Showing posts from 2019

Are you a Storyteller or a Salesperson?

To this day, I am yet to meet anyone who enjoys receiving promotional phone calls from companies trying to sell their product. Thankfully, apps like Truecaller have stepped in to save the day, informing us if a phone number has been marked as spam by other users.

One of my biggest pet peeves is walking past those little stores in the middle of malls and being flagged down by someone trying to sell me a phone cover or screen protector.

How often do we try to sell Jesus in a similar way as these telemarketers and salespeople?

Does Jesus really need to be sold? What makes us think that Jesus is such an unattractive product that he needs to be promoted in order for others to want to follow him?

In Matthew 4:19, Jesus calls his first disciples to follow him and tells them that he will make them fishers of men. Many Christians seem to think that to be fishers of men, we need to try and sell Jesus to others.

I don't know much about fishing but I do know that fishermen do not run around …

The Grace of Baptism

This past weekend, Mel and I attended the baptism service of Zoey Gerber. She is the daughter of two of our closest friends, Jaco and Lisa. It was an incredibly special service that we were honoured to be a part of.

Baptism is one of two sacraments that are officially recognized by most mainline churches (the other being Holy Communion). A sacrament can be defined as an outward, visible sign of an inward, invisible grace. In less academic terms, it means that through the sacraments, we are able to experience the grace of God in tangible ways.

The sacrament of baptism represents two of God's graces to us.

First, it is a sign of being welcomed into the Christian Church family. This welcoming into God's family is symbolised by the community of believers that are present to witness a baptism service. In most churches, the congregation are invited to make promises to nurture and care for the newly baptised person. It is a visible reminder of the loving and welcoming spirit that al…

Say Yes to the Bless

Wow, I don't know if I can look at myself the same after the cheesy title to this post. Please bear with me. As much as this title would make an epic sermon title for a prosperity preacher, that is not where I am going with this post.

My biggest weakness has often been the inability to say no to any requests, regardless of my willingness or time-constraints. One thing that I have learnt over the past three years at Seminary is how to say no.

On top of academic and formational requirements, seminarians are often invited to join different organisations and take part in a wide variety of activities. One has to quickly learn how to pick and choose to avoid being completely overwhelmed by their commitments.

Earlier this year, the chaplain of the Seminary asked me to consider coordinating the confirmation classes of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary Society. I told him that I would think about it, but I was immediately resistant to the idea. I was already feeling overwhelmed with the a…

The Joy of Sweet Friendships

I have been truly blessed by the friendships that I have been a part of over the course of my life so far. Incorporated into this post are a few photos of some of the friendships that have meant the most to me through the years. It would be impossible to include everyone that I would like to, but if you are reading this and you have ever considered yourself to be my friend in any way, please know that God has blessed me richly by our friendship.

Friendships are a powerful way that we can experience God's grace in our lives. Through the love, forgiveness and joy that we experience from our friends, we are reminded of the same traits that we experience when we live in relationship with God.

Some friends come and go; others stick around. I have friends who I haven't spoken to in years; others that I still communicate with regularly. Each one has a special place in my heart, good or bad.

Not all friendships are great. I have experienced friendships that have been unhealthy, even …

Happy Endings

All of our favourite stories have happy endings. However, just because a story has a happy ending, does not necessarily ensure that it is a good story.

The greatest storytellers understand that stories need to have lows as well as highs, anti-climax as well as climax, conflict as well as resolution. Try to imagine a story that never had any moments of conflict or struggle. The protagonist is born into a loving, wealthy family, she never fails at anything and she dies rich at an old age having achieved all of her dreams.

First, the entertainment value of this story is not very high. I don't think there would be any major film studios battling for the rights to turn it into a movie. Second, I don't think that the protagonist in this story would appreciate their wealth and success because they had never experienced a life without it.

A happy ending in and of itself does not make a good story unless there were serious moments of conflict that put the possibility of a happy ending…

Where Our Story Really Begins

In his podcast titled "What to do with your ambition?" Rob Bell mentions how often we claim that our story as Christians begins with the fall of man, where Adam and Eve disobey God and separate themselves from God's plan for their lives.

However, while this is an important part of the whole, it is not where our story begins.

The story of the fall of man is found in Genesis 3. The Bible begins with another story in Genesis 1: A story where God creates the Earth and all that is in it and sees it as good. A story where God creates humans and calls them very good. This is where our story begins: as God's sacred creations, not as sinful beings.

Not only does our story begin with God creating humans as inherently good beings, but our story also does not end with death and despair, it concludes with the good news of resurrection and the restoration of all creation.

Richard Rohr, in his latest book The Universal Christ, claims that the true and essential work of all religio…

Beauty in Diversity

When I was younger, I was only aware of common colours: red, blue, green, yellow, etc. But as I grew up, I encountered a much larger variety of colours that I had no idea even existed: cyan, magenta, turquoise, azure, fuchsia, etc. It is only once we learn about these new colours that our appreciation for the full spectrum of colour really grows.

I have noticed how most post-apocalyptic stories (that aim to portray life after everything has fallen apart) are full of bland colours... The landscape is a dusty brown, the clothes are washed-out greys and the lighting is dull.

In contrast, stories that describe paradise are often filled with lush green fields, clear blue oceans, yellow sandy beaches and bright sunny days.

All we have to do to observe this phenomenon is to look at the impact of a rainbow. Often during rainy, overcast days, the mood of those around us matches the dreary colours of the day. But when the skies clear and the multicoloured rainbow is revealed, people are fascin…

The Taylors are moving to Bethlehem!

This past year has been filled with anxiety and uncertainty about our future. Mel and I knew that we would be moving away from Pietermaritzburg at the end of 2019, but we had no idea where our destination would be.

We recently received the news that I have been placed in Bethlehem in the Free State. We will be moving there near the end of this year where I will be ministering to the Central Methodist Church's congregation in Bethlehem.

The stationing process has been stressful, with little to no information shared with us until the very last minute. This meant that we could not do anything to plan for our future until very recently.

Although I have served in churches in various capacities over the past couple of years, this will be my first official placement to serve as a reverend in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Mel and I were invited to visit our new church and home this past weekend. We were both nervous, but equally as excited as we left Pietermaritzburg for Bethl…

A Lesson learnt from the Comrades Marathon

The time has long since come and gone for me to write about my Comrades Marathon experience. On the 8th of June this year, I ran this gruelling race for the first time. It is called the Ultimate Human Race for a reason. I don't think anything could have fully prepared me for the intense pain and emotion that I experienced during that day.

While I learnt many physical lessons about fitness and race management, I learnt some valuable spiritual lessons as well.

People have since joked with me, saying that I must have felt really close to God along the route because I had a lot of time to pray. I jokingly respond by saying that I certainly had some choice words with God along the way, but perhaps not ones that you would hear in a church anytime soon.

I was certainly trusting in the hope that God was with me and would get me through the day, but there were many moments along the route where I did not believe that I would make it through the day. In fact, I felt more akin to the many psa…

A Sliver of Hope

We are faced with a landslide of hopelessness and despair. It is difficult to blame people for being afraid to bring children into a world as seemingly broken and cruel as the one we are currently facing. It is easy to be consumed the never-ending spiral of negativity.

Without minimizing the severity of the issues that are stacked against us, I would like to argue that we still have a sliver of hope to cling to.

For those of us who identify as Christ-followers, we believe that we have a saviour who became one of us, fully human. He suffered as completely and utterly as any human ever could. Not only did he go through excruciating torment on his personal journey to the cross, during his crucifixion he took the sins of the world upon his shoulders and experienced the anguish and pain of the entirety of humanity - even to the point of crying out in the words of the Psalmist, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Many of us have echoed Jesus&…

Enough is Enough!

God's grace is evident in so many areas of our lives.

However, some situations seem to be so utterly devastating that we cannot help but ask: where is God and why does God not intervene?

The pain and evil evident in the many attacks against women in our country is overwhelmingly traumatic.

South Africa is hurting. She is wounded in unison with her daughters who bleed on her streets. She is crying out for deliverance.

Why can't our mothers rest assured that their daughters are safe, even at school? Why can't our sisters leave their houses without fear for their lives? Why do men feel entitled to women's sacred bodies?

Now is not the time to be silent. Now is not the time to pretend that everything is fine. Now is not the time to presume that the situation is going to fix itself.

Now is the time to mourn for our women. Now is the time to remember those who have been brutally murdered. Now is the time to listen and stand in solidarity with those who have survived rape an…

Could God use Windows 10?

First, a disclaimer... This is not a post about whether God would use Microsoft, Android or Apple products. For this kind of quality analysis, you will need to find an evangelical thought leader more wise and risqué than myself. Instead, this is a reflection on the mediums that God can use to reveal God's grace to us.

Last week I encountered a Facebook post from one of my friends, Jennifer Lieberum. She had shared an image that was familiar to me - one of the generic windows 10 login screen backgrounds (shown above).

She shared the image alongside a post reminding us that Jesus' Church is meant to be a lighthouse so that lost people can find Christ and the Church can teach them what it means to follow Jesus.

While I have seen this image pop up on my PC screen many times (usually after I have been waiting impatiently for Windows to boot up), I have never considered this particular connection.

This was a stark reminder to me that we can be reminded of God's grace even in th…

Make Your Circle Bigger

As a sports fan, it is natural to think that the team you support has the best players and the best strategies. Luckily, as a Liverpool fan, I have the stats to back up this claim.

Jokes aside, it is easy to surround ourselves with people who share our beliefs. This reinforces our beliefs and closes ourselves off to new points of view.

Someone once accused me of constantly looking at the world through red-tinted glasses as a Liverpool fan. This means that no matter what new information I was presented with from supporters of other clubs, I would still hold the same beliefs as before because I interpreted the new information through my red-tinted glasses.

How often do we see the world through our Christian-tinted glasses or our Methodist/Four12/Baptist/Shofar/insert-your-denomination-here tinted glasses?

We tend to only read books and articles written by people who share our theological beliefs, we only follow people on social media who perpetuate similar beliefs and we surround ourse…

A peek behind the curtain

I love magic. I love watching magicians perform. I allow my beliefs to be suspended while they perform tricks on my mind.

In high school, I was fascinated with card tricks and spent many hours learning sleight-of-hand techniques so that I could impress my friends and families with card tricks of my own. While I have forgotten many of them, I still enjoy pulling out the occasional trick when I get the chance.

The audience has a special role to play in a magic trick. I have found that there are generally two types of people when watching magic tricks...

The first person is the cynic. From the outset, you can see that they are just there to prove the magician wrong. They disregard instructions, analyse every movement and before the trick is done they are already telling the person beside them how they think the magic is achieved. They are always trying to get a peek behind the curtain.

The second person is fully immersed in the experience. They follow the magicians' instructions, th…

When we don’t feel like going to church

One of the benefits of studying at a Seminary is that we get to attend chapel services six days a week. Every year we get to hear the lectionary being preached by more than 120 Seminarians and Ministers from a wide variety of contexts with varying theological beliefs.

As great a privilege as this is, there are many days where I just do not feel like going to church. There have been many reasons for this. Perhaps I have a couple of assignments due that week or I am simply not a fan of the person scheduled to preach.

I am sure that I am not the only one who has experienced this.

Sometimes after a late night on a Saturday, we would prefer to wake up late on a Sunday morning. Sometimes we would prefer to join our friends for a round of golf or brunch than attend our local church service.

I am in no way denying that certain urgent matters might cause us to miss the occasional church service. However, Sunday worship services are the lifeblood of being a part of a healthy church community a…

Journey before Destination

"We are not creatures of destinations, it is the journey that shapes us" (Oathbringer)
It is amazing how often fictional stories connect with us on a deep spiritual level.

I am currently reading a series of books by Brandon Sanderson called The Stormlight Archive. In it, the heroes of the story are required to speak a series of words in order to obtain access to their powers. They then live their lives to honour their spoken words.

The first words that they speak are: "Life before death, strength before weakness, journey before destination."

While I believe I could write a blog post on why each of these sentences is pertinent as we seek God, it is the third line that resonates with me most: Journey before destination.

We tend to spend large portions of our time thinking ahead to the end of our lives and where we want to (or don't want to) end up. While I am in no way demeaning the importance of considering our eternal future, the problem with only thinking of t…

Sacred Responsibility

I have written often about experiencing God's grace in the world around us. But one of the greatest elements of the Jesus story is that we are able to partner with God in order to share God's grace with others.

There are many ways that we are able to do this - one of the primary being through our responsibilities to others.

Responsibility is not a word that generally excites us. It does not necessarily spark feelings of joy.

Often, our responsibilities are not thrilling activities. Our lives are filled with menial work: chores, paying bills, lifting children, etc.

If we resent these activities, we can easily begin resenting the people that we are doing them for.

For example, if we resent changing diapers, we can begin resenting the child whose diaper we are changing; if we get annoyed by listening to our friend's complaining about their problems, we can begin to be annoyed by our friend; if we hate working at our jobs, we can begin taking that emotion out on those who we …

The Harpooner

There is a scene in Herman Melville's famous Moby Dick where the whaling crew are pursuing the great white whale, Moby Dick, in the midst of a terrifying storm.
The deck men are running around manically performing tasks, sweat mixing with sea water. Captain Ahab is screaming orders, swearing and adding to the confusion. The helmsman is battling the rough winds in order to keep the ship going true. 
You can imagine the chaos.
But in the midst of this chaos, there is one person on board who does nothing. No shouting. No labour. No panic. This person is the harpooner.
In the middle or raging seas and terrifying winds, the harpooner remains calm amid the crashing and the cursing. He is quiet and poised, waiting.
Then the author leaves us with this sentence: "To ensure the greatest efficiency in the dart, the harpooners of this world must start to their feet out of idleness, and not out of toil."
How often do we live our lives in a constant state of busyness, stress and…

Living Life Out of Focus

I recently caught myself dozing off during a class at Seminary. It took the lecturer a couple of tries to get my attention back on the matter at hand. Once I was fully present again, I had no idea what had just been spoken about.

I am sure I am not alone in this experience.

The lectionary readings for this week tell an awesome story of the Transfiguration of Jesus...

Jesus took Peter, John and James onto the mountain to pray. As Jesus prayed, his face was transformed, his clothing lit up and two of the great Old Testament leaders, Moses and Elijah, appeared beside Jesus.

My friend and fellow Seminarian, Jaco Gerber, made an interesting observation about this text. We are told that the disciples who went on the mountain with Jesus were "weighed down with sleep" and they almost missed this awesome moment!

How crazy is that? These disciples were privileged enough to be present at one of the most amazing moments in the life of Jesus and they almost missed it.

How often do we al…

Holy Ground

In the book of Exodus, we read a story of Moses tending his sheep. Moses suddenly notices a burning bush and God's voice speaks to him through the bush. God instructs Moses to take off his shoes because he is now standing on holy ground.

Holy ground is considered to be anywhere that God is. In Old Testament times, this was thought to be specific places. As Christians, our understanding of where God is has changed. God is living in our hearts. Furthermore, God is all around us.

Early Rabbis tell this story of the burning bush and pose the question: "Did the tree suddenly burst into flame when Moses walked past or was the tree burning the entire time? Perhaps this was merely the first time that Moses had become aware of it?

God's presence was always there. Moses had probably walked past that spot many times. But it was only when Moses became aware of God's presence there and was ready to respond to it that it became "holy ground."

This is profound. We are con…

A different kind of Love

The ancient Greeks had a number of different words to describe love.

Eros is erotic love. It is the type of love that many people will be experiencing today on Valentines Day...

Storge is a deep sense of affection between human beings that develops naturally, like the love that a parent has for their children.

Phylia describes the powerful emotional bond found in deep friendships.

I would argue that all three of these types of love are dependant on how worthy the person is to be loved. If we love someone with the Eros, Storge and Phylia type of love, our love for them could always change when we believe that they are not worthy of that love anymore.

But there is a fourth word used to describe love in the ancient Greek language: Agape.

Agape is the love that God has for all humankind. It is the love that Jesus commands from us when he tells us to "love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength" and "love your neighbour as you love yourselves." It is the type of u…

A fresh look at Grace

Today I listened to an episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. The topic of discussion was how to generate new ideas for stories.

The authors encouraged listeners to start with ideas that already exist. Listen to stories. Watch TV. Read widely. Look at things that are already in existence and then use your imagination to invent new ideas or expand on previous ideas in new exciting ways.

Many new aspiring authors believe that new stories need to be fresh ideas that have never been thought of before. But some of the best stories are just imaginative takes on already-existing stories.

For example, the reason that stories like Shrek have done so well is that it has taken well-known fairytales and created exciting, new stories using the original stories as their inspiration.

I believe that we have a similar ability to see God's grace in the ordinary and comfortable.

What we seek, we shall find.

If we go about our lives not expecting to encounter God's grace in the normality of our…

The Place of Fear

Human beings are fascinated with fear. This is why horror stories and shows like Fear Factor are so popular.

As Christians, we tend to think of being fearful as wrong or even sinful.

However, from personal experience, we know that fear is not necessarily a bad thing...

Fear of getting burnt prevents a child from touching the stove.
Fear of death prevents us from walking too close to a dangerous cliff face.
Fear of theft ensures that we lock our doors at night.

Fear in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing.

On the other hand, if we let ourselves be overwhelmed by our fear then we become too anxious to try new things; too scared to leave the house.

I recently heard an analogy that helps us understand the rightful place of fear in our lives...

If we think of our lives as a car, we need to be very aware of who we let take the wheel (Cue the lame Jesus take the wheel joke).

There is no problem with having fear in the car with us, but we should not let fear take the wheel lest our l…

When we are sick

Welp, it happened...

In my last blog post, an apple a day, I mentioned that I always seem to get sick after travelling home to East London from Pietermaritzburg.

My wife, Mel, and I got to go home in December for a nice long Christmas holiday. For 2 weeks. I was as fit as a fiddle. But then it happened...

I woke up one day in immense pain with my throat on fire and my sinus's all clogged up.

In my previous post, I wrote about strengthening our spiritual immune system to prevent us from becoming spiritually sick.

But what about those times when we realize that we are already sick? It is pointless to take multivitamins to prevent ourselves from getting sick because our immune systems have already taken a hit. We now have to try to cure our sickness.

Often our first instincts are to treat the symptoms. Immediately after realizing I was sick, I decided to self-medicate, taking shots of Corenza C, Sinutab, pain-killers and the like. But all that this did was make me feel slightly bett…

Personal Updates and Future Plans

I published my first post of this blog on the 01st of February last year.

When I began this blog I was unsure of the direction it would take. I was overwhelmed with the way God was working in my life and I desired to share some of those stories.

Combine that realization with a passion for writing and I decided that a personal blog would be the best way to achieve this.

The primary purpose of my blog has always been to observe God's grace in all areas of my life and share those stories with whoever wanted to listen.

I published 44 blog posts in 2018 on Harmony of Grace and got 2 articles published in SUMag, an online magazine aimed at youth pastors, teachers and parents.

As the year progressed, I mixed up the focus of my posts regularly, sometimes writing for the more "experienced Christian" and often writing lighter posts for the newer Christians and non-believers.

I do not write primarily so that others can read it. Writing brings me great joy and is a passion that I ha…