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A PARENT’S JOY

3 JOHN 4

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.”

I have been in ministry over forty years. That’s a long time. Sometimes I feel like Moses – herding sheep for forty years or wandering in the wilderness for forty years. But sometimes I hear from someone I had the privilege to lead to the Lord, and they tell me how they are still walking with Jesus. That brings me such joy. It really warms my heart.

John was expressing the exact same feeling. He was thrilled to hear about Gaius. It is obvious from this verse that John had played some part in Gaius’ salvation experience. We don’t know exactly where or when that was, but John was a spiritual father to Gaius. As a father to Gaius, John longed to see him grow spiritually. Nothing thrilled his heart more.

APPLICATION

If you have not experienced this joy as a parent, I pray you will. Watching our children come to Christ is awesome. Praying with them to receive Christ is stupendous. But watching them walk with Christ daily thrills your soul. This is especially true as they get older and start making more and more of their own decisions. Watching them choose Christ makes all the bedtime prayer rituals worth it.

One big question we face as parents as our children get older is how do we continue to influence them spiritually. How do we help them in their walk? Our role changes from caregiver to coach to cheerleader to consultant. In this last stage we have to wait for them to come to us for advice. Advice not asked for is seldom followed. Continue to pray and be ready when asked.

Do you have a “child in the faith” whom you are praying for? Is there someone you are watching walk with Jesus whom thrills your soul? I pray you are investing in others daily. I pray you are encouraging them. I promise as you encourage them, you will be encouraged. Be obedient to Jesus as you follow His example to disciple others.

Oh Lord, nothing thrills me more than to see my children walk with You. Help me encourage them daily as they trust You.

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CAN’T WAIT TO SEE YOU

2 JOHN 12

“Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, so that your joy may be made full.”

In this day of texts and emails, we communicate a lot. I remember back when the only way to communicate in writing was by a letter or postcard. But there is still nothing like seeing someone face to face. Words just can’t express our feelings. Even using FaceTime or Zoom isn’t the same. You can’t reach out and touch the person.

John is obviously having those same feelings. He may have had plenty of paper and ink, but he wanted to see his dear friend. He had so much more to tell her and her family. I wonder what that was. I wonder if he had the chance to see her. We won’t know the answer to that question until eternity. I guarantee you one thing. They have eternity to catch up, lol.

APPLICATION

You are probably thinking Carl, how do you apply this verse to me today? Well, who do you need to catch up with? Who have you not seen in a long time? It’s the new year. Perhaps there is someone who has been on your heart for the past few months whom you have just neglected to go see. Do it. Give them a call and say you are coming to see them because you have so much to tell them.

Have you ever watched people at a family reunion? Usually, these are times when family who haven’t been around each other much gather to spend some much desired time. And what do they talk about? Everything under the sun! Let me encourage you to share what the Lord has done and is doing in your life. Let others know how you have been blessed. That is certainly something worth sharing.

I am certain that John was not anxious to talk about the weather. He had lessons from the Lord to share. He wanted to impart truth. Why? He tells us in the last phrase of the verse. “so that your joy may be made full.” Some scholars say the word “your” should be translated “our.” Even better. How about doing that today. Make yours and someone else’s joy full.

I long for others to hear the truth of the Gospel and what You are doing in my life. Give me the opportunity today to share with someone else and make our joy full.

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DO YOU BELIEVE?

1 JOHN 5:1

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.”

I guess I have always believed in Jesus. I was raised in a church-going home. We were there every Sunday. I remember going to

Sunday School, church, revivals, etc. Church was a regular part of our family life. But you have to understand something. It was all head knowledge. All that church going gave me a false sense of salvation.

It wasn’t until I was sixteen that I truly believed. When the Holy Spirit drew me towards the Father through the Son, I surrendered my life to Him. My church-going belief became true belief in Christ. I joined the family John is describing in today’s verse. I finally fully believed that Jesus was the Christ. What a change! Knowledge about something does not equal belief in something.

APPLICATION

As your children grow, I am sure you have been telling them about God and Jesus. You may even have pictures of Jesus or other Christian decorations in your house. You talk about Jesus at Christmas and celebrate His birth. You have been filling their little skulls full of mush with knowledge about Jesus. But try as you might, you can’t flip a switch and give them saving knowledge. That is truly between them and God.

So, how do you ensure your child comes to faith? No one wants to think of the alternative, right? You have to remain consistent in your teaching. You have to take every opportunity to talk about what Jesus has done for you. When a prayer is answered, make sure you share that with them. They need to see Jesus working in your life. God may just use that to draw them to Himself. And, of course, pray every day for their salvation. God hears your prayers.

Can you effectively share your salvation experience with someone? Can you articulate the joy you have in Christ? You may need to practice doing that. The Lord will give you the words to say each and every time He gives you the opportunity to share. You have to trust Him. Tell the world about your saving knowledge of Jesus. He is the Christ. Celebrate it.

I praise You, O Lord, for sending Your Son, Jesus, to rescue me. He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

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IN THE FLESH

1 JOHN 4:2

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;” 

One of the joys of being a Children’s Pastor is going to the hospital when a baby is born. I love seeing that newborn for the first time. The whole process of conception, pregnancy and delivery amazes me. Looking at those little fingers and toes just blows my mind. I understand the biology behind the whole thing, but it is still a miracle.

Jesus came that way. We all know the story. He was born as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem. We can probably all tell the  story by heart, right? So, John tells us here in today’s verse that knowing that and confessing that shows that the Spirit of God dwells in you. You may be saying Well, everyone believes that. Not really. There are many who deny the birth of Christ, especially the virgin birth.

APPLICATION

Why don’t you lead your kids in some Christmas carols? I know it’s only November, but it’s never too soon to do that. I love “Away in a Manger” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Don’t you? Let your kids pick out a few, but keep them about Jesus. There will be plenty of time for the silly Christmas songs later.

Now, that you have done that, talk about the songs. Ask them why we celebrate Jesus coming in the flesh. Get them to thinking. How else could Jesus have come? He could have just appeared with the angels in the sky over Bethlehem. Why was it important for Him to come as a baby in the flesh? He had to be the God-Man, perfect and divine, to die for our sins on the cross. He had to shed His blood for us. That’s why His fleshly birth was important.

Do you celebrate Christmas correctly? Do you recognize the importance of His humanness? Don’t skip to the ministry years and His death. It all began in Bethlehem. Aren’t you glad? God loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son. Don’t ever forget that. Thank the Lord today for His birth. Praise Him for coming in such a humble way.

I praise You, Lord, for humbling Yourself and taking the form of man. Thank You for yielding Your Spirit to take on the form of flesh for us.

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SEE A NEED, MEET A NEED

1 JOHN 3:17

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Have you ever been blessed by someone? Boy, I have. During this past year many of my friends have stepped up to meet some needs that my wife and I had during my extended illness. I didn’t ask for any them, but they were led of the Lord to step up and do what He said to do for us. We were blown away.

There are people all around us who are in need. Sometimes they hide it very well. We can’t see the need. But what do you do when you find out? Do you wait for them to come ask you for help? Let me encourage you to make the first step. So many are too proud to ask. They think it’s beneath them. It’s not. God wants us to come alongside each other.

APPLICATION

I love seeing children who give without even being told to do so. I have known children whom I literally had to tell to stop giving so much. They just didn’t care about stuff. They had rather see someone else’s needs met than their own. They were just bent that way. Others…well…not so much. You would have to peel the last cookie out of their hand, lol. 

Giving is a privilege and a blessing. Until your children experience the joy of giving to someone else, they will never really understand it. You have to help them to learn this joy. How about before they get anything new help them pick out a toy they can share with someone else? How about leading them to have a birthday party where all their gifts go to the Ronald McDonald house? There are all kinds of ways to teach them to give to others.

You may not be blessed with an abundance of goods, but I guarantee you have more than most. Look around and see how you can give to someone today. Perhaps you want to do it anonymously. That’s okay. It’s not about you. Jesus is the one who gets the glory, right. Just give.

Reveal to me, Lord, to whom I should be a blessing today. Help me meet the need of someone today.

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MY DARLINGS

1 JOHN 2:12

“I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake.”

In this verse and the next verses in 1 John 2, John addresses three groups of people in the church – little children, young men and fathers (older men). In fact, John addresses each group twice in these verses. But the term “little children” in today’s verse is a totally different Greek word than the one in the next verse. Interesting.

The Greek word used here means dearly loved little ones. It can also be translated “my little darlings.” Now, that’s pretty special, don’t you think? Only John uses this form of the word. To me that is also special. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” He understood intimacy and closeness. I think it comes out here in this verse.

APPLICATION

What do you call your children? Do you have pet names for them? Those are usually terms of endearment. They are our special names for them. When you call them that they know you are expressing a closeness. Your love is shown by just using that name.

Intimacy is not a given. We have to teach that to our kids. It requires snuggling and cuddles. It involves holding them when they are upset. It means kissing that boo-boo when necessary, All the while you are using those names to soothe them.

John was doing that here. He was saying, “My darlings, you know Jesus loved you so much He died to forgive you of your sins. Don’t forget that.” He wasn’t just calling down the children. He was calling them to closeness, to intimacy. Isn’t that great?

Call me Your darling, Lord. I know You love me with an endearing love. You call my name.

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WHAT IS PROPITIATION?

1 JOHN 2:2

“and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

Most people will read today’s verse and never have a clue what “propitiation” means. They just read it and consider it one of those church words and go on. No! Stop right there! Don’t go any further until you understand this word well enough to tell someone else what it means. It’s an important word, one we all need to understand.

The Greek word for “propitiation” is only used twice in the N.T., both times in 1 John (2.2 and 4.10). Read this definition: an offering to appease (satisfy) an angry, offended party. Wow! That’s what Jesus did. He offered Himself, He shed His blood to satisfy His Father’s wrath. God was offended by our sin and demanded a sacrifice. Jesus did that.

APPLICATION

Ask your child if they are willing to take the blame for their sibling’s misconduct. Yeah right! I don’t know any child who would willingly do that. If their brother or sister broke a rule in your house that demanded discipline, would they take their punishment. Chances are their sibling is going to suffer, lol.

Now explain to them that is what Jesus did for them. They, being a sinner from birth, have broken God’s law, His requirements. They may have lied or cheated. They may have disobeyed you. But they have done something to incur God’s wrath. Without Jesus stepping in with His blood, they would be doomed to an eternal hell. Sound rough? Yes, it is. But it is the truth. Praise be to God that Jesus stepped in.

Are you grateful for this propitiation? Are you able now to explain it to someone? It’s not just a churchy word. It’s our hope. It’s our promise. It gives us life eternal with our Heavenly Father.

O God, I thank You for sending Your Son to pay the price You demanded for my salvation. I am free because of Him.

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FULL OF JOY

1 JOHN 1:4

“These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.”

There’s a difference in being joyful and being full of joy. Being joyful can be spontaneous and last for a while. Being full of joy is more about a lifestyle. Let me prove my point from the text. The Greek word for “complete” is pleroo. Any time you see a Greek word which ends in -oo the emphasis is more about the result of the word than the word itself. That word means “fill to individual capacity.

Being full of joy is a choice we make as believers that has results. We cast that joy onto others. We want to spread the joy to others because we know how great we feel because of it. We know the source of the joy is not of our own making. It comes from the Lord, so the source is bottomless.

APPLICATION

Ask your child if he/she knows what joy is. Let them define it in their own way. This could be quite hilarious. Then ask them if they would want to always feel that way. Some kids may say “no.” Why? Because they don’t know how to handle it? Maybe.

Here’s your opportunity to talk about the reason Christ gives us joy. We are not supposed to handle it. We are to pass it on. When we are full of the joy of Christ, we spread it around to all we meet. You can show your kids this by the way you treat others in your home and in the public.

But Carl, you don’t know what I’m dealing with right now. I don’t have any joy in my life. Remember, I said this is not a joy you produce. It comes from Christ through you to others. You have to surrender to Him. When you do that, the joy flows. It flows to overflowing. It becomes your lifestyle. Be full of joy!

Joyful, joyful we adore Thee. Lord, fill me to overflowing with Your joy. I want to spill out on others.

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PUNCH AND COOKIES

1 JOHN 1:3

“what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” 

What is fellowship? Is it just punch and cookies? I sure hope not. The Greek word is koinonia, which means something that is shared in common. I have to admit I have eaten many a meal with people with whom I didn’t share a whole lot in common. That is not what John is referring to here.

We have fellowship with each other only because we also have fellowship (something in common) with the Father and His Son. That common bond brings us together. We don’t need punch and cookies to do that. I have had the joy of fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ when nothing physical passed over my lips. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good potluck dinner as much as the next person. But that doesn’t make fellowship.

APPLICATION

Kids can naturally fellowship. They find common things with other boys and girls pretty quickly. Their fellowship may center around Legos or video games. It may be over American Girl dolls or a sports game. Our challenge, as parents, is to direct them to the lasting fellowship that is only possible through Jesus.

I promise you, those childhood “fellowships” are going to fade. The only eternal fellowship is a spiritual one, as John describes in the verse today. Point your child toward that fellowship. It will last forever.

With whom are you in fellowship? Do you have a group of believers with whom you share that common bond? I pray you do. We can’t do this alone. We need fellowship. This recent Covid 19 pandemic has reduced our opportunities for fellowship and people are suffering. We need each other. Will you make the effort this week to fellowship with someone?

How I desire the fellowship with other believers. I long for their spiritual “embrace.” Thank You for providing that common bond through Your Son, Jesus.

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NOT HIDDEN

1 JOHN 1:2

“and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—”

I’ll never forget one Sunday at John de la Howe School in McCormick, S.C. when I preached on this passage to a chapel full of kids and adults. Nineteen children came to Christ that day. That had nothing to do with me and everything to do with Jesus. But what I remember is that I only preached on one word of that verse – “manifested.”

The power of that word! It refers to something made clear, to be made visible. I compared it to my mama’s pressure cooker she used when I was growing up. You know, the old kind with the jiggling little weight on top that controlled the pressure. I would come home and see that pot on the stove. I knew something good was inside, but I couldn’t see it. When she took off that lid, ohhhh, the wonderful meal was revealed.

APPLICATION

Kids understand this concept of hidden and revealed. They’ve been playing hide and seek for years. How many times have you played that game with them over the years? Even infants get a joy out of playing peekaboo. Revealing what’s covered, finding the “hidden” brings us joy and excitement.

Make sure your kids understand that God did that in one way by manifesting Himself in Jesus. Jesus, of course, concealed His glory while on earth, except for on the mount of transfiguration when He was revealed to James, John (the author of this verse) and Peter. But God does not play hide and seek with us. He’s not trying to hide. He has revealed Himself through Jesus.

Have you found Him? He knows where you are. You can’t hide from Him. He wants to show Himself to you. Will you behold Him? Jesus came to show us His Father. He told His disciples if they had seen Him they had seen the Father. One day, we believers will see Him face to face. Hallelujah!

Your life has been manifested in me. Help me let it manifested through me. I want others to only see You in me.

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