Saturday, November 30, 2013


Do you know - around the world - who it is that God saves?

A woman with a blood disease …
A man possessed by demons …
A woman who's been married five times and is now living with Guy Number 6 …
A lady at a well, searching for the meaning of life …
A rich man completely lost in his spirit … 
The sick -- the troubled -- the hurting -- the confused -- the outcast -- the down and out -- the crippled …

Oh, not crippled in their legs necessarily, but somewhere.  Because we all limp.  Every single one of us.  And if you stick around long enough in life, you're going to be crippled -- you're going to be insulted -- offended -- hurt -- misused -- assaulted in some way ------- even by folks who should know better.

And very possibly -- listen to this -- very possibly, you'll unintentionally do some of the offending.

'Very possibly, you'll unintentionally do some of the offending.'

We need a spirit of forgiveness toward those
who have hurt us … even within the Body of Christ.  Because even in church work, you can get hurt.  And pastors, they hurt one another and they hurt church members … and church members, they hurt one another and they hurt pastors.  And if we aren't careful, we can get an edge, we can get an attitude -- and we don't want that.  We want an open, free spirit.

'God, help us not just stroke those who stroke us … just love those who love us … even pagans and those in the world do that much.  Give us a heart for people who are unlovely -- even people who are against us -- crippled people -- hurt people -- wounded people -- difficult people -- different people -- people who don't have it all together -- people with broken hearts -- damaged emotions -- crushed spirits.'

That's all of us in some way, isn't it?


'Give us Your kind of love, God -- even in the face of opposition, unkindness and judgmentalism -- even where there is nastiness.  Give us mercy.  And let our churches be centers of love and Spirit-filled grace.  Take away harshness and the remembering of wrongs.  Take away unforgiveness.'

And be blessed.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Like so many of you, Joelene and I are blessed with such an amazingly wonderful, loving family.  As has been our custom for more than a dozen years, the day after Thanksgiving means a trip on the train to downtown Chicago …

The French Market
Christkindlmarket & Santa Claus
Intelligentsia Cafe
Giordano's Pizza
and some shopping.

Personal highlights of my day with this great group …

Starting the Day in Chicago
Ruby and me

The Whole Fam (Tessa's in the stroller sleeping)

Happy Grandparents

And be blessed.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


With thanksgiving on Thanksgiving … our Taylor Family Song to you …

And be blessed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


When people walk into our church, the first thing that should hit them is the love of God.

Not the choir.  I believe in the power of music and we have great music at Journey Church every weekend, but if people want great music, they can go a few miles up/down the road to Chicago or Milwaukee to the Symphony or the theatre.  They can go to Ravinia or the Marcus Center.  

What they should feel and sense is God -- and what is God?  God is love.

Isn't that what wins people to Christ?

It isn't great programs, for the most part -- although we have those.
It isn't great music, for the most part -- although we have that.
It isn't great preaching, for the most part -- (may I say) -- although we have that.

'Nothing softens the heart more than when people sense the love of God.'

Nothing softens the heart more than when people sense the love of God.  And if we don't have that, what good is it if the oratory is skillful -- if the preacher has it all together doctrinally -- if everybody on stage has perfect pitch -- but there's no passion for God -- there's no heart -- there's no love?

Jesus said:  "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."

And be blessed.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


lib-er-al (adj.) -- occurring in generous amounts

We are never more like God's nature than when we bless people who have hurt us.  God has called followers of His to be liberal with their love - liberal with their words of affirmation and kindness - liberal with their resources ---- because God has been liberal with us.

'We are never more like God's nature than when we bless people who have hurt us.'

God has been so rich toward us, even when we were ornery rascals, and now, we're going to be tight with our love to others?  We're going to be stingy in our spirits?  We're going to be selective and miserly about who we speak kindly to and about who we grant our love and acceptance to?

Today we hear talk all the time about what others deserve.  That talk should never come from our mouths.  Do you want talk about what you deserve?

No, don't go there.

Instead, we would say: 'God has dealt graciously with me, according to His mercy.'


And be blessed.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


In my 'somewhere between 30 and 55 years of life,' I've never had a single person one time say to me: 'Yep … ten years ago, I decided to build my life on the Bible - decided to build my marriage, raise my children, handle my money, treat my body, according to the wisdom of the Scriptures … and doggone it, what a rotten decision that was.  Totally wrecked my life  Wish I could start it all over and leave the Bible to decay on the shelf this time.'

Never heard it.  But every month I meet someone who tells me they built their life on something else and now they're a mess.

'I'm not letting you off the hook on this.'

Your choice is clear.  What will you build your one-and-only life on?  What is your source of truth going to be?

I'm not letting you off the hook on this.

What's your answer?

And be blessed.

Saturday, November 23, 2013


There is a story about a father and son having a conversation just before the son is getting ready to head to a very liberal University.  The son has been struggling with his faith for some time.

The father says, 'Son, the people at that University are going to attack some of the miraculous things written in this Book ... stories like Jonah, for instance.  They'll say they're not really true - they didn't really happen.  Don't let them take those things out of the Bible, son.'

The son heads off to University and a couple of years later his dad asks: 'Son, what are they teaching you?  Did they try to take those things out of the Bible like I warned you?'

And the sons says:  'Dad, there is no Jonah in the Bible.'

His father answers: 'I told you they would try to tell you that.  But son, I'll show you where it is.  It's in there.'  The father goes to get His Bible to look for it - and lo and behold, he's flipping thru the pages of his very own Bible and he can't find it in there anywhere.  Finally heJonah have been cut right out, as if someone had taken a pair of scissors to them.
realizes the pages about

And the son says: 'Dad, what difference does it make if I lose my faith because of bad teaching or if I lose it because of neglect?  I cut those pages out of your Bible years ago after we had that conversation and you never even noticed.  I may have abandoned the faith because of education, but you've abandoned it in your way of living.'

Never let it be.

And be blessed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Are we morally bound to follow the speed limits posted on our city streets and highways?

I was riding with a friend in my car today and we were talking about whether or not speeding was a sin.  I was driving; I wasn't speeding (at the moment).

Is that law a suggestion?  Are we sinning if we break it?

I know you'd like me to point-blank answer that question right now.  Am I going to?

Ummmmm . . . . . . .

Some of us feel that way about The Book.  It's chock-full of laws to be followed.  Do this and go to heaven; do that and go to 'you know where.'  But it's so much more.

Along with the laws and commands of the Bible are more than 3,000 blessings, promises and assurances from God.  That said, a lot of folks open it up with one basic intent:  Tell me something nice.

But the Bible is also far more than a glorified Hallmark card with pretty words designed to make our day a little brighter.

Do you know what a Rorschach Test is?  It's those inkblots used by psychologists (like the one here) to measure a person's emotional and personality characteristics by having them describe what images they see when they look at them.  Whatever you see in the inkblot is a projection of your own inner workings - or so they say.

'God isn't trying to stump you.'

Some people treat the Bible like an inkblot where the reader projects onto the Bible whatever he or she wants to see.  Republicans see Jesus as a Republican (what?! ... sorry).  Democrats see Him as a Democrat (ditto).  They see Him as Someone of their own making.  When these folks open the Bible, their approach is: 'Tell me my views are solid and that I'm OK.'  But that isn't what the Bible is either.

For others, it's Intellectual Property.  It's a puzzle to be solved, and once solved, it can be glued and shellacked and framed and stuck to the nearest wall to be admired.  "I have this mastered," they say.

The problem isn't that we shouldn't be theologians of sorts or that we shouldn't be grapplers of the tough issues.  Of course we should.  But the great goal of the believer who picks up the Bible is to enter the Story and apply it personally to life.  God isn't trying to stump you.

He's trying to tell you He loves you and gave His Son at great cost to Himself so you could have relationship with Him.  He wants to enter your heart and thoughts and actions so you enter the Story in such a way that the Story enters you - so that the Story shapes everything about you.

It isn't a law book; it's a love book.

And be blessed.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


We tend to have convictions of convenience.  When the Bible runs head on into something we'd prefer to hold on to, we have a slight tendency to say, 'The Bible must mean something else;  it can't mean that.'

Ninety-two percent of Americans have a Bible in their home.  They may not be able to find it, but it's probably there.  Ninety-two percent.

Seventy-four percent of Americans say they would like to have a close relationship with God.  They may not define it the same way as you and I define it, but that's what they say they want.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans say they have made a personal commitment to Christ that continues to be important in their life now.

Sixty-seven percent also believe there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Wait.  Back up that train.  Are you making sense of that?  That's a conviction of convenience.

Jesus said: 'I am THE way (that's absolute), I am THE truth, I am THE life.  Nobody comes to the Father except thru Me.'

'We customize everything in our lives.'

We customize everything in our lives.  So if we're customizing to fit our personal preferences and likings, where do we draw the line with that?  Because I think we do that with the Bible.  We customize it to fit what feels good to us in any given season or situation of life.

There are 66 books in the Bible, but we seem to have narrowed it down to about 7 or 8 that we're really fond of.  Maybe that isn't how we say it, but be honest.

We open the Bible, but we're like the back road farmer who puts his tractor in the same rut week after week, month after month, year after year, and can practically take his hands off the wheel because the tractor follows the well-worn ruts that have been made over time.  We open the Bible, but we let go of the wheel and head to the same destinations we always get to.

The Bible is so relevant to you -- even the places you rarely go -- it will change your life if you dig in a little.  Stop customizing.

And be blessed.

Monday, November 18, 2013



Say it with me - slowly.


Once again.  Even slower.

Ma - her - sha - lal - hash - baz.

At 18 letters, it's the longest word in the entire Bible.  Actually it's a name.  Some guy.  It means 'Make haste to the plunder.'  Very classy.

This is not to be confused with Mahershalalhashbaz (one word, no hyphens) Ali, who portrayed Richard Tyler in the sci-fi TV series, 'The 4400.'  That's him in the pic -- looking all suave, debonair and Mahershalalhashbaz-ish.  Just to be clear, that isn't his real name.  It's his stage name, an action many actors employ.  They create new names for themselves that are more interesting than their birth names - names that stand out - names that look good on (long) billboards, and such.  So Mahershalalhashbaz Ali isn't his real name.

His real name is --- ready?

Mahershalalhashbaz GILMORE. 

? ? ? ? ? ? ?

I agree that Mahershalalhashbaz Ali was a huge improvement over Mahershalalhashbaz Gilmore.  I predict a trend in babies being named Mahershalalhashbaz in the near future.  Nickname: Hash.

And be blessed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Here's something that is absolutely true about every single person reading this right now ... you are completely forgiven.

'There isn't anybody who has put their hope in Christ that He just put a new coat of paint on.'

What could be better than that?  There isn't anybody who has put their hope in Christ that He just put a new coat of paint on.  If your'e in Christ, He made you brand new.

Here's another thing.  You are completely valuable.  You aren't an accident.  You can go to an antique store and see a piece of junk you wouldn't pay 50 cents for.  Somebody else can see that same object and lay down a thousand dollars.  Why?  Because they see something of value there that you don't see.  Jesus sees something in you that you don't see in you.  You were bought at great cost - the death of God's one and only Son.  How could we ever look in the mirror and devalue what Jesus died for?

Here's my personal truth:  The person I've probably had the hardest time loving over the years --- has been me.  Some of us still have a challenge looking in the mirror and believing there's a God who might really love us.

I have a heavenly Father who is bigger than my mess.  He's bigger than your mess.  He knows all about your past -- He knows all about your present.  Your biggest junk isn't too big for His grace.

And be blessed.

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I am not making this up.

An Alabama newspaper ran an ad many years ago that went like this:

'Hounded by nagging guilt?  Get rid of it the modern way, the same way you eliminate wetness, bad breath or limp curls.  Spray it away with GUILT-AWAY!'

It was the brainchild of Mike and Craig, Corn-Berg Laboratories employees -- a real 8-ounce spray bottle of rose water and emulsifiers that supposedly allowed the guilt-stricken to spritz away their troubles.

The pair were nursing matching hangovers after a wild weekend sailing trip.  Trading jokes about guilt, they decided what the world needed was a 20th-century quick and easy way to be rid of it.

Bottles of GUILT-AWAY sold for $3.98 apiece.

[If you're struggling with guilt, this will never be your answer, of course.  Come back over the next few days and find out what the real answer is.]

And be blessed.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I never want to get "too big for my britches," a Midwest phrase my mom used to say.

I've heard it said that pastors should 'understand high and communicate low.'  In other words, study and research and think and chew on it all day long (that's 'high') --- and then say it like your mama can understand it (no offense, mom, but that's 'low').

J. Packer said: 'God called us to feed sheep, not giraffes.'  

For instance - this would be the WRONG way to do it.


We all appreciate your knowledge and education, but go 'low' without going shallow. There's a difference.

And be blessed.

Monday, November 11, 2013


I found my final (I think) WWJD? bracelet in a drawer this week and tossed it.  The fad is dead - and perhaps so should the theology be.

I'd like to speak for a new fad bracelet - WHJD? - 'What has Jesus done?'

This is the essence of the Good News that has set us free as followers of Christ.  We desperately need to recover this truth and internalize it down to both our soles and our souls.

And be blessed.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


There's a lot of talk about morality in the church today.  Fine.  But I don't think morality should be the church's number one concern.  Christianity isn't about trying to get good people to be better.  Last time I checked it was more about less-than-good (i.e. bad) people continually falling short of the Good Bar.

I have a coaster on my desk that says: 'No wise man ever wished to be younger.'  I have to say - and almost hate to say - that I made so many mistakes early on in the ministry of my youth that it's a shock I'm still working.  I'd like to go back and change some of the messages I gave on grace, salvation, forgiveness, theology, sanctification, end times, the Ten Commandments, pretty much you-name-it.

'I'd like to apologize to everybody who sat thru that lameness.'


I think my underlying M.O. was to convince people to get excited about doing and being better - just change.  You'll like it.  It's good for you.  He'll help you, maybe.  But it was a prescription to put their eyes, ears, head, thoughts and energies on themselves rather than on Jesus.  I'd like to go back and apologize to everybody who sat thru that lameness.

E. Peterson said: 'Discipleship is a process of paying more and more attention to God's righteousness and less and less attention to our own.'

And there you have it -- what I should have been preaching all along.


The honest truth is - and I say it's the honest truth simply because it's been my experience -- that the more I focus on improving myself, the worse I seem to get.  The Bible isn't a self-help manual.  It is one long, wonderful, redemptive narrative of God looking past our rebellion and offering us rescue.  We fail; He favors.  We are guilty; He is graceful.

Unlame indeed.

And be blessed.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


In the movie Pulp Fiction, starring Uma Thurman and John Travolta, there's a scene that was evidently taken out before final production where Thurman tells Travolta that she needs to find out what kind of man he is before she goes out with him.  She says:

'There are two kinds of people in this world - Elvis people and Beatles people.  Beatles people can like Elvis - and Elvis people can like the Beatles.  But nobody likes both equally.  Somewhere you have to make a choice and that choice tells me who you are.'

Interesting and indeed.

You could tell me certain things about yourself that would help me understand who you are:
You like to skydive.
You like Pepsi One.
You go to drive-ins rather than indoor theaters.
You read mystery novels.

But let me ask you another defining question: When you read the Bible, do you read it as a way to better yourself - climb up the moral ladder --- or do you read it as the story of God coming down to you as a broken person?

The answer to that is self-incriminating because one describes a ladder and the other a cross.  You get on a ladder to go up.  The cross, however, symbolizes God coming down to you.

We seem somewhat addicted to ladder-climbing.  We think the next rung brings freedom.  It means we get to make our own decisions, move at our own pace, hold our futures in our own hands.  And if I climb high enough, I'll be somebody - who I've always dreamed of being.  I'll achieve something - what I've always dreamed of achieving.

Part of our ladder-climbing is directed toward which rung everybody else in our system is on - a lower one than us, hopefully.

This road to supposed freedom is really the opposite.  It brings bondage -- blown expectations -- empty dreams -- false worth -- hollow accomplishments -- constant performance.

God isn't at the top of your ladder like Jack in the Beanstalk shouting: 'Get yourself up here.'  He's at the bottom - on a cross - whispering: 'I did it all for you.'

And be blessed.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Here's the secret (see yesterday's blog).  You're gonna love this.  I promise.

The Gospel announces that God doesn't relate to us based on our acts for Jesus but on Jesus' acts for us.  He secured for us what we could never secure for ourselves.

'He paid it all.  100% of it.'

This means you don't have to raise perfect kids to be worthy - you don't have to get straight As to matter - you don't have to be at the top of your corporate ladder to justify why you're on the planet.

Because Jesus was Someone, you get to be no one.  Because Jesus was supernatural, you get to be natural.  Because Jesus was extraordinary, you get to be ordinary.  Because Jesus succeeded for you, you get to fail.

He paid it all.  100% of it.

That's the secret.  Don't you love it?

Now ... what are you going to do now that you don't have to do anything?

And be blessed.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


Did anyone open this blog page hoping, longing, aching that what you read here would make you lose heart?

Did anyone hope to be discouraged?

Did anyone expect to have the breath knocked right out of your hope?

Did anyone come desiring to have your motivation for going on stripped from you?

Is there anyone who says, 'Help me be hopeless?  Help me be so discouraged I can't go on?'


'Psssst.  I have the secret.'

If I could offer you a secret that would be the answer to find continual strength, hope and joy, would any of you say, 'Forget it,  I'm not interested in that?  I don't want to hear about any secrets that will cause me to live in perpetual joy, satisfaction, purpose and hope.  Call me back when you have something less encouraging?'

If you really believed I had a secret like that, you'd want to know about it -- wouldn't you?

Psssst.  I have the secret.

Stay tuned.

And be blessed.

Monday, November 4, 2013


We need a Book.

In all our society's confusion, politics, economy, terrorism, moral decline, we need a Book.

We need a Book that will make us say, 'Forget about what I think and forget about what you think.  What does God have to say about that?'

We need The Book.  Because this is what is true and this is what builds our faith.

And be blessed.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


In my closet is an array of sport coats.  Most of them are size 42 long.  That's tailored to my body and that fits me.  If I walked in with a size 64 short, you'd look at me and say: 'You need to go back home and re-dress yourself because that doesn't even come close to fitting you.'

Unforgiveness doesn't fit you, follower of Jesus.  What does fit you?  What is the expected fruit of your life?  It's love - joy - peace - patience - faithfulness - kindness - goodness - humility - gentleness - self-control.  Is unforgiveness anywhere in that list?  That isn't in your wardrobe.

'You cannot be fully right with God or at peace with Him and be wearing hostility, bitterness and unforgiveness.'

But if I wear it anyway, even though it doesn't fit me, that's a decision I make - and I make it to my own damage.  Because sometimes unforgiveness has consequences we never dreamed of - and if we could just have seen it in advance - in our children - in our families - in our business - in our personal relationships --- if we could have seen it in advance, we'd have taken it off and gotten rid of it.

You cannot be fully right with God or at peace with Him and be wearing hostility, bitterness and unforgiveness -- you cannot.

Put on forgiveness, friend.

Cancel the debt.

And be blessed.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


I've discovered something about unforgiveness.  I don't like to let it loose.  When someone hurts me, when someone damages me, when someone says something against me, I kind of like to hold a grudge.  I kind of want to get them back.

I know you aren't like me in that way, but when I realize I should forgive --- man, I don't like that.  That flies in the face of every instinct I have.

And it's amazing how the people closest to me can hurt me the most.  Think about it: Unforgiveness isn't related to the proximity of the offense so much as it is to the proximity of the offender.  What I mean is, a complete stranger can do something hideous to you, and you might be aggravated and upset, but you probably won't get bitter about it.  On the other hand, if someone close to you does something hurtful, you have a much higher propensity to become resentful.  Because we expect more from them.

Strangers don't hurt you; friends do.  Strangers don't break your heart; friends do.

But the hardest fact of all is that you and I are responsible for our own bitterness and our own unforgiveness.  Luke 6 says that the good man brings good things out of his heart and the bad man brings bad things out of his heart.  And if unforgiveness and bitterness and resentment come out of you, it's just evidence there was unforgiveness and bitterness and resentment in you already.

If you have two glasses - one filled with clear water and one with dirty water - and you bump one and spill it, what comes out?  Whatever's in there comes out.  It isn't the bump that fills the glass; it just exposes what's already there.

'You and I are going to get bumped in life.'

You and I are going to get bumped in life.  People are going to disappoint us.  People are going to say things that are hurtful.  Someone is going to injure you.  And when resentment comes out, we'll have a leaning, out of our own self-protection, to say: 'Look what you made me do.  Look what you made me say.  Look how you made me feel.'  And the utter honesty is that it was in you already.  It was in me already.

We aren't looking to examine everybody else's heart in this - just our own - to ask God to help us get rid of any and all bitterness and place grace there instead - so when we get bumped in the future, it will be grace that comes out, instead of resentment.

And be blessed.

Friday, November 1, 2013


After years of this particular activity, I finally realized I was in sin today.

'I finally realized I was in sin today.'

Season after season I have complained about the scourge of leaves that fall in my yard every year at this time.

As I walked around the house this afternoon, it became clear to me that to complain about something God put together in His magnificent scope of creation would be to sin against Him.

So today, in what seems to be one of the most beautiful Fall seasons my yard has showcased for me as its private audience, I celebrate.

And be blessed.