Saturday, October 31, 2015

Good Debate

    This is the best debate I've ever had the pleasure of watching on the topic of predestination. Interestingly enough, I agree with points from both men (though more with Dr. White :), but I think both Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. James White presented excellent arguments in defense of their worldviews. Check it out when you have an extra couple hours.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Good Song

   As usual, Andrew Peterson hit me right where I was at tonight.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Good Poem

"Did you tackle that trouble that came your way
With a resolute heart and cheerful?
Or hide your face from the light of day
With a craven soul and fearful?
Oh, a trouble's a ton, or a trouble's an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn't the fact that you're hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

"You are beaten to earth? Well, well, what's that!
Come up with a smiling face.
It's nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there-that's disgrace.
The harder you're thrown, why the higher you bounce
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn't the fact that you're licked that counts;
It's how did you fight-and why?

"And though you be done to the death, what then?
If you battled the best you could,
If you played your part in the world of men,
Why, the Critic will call it good.
Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he's slow or spry,
It isn't the fact that you're dead that counts,
But only how did you die?"

              -Edmund Cooke

Monday, October 19, 2015

Why I Hope I'm Always "Into Grace"

    When my mom introduces me to friends from church or other Christian people she knows well, she introduces me as her child who is "more into grace". In my circles (very conservative baptist), that's an allegation that usually results in some raised eyebrows or awkward silences. We've all heard the stories of those people who consider themselves "under grace" and thus free to sin, and I can see those stories floating through the minds of everyone who hears that introduction!

    But there is a reason I've never asked my mom to stop introducing me that way, though it is awkward sometimes when you are visiting with someone who believes that what cards, staying up past 11:00, not praying before meals, and listening to music with a beat have in common is that they're all sin. Honestly, I hope I'm known that way my whole life; that Taylor guy who is really into grace.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: I hope I never get over grace. I hope I never get too mature in my walk or too established as a Christian to simply sit and ponder in wonder the grace of God. I've lived as a Christian who didn't really understand grace for too long not to appreciate the freedom, the liberty, and the incredible love God demonstrates to us through His unmerited favor.

    My life is an unfolding testament to the grace of God. The day I get over grace is the day my spiritual life dies, because without grace, there is no life to our faith. Our faith is only alive to the point we realize how small we are and how great our God is. Off that point hinges everything.

    In order to understand why I'm so "into grace", we need to take a moment and look at what exactly I was before grace found me. Let's see... most people would answer that as "we were sinners". But that doesn't really do justice to the full severity of our situation. The Bible more aptly describes us as "haters of God" and unable to do what is good. Slaves to unrighteousness and the flesh. Dead in sin. Cursed by the law, we were hopeless.

    Ponder that for a moment. And if your situation wasn't bad enough yet, let's just examine what else we know with the specifics. We know that since each of us has sinned, we are guilty of having broken the entire law. In God's eyes, you, my formerly unsaved friend, were equal with the murderer, the thief, the rebel, the homosexual. You were guilty of the whole law and defiant of the good God who had prescribed it. You were incapable of doing good. Your nature, in fact, was not only bent toward evil, but enslaved to it! It took no free will to sin; in fact, by our free will, we chose to sin!

    Is this picture black enough yet? I don't think so. So after thousands of years in sin, slaves under the law, finally the Redeemer comes, the one who can save us from all that. And what do we do? We crucify Him. We beat Him, torture Him, execute Him, mocking all the time. We blaspheme His name and position as God.

    Do you see why I feel the injustice in summing up our fallen condition as "sinners"? That, my friend, comes nowhere close to the depth of our depravity before a holy God we spurned! Sinners, in fact, feels like a promotion after glancing over our old nature's resume. After reading that, we should feel quite happy with the title of "sinner".

    But this is where grace; reckless, wild grace enters the picture. That God, the One we tortured? That God took our natures, our sinful, rebellious natures and took them on Himself. He became sin. In every way that sin is sin, Jesus Christ became literal unrighteousness for us. He became sin in order to once and for all destroy it for those who were murdering Him.

    And in doing so, He grants us life. Not only does He take our sin, but He gives us righteousness. He, the ultimate perfection, grants us His own goodness and declares us righteous. Legally justified. Free. Redeemed. And He ushers us into the grace that forever declares us His, bought with the blood we so freely made flow.

    But He doesn't stop there. As if that's not enough, He continues lavishing us, adopting us to become His children. The beneficiaries of His grace, His mercy, His love. Here we are, the sinners, redeemed. Here we are, the rebels, justified. Here we are, ragamuffins, lost in the grace of a wild God.

    There's a scandal in that story, a scandal that causes many to turn their backs on the gospel of radical grace. See, our minds tell us that falling for that story makes us a sucker. It can't be true. God can't offer free grace. We have to do something. Maybe it's a teeny, tiny thing, but at least something! Anything to rid ourselves of the scandal of freely offered grace.

    What's this scandal I keep referencing? Quite simply, God broke the rules. The world we like says tit for tat, fair for fair. But God broke the rules. God rewarded us for nothing we did. God did the unfair, the unthinkable; so unthinkable, in fact, that millions in America and across the world deny it because it's simply too radical to believe. God has made us as righteous as He? Not just theoretical righteousness, but real, literal goodness?

    But what about me? What about my part? What about earning it? Don't I have to do something at least? Can't I do something to keep from this great debt? Maybe we'd prefer a business partnership, where I do at least something and God rewards me. But that's not how He works.

    He rewards your nothing with everything. Nothing you did merited it. Nothing you can do can repay it. You're lost, hopelessly lost, in debt to a merciful God who saved you in spite of yourself.

    I hope I never get over this. I pray I never forget who I was and who I am in Christ. I hope I'm always that guy who's into grace, who can't talk about it enough or listen enough about it. I hope I never stop enjoying it, the freedom it brings to serve Christ, to reflect Him through my faults and my weaknesses as He shapes me into His image.
                                                      Jesus + Works = Nothing
                                                      Jesus + My Acts of Love and Service = Nothing
                                                      Jesus + Pure Thoughts = Nothing
                                                      Jesus + High Standards = Nothing
                                                      Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Good Quote

    Thanks, sis, for an awesome book! This quote is from Michael Horton's book Putting Amazing Back into Grace, a book that so far has been excellent and eye-opening on several fronts. Thanks, Aimee!

    "All Christians think of Jesus Christ as essential. But is he essential primarily as a teacher, moral example, and life coach, or as the Lamb of God in whom we find forgiveness, peace with God, and everlasting life? If we don't really think we need to be saved from the justice of a holy God, then we hardly need the kind of extreme rescue operation that the Bible announces. If we are basically good people needing a little direction, then the situation hardly calls for God to assume our humanity, fulfill all righteousness in our place, bear our guilt through a cruel crucifixion, and be raised bodily as the beginning of the new creation. Yet that is just the kind of salvation we need. It is not that Jesus Christ makes up for whatever we lack in the righteousness department but that his righteousness alone is sufficient to stand in God's judgment. The gospel is not Christ plus our spiritual disciplines, Christ plus free will, Christ plus our acts of love and service to others, or Christ plus our pious experiences, but Christ alone. All of our salvation is found in Christ, not ourselves."
                                                   -Dr. Michael Horton, Putting Amazing Back into Grace

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Guest Post

            My dear friend Lauren S. has been kind enough to write a guest post for my blog this week while I'm out of town. She runs an awesome blog over at Defying Depravity and co-authors with me over at Yearning for More. She's a friend I greatly respect, and I'm happy to be able to post her thoughts over here. Thank you, Lauren!

            My great-grandmother said something to me in a recent letter helped motivate me to write this. Actually, it was a combination between her words and a conversation my mom and I recently that got me worked up a bit. Here’s what my great-grandmother said:

            “Every day brings us closer to the day Jesus comes for His children. We need to live our lives like it’s out last day on earth.”

            Now, I had been the one originally initiating the topic of conversation, but with snail-mail, I had forgotten about it. Reading her words again as I was writing her a response made me stop and think. It tied back to the conversation I already mentioned between my mom and me previously.

            We had been talking about the shooting in Oregon that’s been in the news. We were discussing how hard it must have been to be a Christian in that room at that particular time, knowing that death was coming, and making that choice whether to defend your faith and hold strongly to it till the end, or whether to back down and cower out of it.

            We also spoke of Kim Davis’ arrest, making an outward showing of her faith. This, too, lead on to what I’m about to say.

            You thought it was only for the radical Christians, the brave-hearted foreign missionaries, the courageous pastors in countries where Christianity has been banned. You thought it would never happen to the people in your youth group, to the people sitting next to you in the morning service at church. You never dreamed it would happen to such a country as this, where all beliefs are welcome, where we wouldn’t dream of judging one another for religious practices.

 What we picture as persecution, what we hear of Christians enduring in other foreign countries, what we all imagined would come at some point – it’s here now. Christians are getting shot, arrested, persecuted for their faith. Wake up, generation of Christians in America. Times aren’t getting better; they’re getting worse. Everything you thought was only possible in other countries, it’s here, in free America.

We laughed not so long ago – come on, this whole persecution thing is for the Middle East, for Africa, for China. Not here, of all places! But it’s true.

This is where our faith gets put to the test. Look at Hebrews 11:36-40.

Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

To look at the previous text, it lists many of the heroes of faith who evaded tragedies by faith. This is what some of them endured.

Whoa. Would our generation of Christians (or “Christians”) be able to face persecution like that? How many of us would, honestly, willingly be sawed in half or live in a hole in the ground instead of renouncing their faith or taking the easy route? I think I can truthfully say, not many of us would.

But there’s a promise, a reward for enduring such hardships and persecution. V. 39-40:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Wow. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s a reason for the suffering, the persecution. Now, if only today’s Christian could see that…

So many Christians today are too concerned about their own comfort in life to worry about how seriously they take their faith. Which is overwhelmingly sad. God didn’t call for watered-down, half-hearted, lukewarm-cold faith. He asks for everything you have, all that you are, or nothing at all. There is no way to truly follow Christ without giving everything in you, without doing so with radical abandon and dying to self.

In this time now, America needs Christians that are on fire. We need Believers who would suffer unspeakable pain before they would ever even think about renouncing their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This country is filled with lukewarm Christians. Lukewarm Christians will not stand the test of faith, which is coming and is happening now. Lukewarm Christians are the ones who are disillusioned, who believe that persecution is only for the Middle East, China, or the very end times. We need to be ready now. We need to get our hearts and lives straight and in line with God, walking close to Him and living lives solely for Him. Lay your own life aside; your comfort, your cares, your dreams. Be a Christian that has a heart burning for Him. Be ready for the trials, the persecution, the tests. Live your life like it’s the last day on earth.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (Jas. 1:12)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A Good Song

    I just found another great song I've been listening to a lot, this time by an artist I had never listened to before, Colton Dixon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One Year

    So in typical Taylor fashion, I forgot the birthday of my own blog. That is pretty much the way I do things... Anyhow, the one year birthday for this blog was October 4. So, late or not, I want to take the opportunity to thank all of you who so faithfully read and comment on what I write. Thank you for your patience with my pet peeves and typos!

    And a special thanks to Lauren and Ryan for getting me started on blogging. Intentionally or not, you two got me hooked on blogging and started me on a journey from which I've learned a ton! Thank you both! Here's to another year!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Invited into a Sovereign Plan

    I had the pleasure of being able to sit under the teaching this past Sunday of an African brother I met in Malawi. He made several good points, but one particular one stuck out to me: the idea of the sovereignty of God.

    Frequently, I find myself thinking a false idea, usually one I know is false but is so engrained in my mind that it has become my default system of thought. This is one of them. I know it's false, I knew it was false, but it has somehow become my default view of God. I have found one of the best ways of deprogramming my thinking is to publicly speak out against it and clarify what I believe to be true. That is a large part of the reason for this post.

     The false idea I frequently get in my mind goes something like this: God has a worldwide agenda He wants accomplished, the glorification of His name throughout the nations, or, as Dr. John Gillepse put it (and it will be forever stuck in my memory this way), to "make Jesus Christ famous in the earth." We exist to make Jesus' name and glory ring through the world. And up to this point, it's all true.

     But then my false thinking comes into the picture. Based on what I said above, my next thought is usually that somehow, I am doing God a great favor by involving myself in His scheme. Though I would never have admitted it in these words, I am too often left with the feeling that I am so how blessing God with my following and any sacrifice I endure in His name leaves Him that much more in my debt.

     Honestly, I think that's our default feeling. In an age (like every other) where entitlement is such a dangerous enemy, we feel we deserve the normal and comfortable life, and thus, anything beyond that in the service of Christ is radical Christianity, deserving of some kind of award or special favor from the most High.

    How far off that is from the truth! In Matt. 28, we see Jesus give the command that ultimately sums up the world-wide mission of the church. But there's a subtle attitude change with the way many of us see those words that needs to change in order to fully grasp what is happening. Too often, we come to this command with the notion that I am doing God a favor by joining up and helping Him out with His plan, as if it needed human help in order to succeed.

    However, that is simply not Biblical. In Lk. 19:40, the disciples of Christ usher Him down from the Mt. of Olives with cries and praises. When the Pharisees reprimand Jesus for His follower's actions and tell Him to command them to be silent, His response is that if these, His human followers, ceased to praise Him, then even the rocks would cry out in His praise. Similarly, in Eph. 2:10, Paul proclaims that every knee shall one day bow before God, and Rom. 14:11 says that every tongue shall cry His praises.

    None of these statements have any regard to human help or will. Rather, even the unbelieving world will one day bow the knee and cry out praise before God. So, what is the logical conclusion from these verses that shatters a deathblow to our comfortable view of our aiding God?

    Simply this. He doesn't need us. There, I said it. God has no need of human help in accomplishing His purposes. He said it himself in Lk. 19. If all mankind feel silent in their praise for God, then nature itself would cry out. And like it or not, every last one of us will bow down and glorify God. He will be glorified throughout the earth, both now by His elect and in the future by everyone.

    That's a concept that should change how we view our service to God. He doesn't need our help. Even if every man on earth gave all the strength he or she had in thwarting God's intended plan, it would change nothing. God's will prevails, every time. God has no need for human aid.

    So then, what is the purpose of our serving God if He has no need for our help? Very simply for two reasons. 1.) He is further glorified through the obedience of His servants, and 2.) We find pleasure and fulfillment in being obedient to Him.

    There you have it. We don't serve God because He needs our help; rather, we have been invited into His sovereign plan that will succeed with or without yours or my help. The reason we have been invited is not because of our spectacular gifts or earth-moving talents. We are invited into the sovereign plan of God for our benefit.

    Think about that! It's for our benefit! God doesn't need our help. He could just as easily attain the salvation of His elect by sovereignly revealing Himself to them in European cities and South American jungles as He could by sending human helpers in the form of evangelists and missionaries. In fact, it would be much simpler if He handled it all on His own.

    But He doesn't. Instead, He invites mankind to join Him, to find fulfillment in making Him known. Our greatest efforts or our most intense opposition don't change God's plans in the slightest. But He invites us into a sovereign mission to make His glory known throughout the earth, for our benefit, not His.

    Does that not give you a greater glimpse into the majesty and sovereignty of our God? He invites weak, fallible men to embark on a mission greater than they, then promises strength and grace for them in the midst of it. And as we, weak men that we are, find ourselves weak and in need of Him, He Himself is glorified in our weakness.

    We serve a God who will be glorified, with or without us. But He chooses to glorify Himself through our weakness and allow us to find our peace and fulfillment in Him along the way. What a glorious God!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Just for Fun

    The other night, I spent a while working on an allegorical presentation of Christ as conqueror and Savior. Frankly, I don't feel like this is a very good essay, but I thought I would go ahead and post it just to see what people thought. Constructive criticism is welcome! I've never tried to write in this genre before, so... here goes nothing.


                The dust, stirred by the tramp of tens of thousands of feet, hung heavy in the air. Air, thick with smoke, blew grey and black across a sea of sand, heaped here and there with the bodies of the fallen. Here and there, a bright banner, fallen to the ground besides its owner, gave change to the bleak landscape.
                Here had been the stand, and behind that, stood the last defenders, a valiant few. Outnumbered, outarmed, these last few men stood, forming once again the ranks they knew must stand against the onslaught once more of their bloodthirsty foes. Across the gently undulating field of blood, stood the foe, whose vicious charge they knew would come again.
                Across the stricken field, clearly visible, stood the enemy. The dragon, black scales glistening with the blood of those who could not stand his onslaught, eyed the line opposite him with disdain, looking back at the rows upon rows of evil behind him. Hate emanated from their ranks, burning rage stirred like a sea around them. What chance had any against such vicious hate?
                With seasoned scorn, the dragon stalked across the field, tail dragging through the blood of his enemies as he walked. As he approached the field of men, so close he could see their faces, he stopped, and released a roar of such rage and vindictive power as to make men cover their ears. He roared, again and again, allowing the fear to build in the line of enemies.
                He could see the men, these weak fools who dared stand against him, mere men who stood against their betters. He paused, scanning the line. He could see the weakness, the quavering knees, the empty, tired eyes, the exhausted arms. No, they could not stand against him a second time. His repeated assaults had weakened them, leaving fewer and fewer of them on the field each time.
                What a fool the Creator was to place such a battle in the hands of mere men! The dragon spat the name out in his mind. What idiocy to place such affairs of the universe, the culmination of years of hate, the battle of light and dark, good and evil, in the hands of such weakness!
                The line wavered, fear building at the monster before them. Who could withstand such hate? What power was there to stand against him? A few turned and ran. To fight was to die, a cost too great to bear. To run was to live, for the moment at least. As the beast stalked the field, back and forth before their lines, the fear broke their resolution.
                But a few stood. Not that fear had any less effect on them, but because they clung without fail to a promise they had not heard, to a Creator they had not seen, a hope they dared to risk all for. And as the dragon blasted the air with roar after roar of pure rage, they clung tighter and tighter to their only hope as all other confidence grew faint.
                The dragon’s rage grew. These men, these mortals, dared, they dared, to stand against HIM! He could see the exhaustion, the fear, the crippling anxiety, the despair in some, yet the stubborn resolution did not fail them in the hour of need. He would prove, to them, to the cowards who ran, and to the Creator Himself that these men fell far short of the mettle needed to defeat him, Him! He reared his head back, monstrous jaws snapping already in expectation of the waiting battle.
                A few more ran, using the precious seconds before the beast’s onslaught to flee, to save themselves. The ravenous monster would not be stopped, and all knew that none would survive his furious attack. He came on, fury building, pouring itself into every beat of its black heart and every stride of the monstrous, clawed fought. The foul breath poured from its nostrils as it neared the frail line of resolute, but quavering men, when deliverance struck.
                A mighty roar, with power to break the heavens and exuding the fury of a thousand warriors, sounded across the sky, when, with a crash resounding like an avalanche and a flurry of wings like a torrent of rain, the Intercessor appeared. The white dragon, crashing from the heavens, air resounding with the fury of his cry, had come. The booming crash of thunder resounded across the stricken field at the pure majesty of the being’s assault. The promise was fulfilled. The very air tingled with energy, the epic end of a millennia of war and violence.
                A ragged shout went up from the beleaguered men, as hope flashed through the sky toward their adversary. Righteous indignation burned in the eyes of the new arrival, fury and raw, heart-stopping power raged through ever motion of the enormous body as it arched through the heavens to smash with earth-shattering force into its opponent, crushing it into the very dust beneath its clawed feet, the force knocking the armies to their knees. The promise had been fulfilled.