Accountability, Advice, Bible, Busyness, Commands, Devil, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Inspirational, Modeling, Obedience, Satan, Scripture

TAKE MY YOKE

HOSEA 10:11

Ephraim is a trained heifer that loves to thresh, and I passed over her lovely neck; I will harness Ephraim, Judah will plow, Jacob will harrow for himself.”

I have never used a yoke and harness on an ox or horse. I have in my front yard a seed and fertilizer spreader that is meant to be used with an animal pulling it. It’s probably 150 years old, but it just sits there in my yard idle. It hasn’t been used in decades. It’s not much use except for a yard decoration.

Hosea tells us in this verse that God had harnessed and placed His yoke on both Judah and Israel. They had been trained to pull for Him. In fact, Hosea says Ephraim loves to thresh. That’s an image of threshing grain unmuzzled so they could enjoy the grain they were crushing. But we know they both rebelled in the end.

APPLICATION

What has the Lord “trained” you to do? Are you in His harness and yoke? Are you pulling for Him? If you aren’t, you are pulling for the devil. You can only pull for one master. Don’t you know that? Carl, I’m not in anyone’s harness. I’m free. Yes, you are. You are free to serve either master, but you will serve one or the other.

God only calls us to do tasks that are good and productive. We shouldn’t be wasting our time doing things that don’t really matter. Fruitless, unproductive, time-wasting activities bring no glory to the Father. After all, that is our purpose – to bring glory to Him. Ask yourself if the things you are so busy doing are doing that.

The older I get the more precious time becomes. It seems the days get shorter and shorter. I don’t want to waste my time not pulling for my Lord. I want to wear His harness proudly. I want to pull for Him boldly. I want to please the One who has done so much for me. Don’t you?

Thanks for placing Your yoke around my neck. When I get tired remind me who I am pulling for.

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PALACES

HOSEA 8:14

“For Israel has forgotten his Maker and built palaces; and Judah has multiplied fortified cities, but I will send a fire on its cities, and it will consume its palatial buildings.”

The closest I have been to being in a palace is the Biltmore House near Asheville, N.C. It was built by the Vanderbilt family and has been described as an American palace. It really is a sight to behold. The rooms and grounds are incredible. I can’t imagine what it cost, but it took over six years to build the 178,000 square foot mansion.

Palaces don’t mean a thing, though. Israel and Judah found that out. No matter how many they built, they would not stand. There is nothing man can build that can withstand the judgment of God. Perhaps they thought if they “impressed” God He might change His mind about judging them. It didn’t work.

APPLICATION

We tend to try to impress God by the things we do. We may not build mansions, but we build other things. We build up our worldly wealth – that won’t stand. We build beautiful churches and sanctuaries – they won’t impress Him. We build up our reputations – they also won’t sway God. God simply wants our hearts.

Have you surrendered your heart to Him? Perhaps you are struggling with that decision today. Give it to Him. Let Him build you up. Let Him use His Spirit to guide you in your decisions. That pleases Him. If your heart isn’t totally surrendered to Him, He can’t use you in ways He would like. He has such great plans for you. Don’t you know that?

I want Him to use me. I want to do His bidding. However, I know I can’t do that unless I yield to Him. I have to stop building my own palaces to impress Him and others. I have to stop spending so much time worrying about what others think about me. What truly matters is what the Lord thinks. Don’t you agree? If we are in His will, that is all that matters.

Tear down any palaces I have built from my own flesh. Tear down those things that put me above You. You are all that matters, Lord.

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NETTED

HOSEA 7:12

When they go, I will spread My net over them; I will bring them down like the birds of the sky. I will discipline them in accordance with the proclamation to their assembly.

I have never used a net to catch birds, but I have used a cast net to catch fish. There’s quite an art to it. You need to know how to fold it in your hands and swing it just right to cause the net to open as it hits the water. Otherwise, you just have a mess of a net in a wad in the water. When you throw it correctly, you have the potential to catch some bait fish to use later.

The Lord has cast His net over the dove mentioned in verse 11. Ephraim may have thought they could escape capture and judgment just like a dove to quickly fly off and escape. But the Lord’s net it sure. He knows exactly how to throw it. His cast is always perfect. He would hold them down to earth to face the consequences of their sins.

APPLICATION

Oh, be sure, my brothers and sisters, you will not escape the wrath of God. Unless we all turn to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will all face His wrath. We will pay for our sins. We have no excuse. We can’t claim ignorance. We can’t say we were too busy and meant to get to it. No! We will face judgment one day.

But thanks be to God, He has provided a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13) for us. All we have to do is turn to Jesus, admit we are a sinner, believe He is the Son of God who died on that cruel cross for us, was buried and rose again. Then we confess our sins and ask for His shed blood to cover them. Then God extends His loving arms to us and grants us forgiveness and gives us the faith to live obediently to Him.

You have a choice today. You can be a netted dove, caught in your sins, awaiting judgment or you can be set free by the blood of Jesus. Which is it? I am so thankful I am free. I am free to live a life dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life is in His hands. I am secure and protected. What a feeling. I feel just like that dove soaring high in the sky, knowing I am protected by my loving Father. How about you?

I am free because of Jesus’ blood. Thank You, Lord, for cutting loose the net that bound me to my sins.

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MAKE YOUR BED

ACTS 9:32-35

“32 Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed.” Immediately he got up. 35 And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.”

When I read this passage my eye was drawn to that phrase, “make your bed.” I literally laughed out loud. Here’s a guy who has been in his bed for eight years, and the first thing he’s told to do when he gets healed and stands up is to make his bed. Wow! I know a lot of folks who are completely healthy and never make their bed, lol.

I wonder why Peter told him that. Do you think it was a symbolic move? That bed hadn’t been made in eight years. Aeneas lived in it. Making that bed symbolized a finish to the bedridden state. He no longer was confined to that bed. I bet Aeneas did not mind at all making that bed. In fact, I bet he enjoyed standing and seeing it made. He was out of it!

APPLICATION

When our kids come to Christ, they need to be taught that their former life is DONE. They have a new life in Christ. They are no longer paralyzed by sin. They are no longer bedridden by guilt and shame. They are free to walk and stand with Jesus. They can make that bed. Well, don’t tell them that, lol.

Seriously, making our bed sends a signal to the brain. We are no longer sleeping or slumbering. We are awake and about our Father’s business. Teach your kids to make their beds but tell them why they are doing it. It’s not just about making their room look neat. There’s a purpose behind it. It ends one thing and begins another.

Are you a bed maker? I like my bed made each day. Do I do that? Well…to be honest, there are days when my wife and I just pull up the sheet and go about our day. But when the bed is made it looks so nice. I want to begin each day afresh, ready to serve my Master. How about you? Then get up and make your bed.

I am ready to serve You, Lord. I want a fresh start today. I don’t want yesterday’s troubles to follow me into the new day.

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PUT ON YOUR SWIMSUIT

JOHN 21:4-8

“4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you do not have any fish, do you?’ They answered Him, ‘No.’ 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.”

I love this fish story. I really love how Jesus asked the question. Take it from a fisherman. That was a little jab. He could have asked, “Do you have any fish?” But He asked, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” He already knew they didn’t have any fish. Remember, this is the Son of God. He’s all knowing.

But the funny part of this story to me is what Peter does. When John tells him the man on the beach is Jesus, He puts on more clothes and jumps in. You normally take off clothes if you are jumping in water. More clothes make you heavy. Maybe he was hoping Jesus would walk on the water again and bring him to shore. Peter had a strange swimsuit.

APPLICATION

Do your children like to swim. Most kids love the water. The next time you are helping them get ready to go swimming, tell them this story. Ask them why they think Peter put on more clothes before he jumped in. Ask them if they would do that. I think I will ask Peter that question when I meet him one day, lol.

The real lesson here is Peter wanted to get to Jesus. Remember how he left Him. He had seen the resurrected Jesus earlier, but he had not had a chance to talk about his denial of Jesus. I think Peter wanted to get to shore before the others to talk privately with his Lord. I am just speculating here, of course. Remind your children that they can talk to Jesus any time.

Are you putting on your swimsuit to jump in and talk to Jesus?

Are your conversations with Him one way or do you listen as well? Jesus will find you wherever you are. He is ready to meet you, even if you are worn out and tired from fishing all night or working night and day. Take the time to talk to Him. Run, don’t walk, to Him today. He’s waiting.

I need conversation with You today, O Lord. I depend on Your guidance to make my decisions. Talk to me, and I will listen.

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JUST TO MAKE SURE

1 PETER 2:6

“For this is contained in Scripture: ‘BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’”

Peter hinted at this verse (Isaiah 28:16) a few verses earlier. Perhaps he just wanted to make sure we didn’t miss his reference to it, so he actually quotes it here. He wanted to leave no doubt. He didn’t want us to miss this point. There is something to be said for repeating ourselves.

Have you ever needed to repeat yourself to get your point across? Boy, I have. In fact, when I teach kids, I often will repeat my points two or three times. Repetition is a great way to learn something. I bet you already knew that, though.

APPLICATION

Have you ever helped your child learn a new memory? How did they learn it? I know how. They said it over and over. Repetition helps us remember. The real question isn’t if they can memorize. The question is what are they memorizing.

Challenge your kids to memorizing verses. Make it a game with real prizes. But be ready. Kids are notoriously competitive. The more verses the bigger the prizes. But don’t stop with quoting them to each other. Challenge them to share those verses with friends and strangers.

Are you memorizing any verses? Don’t use the excuse you are too old. You are never too old. Don’t use the excuse you don’t have time. You make time for everything else. Remember, repetition is the key. Make sure you share your newly memorized verse with someone also. Maybe even challenge them to memorize.

Lord, thanks for reminding me over and over again. You aren’t afraid of repeating Yourself to get Your point again. I’m glad Peter heard You and did the same thing.

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GREETINGS

TITUS 3:15

“All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all.”

When you greet someone, what are you really doing? The Greek word here means I greet, salute, pay my respects to, welcome.” Is that true for everyone you greet? Think about it. We truly should be welcoming because we represent Jesus. We really should be respectful because He would be.

Greetings today are usually rushed. We are all in such a hurry. Paul was purposeful in his greetings. He passed on the greetings from those who were with him and asked Titus to give his greetings to those who were with him in the faith. He didn’t just say, “Bye.” It was thoughtful. It was meaningful.

APPLICATION

We teach our children to say thank you, your welcome and all the other proper words, don’t we? How about greetings? Giving a proper greeting is respectful. Refusing to acknowledge someone is just plain rude. So, we teach our children to say hello or good-bye as appropriate.

But it isn’t just about manners. As I said earlier, we represent someone bigger than us as believers. If your child is a believer, remind them of that. As they meet people, they may be the only “Jesus” that person meets today. They need to greet them in the name and spirit of Jesus. Just a simple “Hello, how are you today?” can mean a lot.

This is a strange way to end Titus, but it’s how Paul ended the letter. If he ended it this way, it must have been important. So, from me to you, greetings from all those who are with me. Greet all those who are with you in the faith. May God’s grace be upon you until we meet one day here or in heaven.

Help me greet those around me today with the love of the Lord. May they Him and not me. May my greeting be full of Jesus.

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DO THE RIGHT DEEDS

TITUS 3:14

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”

There are some qualifying words in this verse. If you read and stopped at “good deeds,” you might be led to believe that any good deed goes. But Paul goes on to say, “to meet pressing needs.” In other words, necessary needs, needs that are indispensable. Otherwise, you can busy yourself with deeds that really serve no purpose.

And then Paul finishes the verse with “so that they will not be unfruitful.” Romans 14:23 tells us all that all decisions not born of faith are sin. So, it is important that we make sure that all good deeds, no matter how good they may seem, are truly born of faith. Doing good deeds just because they are good doesn’t make them right in God’s eyes.

APPLICATION

Ask your children to make a list of good deeds. Tell them they can write down anything. After they are done, have them try to tell you how God’s Word backs up that good deed. Give them some time to think about that. Then take the list and see if you can help them. You will probably have some that just don’t match up to Scripture.

Now you can explain to them how this verse applies to their list. Some things that appear good are not given or implied in Scripture. We, as believers, need to focus our good deeds on things that draw people to Christ and share the Gospel. There are a lot of good intentioned people out there who have their own causes. They appear good, but are they fruitful?

What causes do you support? Are you sure your money and time are going to God’s good deeds? Let me encourage you this year to examine where you spend your energy. You want the good deeds you do to reflect on Jesus and not you. You want others to know that the only reason you are doing this is to share His love for them.

Father, help me focus all my good deeds on bringing glory to You. I desire to see others drawn to Your goodness, not mine. Point me to those opportunities daily.

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HOW TO AVOID A FIGHT

2 TIMOTHY 2:23

“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”

Some people are just looking for a fight. They say things to try to get someone else stirred up. They choose their words carefully in order to lure another person into a fight, usually to make themselves look better. Paul is warning Timothy to refuse that, to walk away, to stay out of those arguments.

You have to decide yourself on that. You may like the arguing. You may like the back and forth verbal exchanges. But if this talk does not glorify the Lord, then it is empty, foolish and ignorant words. Having lived in Ephesus, where Timothy was residing, he knew how the Ephesians delighted in debate. He didn’t want Timothy wasting time in these endless pursuits.

APPLICATION

This is a hard one for kids. If you have more than one child in the home, you have undoubtedly experienced foolish and ignorant speculations that led to quarrels, lol. Keeping these quarrels to a minimum can be a tiresome task. But the second you hear two children arguing, read them this verse and ask them this question – “How does this discussion bring glory to our Lord?”

You see, our focus should be to continually point them towards the Father. If we do that and follow our lead, they will be able to avoid these useless arguments. This skill will be so beneficial as an adult when they grow up. They may not understand it all now, but one day they will.

Are you one of those people looking for a fight? Why do we do that? Maybe it’s because we want to prove we are right. Perhaps it’s because we want to prove the other person wrong. Either way, glory isn’t given to the Lord. Surround yourself with like-minded people and avoid those people who can’t wait to quarrel and debate. Life’s too short. 

O Lord, keep my mouth shut when appropriate. Thank You for the wisdom to know how to respond to those who have no desire to glorify You. Today I will not quarrel or debate.

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AIN’T NOTHING YOU’VE DONE

2 TIMOTHY 1:9 

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 

We are all called as believers with a holy calling, but Paul makes it very plain here that it has nothing to do with what we have done. Nothing! It is totally dependent on His grace. What is funny is most people who come to Christ realize that, but then they almost immediately go about trying to keep their calling by their works. 

We don’t obey the Lord in serving our calling in order to maintain our calling. We obey the Lord by serving – period. Our calling is in tact and always will be. If we didn’t do anything to gain it, we can’t do anything to lose it. It’s that simple. Just serve because you love the Lord.  

APPLICATION 

Ask your child if they can ever stop being your child. They may say they will when they grow up. If they do, ask them does that mean you stop being their mom or dad. I am sure they will say that could never happen. Then ask them what they did to make you their mom or dad. You may get a puzzled look at this one but ask it anyway. 

When they think about it, they may get stumped. But you may have a smart child who says, “When I was born!” That is absolutely right, but even that act was not possible without them being conceived by you. All they did was grow in the womb and come out because you had started the process. The only way they became your child was through your act. In the same way, we become God’s child by His act of birthing us into His kingdom. 

Are you busy trying to earn your place in heaven? Are you worried about losing your spot? Stop it! God reserved your place at the moment of salvation. There is not a thing in the world you can do to cancel that reservation. It’s yours! So, start living here like you want to live there – praising Jesus and telling the world. That’s your calling. 

I want to follow You, Lord. Help me to get my eyes off here and on to now. Let me see those around me with Your holy eyes. 

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