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?

Fragile Bubbles

Fragile Bubbles

By Pat Knight

Bubbles fizz and burst in a bath. Iridescent bubbles sparkle from a waterfall. Opalescent bubbles blown from a child’s bubble blowing solution shimmer in sunlight. Pure enchantment, the kind that transports us to younger years, allures us to the most simplistic, unadorned entertainer of all—the lowly bubble. 

Most toddlers are fascinated with the fine art of bubble blowing. Mastering blowing bubbles from an open-ended wand submerged in a colorful bottle of bubble solution may seem like only child’s play. It is not as easy as it initially appears.

Fanatic enthusiasm caused our grandsons to puff more air than necessary to create a perfectly formed bubble. Rather than blowing hard with the strength to inflate a balloon, only a delicate, measured whisper of exhaled breath will suffice to release the perfect bubble, teaching the children the value of gentleness, patience, and self-control. It is surprising how little practice and how much patience is required to learn the technique.

The major lesson to be learned from bubble blowing is that some things in life cannot be forced. Easy goes the bubble blowing. Puffing with vigor only causes the soapy, slippery film to drip off the wand. Too much pressure defeats the purpose and destroys that which we were trying to preserve. To advance peacefully, deliberately, and gently throughout life is an admirable goal. We can always add more pressure. However, if we begin with force, there is no room for adjustment, and irreparable damage may be done in the process. The bubble may be lost. Is it possible we were imposing too much force, producing an unwanted, imperfect outcome? As a result, our impatience ruined the bubble. Gentleness and patience is required to sustain the beautiful and the fragile in life.

Whenever one of us gently breathed on the soapy solution, a bubble slowly stretched out until it separated from the wand, propelled into mid-air. Then, chasing and bursting the iridescent bubbles extended the game. Bubbles are elusive. When coerced or captured, delicate touch pops the orb. Chasing and popping floating bubbles is as challenging as blowing them into shape. Beware of someone who wants to burst your bubble!

Once the art of bubble-blowing is mastered, the game continues as long as the toddler’s attention span endures. Sometimes after a gentle infusion of air, the squirming sphere stretches out from the wand until it looks as if it will spontaneously pop. But, if smooth, steady breath is maintained, the bubble eventually slides off in an elongated shape and perches on a surface nearby.

Playing bubble games is not so far from a real life enactment of problem-solving. If we were in a position of authority, as Jesus was on earth, would we exhibit His gentleness? Or, would we, inadvertently or purposefully burst bubbles with an inappropriate show of arrogance, aggression, or authority?

Jesus was preaching in a home in Capernaum. Crowds of people gathered and swelled the house with more listeners lining up outside. Today we would describe the situation as standing room only. To many, the possibility of placing a stretcher carrying a paralytic close enough for Jesus to interact with the man would have looked bleak. When one is paralyzed, it is imperative to have innovative friends who will anticipate needs and assist with daily care.

Not to be deterred, the paralytic’s friends confidently carried his pallet up the outside stairs of the house. Once on the roof, all four men began digging until they successfully removed a large section of roof, opening an area sufficient to lower their friend on the mat down into the room directly in front of Jesus. “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’”(Mark 2:5). Jesus healed his spiritual paralysis first, then addressed his physical needs. “‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God” (vv. 11-12).

The house was filled with curious people that day. Through tenacity of the paralytic’s friends, the man on his stretcher was placed in front of Jesus. Christ admired the men’s perseverance, daring, and sense of urgency. Another bubble was preserved to announce God’s love and forgiveness to the gathering of people when He presented a new life of physical freedom to the paralytic man. Though the man had never before experienced mobility, when Jesus gave the command for him to walk, the man did not hesitate, nor did he whimper that he didn’t know how. He trusted His Lord and took one step at a time. A bubble was suspended over the house that day, riding air currents to deliver the message of the Gospel to the lost.

Most children love to blow bubbles. Sometimes the bubbles are created with ease and at other times, we must corral the child’s aggression. An iridescent sphere is produced using the slightest puff of breath. Its beauty is simple, its message complex. When a strong blast of breath is propelled toward the open wand, the sloppy, soapy solution quickly drips down an arm, the bubble lost. Bubble-making requires practice to produce perfectly formed orbs every time. Such is life.

Jesus said, “‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6). Though Christians are anxious for non-believers to know the personal love and saving grace of Jesus as we do, we cannot force the relationship. If we do, the bubble merely disintegrates into a sticky, gooey mess. We tried too hard. The higher the stakes, the harder we blow. For best results, we must relax, take a deep breath and exhale with deliberate intent. As the bubble begins to bulge outward, we persist with short, easy puffs. The outcome is too important to lose to impatience. It is always worth relaxing and waiting for valuable results. We cannot force love or respect. Jesus will only be seen in our lives through humility, kindness, and compassion. Like unpretentious bubbles, our goodness and gentleness will exalt Christ.

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). To project the attributes of Christ, we must develop a delicate, tender approach, just as He acted on earth, honoring and loving all people. The one character from the pages of the Bible known for gentle forbearance was Jesus. He reacted to everyone with the manner in which He would like to be treated. “But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15).

During the process of attempting to perfect their bubble blowing skills, children learn the importance of breathing lightly for success or blowing frantically, leading to disappointment. It appears that gentleness and the bubbles that stay afloat prevail, carrying with them the message of patient endurance and perseverance. What splendid lessons from inconsequential bubbles, elevated to tutors of life lessons!

What It Means to Pray “Your Kingdom Come”

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

What It Means to Pray
“Your Kingdom Come”

By Stacey Salsbery

When I think of the word “kingdom,” I think of grandeur and royalty—a place where lords and ladies walk about. There is, of course, a castle and beautiful gardens. There are well-behaved children running around in pristine white clothing. There is a monarchy that loves both the people and the land in hopes of championing both. Oh, and there’s evil, but good always triumphs.

Okay, basically, when I think of the word kingdom, I think of my daughter’s favorite movie, The Princess Diaries, and Genovia, the fictional kingdom in that movie, is quite lovely. But is that what God intends for us to think when we read verses like “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33)? 

And is that what Jesus had in mind when He told the disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10)? Are we asking God to bring upon us His glorious kingdom where righteousness is the scepter (Ps. 45:6) and tears are gone forever and life is perfect and lovely all the time? Well actually, the answer is both yes and no. 

The Kingdom of God Is Both Now and Not Yet

The Scriptures tell us there is a physical, earthbound kingdom still to come in which Christ will rule as King. In John 14:2–3 Jesus tells the disciples, “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” 

Therefore, with confidence we can say as Paul did in 2 Timothy 4:18, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom.” An everlasting kingdom is coming where Christ reigns eternally—and righteousness and justice and peace are equal partners in a society forever set on bringing glory to God. 

And it will be amazing. Like nothing we can even fathom (1 Cor. 2:9). Though now we suffer for a little while, it’s “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). So we wait with eager expectation, longing for the day Christ will make things right, praying with confidence in our faithful God, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20). 

The Physical Kingdom of God Is Coming

So then Jesus encourages us to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matt. 6:10) that we might not lose hope. That our focus would stay on the eternal instead of the temporary, laying up treasure in heaven instead of filling our houses or closets or pocketbooks. 

But if we focus on only the future physical kingdom of God, we miss out on the present spiritual kingdom of God. 

In the gospels Jesus spoke often of the kingdom of heaven, declaring from the start of his ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). It’s the same message John the Baptist declared. Paul lived in Rome two years, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:30–31). Because in Christ, the kingdom of God is also right now.

Read the rest here.

Why Did Jesus Want To Eat That Last Supper?

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

Why Did Jesus Want to Eat That Last Supper

April 15, 2019
By 
Suzy Silk

Almost every Sunday, churches across America remember Jesus’s “Last Supper” as they take communion together. Eating bread or wafers and drinking grape juice or wine, they recount Jesus’s words: “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me. … This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

But would it surprise you to learn that this wasn’t an ordinary dinner Jesus was having with his disciples, and this wasn’t normal bread he broke? When I first learned that Jesus’s last meal took place during a Passover dinner, and that the bread he broke was unleavened bread (matzah), I was surprised and thrilled. Jesus’s words and actions on that night suddenly became so much clearer to me.

How Jesus used Passover

Passover was the first holiday ever given by God to the Jewish people. Several times, the Lord gave the Israelites specific instructions on how to commemorate their miraculous exodus from Egypt—by recounting the Exodus and Passover story over a shared meal of unleavened bread, wine, bitter herbs, and roasted lamb on the 14th day of the month of Aviv. This was to be a lasting ordinance for all future generations (see Exodus 12:1-18Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

As a righteous Jewish man, Jesus grew up celebrating Passover every year in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41); and so, as to be expected, in the days leading up to his arrest, Jesus again obediently celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples on the 14th day of Aviv (see Matthew 26:17-19; John 13:1). During that evening, Jesus used the various items on the Passover table as prophetic signs of what he was about to do in the following 24 hours, explaining his mission and purpose to his disciples.

The questions I asked when I first learned all of this were: Why this bread? Why that particular cup? Why during that particular ceremonial moment, when he dipped his bread into the bitter herbs? And although there are many other ways in which the Passover meal helps us understand Jesus’s many words that night, let’s begin with the four required items on the Passover table: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, wine, and a roasted lamb.

The Unleavened Bread (Matzah)

During Passover, God commanded the Israelites to eat only unleavened bread (i.e., bread without yeast) for seven days. The point was to have an annual reminder of how they left Egypt in a hurry. For this reason, later generations nicknamed matzah both “the bread of affliction,” as a reminder of their slavery, and “the bread of freedom,” as a reminder of their freedom after leaving Egypt in haste (see Deuteronomy 16:3). This bread was also sacred/holy bread, since yeast was often seen as a symbol of sin in the Old Testament and was therefore not in the bread regularly offered in the Temple. Because matzah has no yeast, it also doesn’t rise, and so must be pierced all over to prevent it from burning–though striped burn marks are often inevitable.

This pierced, striped, and holy bread was a perfect symbol for what would be done to Jesus. The prophet Isaiah foretells that the Messiah, though righteous and blameless (i.e., without sin), would be “pierced for our transgressions” and that “by his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus held up the pierced, striped, yeast-less bread on the Passover table—which symbolized affliction and freedom at the same time—and compared it to his body. Then, he broke it and divided it among his disciples. Soon, Jesus would be pierced, striped, and “broken.” He would give himself up to affliction, explaining to his disciples that his body was to be “given for [them]” (Luke 22:19)—in other words, for their freedom. 

Read the rest here.

Mature In Christ

I have exciting news to share with you about Pat Knight. She has been working on a new book of devotionals which should be published sometime this year. She is still pondering and praying about what the title will be, so I’ll be sure to keep you updated as I learn more. Pat is also the author of Rejoice! and Pure Joy, both of which can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook, eBay and XulonPress.

Mature In Christ

By Pat Knight

One summer at the lake we experienced the sheer joy of observing two newly-hatched common loon babies under the tutelage of the adult pair. The interaction between parents and chicks provided no end of amusement and delight. The family of four swam by our shoreline with each baby hitching a ride on a parent’s back. We could sense the adults’ pride as they swam leisurely but cautiously near our Independence Day picnic area, seemingly to introduce their new family.

Initially the two newborn loon chicks were tiny brown puffballs, totally dependent on their parents for food, warmth, and protection. Daily as we noticed the parents nurturing and instructing their young, we were reminded of our relationship with our heavenly Father. A priest assured King David of God’s constant care. “‘I will instruct and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you’” (Psalm 32:8). All of our thoughts and actions are known to our Lord.

It was both amazing and heart-warming to hear the adult loons tenderly cooing to their young. We were accustomed to their boisterous, eerie cries that pierced the night silence. With their chicks the adults displayed only gentleness and tenderness. When Jesus ministered on earth, He neither yelled nor screamed His message. His gentleness and patience were known by all. Likewise, we are reminded, “In quietness and trust is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

The ritual of feeding in the loon family continued throughout the day. The adult dived to catch a minnow, carried it alive in its beak, then dropped the fish directly in front of its offspring. The chick attempted to retrieve its lunch before the small fish struggled to its freedom below the water’s surface. This process reoccurred until the chicks proved unsuccessful catching their lunch. The adult loon then recaptured the fish and placed it directly in the chick’s mouth. It was a thrill to discover the older chicks soon capable of diving and catching their own food independently.

The apostle Paul likened the initial time when we place our trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior to the nourishment requirements of an infant, who at first drinks only milk. He compared our spiritual growth and the need for progressively more sustenance with our physical growth. With greater understanding and maturity in our walk with Jesus, He eventually introduces solid spiritual food.

During the Israelites’ forty-year wilderness walk toward the Promised Land, God assumed the responsibility for feeding millions of His people. He miraculously provided daily food adequate to sustain each person. Dissatisfied, the Israelites wailed and complained about the monotony of the manna and the absence of meat. God heard their grumbling and mercifully sent quail for their evening meal. “‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God’” (Exodus 16:11-12).

God never gives up on His children, urging us to depend on Him for our daily needs. The apostle Paul reassured, “‘God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus’” (Philippians 4:19). God commands us to trust and obey Him, promising that our lives will overflow with His blessings.

When the loon chicks were newly hatched, we equated their diving attempts to submerging a ping pong ball. At first, it was an impossible feat; they were merely small balls of buoyant fluff. However, they persisted, and by their fourth day of life, they had mastered rudimentary diving skills.

Just as the loon chicks practiced and persisted until their tiny bodies were heavy enough to stay submerged, so too, God expects us to practice our Christian lifestyle until God’s ways are natural to us. “But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: whoever claims to live must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6). Our lives are testimonies to our beliefs.

The adult loons were fiercely protective of their young. Predators such as eagles, hawks, or humans pose great threats to an isolated loon chick. To divert attention away from the little ones in the face of danger, the adult loon performs a “penguin dance.” With their wings alternately folded vertically against its body or flailing, the parent walks on water while contorting and shrieking at the predator. If boaters or curiosity seekers are not wise enough to exit, the loon may dance until exhausted and perish attempting to protect its young.

Although God equips common loons with instinctive methods of protecting their young, He promises personal, unfailing protection to His own children. “The Lord watches over you. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore” (Psalm 121:5a, 7-8). God not only protects us routinely, He also offers shelter during the sudden, unexpected storms of our lives. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

God provides practical analogies and lessons as we observe His creation, promising love, leadership, and protection in believers’ lives. This, then, is our response: “‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting’” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Loons provide natural object lessons, illustrating God’s constant parenting and grace for those who seek to follow and obey Jesus. Let us seek spiritual maturity, grasping the gifts God offers to cultivate Christlikeness in each of us.

Don’t Leave Jesus Out of Your Marriage

Sharing today from Challies.com.

Don’t Leave Jesus
Out of Your Marriage

By Tim Challies

recently had the opportunity to speak and preach on marriage. This is always a tremendous challenge personally. There’s nothing like spending a couple of weeks deep in what the Bible says about marriage to expose my insufficiencies as a husband and to come face-to-face with all the ways I fail to be all God calls me to be and to be all my wife deserves.

More than anything else, I was challenged to continue to ensure Jesus is the center of our marriage. And that challenge came in what struck me as an unexpected way. I was studying the first bit of Paul’s great passage on marriage and examining the verses that pertain to wives. Paul means to bring order to the Christian household—“You’ve turned to Christ in repentance and faith, now here’s how to live as a distinctly Christian family saved and shaped by the gospel.” 

Read the rest here.

Santa’s Christmas Wish

It’s Christmas Eve once again,
And the world awaits Santa’s return,
But as children sleep with happy faces,
Santa’s face is full of concern.

For he knows that many believe in him,
Even though they see him not;
Yet they don’t believe in the unseen God,
Nor the Son that He begot.

They accept the many gifts from Santa,
As an expression of his love;
But they won’t accept The Greatest Gift,
From the loving God above.

The gift of eternal salvation,
Was offered on Christmas Day –
Through the birth of Baby Jesus,
Who is still rejected today!

“How sad it is,” thought Santa,
As he climbed into his sleigh.
And with tears staining his cheeks,
Santa bowed his head to pray.

“Lord Jesus, ’tis not for my glory,
That I return each Christmas Eve.
But to show men, women, and children,
That they don’t need to see to believe.

“And if they can accept my gifts,
Even though they’re undeserving –
I pray they’ll learn to accept Your Gift,
Through a clearer understanding.

“And Lord, If could have a Christmas wish,
I would ask for it to be —
That on each and every Christmas Eve,
The world would look for Thee, not me!”

-Author Unknown-