It’s The Hardest Part

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

The Waiting’ – Tom Petty

Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man.

We lost a great American treasure a few years ago, in my opinion, when Tom Petty unexpectedly passed away. One of the great rockers of all time, who grew up in Gainesville, FL, and was the victim of some pretty violent abuse at the hands of his dad. Music, as it turned out, was a welcome escape from that environment for him. His mom bought him a cheap Sears guitar when he was 14 and the rest, as they say, is history. His band, The Heartbreakers, accomplished what few other bands have ever achieved…and that is the fact that they stayed together, for the most part, for over 40 years! Some would argue that Petty lacked vocal perfection, but if you were fortunate enough to make one of his concerts (we did twice in the last 3 years of his life!) you would hear the bigger part of twenty thousand people, young and old, singing along with every song…..word for word, for two and a half hours! So, Tom Petty fan or not, you’d have to admit that he’ll go down in history as one of the all-time greats.

“….I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually….”

Now, I don’t think every song out there has a spiritual message, unless, of course, you want it to. But most songs of any genre will have a line or two that, if you think about it…and try just a little, could definitely be applied in a spiritual way. I’m a ‘music guy’, not a musician by any stretch (I could only wish!), just someone who loves music. So, I hear in just about every song something that catches my attention, something that I can apply spiritually and maybe pass along to someone else who can catch the truth contained. Many of Tom Petty’s songs have those things I’m talking about; “You Don’t Have To Live Like a Refugee” *(click to listen) would definitely be one. Gonna write something up on that ‘un one of these days. And, how about, “I Won’t Back Down”? Now there’s a, nearly perfect, spiritual warfare song; one that you could actually sing on Sunday mornings if you’d loosen up just a little.

“….as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait….”

But one that recently caught my attention is a song called, “The Waiting”. Written around 40 years ago, and not designed to be a spiritual song, whatsoever, it does have a line or two that holds some pretty profound spiritual truths. “The waiting is the hardest part”! Boy, ain’t that the truth!? Learning to wait is one of the hardest things for both the natural, and the spiritual man. We live in a culture that has trained us to want everything immediately; I mean, ….right now! But, as we mature in the Lord, learning to wait is an invaluable trait…and one that’s not often found even among believers, sad to say.

I wish I could say I had it perfected. But, waiting on the Lord hasn’t come easy for me. I guess you could call me a ‘slow learner’ in that respect. But I’m a lot better than I used to be…and I think I’m getting better. It comes with an understanding that God has His ways and He’s precise in His timing. In another way, it’s one of His ways of teaching us to live by faith. At any rate, waiting on the Lord is a virtue that we should all try to attain.

“Waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do.”

So, whether it’s a promise from Him you’re waiting on, a prophetic word that has yet to materialize, or maybe even a prayer you’re wondering if He heard or not, ….waiting, as hard as it is, …..might just be the most productive thing you can do. Make no mistake about it, Tom Petty had it right; the waiting is the hardest part!

Photo by Keegan Houser

...oh, and by the way, the Bible holds some amazing promises for us as we learn to wait. Isaiah 40:31 *(go read it!)

You May Not Know This, But I’m Kind of a Big Deal!

True statement! But, probably not a ‘big deal’ in the way you were thinking.

I receive speaking invitations fairly often. Most of them I say, “No” to because I believe I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing by being at my own church every week. But occasionally and ‘invite’ will come my way that I just can’t say “No” to. 

Occasionally an ‘invite’ will come my way that I just can’t say ‘No’ to.

childs hand with paint

It happened again a couple of weeks ago; an invitation came my way that’s my ‘dream speaking engagement’! Yep, it did! I got invited for about the fifth time to do the Sayre Public Schools Kindergarten Graduation! I must’ve done a good job the other few times or they wouldn’t have me back, huh? Well, the truth be known….I have another grandchild that’s graduating Kindergarten, and that’s why, and only why, I get invited to do it. It’s Timber this time and I can’t wait for the day.

Timber Taylor – Age 6 – Class of 2034

The ‘wonder’ on the faces of every one of these little kids never ceases to amaze me. Their little eyes are full of excitement and expectation, to the degree that makes me wonder, “What happened to the rest of us?”.  Why, ….and how did we lose that sense of excitement and expectation? We had it……but for the most part, it’s gone now. Life, if we’re not really, really careful can, and will, take it all out of us.

I love their approach to life….they believe they can do it.

My favorite part of the ceremony is when each of them comes to the mic and tells the audience what they want to be when they grow up. They say everything from being a ‘monster truck driver’, to being president. I love their approach to life….they believe they can do it. And, ….I believe they can too!

Being the “Keynote Speaker” at the Kindergarten graduation is another great reminder for me to somehow try and regain the excitement that life can bring. And me,….. no….I’m no ‘big deal’ at all. But I do know what I want to be when I grow up……….I want to be just like these little Kindergarteners!

The Lessons I Learned from Jeff

Photo by JJ Whitley

He’d done plenty of crazy things and even the locals weren’t sure what he might do next!

The last year we lived on the ranch in the Texas Panhandle I had the responsibility of taking care of 2500 head of cattle. About 1800 of those were close to 40 miles away north of Canadian, Texas on the expansive Urschel Ranch. I’d go up about three times a week and spend the day horseback checking the cattle; getting a decent count on them, making sure they had water, making sure none of them were out of the pastures they were supposed to be in. It’d make for a long day but it was enjoyable to me.

I was about three years into my walk with the Lord. Didn’t know much but I was learning a lot. I had given my testimony a couple of times and was already feeling the call for ministry…even though I had no idea what all that might mean. A friend and I had a cowboy church service (years before anyone ever heard that term!) at the Hemphill County Expo Center in Canadian and I preached the message. That was a first! I have no idea what I preached about but I do remember that one of my friends since childhood (a few years older than me) got saved that day. Let’s just call him, Jeff.

He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam.

Jeff was a cowboy and had been in some of the very worst combat fights in Vietnam. In three different battles there were over a hundred US troops under fire….and all three times less than fifteen came out alive. Jeff was one of the ones each time. But, it had left an indelible mark on him. He struggled with deep depression, was separated from his wife, had trouble sleeping and agonized over the things he was ordered to do in Vietnam. 

Jeff was a scary looking guy; Well actually if you weren’t friends with him….he just didn’t look scary….he really was scary. He’d done plenty of crazy things and even the locals weren’t sure what he might do next! He hair was cut short on the top but long in the back…..way down past his collar. He had about 6 top front teeth totally gone! He wore denim shirts with the sleeves cut out of them and he had lots of tattoos; something not that common in those days. He spent a lot of his spare time at the gym pumping iron and was quite a specimen of a man.

His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there.

Part of my regular routine the times when I’d go up to check cattle was to make it back to the Dairy Queen on my way home and catch Jeff after he got off work. I made it a point. I was doing my best to encourage him and give him good, sound advice. I’d pray with him every time before I headed home. One particular time we were in the DQ when a Greyhound bus made its stop there. The place was completely full of people. Jeff got there before I did and saved me a spot. His intimidating look had the attention of just about every person in there.

Yep…….I’m doing so good, I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!”

Bear in mind that when he talked, Jeff talked really, really loud; maybe louder than anyone you’ve ever known! I asked him that day, as I always did, “Jeff, how are you doing?” He replied in his loud voice, “Andy, I’m doing really good!”. I knew that I needed to press in a little more. “But, Jeff, …..how are you really doing?” And in a voice a lot louder than you need to be talking in Dairy Queen he said, “Yep, Andy, …….I’m doing so good I got rid of all my plastic explosives yesterday!!” You could’ve heard a pin drop! Every eye in the house was on us! It was funny, ….in a crazy kind of way; all those people started gathering up their food without saying a word and getting out the door as fast, but as inconspicuous as they could. It was like they didn’t totally believe him. I bet some of them are still telling that story today!

“But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.”

I learned a lot in my experiences with Jeff. I made it a mission of mine to help him. I wanted him to be OK; I wanted him to be well. Julie and I had planned a little vacation and were planning on being gone for about a week. I got real worried that if I wasn’t there to check on Jeff that he wouldn’t be alright. I even told Julie as much. I was actually afraid to go on vacation fearing he would implode. But, the Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that point and said, “It’s Ok, Andy, …..you’re not the one that’s taking care of him anyway.” That put it in perspective for me. God always knows the right thing to say, and always at just the right time.

Photo by RODNAE Productions

I wish this story had a happy ending….but it doesn’t. Several years later Jeff was living downstate in Texas and took his own life. I can’t help but believe that the Lord has lots and lots of grace for people like Jeff. 

I’ll never forget the things I learned…and I look forward to seeing him in Heaven.

The Bible Belt – “The Land of Never Enough”

Prefer audio version? Click play (2:31)

After 30 years or so in the ministry there are things you start to notice, things that stand out. There are patterns of thought and behavior that seem to be deeply woven into the fabric of Bible Belt mentality. One such pattern that runs very deep among born again believers is that one can never do enough to get,….or stay, in good standing with God.

If you wonder why I say that, here’s why; I hear it all the time; “I don’t go to church enough”, “I don’t pray enough”, “I don’t read the Bible enough”, “I don’t have enough faith”, “I’m not a very good Christian”, I hope I”m going to heaven”. I just heard this from a man yesterday, “I think God has given up on me”. I refuted that lie as quick as I could!

“It’s like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness”

It’s a prevalent attitude with many people always thinking they can never do enough, or be good enough to satisfy the Lord. It gives the feeling they’re trying to serve a God that’s unreasonably demanding and impossible to please. It’s like being on a treadmill of performance in an effort to earn their righteousness; A state, in fact, that many never seem to arrive at. This is a problem of the highest order, in my opinion, because it gives an incorrect image of ‘Who’ God actually is. It’s one of the greatest misportrayals the world has ever seen. There are many out there who’ll live their entire lives believing they were never quite acceptable or good enough to please God. And, what’s worse is that it leads one to believe that the Father’s love based entirely on our behavior.

Sad,…. Sad,…. Sad!

The Danger of Never Enough

The danger of ‘never enough’ exists anytime a mixture of law and grace are preached. And, sadly enough…..that’s what happens most of the time in the Bible Belt. Paul spent the last half of his life contrasting law and grace. He knew them both well….in fact better than anyone on the planet in his generation. He was a staunch defender of grace even after it caused him to be beaten more than once and left for dead. It was controversial then….it’s controversial now…..but only to those who believe their behavior is what makes them righteous.

The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

So, tell me, what’s on your list of things to do that make you righteous? And, while you’re at it explain to me where the line is of, enough….or not enough. Truth is, if you never read your Bible, if you never went to church your righteousness isn’t diminished one bit. I’m not advocating that….just pointing it out! You’re not righteous because of what you do…..you’re righteous because of what He did! The Father doesn’t love you because you’re good…..He loves you because He’s good!

THAT, in itself, makes me want to do good!

Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina

Good fathers would never keep their children in limbo over such important things! So, pack your bags, enjoy your relationship with the Father….. and get out of the land of never enough!

How Gunner Payne Changed the World

You’ve heard of Gunner Payne, right?? Just kidding…..I’d almost be willing to bet the whole ranch that you’ve never heard of him. But Gunner Payne changed the world in an extremely profound way. Gunner was a Quaker; You actually have heard of the Quakers, but if you’re like me you don’t know much about them.

Gunner had a regular Bible study, in the early ’60s, in his hometown of Yorba Linda, California. It was in ’62 that Dick Heying, a professional drummer, took his bandleader and his wife to Gunner’s Bible study. Not too long after that (early ’63) both were saved. They became very faithful as Gunner took them ‘under his wing’ as a mentor and father in the Lord. It wasn’t long before John and Carol were winning people to the Lord themselves. John, a professional musician, was the person who put The Righteous Brothers together.  Over the next few years, literally, hundreds came to know Jesus in a personal way. John later said that he just mimicked Gunner’s behavior and attitude.

Gunner’s Testimony

Gunner’s life wasn’t without some major obstacles; his little 4-year-old daughter was kidnapped by a migrant farmworker from a neighboring community who raped and murdered her. The incident brought about a lot of national media attention that went on for months. It was obviously a tragedy of epic proportions. The fascinating part of the story to me is what happened next; Gunner Payne went to the prison where the murderer was incarcerated at least once a month….until he finally won his little girl’s killer to the Lord!

Affects on You

Oh….and that John and Carol we were talking about…..that’s the Wimber’s. And while John Wimber didn’t initiate the Vineyard Movement, he’s the one that the Lord used to bring it to worldwide prominence and influence. (Now over 1,500 churches worldwide) And, if you’re in church today and not singing from a denominational hymnal…..you’re singing songs that were directly influenced by Wimber and the Vineyard Movement. It brought a new style of worship to the forefront, worldwide, and spawned great worship leaders across the globe. John was a huge proponent of ‘signs and wonders’ and his ministry was marked with miracles of every kind. Hundreds of thousands have come to know the Lord because of the ministry of John Wimber.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

You just never know what might happen with the people that you’re willing to invest in!

And that’s how Gunner Payne changed the world!

He’s Alive Again!!!

What a day to celebrate!

Easter is the day that we recognize the resurrection of Jesus. Some 2022 years ago in Jerusalem, a great act of injustice took place when Jesus was nailed to the cross.

His death on the cross was not proof that He was the Son of God….in fact to his criticizers and detractors, it was proof that He wasn’t.

See also: Black Saturday

No grave could ever hold Him

But on the morning of the third day, a rumbling was felt from the center of the Earth. The jingling sound of keys (death, hell, and the grave) was heard; it was Jesus coming out of the tomb! He had conquered, forever, the power of the grave! His resurrection was the indisputable, undeniable truth that this Man was no ordinary man. He was/is, indeed, the Son of God!! My highest hope is that we can learn to live from the resurrection and what was completed for us on that day!

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Check this one out too: It Ain’t Just “Good News” …… It’s “Great News”!

A stone would never do

Here’s a song Phil Driscoll: “He’s Alive Again!!!” that has been my favorite one about the resurrection for about 35 years.

Spoiler Alert….It may make you cry! Listen to it all…..it’s a great one!!  Enjoy!

Black Saturday

You’ve heard of Black Friday, of course. But I doubt you’ve heard of “Black Saturday”….since I just made it up. But I think it’s a great fit for what I want to write about. You hear a lot about Good Friday, as you should. Good Friday is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. You can only totally understand why it’s called “Good” when you look at it in the context of 1) What it provides for you, and 2) What transpired two days later. 

Photo by Josh Sorenson on Pexels.com

Jesus’ death on the cross was the one and only thing that could provide us the awesome opportunity to be forgiven of our sins….and delivered from our sinful nature and engage in a relationship with the Father…. in exactly the way Jesus did! The pain and suffering Jesus endured on the way to the cross would’ve ‘done in’ any other human. But Jesus was determined to carry out to the ‘T’ His Father’s plan. So, YES, Good is an appropriate word to use for this Friday!

A wise person would stop to reflect on all that happened on that day and, somehow, give thanks to the Lord. Seems like the least we could do.

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Pexels.com

Two days later on that ‘third’ day when the women went to His tomb, they were astonished to find that Jesus was gone. The stone had been rolled away (an undeniable supernatural happening!) and two angels were sitting in the tomb. Jesus had risen from the dead! The resurrection; it’s the bedrock foundation on which the entire Christian faith is built. What a day!

But, have you ever thought about the day in between??

I’ve thought a lot about it. I’m sure there are those who have written pieces about that day, but I’ve yet to see them. I think about what might have been going through the minds of the thousands of Jews gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover. Most of them believed that justice had been done in that ‘this imposter’ who made Himself equal with God had been rightly put to death.

 I think about the religious leaders who were obviously gloating over the fact that they, once and for all, did away with Jesus Whose faithfulness was a constant reminder of their full-blown self-righteousness. They wouldn’t have to deal with Him anymore. They must’ve felt good about themselves.

For them…..it was a good day.

But, I think about the eleven who were with Him nearly every day for the past three years. They’d seen Him multiply the food, walk on the water, calm the storms, heal the sick, cast out demons, and even raise the dead. I think about James and John who had left their fishing business to follow this Man. And, Matthew the tax collector who, maybe for the first time in his life, felt valued and loved. I think about Peter who, in not much more than 24 hours’ time, had denied Jesus. They never once saw Him waver in His devotion to them or in obedience to His Father. But, now they’d failed Him at a time when He needed them most. What would they do now? Would they spend the rest of their lives in regret for how they performed? Would they go back to their fishing business or collect taxes? For these men it was a dark, dark discouraging day; the worst you could imagine!

I call it Black Saturday!

Have you ever thought about what might have been going on in the spirit realm? I’m sure the angelic host were totally taken aback when Jesus died on the cross. What did God have in mind? How could He let such a thing happen? They did NOT see this coming! And, to make matters far worse the demonic hordes of hell were celebrating with a deafening noise…..so loud it almost spilled over into the natural realm. Yep, for the angels, it was a dark, dark day! A Black Day!

I call it Black Saturday!

Photo by Eric Smart on Pexels.com

But at just about daybreak on the third day, a tiny little jingling was heard above the hellish and noisy celebration. It almost sounded like keys jingling together. The atmosphere began to change. Light began to break forth. Something BIG was happening….and both sides in the spirit realm knew it. 

…..and there He appeared!!

And in His hand were the keys to death, hell, and the grave! No longer would the Father’s children be intimidated by the fear of darkness or death.

On that day EVERYTHING changed! 

That’s why you don’t hear much about Black Saturday!

Let us learn to live in the ‘finished’ work of Jesus!

What’s So Good About Friday?

I like Fridays’! They’re nothing like Mondays’! I can live with Mondays’ but I don’t just crave ’em. More stress, too far to the weekend, usually a dilemma or two; Yep, Mondays, can be tough. They don’t call ’em Mondays’ for nothing! But Fridays’, now there’s a day I can enjoy! I can do Fridays’!

But seriously, there was a Friday, way back, that someone decided to call ‘Good Friday’. I’m not sure who coined the phrase but I think they did a heckuva job! When you look at that particular Friday a couple thousand years ago, and what took place on that fateful day, you might be really perplexed as to why anyone could have the audacity to call anything about it, ‘good’.

In fact, if I didn’t know the whole story…..it would’ve been the worst Friday that ever happened!

That Friday that I’m talking about was the Friday that Jesus, God’s Son, was put to death by crucifixion on The Cross.…the cruelest method of corporal punishment in the first century. It was the greatest miscarriage of justice that would ever take place in the context of time itself! Jesus,……sinless, perfect, lover of sinners and tax collectors, put to death with absolutely no wrong done. How in the world could that possibly be ‘good’?!

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Because if Jesus hadn’t done what He did….we’d be doomed to be slaves to sin, forever. That, in turn, would make eternity to be dreaded to the deepest degree! No hope. But Jesus turned it all around! It didn’t come easy, though. He was beaten almost to the point of death, stripped of His clothes, and made to carry His cross through the swelling crowd in Jerusalem to the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull) where he was nailed to the cross. …..and there He died. Bad Friday……really bad!

Saturday,…..not good! Terrible, in fact. But Sunday everything changed. I mean, Everything!! ….when Jesus came out of that tomb! And, He was carrying the keys to death, hell, and the grave! They would no longer have any kind of hold on mankind!

Jesus, motivated only by love, willingly laid down His life for you and me! Because of that, now, we have the awesome opportunity to have the same relationship with God that He has!

And that,………that right there’s why they call it Good Friday!!

Running On Empty

Click play for audio devotional (2:21)

As songwriters go, I’d consider Jackson Browne one of the best in the business. In fact, way back in the 70’s, Glenn Frey and Don Henley (the Eagles) moved in above Browne in a $60 a month apartment in L.A.

They admitted they learned, and perfected their craft of writing songs by listening to some  of those ‘mind boggling melodies’, as Rolling Stone magazine described Jackson Browne’s songs. They agreed that he was just a notch above anyone else who was writing in those days….and there were a bunch of ’em. One of those songs, “Running on Empty”, was the title track of his ‘Live’ album in 1977 and is, to this day, the most played of all his songs on Classic Rock stations. On an interesting note the song was written while Browne was struggling to make it and, in his own words, “I was always driving around with no gas in the car”.

“….I took the time off to just get away from it all.”

A few years ago I had just returned to the office after five weeks off. Haven’t done anything like that in the 33 years since we started Trinity Fellowship. I didn’t take the time off to fast and pray. That would definitely be time well spent but I took the time off to just get away from it all. No studying, no preaching or teaching, no late night emergency phone calls, no funerals……no nothing! Pretty much everybody’s job has its own level of stress. Ministry’s no different; and people ain’t lined up to tell you good news!

It’s easy to get in crisis mode, and if you’re not careful…..never get out.

It took at least a week to get out from under the load of ministry that I’ve been used to. And, maybe another week to get in full, no stress mode. But, with the support I have from the people around me (they’re the best in the business!) I finally started to actually relax. I think I was like a lot of folks who are out there today, running on empty……and maybe not even knowing it! It’s easy to get in crisis mode and if you’re not careful…..never get out. It’s unhealthy, and a bunch of ministry people don’t make it!

“When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.”

The Father, Himself, rested on the seventh day…and He designated and set aside a day for us to rest, too. Most of us don’t do it; don’t know how, never even tried it. We’re too busy doing all the things we know we should be doing. But, the Sabbath was made for man! We should learn how to do it! When we’re running on empty we won’t even come close to doing our best work.

Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder.

Hardly anybody can get as much serious time off as I had, I understand that. But, we could learn to take a day a week to get out from under the load. Maybe we could learn to work ‘smarter’, not harder. It’ll take some time, no question.  But if we’ll make it a priority…..we won’t have to be running on empty!

i

Click here to listen/watch my favorite Jackson Browne tune (you’ll like it!)

Reading Your Bible for All its Worth

Author synopsis (2.5 minutes) transcription below

Book Synopsis: Author Video

Hello! Andy Taylor here. I want to talk to you about this book today – Reading Your Bible for All It’s Worth.

I wrote this book years ago with one or two things in mind. One is – I’ve noticed that a lot of people don’t read! I’m a reader. I still like to read, and I think it’s one of the best things I ever learned how to do. But a lot of people don’t like to read and especially men don’t like to read.

I think we can all agree on this one thing – the Bible is the Book that stood the test of time for all these generations and it’s important what’s written there.

Know your Bible

I think it’s also important that we as the children of God, or people in general, know a little bit about what the Bible says.

Before I wrote this book I had a visit with about five or six of my pastor friends and I said, I would say in my church / my congregation we really emphasize reading and being people of the Word, and no nobody disagrees – but I said, in my church / my congregation there’s probably 75% of people who either don’t read their Bible, or don’t know how to read their Bible, and as a result, they are just taking someone else’s word all of the time for what the Bible says. So with all those things in mind, I wrote this book.

Easy to understand

Now, if you’ve listened to me preach before and teach before – I teach and make it really, really practical.

I’m a regular guy and I teach and talk for regular people. Actually, there are a whole lot more of us regular people than there are other people out there. So I think you’ll enjoy it!

Quick, easy to read

Now for those of you who don’t like to read – the longest chapter in this book, I believe, is about 4 pages so you can’t go wrong.

You can pick it up anywhere!

Flip through the book anywhere and you can read for a minute and a half and you will find something that you can use to help you understand, and hopefully enjoy the Bible.

When I sign these books for people I always write on the cover “I hope this little book helps you love and enjoy the Big Book more.”

Makes a great gift

Check it out. You can get it on Amazon, I think you’ll want to get it and pass it around to your friends. Get them on Amazon! Or, if you want a signed copy you can contact me by email.

Get the book!

You need it your going to be glad you did.

You’ll thank me for it later!