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One Thousand Gifts

holy experience

Well, I've decided I'm going to go ahead and do this here - primarily because if I don't do it here, I'll forget to do it at all. And since I was recently exhorted to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, it seemed appropriate. So here goes.

1. The dark times of life, that let us see God's grace more abundantly.

2. The overwhelming gift of knowing my Lord, Jesus Christ.

3. The cleansing of conscience.

4. God. There are too many perfections in Him to be looked at separately; I am thankful - infinitely thankful - for just Who He is.

5. The beauty of the night sky on a cold winter night.

6. Autumn leaves.

7. The smell of woodsmoke.

8. The roar of the ocean and the scream of gulls and the feel of sand.

9. Sweaters and tea on rainy days.

10. Birdsong.

11. Frost.

12. A pale blue autumn sky.

13. Berries on my dogwood outside.

14. The crunch of dry leaves underfoot.

15. The knowledge that all this beauty is a mere shadow of what is to come.

The Changing Seasons

"He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down."

It's now September, which means that Fall is just around the corner - even though it still feels like August around here. Autumn is my favourite season, and whenever it comes around I'm reminded of the faithfulness of God that is revealed in the changing seasons. He has appointed "seedtime and harvest" for all time and continues yearly to provide sun and rain, cool weather and hot, making His sun to shine upon the just and the unjust. He holds the universe together, as Fernando Ortega wrote in his song "This Good Day" -

"If rain clouds come
Or the cold winds blow
You're the One Who goes before me,
And in my heart I know
That this good day
It is a gift from You.
The world is turning in its place
Because You made it to.
I lift my voice to sing a song of praise
On this good day."

This world, this planet that He has made, turns because He made it to. We have no fear that the sun will not rise tomorrow or that spring won't come after winter, because we know that God holds all things together by the word of His power, and He is ever faithful to provide. How great a God our salvation rests upon!

A Prayer, From Scougal

I just finished reading Henry Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man last night - a beautiful, encouraging, and convicting book that I would heartily recommend. Originally written as a letter, Scougal concluded each section with a prayer, and I found the final prayer very heart-warming.

"And now, O most gracious God, father and fountain of mercy and goodness, who hast blessed us with the knowledge of our happiness, and the way that leadeth unto it, excite in our souls such ardent desires after the one, as may put us forth to the diligent prosecution of the other. Let us neither presume on our own strength, nor distrust thy divine assistance; but while we are doing our utmost endeavours, teach us still to depend on thee for success.

"Open our eyes, O God, and teach us out of thy law. Bless us with an exact and tender sense of our duty, and a knowledge to discern perverse things. Oh! that our ways were directed to keep thy statutes, then shall we not be ashamed when we have respect unto all thy commandments.

"Possess our hearts with a generous and holy disdain of all those poor enjoyments which this world holdeth out to allure us, that they may never be able to inveigle our affections, or betray us to any sin; turn away our eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou us in thy law.

"Fill our souls with such a deep sense, and full persuasion, of those great truths which thou hast revealed in the gospel, as may influence and regulate our whole conversation, and that the life which we henceforth live in the flesh, we may live through faith in the Son of God.

"Oh! that the infinite perfections of thy blessed nature, and the astonishing expressions of thy goodness and love, may conquer and overpower our hearts, that they may be constantly rising toward thee in flames of devoutest affection, and enlarging themselves in sincere and cordial love toward all the world for thy sake: and that we may cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in thy fear, without which we can never hope to behold and enjoy thee.

"Finally, O God, grant that the consideration of what thou art, and what we ourselves are, may both humble and lay us low before thee, and also stir up in us the strongest and most ardent aspirations toward thee. We desire to resign and give up ourselves to the conduct of thy Holy Spirit; lead us in thy truth, and teach us, for thou art the God of our salvation; guide us with thy counsel, and afterward receive us unto glory, for the merits and intercession of thy blessed Son our Saviour. Amen."

Render Unto Caesar

The concept of the Divine Right of Kings has largely gone out of vogue around here. It makes one think of the oppression of England's monarchs, the beheading of Louis XVI, and such ugly things - and yet we see from Scripture that while monarchs are not unaccountable for cruelty, there is the fact that kings are God-appointed. The same is true for all leaders, since no one gets where they are outside of the Providence of God. Jesus Himself accepts this in His answer to those servants of the Pharisees in the Gospels, who asked if it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to the heathen Caesar. Jesus' memorable response? "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things which are God's."

On the surface this seems pretty straight forward, but it really demands some consideration. What, therefore, is Caesar's, and what is God's?

First, we know that all things are God's, for "in Him we live, and move, and have our being," and "apart from Him [Christ] nothing was made that was made." We know that as our King, our God, our Creator, our Savior, and our Lord, we owe Him our very selves. This includes both mind and bodies, as indicated by Paul's admonition to "present our bodies a living sacrifice"; it includes our worship, adoration, and love. The fact that everything is God's means that the most minute details of our lives should be dedicated to His glory, including the payment of taxes to our Caesars.

And what is Caesar's? That which belongs to Caesar is that which God has given him. Jesus in speaking to Pilate said, "You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above." Clearly this shows the divinity and power of Christ, but it is true in other situations as well, for no created being can have any authority unless it is given to them from God Almighty. Rulers, whether they gain their situation by moral or immoral means, have authority which they could not have if it was outside of God's plan. Therefore, the laws which are theirs, the taxes which are theirs, and the allegiance which they demand, are all due them - always beneath the higher Kingship of God. But, unlike what we owe God, our homage and worship is not due to Caesar, which is something that may have come to the Jews' minds when they thought of the Romans' deification of their ruler.

There is not, I don't think, a hard and straight line between giving to Caesar and giving to God. As God has ordained that we are to "render to all their due," therefore our giving to Caesar with the object of doing right is also giving to God: we give to Him our obedience and submission to His will, by giving to Caesar what is his.

An earlier passage in the Gospel of Luke, which is what I'm currently reading, speaks of the widow and her two mites; Jesus exclaims that she has given all she possessed to God, and commends her for it. But why did she not use them to pay her taxes? While it is possible that she had already paid her taxes and used what was left to give in tithe, I don't think that is what the passage indicates. It simply shows that the woman understood that, first and foremost, all she had was due to the God who gave and sustained her life.