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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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GOOD CONSCIENCE

1 PETER 3:16

“and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

What does it mean to “keep a good conscience”? Let’s break this down a bit. Actually, the Greek word translated as “keep” in this verse means to have or possess. The word “conscience” has the idea of the God-given capacity to know right from wrong. So, Peter is saying that no matter what others may say about us, as long as we know what we are doing is right, don’t worry about it. They are the ones who will be shamed.

Have you ever had someone put you down for something you have done? I have. I prayed about and had a perfect peace that what I was doing was God’s will. But because it went against or interfered in what someone else wanted, they ridiculed or at the very least questioned my intentions. All you can do at that point is trust the Lord and go on.

APPLICATION

Children face this all the time from their peers. It gets worse in the middle school and high school years. Whenever your child stands up for what God tells them, they are sure to be made fun of by others. It’s just the day in which we live. Living a life of integrity and purity is almost looked down on by those who choose to live another way.

As parents we hate to see them come home in tears or sullen. Our job is to encourage them with verses like this one today. Remind them that in the end those who have given them a hard time will be shamed. In the meantime, they are to continue to live for Jesus and trust Him to guard their hearts. Is it easy? By no means. But the end result is the key. He will reward the faithful.

How is your conscience? Are you remaining true to Him? Stay faithful, my friend. Allow the Lord to show you the big picture. Ask Him to give you a glimpse into the possibilities before you. He will as you surrender. He doesn’t want to keep secrets from you. He wants you in on His plans. Follow Him.

O God, I will trust You in the difficult circumstances. I will allow You to guard my heart as others attack. I will count it a privilege to suffer for You.

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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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WALKING AWAY

1 PETER 2:25

“For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”

Sheep get lost by walking away. They don’t run away. They simply stop watching their shepherd and wander away. Before they know it, the shepherd is nowhere in sight. Unless the shepherd comes and finds them, they will most likely stay lost.

We are the same way. We can become hopelessly lost unless we turn our eyes on the Shepherd. Only He can save us from a life spent in the wilderness, away from the watchful gaze of the “Guardian of your souls,” as Peter describe Him. He knows where the green pastures are and will lead us to them.

APPLICATION

Have your children ever gotten lost? They didn’t mean to, but they wandered away from you in a shopping mall or amusement park. Their eyes were fixed on something that intrigued them. Instead of watching you or holding your hand, they were pulled away by their own interests.

We need to remind our children that Satan has a way of luring us away from what we know to be safe and sound. Before we come to Christ, Satan doesn’t usually bother us much. He has us where he wants us. But once we come to Christ, he tries to entice us away from following Him. He can’t unsave us, but he can sure can distract us and make us feel unusable.

Have you strayed away from the safe and gentle embrace of the Shepherd? He desires for you to return to Him. He won’t force you, though. Your return is up to you. If that’s you, repent today and watch how quickly He picks you up. He longs for your embrace as well.

Father, forgive me for wandering. Fix my eyes on You so I can stay near to Your side. I want to spend my days close to You.

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GRACE IN SUFFERING

1 PETER 2:20

“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.”

No one wants to suffer, right? Who wants to suffer at any time for anything? Peter’s words here, though, should encourage us. Why? Because of one little word toward the end of the verse – “favor.”

Now, that word is a precious word. Do you know what the Greek word is there? It’s charis. This is also translated “grace” throughout the New Testament. So, what Peter is saying is God extends grace to you when you suffer for doing right. God sees what is going on, and He remembers you. He hasn’t forgotten you. He is watching and observing.

APPLICATION

Teaching this life principle to children is difficult. It’s hard on the parents, as well. No one wants to see their children suffer. So, when they do the right thing and suffer for it, we want to defend them. We want to retaliate against those who have harmed our little ones.

But our children must learn this principle too. Facing ridicule from friends for taking a stand for Christ could happen. Being passed over for a part in that play because of their Christian testimony could happen. But God’s grace is sufficient for them. He will see them through those difficult times. He will show them favor.

Have you suffered unjustly? What did you do? I hope you didn’t seek revenge. God allows things to happen in our life for a reason. Perhaps He allowed that unjust suffering so He could extend grace to you. As I said earlier, He is not caught off guard at your suffering. He is very aware. Trust Him to bring you through it.

Father, I don’t want to suffer. Who does? But I will trust You in the midst of it. I will wait on Your grace and favor.

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KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE

MATTHEW 26:58

“But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.”

Peter wasn’t stupid. He saw what was happening. Jesus had just been arrested and was being led away, probably to be put to death. The Sanhedrin had tried before. Now they had him, thanks to Judas. How could he do that? After all Jesus had taught them, Judas had betrayed him. Peter was keeping his distance.

Before you judge Peter, ask yourself how many times you have shied away from standing up for Jesus. In our situation we were only avoiding potential harassment or embarrassment. We weren’t facing the possibility of arrest and death. How can we keep our distance after all He has done for us?

APPLICATION

Do your children face ridicule and scorn at school for standing up for Jesus? Have they ever come home in tears because some other kid made fun of them for being a Christian? If they have, you have the perfect chance to encourage them. Read them this whole story of Peter’s denial and his ultimate shame. Remind them of Jesus sacrifice for them. We must stand tall in the face of persecution.

This world does not like Christians. That’s just a fact. Your children are going to encounter persecution, however slight it may seem. Standing for truth invites opposition. But we need to draw close to Him during those times, not keep our distance. Distance only increases the chance we will deny Him. Drawing close allows us to experience His loving embrace. That’s the message for our kids.

Are you a distance keeper? Do you hide the fact that you are a believer? Stop that! Take a stand. Don’t you believe Jesus will defend you? Don’t you know that no matter how harsh the persecution, you still win. No one can ever take your salvation away from you. Nothing can ever separate you from the love of Christ. Stay in His footsteps. Don’t hide in the shadows.

Forgive me, Father, for the times I have kept my distance. I will trust You to defend me. I will stay close and feel Your embrace.

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ASLEEP

MATTHEW 26:36-41

“36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.’ 39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ 40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

As I write this, it is 12:40 a.m. I don’t sleep very much, normally 4-5 hours a night. Most nights I’m awake by 1:30 or 2:00. Tonight, it’s a little earlier. So, I can relate to Peter in this story. They had traveled that day and had just finished eating the Passover meal. Tired + stomach full = ZZZZZZ. It’s no wonder he and the others fell asleep.

Do you think he would have dozed off if he had known what was about to happen in a matter of hours? I don’t think so, but we are quick to condemn Peter for sleeping. “How could he do that to Jesus?” How many times have you “fallen asleep” spiritually on Jesus? How many times has He asked you to follow Him only to hear you snoring? Don’t be too critical.

APPLICATION

The next time you catch your son or daughter falling asleep take a picture. When they wake up (and are alert enough to listen) read them this story. Ask them why they fell asleep. Ask them why they think Peter fell asleep. Sleep is a good thing. We need it to stay strong. Jesus wasn’t condemning sleep. He knew what was coming.

Jesus wants us to be prepared for the evil one. Judas was on the way to betray Jesus in the garden. He had asked Peter, James and John to “keep watch with Me.” Explain to your child the importance of keeping watch. Satan is always on the alert for our weakest moments. Make sure you’re ready to face him with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Are you snoozing? Or are you alert and keeping watch? Satan doesn’t take any days off. I’m not telling you to not sleep physically. I am saying to not sleep spiritually. Stay in the Word. Stay in the spirit of prayer. Be discerning. Let the Spirit guide you in your words and deeds. Wake up, sleepy head.

Father, keep me alert to Your every command. Let me rest in You, knowing You are able to defend me. You are my peace.

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