And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (NIV)
Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of grace, the heart-settling command, “Do not be afraid”, accompanies your birth and resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, fear and hiding have, and been part and parcel of life; and I’ve helped keep the family tradition alive. At times, fear has more power over my life than your love; and though I already know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves.
I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you, Jesus, for you alone bring the good news of great joy for which my heart longs every day. You alone can charm my fears and set this prisoner more fully free.
Because the gospel is true, I’ll tell you what you already know. My fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not really afraid of angelic hosts …
The Lord saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the Lord’s. (1 Sam. 17:47) This is what the Lord says to you: “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” (2 Chron. 20:15)
Dear heavenly Father, I love it when you claim things I don’t really want anyway—especially ownership of our battles. Though spiritual warfare is daily, and though you give us armor to wear (Eph. 6:10-18), it’s you we must trust in as the Divine Warrior. Indeed, we don’t do life as disengaged pacifists, but fully engaged worshipers—waiting on you, and beholding your salvation.
We’re often little David’s facing big Goliaths; but with you, we will not be afraid. But whether it’s a mere skirmish or an all-out assault, our battles belong to you. Fear and discouragement, panic and hiding, are not the order of the day; faith and peace are.
When events in world history fuel our worry (like ISIS and Ebola)—when it seems like evil and terror will triumph, let us hear the calming laughter of heaven. Let us see your already installed and reigning King—the Lord Jesus. Show us the occupied throne of heaven, and it will shut up our anxieties (Ps. 2; Rev. 4).
When we’re under attack by the seducer, accuser, and condemner of the brethren, once again let us see Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith—our wisdom, righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Rom. 8:1). …
He placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Rev. 1:17-18
Dear Lord Jesus, it’s quite timely and so encouraging to know the most repeated command in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.” The angels spoke these words to startled shepherds at your birth, and you repeated the command to a devastated Mary after your resurrection. Now you speak these liberating words to my heart: “Do not be afraid!”
Because you’re the First and the Last, I don’t have to be afraid of anything in between. You are very God, and I am very not. You never say “Oops” about anything in world history, or in my life. You never “attempt” anything—as though you could fail. You never pace heaven, scratch your head in confusion, or resort to plan B. You are perfectly and perpetually executing your sovereign will—from naming the stars, to numbering my hairs and days. Hallelujah, many times over.
Because you are the Living One—who was dead and is now alive forever, I don’t have to be afraid of Judgment Day, or this day. You are constantly singing the most liberating of lyrics over us: “I am your righteousness and peace, Good Shepherd and impassioned Bridegroom. There’s no condemnation hanging over you, …
Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. Luke 12:35-37
Dear Lord Jesus, through the years I’ve suffered through some horrible teaching about your 2nd coming, most of which generated fear, not faith; Biblical text-twisting and political sensationalism. That’s hardly what you had in mind, when you charged us to watch and wait for your return. But this morning, as I meditate on this passage, (thankfully) much of that bad theology has been rewritten.
Jesus, I’ve never been less anxious and more ready for your return, but only because of a growing understanding of the gospel. I’m already wearing the right clothes—the wedding garment of your perfect righteousness. I’m no longer afraid of your return. I very much want you to come back—Oh, loving Bridegroom. The oil in my lamp will never run dry, for you’ve sealed me as your own and have sent the Spirit to dwell in my heart forever.
Because the gospel is true, I’m ready for service in two ways. First of all, I’m ready for you to serve me. According to …
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Col. 3:15
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
Dear Lord Jesus, today, like every day, somebody or something is going to seize the passion and preoccupation of my heart. Some entity will be the “boss of me,” the ruler of the manor, the fascination of my imagination.
It could be my bitterness, pettiness, or cowardice. It could be shame from the past or fear in the present. It could be overbearing people or aggravating co-workers; my greed to have a little more, or my “need” to be criticized less; the lusts of my flesh or the longings of my soul; old regrets or new fantasies; my pet poodle or pet peeves—any of a number of things will clamor for the best of me.
But right now, in submission to Paul’s admonition, I choose your peace as the ruler of my heart—as the centering and focusing power for this moment and day. No one is better at giving peace than you, Lord Jesus, for you are the Prince of Peace.
On the cross you secured God’s peace with us and our peace with God. The enmity and hostility between us have …
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you. Eph. 1:18
Dear heavenly Father, if a sheriff knocked at my door this morning with a subpoena, I’d be a bit unnerved, but I’d take it very seriously. But today, like every day, the gospel is knocking at the door of our hearts to serve us with a subpoena to hope, for as Paul stated in this verse, hope is a calling. Nothing could be more settling, encouraging, or timely.
Father, thank you for making hope a calling, and not merely an “email blast,” general notification, or polite invitation. I wouldn’t think of ignoring a summons from the sheriff; I’d be crazy to ignore a summons from you.
I’m also thankful that you haven’t called us to hope in hope, but to hope in Jesus, and everything you’ve given us in him. Thank you for the present hope of knowing Jesus as our full forgiveness, perfect righteousness, and constant intercessor; and as our present Shepherd, reigning King and coming Bridegroom. What a beloved people we are.
And thank you for the future hope of the life we will enjoy in the new heaven and new earth—when “everything sad comes untrue” and all things broken will be made new. Thank you that everything will make sense then—every tear will be wiped away and all incomplete stories resolved
So Father, free me today from fixing my gaze on hope-robing circumstances and joy-depleting people. I tend to give them way too much power over …
As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Sam. 12:23-24
Dear Lord Jesus, Samuel’s words remind me there’s a lot more to a good friendship than prayer, but bringing our friends to the throne of grace is one of the clearest expressions of our love for them, and our love for you.
The fact that you call us your friends is humbling; and knowing that you’re always praying for us is all the motivation we need to repent of our prayerlessness.
For friends with wounded and broken hearts, grant them the gifts of your compassionate heart, comforting mercies, and tear-wiping hand. Protect them from people who would “heal their wounds lightly” (Jer. 6:14)—not taking their pain seriously.
For friends with vexed and angry hearts, thanks for your willingness to enter their fury, in the same way you engaged with Jonah’s (Jonah 4). Help them discern the real issues driving their conflicted-ness—whether it’s betrayal or loss, pride or self-righteousness. Help them see the sadness behind their mad-ness, and the ways they are mishandling real hurt in ways that only generate more hurt.
For friends with anxious and fearful hearts, grant them an experience of your centering and calming presence. To be fearful is one thing, but to be fearful and alone is almost unbearable. In the chambers of their heart, let them …
Do all things without grumbling or bickering. Phil 2:14
Do not grumble against one another. James 5:9
Show hospitality without grumbling. 1 Pet. 4:9
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thess. 5:18
Dear heavenly Father, ouch. I’d forgotten how many times in the Scriptures you confront our default-mode attitude of grumbling. You tell us to do all things without grumbling, because we can always find something in everything about which to grumble.
We grumble about the weather. It’s too hot or too cold; too wet or too dry; too windy or too still. We grumble about politics—often more agitated by who’s sitting in the White House than consoled by Who’s sitting on heaven’s throne. We grumble about money. We’ve got too little and taxes take too much. We grumble about people who grumble.
We grumble about worship. It’s too loud, or too quiet; too “hymn-y”, or not “hymn-y” enough. We grumble about our ungrateful children, disconnected spouses and nosy parents; our loud neighbors, irritating co-workers and complete strangers.
We grumble about bad traffic, long lines, and slow waiters. We grumble about our not-with-it churches, long-winded pastors, and we even grumble about You—wondering why in the world you haven’t answered our prayer, by now, to send Jesus back!
Father, have mercy on us; have mercy on me. It is your will for us to give thanks in all circumstances; it is your grace towards us that makes this calling “doable”; and it is your delight in us that …
Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:32-34
Dear Lord Jesus, it’s early in the season of Lent, and we’re poised to hear your calming voice and to experience your transforming presence. We gladly take our place among your “little flock”—your beloved lambs that aren’t strangers to uncertainty and fear. The best news is that this little flock is your little flock. There’s no safer place than to be in your hand and heart.
Jesus, I completely understand why you warned us against setting our hearts on the wrong treasure, especially when we’re feeling vulnerable. When threatened, we often look to the wrong things and wrong people for safety, stability, and security. But I’ve lived long enough to see what happens when we choose anything or anyone, besides you, as our ultimate treasure.
I have friends who inherited millions, and then I watched them inherit the wind. I’ve seen families deeply stressed as they prepare for the reading of a will, and then permanently divided over the execution of the same will. I’ve seen windfall profits turned into landfill waste in a matter of months. The preoccupation, busyness, and stress of running after the …
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
Dear Lord Jesus, like bookends of glory, we’re confronted with the command “Do not be afraid” at both your birth and your resurrection (Luke 2:10; Matt. 28:5). Ever since our first parents sinned, feared, and hid, I’ve helped to keep the family tradition alive. At times fear has more power over my life than your love, and though I already know myself to be clothed in your righteousness, I still reach into my closet for fig leaves.
So today, early in Advent, I join shepherds in hurrying off to come to you; for you alone, Lord Jesus, bring the “good news of great joy” for which my heart longs, every day. You alone can charm my fears and set this prisoner more fully free.
Because the gospel is true, I can tell you what you already know to be true. My fears aren’t all that noble. I’m not …