The staff of Bethany EMC consider ourselves blessed to be able to work and serve together. Almost every Tuesday morning, you will find us in the Bethany Room meeting for a time of devotions, prayer and discussing ministry and office needs.
One week we discussed the difficulty of consistent quiet time with the Lord. Later, while preparing to present team devotions for the next week, I remembered our discussion. I went to the website of one of my long-distance mentors, Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth https://www.reviveourhearts.com/ and searched the subject, "Bible study and memorization." Here is a quote from Nancy that I found helpful:
"I've learned something important about having a devotional time early in the morning. Success starts the night before. Our choices in the evening will affect our time with God the next morning."
Nancy's quote reminded me of a principle that Weyburn and I have lived by since early in our married life. We didn't make a formal agreement to follow this practice; it just evolved because we both knew it was important. We would begin to prepare for Sunday on Saturday. Almost everything we did on Saturday aided our preparation for worship and ministry on Sunday. This included having our clothes for the family ready, the meal planned, and some of that preparation completed. Weyburn became proficient at making an excellent meatloaf and preparing the chicken or roast beef for baking while we were at church. We would also limit our Saturday evening outings, ensuring we were all in bed in good time. When the time change weekend came along in the spring and fall, Weyburn changed the clocks early in the afternoon—sometimes forgetting to tell me, which caused a bit of confusion.
So why has it taken me so long to put that same principle into practice for my quiet time? Why haven't I prepared my heart and mind for my devotions and quiet time each evening? There have been minor changes over the years, like going to bed earlier, but I haven't done much else. My devotional life has undoubtedly been more regular since the children are grown and moved out of our home, but it's still much too easy to allow other priorities to come ahead of my daily time with the Lord.
I'm trying to make Nancy's evening challenge personal: "My choices this evening will affect my time with God in the morning."
How do I make my choices? What do I need to consider?
This verse reminds us that what we allow to enter our body through our "eye gate" affects the health of our whole body. It will affect our mental, spiritual and physical well-being.
22 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Another verse cautions us to be careful with what we allow our eyes to see.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
What am I allowing my eyes to see and my ears to hear in the evening? Should I make different choices? What choices will help me to draw closer to the Lord?
Here are some questions I need to ask myself each evening:
Does my choice of entertainment enhance my walk with the Lord?
What are some activities that would enhance my walk with the Lord?
What will 2022 look like if I keep this challenge in mind each evening? As I prepare to welcome a New Year, I want to put this principle into practice by preparing my mind and heart “the night before” to be ready to listen to and respond quickly to God in the year ahead. So today, on December 31st, take time to prepare for that – don’t make a New Year’s resolution, instead make a preparation plan that will set you up to spend daily time with God. At the end of 2022, you can then look back to see how He has blessed you in both large and small ways, and be encouraged to continue to “prepare the night before” for what God will do in each day.
Success starts the night before.
Our choices in the evening will affect our time
with God the next morning.
Read: Luke 2:25-35
Devoted to God – verse 25
We are introduced to Simeon as a man who is a just man devoted to God. I wonder what that looked like 2000 years ago. What did he do differently from others around him? He was also waiting for the promised One who would bring consolation (comfort) to a world in turmoil. His total belief in God's promises indicates that Simeon knew these promises well. He believed that God had revealed them through the prophets. He was a man who loved and served God so thoroughly that the Holy Spirit filled him.
In Tune with God – verse 26
Simeon was in such a close relationship with God that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to him. He listened and understood the message. I doubt this was the first time Simeon put action to what God was telling him. Following God's directions was a natural part of Simeon's character. We need to be in tune with God and live so that we can hear and understand His messages.
Prompted by God – verses 27 - 28
When the Spirit of God prompted Simeon, he acted immediately. He didn't wait or ask for an explanation. We need to immediately respond when God speaks to us, with no questions or excuses.
Ø Write down something that God has asked you to do. Did you respond correctly? What was the result?
Waiting for God – verse 29
God kept His promise to Simeon. Simeon saw the Messiah before he died and then had peace, knowing it would soon be time to leave this world. Simeon faithfully waited for God's promise to be fulfilled, honouring God in all he did as he waited.
Shinning for God – verses 30-32
Simeon lived to see "the salvation" just as God promised. He saw Jesus. How thrilled he must have been. He held the promised Messiah, Saviour, and Light of the world. Jesus, the One worthy of all praise, honour, and glory; for Israel and the Gentiles. I need to shine the light of Jesus to all of those God brings into my life. I need to give Christ honour and glory for the things He does in my life.
Guided by God – verse 33
Jesus' parents listened carefully to Simeon's song and all he said. They were amazed! Because Mary and Joseph only had a small idea of what God had planned for this child, they needed to walk by faith daily, one step at a time.
Surrender to God – verses 34-35
Simeon ended the visit with Mary & Joseph by proclaiming a blessing over them. But then he spoke directly to Mary. His message was not a happy one. Mary was warned that she would suffer great sorrow. Mary was given a warning of the sadness she would endure in the future.
Read: Luke 2:8-20
An Ordinary Audience – verses 8-9
There was a group of very ordinary men and boys given the task of caring for the sheep of several families. On a quiet, typical night, they were faithfully tending their flock. The Amplified Bible describes the scene this way. "And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them…" They had their own fireworks display!
An Extraordinary Message – verses 10-12
We all love to receive good news, news that brings true joy. But too often, our lives are filled with fear and circumstances that deplete us of our happiness. The angels assured the shepherds there was nothing to fear, and they were directed to the source of joy, the promised Saviour, Jesus.
A Heavenly Song – verses 13-14
Each song we have looked at begins by singing praise to our God.
This song then moves into a declaration of peace to those who please our Heavenly Father. Joy and peace go hand in hand. When we find contentment and joy, we find peace in our souls. Philippians 4: 4-7 gives excellent advice on finding that peace. We are instructed to Rejoice in everything, don't be Anxious about anything, Pray about everything, Give Thanks always.
An Eager Heart – verse 15
The shepherds had immediate faith, trust and obedience in the Angel's song and God's message. The shepherds responded quickly to the astonishing and unexpected message from God. With anticipation, they said, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us."
A Willing Proclamation – verses 16-18
The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and found the young family and Jesus in the manger just as the angels described. However, many did not believe the shepherds as they repeated what the angels had told them and what they themselves saw in Bethlehem.
A Full Heart – verse 19
We each have precious memories that we treasure, moments with loved ones now in heaven, and hard-earned accomplishments are just a couple of the memories we may cherish. Mary seemed to recognize the importance of each moment she was experiencing.
Back to an Ordinary Life – verse 20
These ordinary men and boys had experienced an extraordinary evening full of the unexpected. We can only imagine how these events shaped their future. What we do know is that they returned to their ordinary life glorifying and praising God. Their careers may not have changed, nor their responsibilities. However, they now understood how well God knew them, that He cared for them, and that He would always be with them. They would continue to glorify Him.
Debi Snider... more