trust his father. How much? “I mean,” says Jacob, “enough to turn right when he tells me to.” We share a similar experience. Our alpine slope is real life where human instinct fails us. How do we make decisions in a complex world, or do we love those who hurt us or respond with compassion? Jesus told his followers, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, ESV) No matter how competent we feel, we are blind to how to live. The devil whispers in our lives, and the tug of life’s lusts are constant. We are going through life needing guidance. Faith means admitting to your blindness. Listen to the voice. You listen to his voice enough to turn when he says to turn. It will tell you how to live, how to love, and how to worship. Can you hear your Father’s voice? -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-07-28T14:55:47-05:00July 28th, 2022|Blog|

Resume for Heaven

Beatrice Fediuk died in Winnipeg at the age of 94. She was neither well-known nor a society standout. But when the Winnipeg Free Press printed her obituary, everyone noticed. She wrote it herself. Instead of an obituary, she called it her resume for heaven. It began, "Dear Lord, please accept my application for Eternal Life." The column told of her birth on October 27, 1922, to her parents. As with most obituaries, it had a list of survivors, including a husband, daughter, and grandchildren. Beatrice shared memories. "Lord, you know that (as a teacher) I never had any 'teacher's pets.' Rather, I put my heart into teaching those with learning challenges, or difficult family situations. It was here that I feel I did my best work. … I also continued volunteer work, knitting scarves for underprivileged children." It concluded with, "Lord, I hope that you will find that I have met my Objectives and deserve a place in Your heavenly home. You know where to find me to further discuss my qualifications." The truth is we all write an obituary with our lives. Most write it with an eye on the earth left behind. Yet, the best ones are written with an eye toward eternity. Jesus said, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16, ESV) When lights shine today, God prepares a place in heaven. What will go in your obituary?   -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-06-23T12:53:58-05:00June 23rd, 2022|Blog|

Normal Evil

Evil has a face, and it looks normal. If you could personify evil, you could not find a better poster boy than Adolf Eichmann. He coined the term “final solution” and the method that led to the Holocaust. His plan took six million men, women, and children to gas ovens for extermination. Eichmann was found and tried for his crimes. One writer came to see what kind of man this was. He expected sinister and twisted. Instead, he found him ordinary and unremarkable. Eichmann never considered what he did evil, but only his duty to obey the leaders of his party. He refused to believe he engaged in evil. We would ask, “what makes a person do that?” Perhaps we should pose it to the person staring at us in our mirrors. Why do ordinary people find themselves caught in the trap of the devil? The Psalmist asked it. His answer is this: “For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.” (Psalm 36:2, ESV) If we never examine ourselves critically, we accept our behavior without question. We “flatter ourselves” by saying, “we are good people caught in a cruel world.” Yet, the world is not outside of ourselves but inside. For the architect of the Holocaust, “normal” does not come to mind. But is that not what we use to cleanse ourselves of responsibility? -Robert G. Taylor-

By |2022-06-16T18:59:46-05:00June 16th, 2022|Blog|
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