Sing to the Lord

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Sing to the Lord,
for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.
—Isaiah 12:5-6

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Tax Time

Here’s another great post by my friend and contributing writer, Patricia Knight.

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Tax Time

By Patricia Knight

Soon we will be preoccupied calculating our annual Federal income tax returns, begrudgingly sending our sums to the IRS.  Since most of us attempt to spend our personal funds wisely, it is baffling to accept that the big machinery of government may be using our funds inefficiently and with impunity.

Taxes have been demanded of workers for centuries. King “Solomon had twelve governors over all Israel, who supplied provisions for the king and his royal household. Each one had to provide supplies for one month in the year”(1 Kings 4:7). Lest you think that a small task, the following list provides the daily requirements for feeding King Solomon’s court, totaling  thousands of people:

  • 185 bushels of flour
  • 375 bushels of meal
  • 10 head of stall-fed cattle
  • 20 pasture-fed cattle
  • 100 sheep
  • 100 goats
  • Deer, gazelle, roebucks and choice fowl (1 Kings 4:22).

In Nehemiah’s day there was a loud outcry from the people because their tax rates were so astronomically high. The Jewish people were paying as much as one half of their harvest produce and a portion of the tithes to support the temple.  Taxes placed such an extreme financial burden on some families, they were forced to mortgage their fertile fields to pay their assessment. Others in desperate situations sold their own sons and daughters into slavery (Nehemiah 5:1-5).

It is estimated that during Jesus’ time the Jews were paying thirty to forty percent of their income for taxes and temple dues. No wonder the position of tax collector was so despised and the official himself deplored for padding his pockets by collecting more taxes than were actually due.

One day the Pharisees, the religious-political leaders among the Israelite people,  deliberately attempted to trap Jesus by asking Him an ambiguous question. It was a verbal snare designed to destroy Jesus’ credibility no matter how He answered. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “‘Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’”(Matthew 22:17). 

Jesus responded, “‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax’” (Matthew 22:18). Jesus then asked the men to describe whose image and inscription was engraved on the coin. When the Pharisees replied to Jesus that both sides of the coin focused on Caesar, Jesus emphatically responded, “‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’” (Matthew 22:21).

Jesus instructed that all people have obligations to the government as long as those demands do not conflict with their allegiance to God. The Pharisees were amazed by Jesus’ answer and left in utter defeat. They failed to acknowledge that they were daily reaping the benefits of their taxes paid to Rome by gaining access to Caesar’s currency for monetary exchange, traveling on Rome’s government subsidized highways, and enjoying of a degree of military protection and peace.

In our current culture, there are many requirements to our government that do not conflict with our obligations to God. The apostle Paul taught that the people’s main priority is dedication to God: “‘Everyone should submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted’”(Romans 13:1-3).  

Christians are instructed to obey laws and to respect elected officials, as a matter of civil obedience, but also for conscience’s sake (Romans 13:5). We are instructed to pay taxes and to show respect for authority, even if we are aware of corruption. Injustice and fraud likely exist in all governments, yet God rules over them all. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors (1 Peter 2:13).

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Let us readily participate in any democratic process to lessen the bureaucratic burden of tax laws. Consistent prayer, asking God to advocate change, will unleash power and potential for revision beyond any strategy man can employ.

Two absolutes in life are death and taxes. There is more truth to that age-old axiom than we care to admit. It may seem like taxes have existed forever, but a Christian defines forever as eternal life in heaven. “The imperfection of justice in this life is the strongest proof that in the next world justice and vengeance will be fulfilled to the utmost” (David Augsburger).

Let us adopt Jesus’ attitude when He was apprehended at the temple at age twelve, instructing the teachers of religious law. When questioned about His educational endeavor, Jesus responded, “‘I must be about my Father’s business’” (Luke 2:49). Who among us has the time or energy to complain about tax rates if we prioritize our life’s activities to conform to our Savior’s objectives?

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Welcome Patricia Knight!

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you’ll recognize the name Patricia Knight because she has graciously allowed me to share some of her devotionals here from time to time. Now Pat has agreed to contribute to my blog on a monthly basis, so it seemed appropriate to tell you a little bit about her.

As I’ve shared here before, I consider Pat to be one of my Christian mentors. She is my far-away friend whom I met online in 2003 when we were both writing devotionals for the same online chronic illness ministry. Although Pat and I have never met in person, we share such a strong love for the Lord that our bond of friendship has strengthened immeasurably over the years.

Pat and I have spoken by phone a few times but our daily lives don’t mesh well enough to make it possible very often. We live on opposite sides of the country so there is that 2-3 hour time difference. We also each endure chronic pain illnesses so our awake times are very different. Even though Pat lives with extreme pain most of the time, her constant encouragement and thoroughly trusting dependence on the Lord have shown me how to live joyfully no matter how I feel. As she wrote on a card she sent me recently: 

As iron sharpens iron so one woman sharpens another.
—Proverbs 27:17

In this case, I like her use of “woman” instead of “person” as the passage was originally written. Yes, she and I do sharpen each other to keep us grounded in our faith.

Pat is the author of REJOICE! and PURE JOY, two books filled with joyful devotionals. Besides having written encouraging devotionals for an online chronic illness ministry, she currently maintains a ministry of handwritten encouraging notes for those who are hurting. I have been blessed many times over the years with one of Pat’s beautiful notes!

Pat, I’m so thankful for the blessing of you in my life!

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A Ransom

I haven’t written lately from The Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, but today I’d like to share a particularly appropriate name for Our Lord during this time before Easter.

And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”  

—Revelation 5:9-10

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A Ransom

The son of man came . . .
to give his life a ransom for many. 
—Mark 10:45

“A Ransom for many!” Here Christ is set forth as the penalty paid for the sins of the world. As sinners under the judgment wrath of God, He took our place and paid the penalty and the price of our deliverance with His own blood. Listen to the drops of blood as they fall from hands and feet and wounded side! They voice the words, “The ransom price for my sins and for the sins of the whole world.Would that men everywhere would believe it and receive it. How dear, how precious is He to us, washed clean in His blood and freed forever from the punishment due us.

Lord, may our ransomed souls  well up in praise to Thy glorious Name! Amen.

[Taken from Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, by Charles E. Hurlburt and T. C. Horton. Copyright © 2002 by Barbour Publishing, Inc.]

My thoughts

No one can redeem the life of another
    or give to God a ransom for them—
the ransom for a life is costly,
    no payment is ever enough—
so that they should live on forever
    and not see decay.
—Psalm 49:7-9

If you’re anything like me, the thought of what Jesus went through on the cross—just for us sinners—boggles the mind. He who was without sin, came to earth in human form to illustrate for us the right way to live. And not only that, He sacrificed Himself—just for us sinners—so that we could have the chance to live with Him in heaven forever!

Doesn’t that amaze you? And doesn’t it make you want to share this Good News with others?

Beloved, let me ask you:

how can we not share our JOY about what Jesus has done in our lives?

If it wasn’t for Jesus Christ dying for our sake, there would be no way we could get to heaven on our own. We would therefore be doomed to an existence in hell, where we would agonizingly suffer for eternity.

So, let me ask you again: how can we not share our JOY about what Jesus has done in our lives? Yes, I agree with the author of this piece from The Wonderful Names of Our Wonderful Lord, who said so well that we need to believe it and receive it, but there is also the challenge to share it with those who need to hear it!

Jesus is our Ransom. Nothing we can do in our own strength can ever repay Jesus for what He did for us on the cross at Calvary . . . nothing except to believe that He alone paved the way for us to live in heaven forever:

  • ADMIT that you are a sinner.
  • BELIEVE that Jesus Christ died for you.
  • CONFESS that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Lord of your life.

And then share your HOPE and JOY with others!

A friend recently shared this video with me of Eric Ludy’s The Gospel. It is about 11-1/2 minutes long, but so worth it to watch it in its entirety!

The Gospel is an Ellerslie Mission Society film.

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Baptisms

Reblogged from As Seen Through the Eyes of Faith.

I so appreciate my bloggy friends and what they write to inspire and bless us. A couple of weeks ago I shared a great post—What must I do to be saved?—from Raymond Gary Candy at As Seen Through the Eyes of Faith. Today’s post, Baptisms – The First Steps with Christ,  is a great followup.

Once again Raymond, thank you for blessing us with your writing!

Baptisms

The First Steps with Christ-

Someone might say, “I’ve just accepted Jesus Christ and been born again. What do I do next?”

If you have recently asked Christ into your heart and confessed Him as Lord of your life, then you are no doubt feeling a great joy and thankfulness to the Lord for washing away all of your sins, saving your soul, and giving you a new life in Christ.

I’m sure that you are feeling a great love for God because of His mercy and grace that He has bestowed upon you.

“We love him, because he first loved us.” (1John 4:19)

You have been, as Jesus said, “born again”, and as such you are like a new born infant in the eyes of God.

And just like a new born baby, you have been washed (in the cleansing blood of Christ), swaddled (in the fresh linen of the righteousness of God in Christ), and all God asks of you for now is to be nurtured by Him (through prayer and reading His word), grow, and do as He asks.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” (John 14:23)

“If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

Read the rest here.

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The Potter’s Clay

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There is no one who calls on Your name,
Who arouses himself to take hold of You;
For You have hidden Your face from us
And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.

But now, O Lord, You are our Father,
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand. —Isaiah 64:7-8

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God’s Will Be Done

I have been reading John MacArthur’s wonderful book, Alone with God: Rediscovering the Power and Passion of Prayer (1) and am learning so much! I was particularly struck by a portion in Chapter 6, “Your Will Be Done,” where Dr. MacArthur shares this portion of Philip Keller’s A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer. (2)

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Caution: you will never again sing Change My Heart, Oh God (by Ron Kenoly) without remembering this powerful story.

Author Philip Keller, while visiting in Pakistan, read Jeremiah 18:2, which says, “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I shall announce My words to you.” So he and a missionary went to a potter’s house in that city. In his book, A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer, he writes,

In sincerity and earnestness I asked the old master craftsman to show me every step in the creation of a masterpiece …. On his shelves were gleaming goblets, lovely vases, and exquisite bowls of breathtaking beauty.

Then, crooking a bony finger toward me, he led the way to a small, dark, closed shed at the back of his shop. When he opened its rickety door, a repulsive, overpowering stench of decaying matter engulfed me. For a moment I stepped back from the edge of the gaping dark pit in the floor of the shed. “This is where the work begins!” he said, kneeling down beside the black, nauseating hole. With his long, thin arm, he reached down into the darkness. His slim, skilled fingers felt around amid the lumpy clay, searching for a fragment of material exactly suited to his task.

“I add special kinds of grass to the mud,” he remarked. “As it rots and decays, its organic content increases the colloidal quality of the clay. Then it sticks together better.” Finally his knowing hands brought up a lump of dark mud from the horrible pit where the clay had been tramped and mixed for hours by his hard, bony feet.

With tremendous impact the first verses from Psalm 40 came to my heart. In a new and suddenly illuminating way I saw what the psalmist meant when he wrote long ago, “I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay.” As carefully as the potter selected his clay, so God used special care in choosing me ….

The great slab of granite, carved from the rough rock of the high Hindu Kush mountains behind his home, whirled quietly. It was operated by a very crude, treadle-like device that was moved by his feet, very much like our antique sewing machines.

As the stone gathered momentum, I was taken in memory to Jeremiah 18: 3. “Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.”

But what stood out most before my mind at this point was the fact that beside the potter’s stool, on either side of him, stood two basins of water. Not once did he touch the clay, now spinning swiftly at the center of the wheel, without first dipping his hands in the water. As he began to apply his delicate fingers and smooth palms to the mound of mud, it was always through the medium of the moisture of his hands. And it was fascinating to see how swiftly but surely the clay responded to the pressure applied to it through those moistened hands. Silently, smoothly, the form of a graceful goblet began to take shape beneath those hands. The water was the medium through which the master craftsman’s will and wishes were being transmitted to the clay. His will actually was being done in earth.

For me this was a most moving demonstration of the simple, yet mysterious truth that my Father’s will and wishes are expressed and transmitted to me through the water of His own Word ….

Suddenly, as I watched, to my utter astonishment, I saw the stone stop. Why? I looked closely. The potter removed a small particle of grit from the goblet …. Then just as suddenly the stone stopped again. He removed another hard object ….

Suddenly he stopped the stone again. He pointed disconsolately to a deep, ragged gouge that cut and scarred the goblet’s side. It was ruined beyond repair! In dismay he crushed it down beneath his hands….

“And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter” (Jer. 18:4). Seldom had any lesson come home to me with such tremendous clarity and force. Why was this rare and beautiful masterpiece ruined in the master’s hands? Because he had run into resistance. It was like a thunderclap of truth bursting about me!

Why is my Father’s will – His intention to turn out truly beautiful people – brought to nought again and again? Why, despite His best efforts and endless patience with human beings, do they end up a disaster? Simply because they resist His will.

The sobering, searching, searing question I had to ask myself in the humble surroundings of that simple potter’s shed was this: Am I going to be a piece of fine china or just a finger bowl? Is my life going to be a gorgeous goblet fit to hold the fine wine of God’s very life from which others can drink and be refreshed? Or am I going to be just a crude finger bowl in which passers-by will dabble their fingers briefly then pass on and forget about it? It was one of the most solemn moments in all of my spiritual experiences.

“Father, Thy will be done in earth [in clay], in me, as it is done in heaven.”

(1) Copyright © Third Edition, July 1, 2011. Alone With God, John MacArthur Jr. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

(2) Copyright © 1976. A Layman Looks at the Lord’s Prayer, Philip Keller. Chicago, IL: Moody Press.

 

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Golden Milk

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Since this is the time of year that seems to bring on bouts of bronchitis and other upper respiratory tract infections (URIs), I wanted to share with you something that works very well to tamp down that elephant-sitting-on-the-chest feeling. Those of you who are prone to bronchitis know what I’m talking about. It feels like you’re breathing through heavy cloth. Some people describe this as a “tight” feeling.

I have dealt with bronchitis since I was about 10 years old, and these days I do anything I can to keep it from getting to the point where I need antibiotics.

I’ve read various recipes for golden milk, including using fresh turmeric and fresh ginger, or heating it on the stove. However, I made my own adjustments so it would be easy and quick to make—both very important things for me with very low energy levels. In the short time it takes me to drink a cup of Golden Milk, that tightness is gone. I typically drink it in the evenings because that is when I am most troubled by that heavy feeling and this keeps me from coughing a lot during the night.

If you want to take some to work with you in case you need it during the day, you can easily combine and heat all the ingredients, then pour it into your travel mug to take with you. Most travel mugs will keep the contents hot for quite awhile.

I do not think anything in this recipe would be bad for anyone but I am not a doctor, so I’ll just say that this works for me. If you have any questions about it, please do call your own doctor to check.

Golden Milk

Makes one 1-cup (8 ounces) serving

1 cup milk (any kind, dairy or non-dairy)

1/2 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
3 or 4 shakes of black pepper
Honey or other sweetener to taste (I use 1/2 teaspoon of a 50% sugar-50% Stevia mix)

Pour the milk into a heat-resistant mug and microwave for 60 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients to the milk and mix well. Microwave again for another 30 seconds. Stir well.

As you view the photos please keep in mind that I’m a terrible photographer and took these to give you an idea of what the milk looks like. Before I took these photos, I had already microwaved a cup of unsweetened almond milk for 60 seconds.

Photo 1 shows the spices added to the warmed milk but not mixed in yet. In Photo 2 the spices are somewhat mixed into the milk, which is ready to go back into the microwave. Photo 3 shows the finished Golden Milk after stirring.


That’s it! The entire process takes me only 90 seconds. 

I’ve been drinking this Golden Milk for about a year, usually during the cold months when bronchitis keeps threatening to take over my life. And if I can help myself without having to take any prescription meds, I’m all over it. :-)

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Valley of Vision

This wonderful devotional was written by Joni Eareckson Tada and included in her Pearls of Great Price book. Joni has always been an inspiration to me, and I hope you are touched by this as much as I am.

Valley of Vision

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Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 

—Psalm 84:5-6

In the days of the conquest of Canaan, the Valley of Baca was known as a dry, waterless place where only balsam trees could grow. Some have called it “a place of weeping.” However, when we trust God during dry, parched times, we can turn our valley of weeping into a refreshing “place of springs.” 

My favorite Puritan prayer about valleys has seen me through many a dry place in my spiritual journey:

Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision… Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine; Let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty,Thy glory in my valley.[1]

Psalm 23:4 says, “… though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” We fear no harm in the valley because death can only cast its shadow on us. Evil has no grip on us. Truly, we find God’s brightest glory in our darkest valleys. 

Lord, You are the Great Shepherd who leads me through every dark valley. I trust You to turn my valley of weeping into a place of refreshment and encouragement.

www.joniandfriends.org

[1] Arthur Bennett, The Valley of Vision… A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, The Banner of Truth Trust, Pennsylvania, PA, 1997, Preface.

Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Thank You Challenge 2015

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Would you believe that I haven’t always been the most thankful person? Oh, I did thank people out of politeness every so often. But God worked on my heart for many years before I realized the need to express thanks more often.

When I first met Rick, he took me to dinner and I thanked him for that afterwards. The next day we had lunch together and I thanked him for that too. I recall him being very surprised and pleased that I would thank him for such simple gestures and that spoke to my heart as I realized I needed to do this more often.

After we were married, I began my campaign to thank Rick for the smallest things he did for me, from carrying out the trash to his offer to help with the dishes—even though I always turn him down. :-) The great thing is that it has led him to do the same. A day does not go by when he does not thank me for many little things I do for him.

ThankYouBlackboard--AMPThe point is that if you truly thank an individual for doing or providing something, it causes that person to feel as if what they did really matters. Not only that, being thankful breeds more thankfulness and results in a mutually loving attitude that colors your whole relationship. And your life!

So, here’s the challenge: make the effort to thank those around you regularly and wholeheartedly for even the smallest, most seemingly insignificant things. It may take time, but you’ll see a difference in the people in your life because a thankful attitude rubs off on others. And blessing other people this way ultimately blesses you!

As you start being thankful for even the little things, you’ll start seeing God’s hand in so much of your life that you were not so aware of before. And you’ll recognize how much God has blessed you, and that will lead you to thank Him for every single thing in your life. Every. Single. Thing.

Take my word for this. It really works!

And you will say in that day:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.
Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.”
—Isaiah 12:4-5

 

And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name.
—1 Chronicles 29:13

 

Be thankful and joyful.
Be content with life.
Make the most of every situation.”
― Lailah Gifty Akita

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