by Angie Thomas

I have a really weird, reoccurring dream. I am in college and half-way through my final semester I realize that I have not been attending a class that I needed to graduate. The entire dream revolves around me trying to do whatever I can to complete this class, but over and over again I forget to go or something prevents me from going or I can’t get the homework done I need to complete the class. I am so frustrated in the dream! Despite my desire to graduate and attempts to do everything I can to complete the class, I cannot. This dream does not have a happy ending. The issue with the class is never resolved and I always wake up agitated and upset. My three and half years of school never result in a degree because I can’t finish this class. It feels like all my hard work up to that point has been for nothing.

This dream reminds me of our condition before Christ. We were completely unable, by our own good works or ability, to receive God’s eternal blessings. “Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). It doesn’t matter how many “good” things we do, how much we want it, or how hard we try.

Without hope, without God, and without promise is a really sad, depressing place to be. On the surface, it may not appear that this is our destiny. There is much that often gives the illusion of hope and promise in this life: a new job, relationship, car, outfit, or… you fill in the blank. But the reality is all those things are temporal and their promise is fleeting. Our perfect job will change, people will let us down and disappoint us, and material possessions will fall apart or we will quickly tire of them.

But Paul follows this seemingly hopeless statement with an incredible promise, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13). Because of Jesus’ blood we have been brought near, friends. Let this truth wash over your heart and soul. I think of a big, strong Daddy who bear hugs his kids and brings them next to His chest, squeezes them close to his heart. This is the love of our Abba Father. This is the hope and promise we have in Christ. You are now His beloved, precious and honored in His sight (Isaiah 43:5).

This is unbelievable news… truly good news. We are loved and cared for tenderly and compassionately by our Heavenly Father not only in the life to come, but now as we navigate the challenges and difficulties of this life. Our hope is living and eternal and it is Jesus Himself. May you be renewed and refreshed by the realization of His great love for you. Here is one of many amazing promises to you in His Word:

“The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
(Zeph. 3:17)

Hosanna and Hallelujah! Thank goodness Jesus has secured for us a much happier ending than my weird dream.

by Susan Sampson

God made His covenant with Abram.  Abram was asleep and the Lord alone cut the covenant.  Abram did nothing.  He had been an idolator like all the rest of us.  God mercifully chose Abram as He chose each of us. It is God who has to work first.  This is His covenant with us.  In Ezekiel we see one of the most amazing promises in all of Scripture: “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezek. 36:26-27).

I’m reminded of my recent shoulder surgery.  Just like Abram was asleep as the Lord cut the covenant, I was asleep as the surgeon removed the scar tissue from my shoulder.  This calloused tissue was preventing me from having full range of motion with my arm.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t lift my right arm as high as my left.

The Lord is the Great Physician and He does the very same thing.  “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6).

by Scott Kaczorowski

If you are anything like me, you don’t enjoy tax season. There are probably few people who do. Even those of who end up getting refunds still have to go through the process of filling out the paper work (or hiring someone to do it for you), making sure everything is correct, and getting it all sent in before the deadline. And all of this is potentially complicated by the fact that we live under one of the most complex tax systems in history, where sometimes even the tax professionals themselves don’t fully understand it.

But I think that there will be no taxes in heaven. This is not just because, as the lyrics go, “heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace” and taxes would ruin all that.1 Rather, this thought is based on something Jesus said when He was questioned about paying the temple tax.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (Matt. 17:24-27)

So Jesus’ reasoning here is that subjects pay taxes, not sons. But in Christ we are sons of the Kingdom: “in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith” (Gal. 3:26). There would be something incongruent about taxing sons.

But there does appear to be a giving of wealth in heaven: “They will bring into it [the new Jerusalem] the glory and the honor of the nations” (Rev. 21:26). But we might very well think of this as the type of freewill offering envisioned in Deuteronomy 16:10: “Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you.” The economy of heaven will most likely run on offerings freely given, not a compulsory system of taxation.

Although we are sons of the Kingdom in Christ Jesus, we still have responsibilities in our earthly citizenship. So please don’t misunderstand any of this to mean that you don’t have to pay your taxes here and now. The Lord commands us to pay our taxes (Rom. 13:7). But we can look forward to a day when the most complex tax system in history will be replaced by the freedom of the rule of God. And how amazing it is that the two certain things in this life—death and taxes—will both be abolished in the Kingdom of God!

1Another writer may have made a point like this.