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IT LOOKS GOOD, BUT…

HOSEA 10:1

“Israel is a luxuriant vine; He produces fruit for himself. The more his fruit, the more altars he made; the richer his land, the better he made the memorial stones.”

My dad always had about three grape vines in our yard. They were muscadine vines. Every year we would pick those grapes and make jelly. My dad loved his jelly. But also, every year we had to cut back those vines so they could produce grapes and not just vines and leaves. A leafy vine is pretty but not very productive.

Today’s verse, at first glance, is confusing. It sounds like Israel is a good vine. But it actually means leafy and pretty, but not productive. And even when they did appear productive, they squandered their blessings on other gods, not Jehovah. Israel was not acknowledging their bounty as coming from the Lord.

APPLICATION

Your blessings are from above. You need to acknowledge that as a believer. And when you do acknowledge that, you need to give Him all the praise. It’s not about you. It’s all about Him. So, why do we try to toot our own horn? Why do we try to claim credit for it?

Maybe you’re one of those “leafy” Christians. You appear to be productive for the Lord, but you have no fruit. You look like a healthy Christian, but there is nothing in your life that points back to Jesus. You are all show and no go. You are missing out on the blessings He wants to bestow on you. He longs to show you how to be productive and bear fruit. But you must let Him in.

I have come to realize in my latter years that anything good in me is just Jesus. Anything I produce is for His glory and for the benefit of others. It has nothing to do with me. I am nothing outside of Christ. He deserves all the praise for any fruit in my life. I truly believe that. I don’t want any credit. It all belongs to Him.

Lord, I praise You for giving the opportunity to serve You and others. Help me be a productive believer for Your sake.

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DO YOU BELIEVE?

1 JOHN 5:1

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

I guess I have always believed in Jesus. I was raised in a church-going home. We were there every Sunday. I remember going to

Sunday School, church, revivals, etc. Church was a regular part of our family life. But you have to understand something. It was all head knowledge. All that church going gave me a false sense of salvation.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I truly believed. When the Holy Spirit drew me towards the Father through the Son, I surrendered my life to Him. My church-going belief became true belief in Christ. I joined the family John is describing in today’s verse. I finally fully believed that Jesus was the Christ. What a change! Knowledge about something does not equal belief in something.

APPLICATION

As your children grow, I am sure you have been telling them about God and Jesus. You may even have pictures of Jesus or other Christian decorations in your house. You talk about Jesus at Christmas and celebrate His birth. You have been filling their little skulls full of mush with knowledge about Jesus. But try as you might, you can’t flip a switch and give them saving knowledge. That is truly between them and God.

So, how do you ensure your child comes to faith? No one wants to think of the alternative, right? You have to remain consistent in your teaching. You have to take every opportunity to talk about what Jesus has done for you. When a prayer is answered, make sure you share that with them. They need to see Jesus working in your life. God may just use that to draw them to Himself. And, of course, pray every day for their salvation. God hears your prayers.

Can you effectively share your salvation experience with someone? Can you articulate the joy you have in Christ? You may need to practice doing that. The Lord will give you the words to say each and every time He gives you the opportunity to share. You have to trust Him. Tell the world about your saving knowledge of Jesus. He is the Christ. Celebrate it.

I praise You, O Lord, for sending Your Son, Jesus, to rescue me. He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

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PERFECT

1 JOHN 2:13

“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.” 

You may read the title of this devotion and then read the verse and wonder how I got that title. Well, you have to dig a little deeper than the English translation. You have to look at the verbs in the verse and the tenses that were used. Now, hold on. Don’t let me lose you here. Keep reading.

All three verbs John used, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, in reference to his audience (fathers, young men and little children) are in the Perfect tense. That Greek verb tense means an action was taken in the past sometime with lasting results. So, that means the fathers and little children knew God and still know God. The young men overcame Satan and have still overcome him.

APPLICATION

If you think about it, a lot of our actions have lasting results. Do you want your children’s actions to have good results or bad results? Simple question with an equally simple answer. Of course, you want good results. No one wants their children to fail or leave a disaster in their wake. How do you help them accomplish those good results?

The only sure way is to teach them make every decision based on God’s Word. If they bathe their decisions in prayer and allow Him to guide them, then the results aren’t up to them. They are up to God. We know that anything He does is perfect. There you have it – perfect results. We just have to get out of the way.

Are you wrestling with a decision right now and worried about the consequences of that decision? Let the Lord have it. Ask Him what will give Him glory. If you do that, you are placing your trust in the One who manages the cosmos. I think He can handle your problem. Don’t you?

I will allow You to perfect my decisions through Your perfect Will. I know You always want what is best for me.

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ARE YOU SINCERE?

2 PETER 3:1

“This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,” 

Peter is winding down his second letter to the scattered believers throughout Asia Minor by “stirring up” their “sincere mind.” I read those words and wondered what he meant by that. Didn’t you? The Greek word for “stirring up” was used back in 2 Peter 1:13. It means to wake up, to rouse from sleep.

But I want to look at the Greek word for “sincere.” It means to be rightly judged in the light. Back in the days this epistle was written, you could go to the market and buy a clay pot for your home. But a smart shopper would hold that pot up to the light to make sure there were no cracks in it that had been filled by wax. If that was the case, when you poured a hot liquid in it, it would begin to leak. Our minds must have no cracks in it. It must be sincere and easily judged by The Light.

APPLICATION

This would be a fun experiment at home with your kids. Buy two identical little clay pots. Break one of them and carefully put it back together with candle wax, not glue. Once it is firm again, pour some boiling water into both pots. Let them sit and watch what happens. Over time, the one sealed with the wax will begin to leak. It may even fall apart.

What a lesson for our kids. Our minds must be sincere and pure in regards to Christ. If we allow anything else to take root, cracks begin to develop. We can try to seal those cracks with our justifications and explanations, but those cracks still remain. Leaks will happen. We will break down.

How sincere is your mind? Are there “cracks” in it? So, the question is how do you prevent those cracks from happening? By staying in the Word. By spending time in prayer. By shunning those things which draw you to your flesh. It’s not that complicated. Just surrender daily. Allow the Lord to point the way.

O God, I don’t want any cracks in my mind. I want a sincere and pure mind focused only on You.

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GETTING YOURS

2 PETER 1:8

“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Oh, what a verse! I say that a lot, but it is so true. And sometimes the best hidden gems are things you have to dig out. They just don’t pop out at you in the English translations. This verse has one of those gems, actually two,

Peter says, “For if these qualities are yours.” In the Greek, “if” and “qualities” are not there. They are more implied, but could read “For these are yours.” Peter is referring to all those things mentioned in the previous verses. But the real gem is in the word “yours.” Peter is implying a possession of something. He uses two Greek words to show this, and the second one, huparchó, means to already have possession of something that already exists. It’s already under someone else’s discretion.

Don’t miss this! All those qualities you have now as a believer already existed and were under the discretion of God. He gives them to you as you seek Him. They are gifts to you. Isn’t that incredible?

APPLICATION

I am sure you love giving your children gifts. I know I always loved doing that. Have you ever given them something that was yours? I had a very nice knife once that was given to me by my dad. When my son was old enough, I had it cleaned up and sharpened to give to him. I even had the sheath repaired and restitched.

The point is that knife existed and belonged to me before I gave it to my son. It pre-existed him. But when I gave it to him, it was his. It still had my dna on it. It had history with me. That was passed on to him with my blessing. He got it when he was ready, not before.

Do you get what I’m trying to say? God can’t wait to give you these qualities, but He won’t until you are ready. You have to seek Him. You have to surrender. Then these qualities flow. Don’t you want to be more like Him? He wants you to.

Oh Father, bless me today. By Your love I will love others and strive to be more and more like You.

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INNER BEAUTY

1 PETER 3:3

“Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses;”

You have probably heard that beauty is only skin deep. If Peter had heard that expression, he may have used it right here in today’s verse. It’s interesting that the word “adornment” is the Greek word kosmos which means worldly affairs, the world, the universe. We get our word “cosmetics” from this root word.

Now, I am not saying that all cosmetics are worldly. I am glad we have them. I just think we need to heed Peter’s words here. Beauty isn’t about the external, whether that be cosmetics, fixing your hair or wearing the latest fashions. Real beauty comes from the inside. And real, real beauty is only given by God.

APPLICATION

So, how do we apply this verse to our children? Easy, don’t let your little girls wear makeup, lol. Just kidding. But we should teach our boys and girls that the external isn’t as important as the internal. How you look is important, but it shouldn’t be what drives us. In other words, there is no reason to spend hours and hours in the bathroom getting ready.

Now, I am sure I will get cards and letters about this blog. That’s okay. I am just looking at what Peter said. The external is just not as important as the internal. God makes you beautiful, not Maybelline. All the cosmetics in the world can’t cover an ugly heart. Amen?

How’s your inner beauty? Are you allowing God to adorn you? He will. He will exercise the fruits of the Spirit in and through you today. Nothing is more beautiful than kindness, gentleness and self-control. Let Him work through you this day.

I am beautiful only because of You. Adorn me today with Your glory so others will see You in me.

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FILLED

ACTS 4:8

“Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers and elders of the people,’”

When you read this verse you see that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. That sounds great doesn’t it? We know he received the Spirit at Pentecost. But what you can’t see from the English translation is this. That word “filled” in the original Greek means filled to capacity. That changes things.

Peter was not only full, he was totally full. He couldn’t hold any more Spirit. That’s what gave him the ability to preach like he does in the following verses. He was simply overflowing with the Spirit of God. It was the Spirit speaking through him. He was just the vessel God decided to use to preach the Gospel to those listening.

APPLICATION

This is a great verse to share with your kids. Ask them if they have ever been full of joy or happiness. Ask them how they acted when that happened. They may get excited telling you and even have to act it out. That’s great. Ask them what they think would have happened if they had tried to hold all that joy and happiness in. They will probably say they would have burst.

That’s how it is with the Spirit of God inside of us. Explain to your children that when they are surrendered to the Spirit and allowing Him to live through them, they will be filled to overflowing with the Spirit. The Spirit will bubble over on people. Their countenance will better. Their speech will be sweeter. They will be bursting with the Spirit.

How is your Spirit gauge? Are you running on empty? The Spirit never leaves us as believers, but we can sure push Him down and not allow Him to show Himself in our lives. Our flesh is strong and can win out much of the time if we don’t surrender our lives to the Spirit every minute of every day.

Lord, I surrender myself to Your Spirit within me today. I won’t to overflow with the love of Jesus which is exhibited through the Spirit You have given me.

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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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PART OF A HOUSE

1 PETER 2:5

“you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

I love watching one particular home renovation show. They take older homes and redo them into unique living environments without giving up what made the house to begin with. Sometimes the end result is quite surprising.

We are going to be a part of a spiritual house in heaven. Christ, the living stone, will use us as living stones to build it. In fact, it’s already being built. We will be part of the ongoing “renovation” that is taking place daily as saints are added to the house. It’s hard to imagine, but one day we will see the end result and won’t be surprised at all.

APPLICATION

Challenge your children to a house building competition with blocks. See how tall you can make them. Undoubtedly, they will topple over at some point. Build them again. Who doesn’t like playing with blocks? Lol

Now, explain the spiritual house using those blocks. As you add more blocks tell your kids that we are called living stones who will be part of the spiritual house. The only difference is God can build His house as tall as He wants. It won’t topple. He’s been building it for centuries.

Do you feel like a living stone? If you are a child of God, you are. You will be a part of the most glorious house ever built. Now, we won’t be stuck in a wall like stones and mortar. But we will make up the spiritual house God is building. And if He is building it, we can rest assured the end result will be perfect.

I praise You for using me as part of Your house. I know You have chosen the perfect spot to place me. I am Your living stone.

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THE INNER CIRCLE

MARK 5:37

“And He allowed no one to accompany Him, except Peter and James and John the brother of James.”

Have you ever been one of the inner circle, the in-crowd? When you are selected for that honor, you may wonder why you. Right? Jesus selected Peter, James and John to be his closest disciples. I wonder why. Why not Nathaniel or Andrew? We don’t know, but we can be sure that Jesus had a reason for selecting these three.

King David has his mighty men, but also had the three mightiest.  The Trinity is comprised of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Three seems to be an important number in Scripture. But the point of this devotional isn’t the number three. It’s about being in that inner circle. Guess what? We are all part of that group now. Jesus sent His Spirit to live in us to bring us in.

APPLICATION

Have your children ever been pushed out of an inner circle of friends? Friends can be cruel. They will probably be a part of many close-knit groups through their life. Some will be social. Some will be work related. And others will be spiritual. Those are the ones you need to focus on. We need to steer them towards those groups that will feed their souls.

How do you do that? Well, first you need to have them involved in a Bible teaching church so they can spend time with like-minded friends. You need to encourage them to participate in retreats and Bible studies. They need to develop relationships with other kids who share their worldview. You play a huge role in that.

Are you engaged in a group like that? We adults need that too. That need for closeness doesn’t end at childhood. Who is in your inner circle? Can you depend on them to be there? Make sure Jesus is the center of your group. Make sure you are following His desires as you do life with your circle.

I am so thankful I am part Your inner circle. I know You are always there and that I can always depend on You. I love You, Lord.

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