Taking a Rest Break

O our God, will You not judge them?
For we have no power against this great multitude
that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.
—2 Chronicles 20:12

Taking a Rest Break

I am very thankful that I have been able to keep up with my blog over the past few months in spite of chronic illnesses that seem to take over my life. The writing contributions by Pat Knight and Tammi Rhoney (our newest contributor) are a huge help and I want to take the opportunity to thank them here from the bottom of my heart. The fact that they also live with chronic pain illnesses and are willing to add their writing to my blog is a huge blessing to me!

Recently I woke up with the words “I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on You” running through my mind. I believe this was God’s way of encouraging me to keep trusting Him in this difficult season of my life, no matter what. 

What others mean to you as evil God promises to use for good. He wastes nothing. —Chuck Swindoll

God wastes nothing. That thought is definitely worth repeating, pondering and praying about. It means that although God allows troubling situations in our lives, He provides us with the strength to live joyfully with those troubles, but more importantly, He helps us comfort others who are going through similar circumstances. 

Beloved, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks and will be praying for all of us who are going through trying times.

Heavenly Father, You are so wise and loving and good to us, and we are ever thankful for Your presence in our lives. Fill us with Your wisdom so that we will know how and when to share Your joyful message of hope and comfort with others who are going through similar things. You are great and greatly to be praised! We honor and glorify You for all that You do in our lives to shape us into the people You want us to be… in You. Thank You for another day in which to praise and honor You! In Jesus’ precious Name I pray this. Amen.

 

Tax Time

Tax Time

By Pat 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 due to their astronomically high tax rates. The Jewish people were paying as much as one half of their harvest produce and a portion of their income in 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. Bondservants were common during hard times when the poor, unable to pay their debts, sold themselves into slavery (Nehemiah 5:1-5). A slave could buy his freedom or another could do it for him. Such is the redemption of Christ, when He bought our sins by granting our freedom from slavery to sin.  

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 of 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).

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

An old adage says that two absolutes in life are death and taxes. 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?

Prayer for the #Coronavirus Situation

As we are aware, the Coronavirus is affecting people all over the world and many are panicking. Yes, we are to be concerned with this situation, but rather than letting fear rule our lives right now, take the time to read the excellent, common-sense advice from Dr. James Robb (a Virologist and Pathologist) about taking care of yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also a need for mighty prayer for and about this situation. The prayer below was in my latest Pocket Testament League newsletter.

Prayer for COVID-19

David Collum
CEO, The Pocket Testament League
www.ptl.org

I invite you to pray for our country, the world, in fact every individual, to be delivered from COVID-19.

President Donald Trump has asked, that “no matter where you be, I encourage you to turn toward prayer…”

If I could be with you, in a global room, praying, I would no doubt hear our multitude of prayers rising to God’s throne-room. I invite you to pray for our country, the world, in fact every individual, to be delivered from COVID-19. I invite you to pray for our leaders in authority over us: our president, our governors, our legislatures and our courts, both federal and state.

Because we cannot be together, I offer the prayer below:

Almighty God, I praise you as the creator of our universe, our planet, and this good land that you have graciously given us as our heritage.

I pray that I may always prove myself mindful of your love and goodness, and that I will be glad to do your will.

Lord, I pray today for this world, for our nation, for every single person who has been created in your image, to be delivered from this global disease.

Father, your Word in Isaiah 59:1, tells us, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear;”

Father, your Word goes onto say in verse 2, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Father, by your Holy Spirit convict my mind and heart of my sin, that I may repent and run to you for forgiveness offered by and through the precious blood of your Son.

Father, by your Holy Spirit, turn the hearts of all people to you. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way.

Father, bless our leaders: our president, our governors, our federal and state legislatures and courts. Fill them with strength and wisdom. Spur them on to truth and righteousness.

Father, finally, I pray that our faith in you never fail, that we number our days, that we live as people of hope, whose home is with you, and that we keep our eyes fixed on your Son, the author and perfecter of our faith, in whose mighty Name we pray, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Read the common-sense advice from Dr. James Robb here.

Becoming Beautiful in God’s Time: He Makes All Things New

Last week I introduced Tammi Rhoney, our new writer. You can read about that here. Below is her first devotional contribution to this blog.

Photo credit by Tammi Rhoney, taken at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA

Becoming Beautiful in
God’s Time:
He Makes All Things New

By Tammi Rhoney

I love God’s promise in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that He makes all things beautiful in His time. Many of us with chronic illness and pain don’t feel very beautiful, especially when we compare ourselves to younger, healthier women. As one middle-aged friend put it after attending a Bible study at her church, “I feel like a beat up old Volkswagen next to a bunch of sleek, shiny brand new Corvettes.” Chronic illnesses take a toll on our bodies inwardly and outwardly, but God’s Word says that “our momentary light afflictions are producing in us an eternal weight of glory far beyond compare” and we are not to lose hope (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV). God has something very special planned for those of us who suffer, just as he does for the caterpillar.

From Caterpillar to Butterfly

The first week in June my husband and I visited the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens and Butterfly House in Richmond, VA. Since then, I’ve been studying the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. It’s a very amazing and interesting process! Butterflies go through four life stages: the egg, larva or caterpillar, the pupa (chrysalis), and the adult butterfly. Each stage is unique to the individual species. In the Egg Stage, when the female butterfly is ready to lay eggs, she begins to search for an appropriate host plant for the young caterpillars to eat because they have big appetites. She finds the plants by sight and smell and then places an egg on a leaf, stem, flower or seedpod. The butterfly’s body produces a special substance that glues the egg in place so it won’t wash off in the rain.  It’s glued on so strongly that the egg will tear apart before the leaf does. Butterflies lay their eggs in many different formations: single eggs, groups of eggs and eggs stacked on top of each other.

Caterpillar Stage

In the Caterpillar Stage, these tiny creatures devour the leaves of their host plant storing up enough energy for metamorphosis, the change from caterpillar to butterfly. The more a caterpillar eats, the faster it will grow, a process called molting. A caterpillar may molt up to five times depending on its species, weather and the availability of food.

Once a caterpillar has reached maturity, it starts to look for a good place to pupate, or begin the Chrysalis Stage, spinning a patch of silk as an anchor point for the chrysalis. The caterpillar continues to spin until it’s completely enclosed in an outer shell called a chrysalis, similar to a cocoon. The chrysalis dries and hardens, protecting the caterpillar from weather and small predators. The dull coloration helps it blend in among leaves and twigs. During this stage, the caterpillar liquefies inside the chrysalis and reorganizes, almost magically transforming into a butterfly. If the weather is warm, the butterfly will emerge in about two weeks. If it’s cooler, it may wait until spring to emerge. Using its long legs, the butterfly pulls itself out of the chrysalis, letting its crumpled wings hang down. Slowly it begins to pump its wings up and down, forcing blood into the wing veins so they can expand and open to their full size.

Adult Stage

In the Adult Stage, the butterfly then begins the life cycle all over again. Its two primary goals are finding food and a mate. Depending on the type of butterfly, their life cycle can take one month to a whole year.

Just as a caterpillar is transformed into a beautiful butterfly, so too God has a purpose for our chronic illnesses and pain. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says,

16So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18as we look not to the things which are seen but to the things which are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient (temporal), but the things that are unseen are eternal. (ESV)

Do Not Lose Heart

Paul instructs us, first of all, to not lose heart. Yes, living daily with chronic illness and pain is very difficult, and it’s easy to get discouraged, but we must persevere. God is bringing glory to Himself and preparing us to share in His glory in eternity even through our weaknesses and discouragements, just as He did through Paul’s ministry. Our outer man is decaying daily like the body of the caterpillar when it changes into a butterfly, but the good news is that our inner man is being renewed daily by the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit, and in this we can rejoice!  In this fallen world our bodies are vulnerable to many kinds of afflictions, but Paul contrasts our body’s outward decay to the unending inner vitality of the Holy Spirit. He goes on to say that our “momentary, light affliction,” even if it’s lifelong, cannot compare to the “eternal weight of glory” to come. Our troubles are preparing a great reward for us as Believers (James 1:12). Our faith and obedience in suffering also please God and He will not forget (Romans 8:17-18; 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Transformation

So take heart, fellow Christian sufferers, and remember that like the slow transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly, God is using our afflictions to conform us slowly into Christ’s image and prepare us for the glory that awaits us in our Heavenly Home. For then our sanctification will be complete and we will emerge victorious in our resurrected bodies just like a beautiful butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

Praise God, we will be free from all affliction and pain forever (Rev. 21:4)!


Originally published at https://chronic-joy.org/becoming-beautiful-gods-time/

Understanding the Holy Spirit and His Role in the Trinity

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Understanding the Holy Spirit
and His Role in the Trinity

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. — 1 John 3:19-24

What Is the Holy Spirit?

It is interesting that throughout Scripture the Holy Spirit is not given a personal name such as Yahweh or Emmanuel, but is described only in terms of His work. Perhaps that omission has led some to think of the Holy Spirit as a force, a power, or an influence—some entity less than a person.

The Holy Spirit does not have a physical body, but rather describes qualities, characteristics, and actions. Here’s what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit —

• He thinks and feels (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)
• He decides (1 Corinthians 12:11)
• He speaks (John 15:26)
• He teaches (John 14:26)
• He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26)
• He helps to make our weaknesses become empowered strengths (2 Corinthians 12:9)
• He guides (1 Corinthians 2:13)
• He can be lied to (Acts 5:3), insulted (Hebrews 10:29), grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and resisted (Acts 7:51).

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit comes to us in person to glorify Christ in every believer as He works to create God’s family on the earth—that is, the Church as God’s household. He is called the Spirit of truth (John 16:13) and our Advocate (John 14:26). When He indwells the life of the believer, He takes the truth of the words of Christ, and reveals their depth of meaning to that individual.

Jesus taught that attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil was the worst sin a person could commit (Matthew 12:32). Indeed, what hope was there for one who rejected “the Spirit [who] gives life”? (John 6:63). Jesus Himself was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” when He reflected upon God the Father’s purposes and activities (Luke 10:21). Furthermore, He gave His disciples reason to rejoice by telling them the Holy Spirit would be their divine helper in the years to come (see John 14:26). His words revealed the Holy Spirit’s role within the Trinity: In this instance, Jesus said that the Spirit would proceed from the Father, be sent by the Son, and bear witness about the Son (John 15:26–27).

What Does the Holy Spirit Do?

The work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ and make Him real in the daily life of every believer. The Holy Spirit serves as God’s divine Administrator on earth and He desires and works to recreate the life of Christ in His people.

Read the rest here.

Distracted Allegiance

Distracted Allegiance

By Pat Knight

Some winters in the northeast are longer and harsher than others. At the beginning of April, we watch for signs of thinning ice. When there is a winter-long depth of more than three feet of solid ice, melting takes considerable time. One morning the sunrise illuminated the sky just enough to expose ripples on the lake water. Water? The previous night there was still ice jammed into the cove. Now, there were only a few slivers leisurely floating.  

Later that morning, I noticed the cove nearly filled with large, flat, chunks of floating ice. Earlier the lake was exposed and moving, like pieces of a shattered mirror. Now the impression was one of mini-icebergs. We were familiar with the phenomenon: ice in the larger part of the lake breaks up, and the wind blows it into the cove, where it is trapped. When I first noticed the cove devoid of ice, the timing was perfect. I had peered out the window a mere moment after the ice collapsed beneath the surface. Then later, more ice floated into the cove from the large, open lake.

Our relationship with our heavenly Father is comparable to the shattered ice floes that blow into the cove. Some days we walk closely by His side, and other days we withdraw, preferring self-reliance, slowly replacing dependence on our Lord. God never moves. It is His desire to be an integral part of our lives, guiding and directing. If anyone moves, God is not the one to depart. It is our spiritual wanderlust that pulls us away from a consistent walk with our Lord.

God created us for communion with Him. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Just imagine! The supreme God of the whole universe desires to walk and talk with us. We serve a loving, patient God, who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).

If you have ever been in the presence of someone who has lost a contact lens, you know instinctively that all activity stops abruptly. Feet remain glued to the floor, as eyes scour the surrounding area for the tiny disc. With far more intensity, God searches for the soul distracted from His care. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God pours His love and strength into the person completely yielded to Him, who forsakes self-reliance to fully rely on God.

Historically and repeatedly, the children of God ignored Him. He punished His rebellious people who disobeyed covenantal laws by worshiping false gods in the form of idols. God is merciful. “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God loves us and extends mercy just as lavishly as He did the wandering, rebellious Israelites of centuries ago. 

We tend to blindly follow other people, whereas, we are commanded to imitate God, not man. He sets the standard. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). We are assured God’s promises will apply forever, perpetually affirming our importance to Him. “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me, will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23). God not only abides within our hearts, He knows us more completely than we are familiar with ourselves.

We are nothing apart from our status in God. He elevates us as His children, showering us with an eternal gift as joint heirs with Christ. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). All things belong to Jesus, but He graciously shares His inheritance with believers.

If you were notified by an estate attorney that you have been designated to inherit a glorious kingdom, what reaction would you display? I am assuming you would be excited and incredulous. And yet, as joint heirs with Christ, we are assured of an inheritance in heaven forever and ever. Now, those are the kind of riches about which we kick up our heels and celebrate. But, do we? What will it take to convince us, that in God’s eyes, we are so loved and our company so desired, that He plans to spend an eternity with us?

In view of our value to God, He sent His pure, sinless Son to earth to ultimately die for us. “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7). There have been isolated recorded instances in history where one person substituted his life for another, but “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One—is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). God’s forgiveness through Christ’s atoning sacrifice is impartial, with worldwide application for those who receive Him by faith. No sin or crime is too egregious for Him to forgive, substituting eternal death for life everlasting in heaven with Him.

Jesus was not only physically tortured during crucifixion, but He suffered an unprecedented emotional burden, carrying the sins of the entire world on His shoulders—past, present, and future. Jesus Christ substituted His perfect life for our sinful ones. You were redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). If crucifixion were required for each of us to atone for our personal sins, there would be few crosses dotting the horizon. Let us not minimize the gift of life bought with the blood of Jesus.

Can we exclaim with the psalmist, “‘the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’” (Psalm 126:3)? Because God loves us with immeasurable love and sacrifice, why do we, like the ice in the cove that moves on a whim, act so inconsistently in our relationship to our Lord? The cove ice is blown by the wind, producing an unsettled surface. “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Let us be reminded of the source of our power and saving grace. God craves our nearness, so why do we resist?  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV).

Welcome Tammi Rhoney!

I am happy to announce the addition of a new writer to my team. Tammi Rhoney and I met online years ago when we both wrote for the same chronic illness site, as did Pat Knight.

Like me, Tammi lives with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and because she is also homebound much of the time, she appreciates being able to minister to people through her photography. She also writes for a couple of other sites.

Tammi loves Jesus, butterflies, bird watching, photography, sewing and stenciling. Her favorite seasons are spring and fall. She is an avid bird watcher and enjoys taking photos of wildlife and flowers. Tammi and her husband Todd live in North Carolina with Mini, their miniature dachshund.

Be looking for Tammi’s first post in the next couple of weeks!

Welcome to my blog, Tammi! I look forward to sharing your writing with my readers!


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash