Linda Taylor


Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-3 NRSV)

I last posted on July 28, two months ago. That would make me an extremely bad blogger! All I can say is that I have lived the above verses in these last months. I have faced trials and I have endured. Have I considered it “nothing but joy”?

Not so much.

The summer was long and somewhat painful with many changes, hurts, and sorrows mixed with God’s richest protection and blessings. Suffice it to say that while I often thought about the concept of joy because of my personal study for this year, actually trying to put words to paper (or on computer screen) seemed to be more than I could handle.

There must be something about endurance that makes it so valuable that God is willing to let us face trials in order to build that quality in us. And it must become so valuable to us personally that we are joyful because we know that the trials are building that quality in us.

So what’s so good about endurance? Well, the verse goes on to say that when endurance has its full effect, we become “mature and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Do I feel more mature after this summer? Maybe a little. I’m wiser. I’m more sensitive to others who hurt. I understand how fragile life is. I know a little more about God’s hand in and on our lives. If this is guiding me to become more complete in him, if this is what God wants to see in my life, then I can only hope that endurance is indeed having its full effect.

But endurance is more than survival. The context seems to tell me that I endure this testing of my faith by being faithful, by obeying God, by moving forward when curling into a ball or giving up would be easier. It means doing the right thing when the wrong thing seems to make more sense. It means walking step by step in the direction where God is leading, following in his footsteps.

Only then can endurance possibly help us find joy in trials. Only then is endurance meaningful because God is guiding through the trial and actually has a reason for it, an end in mind, a goal to make us mature and complete.

I could not be strong without trials. An easy life makes a weak Christian. I don’t want to be a couch potato Christian; I want to be a muscular Christian. And, like physical strength, that moral fiber needed for my life of faith is only developed as I endure in obedience the trials set before me—trials God knows about, God allows, and God helps me handle.

Could I ask for anything else? Easy life? Why? What would be the purpose in that? How about a purposeful life, a life lived for God, a life spent doing exactly what he wants me to do? And if I want to do that, I need to be molded by him through the trials that develop endurance.

Nothing but joy, Lord. Nothing but joy!

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This Is the Day

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

“This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad today!” (Psalm 118:24 GWT)

I will rejoice and be glad today.


I am currently saying these words to myself—seeking the good in a tough situation. Our lives are unsettled right now as we await God’s guidance for a new phase of our lives. I have shed some tears over the past, I have said my good-byes to a home in which we invested ourselves and grew our family, and I have faced my own personal “funk” as I sat down to feel sorry for myself that God has put us in a holding pattern.


I am eager to move on. I am eager to see what God will do. I am eager to settle in the new place with a new lease on our lives in the years to come.


Yet God keeps us here. Why? What is he waiting for? Ah . . . but I know better than to ask that question. I know better than to complain. I know better than to demand that God answer me. I know, from painful experience, that God will work in his time in his way. Far from being a cliché, it is a fact of our lives with him.


So what is left for me to do in this time of waiting?


Trust his promises.


Walk with him.


Talk with him.


Listen to him.


And, oh yeah, rejoice.


I am not called to sit and wait to be happy or content when things get better, when life is settled, when the questions are answered. I am called to rejoice today.


I can rejoice because I can trust his promises, I can walk with him, I can talk with him, I can listen to him. And I can rejoice because I know that our future is safely in his hands.


Are you in a holding pattern today? Waiting for God’s answer to the cries of your heart? It may seem counterintuitive but I would encourage you to trust, walk, talk, listen, and …




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Thoughts on Change and Joy

Monday, July 13th, 2009

“I will bring health and healing to it. I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security . . . Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it.” (Jeremiah 33:6, 9 NIV)

I was looking for verses that would contain thoughts of “change” along with promises of joy. My own life is in flux now with lots of change in the wind, and my churning stomach and sleepless nights are a constant reminder that I haven’t yet got a handle on this whole “rejoice always” package. Trust me, it’s easer to write about than it is to actually do in the trenches.

But I’m determined to try.

To the Israelites to whom Jeremiah wrote, this promise seemed to ring hollow against the backdrop of their reality. Yet the promise was sure–God was going to bring health and healing, peace and security, with the ultimate goal that they would give back to him the glory due to him. Change would be good for everyone involved.

Sometimes change is necessary in order to bring about that very health and healing. In fact, health and healing are themselves changes when laid against a time of hurt or pain. To get to healing sometimes requires a time of surgery, or recovery, or rehab. But eventually, healing comes. Good change occurs.

I believe that God wants the very best for us. I believe that when we call he “will answer [us] and tell [us] great and unsearchable things [we] do not know” (v. 3). The promise here is to God’s people, Israel, yet I do know that God works in all of his people’s lives to make beauty instead of ashes as Isaiah wrote (Isaiah 61:3) and to restore us so that we might glorify him. He is always in the business of restoration.

Every little step of trust and faith that we take–even when life changes throw us, even when we’re not sure where we’re going, even when things don’t make sense–is a step that pushes back the darkness and confusion Satan wants to give us. Each step says to God, “I don’t see where I’m going but I trust you.” After all, “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

So in the midst of changes in my household, good ones, I grab onto God’s promise of renewal and restoration, of “hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11), of health and healing.

May we bring you renown, joy, praise, and honor, Lord, because of what you have done for us.

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Only Jesus

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners . . . to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:1-3)

When Jesus sat down in the synagogue of Nazareth and was handed the scroll to read, He unrolled it to this very passage, Isaiah 61, and read verse 1 and part of verse 2. Then He made the astounding pronouncement: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Jesus was making the point that He was the one to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of restoration.

The prophecy at the end of the book of Isaiah focuses on the full restoration of God’s people that is still to be fulfilled in the future; yet Jesus says in no uncertain terms that “today” at least that portion of the prophecy was fulfilled. He is the anointed one with the Spirit who:
* preaches the good news
* binds up the brokenhearted
* proclaims freedom to captives
* releases prisoners from the darkness
* bestows a crown of beauty instead of ashes
* gives oil of gladness instead of mourning
* offers a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

You need good news? Go to Jesus.

You need binding for your broken heart? Go to Jesus.

You need freedom from captivating sin or addiction? Go to Jesus.

You need release from Satan’s darkness? Go to Jesus.

You want to trade in the ashes of wasted time or a burnt-out life for a crown of beauty? Go to Jesus.

You want to finally find joy instead of the sorrow and mourning that has dogged your days? Go to Jesus.

You want to get out from under the weight of despair over pain or hurt or hopelessness and put on a garment of praise? Go to Jesus.

You want to trade shame and disgrace for everlasting joy? Go to Jesus.

No one else can make such offers–and no one else can deliver. Only Jesus can say it. Only Jesus can do it.

Only Jesus.

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Obedience and Joy

Monday, June 15th, 2009

“The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.” (Psalm 19:8 NIV)

Jesus echoed this sentiment in John 15 when He said that our joy would overflow through our love and obedience to the Savior. When we obey Him, we remain in His love and when we do that, our joy will be complete (John 15:10-11).


Obeying God gives joy. It’s so simple, so true, yet so difficult. We stray so easily. Following God goes against what feels good at times. It sometimes makes us take the more difficult path, the path that means hanging in with trust and faith instead of reaching for the short-term fix, what we feel we deserve, what makes us feel good. Obeying means being willing to see that there’s a bigger picture; it’s not all about us. Yes, God loves us totally and completely, but His love has bigger plans for us than to just toss us crumbs of happiness. He wants to give us deep, abiding joy that is full, complete, and overflowing (John 15:11), joy that no one can take away (John 16:22). And, as odd as it may seem, that kind of joy is often forged in the fires of difficulty.


True joy is forged in the fires of trusting God when it doesn’t make sense, obeying God when disobedience would feel better, walking with God when the path looks dark and scary. God wants us to find joy that accomplishes His perfect will in our lives, and then spreads from us into our worlds. All of this comes from obedience to His law.


Why? This psalm tells us.


His law revives even the most tired soul, for it grants us guidance when we don’t know what to do (Psalm 19:7). His statutes are trustworthy, giving wisdom when the gray of the world makes us unsure of where the lines are, what’s right or wrong (v. 7).


His precepts are right, giving joy to our hearts, for we know when we do as He says, we are on the right path and He is pleased (v. 8). His commands are radiant, giving us light and guidance when otherwise we would stumble and be unable to find our way (v. 8). By them we are warned; in keeping them there is great reward (v. 11).


That’s why we need to be in God’s Word every day; otherwise we begin to lose perspective. We need to be revived and given wisdom, joy, and light to penetrate the unknown and unfamiliar path ahead.


His words are “more precious than gold, than much pure gold” (v. 10). Their value is without end.


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The Joy of Not Following

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” (Psalm 1:1-2 NLT)

One thing about the psalms—they don’t pull any punches. The unknown writer of Psalm 1 lays out two paths—following the wicked or delighting in the law of the Lord. No other option. Two paths. Choose one.

It doesn’t seem that black and white in real life, does it? The advice given by a well-meaning friend doesn’t seem like “advice of the wicked” and hanging out with a particular group doesn’t seem like standing “around with sinners.” I wouldn’t say that you must close your life to those people who most need to know the Savior—you may be the only positive influence they have in that direction. So how can you follow the advice of these verses and still be an effective witness to the gospel message to your friends who need to hear it?

The key is in the verbs: “follow,” “stand around,” “join in.” While it may be important and valuable to continue your relationship with unbelieving friends, you must always be aware of a line that you should not cross. Back to those two choices. Your ultimate allegiance is to your Lord, and so, as the verse says, you “delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.” Two other important verbs: “delight,” “meditate.”

So let’s go back to your unbelieving friends. You love them. You appreciate their skills at their jobs or the gifts they have in other areas. They’re funny—over lunch you usually end up laughing until you cry.

But take a moment to assess the conversation, the assumptions, the advice tossed around. If this is all good clean fun, then you are blessed to enjoy such friendships and be able to build the kind of trust with these people that may lead to conversations about eternal things. However, are your friends involved in actions that, while permissible in the world, you would consider wrong (and you’ve built that opinion based on your meditating day and night in God’s Word)? Is a friend contemplating an affair or making excuses for one? Is another friend spreading gossip that is really none of anyone’s business? Are you all laughing at the expense of someone else?

You see, that’s where you have to “not follow” the advice, or “stand around” as wrong actions are condoned, or “join in” when hurtful gossip is spread. That’s where you need to draw the line.

The psalm writer clearly explains that in order to find joy, you must not follow along, condone, or join in activities you know to be wrong. Instead, you stand firmly on God’s truth, you “delight in the law of the Lord,” and you can see the black from the white because you have soaked in God’s Word day and night.

So what do you do? You needn’t pull a holier-than-thou attitude, nor do you need to come across as judgmental and condemning. Because of your great delight and joy in knowing God’s truth, you seek his guidance for how to deal with a certain situation with your friends. Maybe it’s a late-night coffee klatch with the friend who’s considering an affair—talking personally to her about your concerns. Maybe it’s just turning the conversation at the lunch table a different direction when you see it going all gossipy. Maybe it’s inserting your opinion kindly but strongly—after all, you’re probably not the only one doing so. These are your friends after all. They value what you have to say. Say what you have to say with kindness and conviction.

You see, you’ve settled the issues with God by finding your deepest joy in him and his Word. Your friends will be impressed with your consistency, your boldness, your honesty, and, above all, your joy. When you delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night, you’ll be like a tree planted by the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season, your leaves never withering (Psalm 1:3). You’ll be a source of refreshment to your friends, your neighbors, indeed everyone you cross paths with today.

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Joy Is Your Strength

Monday, May 4th, 2009

” ‘Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks . . . This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!’ . . . So the people went away to eat and drink at a festive meal, to share gifts of food, and to celebrate with great joy because they had heard God’s words and understood them.” (Nehemiah 8:10, 12 NLT)

The newly-returned exiles from Babylon had rebuilt the broken-down wall around the city of Jerusalem in a mere 52 days. As the people began to settle in, they needed to be reminded of their spiritual legacy. So Ezra the priest stood before the people on a platform in the city square and read aloud the Book of the Law as the Levites “clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage” (8:8). The effect was profound; the people were “weeping as they listened” (8:9).

What triggered the weeping? Perhaps as Ezra read God’s Word, the full realization of how far they had strayed from God and His laws weighed upon them. As they stood in the once-glorious city, they realized what their sin had wrought. Nehemiah and the other leaders comforted the weeping crowd. This was a sacred day because today they understood what God wanted. Yes, they had indeed strayed, but God was graciously giving them a new start.

Now standing inside the newly-rebuilt walls of their city, God, His promises, and their relationship to Him as His people all came together. God had brought them home. They had a huge task ahead to get their nation back on track. Depression and sorrow would not get the job done, but joy would. The joy of the Lord would give them strength. So Nehemiah sent them off to celebrate this new beginning.

What new beginning do you want from the Lord? Maybe, like the Hebrew people in that city square, you have experienced some failure in yourpast that causes you sorrow. Dig into God’s Word and ask Him to show you what you need to do. Don’t let depression or grieving over the past get in the way of God’s plans for you. Don’t let “wasted” time in “exile” affect what you can do now and in the future.

Want to move forward? The joy of the Lord is your strength.

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Songs of Joy

Monday, April 27th, 2009

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:5-6 NIV)

These verses follow right on the heels of the verse from last week’s post. This psalm is a “Song of Ascent,” one of the psalms written post-captivity and sung by the Hebrew people as they journeyed (“ascended”) to the temple for the annual feasts.  In this psalm, the people are singing about being returned to Zion after their captivity. That’s the celebration behind the verse from last week (“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy,” v. 3) and the background of today’s verses. Tears had indeed been sown as the people went into captivity; now the people are reaping with songs of joy as they experience God’s grace and the fulfillment of His promises to them.

Many times in my life–times when tears flowed often–I took comfort in these verses. I felt that I was indeed “sowing in tears.”  The picture is of a farmer tearfully carrying his seed to the field and doing the day’s work. He must. He has no choice if he wants any kind of harvest. The seed must be sown despite the tears. Time passes. The seed grows. Finally, the farmer heads to the field and reaps the harvest with great joy.

Farmers understand waiting and the need for patience as the fields grow. We too need to discover patience in our times of tears. The point is, the farmer did not let the tears keep him from the task at hand. He sowed. So I must keep moving, even when tears flow. I have life to live, jobs to do, responsibilities to fulfill.

What should we sow in those difficult times? We could sow anger, bitterness, discord, frustration, lack of faith. We could sow sin or revenge. Sowing in that way, however, will not bring a harvest of joy. Instead, we will “reap what we sow” (as Paul said in Galatians 6:7) and the harvest will be more tears.

In order to reap joy, we should sow seeds that will grow into the fruit of the Spirit. Sow seeds of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness. and self-control.

Sow these seeds, along with your tears, and then wait. Patiently. The harvest will come. The seed will mature. The tears will end and you will return with songs of joy, carrying the harvest with you.

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Filled with Joy

Monday, April 20th, 2009

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” (Psalm 126:3 NIV)

I was at Houghton College this past weekend. As I wandered the campus that was my home from 1976-1980, I often felt choked up as I trekked along familiar sidewalks around the quad or climbed the same dining hall stairs I hurried up and down so many years ago. At the same time came a wave of intense joy. What was I feeling? Why these surges of opposite emotions?

As I walked across the campus, I felt that familiar catch in my throat. How often I had felt that catch during those years as a college student. How many times I had walked the quad, my breath floating in the freezing winter evening, hot tears staining my cheeks. Fears, frustrations, worries had many times driven me to walk and cry alone. Yet as I look back on that time in my life, I also remember it with great joy.

Perhaps it has something to do with having that benchmark to look back at during a specific time in my life. I know that at that moment in time (four years of college) at a certain place (Houghton College), I learned who I was and what I was about.

At Houghton College, I grew up. More than that, I learned what it would mean to continue to grow and change. By the time of my junior year, I had found my voice, my place. I knew I had value, reason to be, “a future and a hope” (to quote Jeremiah). Somewhere in that four-year time frame, Houghton seared itself into my being like a brand on my heart. As corny as it sounds, I cannot escape it–the choked-up feeling mixed with tears and joy insists that what I feel is real.

At Houghton I learned that personal change–massive change–was possible. I could rise to any challenge, face hardship and difficulty, struggle with my faith, wrestle with God, and come out wounded but stronger, like a broken bone strengthened by the process of healing.

Since my time at Houghton, my path has yielded some bumps, delightful surprises, some detours, and some treks on roads that never appeared on any map. At the time I didn’t see the future, wasn’t even sure of the destination, but I knew I had my feet on the right path. And that was enough.

Not to say I didn’t want more at the time–to have settled the searing questions of husband and career–but I look back across the landscape of my life since Houghton knowing that this traveler at least had a map and would never be lost.

So the tears come out of gratefulness and joy. Thanks to God for leading me to this place in the lush green hills of upstate New York. Thanks to Him for being there through lonely days, rainy afternoons, sad Saturdays, along with the sunshine moments of laughter and fun with men and women who became lifelong friends. Thanks for teaching and guiding me, one step at a time, one lesson at a time, as much as my little heart could handle, never too much (at least I can see that now).

That’s what choked me up as I walked across campus 29 years later–older, wiser, a vessel overflowing with God’s amazing grace. The God who comforted and guided me here on this campus is more real, more amazing, more delightful every day.

Thank you Houghton for being the place where all of this was shown to me by way of wise professors, kind staff, amazing chapel speakers, and hymns sung to the staggering sound of the organ as I stood in my place in the front row of the chapel and a thousand voices descended upon me from behind.

The joy comes from seeing with 20/20 vision the pathway I’ve trod since then. I now can clearly see that the bumps and detours themselves allowed for the possibility of those delightful surprises around bends in the road–surprises I would have missed otherwise.

So I walk those sidewalks around that quad that I walked decades ago and I see where I have been. That 20/20 reinforcement of how my Lord watched over me in those benchmark years gives me strength to turn back around and continue my journey. More bumps and detours will come but there will also be more delightful surprises. As God guided before, He will continue to do so.

He has done great things for me, and I am filled with joy.

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He Saw the Joy Ahead

Monday, April 13th, 2009

“Since we are surrounded by so many examples of faith, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up. We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God. Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, GW)

Coming off of Easter weekend, I thought it appropriate to consider a bit more about the sacrifice of our Lord and how that works with our concept of joy. I found more in these verses in Hebrews. They follow the great Hall of Faith chapter, and so the “many examples of faith” surrounding us include the likes of great Bible people described in Hebrews 11. Folks like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Jepthah, Barak–indeed all of God’s faithful who have gone before us make up this “great cloud of witnesses” (as the NIV translates it), watching from the grandstands of heaven as we run the race that lies ahead of us.

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that since this great crowd surrounds us, faithful people who in some cases died for their faith, we should look to their examples and get rid of anything that would slow us down. Like any good runner focusing on the finish line, we focus on Jesus, our ultimate example, the goal of our faith. “He saw the joy ahead of him” and endured the cross. When we think about him, we should be encouraged in our own individual race of life to not get tired and give up.

My race is different from your race; my track is different from yours. Like cross country runners, we all will wind through pleasant smooth pathways and up and down difficult hills (or mountains!). In order to keep going, I must strip away sin that entangles me and seeks to trip me up. I tend to worry a lot; doing that only slows me down, trips me up, distracts me, and at times even causes me to want to stop running altogether. What sin is weighing you down? Strip it off. Get rid of it.

Why should you keep running? Because there is an end to the race, my friend. Jesus endured because of the joy he saw ahead. You can endure for the same reason. There is joy ahead.

Are you weary of enduring hurt? Not feeling that you can take another step? Can joy be enough to look forward to? All that I’ve studied about joy in this past year tells me that yes, joy is the best enticement of all. It was enough for Jesus–He had left that joy and knew what He would be returning to. If it was enough for Him, how it could not be enough for me? I endure all of this patiently not because riches or fame await. Those would be of no lasting value. I endure not because death and nothingness await. That would be pointless. I endure not because I’m trying to be good enough so that I can do it all a little bit better in another life (talk about exhausting!). No, I endure because of the joy set before me. Deep abiding joy that no one can take away. Constant joy unmarred by sin and evil. Eternal joy in the presence of my God and all the witnesses who have gone before.

I don’t want anything to hinder me. Not my sin, my hangups, my fears, my worries, my hurts. I want to persevere, to not grow tired and give up.

After all, a whole crowd is cheering me on.

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