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*Special thanks to Shila and Pragna for their encouragement and inspiration*

I Still Remember Margaret Green

I was just a mere fourteen years of age at the time. Love, even if it’s the “puppy love” genera of the emotion, will make a young man do some pretty crazy things. I, being born and raised in the “Great White North”, winter temperatures of minus thirty or colder with the wind chill factored in, were quite common throughout my early years. Global warming has somewhat rectified that as one’s everyday frosty Toronto reality in February, but back in the day it was to be taken very seriously.

In the “60”s”, we’d often experience evening “blizzards”. Just their remembrance sends chills to my core! Burrrrrr! To be exposed for any length of time would likely result in frost bite to one’s exposed extremities. But as mentioned: Love has no such thought process actively calculating these trivialities. Love plots with only one motivating factor propelling its goal. Arrival whatever the cost, knowing the reward will be worth it! Blizzards can blind you. Love, even more so!

It was a mid-winter Sunday night. A few days prior, when warmer conditions were the reality, I had, with the best of intentions, promised Margaret that I would spend some quality time with her at her parent’s home that evening. But now, the aforementioned nasty winter blizzard was in full rage mode. What to do, I wondered? But only for the briefest of moments.

A reasonable man would have cancelled the visit with just cause in exchange for a later date. I mean, all Margaret had to do was to look out her window to recognize the treacherous nature of my previously arranged good intentioned gesture. But I had an unsurmountable problem? I was neither a man nor reasonable!

You see, I hadn’t met Margaret’s parents yet and feeling very much secure in the thought that my four week friendship with their daughter was on the fast track to matrimony, I decided that I should at the very least, pop in to say “hello” to my future in-laws. I’m not sure if anyone else was on the same page as I back then. Looking through the lens of hindsight I kinda doubt it. But it wasn’t a fantasy to me thus a sense of urgency was in play as my options coursed through my “alleged” mind.

I quickly concluded what any young man having been afflicted with the “loveitess” virus would do! Ignore the blizzard and head directly for the bus stop with one other additional well-known fundamental truth in need of ignoring. The Sunday evening bus schedules were strictly limited to one bus per hour at best. I don’t mean to sound ancient of days but in those times we didn’t have “comfy cozy cuddly bus shelters” so if you had just missed one, which was the case for me that night, you could die waiting for the next to arrive.

I could have returned home. I wasn’t far away from its alluring heated comfort that would have most certainly welcomed me with open arms. But folks, I was a young man on a mission with a serious condition. I was in love!

Well, I did arrive that night but not without consequences. You see before launching out on my journey to see Margaret, who I had now nicknamed “Miss Delicious”, I thought it as extremely important to maintain my “cool” image when choosing my wardrobe for the most huge event of my life. After all, I was fourteen and didn’t have “forever” to make a lasting good impression. I’d be calling these perfect strangers Mom and Dad soon! Mind you, once removed seeing as I had parents who struggled to admit that fact.

Gloves, oh my goodness even worse mittens, boots, a scarf , a woolly hat, ear muffs, or a lined coat with a visually impairing oversized parka? NO, NO, NO! I didn’t want to be greeted at the door looking like a lost Eskimo who had made a wrong turn. One’s priorities are of paramount importance at a time such as this!

Oh there’s no doubt folks, I was amazingly cool. In fact so cool, I was utterly frozen to the bone by the time I knocked on the door of “Miss Delicious”! “Wow you made it”, were her words of greeting. Words that frankly warmed my heart but did no such thing for my fourteen year old refrigerated body! No, my “thawing out” process would need much longer than that to achieve its greatly needed re-established blood flow status. Evidently hypothermia can be as deadly as “lovitis” I discovered.

Margaret’s parents were so very gracious as to not mention my obvious redness of skin color although they did look at me as if internally questioning my mental wherewithal. After a few hours of shivering in their living roomed company, Dad offered me a ride home. This was no time for a bravado laden “no thanks I’m fine Sir” response, feeling fortunate to still be alive.

As Dad, Margaret, and I travelled together in the warmth of their family station wagon my gaze was fixed on the “one” who was responsible for my momentary insane behavior. You see, my heart knew that she was more than worth the expense of her presence. A cost I considered as nothing compared to the reward! My immediate lot in life was “frozen”, yet I was “well” in the presence of the one that I loved.

A somewhat trivial “real life” story shared to hopefully impart to you a smile or even perhaps a flash back or two of your own youth. But more importantly and metaphorically speaking for us, to re-inforce therefore substantiate, the validity of Paul’s, to follow testimony of the surpassing worth of intimately knowing Jesus. Miss Delicious was worth the cost that chilly evening. How immeasurably more should that apply to Jesus regarding my whole life! Let’s hear from Paul.

Philippians 3 - 7 & 8

“But whatever were gains to me I now consider as loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the “SURPASSING WORTH” of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage”.

Paul doesn’t leave much to the imagination does he? Now, we could read that scripture and surmise how amazingly sacrificial Paul was in his losses. Paul would challenge our summation!

He’d say: You aren’t getting my point. All that I had accumulated before meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road had massive worth in a natural sense. I had it all. Prestige, wealth, power and the respect of those who knew me. No one thought of me as lacking in any area of life, nor did I. Then I met Jesus and all that I had accumulated, instantly seemed like “nothing” in comparison to His glory and reality. In a single heartbeat, the immense value of my “temporal natural” was shadowed into oblivion by Christ’s brilliant radiance! My gain far “surpassed” my loss! My point of importance? I didn’t loss anything, I gained everything! Is that more clear? Paul would say.

Surpassing Worth

Lately I’ve been mulling over those two powerfully revealing and seriously challenging words: "Surpassing Worth". Written as an inclusion to his letter to the Philippians, I have always loved Paul's description of "value" in regards to knowing Jesus. “Everything else” Paul considers to be "nothing" of consequence by comparison. How very lovely as an intimate attitude of disciple in Christ! I think our hearts need to know Jesus from that perspective to truly walk in His fullness as Paul did.

The circumstances of our lives (our lot) whatever that may entail, should never be connected to Christ’s worth. They are truly two totally different entities and ought not be confused with each other. Paul would further confirm that as true, as he wrote from his prison cell. “I have learned to be content in all things”. He listed his “all things” which ran the gamut from having much, to having little, to having nothing. His experientially based conclusion: What I have fluctuates and is irrelevant compared to Who I have! The One who never changes. The One who never leaves nor forsakes. The One who joins me in prison to accomplish through me His divine purpose for my life.

Foolish Gospels

As we are aware, there are those among us that promote the error of connection. They see God as a “Cosmic Sugar Daddy” rather than a “Heavenly Father”. That’s terribly, flagrantly, and sadly demeaning of His true nature and identity. I’m guessing these folks would pity Paul, rather than desire to emulate his “content in all things” commitment. It’s backwards theology we are being exposed to folks. It’s kind of a “Tony Robbins” on steroids production. This gospel, grotesquely suggests that our Lord confirms His worth by our wealth while simultaneously it defames those brave souls who have lost their lives by their refusal to recant their faith in Christ!

Paul would strenuously object: No, he would say, Jesus confirmed His worth on a cross while simultaneously confirming ours with His shed blood! There’s no need for further confirmation! Paul would further impart this harsh reality to the sellers and buyers of this foolishness. Your gospel is that of a two year old, grow up!

I ponder at times this thought: What would these folks do if following Jesus became a crime to be imprisoned or executed for, as it is in other areas of the world and was back in Paul’s day? If church buildings were outlawed and bibles were confiscated, what then? If TV evangelists were shut down and all that their followers were left with was Christ and Him alone. Would they be strong enough to endure or would they fold up like a cheap suitcase.

With their sugary treats and ear tickling’s removed by law, would they run for the hills denying Christ all the way or would they stand rock-solid in the face of adversity as defiant as a Paul? I would strongly suggest to flip the switch if that time should ever come would be impossible if not already well-rehearsed!

When it came to the untainted loveliness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul was not a man who easily tolerated counterfeits nor did he mince words with the profiteers or their adherents. To Paul’s credit, he always spoke from his heart as one whose concern was first and foremost for the sheep who belonged to his beloved Shephard.

The gospel that proclaimed: “my-lot” should be “a-lot”, was considered by Paul as offensive to Jesus, therefore it offended him. When the One you love above all others is having His identity adjusted to make Him more sellable to the masses, that is a legitimate emotion for Paul to feel.

In Corinth there was an issue of other gospels declaring a different Jesus than the one Paul had preached. Hear Paul’s heart as he expounds his major concern in 2 Corinthians 11 - 3: “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be somehow led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ”.

Folks, when “our lot” in life is our main focus we open the door to “foolish gospels” that make zero scriptural sense. If that has been our long-term spiritual ingestion, may God help us if the landscape of “Free World Christianity” is so altered to match that of our brothers and sisters in other geographical locations. One shouldn’t think of that as an impossibility.

Sometimes Bad Is God?

No I didn’t mean “good”, although it would have been equally appropriate in the light of the point. When we sojourn with Christ having "His worth" indelibly inscribed and pedestalled in our souls it finds itself outwardly displayed as radiantly real to others. It’s when we “shine” in our valleys that He is His most vividly obvious and gloriously attractive. As it was in the Apostle Paul’s life, there are times “our lot” needs to be “dire” to achieve God’s desired end result. But here’s the challenging part. We have to be voluntarily OK with that as we deny ourselves, pick up our individual crosses, and follow Him!

Philippians 1 -12 > 14: Once again Paul writing from prison: “Now I want you to know brothers and sisters that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ and because of my chains most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear”.

Folks, Paul is celebrating his incarceration! Let that marinate in your hearts for a moment to be referenced the next time something doesn’t quite go the way you had planned. Relativity is an important dynamic to embrace as followers of Christ. It keeps our perspective intact!

Not wanting to dramatize, but desiring to be perfectly clear: In those days prisons didn’t come with color TV nor three meals per day. I doubt books to read as entertainment to pass the time or showers to accommodate one’s hygienic concerns were part of the package being offered by the authorities. No, a reality based grotesque dungeon type of existence was “the lot” of those imprisoned. Inmate complaints would be met with a severe flogging from the more than willing jailer. It was a sadistic perk of the job I assume. No doubt, a daunting weight for a soul to daily bear! Any self-thinking man would have chosen death over imprisonment with its quick solution to this hellish lifestyle. But Paul was as diametrically opposite as you can be from self-thinking!

So what exactly had Paul uncovered that was so immensely celebratory in content as to desire its sharing with these followers of Jesus in Philippi who he had mentored? Paul as an Apostle of Christ was a consummate encourager and inspirer. In his writing, he highlighted the miracles he was experiencing under the very roof of his dreadful dwelling place. He wrote with his priorities in perfect alignment with the heart of Christ. He was teaching them with his testimony that his “lot” was meaningless, as was theirs, as long as God was using it! That to Paul was the point of importance. He was rejoicing in his dungeon at what God was doing! Paul, it’s time to help us understand how we can think likewise. Sometimes it feels as though you and we are on two very different pages.

A Chat With Paul

Colossians 3 - 1 > 3: “Since then you have been (past tense) raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Because of this “reality”) set your minds on things above not on earthly things. For you DIED and your LIFE is NOW hidden with Christ in God”.

More from Paul as we begin to clue into something seriously profound. Galatians 2 - 20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I NO LONGER LIVE but Christ lives within me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me”.

OK Paul, just to be clear cause I’m getting a little light-headed with the potential possibilities of your dialog. As to not misunderstand, could we back up and go over this again slowly but first I have a few questions: Are you speaking “hypothetically” as in metaphorically? Am I to seriously live “this” out daily as if it’s my reality or am I to just religiously agree that it’s true? You know, kind of an agreeable mind adherence with no real heart actively involved in the overall process. You see Paul, if what you are stating is literally and factually true, your imparted information is radically serious to me! It would change everything!

So are you saying I’m dead? Like, really dead! Are you furthermore stating that I was actually crucified with Christ, which would make me dead now that I think about it. But supernaturally resurrected with Jesus into newness of life complete with a new divine trajectory and purpose. In essence. are you telling me that I am alive but it’s not me but rather Christ in me who gives me new life. A different life. A transformed life. And in that new life “my lot” is purposed and hidden in Christ, never to be contemplated or evaluated on a daily basis but rather embraced, with total disregard of what “my lot” might entail? Even if it’s prison where you so often found lodging, it’s not to matter to me? Is that what you are saying Sir?

Paul responds in a word: “YES”. One more Paul if you would graciously spare me the time: So it’s not to be me, me, anymore but rather He, He? Am I getting this right? In short Bill: “YES”.

It’s A Game Changer

There are times in life when being right creates a healthy turmoil in one’s soul! Rightness often challenges pre-conceptions of past entrenched conformities of thought.

I bid my brother Paul farewell, concluding our chat to let him get back to whatever he does in heaven but my goodness he definitely dropped some chilling reality into my hypotheticals. It’s kind of scary when you realize that by focusing on “our lot” we always relegate the profound to accommodate.

Jesus said in John 11 - 25: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live even though they die”!

I’m no longer convinced that Jesus is singularly referring to caskets and funerals. It’s bigger and far more overwhelming than that! When we said yes to our Lord’s call, Paul would emphatically confirm that something profoundly tangible happened in a moment in time. Not hypothetically as our mind’s “comfort levels” would tend to prefer. No, this was spiritually realistic in the most life altering of ways. Our minds are limited and extremely uncomfortable with any thought that transcends their limitations so they don’t go there.

We can be just like those who stayed in the boat while Peter embarked on his water walk with Jesus. The ones who chose to remain seated which happened to be all of them, didn’t perceive the invitation as untrue, just not within the scope of their understanding, thus uncomfortable.

Bill Gaither penned in his greatly loved song “He Touched Me” these two words: “Something Happened”. I’ve sang it a thousand times but was never really taught what that “something” was exactly. We all knew “something” happened but it was left a touch vague. If you were to ask the question you would get a three word answer like: You got saved or you met Jesus. But in my heart of hearts I knew that something happened that couldn’t be encapsulated in three words. Something huge!

Spiritually speaking, which is our only true reality: When Jesus hung on His cross, we did as well with Him. Paul said: I’m dead because I’ve been spiritually crucified “with” Christ then rebirthed spiritually alive in Him. Paul could have written an obituary that read: Saul is dead!! There’s an end of my old reality and a beginning of another. Things are not the same anymore. Something very real within my spirit has happened and it’s not of this world!

Folks, when our Lord Jesus was buried so were we. When He was resurrected we were too but, not as we were. I’m not totally sure that we completely understand the piercing severity of that profound truth.

Saul died and was resurrected as Paul! In like manner, the Bill Taylor who at twenty seven years of age walked into a little white Baptist church to visit his sister, wasn’t the same Bill Taylor who walked out. Something that was beyond his mind to comprehend had happened. Twenty seven years lived without as much as an utterance referring to the existence of God and now the man couldn’t shut up! Truth be known, he still can’t!

Folks, the exact same scenario applies to each of us. We were “of the world” in Saul like fashion but we’re not now in Paul like fashion. That information once fully embraced as our new reality is a game changer of gargantuan proportion.

Why? Because we then understand and co-operate with the why and where “our lot” abides. Rooted in Christ with a divine purpose. We then are free like Paul to celebrate “whatever” our lot is. That “it” and “we” are “in Christ” is all that suddenly matters.

“Those who the Son sets free are free indeed”. Free to do exactly what? Free to set our hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.

Questions In Need Of Answers

If the old Bill Taylor is dead, then why and more importantly how, does he show up periodically with his uninvited encore appearances? That is the proverbial fly in the ointment isn’t it? We all struggle with this frustrating dilemma. Even our highlighted brother Paul said: The things I know to do, I don’t do, and the things I know not to do, I do. Well, if Paul can struggle there’s gracious leniency for us all. So lean in, I have good and helpful news to consider.

First of all, the old doesn’t show up. It is well and truly deader than dead. Just its “memory” of behavioral patterns appear which are stored in our mind’s data base. But to be perfectly clear: That’s not our reality it’s our memory and those are two very different dynamics. We have not been given the gift of spiritual amnesia so we remember our old selves. Sometimes we act out those past tendencies but I repeat: That’s not who we are! When you say it is, in essence you are denying the finished work of the cross. That’s a seriously slippery slope to slid down! It’s bottom has no end!

It can be discouraging when it happens so what do we do about that? By the grace of God and the enablement of the Holy Spirit we open our hearts wider to understand in the depths of our souls that’s “who we were” not “who we are”. Speak that truth into the illusion and you will be amazed how quickly these unwanted illusions disappear. You see an illusion by its very nature isn’t real nor rational. Don’t feed them but rather starve them with the truth! You have it, use it.

While our memories do cause us havoc at times they can also be our best friend in the fight if we use them as such. For instance: Each day I remind myself of how very far God has brought me over the years. I remember the many versions of myself but recognize that I only have one singular reality. It’s been etched in stone by Christ from the very beginning. He has gently and progressively removed the negativity of my memories, supplanting these illusions with a much more clear image of who I really am in Him. It is there that my heart lives. It’s my reality, why would I not take up residence in such a truthful place? The process is much like old dead skin being removed to expose the new that exists just under the surface.

But here’s what I so want you to embrace to free your souls from illusionary thoughts. The old skin is dead folks! Don’t speak as though it’s not! Wear your newness like a beautifully radiant garment, purchased by Jesus and gifted by His grace.

I pray that this book has inspired you to re-evaluate your new identity in Jesus. To see it higher, wider, and deeper than ever before. It’s so much more profound than parroted church clichés. In saying “yes” to Christ we haven’t joined a denominational club nor a religion, we’ve entered a unique, one of a kind, Kingdom and it’s real! Let us not allow “in the box” thinking deny us of our amazing new reality that invites our daily immersion into the surpassing worth of our Lord and Savior.

“Whatever my lot Thou has taught me to say it is well with my soul”. May that refrain be our testimony as we continue our sojourn of intimacy with Jesus!

Earlier I presented a “what if” scenario. What if the “Free World” trappings and add-ons of our Christian Culture vanished by law. What if we were left with only Christ and Him alone. Would we be all right? Would we survive? Has Jesus been sufficiently real to us that His sheer reality would carry us through to victory if the darkest of day’s should arrive?

I pray we would be perfectly fine as a reward for not having attached the graffiti of foolishness or religiosity to His immense beauty. If that were our story I believe He would shine through as He did for Paul, whatever our lot!

My Ministry - Our Ministry

Mark 6 - 38 & 41: “How many loaves do you have He asked?” “Go and see”. When they found out they said, “Five and two fish”. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to His disciples to DISTRIBUTE to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all”. ( Five thousand plus, were fed that day! )

In the biblical story of the “fishes and loaves”, I so clearly see three dynamics in play to achieve the desired completion of the heavenly orchestrated equation. The young boy GAVE what little he had, our Lord then MULTIPLIED it, and the disciples then DISTRIBUTED it.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus, after the multiplying didn’t say, “Come and get it”. What He did say was, “Everyone find a place to sit on the grass and I’ll bring it to you, through my own”. Folks, He loves to involve us. He loves to make us matter! We are blessed beyond measure to be written into, His stories! Just imagine: Invited by Him to participate in His plans for others!

From the inception of the idea of writing books to be made available to “all freely”, there has never been a moment when I haven’t been aware of its ministry context. I could easily be seen as the “young boy” in the story. Jesus has most certainly multiplied my meager offering to Him.

So may I invite and encourage you to be a distributor of that which He has multiplied, thereby elevating “My Ministry” into “Our Ministry”, thus completing “His Ministry”. There’s something about that idea that sounds “perfect” to my heart!

We all have friends, family, work mates, school mates, etc. I’ve included a simple directional on “how to find” the “fishes and loaves”. Please feel free to share “what you eat” with others. You have no idea where it could lead to! That young boy’s mother could never have dreamed, what that little lunch she had prepared for her son on that fateful morning, would produce!

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