LIFE AND DEATH

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB

Our dogs mean everything to us. We choose what food to feed them for their health, weight, and age. We pick the veterinarian they will see and take them to appointments to have the appropriate supplements, medications, and vaccinations. We take them to the beach or the mountains for vacations and assure they get the exercise they need. We are their providers and protectors.

When they become seniors and are ill we take care of them to the best of our ability. Sometimes, we are called upon to make the decision between death and life. If they are suffering and their quality of life is deteriorating, we call the vet and accompany them on their last car ride and let them go peacefully even though our hearts are breaking.

God gave the Israelites the choice between life and death. If they would obey God and love him with their whole hearts, they would have life and blessings. If they didn’t they would have death and curses. Unlike the decision to put your pet to sleep, it seems like a no brainer but every day people are not choosing God and his heart must be breaking.

We try to be our own protector and provider. We can do it ourselves and don’t rely on God to help us with our daily decisions. If we don’t see immediate repercussions, we think we are doing fine on our own.

God tells us to obey. Obey in the small areas and obey in the big areas of life. God is our provider and He is our protector. If we look to him in every situation, we will be blessed. He is our creator and He alone knows what is best for us. He has our good in mind.

John 5:24 states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life”. Who wouldn’t want to live eternally? Who wouldn’t choose life?

Pass from death to life. Each morning choose to obey God. He is on your side and only wants to bless you. It’s your choice.

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THE LOOK OUT

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“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain”. Psalm 127:1 ESV

Our dogs are not true guard dogs. They like to look out the window and watch. There are a few dogs in the neighborhood that are not favorites so are treated to loud barking signaling annoyance that they are walking by their property. Most of the time, you could come in the house and they wouldn’t lift their heads unless it was to be petted.

A true guard dog or watchdog is trained to guard property against, and watch for, unwanted or unexpected human or animal intruders. Sometimes you find yourself with a guard dog because of the breed characteristics and sometimes your little Chihuahua has the loudest and scariest snarl.

As with dogs, a human watchman keeps guard and a lookout watches for the enemy to approach and is looking with careful observation. We can only do so much in our human strength and ability. The first verse of Psalm 127 states the watchman labors in vain without the Lord’s help.

In I Peter 5:8, we are told to be sober and vigilant because we have an enemy called the devil and he thrives on seeking to devour us. We must be careful to be on guard and aware of our enemies, weaknesses, and temptations. We must also realize that in our own strength we will often fail.

I Corinthians 15:57 states, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I John 2:1 tells us that we have an advocate with the Father- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. We don’t have to worry because Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”.

We must be on guard and set lookouts for our protection in this life. We must not worry but know that God is on our side. We need to pray and share our requests and concerns with the living God who himself is our guardian. He is our leader, our creator, our protector, and our friend. “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4). Our watchman is on duty 24/7 and with him you will not labor in vain. The victory is yours!

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LITTLE LUCY AND BIG BURT

“There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ”. I Corinthians 12:12 NIRV

Burt and Lucy are as different as night and day. One is black and one is tan. Lucy has a high bark and mixes it with a howl. Burt’s bark is low and unrelenting in it’s monotone sound. Burt drinks out of the commode and tub faucet and Lucy has to watch and drink from her water bowl as she is not tall enough to reach. Lucy is short and Burt is tall. The list could go on and on.

Does the differences between Big Burt and Little Lucy make one better than the other? No. Does their differences keep them from being a part of the same family? No. They have been selected and accepted into our family just as they are. Do we hope they will listen and follow our guidelines for a happy family? Yes, but we are still working on that!

God accepts each one of us into his family despite our many differences. We all come from different backgrounds and experiences but he loves us and adopted us into his family. Does he want us to stay just as we are? No, but he is still working on that so that we will be a happy family according to his guidelines.

There are many types and sizes of dogs and there are are many different Christians but God is our Father. We all are in different stages of our faith walk. Hebrews 6:1 tells us to continue walking towards perfection which is good exercise for each of us.

Ephesians 4:5-6 states that there is, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all”. Christ is our head and we are his body. He loves each of us just as we are. If we are covered by the blood of Christ, our differences make no difference, we are perfect in his sight!

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HIDE YOUR CRAZY

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.  The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit”.  Psalm 34:17-18 NIV

Mallory has always watched television since she was a puppy.  The only problem  is she does not approve of other animals appearing in shows or commercials.  Mallory does not even like Mickey Mouse.  She goes crazy and jumps up and down, barking until the creature is gone from the screen.  She has even broken one television.  Needless to say. the new television is hung higher.

The other dogs (except Seneca) act the same way when people and dogs pass their house.  Delivery people of all types drive them crazy and the barking is non-stop till the threat has passed.

Miranda Lambert has a song called Momma’s Broken Heart.  One of the lines in it is, “Hide your crazy and start actin’ like a lady”.  This is her mother’s advice to her after she goes off the deep end after a break-up.  She is told to, “line her lips and keep ’em closed”, “never let ’em see you cry”, and “gotta keep it together even when you fall apart”.  It sounds like good advice from a well-meaning momma. 

Thankfully, God does not expect us to always hold it together, never ask him questions, or to hold in our tears and heartaches.  We expect that of ourselves sometimes or we do not think we are handling our emotions in the “Christian” way.

God tells us to call on him in times of trouble.  Our verse from Psalm 34 states that God is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 56:8 tells us that, “You keep track of all my sorrows.   You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book”.

Psalm 139:1-4 puts it this way, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.

Whatever you are going through today; you do not have to hide your crazy from God.  He sees you just as you are and created you in his image.  He longs for you to share your troubles with him so that he can deliver you from them.  Be transparent in his sight and watch your crazy turn to faith in the God who knows, hears, and loves you!

 

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FOCUSED ON FOLLOWING

“So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less that total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision-you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Philippians 3:15-16, MSG

I recently spent a week dogsitting Lilly, an English pointer, who loves to play ball. Pointers replaced greyhounds in England in the 1700’s due to their skill in hunting and tracking. Their ancestry is thought to include bloodhound, foxhound and greyhound. Whatever Lilly’s heritage, she is a wonderful tracker.

Lilly drops the ball in front of you, anticipating your next move. She stares intently at the ball, resembling a worried old man. As your release the ball, Lilly starts running. On the off chance she doesn’t catch it in the air, she quickly retrieves the ball and has it back at your feet, watching you with her fixed stare. A few times she has had to follow her nose to track the ball but she always finishes her task and is ready to start over in whatever direction you send her. Lilly is focused on following.

Unlike Lilly, I get sidetracked too often. I sit down to read my bible and something I have to do pops in my head and off I go. Soon it is bedtime and I realize that I have not been focused on following Jesus. I am not studying him in his word and speaking to him in prayer to find out what the next move is that I am to follow. II Timothy 2:15 tells us to, “Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”.

I need to focus on my master, to watch him and know him so I can hear his voice. John 10:27 states, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me”. The more I focus on Jesus the better follower I am.

To follow means to go or come after a person or thing proceeding ahead. Jesus is our head. We are told in Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy”.

Is Jesus your leader? Are you his follower? Jesus reigns supreme and he has won the victory over sin and death. He wants to lead you to his heavenly kingdom and in paths of righteousness. Focus on him and his word today that you might excel at following the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

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ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, ESPECIALLY THE MOUSE!

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”. Luke 2:13-14 NIV

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house,

All the creatures were stirring, especially the mouse.

Burt and Lucy sniffed at their stockings hung high in the air.

I hoped that no treats would fall prey to the pair.

The mouse ripped through the house with dogs in pursuit

Fur flying, ears flopping, tails wagging; I’ll admit they are cute.

Away to the closet, under the door, behind the piano, and down through the floor.

The hound and the husky stood not a chance; a mouse being little and dogs two foot or more.

Quiet restored, the pups climbed on the couch, breathing soon set to a snore,

When what should disturb them but noise on the roof!

Santa had come while the hound and the husky dreamed of more proof.

What proof did they need but presents piled high ?

Packages that smelled perfect for dogs stacked up to the sky.

There were pull toys and squeakers, stuffed ones and bones;

Treats that they sat for and tricks to be done.

Oh what a morning; truly a delight,

For a husky and hound dog who’d been good all year long

Or Santa had looked at his long list quite wrong!

The naughty dog list had been chewed by the hound;

Buried by the husky deep down in the ground.

They happily chewed till their hearts were content,

Laid down for a nap, their Christmas wish sent:

Merry Christmas to all from the husky and hound and yes, even the mouse that they had found!

A BABY’S LOW CRY

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”.  Isaiah 7:14 ESV

A puppy whimpering is quite common, I am told.  They are learning how to communicate what they want and need.  Puppies may whine for food and attention.  Lucy has a mix between a husky howl and a growl that sounds quite sad.  It’s not something that another dog would take seriously.  She’s not a puppy but she manages to express herself in her own unique way.

I am the Bread of Life Jesus states in John 6:35 and yet he hungered.  Luke 2:7 tells us that, “she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them”.  The one who states if we come to him we will never go hungry came into this world as a baby crying for physical food.

Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty Jesus again states in John 6:35 and yet he was thirsty.  In John 4, he tells the Samaritan woman that if she would have asked him, he would have given her living water to drink.  John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”.  The Messiah born as a baby cried due to thirst.

The lyrics of the Christmas song, “There’s a Song in the Air” start out:

               There’s a song in the air,

               There’s a star in the sky,

               There’s a mother’s deep prayer

               and a baby’s low cry.

Jesus was born as a little baby.  He cried, he hungered and was thirsty.  He experienced life as fully God and fully human.  He knows what you are going through and can sympathize with all your needs.  Luke 4:18 states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed”.

Jesus understands your happiness.  He celebrated at a wedding (John 2:1-12).  He knows your loss.  He wept at his friends tomb (John 11).  He knows your loneliness.  His friends couldn’t even stay awake with him the night before his death (Mark 14:36-45).  He knows everything you are going through and promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

He came as a baby for you.  God sent his son just for you.  This year, may you see Christmas through the eyes of a baby.  May all the wonder of the story be new and the glow of the twinkle lights fill your heart with the warmth of his love.  Christ is Born!

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GOLD

“Then opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh”.  Matthew 2:11b ESV

All of our dogs have Christmas Stockings.  They are filled with toys and treats for them to enjoy and fight over on Christmas morning.  Danni always enjoyed hers, savoring one item at a time but when there was more than one dog in the household it wasn’t that calm.  Everyone had been up late Christmas Eve, including the dogs.  This makes for some grumpy, tired doggies who are jealous anyway so the gifts ended up high on a shelf to stop any potential fights.

Not so that first Christmas.  The wise men journeyed from afar and their gifts were presented before the newborn king with worship and adoration.  They bowed before him as they presented their gifts.  The gift of gold was a gift for royalty.  The wise men were acknowledging Jesus as King.  

The royal king of heaven had been born in a lowly stable.  The angel proclaimed that he would be given the name Jesus as he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).  Now, we can come boldly into the Holy of Holies to offer our gifts (Hebrews 10:19).

The Old Testament records the priests going into the inner sanctuary to present the sacrifices.  I Kings 6:20-22 tells us that the Most Holy Place was overlaid with pure gold.  Solomon covered the inside of the temple with gold and gold chains hung across the front of the inner sanctuary when he built the temple.  The whole interior was gold and the altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary was also gold.  The King of Kings resided there.

The King  humbled himself and became man  (Philippians 2:8).  He left his heavenly home and was born in Bethlehem.  The wise men presented him with a precious metal befitting his kingly status.  He grew and willingly hung on a tree for you and me.  He ascended to the Father and presented the perfect blood sacrifice in the Holy of Holies for our sin (Hebrews 9:12).  Now as we come boldly into the presence of God we can worship and adore him at Christmas and everyday. 

What gifts can you offer the king?  We can bow before him in adoration and praise just like the wise men of old.  An offering of ourselves to worship the newborn king!

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LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.  Isaiah 9:6

On nights when Burt and Lucy have been to Doggie Daycare, they each pick a couch and climb up on it.  There is no fight over bones or tug of war with pull toys or Christmas decorations.  There is no barking as a noisy vehicle drives by or another dog enjoys his evening walk.  Peace reigns in our household.  It might be a fleeting peace but it is definitely enjoyed while it lasts.

The Prince of Peace came at Christmas so that peace might reign on earth and in our hearts.  Isaiah prophesied of his coming in Isaiah, Chapter 9.  Verse 7 states that there will be no end to the peace that Christ brings.  In John 14, Jesus tells us he will leave us his peace.  John 16 tells us that in Jesus we can have peace and Romans 5:1 states that since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God.  In Colossians 3:15 we are told to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.

Peace is defined as freedom from disturbance.  It is a tranquility.  In this world of drama, tranquility is a desire of many.  Just as it is nice to have peace in your home, it is wonderful to have peace rule in your heart and mind.  To not let the problems of this world upset you because you know Christ is in control and no matter what, He will take care of you.

Isaiah 11:6 states, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.  At my house, the dogs living together in peace is infrequent but Christ will bring peace to this world so much so that dangerous animals will live in harmony and be led by a little child with no fear.  Until that time comes we can keep our minds focused on Jesus and trust him so that he will keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

Is drama taking over your life?  Do you long for peace and contentment?  Invite the Prince of Peace into your heart as you  celebrate his birth.  

Peace on earth begins with us.  Just like the song says, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me”.

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GIVING

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.  John 3:16 NIV

Mallory and Bella appeared as Mary and Joseph this Halloween.  Duke the Chihuahua was Baby Jesus and Lainey wanted in the picture so her role was an angel.  It was an unlikely Nativity but so was the first Nativity.  

Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem while she was ready to give birth.  Arriving, every hotel was booked.  There was no vacancy but an innkeeper offered his stable.  So maybe it wasn’t so unlikely.  The witnesses to the birth of Jesus were many types of animals.  All creation rejoiced from the animals, the stars, shepherds in the fields, angelic choirs, to the wisest of men.  God had given the first Christmas gift, followed by the Magi bringing the finest of gifts.

No matter how fine the gifts we prepare for those we love during the Christmas season, we can’t out give God.  We make out our list and check it twice.  We try to find the perfect gift.  Once in awhile, someone is forgotten and we rush to find something last minute or, perhaps, you purchase a few generic gifts so you aren’t unpleasantly surprised.

You don’t have to worry about being forgotten this Christmas or anytime during your lifetime.  No one is forgotten by God.  He worked out the salvation plan from the beginning to include everyone in every generation.  John 3:16 tells us that God so loved us and everyone, that he sent his own son to draw us to him and if we believe we shall not die spiritually but have eternal life.

This Christmas when you purchase the perfect gift for those you love, remember God purchased the perfect gift for each of us. Salvation is free to all who believe that he sent his only son who was willing to pay the penalty for our sin on the cross that we might never perish but live eternally with Him.

Jesus wrapped up in swaddling clothes, came to earth as a baby, for you and me.  He was born humbly with no kingly fanfare but worshipped by the humble and those who bowed before him during that first Nativity.  Bow your heart before him today that you might truly celebrate  this Christmas.

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