The Voice of shepherds: “Let’s go and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” It’s hard to know whether the shepherds show faith or “thrill seeking.” They obey the voice of the angel and go to Bethlehem, but is it to see Jesus or just to see if this thing is true? Sometimes we have mixed motives for following God’s voice, for seeking Him out. God seems content to deal with seekers however they come. What motivates you to check out God’s word? - Thank you for seeking us regardless of our motives.
The Voice of Mary: “I am the Lord’s servant…may it be…” Mary speaks. Her words and heart stand in contrast to the voice of the doubter. She questions, yet there is humility behind her questing. When she receives an answer she opens herself as a servant of God with a simple, “Let it be.” Would my voice be more like that of Mary or the doubter (Luke 1:18)? What is the fundamental difference between the two responses to God’s Word? -Let your will be done in my life Lord, as it is in heaven. Amen.
The Voice of a doubter. “How can I be sure of this?” Zechariah stands in a holy place, in the Presence of God and doubts the word of God in his life. Surely this is the apex of pride and distrust of God. Do you ever doubt the word of God in your life? Why do we seek assurances and what might this reveal about us? How does this story end (Luke 1:20, 67ff). - Father, may I be more inclined toward trust and obedience than my questions and my surety in life. Amen.
The Voice of Angels. “The angel of the Lord appeared…” Angels are all over the Christmas story. They appear in dreams, they appear in temples, they appear in fields, to both individuals and groups of people. They speak on God’s behalf and bring direction, guidance, and understanding for people to respond to God in faith. Would I be one who would have followed the voice of the angels back then? Why or Why not? - Lord, there are things we do not fully understand, help us to listen to you, in when you speak in ways that we cannot totally understand. Amen.
“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Many will say they are seeking God’s will for their lives. What if we were to start here: God’s will is for you to give thanks… How would living out God’s will look in our daily lives? How might it change our perspective as Christian leaders? – Let me see this world, Dear Lord, as though I were looking through your eyes and give thanks. Amen.
“The grace of God…teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age.” Some Christians excuse their sin and lack of self-control by appealing to a future perfecting when we get to heaven. God’s word is clear here that self-controlled living begins here and now as we develop and practice it. What do I need to learn to say “No” to as a follower of Jesus? Forgive our “yeses” to worldly passions and teach us through Your grace to say, “No” instead. Amen.
“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” I do not think I have ever seen this verse carved in a wood plaque or declared as someone’s favorite verse. How would the world be different if Christians and Christian leaders exercised self-control over their mouths? Have I been gossiping recently? Who have I hurt? Do I need to seek forgiveness? Forgive me Lord, for being so quick to talk about others and so slow to hear you voice through others to me.
“You were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Self-control involves feelings, thought, and actions. Behavior and actions that are out of control are a clear signal that something is off in our lives. What actions, habits, and embodied behaviors are “out of control” in my life these days? What might God be doing to help me bring my body in line with His will and His holiness? O Holy Spirit, let there be a consistency between my words and my actions, that all may know I belong to you.
“…think on these things.” Self-control involves our thinking as well as our feelings and bodies. We are transformed, “by the renewing of our minds.” Why is it so important to discipline and control our thought life? How does our thinking affect and change us? Lord Jesus, help us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Amen.
“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” God calls us to exercise self-control is over our feelings. As Christians we are not controlled by our feelings, but by the Spirit who teaches us all truth. How do we discern the difference between our feelings and the movements of the Holy Spirit? Can our feelings of peace or unrest be the barometer of our decisions and actions? - Give us wisdom, courage, and an honest, open heart to discern your ways Lord, that we may think, act, and feel as followers of Jesus.