Accountability, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Enemies, Humility, Mentoring, Opponents, Parenting, Relationships, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

GOT TO BE FIRST

3 JOHN 9

“I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say.”

Some people just have to be first. They push to be first in line. They insist on being recognized first in meetings. They give their opinion loudly even when no one wants to hear it. Don’t those people aggravate you? Be honest. You probably try to avoid them. Am I right?

Well, it appears Diotrephes was that kind of person. He rejected John’s counsel that was sent to the church in a previous letter. Obviously, Diotrephes wanted to be in charge and discounted John’s advice. We don’t know why he did that. Perhaps he didn’t like John. Maybe he just wanted control of the church himself. Whatever the reason, John called him out (check out verse 10).

APPLICATION

While it is good for our children to be ambitious and push themselves, it is never good for them to let their ambitions run over others. I am reminded of the story Jesus told about the wedding guests. He said it was better to sit at the lower seats of the table and be asked to move up than to sit at the best seat and be asked to move down.

This is really about humility and submission. Diotrephes refused to humble himself and submit to John. John! A disciple of Jesus Himself. The disciple Jesus loved, probably more than any other disciple. That was the person Diotrephes was rejecting. Teach your children to respect those who have walked the walk. They need to show honor to such followers of Christ.

Do you find yourself pushing for recognition or are you content to serve unnoticed? The Lord will exalt the humble, but He will also humble the exalted. If we insist on “tooting our own horn,” we may find ourselves without a horn to toot. Don’t be a Diotrephes. Submit yourself to those in authority over you. Allow them to direct you. This honors our Lord, and He will honor you.

Thank You, Lord, for placing people in my life to lead me. I want to honor You by submitting to their leadership.

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Baptism, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Disciplemaking, Following, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Mentoring, Parenting, Redemption, Salvation, Scripture, Submission, Testimony, Witnessing

WITNESSES

1 JOHN 5:6

“This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.”

In the court of law, witnesses and evidence are required to convict you of something. Heresay and opinion aren’t enough. You need proof. Aren’t you glad of that? I have been accused of stuff in the past that I didn’t do. Some were serious. Someone wanted to get me in trouble, but thankfully, the truth came out and I was proven innocent.

John is laying out the evidence here about Jesus. Now, this verse has had many different opinions by many different scholars. But the majority of them agree that John is referring to Jesus’ baptism (water) and His death on the cross (blood) in this verse. His purity and submission testify to who He was and is. The Spirit also testifies in our hearts today the truth of these words.

APPLICATION

You need to take this verse apart to explain it to your children. Take them to Matthew 3:13-17 and talk about Jesus’ baptism. You can show them there Jesus submission to His Father in this act. You can also show how the Spirit testified about Jesus through the appearance of the dove. Pretty cool! Wouldn’t it be cool if a dove came down when they got baptized, lol?

And then take them to John 19 and read the crucifixion story to them. This may be hard on tender ears so be mindful of that. But our children need to know exactly what Jesus did for them. His shed blood wasn’t a finger prick. He died for them. He gave his life for them. His blood was dripping from His pierced hands and feet. His body was ripped and bleeding from the beating. His head was bleeding from the crown of thorns that was shoved on it.

Water and blood testified to who Jesus was and is. Let me ask you a question. What testifies to your faith in Christ? Have you accepted Him as Your Savior? Have you believed upon Him? His blood still covers sins. His baptism still serves as the example for us to follow. I pray that today you will take a fresh look at just who Jesus is. He wants you to live through Him.

O God, forgive me for taking Your life for granted. All You did for me is not forgotten. Thank You for Your submission in baptism and death.

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Accountability, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commands, Disciplemaking, Following, Inspirational, Love, Mentoring, Modeling, Parenting, Scripture, Submission, Surrender, Testimony

NOT TOO HEAVY

1 JOHN 5:3

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”

Have you ever lifted weights? I did that a lot in junior high and high school. I have done some of that as an adult, but not consistently. For weights to work you have to lift them, right? You can lift to build muscle, or you can lift to tone muscle. But you must lift. You push against the resistance. You must endure some uncomfortableness to gain the benefit of the weights.

How does that apply to today’s verse? John uses the word “burdensome.” That word in the Greek means weighty or heavy. The difference is the rest of the definition. It can mean pressingdown on a person with oppressive force. This kind of burden makes a person unable to function. That is NOT the purpose of God’s commandments. However, God’s commandments do require us to build spiritual muscle to follow them. They require us to push against the forces of evil. That will build muscle.

APPLICATION

Do you have any weights in your house? Maybe some small dumbbells? If you don’t, you can use anything with any weight. Have your kids do a little workout for you. Join them. Let them lift until they get tired and then feel their muscles. They love that. Talk about how the weights cause our muscles to grow because of their heaviness. The heavier the weight and the more they lift them, the bigger the muscles.

Explain to them the same thing happens when we choose to follow God’s command rather than the world. It’s easy to follow sin. There is no resistance, no push back, if we follow our flesh. But if we seek to follow the Lord’s commands, we will have to die to self and surrender. Tell them that’s how we grow as Christians. That’s how we grow those spiritual muscles.

Some days we can flex those muscles and obey. Other times, we feel limp and weak and can barely walk the walk. Listen beloved, He is your strength. You cannot do it on your own. It’s just not possible. But if you will yield to Him and follow His commands, you will experience the love of God in ways that will make you stronger.

I will follow Your commands. I want to be able to do the heavy lifting in life knowing You are the one “spotting” me as I lift.

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Advice, Affection, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Choices, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, God's Will, Inspirational, Love, Mentoring, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Relationships, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

I’M FIRST

1 JOHN 4:19

“We love, because He first loved us.”

Boy, oh boy! How many times have you heard kids (maybe your own) arguing on the playground about who is going to go first down the slide? Maybe they are fighting about who gets to go first at bat. Whatever it is, kids like to be first. They somehow think that is all that matters at the moment. I am sure you can think back to when you were a kid and did the same thing.

John states it simply and succinctly. God loved us first. That is the only reason we can love. We did not have it in us. Our flesh is just too strong. We may love for a season, but without His transforming love guiding us, we will never last. It is His love that drives us. It is His love that loves others.

APPLICATION

So, how do you teach your children to love like God. Well, here we go again. You have to model it. You can preach it to them all day long every day. But until they see that kind of love in action, it will never take root. They need to see mom and dad loving like Jesus. They watch everything you do, right? What better thing for them to watch than you loving like Him.

So, the bigger question is how do you do that. How is it possible to love like Jesus? After all, He was/is God. God is love, right? So, of course He can love. The only way you can love like Him is to get out of the way and let Him love through you. When you come across that person (and you will) that is just hard to love, look at them through God’s eyes. He died for them. He loves them unconditionally. Love them like He does, not like you want to.

Who do you need to love today? Who is the most unlovable person in your life right now? Lay down your agenda and allow the Lord to love them through you. They will be amazed. When they ask you what you are doing, tell them it’s not you. It’s Jesus. And don’t do this one time. Continue to love them like Him. Who knows you may just begin to really love them.

You loved me when I did not deserve love, Lord. I want to please You by how I love others. Will you love through me today?

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Advice, Advocate, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Contentment, Encouragement, God's Will, Holy Spirit, Inspirational, Mentoring, Parenting, Promises, Salvation, Scripture, Submission, Surrender

ANOINTED

1 JOHN 2:20

“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know.”

Okay, before you get all anxious about talking about “anointing,” hear me out. I am not going to talk about some extreme, cultic behavior. John doesn’t either in today’s verse. He had experienced this anointing in the upper room at Pentecost and had never forgotten it.

Neither should you. The Greek word for “anointing” refers to how the Holy Spirit teaches us and guides us to receive God’s will. Boy, isn’t that something everyone desires – to know and understand God’s will? It’s possible through the Holy Spirit. How? Because the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, lives within us.

APPLICATION

Explain this to your child this way. Stephen Curry is a great basketball player. Your son or daughter could watch every game he has ever played and never fully understand how he does all he does on the court. But if Stephen Curry somehow got into their body and played for them, then they would experience first-hand his skill and ability.

The Holy Spirit does that for us. He climbs inside us at salvation and is just waiting for us to surrender our will to His. He won’t force us to follow God’s will. Nope! But He knows it completely. We just have to let Him show us. Easy? Nope again! But is it worth it? You better believe it.

Are you struggling with your anointing? Why? Let go and allow the Holy Spirit of God to direct you. All those huge problems that bother you will be understood. They may not all go away, but you will understand. God is not playing hide-and-seek with His will. He really does want you to know it.

Lord, show me Your will. I surrender my stubbornness and rebellion. I want to be guided by Your Spirit.

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Anxiety, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commands, Commitment, Direction, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Foundation, Holiness, Mentoring, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Submission, Surrender

NOTHING NEW

1 JOHN 2:7

“Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”

One thing I hate is when someone changes the rules in the middle of the game. Don’t you? I mean, if you have rules, just stick with them. It’s really not fair to make adjustments based on someone’s lack of following the rules. Nor is it okay to lower the standard just because someone has trouble measuring up.

John is telling us that is exactly what God is NOT doing. These words John is writing, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, agree with everything else God has written. He isn’t changing the rules. He still demands holiness. He still requires obedience. He still expects us to walk in a manner that is pleasing to Him. Nothing has changed.

APPLICATION

Try this with your kids. Get out their favorite card or board game and start playing. Every few minutes change a rule. Make up new ones. Talk about confusing! It won’t take long for your children to get very frustrated and stop playing. Why? Because they knew the old rules. They knew what to expect.

Read them today’s verse. Talk about how God does the same for us. He hasn’t changed. He is consistent with His expectations of us. The big difference is Jesus. Now, under grace, He paid the penalty for our transgressions. We are free. That is one change for which we should all be grateful.

The key question, though, is this. Do you know what God requires of you? Do you know how to please Him? It is so simple – total surrender. Yep, it’s that easy. You may say Carl, that’s not so easy. Sure, it is. You just have to die to your own selfish desires and follow Him. Can you do that? You can through Him.

Lord, thank You for not trying to confuse me with new rules for living. I know what You expect. Help me live it daily.

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Accountability, Advice, Alone, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Faithfulness, Following, Inspirational, Mentoring, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Scripture, Submission, Surrender, Testimony

SPIRITUAL SHOES

1 JOHN 2:6

“the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”

Have you ever said I ought to get around to that or I ought to do that? What does “ought” mean? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself that? The Greek word here for “ought” actually came from a legal term. It means not just someone’s legal and economic obligations but also their moral obligations to something.

So, look at this verse again. If someone says he abides or remains in Christ, he is obligated to walk as He walked. “Ought” is also in the Present tense, which means he needs to be doing it constantly. Well, Carl, that sounds good, but it’s not possible. Sure it is, if you let Him do the walking. Let Him walk through you.

APPLICATION

Have your children gotten your shoes out and tried to walk in them? Well, here is a perfect way to illustrate this verse. Ask them to get a pair of your shoes and walk across the floor. Then ask them to run across the floor. Not so easy for them, is it. Even if your kids are a little older, the shoes just don’t fit.

Now, you put on the shoes and walk and run across the floor. Why is it easier for you? Because the shoes fit. Explain to them how we can only walk like Jesus if we are wearing the right size shoes spiritually. We have to wear His shoes. We have to walk like He walked. We can’t rely on our own spiritual shoes. They just don’t fit.

I bet you have tried to walk in your own spiritual shoes, haven’t you? I bet you have tried to live the Christian life based on your own strength and wisdom. How has that worked for you? Stumbled a bit? I bet. I sure do. I think I can run on my own and fall flat on my face. Just walk with Him. In fact, you “ought” to.

Lord, I know if I remain in You, You will help me walk. Hold my hand, hold me up as we walk this life together.

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Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Following, Godliness, Inspirational, Judgment, Mentoring, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Scripture, Submission, Surrender, Testimony, Witnessing

DON’T BE AN EXAMPLE

2 PETER 2:6

“and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter;” 

Peter gives us another example in this list of examples in verses 4-10, and this time it’s a bad one. By that I mean, we don’t want to follow the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. If you don’t remember that story, you can read about it in Genesis 18 and 19. They were ungodly cities deserving of destruction.

You know, the scary part is there wasn’t much going on in those cities that isn’t going on in our world today. Why is God sparing our cities? Judgment could fall at anytime, and what are we doing about it? What kind of example are we being for the world? Can the world distinguish us apart from the unbelievers?

APPLICATION

Many, if not most, of us with children will tell the older sibling to be an example to their younger sibling. That’s really kind of unfair and burdensome for a child. We need to simply point them to Jesus. If they follow Him, they will be a good example for their sibling. Better yet, if we are living for Jesus, they will follow us.

Being an example is hard sometimes, especially if we are trying to accomplish it on our own. I know I am a poor example of Christ if I try to love people on my own. I won’t last one hour in a crowd without losing it. But when I surrender to Christ, He can live in and through me, showing my children and others how to live.

What kind of example are you? Are you an example of Christ or an example of Sodom and Gomorrah? Pointing others to Jesus is our goal. We simply want others to see Jesus in us so we can share with them all He has done in our lives. It really is that simple. Will you be His example today?

Use me, Lord, to exemplify You today. Hide me and show Yourself.

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Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Devil, Encouragement, Mentoring, Parenting, Protection, Satan, Scripture, Submission

AN EYE ON YOU

2 PETER 2:5

“and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;” 

Oh, I never tire of discovering hidden meanings in the original languages of Scripture. Today’s verse is no exception. In verses 4-10 of 2 Peter, Peter gives us four examples of how God works. In this example of Noah and his family, God “preserved” them inside the ark while the rest of the world drowned. We are all very familiar with that story.

But do you know what “preserved” means in the Greek? It literally means to keep your eye on something so as to guard and protect it. It is used of a sentry in the military keeping watch. It is used of shepherds watching over their sheep. God kept watch over Noah and his family. He didn’t just put them in a boat. He does the same for us.

APPLICATION

Do you watch over your children? I pray your answer is a resounding yes. I am always concerned when I see parents not watching their children in public. There are so many ways a child can be hurt today. There are people who prey on unattended children. We have to be diligent to protect them from harm.

But are you as diligent to protect them spiritually? The evil one is prowling around your children seeking to snatch them away. I have heard far too many parents say I will let my child make up their own mind about religion. Wake up! If we leave our children unattended spiritually and left to figure it out on their own, they are ripe for picking by the devil. Guard your children. Preserve your children.

Our Father in heaven is watching and guarding us all the time. He does not sleep, and He does not slumber. He is always alert to any schemes of the devil and will move in quickly to defeat them. But we have to remain under His protective umbrella by submitting to His authority in our life. We have to want His protection. Do you?

I am comforted by knowing the Great Shepherd is constantly at watch over me. Guard me, Lord. I am asking for Your protection.

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Accountability, Advice, Bible, Child Raising, Child Rearing, Commitment, Encouragement, Foundation, Inspirational, Mentoring, Obedience, Parenting, Perseverance, Scripture, Submission, Testimony

WELL-PLEASED

2 PETER 1:17

“For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased’”

Peter heard these words spoken by God Himself at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain (Matthew 17:1-8). At the time he heard that he fell on his face trembling. We would probably do the same if a voice from heaven speak to us. And Peter believed the voice. He listened to Jesus and followed Him.

Let me ask you a question. Is He well-pleased with you? Well, sure He is, Carl. I go to church, give my tithe and try to be nice to everyone. Is that what Jesus did as the Son of Man? No! Jesus surrendered His life as a sacrifice for all mankind. Now, we can’t save mankind, but we can live a sacrificial life for others.

APPLICATION

Have you told your children lately how pleased you are with them? They really need to hear that. Give them opportunities to do things well. Don’t set the bar so high that they can’t possibly succeed. Children need small wins first. Things like teaching them to pick up their toys and bragging on them when it’s done are important.

And they are going to need spiritual wins. That, of course, starts with a firm foundation which you have laid with Scripture and prayer. When they pray for something and see that prayer answered, tell them how pleased you are that they trusted the Lord with that. When you observe them putting their faith into action by taking part in that mission outreach, make sure you tell them how pleased you are. They need to hear you say that again and again.

So, let me ask you again. Is He well-pleased with you? What have you done in the name of Christ to merit that? I am NOT saying we have to DO things to earn His love. He loves us unconditionally. We do things because of His love. And in return we can hear Him say This is my child with whom I am well-pleased. How sweet is that?

I want to please You, Lord. I want to hear those words from You. Forgive me for not being more obedient when You clearly give me opportunities.

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