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GROW IN GRACE

2 PETER 3:18

“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

Don’t you just love that phrase – “grow in the grace”? In the Greek text, the definite article isn’t there. Therefore, it could read “grow in grace.” But what does that really mean? I thought only God extended grace. How can we GROW in it?

The Helps Ministries definition of this word is “(“to grow”) is key to authentic discipleship. Indeed, the Lord requires non-stopprogress (development) in the life of faith.” That’s pretty good. As we experience God’s grace over and over, we grow in it. We recognize it. We seek it. We do not sin to get it, but we get it when we sin.

APPLICATION

How can we teach this principle to our kids? By extending them grace. I don’t mean to be easy on them. I mean when you can do it, show them grace. Maybe your child has unintentionally done something that is wrong. It was not their motive to disobey. Those are the times it is easy to extend grace.

But what do you do when they have knowingly sinned against God? Well, what does God do once they have repented? He extends grace. We should do the same. That may be hard sometimes. We want to remember those events and remind them of their failure over and over again. We justify that by saying we want to keep them from doing it again. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that?

The next time you bow your head and ask for forgiveness for something, remember the grace that is being extended to you. It’s not because of anything you deserve. Jesus died for you to have that grace. It is because of His shed blood that you can even go to the Father with the boldness to ask for forgiveness. Praise God.

I am thankful, Father, for grace. Help me grow in grace so I can show it to others.

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DID YOU SEE THAT?

2 PETER 1:16

“For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 

You have probably heard the expression, “Believe nothing you hear and half of what you see.” That is true most of the time. Heresay is just that. People like to talk and things get exaggerated or made up along the way. Peter knew that. That’s why is makes his point clear.

I found it interesting that the Greek word for “eyewitnesses” only appears right here. Remember, Peter was an eyewitness of Jesus. He spent three years with Him. Many scholars believe Peter was referring to Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain when he mentions His majesty. That would certainly leave a lasting impact on your life.

APPLICATION

Children need some lasting impressions during their childhood. They need to be eyewitnesses to faith being lived out. We adults tend to shield our children from the difficulties of life. There may be times when that is necessary. But we can also use those experiences to teach invaluable lessons to our children.

When you face your next trial (don’t worry, it’s coming) involve your children as much as you can. Let them know what is going on and engage them in prayer. And when the Lord answers that prayer (and He will) make sure they know it. Celebrate it. Make that a part of your family tradition.

Are you an eyewitness of His majesty? Of course, you are. The moment you encountered Christ and gave Him your heart, you became an eyewitness. And what do eyewitnesses do? They give testimony to what they have seen. Do that today.

I can see You, Lord. You have allowed me to be an eyewitness of Your grace and mercy. I praise You for the privilege.

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THE END OF ALL THINGS

1 PETER 4:7

“The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.”

What do you think of when someone says The end is near? That can be kind of scary, don’t you think? Remember Peter is writing to people who are dealing with persecution for their faith. Some had already been killed for that. The end of this life is a pathway to eternity. The end of all things is nothing to be feared for the believer.

But human nature causes us to fear the end of all things. That’s why Peter goes on to say, “be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.” Pray, pray, pray! When you are focused on prayer it is hard to be scared. When you are talking to the Father things come into focus.

APPLICATION

Focus your children on prayer. When they learn the power of prayer, they can face anything the world may throw at them. Sure, things can get crazy, but prayer focuses us on things above. Prayer focuses your children on God and not on the world. Model prayer for them. Pray with them.

Peter tells you how to do this. Pray with sound judgment and a sober spirit. In other words, pray with determination. Pray in a manner your children can understand. Make a list of prayer request and follow up with those individuals you are praying for. Pray humbly and expectantly. Reinforce for your kids that the Lord is listening and waiting to respond in His time.

Does this describe you? Are you praying that way? No matter what may come your way, pray. The end of all things is near. Don’t panic. Trust Him to lead you through it. He will. He is watching. He is listening. He is answering. Wait.

Lord, sometimes it is hard to pray. I commit to pray anyway. I will pray believing You have all things under control.

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DON’T BE SHOCKED

ACTS 12:16

“But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed.” 

This story tickles me. Back up and read verses 6 through 15. Peter is in jail and the church is praying fervently, according to verse 5. If they were praying fervently for Peter, why was Rhoda and then the rest of the church so shocked when Peter showed up on their doorstep knocking? In fact, they thought Rhoda was crazy.

And poor Peter, recently “escaped” from jail, is left at the door knocking. He told them to be quiet. After all, he is an escaped prisoner. Then he leaves them after telling them the whole story. Can you picture their faces? They were probably thinking, God does really answer prayers. Are you as shocked as they were when God answers your prayers?

APPLICATION

Read your children this whole story and ask them what they think the people were praying. Then ask them why they were surprised Peter showed up. Emphasize the fact that God answers prayers. We should never be surprised when God does. He is always working to answer our prayers. The key is He does this according to His timetable.

Do your children have any prayer request right now to lift to the Lord? Pray those with them. Write them down somewhere and date them. And when (not if) God answers them, go back and see how long it took. Sometimes God answers quickly, like in Peter’s case. Other times, He waits. But He will answer.

How is your prayer life right now? Are you trusting the Lord with your needs? He wants to work miracles in and through you. Go to Him today with the needs of your heart and watch God work. You may be amazed. Don’t be. Expect it.

I want to live my life shock free. I want to expect Your answers, not be surprised by them. Thank You Lord for hearing my heart.

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FALSELY IMPRISONED

ACTS 12:5

“5 So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.”

Peter seemed to be in and out of prison a lot. The religious leaders did not want him preaching the Gospel. So, they threw him in jail time and time again. Peter was not hindered. God kept using him. He wasn’t afraid of prison bars because he knew he was free in Christ.

Let me ask you a question. If you were threatened with jail if you didn’t stop preaching about Jesus, what would you do? That probably won’t happen in the United States (and I say probably because things seem to be changing quickly). But it is a real threat in many parts of the world. People are praying for those who face this threat, just like people were praying for Peter.

APPLICATION

One thing we need to teach our children is to not fear sharing Jesus. It is hard for many of us to do that. We are afraid the person may get mad at us or that we may hurt their feelings. Help your children develop way to share without being harsh. Living for Jesus daily speaks volumes. Help your children tell others what Jesus has done for them.

But most importantly, help them to understand that if they are faithful to share His good news with others, God will take care of them. Now, that doesn’t mean they will be spared from insults or ridicule. It could even lead to more serious consequences. But we are safe in the arms of Jesus.

Are you willing to face the consequences for obeying Jesus? Or are you more concerned with your reputation? Peter had a mission, and nothing could keep him from it. You and I have that same mission – to spread the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

I am ready, Lord, to suffer for You. I don’t like saying that, but I know You will see me through whatever comes my way. I want to be obedient to share Jesus.

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WHEN THE SPIRIT SPEAKS

ACTS 10:19-20

“19 While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.’”

Look at the verse. What was Peter doing when the Spirit spoke to him? He was reflecting on the vision. As he prayed on the rooftop, God gave him a vision. It was in the midst of his prayers that the Spirit spoke. Don’t miss that point. He wasn’t doing his laundry or preparing lunch. He was praying.

So many people complain about not hearing from God. They claim He doesn’t speak to them. It has been my experience that God speaks to those who listen. Our prayers are often so full of requests or demands that we don’t hear God trying to speak to us. We must be quiet at times during our prayers to hear the Spirit speak.

APPLICATION

As we teach our children to pray, don’t forget to teach them to be quiet and listen. Have you ever been in a service when the Pastor asked the congregation to engage in silent prayer? The silence can be deafening. And for many it is uncomfortable, because they haven’t made silence a part of their prayer life.

When you pray with your children, teach them to listen. After they have prayed through their list, teach them to just get quiet and listen in their spirit for the Spirit to speak. This isn’t some mystical exercise. The Spirit will speak to them in His own way. And when He does, teach them to write that down and then obey. You can always tell it’s the Spirit because He will always point you to the Father.

Are you listening? Are you willing to do what He asks? The Father wants to talk to you, but He won’t yell and scream over all your distractions. Find a place and get quiet. Just say, “Father, I’m listening. Speak to your child.” It may not be today, but He will speak. Listen.

I am listening Father to hear Your voice. Speak to me through Your Spirit for I am ready to obey.

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RIGHTEOUS PRAYERS

1 PETER 3:12

“’FOR THE EYES OF THE LORD ARE TOWARD THE RIGHTEOUS, AND HIS EARS ATTEND TO THEIR PRAYER, BUT THE FACE OF THE LORD IS AGAINST THOSE WHO DO EVIL.’”

There has never been a more misunderstood truth. So many people believe that whomever prays to God will have their prayers answered. That simply isn’t true. Now, hear me out. God will always respond to the prayer of anyone who is repenting and coming to surrender to Him. But if that same lost person is begging God for relief without surrendering to Him…well…today’s verse answers that question.

God longs to answer our prayers. He wants to work in our lives. But we must come to Him with repentant hearts. We must acknowledge our need for a Savior. He is not going to look on our sin and just look past them. He demands and deserves our allegiance in order for Him to work as He desires in our lives. This may sound harsh, but it is meant to drive us all to our knees.

APPLICATION

Teaching our kids this truth is so important. We want them to understand how to pray. I use the acrostic A-C-T-S to pray. A stands for Adoration. I praise Him for who He is and acknowledge His supremacy in my life. C stands for confession. I confess my sins each time I pray. I long to be sinless, but I haven’t arrived yet. T stands for thanksgiving. I thank Him for His blessings in my life. And S stands for supplication. Here is where I come to him on behalf of loved ones and myself, asking for His will to be done.

If our children will learn to pray this way, they will not go wrong. Our children need to understand that our righteousness depends on the blood of Christ, which we claim every time we confess our sins to Him. We, the righteous in Christ, have an open portal to the very throne of God.

Are you praying as a righteous child of God? Or do you pray because you are doing good deeds? Righteousness is not yours to earn. It is given freely through Christ to those who call Him Savior. And because we are righteous, we desire to live righteously. God is waiting to answer your prayers. Pray in righteousness.

I know the only thing good about me is You, Lord. It is Your righteousness that gives me the freedom to call on You daily for my needs and the needs of others.

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GET ON THE ROOF

ACTS 10:9

“On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.”

When we lived in Florida, my teenage son would climb up on our roof to sunbathe. He said he could get a darker tan up there. He didn’t do it a lot and the desire to do that didn’t last long, so I didn’t make a big deal about it. I don’t think Peter went on the roof to get a tan. He went up there to get alone with God and pray.

The following verses in Acts 10:10-16 tell the whole story of what happened as he began to pray. God gave him a vision that changed his mission approach for the rest of his life. Read those verses and think about that. God shook up Peter’s way of thinking about the Gentiles which caused him to be used by God in some pretty amazing ways.

APPLICATION

The application for your kids from this verse is find a place they can pray to God without interruption. I had a prayer closet one time. I worked at a children’s home in South Carolina, and my office had these two closets just inside the door to my office. I made one of them a prayer closet. I spent a lot of time in that closet where God spoke to me as I prayed to Him.

When we get alone with God, away from the distractions of life, we can truly hear Him. It’s amazing what we can hear when we get alone. His still, quiet voice speaks volumes to us. That’s what your kids need to learn at an early age. Find that spot that works for you and protect it from intrusions.

Where do you pray? Can you get alone with the Master of the universe and talk to Him? He wants to talk to you, but He won’t compete with your distractions. Get quiet somewhere and listen. Stop talking so much during your prayer time. Let God speak.

Father, I want to hear Your voice in my prayer time. Remind me to keep my mouth shut and listen to You. I long to hear You.

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ANSWERED PRAYERS

ACTS 10:5

“’Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter;’”

Acts 10 is a great story about Cornelius and Peter. I just love how the Lord honored Cornelius’ faithfulness and sent an angel to give him direction. In fact, the angel said, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” I am pretty sure Cornelius didn’t expect an angel to appear. I am willing to bet he didn’t ask for that in his prayers either. But, as usual, God outdid himself.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that Cornelius was given very specific instructions by the angel. The rest of the chapter tells the story. Let me ask you a question. When you pray for direction or clarity from the Lord and He answers you, do you follow His instructions? Or do you keep praying for a different answer?

APPLICATION

Answered prayers! When are they answered? How are they answered? Children are always curious about that. The only right answer is God will always answer your prayers. He may not answer in the way you planned, but He will answer. He may not answer when you want Him to, but He will answer. That’s the way to explain it to your kids.

If you haven’t kept a record of answered prayers, start now. Make it a family affair. Write down when you started praying for a specific thing. And when God answers that prayer, write it down. Make sure your children know it’s been answered. You may have a financial need that the Lord meets. Celebrate it as a family. But whatever you do, listen to the Lord when He answers.

What have you been praying about? How long have you been praying this particular prayer? Has the Lord answered, and you are refusing to listen? When you get an answer, listen close. You may not like the instructions you get, or they may not make sense to you. Don’t question the answered prayers. God doesn’t waste words.

I am listening Lord as I pray. I long to hear Your answers. I will obey as You speak.

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UNHINDERED PRAYERS

1 PETER 3:7

“You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

A lot of people will read this verse and think it is women bashing. Calling them weaker! That is NOT the purpose of this verse. God made men to lead and protect their wives. Their role is a protector, not a basher. And He warns the men in this verse. He says, “so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

In other words, God is telling the husbands if they mistreat their wives and don’t show them honor, their prayers will not reach Him. That’s what “hindered” means. It means blocked. Men, have you ever felt that your prayers weren’t getting past the ceiling? How are you treating your wives? Hmmm!

APPLICATION

This is another modeling verse. Husbands and dads, it’s your turn. How you treat your wife, the mother of your children, is so important. You are not just mistreating her. You are mistreating your children. Your daughters are endangered by believing that’s how women are meant to be treated. And your sons grow up believing that’s how they are supposed to treat their wives.

But…when you show honor to her, that gives your children a role model to follow. The word “show” is only used right here in this verse. It means to give what is due. God is telling you that your wife deserves honor, no matter what you think. And if you want an open line of communication with the Lord, this is required.

Are you guilty of not showing honor to someone? Let’s apply this verse to all of us, not just husbands, for a second. Is there someone you belittle and persecute? We should show honor to all of God’s people. God cannot look on sin and ignore it. And that kind of behavior is sin, dear friends.

Lord God, give me Your eyes for others. Let me show honor to all. And hear my prayers.

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