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LOVE STRANGERS

1 PETER 4:9

“Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”

All we hear today is stranger danger and for good reason. The world is an unsafe environment. Here, however, Peter tells us to love those strangers. The Greek word for hospitable comes from two Greek words, philos, which is brotherly love, and xenos, which is stranger. We are to love strangers.

It is interesting to me that this word is only used two other times where it is listed as a qualification for an elder. But here it is expected of all believers and with a qualifier. We are to do this “without complaint.” That literally means without murmuring or grumbling. Now, that’s hard, right?

APPLICATION

What a lesson for our kids! When they observe us doing this, they can get a glimpse of what real love is all about. Loving strangers because Jesus loves them is the key. Now, we should not be foolish and abandon all common sense. God doesn’t expect us to be foolish. But when opportunities present themselves, we need to be ready to show hospitality to those strangers God has placed in our paths.

How can you safely teach your children this? How about volunteering at the local soup kitchen? Maybe you could prepare sandwiches and hand them out to the homeless. Perhaps you could do a good deed for that neighbor on your street that no one likes or really knows too well. There are all sorts of ways to be hospitable. And remember, no grumbling.

You are probably saying, Well Carl, I don’t have the gift of hospitality. That’s a cop out. We have, through the Holy Spirit, access to all the gifts. Sure, we have primary ones which the Lord has gifted us with, but all the gifts are ours through Him. If He tells you to show a stranger kindness, don’t argue with Him. Just do it. You will be blessed!

I don’t feel comfortable approaching strangers, Lord, but I will do that as You lead. I will trust You to give me the words to say and the actions to take.

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SACRED

TITUS 2:3

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good,”

Women, did you know you are supposed to be sacred? Yep, that’s what this verse says. The Greek word for “reverent” come from two Greek words – “temple” and “fitting.” In other words, your behavior should be like that, fitting a temple or sacred place.

But what does that mean? Most of us have never been in a temple. And many of our churches today or designed with such a contemporary feel that the reverence that used to be attributed to it just isn’t there. This reverent, this sacred behavior refers to our behavior, wherever we are. In fact, the two Greek words used here, “reverent” and “behavior” are only used right here in the New Testament. Reverence does not depend on where we are. It depends on how we live.

APPLICATION

Do you want reverent kids? I don’t mean they walk around wearing little suits or dresses, quoting the Bible in the KJV all the time. I am talking about children who seek to glorify the Lord in their every action. Who doesn’t want that? Children learn to be reverent by observing reverence. You, mom and dad, must portray the kind of God-honoring behavior that exemplifies it.

We teach our children to be sacred and reverent by our everyday actions. How do you treat the waitress who messes up your order? How do you respond to an unkind word from a cashier at the store? How do you react in traffic when someone cuts you off? Your children are watching all these reactions. Teach them how to be reverent in every situation.

Did this hit you hard? Join the club. But aren’t you thankful the Word convicts us? Aren’t you glad the Lord does let us get away with this stuff? We are influencing people everyday by our behaviors. Let your mind dwell on Him so that all you do glorifies Him today.

I am so far from doing this right, Lord. But my desire is to do it. I want others to see You in me in everything I do.

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THE OPPOSITION

TITUS 1:10

“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,”

In the previous five verses of Titus 1, Paul has laid out the qualifications of an Elder in the church. Now, he takes a one hundred and eighty degree turn and talks about the other side, the ones who are opposed to the church and the Gospel. These are not pleasant words and I pray none of these descriptions fit you.

Are you rebellious or insubordinate? It’s easy to fall into that trap. Don’t! How about an empty taker? That literally means speaking meaningless words. Do you deceive others? This particular Greek word for “deceive” is only used right here. It means to exploit others or to lead them in their own delusions. None of these three descriptions are nice. And none of them belong in the life of a believer.

APPLICATION

The application is simple today for your children. Don’t let them be this way. I am sure you have had to deal with a little rebellion from your children. Deal with that quickly and firmly. Unaddressed rebellion will only lead to more and more rebellion. And teach your children to use their words carefully. Talking just to talk can cause problems for them and others. No one likes a babbler.

But of these three, make sure you teach them the dangers of deception. Deception comes in many forms – lying, stealing, cheating. To deceive with the sole intention to exploit someone is the furthest thing from the heart of Christ. We should be doing all we can to bring others to Him, not drive them away by taking advantage of them.

Now, I am sure from time to time we have all been guilty of one of these three. We are flesh and still succumb to its influence. If you have, repent. If you are currently living opposed to the Gospel, stop where you are and come to Jesus. He is the only one is able to give you the power to overcome your flesh.

Thank You, Lord, for living through me. When I want to lash out at others, You are the one who quickens my spirit. I will give You all the glory.

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EXPECTATIONS

TITUS 1:8

“but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled,”

What do you expect from your leaders? Well, Paul continues to lay out the Lord’s expectations for Elders. These leaders are so important to the healthy function of the body of Christ. By living up to these expectations they are showing others that these are possible through Christ. Let’s look at these quickly.

“Hospitable” literally means to love strangers. “Loving what is good” is really a lover of what God loves. “Sensible” can be translated as self-control. “Just” is approved by God. “Devout” means beloved by God. And finally, “self-controlled” has the meaning of being mastered from within.

APPLICATION

Why did I go through all those words? Because you need to know them, and your children need to know them. You need to know that they are all possible through Christ. The Lord will never put an expectation on you or your children that He cannot empower you to do. He can give you the ability to love strangers. He can give your children the ability to love what God loves.

Do you believe that? Or do you think these qualifications only apply to Elders? NO!!!! They apply to us all. All believers need to live this way. So, what keeps us from doing that? That’s simple. Our flesh, our self gets in the way. And the only way to get rid of that is to die to it daily and surrender your all to Him. When you do that, your kids see that.

Are you willing to live this way? Can you embrace these qualities knowing He can live these through you? Decide today to do this. If you allow Him to control you, He will use you in ways you cannot imagine. And as He uses you, your children will see that and hopefully begin to emulate these qualities they see in you.

I want to be just like You, Lord. All these qualities are You. I will surrender my will to You today.

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KEEP AN EYE ON YOU

TITUS 1:7

“For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,”

The position of overseer or elder has often been misinterpreted as a position of authority or title. The Greek word for “overseer” actually means someone who intently keeps their eye on something or someone. In the church that man is watching over the church body to provide first-hand care and protection. It’s a service role more than an authority role.

Now, elders must help guide the body. But they do this from a position of service, not by brow beating. That is exactly why Paul lays out all these qualifications. In this verse he gives six more character traits (good steward, not self-willed, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain). He has further limited the pool of men who rise to the position, this ensuring their heart for service, not rule.

 APPLICATION

It is interesting that these traits Paul lists for an elder are traits we as parents want for our children. We want them to handle what God gives them well. Money management is an important skill for us to teach them. Secondly, we want them to think more of others than themselves. Self-willed children will face many more challenges. Thirdly, we definitely want them to know how to control their temper, to not be easily upset or angry.

We also want our children to know how to handle the issue of drinking. If you think they won’t face that temptation, you are fooling yourself. You have to model that. The next trait, not pugnacious, means not a fighter. Some kids are always ready for a fight. We want to teach them how to avoid that. And finally, we want them to not be greedy. In fact, we want them to share liberally.

So, you see these elder traits are really traits for us all. How are you living up to these? These are all characteristics of someone surrendered to Christ. It requires dying to self daily. Then you too can help oversee the flock. You can keep your eye on your brother or sister to help guide and protect. Aren’t we all called to do that in the family of God?

Father, remind me to live my life in such a way that I am worthy of “overseeing” my brother and sister. I want to live like Jesus so I can help guide others in the path of righteousness.

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CHOOSE WISELY

1 TIMOTHY 5:22

Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin.”

If you read this verse by itself, you might think Paul is telling us not to grab someone, lol. Context is always key to any verse. Of course, this verse is in the context of Elders. Paul is warning Timothy not to ordain or appoint Elders too quickly. Every Elder who is placed in leadership bears the burden of caring for the flock. If someone is chosen who is not ready, they can do great harm to the body.

How many times have you seen people come to Christ and immediately get thrown into some kind of leadership role? That usually does not end well. People need to be discipled and prepared for these roles. Some are ready to lead. Others are not. Not choosing them now does not mean they can’t be chosen later.

APPLICATION

What are some tasks that your little Gertrude or Elrod can do now in your home? Can they do all the things you do? Of course not. There are some tasks they will be physically or mentally able to do later that just aren’t part of their makeup. For instance, some kids are really good at inside chores but really bad at outside tasks. Use their passions to direct their tasks.

Your child may be the perfect servant leader one day. Or they may be content to stay behind the scenes and work unnoticed. However they are gifted, teach them to serve. As believers we are all equipped through the Holy Spirit to serve somehow. Be very alert to observe where the Spirit is leading them.

Are you someone who is ready to serve? The Lord wants all His children engaged in the Body, but not before you are ready. Be honest enough to tell someone you aren’t ready. Let them know if you need to deal with some stuff first. But don’t just give an excuse. God wants to use you. Why don’t you let Him?

O God, help me identify those who are willing and able to serve. Help me disciple them so they can be used. And also help me to have the discernment about those who quite ready.

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WORTHY OF HONOR

1 TIMOTHY 5:10

having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.” 

Just look at the list of this widow’s character traits making her worthy of honor by the church. She has a good reputation. She is a child raiser. She is hospitable, service oriented, full of mercy and devoted. Wow! That’s some woman!

But shouldn’t we all be like that? I mean, look at the list again. Which one of those traits don’t belong in your life? The bottom line is she puts others before herself. Therein lies the rub. We don’t want to do that. We want to see ourselves first. We want to meet our needs first. It’s always me, me, me!

APPLICATION

Well, this is a no brainer. As parents, we are constantly teaching our little Gertrudes and Elords how to not be selfish. We teach children to share because they are naturally selfish. We teach them to watch out for their little brother or sister because they are not concerned with that. 

But once again, this is better caught than taught. We must model these behaviors. When they see us showing mercy to someone, they learn from that. When they observe us serving someone else, they watch how it’s done. We are living out the traits they need to embrace. So, be very careful what you do and say. Little eyes and ears are watching and listening.

How are you in regard to these traits? Are you hospitable? Do you show mercy or wrath? We may not be a widow who needs to be put on the church list, but we still need to live out these same godly traits. And what is amazing is that when we do these things, we are the ones who are blessed. Be a blessing!

I do enjoy blessing others, Lord. Help me see their need even before it is apparent. Let me be Your hands and feet to them.

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ONE STEP HIGHER

1 TIMOTHY 3:13

“For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

We find another one-time used word in today’s verse. The Greek word “standing” is only used right here in the Bible.  It literally means a step on the staircase, going one step higher. Figuratively, it implies someone who has made a higher rank or higher position. That may imply something that Paul never intended.

If you look at this verse in context of all the qualifications for a deacon, you will get an idea of Paul’s meaning here. Deacons who serve well will be given more important roles to serve the body. By serving well they have shown they are trustworthy and are ready to do even more. It may also imply they are worthy of being considered as elders, a higher “office” in the church.

APPLICATION

“Okay, Carl, tell me how to teach this verse to my children.” Glad you asked. Children need to earn the right to be trusted with some things. We don’t just give a five-year-old a laptop and set them free. We don’t give a thirteen-year-old the privilege of a cellphone unless we know we can trust them to use it wisely.

Some things are gained by being obedient in the small things. Jesus even taught that. By growing in our faith and experiencing trials, we learn how to help others going through similar times. Our children need to be taught that their small steps of faith now will prepare them for those “leaps of faith” that are coming. And by being proven trustworthy now, they can be given greater responsibilities in the future.

Do you clamor for more? Do you want to be recognized for your achievements? Then do it all for Jesus. By surrendering your will to His, the Lord may just bless you with opportunities. Remember what Joshua 1:8 says. “‘“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.’”

All I want is to please You, Lord. If that means I serve lower than the rest, that’s fine. If it means I am entrusted with greater responsibilities, so be it. My joy comes from serving You.

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JUST ONE WIFE

1 TIMOTHY 3:12

“Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.”

Most of us could not imagine a husband having more than one wife. But in some parts of the world, that is not an unusual custom. That undoubtedly was an issue where Timothy was or Paul would not have mentioned it here and back in verse 2 of this chapter. Paul would not have wasted words on this if it wasn’t an issue.

So, what does Paul say about this – that a deacon should only have one wife? He is specific – he said ONE. But why? So he could concentrate more on things of the Lord. If a man has multiple wives, he would not be able to focus on his responsibilities as a deacon. That’s all Paul is really trying to say.

APPLICATION

Now, I am not telling you to talk to your children about only having one husband or wife. That would be silly. So, how do you apply this verse to them? Let me ask you a question. Do you believe every verse of the Bible has meaning for everyone? Of course, it does. 

I believe our focus should be on teaching our children to not allow distractions to pull them away from their service to Christ. Whatever that might be should be removed or avoided. As believers, we cannot allow anything to tear us away from serving our Lord. Even the choice of a mate needs to be highly considered.

Are you single focused? Do you allow anything or anyone to distract you from serving Jesus? I can’t imagine having more than one wife. I would be torn who to love the most. I would be so concerned about them that I would be useless for my Master. Don’t you do that.

Thank You, Father, for working in and through me. Help me stay focused on You and eliminate things that pull me away. Staying focused is key.

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THE QUALITIES OF A GODLY WOMAN

1 TIMOTHY 3:11

“Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.”

Okay, I didn’t write this verse. I am just reading the next verse in 1 Thessalonians 3. Paul wrote this to the women in the Thessalonian church, but it applies to all women who profess Christ as Savior. We see four qualities in the verse – dignified, not malicious gossips, temperate and faithful. We don’t have the time or space in this short devotion to go into each in depth, so let’s just look at one. How about not being malicious gossips? After all, men are just as bad about that.

So, what does that mean? It means someone who is a back-biter, who unjustly accuses to bring someone down. Not a very nice person. Do you know anyone like that? There are some people who are JUST like that. They are people to avoid at all costs. You can’t trust them because before you know it, they will spreading rumors about you or lying about you.

APPLICATION

You are going to have to deal with this, for sure. Children can be very cruel to each other. Now, I’m not saying your children are cruel (they may be) but they may be the victim of another child’s cruelty. We naturally want to make ourselves look better than others. Pride and arrogance are part of our fleshly nature. Children, therefore, will go that route if left unchecked.

How do we teach them to not gossip, to not tear down, to not put themselves over others? By showing them the model we have in Christ and by modeling it ourselves. They will never learn how to walk like Jesus unless they see you doing the same. They will watch you and learn how to treat others. They will watch you and learn how to speak only in kindness and truth. 

Will you do that? Will you only speak in kindness and truth? Will you cease gossiping? Will you only build up others? Do you remember the old saying, “What Would Jesus Do?” Then do it.

Help me, Lord, hold my tongue. Help me to say only things that build up. Let me see myself as second to everyone for the sake of seeing some come to Christ.

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