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I’m writing a book! My goal is to have a first draft completed by this time next year. For the past couple of years, I have been doing some study on what it means to embody the Christian life, because that is how we experience and engage those around us, and now I have started to put these thoughts together. I’m exploring this idea by looking at three aspects of the Christian’s physical life described in Scripture:

  1. First, life in the flesh: Every day each Christian must live out the reality of their faith through the physical body. This is how we engage with the world around us, and now as believers we are required to live our lives through the experience of the Cross.
  2. Second, life in the Spirit: We are commanded to cultivate life in the Spirit as part of an interconnected body known as the Church. We must allow the life of Jesus Christ to knit us together, as individually and corporately we are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  3. Third, life in our culture: We are called to engage our culture; to preach the good news of Jesus Christ to all the world. We are ambassadors on Christ’s behalf. What does that mean for us as we interact with those around us?

What follows is an excerpt from a chapter I have tentatively titled Living by Faith. Pray for me as I progress through this journey.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

~ Galatians 2:20, ESV

What does it mean to live in this human body as a follower of Jesus Christ?

First, there is a very real implication that death is required. This death will appear to us to be gut-wrenching, horrifying and costly. Death must come first if there is going to be a life of faith. This is one of the premier mysteries of living by faith. Christ’s death applied to our lives creates the interconnectedness that makes up His body the Church. “I have been crucified with Christ… It is no longer I who live. There is a unity found in the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that knits all true believers together, regardless of race, gender, creed, or social status.

But it is not our death that should horrify us, nor the cost to us that should be the determining factor for new life. Rather, we should tremble at the horrifying death paid by the One who should not die, and we should be humiliated by the infinite price He paid at Calvary. A price that is incalculable to our human comprehension. This cost should cause us to recognize our helplessness and hopelessness in the battle against sin. Without crucifixion applied through faith, there is impossibility of resurrection, and therefore no chance for new life. The life of faith we are called to requires a new creation, and the old order of things must pass away.

Second, there must come the recognition that my life is no longer my own. The life I am now called to live by faith is a new life, not only born forth through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ, but lived in the shadow of the Cross under His command and through His finished work. It is the very life of Christ lived in me, shaping the life I now live through an infinite grace that I am unable to comprehend or attain. The idea that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the very richness of Heaven, should descend to the earth to offer me His life via the Way of the Cross should cause me to echo the word of the Apostle Paul, “I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:31, ESV).

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Today’s post is dedicated to a loving individual, who faithfully chronicled the journey as her mother passed through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). Death is the great evil inflicted on humanity because of sin, but through the cross of Jesus Christ it has become the doorway to great victory for every believer. Out of respect, I am keeping her anonymous, because this is her story to share, while I simply reflect on what her testimony has meant to me personally.

The Facebook post simply says, “Praising God,” and is accompanied by two photographs. One is a woman much younger than when I knew her, and in the other a clock stands in the foreground, flowers and a pad of paper next to it, in the background a picture of a mother and her only daughter. The numbers on the clock simply read 10:55, and I can hear the words all the way from Tennessee, as they also echoed from hills just outside the city of Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago, “It is finished” (John 19:30). At 10:55, death struck again. The common enemy of all humans. The tragedy of separation. And, for those not in the moment, simply another story of death, upon death, upon death. So eyes are dimmed, ears are closed, as the living continue to go about their day, all the while rushing forward through life toward that inevitable enemy death.

But this chronicle of death is not an ordinary story. Like the death of Jesus Christ over 2,000 years ago, it holds with it the promise of resurrection. This death is simply a doorway into a greater reality, truth made visible, the glory of the Creator revealed. Yes, there is grief. There is mourning. There is a painful, dull ache, that will refuse to go away completely. But, there is also hope, celebration, joy in the promise of what is ahead. This soul is alive! This individual is in the presence of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:21-23)! Her body will one day rise again from the grave, transformed in an instant, conquering death completely! Her voice will shout loudly, because she has trusted in her God:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.’
‘O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?’”

1 Corinthians 15:54b-55, ESV

Throughout this chronicle of dying, I was privileged to witness a heart of hope amidst the grief. I was captivated, as I’m sure many were, by a daughter so willing to share the vestiges of this heart wrenching and personal experience. She has been a testimony of grace. The last surviving member of a family: father, brother, now mother, who all died much earlier than expected. Her faith stood strong as she posted the testimony of another saint who died relatively young:

“‘Today you will be with me in paradise’ is the whisper of Christ to every dying saint.”

Charles Spurgeon

And as my friend shared her grief, I felt privileged to be allowed into what can only be described as sacred moments. God was present, conveying Himself even through the messy, human technology that we call social media. As fingers typed, messages passed through Facebook posts carrying with them God’s whispering voice, “I am here.” Here’s just a small glimpse, that I hope you will reverence as I have:

Vigil, night 4.
5.5 hrs sleep in 3 days.
Calling reinforcements.
Hospice angel-nurse.
Sleeping on floor.
Must be there.
Sacred moments.

*****

Vigil, night 3.
Morphine duty.
Counting breaths.
Last one?
Angels, where are you?
Hurry, please.

*****

THE WAITING HOURS – As I have sat here for hours and hours next to my silent handsMother, waiting for the hand of God to scoop her up, I have had much time to think. To ponder this limbo; these sacred moments between earth and Heaven. For me, the observer, it is excrutiating. The push-me-pull-you between desiring for her to come alive and be present with me again, and the longing for her to be eternally free from her disease. I am a living paradox, and neither is wrong! God said through Moses, “choose life, that you and your children might live”. Then Paul told the Philippians “to die is gain”. Aren’t they both true? If we are HERE, then LIVE here. If we die, it’s BETTER. It’s up to God, but if you ARE here . . . LIVE in these moments and feel all the pain and grief down to the bottom. Drink the whole cup.

Indeed. Drink the whole cup. Precious moments. Precious love. Precious Savior. Precious daughter. Thank you, my friend, for allowing us into this sacred space. Bless you as you continue your journey through grief, joy, hope, love. You live the moments well.

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“The new vision of the world forged by modern science had almost nothing in common with that of the Ancients. The universe as described by Newton, particularly, is no longer in any sense a place of peace and harmony; rather it is a world of blind forces and collision, in which we no longer know where to place ourselves… We might say that modern thought puts mankind in the place of cosmos and divinity.”

~ Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living

 

 

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She walks with steady rhythm
Down hollow empty halls
And no one hears her cryin’
No one cares at all.

Oh won’t you hear her cries?
Wants to live and wants to die.

The band plays tear-stained muzak
So deep inside her head
Ancient choirboys whistle tunes
Tellin’ Maggie she is dead.

Swiftly, strictly, madly
Stumbling through the doors.
Outside into darkness
As the Windy City blows.

Oh won’t you hear her cries?
Wants to live and wants to die.

Maggie screams in silence
Trudging through the snow.
Wandering through the distance
Nowhere left to go.

Someone greets her brightly
Stuffs paper in her hand.
Tells her Jesus loves her
Maggie, she can’t understand.

She screams into the darkness
God are you even there!
No one stops to listen
No one seems to care.

Oh won’t you hear her cries?
Wants to live and wants to die

Oh won’t you hear the cries
Of Maggie and other lives?

Turn into the darkness
Shine a light right there.
Open up the heavens
Tell Maggie someone cares.

Oh won’t you hear her cries?
Wants to live and wants to die

Oh won’t you hear the cries
Of Maggie and other lives?

The simple truth is told in tale
And truth it still remains.
One man cared, one man died
For Maggie and her pain.

The message spread throughout the world
‘Oft as it is told
Some hear the tale and don’t believe
Others look toward streets of gold.

Oh won’t you hear her cries?
Wants to live and wants to die

Oh won’t you hear the cries
Of Maggie and other lives?

 

© John A. Taylor, 2014

A note about this poem, and the poetry on this site: Maggie is based on a real person I once knew, a young woman, who like many of us at the time, had lost her way.

I have written variations of this piece since 1982, but have never been satisfied with the results (including the one presented here). For some reason, I haven’t yet found the words to adequately convey what I have wanted to express. It is meant to be a bit kitschy, expressing some of the innocence and ideology of the early “Jesus Movement,” along with the true simplicity of the Christian message. It’s not meant to be viewed as high art.

I share this peace simply to share a part of my inner world.

Most of the poems on this site are really rough drafts. Initial thoughts posted for the world to see. Were I ever to seriously consider publishing a work of poetry, you can be assured that most of the poems, including these would be reworked several times over. Even some of these drafts will surely change over time. As currently written, these pieces are simply one method I use to process a variety of thoughts, which I often find helpful as I’m doing deeper, more serious thinking.

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SERIES OVERVIEW

I was once a pastor. I hope you can find some wisdom in my journey. This is the first of a four-part series, where I envision sharing with you:

  • Why I Was Once a Pastor,
  • Why I Am No Longer a Pastor,
  • Why I Still Am a Pastor, and
  • Why I May Never Be a Pastor Again.

Continue reading

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“… Do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.”

~ 1 Corinthians 14:20, ESV

The human imagination is a powerful tool. This is where your inner thoughts are formed. Your imagination is where the priorities, patterns and pleasures of the soul dwell.

Continue reading

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Genesis 1:1–2 (ESV)

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

In the beginning, God …

I’ve been thinking and studying a lot lately about the Christian understanding of God. In theological terms, this is Theology Proper which is the study of the being, attributes and works of God. As I’ve been meditating, I keep coming back to these first two verses of Genesis which provide us the foundational principles for understanding life.

John MacArthur explains that these verses describe the five components of reality:

  • Time
  • Force
  • Action
  • Space
  • Matter

I agree that these verses certainly do lay the framework for an understanding of our physical universe. They point to our origins, but deeper still, they provide us with some basic assumptions about God that I think we should also consider (and I’m sure that MacArthur would agree). Some of these assumptions, for me are tied to another phrase describing God that most certainly precedes those first words “In the beginning …”

The Living God

Jeremiah 10:10 (ESV)

“But the Lord is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation.”

These words, the living God, are uttered throughout Scripture by the likes of Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, Paul and John. Some of the heavy hitters of my faith. The ones who laid down the foundation of essential doctrine that all Christians believe. So what do these Scriptures in Genesis and Jeremiah tell us about God?

He is Self-Sufficient: He existed before the beginning, so He must be life itself. Nothing was needed for Him to be. Everything needed for life is found in Him, and in Him alone. From Genesis to Revelation, the biblical story backs up this claim as God works through His providence in the outworking of history. His is the first word, and His will be the last word spoken over the present history of humanity.

He is the Source & Substance: You don’t need to look further than God to find what you need. There is nothing beyond Him that is capable of giving your life substance. When we settle for anything less than God, we’ve settled for a cheap imitation.

He is our Sustainer: Nothing would be alive if not for Him. God alone sustains life. Paul expressed it well when he reminded the Greeks what one of their own philosophers once said, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28, ESV).

He is our Salvation: If He is life itself, then God is our only escape from this world of sin and death that we find ourselves trapped in. He alone holds the keys, and His plan is the only way of escape. And the great thing is, the Bible reveals even more about this God we serve, when it points us to an expanded revelation of the Living God, and the final word for our sin-sick world! Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh!

John 1:1–4 (ESV)

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

One of Us!

This is so easy to forget in the struggles of daily living. Take time today, to meditate on that fact. The Living God has become one of us. Through Jesus Christ, God has reached down into His creation, and joined with us in the midst of our suffering. He has revealed Himself, and offered to us the promise of life!

Why would you choose anything less?

Final Thoughts

What steps are you going to take today to remind yourself that God is your Source & Substance, Sustainer, and Salvation?

If you don’t believe this, are you willing to honestly consider the claims of the Christian faith?