ALL IN

"And the people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and obey him".  Joshua 24:24 NIV

I hold the door open while the dogs decide whether they want in or out. Sometimes, they just stand there halfway in and halfway out. They want to see if the grass is greener on the other side of the door. If it’s raining too hard, they back in in disappointment. Eventually, they have to make a decision.

Just like the dogs, we want to access our options. Joshua asked the people of Israel to do the same thing. In Joshua 24, all the tribes of Israel were called together and presented to the Lord. The Lord spoke through Joshua reminding them of their past. He told how he was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and how he had brought them out of Egypt and slavery. He spoke of the Red Sea and the walls of Jericho and the victories they had achieved with God on their side. Joshua told them to fear the Lord and throw away any false gods their ancestors had worshipped. He summed it up with, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. The whole assembly responded by saying in verse 18, “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God”.

God doesn’t want us to serve him half-heartedly. He wants us to be all in. Colossians 3:17 states, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him”. God tells us in Jeremiah 29:13 that, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”. It is pretty clear that he wants our whole heart. Revelation 3:15 states, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!”. God wants his people all in.

Jesus came to earth as a baby. He grew and lived an earthly life, willingly giving up his heavenly home. He was betrayed, denied, beaten, and killed for us. He was all in for God’s salvation plan. He tells us in Matthew 22:37 to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. That’s how God loves you!

Being half-hearted is not acceptable to a God that gave his all for you!

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CONTAGIOUS

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NIV

Our dogs have a love and enthusiasm that is contagious. They are excited to get up in the morning. They are excited to go for their walk. They eagerly get in the car knowing they are headed for ice cream or the dog park. They greet you at the door, tails wagging. It is hard to be down, when you are loved to the extreme.

As Christians, we are called to be contagious. One of the definitions of contagious is to spread an emotion, feeling, or attitude, and affect others. We have all been around people who have affected us negatively or positively. Our verse today tells us that God is the God of hope and he fills us with joy and peace as we trust him. Our joy, peace, and hope overflows by the Holy Spirit and touches those around us. We are contagious as we spread Jesus Christ to all we meet.

I John 4:16 states, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”. I John 3:1 tells us, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him”. It is hard to be down, when we are loved to the extreme.

“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God has filled you with his Holy Spirit. Let him overflow you so that others might catch what you have. Go out into the world and be contagious for Christ!

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MISTAKEN IDENTITY

“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'” I Samuel 16:7 NIV

We have had Lucy for eight months. We were told she was a Corgi/Shepherd mix and we could see those features in her energetic little self. I had always wanted to do DNA testing on our dogs but never did until Lucy and Burt.

The DNA results for Lucy were quite surprising. Let’s start by saying that Corgi and Shepherd are not even close. She is listed as 53% Siberian Husky, 27% Boxer, 16% Shih Tzu, 2% Plott Hound, and 2% Redbone Coonhound. I could see the Husky as she looked like a Husky puppy. She can bury a bone with her nose and her escape artist tendencies are right up there with Seneca. She has an underbite like many boxers and her size can be attributed to the Shih Tzu.

I cannot change her breed on a dog license or microchip until a veterinarian officially places it on her paperwork. It must be verified so until that is done, Lucy will continue to be a Corgi/Shepherd mix. She is what she is!

Many people have looked at us and have seen our outward appearance and traits and may assume we are a red head of Scottish descent or a blue-eyed blond tracing back to Sweden. People stereotype us by our heritage, our jobs, our accents, and many other outward traits but only our DNA and God knows for sure. We are what we are!

What we are on the inside is not always as easily detectable as our outward appearance. People have to look a little deeper and stick around long enough to get to know our heart. Of course, what is on the inside should become visible on the outside the closer we walk with God.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The bible gives us our DNA results. Galatians 3:26 says, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith”. Ephesians 2:22 tells us, “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit”. The Holy Spirit of God lives in us! We are new creations! We are his children, the family of God!

God has declared who we are in the Bible. He confirms it daily by his Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Unlike Lucy, who has to wait to be seen by a veterinarian and have her test results reviewed before she will officially be a little husky mix, God has accepted us into his family the moment we accept Jesus into our hearts. Romans 10:9 puts it like this, “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”.

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). It’s official. No waiting required. Live today like you are a child of the king!

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EXPLORING

The Lord said to Moses, “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan which I am going to give to the people of Israel”. Numbers 13:1-2 New Life Version

Burt likes to explore. He follows his nose into tight places and follows paths that are barely visible and overgrown. He especially likes to follow railroad tracks. Who knows? He might have ridden the rails as a young pup in Alabama before being turned in as a stray.

Most everyone in the Bible was an adventurer, exploring new territories, most not by choice. Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden. Noah took a ride on the Ark to start over with his family. Abram and Sarai were called to leave Ur and journey with God. Moses was a reluctant leader to the Israelites when they left slavery for the promised land. Even Jesus had to journey to begin his earthly ministry. He left heaven and came to earth as a baby so that we too might explore new worlds with him as our Savior and Lord.

Proverbs 2 talks about exploring the word of God. Verse 3 starts out by saying, “Indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

God is calling each of us on a journey. It might not be as scary as riding an ark over the raging waters while they destroy mankind but a rainbow might be at the end. It might not be as long as Moses’ journey leading the Hebrew children through the desert but your promised land awaits. It might not end with you on a cross but the cross is where it definitely begins.

When you kneel at the foot of the cross, your journey with Jesus starts. It promises to have twists and turns but be straight and narrow. It begins at the cross and ends in heaven with your Savior.

Say yes to adventure! Start your journey today! Explore the word of God! Search for God like the explorers of old. It promises to be the ride of your life, with discovery at every turn.

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CREEPY THINGS

So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother”. Mark 6:27-28 NIV

I came home from work and the dogs greeted me at the door. I went upstairs to change before walking them and went into the bedroom. In the middle of my bed was a dead rabbit. I screamed and slammed the door. I went downstairs to feed the dogs and noticed a tin can lid from their dog food was face down on the kitchen floor. I picked it up to throw away. It was crawling with ants and so was the floor. I screamed and threw it in the sink. After all the cleanup, I was afraid of the next thing I might find.

I won’t say the dogs have never beheaded anything but I can say that my children have never asked for anyone to be beheaded at my request. Mark, chapter 6, records how and why John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, was beheaded. John was a tell it like it is style of preacher. He pointed out your sins and told you to repent. Not all enjoyed his style.

Verse 19 says that Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him but she wasn’t able to because Herod feared and protected John because he knew he was righteous and holy. John had been put in prison by Herod to try to appease Herodias. She was originally his brother’s wife but was now married to Herod. John had told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife which is what put him on Herodias’ bad side.

Herodias bided her time and on Herod’s birthday they threw Herod a banquet. Herodias’ daughter danced and was so pleasing that Herod told her she could ask whatever she wanted up to half his kingdom. The girl asked her mother what she should ask for and the answer was the head of John the Baptist. The king was upset but he had promised in front of the crowd so John was beheaded.

I’m almost positive that you don’t respond to criticism by asking for someone’s head. If a friend or spouse comes to you pointing out something in your life that shouldn’t be there, you probably don’t want to kill them. Romans 12:19 states, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

How do you respond when you know you are the one with the bad attitude? When God convicts you of a sin, do you push it under the table or immediately confess it and ask for his forgiveness? Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it”.

Let’s not bite someone’s head off when something we need to change is brought to our attention. Let’s offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1).

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WAKE ME UP EARLY, BE GOOD TO MY DOGS, AND TEACH MY CHILDREN TO PRAY

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“Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs”.  I Corinthians 13:4-5 NIV

Perhaps you’ve heard of 1 Corinthians 13 known as the love chapter in the Bible.  In this chapter, Paul tells us what love is and also what love isn’t.  It has never been one of my favorites as I have a hard time living up to it.  It is right up there with listening to Proverbs 31 every Mother’s Day explaining the perfect wife, mother and all around woman.  These two chapters leave me feeling I have missed the mark but encourage me to depend on God and the Holy Spirit more each and every day.

Recently, I heard the country song “Black Sheep” by John Anderson.  One of the lines of the chorus tells of his father telling his mother, “Wake me up early, be good to my dogs, and teach my children to pray”.  I thought that about sums it up.  It may not be as eloquent as I Corinthians 13.  It might not have all the spiritual backing of Ephesians 5 telling wives to submit and husbands to love as Christ loved the Church giving his life for her.  It might not be a love story like Song of Solomon but it is really good advice.  You could let me sleep in but if you are good to my dogs and teach my children to pray we have a pretty good foundation for life.

How we treat others is the Golden Rule Jesus talks about in Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”.  Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”.  Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord”.

Deuteronomy 6 instructs the Israelites to pass all of God’s commandments on to their children.  Verse 7 says to impress them on your children and talk about them at home and wherever you might be so that God and his commandments are never forgotten or taken lightly.

The next wedding you go to and you have to write down some advice for the happy couple, don’t forget I Corinthians 13 but go ahead and write down, “Wake me up early, be good to my dogs, and teach my children to pray”.  We can all benefit from kindness, love, and talking to God daily in prayer and if they aren’t dog people, love them anyway! 

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EXPELLED

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“therefore the Lord God expelled the man from the garden of Eden so he would work the ground from which he had been taken.  After he had expelled the man, the Lord God placed winged angels at the eastern end of the garden of Eden, along with a fiery, turning sword, to prevent access to the tree of life”.  Genesis 3:23-24 ISV

When we first got Burt, he would whip his head around and try to bite you.  It happened when he was excited, had to go to the bathroom, needed your attention, and when he didn’t want to do what you asked him to do.  In other words, all the time.  The trainer came and recommended a collar and showed us how to hold it so he couldn’t get to you if he was tempted to bite.  As we all got better acquainted, this behavior was no longer an issue.

Burt tried to nip employees at doggie daycare for the same reasons, usually a lot of barking dogs and yes, I am making excuses for him.  We had heard no complaints for awhile and were always told he was fine.  So when it was suggested that we change our normal day for one where his trainer was working, I was suspicious and made inquiries.  Apparently, his nipping was still going on and after the suggestion was made, he tried it on the owner.  We were now told he would only be accepted half days on Monday and Wednesday and the cost was the same.  Basically, Burt was being expelled from doggie daycare.

Just like Burt, Adam and Eve had it made in the Garden of Eden.  They were given everything to enjoy but one tree.  The rules were presented but they couldn’t uphold their end of the deal when tempted.  Just like Burt, Eve took a bite and encouraged Adam to taste the fruit too. Just like Burt, they were expelled from the garden. God put an angel and a flaming sword always turning to guard the gate to make sure they never returned. I don’t think doggie daycare is going quite that far to keep Burt out.

We all must live according to some rules.  If we don’t do our jobs according to the expectations, we may be fired.  If we don’t obey the speed limit, we pay a fine.  If we disobey a teacher or principal we could be expelled from school.  When rules are broken there are consequences.

How about you?  Is it hard to break those old habits?  Is it easier to whip your head around and bite at those trying to enforce the rules?  Are we a rebellious people (Isaiah 30:9)?

James 4 tells us to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee from you.  It instructs us to draw near to God and he will draw near to us.  Verse 10 says to humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.

We might not be able to get past the flaming sword with the “Keep Out” sign but God has swung open the gate to heaven when he provided Jesus as our Savior.  As we trust in him for our salvation, we are no longer expelled from the presence of God but are invited to come boldly into his presence (Hebrews 4:16).

Psalm 16:11 states, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore”.  Don’t get expelled from a heavenly eternity for the earthly pleasures of today!

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PRIORITIES

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“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”.  Ecclesiastes 12:1 NIV

Seneca has always been a very energetic dog.  She was able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and go from roof top to roof top as gracefully as Spiderman’s dog.  We worked hard to contain her.  She wasn’t left in the yard to run free as the fence was just a suggestion to be ignored.  She always knew she had disobeyed but stubbornly went her own way unless she deigned to do your will when it suited her.

Like many of us, Seneca is slowing down as she ages.  Her arthritis is being treated but she frequently needs help into the car.  We let her out in the yard now without supervision and she enjoys her new freedoms.

Recently, the family received a text from my son saying that Seneca had jumped the fence.  Was she punished?  Were we upset?  No!  Text replies were sent saying, “Great”, “Yea!”, and “Praise the Lord!”.  Our priorities and outlook had changed.  What we once regarded as important had been replaced by joy in Seneca enjoying the energy and agility of youth in her senior years.

Ecclesiastes 12 can be rather depressing.  It tells you to remember your creator in the days of your youth and then goes on to list quite a few health issues we face as we enter our not-so-golden years.  Verse 3 mentions the grinders cease because they are few which is a poetic way to say that you’ve lost most of your teeth.  The windows grow dim refers to your eyesight and songs grow faint means your hearing is not as good as it once was while verse 7 has us as dust returning to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Yes, as we age our priorities change but we are encouraged to remember our Creator in the days of our youth.  Hopefully, we grow wiser with age and God will always be a priority in our life.

As adults, we have a responsibility to teach by word and example the love of God to those we come in contact with each day.  Then, they too can pass on to another generation the love of God so that we would all remember our Creator, God, and King in whatever stage of life we are in at this moment.

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 ends by saying, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.  For God will bring every deed into judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil”.

God is number one and that will never change.  Make Him your priority in your youth and in your senior years and your outlook will never change!

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WORKING WITH DADDY

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“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  Genesis 2: 15 NIV

Lilly is an 8 week old English Pointer.  She has been blessed to be able to go to work with Daddy and enjoy the great outdoors.  It’s a partnership where she is provided with lots of exercise, food, water, shade, and her Daddy’s presence to keep her on the right track.  Lilly in return gives lots of company, love, affection, and obedience as she enjoys the great outdoors as she walks with and follows her father.

God desires to partnership with us in our work and day to day activities.  His ideal plan was set in place when he created a perfect garden and placed us in it to take care of it.  He walked and talked along side us in a loving relationship until we chose to disobey.

I Corinthians 3:9 in the Good News Translation states, “For we are partners working together for God, and you are God’s field.  Colossians 3:17 tells us, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father”.

God has called and partnered with his creation all through the Bible.  He called Moses and Moses told God in Exodus 33:15, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here”.  David conquered kingdoms with God leading him (Hebrews 11:32), Daniel lived to see morning when placed in the lion’s den as their dinner, and Joshua lead the people around Jericho; watching the walls fall after marching around the city for seven days.

We are not alone.  God has prepared a place for us.  We are not here by accident.  He is our heavenly father and he wants us to work with him. Just like Lilly is taken care of each day, Psalm 121:5 tells us, “The LORD watches over you–the LORD is your shade at your right hand.”  His face shines upon us and he shades us in the heat of the day.  He leads us by still waters and restores our soul.  His presence goes with us and we have nothing to fear.

Lilly learns love and obedience and so will we when we enter into a personal relationship with our heavenly father and his son who died for us.  Go to work with your daddy today and give him all the glory as you trust the Holy Spirit to lead and teach you daily.

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POPULARITY

 

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“Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.”  Matthew 4:25 ESV

One of our family vacations included a trip to Hollywood where we were excited to find out they were actually filming a movie nearby.  The streets were closed off and everyone was standing across the street from all the action.  We eagerly joined in wondering if we would see Julia Roberts filming another Pretty Woman or Johnny Depp in all his glory.  Well, at least I was hoping to see Johnny Depp in all his glory!

We finally saw the signs announcing The Muppets were filming a new movie.  Miss Piggy and her entourage rode up to the theater in a limo and we all pushed to be able to see the stars.  I’ll admit it was a bit of a let down but still fun to see all the Muppets being lifted up to say their lines then drop down like limp puppets till their next scene.  I’m sure actual living, breathing stars would have required more crowd control and more high maintenance than our precious Kermie.

The gospels are full of Jesus’ star status.  Large crowds followed him wherever he went.  He provided food for over 5,000 followers when they were hungry.  The mountainsides were so full that he escaped to a boat to preach and teach.  News of his travels and miracles made everyone want to come out and see this man from Galilee.  Zacchaeus even climbed a tree to be able to get a better view.

Palm Sunday brought the peak to Jesus’ popularity.  By the end of the week, it wasn’t the acceptable thing to be seen in his presence.  Even his closest friends betrayed and denied knowing him.  Though some still followed.

Today the crowd can go either way.  It’s acceptable to follow Jesus when we are in church but is it when we are with our co-workers at work?  Some have been asked to leave out Jesus’ name when we pray as that might offend someone.  Where you are and who you are with can determine the popularity of Jesus at any given time.

But some still follow.  Do you?

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