Advice, Battles, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Deceit, Deception, Encouragement, Friends, Harmony, Holy Spirit, Judgment, Mentoring, Parenting, Scripture

IN OR OUT

1 JOHN 2:19

“They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

Have you ever had a “friend” turn on you? You thought you could trust them. You thought they were someone you could rely on. You thought they cared for you. And then, all of a sudden, they start treating you like an enemy. They start talking about you. That hurts, doesn’t it?

John must have experienced this firsthand. This verse is pretty powerful. I am surprised he didn’t name them. He just said, “they were not really of us.” Their actions told the tale. True friends are true. True believers are true to other believers. John knew that. We should too.

APPLICATION

What is the application for our children? Tell them to pick their friends carefully. We must instill in them the importance of having like-minded friends. When two friends have differing world views, there will come a time when they disagree and then the fur can fly. Picking the right friends can avoid all that.

Now, don’t hear me saying that our children can’t have nonbelievers as acquaintances. We need to reach the lost. But we have to guard our hearts from being impressed by those who do not agree with our worldview. You may think this is radical. But let me tell you from experience, when the Spirit binds you together, you can accomplish so much, but when you don’t have that common bond, well…

How about you? Are you in or out? Do you belong in the household of God or the world? You can’t have it both ways. You are either living for Jesus or yourself. What would John say about you? I pray he would say you were “of us.”

Thank You, Father, for adopting me into Your family. Thank You for taking me in. I know where I belong.

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PUNCH AND COOKIES

1 JOHN 1:3

“what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 

What is fellowship? Is it just punch and cookies? I sure hope not. The Greek word is koinonia, which means something that is shared in common. I have to admit I have eaten many a meal with people with whom I didn’t share a whole lot in common. That is not what John is referring to here.

We have fellowship with each other only because we also have fellowship (something in common) with the Father and His Son. That common bond brings us together. We don’t need punch and cookies to do that. I have had the joy of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ when nothing physical passed over my lips. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good potluck dinner as much as the next person. But that doesn’t make fellowship.

APPLICATION

Kids can naturally fellowship. They find common things with other boys and girls pretty quickly. Their fellowship may center around Legos or video games. It may be over American Girl dolls or a sports game. Our challenge, as parents, is to direct them to the lasting fellowship that is only possible through Jesus.

I promise you, those childhood “fellowships” are going to fade. The only eternal fellowship is a spiritual one, as John describes in the verse today. Point your child toward that fellowship. It will last forever.

With whom are you in fellowship? Do you have a group of believers with whom you share that common bond? I pray you do. We can’t do this alone. We need fellowship. This recent Covid 19 pandemic has reduced our opportunities for fellowship and people are suffering. We need each other. Will you make the effort this week to fellowship with someone?

How I desire the fellowship with other believers. I long for their spiritual “embrace.” Thank You for providing that common bond through Your Son, Jesus.

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BAD COMPANY

2 PETER 2:13

“suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you,”

Some people are just not good to be around. Their intentions are wrong, and they seek to bring you down with them. Peter is warning us today about these people. They are going to suffer wrong. What does that mean? It means they are going to be given the same kind of justice they have given others. They will receive their judgment. They seek only their own pleasure. No one else matters.

Peter even calls them stains and blemishes. Not a very good reputation, huh? They love to deceive others even while they are pretending to fellowship with you. It is interesting that the word “carouse” is only used twice in the New Testament (here and Jude 12) and both times in a negative way.

APPLICATION

I believe Peter is telling us to not fellowship with these types of people. We still have the obligation to witness to them and love them in Jesus’ name. But that does not mean we are to be best buds with them. The old saying goes, “If you lie with dogs, you’re going to get fleas.” That’s true. If you hang out with these types of people they are going to influence you.

That’s why we guard our children from ungodly influences. We don’t let them spend the night with other boys and girls who parents live ungodly lives. That’s why we teach our children to only date fellow believers who share the same world view. That’s why we want to know who our children are hanging out with at school or on weekends. We want, to the best of our ability, to keep them from being “stained” or “blemished.”

Are you keeping yourself from being “stained” or “blemished”? It’s really not that hard, if you are following Jesus. Jesus just may send you to these types of people to share the Gospel. But He does not want you sharing their lifestyle. If you look no different than them, why would they want to hear anything about Jesus. Be different. Live holy.

Lord, protect me from the stains and blemishes of this world. Help me reach those who think and act like this, without putting myself at risk of evil influences.

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ARE YOU STRANGE?

1 PETER 4:4

“In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you;

If you do the right thing around some people they are going to think you are strange. Peter says so right here. The Greek word translated as “are surprised” means to think strange. You see, if you don’t hang out with them and do the things they do, they not only think you are strange, but they will also “malign” you.  That means they will speak evil of you.

When I got saved the summer before my senior year in high school, my lifestyle changed. Most of my friends acted exactly as this verse says. They asked what was wrong with me. They wanted to know why I wasn’t hanging out with anymore and doing the things they were doing. That was a tough year. I lost a lot of those friends that year, who interestingly enough now love the Lord.

APPLICATION

This is a great verse to read to your children when they are made fun of for standing up for Jesus. It will never fail. If your kids are living for Jesus, the devil will send people into their lives to try to discourage them. Peer pressure is tough. Our kids can be easily manipulated by a bunch of friends to compromise their convictions.

That’s why their convictions have to be built upon God’s Word and not what mom or dad says. His Word is plain and simple. If we keep them in it and work to disciple them appropriately, we have to leave the rest of it up to God. He is big enough to convict and lead them to make the right choices. All our yelling and screaming does is drive them away. Lean on Him.

So, let me ask you again. Are you strange? I hope so. I hope you stick out like a sore thumb. I hope all those around you notice you are different. I want them to ask you why you are different. And I want you to be ready to respond with the Gospel. Be strange for Jesus.

Father, being strange doesn’t sound too good. I want to be considered normal, but I don’t want to “fit in” with the crowd. Give me the boldness to be strange.

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RIGHT HAND OF FELLOWSHIP

GALATIANS 2:9

“and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” 

I have had the privilege to travel to several countries throughout the world. Did you know that there are multiple ways to greet someone? For instance, in Liberia when men shake hands, they will change grip two to three times and then slide their hands apart ending with a snap with their middle fingers. In other African countries close male friends will walk holding hands.

The right hand of fellowship given to Paul and Barnabas by James, Cephas (otherwise known as Peter) and John was significant. It symbolized friendship, companionship and acknowledgement of their mission. It basically said to the early church, We can trust these men and we endorse their mission to the Gentiles. That was huge.

APPLICATION

My dad taught me to shake hands appropriately. He always said to look the other fellow in the eye, get a firm grip and shake his hand no more than twice. He stressed the eye contact. We need to do the same for our kids. This applies to boys and girls. But it’s not just about “a firm handshake.”

A handshake is still a symbol of welcoming. It says to the other person that you choose to connect. It can speak volumes to someone who needs a simple touch. Teach your children to not be afraid to reach out to others. And don’t forget the eye contact. They say the eyes are the windows of the soul.

Who have you welcomed lately with a handshake? We greet others in the name of Christ to influence them spiritually. We make friends with others to win them to Jesus. He did the same. He welcomed others in the name of His Father to give them salvation. Shouldn’t we do the same. Extend the right hand of fellowship with someone today.

Father, I know physical touch is so important. Help me touch others in the name of Jesus, welcoming them to meet You through me.

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THE LAST SUPPER

LUKE 22:8-13

“8 And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.’ 9 They said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to prepare it?’ 10 And He said to them, ‘When you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house that he enters. 11 And you shall say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?’” 12 And he will show you a large, furnished upper room; prepare it there.’ 13 And they left and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.”

I find it a little funny that Peter and John wanted more information before they left to do what Jesus asked. They knew many homes in Jerusalem would have made rooms available to travelers who had come to town to celebrate the Passover. But I bet they didn’t expect Jesus to give them such detail. And don’t you know they were amazed it was exactly as he told them?

My mama used to give me instructions about how to help with dinner, but she knew her kitchen. She knew where everything was. In fact, she could lay her hand on every pot, pan or utensil in seconds. Jesus knew the room and the house because He was God. He had created that man. He had created the materials to build that house.

APPLICATION

The next time you plan a meal get your kids involved. Give them assignments. Have some set the table. Have others get the drinks. If they are old enough, have them bring the food to the table. Once you are all seated, ask them how they would feel if this was their last meal together. Shocked! Surprised! Tearful.

Now read them this passage. Explain that when Peter and John planned this meal, they had no idea this would be their last meal with Jesus before He was crucified. Jesus let them know during the meal that things were about to change, but I’m not sure it hit home until hours later.

What if your last meal was your last meal? Would you treat those with whom you shared it differently? Don’t waste your moments. We never know when the Lord will call us home. Make sure you are making memories during those meals. You can’t redo them.

I am thankful for the times I have to spend with family. Let me cherish each meal and each gathering. Most of all, let those moments revolve around You.

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FERVENT LOVE

1 PETER 1:22

“Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart,”

Have you ever loved someone so much that it hurt? The Greek word for fervent comes across like that. It’s only used twice in the New Testament. The other time is in Acts 12:5 when Peter was in jail and the church was fervently praying for his release.

Peter had experienced that kind of love and now he is telling us to love each other that way.

Now, I realize there are some people who are hard to love. I bet you can name a few. But that doesn’t excuse us from loving them. Do you know why? Because we aren’t doing this from our own love. No!!! This is the fervent love of Christ. We are just the vessel He uses to express His love.

APPLICATION

Ask your children what they think fervent means. Once they are done explain the word to them. Now, ask them to show you how they would express fervent love. Depending on the kid, this could be interesting. Most kids, however, don’t have a problem loving. We adults tend to shy away from fervent love.

I love standing at the door to the church I serve on Sunday mornings. Some of the kids will begin running down the sidewalk leading into the church the moment they see me. I’ve been out for several weeks with serious medical issue. I will probably get mowed down on my first Sunday back. I can’t wait. lol

Fervent love is proceeded by “purified your souls.” That’s important. Fervent love comes out of a pure heart. There is nothing hidden in that fervent love. It comes straight from above. Fervent love is an encouraging love. Go out today and fervently love someone. I’ll bet they will be surprised.

I fervently love You, Lord. Help me love others with as much passion. Love through me today.

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TREE KILLING FAITH

MARK 11:21

“Being reminded, Peter said to Him, ‘Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.’” 

Do you remember this story? Jesus had walked by this fig tree earlier and, when He found it had no figs, cursed it. Now, as they walk by it on the return trip, Peter notices it has withered. He is amazed, but Jesus tells him (and us) that he has the same power through our prayers. We can even move mountains. He goes on to say, “Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.”

Real faith can do anything. We can even kill trees, not that I would want to. I don’t even want to move a mountain. The key to praying and believing, though, is to pray with a pure heart. Jesus told His disciples they must pray with a forgiving heart. You can’t pray while holding a grudge or resentment towards someone. Confess that and the floodgates of heaven are opened to you.

APPLICATION

As you teach your children to pray, make sure you teach this principle. They need to be all confessed up. They need to forgive their brother or sister. They need to forgive that friend who has hurt their feelings. Teach them that unforgiveness drives a wedge, not only between them and the person, but also between them and God. Christ won’t allow our unforgiving spirit to continue.

When our children learn this lesson early in life, it will free them for powerful prayer lives. We adults wonder sometimes why God isn’t listening. We need to examine our forgiving attitudes. It is easy to hold resentments. Sometimes we even forget we are doing that until we see that person again.

Are you depriving yourself of tree killing faith? Are you refusing to forgive someone who has hurt you? Let it go. Let Christ in you give you the desire and ability to forgive them, no matter how deep the hurt. Only Christ can. You can’t. Our flesh demands justice. Christ has already paid the price. Forgive.

I will forgive as You forgive, Lord. It is not easy, practically impossible. But in You all things are possible.

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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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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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