Child Raising, Child Rearing, Completeness, Disciplemaking, Encouragement, Evangelism, Following, Inspirational, Ministry, Modeling, Obedience, Parenting, Promises, Service, Surrender, Witnessing

THE FIRST

MATTHEW 10:2-4

“2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.”

Of all the apostles, Simon, “who is called Peter,” is listed first. You could suppose that was because he was the very first one called by Jesus. But I think it was more than that. He was the only one whom Jesus changed his name. He was making a point. Simon would now be called Peter. He called him a rock, specifically a pebble that could be thrown.

Some scholars argue this referred to his future role as leader of the church. Jesus appointed Peter to be resolute and firm, compared to his original rashness and hot-headedness. Whatever the reason, Peter is the first of the disciples. Jesus chose him first. Jesus changed his name. Jesus used him fully. Jesus saw in Peter what he couldn’t see himself.

APPLICATION

Children often pick teams when they play games. I remember being chosen for teams during recess play times. No one wants to be chosen last. If you were picked first, it usually implied the one picking saw you as a good player and one who could help win the game. You had skills or at least the ability to make the team stronger.

Your child will probably face that situation and may come home dejected from being the last one chosen. Take them to this verse. “But Carl, won’t that make them feel worse?” Just wait! Listen, Jesus chooses ALL of us. We ALL have something to provide the team. Jesus sees in us what we can’t see ourselves. He sees what He will do to make us whole and complete. We just have to say “yes” and allow Him to use us.

Will you say “yes” today? Will you allow Jesus to make you part of His team of ministers spreading the gospel to a lost world? Peter was a fisherman. He was uneducated. He was brash and crude. But Jesus transformed him into the leader of the early church which shook the world. Jesus did in and through Peter what Peter could have never done on his own.

Father, take me and use me however You choose. Knock off my rough edges. Make me into an instrument of Your choosing.

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ARE YOU HIS?

1 Peter 1:1

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen”

Peter begins this letter by identifying himself. He was an apostle! Now, he’s not bragging. He may have done that at an earlier time in his life, but not now. He was merely letting the recipients of this letter know he was writing with authority, authority that only came from Christ. These would not be his words. They were Christ’s.

He is writing to believers who were “aliens” in these provinces of Asia. This wasn’t their home. They didn’t belong there. How they got there isn’t the issue. They were there now, but the Lord had not forgotten them. They were in His family no matter where they dwelled. We can take a lesson from that, can’t we?

APPLICATION

This may seem a strange verse to try to make an application for our lives. But I believe every word of Scripture has that capability. First, we must be careful to ensure the words that come from us are words the Lord Himself would use. We dare not speak for God when He hasn’t spoken to us. We have the advantage of having the Old and New Testament to draw from. We can trust it.

Secondly, our home is wherever God places us. Some people resist allowing God to move them for fear of losing “their home.” We are secure in Christ wherever we are. Some places are more comfortable than other, for sure. But God doesn’t call us to comfort. He calls us to service. He may even drive us to places through persecution in order to spread His word. Are you willing to go?

These are lessons worth teaching our children. Speak only God’s truth. Speak only words that are pleasing to Him. Let no untrue word proceed from your mouth, little one. And wherever God leads you, follow. Trust Him to make your home where He wants it. He will never take you anywhere that He will not be there. We are in His family, so home is wherever He is.

Father, thank You for this reminder that I am Your messenger and that You are my home. I forget that sometimes. Forgive me.

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DO THE RIGHT DEEDS

TITUS 3:14

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”

There are some qualifying words in this verse. If you read and stopped at “good deeds,” you might be led to believe that any good deed goes. But Paul goes on to say, “to meet pressing needs.” In other words, necessary needs, needs that are indispensable. Otherwise, you can busy yourself with deeds that really serve no purpose.

And then Paul finishes the verse with “so that they will not be unfruitful.” Romans 14:23 tells us all that all decisions not born of faith are sin. So, it is important that we make sure that all good deeds, no matter how good they may seem, are truly born of faith. Doing good deeds just because they are good doesn’t make them right in God’s eyes.

APPLICATION

Ask your children to make a list of good deeds. Tell them they can write down anything. After they are done, have them try to tell you how God’s Word backs up that good deed. Give them some time to think about that. Then take the list and see if you can help them. You will probably have some that just don’t match up to Scripture.

Now you can explain to them how this verse applies to their list. Some things that appear good are not given or implied in Scripture. We, as believers, need to focus our good deeds on things that draw people to Christ and share the Gospel. There are a lot of good intentioned people out there who have their own causes. They appear good, but are they fruitful?

What causes do you support? Are you sure your money and time are going to God’s good deeds? Let me encourage you this year to examine where you spend your energy. You want the good deeds you do to reflect on Jesus and not you. You want others to know that the only reason you are doing this is to share His love for them.

Father, help me focus all my good deeds on bringing glory to You. I desire to see others drawn to Your goodness, not mine. Point me to those opportunities daily.

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OBEDIENCE

TITUS 3:1

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,”

This is the third time in the letter to Titus Paul has told us to be subject to someone. He tells wives to be subject to their husbands (2:5). He tells slaves to be subject to the masters (2:9). And now he tells us to be subject to those who are in authority, the rulers in our lives. Now, who are they? Anyone who has legal authority over you (police, judges, elected officials, etc). If we all did that, there would be so much less anarchy in our society.

And the word “obedient” has an interesting meaning. It’s not just the act of obeying. It’s being persuaded that what you are asked to do should be done first. It’s like when your boss, whom you don’t really care for, gives you a task to do. You do it right then, not because you want to, but because he is the boss and he wants it done. You obey those rulers and authorities unless you are asked to do something immoral or illegal.

APPLICATION

This is another one of those no-brainers. We teach our children how to obey. They must place themselves up under your leadership in the home in preparation for doing the same at school or on a job one day. When they understand that all authorities in their lives have been placed there by the Lord, they will submit much easier (or at least we hope they will).

Once again, they watch how you do this. If they see you constantly trying to get out from under your authorities, they will learn to do the same. When is the last time you prayed for the rulers and authorities in your life? Get your children to pray with you for your elected officials and law enforcement. Then the next time you have an encounter with one of them, your attitude may be just a little different. Praying for someone will do that.

So many Christians don’t get this. They try to hold on to “their rights” to the point that they become almost rebellious in their spirits. We have no rights. They were all nailed to the cross. Our response to those in authority should be “yes” whenever possible. Ask the Lord to give you a submissive spirit. Ask Him to show you how to pray for those rulers. Perhaps the Lord is preparing you to lead.

I am thankful for those You have placed in authority in my life. I know You establish kings and kingdoms. Show me today how I can best serve.

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YES, MASTER

TITUS 2:9

Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative,”

Our one response to our Master, Jesus Christ, should be “Yes, Master.” Paul spells it out clearly for the earthly bondslave, one who is bound to a master willingly. How much more should we exercise these same responses to our heavenly Master and Lord. We are to be subject to Him (to place ourselves up under His plan). We are to be well-pleasing (focused on gratifying) and not argumentative (doing nothing to speak against).

“Oh, come on Carl. I am always that way with the Lord.” Really? Tell me about it. Do you always submit your will to His? Are you willing to do whatever He asks whenever He asks it? Is your mind always settled on pleasing Jesus? You can’t tell me there aren’t sometimes when you prefer to gratify yourself. And do you ever argue with God? I know I do.

APPLICATION

These principles of living for Jesus are things that we as parents must teach our children early. Think about it. We all want submissive, well-pleasing, nonargumentative children, right? How do you think that happens? We model it in our lives. We correct them when they allow their little, fleshly heads to rise up. We point them to Jesus in every situation.

Now, we don’t want mindless robots obeying our every order, do we? (Some of you may say, “Yes) Neither does Jesus. He made us to think and react. He wants us to yield to Him. He wants us to serve out of love, not fear. In the same way, we want our children to learn to do the same. They should make their decisions based on their inner desire to please and honor us and Jesus. That only comes through surrender to Him.

Are you struggling with submission today? There are days when we do. It’s normal. Our flesh can be strong. It’s okay. Take a moment and confess that to the Lord. Ask Him to give you the strength to submit. That may sound strange, but it does take strength to submit. We have to lay down our desires for the greater good – His good. Will you do that today?

Father, today I lay down my desires in order to please You. I will hold my tongue and do what You ask. I am here to serve.

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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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THE RIGHT MAN

TITUS 1:6

namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.”

Paul begins a list of qualifications for elders in today’s verse that goes through verse 9. This list is long and intimidating. When I read it, I wonder who can fulfill it. Who can possibly meet all these expectations? Only the man who is one hundred percent surrendered to the Lordship of Christ.

Paul describes an elder, the men he wants Titus to find and appoint in Crete, as above reproach or blameless, He must not have more than one wife. He has to be old enough for his children to have accepted Christ. He can withstand accusations that he is unsalvageable or insubordinate. Wow! That bar is high.

APPLLICATION

Children play a key role in their father’s selection as elder. Why would their children’s salvation be a determining factor? Because it implies that he has spent the time to invest in their lives and lead them to Christ. It implies that family is a priority. They say your family should be your first mission.

This is why, mom and dad, I spend so much time telling you to read Scripture to your kids. Scripture is what draws them to salvation. It prepares their heart to hear from the Lord. That means you must be a student of the Word. You must be comfortable sharing and applying it. This is an eternal decision. Don’t take it lightly.How do you line up with the list given today? You may never be asked to serve as an Elder. But I believe we all need to strive for the highest standards. We all serve a mighty God. If you don’t meet the criteria, ask the Lord to change your heart. He can use you. Won’t you let him?

O precious Lord, I know I am not worthy, but You want to use me. I am Your vessel. I surrender to You.

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