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SHEPHERDING

1 PETER 5:2

“shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;”

Peter calls on the elders of the church to shepherd the flock. Do you know what it means to shepherd a flock? Most of us aren’t shepherds. We don’t understand the commitment and hard work it takes to shepherd a herd of sheep or goats. It involves long hours and keen senses. You have to be ready to guard against predators. You have to know when to move the flock to greener pastures.

Of course, Peter isn’t talking about sheep or goats. He’s talking about people. The elders of the church must also have these capabilities. They are instructed to guard, guide and graze the people of God. They must guard them from wrong doctrine and those who would want to harm the church. They need to be able to guide them through turbulent times. And they must feed them the Word of God.

APPLICATION

As a parent, you have the same responsibilities for your little flock. You are to guard, guide and graze them. Most parents are pretty good at guarding their children. We think of safety first. We don’t want them harmed. But we must also be just as diligent about guiding and grazing. Our children need our guidance well past their childhood years. This doesn’t stop when they become teenagers or even young adults.

And the most important thing we can do is feed them the Word. Our children need a constant diet from the Scriptures. And I don’t mean just reading them a nice bedtime story. I mean we need to live it out before them and put the Word to work in our lives so they will know what it means.

Which of those three areas (guarding, guiding, grazing) do you need the most work on? The Lord wants to use you, not only in your family, but also in the lives of those around you. Are you willing to shepherd someone today? Look around. I am sure there is someone who could use you in their lives.

Thank You, Lord, for shepherding me. Help me shepherd others who You have placed in my life.

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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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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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HOW TO AVOID A FIGHT

2 TIMOTHY 2:23

“But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”

Some people are just looking for a fight. They say things to try to get someone else stirred up. They choose their words carefully in order to lure another person into a fight, usually to make themselves look better. Paul is warning Timothy to refuse that, to walk away, to stay out of those arguments.

You have to decide yourself on that. You may like the arguing. You may like the back and forth verbal exchanges. But if this talk does not glorify the Lord, then it is empty, foolish and ignorant words. Having lived in Ephesus, where Timothy was residing, he knew how the Ephesians delighted in debate. He didn’t want Timothy wasting time in these endless pursuits.

APPLICATION

This is a hard one for kids. If you have more than one child in the home, you have undoubtedly experienced foolish and ignorant speculations that led to quarrels, lol. Keeping these quarrels to a minimum can be a tiresome task. But the second you hear two children arguing, read them this verse and ask them this question – “How does this discussion bring glory to our Lord?”

You see, our focus should be to continually point them towards the Father. If we do that and follow our lead, they will be able to avoid these useless arguments. This skill will be so beneficial as an adult when they grow up. They may not understand it all now, but one day they will.

Are you one of those people looking for a fight? Why do we do that? Maybe it’s because we want to prove we are right. Perhaps it’s because we want to prove the other person wrong. Either way, glory isn’t given to the Lord. Surround yourself with like-minded people and avoid those people who can’t wait to quarrel and debate. Life’s too short. 

O Lord, keep my mouth shut when appropriate. Thank You for the wisdom to know how to respond to those who have no desire to glorify You. Today I will not quarrel or debate.

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WAIT AND WATCH

1 TIMOTHY 5:24

“The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after.”

Context, context, context! We can’t forget the context of this verse. Taken out of context you could apply this incorrectly and use it to judge others unfairly. But Paul is talking to Timothy about choosing men to serve as Elders in the church. Basically, he is telling him some men are open books. Everyone knows their character, flaws and strengths. Others, however, play a good game. They hide their secret sins, but they will be revealed.

Have you ever met someone and thought they were awesome, only to find out later that you had been conned?  People do it all the time. Deception is their life. They present one way to the public, but privately they live a whole other life. Paul is telling us to wait and watch. Give it some time. Don’t be too hasty. Their true self will reveal itself.

APPLICATION

Oh, listen! This is so important to teach your children. And you can teach it when they are pretty young. I bet you they are going to want something at the local Walmart that you know is not going to last very long. The item is not well made, so you know it’s only going to last the weekend. Have you had this experience? But they are begging for it. They even say they will use their own money.

So, you let them buy the item. Sure enough, it breaks within 24 hours. Now you have a great object lesson. Tell them that people can be that way. What appears to be great on the outside can hold deceptive parts. People who seem like great people can be hiding some very bad motives. The object here is not to get them to not trust people. The object is for them to learn discernment and patience. God will reveal to them the truth or the falsehood in the person. (Now, give them their money back since you used this as an object lesson, lol.)

This devotional may seem like I am “negative Nancy.” I believe the Word teaches us wisdom. It shows us the way to avoid situations. This is one of them. Don’t rush to judgment on someone, good or bad. Wait and watch. Let the Lord reveal their character. It will come out. Just watch.

Father, give me Your eyes and ears to discern truth in others. Help me see them as You see them. Expose any deception before I am deceived.

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GOOD MEDICINE

1 TIMOTHY 5:23

“No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”

Don’t jump to the conclusion that Paul is saying to go out and buy some wine and start drinking. You’ve got to understand the culture of the day. It was common practice back then for young people (that was considered under 30) to not drink at all. It was actually frowned upon. Timothy was still a young man, although he was the leader of the church at Ephesus. Therefore, he probably abstained from any wine.

Undoubtedly, Timothy had some stomach issues which could be aided by the wine. They didn’t have Pepto Bismol or Tums back then. So, diluted wine was used to settle the stomach. Many times, the wine would be mixed with water (1 part wine, 2 parts water). Whatever you think about this verse, it is not a license to drink with liberality.

APPLICATION

This is one of those no-brainer verses. Of course, you are not going to teach your children to drink wine. That would be absurd. What you can do, however, is to teach then personal responsibility. That way, when they are older, they can make their own choice about this. The important thing to remember is their testimony is only as reputable as their conduct and behavior.

We don’t need wine to settle our stomach. We have medications now to do that. You can justify anything, but should you? There are some things that you are going to have to weigh against the entirety of God’s Word. Then you can make your decision. This is one of those things. So, teach your child well with this one.

This topic of drinking is so controversial in the church today. Don’t make this the hill you die on. Don’t judge others too quickly. Ask for wisdom and love each other. Paul was writing this letter to his child in the faith, Timothy, to encourage him to “take a little wine” to help his stomach. It was about his love for Timothy, not about the wine.

Father, thank You that You give us the wisdom to do as You lead us. Help me follow You as You direct. I want to please You, not man.

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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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