Samuel was confused. He heard a voice and thought it was his mentor, Eli, calling for him. He kept going to Eli’s room until it Eli realized that the voice was God trying to get Samuel’s attention. Listening for God is an important life skill, and God is not silent. We live in a noisy culture that often speaks in ways that are contrary to God’s voice. It can be difficult to hear God if we are more in tune with the voice of this world. As we listen for God, we will be more in tune with his leading in our lives. Eli mentored Samuel by teaching him how to respond to God’s voice: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”—in other words, “I am ready to hear what you have to say, and I am ready to obey!” God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks through creation, giving testimony to his faithfulness and creativity. He speaks through his Word, where we come to understand his salvation and purpose for us. He speaks through wise mentors in our lives. He speaks through life situations, opening and closing doors. God speaks by his Holy Spirit, equipping us with gifts and passions to use for service in his kingdom.
Thoughts: “Dove” rhymes with “love” and often does in bad poetry. At some (expensive) weddings, doves are released to flutter over the wedding party.
Doves coo. They do not squawk or chirp. Doves are small and white, with little and dainty feet. They do not have hooked beaks and fierce talons.
Doves symbolize peace. When Noah released a dove from the ark, it returned to him with a green leaf in its beak – a welcome sign that the flood waters were receding.
Doves also symbolize sacrifice. When Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple for his ritual circumcision, Mary presented two doves for the required sacrifice after the birth of a child.
All four gospels tell the story of Jesus’ baptism. All four tell us that after his baptism, the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.
Thoughts: "Well, we found him.”
“Yes, but not as we expected.”
“It was a very humble home.”
“But there was no doubt that this child was born King of the Jews.”
“No, the star led us directly to his home.”
“Will his parents know to treasure our gifts?”
“Yes, I think they will. His mother seemed wise beyond her years.”
“Perhaps we were wrong to ask Herod for directions.”
“But he assured us he wanted to go worship the child, also.”
“Surely you didn’t believe him.”
“No, of course not. That’s why we’re going home a different way.”
Thoughts: There are no dearer words. They are precious to us in their familiarity – their beauty – their promise.
These twenty verses contain history, romance, rejection, and Joy. Characters include rulers and common people and angels and a baby.
Who knew the baby was coming? His mother and his earthly father knew. God and his angels knew. A few members of the inn’s staff knew.
And then, nearby shepherds were told by the angel of the Lord, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Apparently taking it for granted that the shepherds would want to go see the Savior, the angels gave rather sketchy directions.
Thoughts: “Have you seen Anna?”
“She never leaves the temple.”
“Always fasting and praying.”
“Poor old soul, she doesn’t’ have any family.”
“They say she can predict the future.”
“Did you hear how excited she was when that country couple came in with a baby?
“She said the baby was the Messiah!”
“Yeah, she was going on about this baby’s bringing redemption to Jerusalem.”
“Well, you know she never had any children of her own.”
“No, she didn’t. She’s probably lonely.”
“And as old as the hills.”
“Let’s check out the sale at Micha’s!”
”And then we can have lunch at Zelophehad’s new place.”:
“And then we ------
Thoughts: The Christmas story isn't just for the holiday season. The birth of Jesus is a game-changer. Some Christmas thoughts are good for any day of the year. Bethlehem is the city. The meaning of Bethlehem is "house of bread." The Bread of Life was delivered on this day in the city of David. The birth was miraculous. While every birth may seem this way, Christ's birth truly was different. Mary was a virgin. The conception was of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had no sin. Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah's prophecy: "Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel." When Jesus came, God was with us in the flesh. Mary cared for the baby. The young mother wrapped him and laid him in a feeding trough. While Mary was not divine, she was special. She told the angel in Luke 1:38 "Let it be me according to your word." That is a great prayer for all of us. There was no room for Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the guesthouse. SO they turned the stable into a Motel 6. Perfection came down and man rejected Him. Do not reject Him today. Make room for Jesus in your life.
Discussion: How can we make room for Jesus in our lives during this holiday season, especially during this pandemic? How can we share him with those around us during this pandemic& holiday season?
Activity:Be intentional about making time for Jesus for the remainder of advent. Even if it is just reading your advent booklet and saying a prayer!
Very few high school students make it through four years of education without at least once being called to the principal’s office. The reasons for the call could be either good or bad. The emotions that the summons inspires, though, are always the same—a mixture of fear and trepidation. Perhaps with today’s zero tolerance policies there is even greater fear. Students are scared that no matter how good they have been they are going to be judged and fall short.
Jesus is coming to set up this “principal’s office.” His office will be one of splendor and glory, which will be complete with a host of angelic administrative assistants. It will inspire awe, respect and a little holy fear. We might feel a little intimidated by the prospect of standing before the “principal,” but we do not need to be.
This story that Jesus told and that Matthew included in his gospel is devoid of any grace. Judgment is strictly based on a person’s actions. Thankfully we know that in reality, when we stand before God, we will do so clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Judgment will not be based on our actions, but rather on Jesus accomplishments through his life, death, and resurrection. With this knowledge, we boldly love and serve.
The parable of the talents helps us understand what Jesus expects of us in this life. God loans us time, money, and resources. He gives each of us the ability to use those resources. How we use the gifts God has given us determines our eternal occupation. When God gives you a gift, He expects you to use it wisely. He expects you to take it to the place where it can thrive (the market), let it work the way it was designed to work (build interest), and then return the ability to God having increased it (made interest). A singer cannot increase the gift God has given him if he becomes a lawyer. A lawyer cannot increase the gift God has given him if he becomes a missionary. Such mirrors the thought that each of us has a specific calling in life. If we try to do something other than our calling, even if it is a noble cause, we cannot be fruitful for Christ.
It is our responsibility to recognize and use the abilities God has given us. There are certain talents that each of us possesses. Sometimes we cannot see it ourselves, but our friends and family know the areas in which we are gifted. This may seem extremely straight-forward, but how many of us are in jobs that are not suited for our gifts? I myself worked in a profession for three years before I realized that I was not using the gifts God had given me and needed to find a new career. I had taken the job for the classic reason of needing a full-time position to pay bills. I was more concerned about taking care of my physical needs than serving those around me by using my talents. While at the time it seemed like a good decision, by accepting that career I was in fact burying the talent God had given me.
If you try to use a talent and it bears no fruit, then you are probably not in the correct position. Christ promises that if we abide in Him, we will bear fruit. That is the best way to know if you have found your calling; the talent God gave you is bearing fruit. This is the same as gaining interest by being put to usury; the ability is planted in a place where it can thrive, bear fruit, and return that fruit back to the owner, Christ.
Do you worry? Some of us worry about paying the monthly rent or mortgage. Some of us worry about the choices our children are making. Others of us are anxious about big decisions we must make about our future. With all the concerns in life, can Jesus really be serious when he tells us not to worry? While we will never know a life without concerns, Jesus assures us we can know a life without worry. He points out that worry—any manner of pace-the-floor, can’t-sleep-at-night fretting—is not helpful because it changes nothing. Worry doesn’t add a single hour to life; it doesn’t solve a single problem. And worry isn’t helpful because life is more than our worries make it out to be! Followers of Jesus are called to live for so much more than the fleeting things we worry about. Jesus reminds us that worry isn’t necessary for a child of God. Your heavenly Father knows precisely what you need, when you need it. And your heavenly Father is good. The same God who paints the flowers of the field and tends the birds of the air holds every part of your life in his nail-pierced hands. The same God who loved you so much that he went through the hell of Calvary for you, loves you too much to leave your life to chance.Don’t worry! God is in control!
Evidently prayer was such an obvious priority in the life of Jesus that out of all the mighty works and miracles He performed, the one thing the Bible records His disciples asking Him to teach them was to pray. We must realize that the Lord's Prayer isn't really meant to be a prayer that's recited so much as it is a guide to be followed. So how should we pray? We should pray with adoration. praise the person of God.We should pray with submission, surrendering to the will of God. We should pray with the petition, asking for the provisions of God. We should pray with confession, seeking the forgiveness of God. We should pray for protection, looking for the deliverance of God. And we should pray with affirmation, bragging on the power and glory of God. Determine today to model your life after the life of Jesus and make prayer the priority of God.
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