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COMMANDED

1 TIMOTHY 1:1

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope,”

This is not an usual opening for one of Paul’s letters. In fact, in most of his letters he begins by saying he is a bondservant of the Lord or is an apostle by the will of God. In the next letter to Timothy he goes back to “the will of God.” So, why is he using these words? Why did the Spirit of God inspire him to open this first letter to Timothy this way?

I truly believe he wanted Timothy to know that, as he begins this letter to him, he is writing as a commanded apostle of God with definitive orders to not only share the gospel but to also mentor him. Paul had invested years in grooming Timothy to lead. That mentorship was not over. Paul still had much to teach him, and it all was coming from the Lord.

APPLICATION

It is so important that your children know that you are commanded by the Lord to raise them to honor and serve Him. All your efforts to instill Christian values and principles are direct instructions from Him. You are simply following orders, well, not simply. It is really demanding, isn’t it? But don’t stop. Keep following orders.

And the payoff will come later. As you watch your children make the good choices, you will give praise to God. As you see your children make life choices that honor Him, you will leap for joy. Follow His commands and lay the groundwork for your children. Show them what it looks like to be an obedient follower of Jesus.

Are you struggling with obeying God’s commands for your life? Why don’t you stop struggling and simply obey? It is much easier to be obedient, I promise. Be a Paul. Be an obedient “apostle” of the Lord. He will never lead you astray and will always have your back.

Lord, You are my Commander! You are the one I follow. Lead me wherever You desire.

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SAME GOODBYE

2 THESSALONIANS 3:18

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.”

Do you always say goodbye the same way? Most people do. I don’t know why, but when I say goodbye on the phone, I almost always say, “Bye, Bye.” It’s just a habit, I guess. Saying it twice doesn’t have any significance. It’s just me.

Paul had the same issue. He always mentioned grace in closing his letters. What’s so special about grace? Well, I’m glad you asked. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. It’s God’s unmerited favor. Paul is desiring that for the Thessalonians. He wanted them to receive and experience the same grace he had been shown on the road to Damascus. Paul knew about grace.

APPLICATION

I hope your children don’t think grace is just what is said before a meal. That definition of grace has nothing to do with what Paul is talking about here. So, how do you teach your children grace? Why not just show them? The next time they really mess up, explain that you are going to forgive them and let it go. You are not going to bring it up later. You are not going to work harder trying to catch them doing something bad. You are just going to forgive them.

Explain to your little Johnny or little Susie that by doing that you are showing them favor. You, and only you, have the power to do that. It is your choice to extend to them that favor. You didn’t have to do it. They deserve punishment. But you have chosen to forgive them. They, however, have to accept it.

Do you need grace today? The Lord is extending His favor towards you. All you have to do is claim it. Read Ephesians 2:8-9 for an even fuller description of grace. He wants to give it. Will you receive it?

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Thank You, Jesus. 

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PENMANSHP

2 THESSALONIANS 3:17

“I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand, and this is a distinguishing mark in every letter; this is the way I write.” 

Who would have thought the Scriptures would talk about penmanship, but here it is. However, Paul is not talking about his writing skills (or lack of). He is reassuring the Thessalonians that this letter was authentic, that it was from him. People were constantly trying to add to the message of the cross or in some way confuse the early believers. Paul is making sure they know he wrote this letter.

This verse speaks to us today as much as it did to the Thessalonians back in the 1stCentury. We have to be just as careful of what we read and believe. In fact, we have to be more careful. With the existence of the internet, we can be exposed to a ton of false information that is written as the truth. We have to make sure that what we are taking as the truth is really the truth.

APPLICATION

You need to warn your children to check out any information they get from friends about God with the Bible. People have strange doctrines and can easily lead a child away from the faith by offering something less “demanding” or less “restrictive.” After all, what child doesn’t want less rules. 

We may not be able to match the penmanship to ensure authenticity, but we can sure match it up with God’s Word. His Word is only truth. Anything, and I mean anything, that conflicts with that is not of Him. Tell your children to run as fast as they can away from those lies and untruths.

Are you a diligent reader? Are you careful about what you read? Let me encourage you to authenticate the penmanship. Make sure you know who is writing what you are reading. Know their doctrinal beliefs. Know their teachings. Don’t believe something just because it sounds good. Check it out.

O Lord, I am so thankful I have Your Word to verify what I hear and see. I know I can always depend on that to be truth and to guide me on the right path. Open my eyes to those who would seek to deceive.

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A NEW DIRECTION

2 THESSALONIANS 3:16

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”

I just love how the meaning of a verse can take a whole new look when you dig into the meaning of the words in the original language. Before you say, “Easy for you, Carl,” let me tell you how easy it is. There are tons of online sources where you can dig deeper. You just have to decide you really want to do that. Let me show you how important this is in today’s verse.

The word “circumstance” in the verse will certainly cause you to think about your life. At the initial reading in English the verse seems to imply that Paul is praying for the Thessalonians to have the peace of God in every situation. But no!!! The word actually means “the new course of conduct someone has because of knowing Christ as Lord.” Doesn’t that change everything?

APPLICATION

Let me explain. You would not ask God to bless your child in their wayward decisions, would you? You want them to choose the right path, no matter how difficult it might be. Then you pray for God’s peace on that journey. That’s what Paul is saying in today’s verse. He is saying, “May God give you His peace as you follow His direction.”

Do your children always choose the right path? If they do, I want to know how you did that. Children mess up. Adults mess up. Sometimes we mess up because we want to take the easy way rather than the right way. Choosing the easy way can get us into a whole world of hurt very quickly. And although the right path may be painful, the end result is peace with God.

What journey are you on right now? Is it the easy path or the right path? Sometimes the Lord will bless us with easy decisions, with easy paths. But other times, we wonder if He knows what He is doing. Right? I’m just being honest. But trust Him. He always knows what He is doing. He always will put us on the right path. And He always delivers what He promises – His peace.

I am thankful Lord that You trust me enough to put me on the difficult journey. I may gripe and complain, but You are always on my side. Help me show others the value in following You.

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LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

2 THESSALONIANS 3:15

Yet do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.”

I am sure you were reminded of Jesus’ admonition to us to love our enemies when you read this verse. It’s the first thing that popped into my head. In the previous verse Paul is telling the Thessalonians to disassociate with a brother who refuses to obey and follow. But here Paul is clarifying that verse. He wants to make sure they know they are to continue to love them. They just need to confront and hold him accountable.

We tend to just “write people off” when they have angered us. Remember, Paul is talking about brothers in Christ, not the unsaved. I have heard it said too many times that the church is the only army that shoots its own wounded. How sad! We need to lovingly chastise those in sin but never treat them as an enemy to us or the Gospel.

APPLICATION

I hate to tell you, but your children are probably going to have some enemies. It’s really sad to think about that, but it will happen. As a parent, you need to make sure your children understand they are to love everyone as Christ does. But if someone chooses to make your child their enemy, they are to continue to love and pray for them.

And they are to especially love and pray for those who are of the faith. You have to model this so openly for your kids. They should never hear us badmouthing another believer. They should never hear us talking badly about a Pastor. We may not agree with everyone (as if that was even possible), but we should treat everyone as if Jesus was right there with us. Oh wait, He is.

Have you treated a fellow believer poorly? Have you broken off fellowship to make a point? You do not have the right to act that way. Jesus has paid the price for you and whomever you are at odds with. His death covered every sin on both sides of the argument. Will you today allow Him to love even the most unloving person in your life? He can and He will through you.

Father, You have promised to love through me. I know I can’t love those who hate me, but You can. Help me surrender to Your will and love as only You can love.

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SHAME ON YOU

2 THESSALONIANS 3:14

“If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame.” 

Have you ever been shamed? Unfortunately, I have. I have done things in my past that I am not proud of. In some cases, those things were made public, causing shame. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. But that shame can drive you back to the cross. It can serve as conviction through the Holy Spirit. 

Now, hear me out. I am not advocating a new ministry of shame. Quite the contrary. I would propose that we diligently seek to lift others out of shame. The devil wants us to feel unworthy. He wants us to wallow in shame. But the Lord uses shame to convict us of sinful behavior, just like Paul is saying to the Thessalonians in today’s verse.

APPLICATION

It is NOT your job as a parent to shame your child. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. Your job is to raise your child in a godly, spirit-filled environment so they can come to Christ at an early age. You don’t draw them to Christ. The Holy Spirit does that. 

And once they surrender to Him, they will possess the “shaming” power of the Holy Spirit. But what is great about that is He doesn’t do it to tear you down. He only convicts to make you more like Jesus. Jesus was sinless. We should strive to live sin free, holy lives, which are only possible in Him.

How’s your shame? Do you have unconfessed sin in your heart right now? Confess it! Make it right with the Lord today. He wants to use us to share His good news to the world. When we are walking in shame, we are not available.  Will you let Him take away that shame and reproach? All you have to do is ask Him.

Lord, living shame-free is so much better than living in guilt. Remind me daily to surrender these things to HIM. As you surrender completely, He can do more and more through and in you.

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TIRED OF BEING GOOD

2 THESSALONIANS 3:13

“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.”

If you know me personally, you know I spent over 30 years of my 40+ years of ministry serving in the Child Welfare environment. I served in various capacities at several Children’s Homes. So many of the children I worked with would start learning how to handle their own behavior and make progress in school and home. But most of them would reach a point when they would regress to previous bad behavior. When asked why, they would say, “I am just tired of being good.”

That may sound like a cop out, but until they learned the truth of the Gospel, they were doomed to repeat this roller coaster of good behavior and bad behavior. Once they learned they didn’t have to be good and to allow Christ to live through them, they began to stabilize their behavior. They weren’t always good, but they recognized it was all about surrender.

APPLICATION

Don’t teach your children to be good. Yes, you read that right. Don’t teach them to behave. Teach them, instead, to trust the only Good One. When our children learn to depend solely on Christ, behaviors will improve. When they learn to follow Christ’s example of selfless living, they will put others first. 

You can’t teach goodness. You have to live it out. You have to experience life. Your children will have ample opportunities to “be good.” But nothing they can do will ever make them good. Only Christ can do that.

Are you pointing others to Jesus by your “goodness”? Are you allowing Christ to live in and through you? Apart from Him you have absolutely no goodness in you. You might be morally good. You might treat others nicely. But there is no goodness in you. We are simply sinners, saved by grace. Let His goodness lead you to do good works.

O Lord, I am so grateful that I don’t have to do good works to achieve my “goodness.” I recognize that no amount of deeds on my part will achieve that. Only You can make me “good” in Your sight.

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