MASKS

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We refuse to wear masks and play games.  We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes.  And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves.  Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.  2 Corinthians 4:2 THE MESSAGE

“You can’t keep your true self hidden forever; sooner or later the mask will slip and your true face will be known.  You can’t whisper one thing in private and preach the opposite in public; the day’s coming when those whispers will be repeated all over town”.  Luke 12:2-3 THE MESSAGE

Everyone is wearing a mask these days.  The bottom of our faces are totally hidden from view.  When we pass no one can tell if you are smiling at them or frowning unless you have expressive eyes and the smile reaches that far.  Most of the dog parks are closed so even our pups are limited in contact with others.

A mask is described as an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance, or entertainment.  Masks disguise us and keep us from letting others see our true selves.  It protects our feelings and our heart by keeping others out.

Luke 12 in the Message Bible tells us that we can’t keep our true self hidden forever.  The mask eventually will slip and our true face will be known.  We can’t whisper in private and preach the opposite in public.

Transparency is the key.  Jesus sees us as we are.  We stand before Him unashamed and forgiven.  We take our masks off in prayer and share our innermost needs, desires, and thoughts with the God of the universe.

He urges us to be transparent in our relationships with others too.  What we do in private should be able to be seen in public.  2 Corinthians urges us to take our masks off and be truly seen.  We are instructed not to play games and manipulate others and circumstances.  We are to say what we mean and mean what we say.  We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).  We represent him wherever we are and all will be able to judge us by the word of God because of our words and actions.

When we let our masks slip, others can see how God has changed our lives.  Words spoken in testimonies from the heart reach people where they are instead of judgmental accusations instructing them how to live.  Jesus loves us as we are and because of the confidence we have in him, we can live transparent lives so that others will see Jesus in us.

Drop your mask.  Smile a smile.  Tell others about the one who died for us so that we might be transparent and free before our heavenly father and point others to him.

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INSEPARABLE

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“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  Romans 8:35a ESV

Mercy is a blue eyed Husky.  Mercy was four when adopted and has had a furever family for five years.  Her humans became involved in H2M2 Nation-Operation: Transport, helping to transport Huskies in need of rescue.  Enter Roman, the brown eyed beauty.  He was to head for North Carolina when his adoption fell through and he joined Mercy and her humans as a transport fail.  Since his adoption, the two huskies have become inseparable.  They are besties that are always together.

Life sometimes throws us a curve and we are separated from those we love.  Separation can be temporary or permanent.  It can be with or without our agreement and cause great anxiety.  We long for intimacy and relationship with others; for someone to be our bestie and know us and love us as we are.

Romans 8 tells us of the one who already loves us unconditionally.  The one who will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  The one who saw us as we were and as we are and loved us enough to die for us (Romans 5:8).

Romans 8:35-39 starts out with, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”  The following verses convince us that nothing shall separate us from Jesus’ love when we give our heart to him.  It asks, “Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword”?  Paul says nothing will separate us because in Jesus we are more than conquerors.  Verse 38 and 39 go on to say that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, either height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Mercy and Roman have been adopted into a family that loves them.  They are taken care of and provided with all they need and so are we.  Ephesians 1:5 states, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure”.

We have found our forever home! We’ve been adopted into the family of God!  Be inseparable from the God who loves you!

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STUDY

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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 NIV

Burt likes to go to the City Park.  He knows where the stray cats gather and he makes sure all ducks know when he arrives.  He studies his opposition.  He knows their routine and their positions within the park.  He quietly observes and then moves forward on the prowl.  He wants to make sure that every duck and swan is in the water before he leaves the area.

The King James Version of 2 Timothy 2:15 says to study to show yourself approved.  Just as Burt studies his friends and foes in the park, we are to study the word of God.  Psalm 119:11 tells us the psalmist hid the word in his heart that he might not sin against God.  Peter writes in I Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect”.

We study the scriptures so we can praise God in the good and bad times.  We study the scriptures so they are hidden in our hearts and the Holy Spirit can bring them to our remembrance.  We study to know God and his ways. We study because we desire to  become more like Jesus.  Timothy tells us when we do we will not be ashamed and we will handle the word correctly.

We do not want to take scripture out of context or misuse it.  We might think it would be impossible to use the word of God incorrectly but two examples come to mind.  First, in Genesis 3, the serpent twists God’s words to Eve.  Adam and Eve had been told they could eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or they would die.  Satan asks Eve if God really said that?  Surely, he didn’t mean you  will die?  God knows if you eat of the fruit of that tree you will be like God and know good and evil.  Just enough doubt.  Just enough twist to make it make sense to disobey God.

The second example, is when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  Satan hit Jesus with scripture.  He told Jesus to jump off the temple because it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”.  Makes sense to me but Jesus replied with another scripture, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”.  Satan came back with more scriptures and two other temptations.  He desired Jesus to bow and worship him but Jesus responded, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’

How are we to know the correct responses unless we study the scriptures?  I tend to be filled with fear when I read of the temptations in scripture, wondering how I would respond.  Instead of wondering and being fearful, I need to trust the one I have entrusted with my life.  I need to fill my mind and heart with his word and be ready to share the hope that is within me with others.  I need to present myself to God, a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Away with you Satan!  I belong to the one who was born of a virgin in a manger, lived without sin, and was about his father’s business while on earth.  I belong to the one who suffered and died for me on a cross.  I belong to the one who defeated death, hell, and the grave.  I belong to the risen Lord!

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LACK

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The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.  Psalm 23:1 NIV

Since we got Burt, our dog food container seems to empty quickly.  Add Lucy to the equation and the dry food disappears even faster.  It seems that we are always running to the store for something that we lack.  There is a continuous need for more food, toilet paper, dog food, and the list grows daily.

Lack is described as the state of being without or not having enough of something; to be without or deficient in.  Most of us feel lacking in some area of our lives.  We fear we are not good enough, smart enough, rich enough, and the list grows daily.

God tells us that if he is our shepherd, we lack nothing.  His list of essentials may not be the same as our list.  Galatians 5 lists the fruit of the Spirit and tells us that the Spirit gives us love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to be worried about our need for clothes and food.  He explains that if God takes note of a little sparrow that falls, he will definitely see you and me.  Jesus asks why we worry because worry can’t change anything.  God takes care of the flowers, he will take care of you and me.  Verse 33 states, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”.  Verse 34 goes on to say, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own”.  Amen.

When we focus on God instead of ourselves we realize he is our shepherd, we lack nothing.  He is our provider, our God, our deliverer. Jehovah-Jireh is the God who provides.

The third verse of the hymn BE THOU MY VISION puts it this way:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise; Thou mine inheritance, now and always; Thou and thou only, first in my heart; O king of glory, my treasure Thou art.

God is our inheritance today, tomorrow, always.  When we put him first in our heart, He is our treasure.  We lack nothing!

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JE T’ADORE

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“If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back?  Run-of-the-mill sinners do that.  If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal?  Garden-variety sinners do that.  If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity?  The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that.  I tell you, love your enemies.  Help and give without expecting a return.  You’ll never – I promise – regret it.  Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst”.  Luke 6:32-35 The Message

Neptune’s photo was posted on Facebook with a caption stating that it was easy being quarantined with someone who adores you.  Dogs love you unconditionally.  They are excited at your arrival.  You are their world and the object of their affection.

I John 4: 7-8 tells us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.  Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.  God is love.  John 3:16 states that God loves us so much that he gave his one and only son to die for us. Just like Neptune loves his human, God loves us unconditionally.  We are his world, the world he sent Jesus to save.

Not everyone is lovable.  Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.  We didn’t do anything to deserve his love.  He offered it freely.  In the scripture from Luke 6, Jesus is instructing his disciples to do the same.  Love the lovely and the unlovely without expecting anything in return.  Do it just because he tells you to love.  Do it as an example of Christ.  Do it because you want to be like Jesus.  Do it because Jesus did it for you!

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LOCK DOWN

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Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe.  None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.  When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over the doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.  Exodus 12:22-23 NIV

Bella has never liked being locked in her kennel for any reason.  Seneca is an escape artist who has finally met her match in her newest crate.  Burt uses his hound dog howl and rattles his cage while Lucy works to get the floor of her kennel moved out so she can wiggle free.  Our dogs do not like being locked up or down!

The Israelites were placed on a lock down during the tenth plague of Egypt. They were told to slaughter the Passover lamb.  The lamb’s blood was to be placed in a basin.  Dipping a bunch of hyssop into the basin, each household was to put blood on the top and both sides of the doorframe of their home.  They were instructed not to leave their house until the next morning.

During the night, the LORD would go through the land and strike down the Egyptians but he would see the Passover lamb’s blood on the doorframe and pass over that doorway.  The destroyer would not be permitted to enter the houses marked by the lamb’s blood.

The Israelites obeyed and their lives were spared. They lived and were set free from Egyptian bondage.

The Israelites were told to observe this ceremony when they entered the promised land and to pass it down to their children.  Passover is the major Jewish spring festival which commemorates the Israelites departure from Egypt and their liberation from slavery.

Our leaders and common sense has dictated that we stay at home recently due to a deadly virus.  We wear protective gloves and face masks in order to stay healthy and virus free.  We pray that the virus does not strike those we love and mourn with those who it has touched.  We long for a quick cure.

A cure for sin has already been provided.  The Passover lamb has been slain.  When you place his blood on the doorpost of your heart, your sin has been washed away.  Your life has been spared and you have been set free from the bondage of sin and the fear of death.

He has opened the door and set you free!  Celebrate that freedom in Christ today!

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QUARANTINE

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“He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean.  He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp”.  Leviticus 13:46  NASB

Quarantine is not a new idea.  Animals are quarantined to contain the spread of disease.  Often when they are new to a shelter, they are quarantined to make sure they are healthy.  They receive their vaccinations and tests and only then are they allowed to  mingle with other adoptable pets.  It is the responsible way to treat the spread of disease.

Quarantine is defined as a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed.  The idea of quarantine is not new to the bible either.  Those who were unclean were sent to live alone outside the camp.  Outside the camp was not a desirable place.  We long to be partakers of the kingdom of God and part of his family not to be outside looking in.

Jesus suffered and died outside the camp so that you and I might be brought into the kingdom.  Hebrews 13:11-14 states, “The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood.  Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.  For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come”.

Jesus willingly left his throne in heaven to come to earth in human form so that we might have that hope of heaven.  He willingly lived among us and went outside the camp to die for our sins so that we might live eternally with him.  He was despised and rejected.  He bore the disease of sin in his own body on the cross so that all who believe might be cleansed and accepted by his father.  He died so that we might live.

We are no longer unclean or outside the kingdom of God when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior.  No longer alone we can relate to Romans 8:37-39 when Paul says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  We are never alone; never separated from the God who loves us.

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SOCIAL DISTANCING

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“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:  And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”  Luke 17:12-13 ESV

I am not as strong as my dogs so I have been practicing social distancing for many years.  If I see another dog coming when we are out for a walk, I turn and go another way.  If someone on a bicycle is heading our way, I change directions.  It is not because I’m antisocial but it is because our dogs, Burt and Lucy, want to meet and greet all passersby and I can’t always control the outcome of tangled leashes and dirty paws.

Social distancing is described as a set of infection control actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease.  Social distancing was not something unheard of even in Jesus’ day.  Leper colonies are historically a place to quarantine people with the disease of leprosy.  Lepers were social outcasts and Luke tells us that they stood afar off but they lifted up their voices to Jesus.  They begged for his healing and his mercy. From a distance, Jesus heard their cries and did have mercy on them.  He healed them and they went their way praising God.

Many of us have been distancing ourselves from God for years.  We are separated from Him due to sin in our lives but he hears our cries no matter how far away we are.  Psalm 50:15 tells us to call on God in the day of trouble and he will deliver us.  He tells his people in 2 Chronicles 7:14 to humble themselves and pray and seek his face and turn from their wicked ways, then he will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.  James 4:8 tells us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us.

You don’t have to keep your distance from God.  He is near to all who call on his name.  He is waiting to hear from you and me.  Up close and personal is the safest place to be when it is you and Jesus!

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TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE

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Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:  If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly  broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV

Lucy cries whenever Burt gets a walk alone.  It is hard to get out the door without her.  She’s small and fast thus assuring that she ends up in the kennel for a brief time so we can get out the door.  She doesn’t willingly go in so I have to lead her and she twists and turns and escapes up the stairs.  Meanwhile Burt is watching and waiting in interest and always underfoot.  This scenario saw me turning from chasing Lucy and tripping over Burt and bleeding from gashes on my arm as I fell to my knees.

Ecclesiastes tells us to pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  I don’t think I need pity but Burt and Lucy prove that two are better than one, at least for them.  They snuggle together; laying their heads on each other.  They bark at certain dogs that walk by together.  They sit for treats together.  They run and play and keep each other company.  They are not alone.

Neither are we alone.  Jesus tells us that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  We have a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).  He even gave us the Holy Spirit to live in us when Jesus physically left us to return to the Father in Heaven.

We have a great cloud of witnesses that has led the way (Hebrews 12:1).  We are blessed to be the family of God.  Fellow believers gather together to pray, worship, and encourage one another to keep running the race and to never give up.

No matter what your role is in the kingdom of God, remember two are better than one.  Much more can be accomplished when we are in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Discord gets us nowhere.  When you place God in the center of you and your plans you form a three strand cord which is not easily broken.   There truly is strength in numbers especially when Jesus is numbered among you.

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RESCUE THE PERISHING

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“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh”.  Jude 22-23 NIV

We have friends that lost their home in a fire while they were away for the evening.  The family was saved but their dogs perished in the fire.  I can barely think about it let alone imagine the grief they feel.

The Message Bible puts Proverbs 24:11-12 this way, “Rescue the perishing; don’t hesitate to step in and help.  If you say, ‘Hey, that’s none of my business,’ will that get you off the hook?  Someone is watching you closely, you know-Someone not impressed with weak excuses”.  We can’t always save people or pets from physical fires but we can certainly warn others so they don’t perish in the eternal fires of hell.

Are you concerned for the salvation of others?  Do you pray for your friends and loved ones?  Do you take the opportunity to tell them Jesus loves them enough to die for them so that they might live eternally or do you look the other way while the fires rage out of control?

I Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.  It is not always easy to witness for Christ but I don’t want to just ride by a burning buulding with people perishing and not try to rescue them from the flames.

Along with the tragic stories of those lost in housefires, the news is full of happy endings where the firefighters have pulled out family pets and their relieved owners.  They receive oxygen and burn treatments but they are blessed with their lives.

I want to be a firefighter.  I want to rescue the perishing so that no one is lost but all come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (I Timothy 2:4).  Be a hero so no one is lost.  Pass on the saving grace and mercy of our Lord and Savior so that others might live.

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