MASKS!!!

My husband and I continue to opt for Sunday morning worship online rather than in person. The final picture we recently saw on our computer screen was an open Bible with a mask placed upon it. Our pastor had stepped aside but his Bible and mask remained. I see this image as a prophetic picture of promise. Although we continue to wear facial masks to protect others and ourselves from the ongoing coronavirus, the day is coming when masks will no longer be needed.

Meanwhile, we continue to wait. We anticipate the development of medication and a vaccine. For now, we wear our masks.

However, there are other types of masks we wear. No need to wait for a vaccine to remove these masks.

For example, a smile may mask how we really feel. A smile portrays happiness. But, are you really happy? You may be smiling on the outside but frowning on the inside. You may be tired of the prevailing pandemic heaviness and feeling depressed. You may be apprehensive about what the school year holds for your children. However, you turn your inward frown upside down and other people see only a smiling mask.

God’s Word can help us remove these masks. Jesus says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Isaiah 61:3 NKJV tells us there is oil of joy available to replace mourning and a garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Isaiah 66:5 says, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” When we experience the joy of the Lord, we are truly happy and do not need a mask. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” II Timothy 1:7 NLT reminds us, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Words come out of our mouths. Masks cover our mouths. Words can create masks. If you are asked how you are doing, you may be quick to respond that you are fine. However, inside you are not fine. Unrest within our country may be causing unrest within your soul. Your bank account may be dwindling faster than you can replenish it. You try to mask your wounds and worries with words that are not true.

Scripture assists us with removing word masks. Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” I Peter 5:7 NLT instructs us,Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.Psalm 19:14 declares, “May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

God is not a proponent of masks. I Chronicles 28:9 says, “the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.Jesus says in Luke 12:2 NJKV, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known.

The truth of these verses are validated in Genesis 3. Adam and Eve made a type of mask of fig leaves. They tried to hide their sinfulness. God saw behind their fig leaves. However, He did not leave them alone wearing fig leaves. He desired a relationship with them. So, He replaced Adam and Eve’s fig leaf masks with garments of animal skin. He was revealing His plan for the blood of Jesus to take away the sins of the world so we can have a personal relationship with Him today.

Just as God dealt with the masks of Adam and Eve, He wants to help us remove our masks. He extends His grace to us. He says in II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.Grace is God’s empowering presence that causes us to be who God created us to be and to do what He has planned for us to do. God wants to help us take off unnecessary masks. No need to wait any longer. God sees behind our masks and knows our hearts.

I continue to think about the prophetic promise I perceived from the image of the Bible and mask. We can stand on God’s Word and His promises that we will get beyond this pandemic and will no longer need to wear masks for physical protection. Meanwhile, God is encouraging us to take off our emotional masks. He desires for us to stop pretending. He knows our secrets and insecurities. He does not want us hiding our feelings from Him. He wants to help. Romans 12:2 NKJV says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

II Corinthians 3:17-18 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” To me, unveiled faces are unmasked faces.

 

Family Fun

During the COVID-19 pandemic and near national shutdown, our daughter’s family has been creative. Many evenings the family has participated in group competitions organized by our grandson. The event has become known as the Corona Quarantine Classic.

One evening, our grandson set up an obstacle course throughout a couple of rooms in the house. Maneuvering through an obstacle course always offers an adventure. However, this one presented a unique challenge. One person had to walk through the maze blindfolded. The other team member had to guide his/her partner through the obstacles by verbal commands.

Allow me to have some fun with the names of our grandchildren as I make a spiritual application to this evening’s activity. The participating grandchildren are Charity, Grace, Faith, Justice and John. I admit that I may be taking a few liberties in what follows.

Teams were set up. While one person traversed the terrain blindfolded, the other team member shouted out commands. The help of a guide was a necessity. No turning to the right or the left until told to do so. It was a little chaotic!

Justice had placed himself at the end of the course. Everyone had to seek Justice.

Grace and Faith were a team. Faith was blindfolded and discovered she could not walk by sight. However, she knew Grace’s help would be sufficient. They made it through the maze’s stumbling blocks when Grace was saved by Faith. Faith was sure of what she hoped for – she hoped to reach Justice unscathed even though she could not see.

Charity was patient and kind (at least most of the time) when she listened to the voice of John. He was able to see, or witness, where she was going. Charity believed what John revealed to her. When Charity removed her blindfold, she could see the light again. She was not too boastful or proud about her accomplishments. Neither was Charity envious of her siblings who had managed their way through the maze.

Even Mom and Dad participated. The kids learned that obeying the directions of their parents was not a bad thing – especially when the kids were blindfolded.

Not only did these teams have to work together giving and following directions, they also were timed. There was a time for everything. The goal was to find out which team could finish the course in the shortest amount of time with the fewest mistakes.

Who won? Everyone! There had been some bumps and wrong turns along the way, but everyone reached the destination. Light was shining again and they no longer needed to walk in darkness. As revealed by John, the attributes of Charity, Grace and Faith were needed to achieve the goal of Justice.
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The Hinman’s Corona Quarantine Classic event reveals wisdom for walking through life as well as a message for COVID-19 moments. Listed below are scriptures referenced in the story.

* But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. – John 15:26
* But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. – John 16:13
* Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 31:10
* Learn to do right; seek justice. – Isaiah 1:17
* For we walk by faith, not by sight. – II Corinthians 5:7
* But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – II Corinthians 12:9
* For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God. – Ephesians 2:8
* Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. – Hebrews 11:1
* Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. –I Corinthians 13:4
* There came a man who was sent from God. His name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that through him everyone might believe. He himself was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. – John 1:6-8
* Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. – Ephesians 6:1
* There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. – Ecclesiastes 3:1
* When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

Grace Giver

When I awoke the other morning, I heard “Grace Giver” whispered in my spirit. I believe Grace Giver is an accurate description of God. He is the giver of grace. Grace is God’s gift to us.

Let’s take time to unwrap the gift of grace. Let’s meditate upon words of scripture and words of prominent Christian authors and speakers.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to do
with ease what you cannot do by striving in your own strength.
Joyce Meyer

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to—
and reflects the heart of the One who calls.”

John Ortberg

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians 12:9

The true definition of “grace is the power of God,
not the unmerited favor of God.”
Bill Johnson

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you
to become what He sees when He looks at you.”

Graham Cooke

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find
grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Grace sees potential – potential is more powerful than mistakes.
Grace sees what you can do, not what you have done.
Rev. Robert Reeves

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

II Peter 1:2

Grace: more than we deserve, more than we can Imagine.”
Max Lucado

(Calligraphy image done by our granddaughter Grace.)

Shake the Salt from the Salt Shaker

You are the salt of the earth.
Matthew 5:13

If I am salt, I picture myself being composed of little seasoning granules. My body is the salt shaker holding the granules of Christ in me.

As a believer, it is my responsibility to shake and share Christ-crystals upon those around me. In other words, I am to be a witness. In Isaiah 43:10, the Lord declares, “You are My witnesses.” Before Jesus’ ascension, He told His disciples in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” He still says this to me today.

I want to think about how some of the characteristics of salt teach me to be a witness for Christ.

Before refrigeration became available, the chemical compound known as salt was often used as a preservative. If people had eaten improperly stored meat, they could have died from food poisoning. As a believer, God allows me to shake the salt of salvation upon those around me. My salt comes from God’s Word. My saltiness proclaims John 3:16, “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.Proverbs 14:25 says, “A truthful witness saves lives.

Salt is often added to food to enhance flavor. Some people’s taste buds are tantalized by a saltier flavor than others. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.Reading God’s Word is never bland. However, sometimes one needs a little extra flavor sprinkled upon the written Word. Maybe I can add a little extra saltiness to scripture by sharing how I have applied a specific verse to a personal problem.

I can strive to add flavor by sharing God’s favor. God’s favor is His grace. According to
I Corinthians 15:10, I know that the grace of God is with me. And, I Corinthians 12:9 assures me that God’s grace is sufficient. The presence of God’s favor is part of my tasty testimony. I can assure others that they too can have God’s flavorful favor according to Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

After eating something extremely salty, like potato chips or peanuts, I want a drink of water. God’s purpose for me as salt is to create a thirst in others for spiritual water. In John 7:37 Jesus says, If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.” I desire to shake enough salty Christ-crystals upon others to create a spiritual thirst.

I like the fact that I am salt according to Matthew 5:13. However, I do not want to be a salt shaker that never distributes the salt within me. Colossians 4:6 encourages me to be a witness by saying, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” David says in Psalm 1914,May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” May my words be palatable granules of glory to God and the flavor of favor to those around me.

My Reader, are you salt?  Think about it each time you use a salt shaker.

The Two Sides of a Coin

I am holding a coin of American money in my hand. There are different images on each side. On onside there are imprints stating the coin’s value, our country’s name, and the phrase “In God We Trust.” On the other side, there is either an image of a previous president or a historical building. There are always two sides to a coin.

Now imagine a spiritual coin. Like a monetary coin, the spiritual coin has two sides. One side is mercy and the other side is grace. We do not have images for mercy and grace but we do have definitions. The simplest definitions are: Mercy is not getting what one deserves from God. Grace is getting what one does not deserve from God.

A coin of money is used to pay the price for something purchased. The same is true for a spiritual coin.

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Death was the wage, or cost, of our sin. Jesus paid the extravagant price of His life by dying upon the cross. He purchased salvation and eternal life for us.

Romans 3:23-24, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Why was Jesus willing to pay such a high price? The answer is Ephesians 2:4, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy.” Mercy and grace are gifts purchased by the richness of God’s love. Nothing is free, monetarily or spiritually.

An American money coin is round. The cross is the shape of a spiritual coin.

Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. Consequently, we do not receive what we deserve. This is mercy. Titus 3:5-6, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Now He offers us a gift we do not deserve – grace. Ephesians 2:8 and 10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

In Exodus 25, the Lord gave Moses instructions on how to build the ark of the covenant. The lid was called the mercy seat. Annually, a priest would go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for atonement. This was where God resided. The writer of Hebrews refers to this when he says in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God has given us the coin of mercy and grace. Now, let us extend mercy and grace to others. The coin is in our hands.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Luke 6:36 tells us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Grace is promised to us in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” John 1:16 ESV, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” God has more than enough grace to meet our every need. I Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

In conclusion, let’s refer back to our image of the monetary coin. As previously stated, “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our American coins. The same can be said of our spiritual coin. It is only as we trust God that the valuable coin of mercy and grace is available.

 

(Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.)